Building an Inbound Marketing Consultancy…
…or Social Media Management Firm
Prospecting is one of the major stumbling blocks to inbound marketing consulting and social media management success. Paradoxically, prospecting is crucial for success because, in order to help others build their businesses, we must simultaneously build ours.
If we do not find and develop inbound marketing and/or social media clients, we will never be able to do what we love to do….what we are good at doing. To help others succeed, using the inbound marketing and social media management strategies we have come to understand and believe in, we have to seek out and educate brick and mortar business owners and professional people (i.e., M.D.s and D.O.s, dentists, chiropractors, podiatrists, attorneys, accountants, etc.) about what it is we do and why it is in their best interest to allow us to assist them with the transition from an old media, outbound marketing strategy that no longer works to a new media, inbound marketing strategy that will.
Significantly, is it not only crucial that we identify inbound marketing and social media management prospects, we must have a plan in place to contact, develop, and educate them once we do.
I’ve mentored several inbound marketing consultants, men and women just beginning to build their inbound marketing consultancies; and, in almost every case, they have reached the same point with much the same reaction. Interestingly, while they have followed enough of the steps I will discuss below to have made a contact…they don’t know what to do next!
Or, they have actually been contacted by a prospective inbound marketing client only to freeze up!
Failure and Teachable Moments: Prospecting and Inbound Marketing
Significantly, many of these failed calls did not fail because the consultant didn’t know his or her craft…quite the contrary. They failed because they simply placed too much pressure on themselves and froze up. Ultimately, the call ends badly and a contact that may have developed into an inbound marketing client instead developed into a teachable moment and a valuable lesson.
Note: We learn as much from these failures, if not more, than we do from calls that go just right and end with an appointment being made. Keep in mind, the sole purpose of the call is to make a good enough first impression to get a second appointment. At this point you do not know if you have a prospective inbound marketing client or not, so don’t try to sell anything. Once you develop that mindset, it is easier to talk to business owners and professionals. You see, at this point you do not have a sales situation, all you have is conversation.
While you may conceive of selling as difficult, having a conversation is easy…so quit trying to sell!
What do we do?
How are these calls handled?
Well, first you have to get the inbound marketing or social media management prospect to call. This means generating prospects, knowing how they are likely to react, and being comfortable enough with yourself, the phone, and the material (inbound marketing and social media) to do a good job; and that all comes with experience.
We will discuss more about this in part two.
However, the first thing we need to do is to identify the prospect, and then develop the prospect, so they are willing to take that initial step and either make contact…or be receptive to our first follow up contact.
For you to understand how big a step it is for most business owners and professional people to make that first call, think back to how you felt the first time you contacted someone about getting help to build your business.
If you haven’t, you will…Almost everyone does!
Interestingly, the emotions experienced by an individual making that first call, the individual on the other end of the receiver, are a combination of desperation, curiosity, and fear.
- Desperation - Because they generally have an issue with their marketing. Their marketing is generally some form of outbound marketing…or perhaps a static website that dates back to ’90s online marketing mentality. The “offline” business owner or professional is in pain or they wouldn’t have made the call. In other words, they have a problem with their marketing and they know they have a problem.
- Curious - Two, they are a bit curious about you, particularly if your message resonated with them enough to prompt a call. That also means they will probably be cautiously receptive, provided you don’t come off like a nervous idiot!
- Afraid - Finally, they are afraid for a number of reasons:
- They are undoubtedly afraid that you are going to come across as some high pressure jerk. This is how they may feel…not how you actually are. I hope!
- Or, conversely, you that may come across as someone who cannot help him or her at all…thus leaving the business owner in even worse shape. Keep this in mind: Deep down they hope you have the solution; and, it took a lot for them to make the call…so handle it properly! They want to talk to you, they are simply apprehensive…afraid!
- They are also afraid because they may have to change something. Or a lot of somethings; and, people resist change. We all fear and resist change, so be aware of that fact; and, deal with it with confidence, reassurance, and education…at the right time!
For all of the above reasons, and many more, you have your work cut out for you!
Now that you have some idea of what you are up against, you can at least begin to design an approach that is appealing, low-keyed, and effective.
You have two choices:
- “Throw enough spaghetti against the wall and some of it will stick!” This is the old shotgun method. Some stick a pin in a map and then begin to prospect geographically. Others tailor their efforts demographically, still with something of a shotgun approach. Still others use a combination of geography, demographics, and psychographics (we will get into this next) to get as close a look at their target market and their buying behavior as possible but they are still using a broad-cased approach with little or no real broad-based research…beyond that mentioned above.
- Direct Mail - I personally like direct mail and use it a lot! If it is done right, and over time, direct mail can be very effective based on ROI. The problem most people have with direct mail is that it doesn’t get opened because it looks like junk mail or it doesn’t pass the 3 second test and goes right into the waste basket. We will deal more with this in an upcoming article.
- Craigslist – Actually, all of the free online classified directories work and they also do well with Google, particularly Craigslist. It is free and, if you are not using it, spam and the negative media notwithstanding, you are throwing away a few clients yearly. Over a five year period, that is a significant sum of money!
- Backpage, Kijiji (eBay), etc – The same goes for these free classified sites, they are all useful and every inbound marketing and social media management firm should have a presence on them. Even the sponsored listings are ridiculously inexpensive…so do it!
- Cold Calling – I am not a big fan of cold calling, in fact I loathed it, particularly in the old school way. However, there is a course available that has transformed cold calling and it is worth a look. Even if you only use the course as a means of getting comfortable with the phone, because we all us it, this course is a must. It is called Unlock the Game by Ari Galper. The inbound marketing consultants I have mentored will tell you, this is the first course I suggest for all new consultants. It is a must! The free training alone is incredible and will change your thinking and your approach to the phone, and prospecting, forever.
- Others - This is where I place all the other things that you might like to try. However, if you apply the other strategies, those listed above and those I will get to below, you really won’t have time to fool around with a lot of them. One I will suggest is the Yellow Pages.
- The Yellow Pages - Businesses advertising in the Yellow Pages have watched response drop and the prices for ads skyrocket. Many of these business people are looking to get out. Be creative and do you research and you will find very good inbound marketing prospects in the Yellow Pages. If you have the time, this can be a valuable resource.
- Valpak – Valpak used to be one of those things that hit the trash, validating The 3 Second Rule! Now I view it as a resource. If a merchant is willing to go to the time and effort, not to mention the expense, of setting up a Valpak account? They will be interested in what you have to say…provided you approach them properly and educate them thoroughly. I place Valpak advertisers into one of three categories and then develop them accordingly. Again, I will cover this in an upcoming article dealing with direct mail and inbound marketing consulting.
- You can get creative! Creative prospecting includes a variety of strategies, all designed to find the hungry market…what I have heard others refer to as the hungry fish. I am not crazy about calling prospective clients fish but if it helps you visualize what I am talking about…whatever works and so much the better. However, your prospective clients are people just like you with real world concerns, families, and businesses to provide for, keep afloat, and run. The more human you perceive them to be, and not just as “hungry fish” or “target audiences” or even “prospects,” the easier it will be to connect with them, build interest, relationships, confidence, trust, bonds, and clients for life!
- First – Go where the business people are. Join the Chamber of Commerce, the Jaycees, etc. I’ve mentioned this marketing step before. Get the membership directories but be careful not to prospect to them aggressively or right off the bat. Learn who the key influencers are and attempt to get to know them, very much as you would do on a social media site. Chamber of Commerce members are a there for a reason, to network and to build their businesses. If you can help them build their businesses, once they get to know you, you are in!
- Go to the local library and offer to teach a class on how small businesses can build an online presence. Libraries usually introduce these programs well in advance, usually in a bulletin, so you can get great exposure and have plenty of time to develop the course material. Libraries usually require an outline but that can be accomplished in an afternoon. You can teach the class as an over your shoulder course, one in which the students (local business people) follow along throughout an inbound marketing campaign set up. Or, you can simply do the A-B-Cs of inbound marketing and social media. The latter works well if relate it to local offline business. In either case, you will have many people approach you and ask if they can hire you or at least talk to you about what they can do to improve their online marketing. It is up to you to do the rest. Hence forth, you will be viewed as an authority in your community and the word will spread rapidly.
- Get a digital recorder and drive through your town, making note of the new businesses, the grand openings, and certain high value or high ticket businesses that attract your eye. Once you have “carded” the area (i.e., recorded the information, picked up local newspapers, maps, periodicals, grocery store handouts, and the rest), go back to the office, transcribe the information, note the advertising, and create a spreadsheet. Then it is time to do some research. Make sure you log the following information:
- Phone – Verify from infoUSA.com
- Web address (if they have one – note if they do not)
- Alexa Rankings
- SEO Information (to be covered in an upcoming article)
- Google them and establish how deep their online presence goes and what they are doing in the way of inbound marketing and social media to build The Ultimate Internet Image (couldn’t resist!)
- Email address from website About and Contact Us as well as from Whois.com and BetterWhoIs.com
- Business Owner – Contact Name infogroup/infoUSA.com
- Contact Title
- Verify Mailing Address from American Chruch Lists
- Type of Business
- Employee Size
- How Long in Business
- Other Relevant Data
- Referrals and Warm Contacts – These are either referrals from business owners and professionals you are already assisting (I will go into how to develop referrals and letters of recommendation – testimonials in an upcoming article). You can also approach the individuals you do business with and pass out a business cards, strike up a casual conversation, and ask them if they have a few minutes and take it from there. How you handle referrals and how you handle your warm market are different but they are both high quality leads and a great source of business.
- Local Newspapers – Businesses spend a lot of money on newspaper advertising with very little to show for it. I suggest OfflineBiz.com. When you upgrade to the Gold forum you get a letter as part of your introductory series that converts better than any direct mail piece I have ever used! I am talking about 12-18% for every mailing that goes out. The nice part is that you can use it in conjunction with newspaper ads, magazine ads, Yellow Pages ads, etc. It is without a doubt the best letter I have ever used for response on a cold mailing as part of a direct mail campaign. Try it! It will be worth it. And OfflineBiz.com offers instructional material that is really quite good. If you use the information and the letter provided by OfflineBiz.com you will see your response rate related to newspaper advertising prospecting in association with direct mail skyrocket. I have never seen anything like it! Sound like a commercial? It works or I wouldn’t mention it, affiliate link or not!
Prospecting for inbound marketing and social media clients is about…
…research, experience, and empathy!
If you can put yourself in your prospective inbound marketing client’s shoes and understand everything there is to know about them before they call you, or before you call them, you can speak intelligently…without pressuring them!
The key is to make it a conversation and get the appointment.
The appointment may lead to something…and it may not. It is up to you and the prospective client at that point. However, if you lay the groundwork and choose your prospective clients well, combining the best of both approaches, the spaghetti approach and the creative approach, you will have more business than you know what to do with…long term.
Ultimately, we will get into greater detail with respect to several of these points.
But for now…know this:
You can never do too much prospecting and you can never be too prepared. However, do not try to sell anything over the phone and do absolutely no selling on the first visit.
Your job is to listen, learn, and understand!
If you can do that, you will be on your way to inbound marketing and social media management success!
The Ultimate Internet Image
Lakewood, Ohio 44107
PS, I am accepting 5 students and will work with them for the next 180 days. You will have your business up and running in that amount of time and be making money. Guaranteed! For more information, you may contact me via my personal email address: email@example.com
PPS, Watch for Part II. We will deal with the nuts and bolts of each issue.