“Marketing firms should have 8 to 10 clients on the roster," says David C. Baker, president of ReCourses, a business consultancy working exclusively with small marketing firms. They also should assume they will turn over their client base completely every two to three years. Firms must sign up two to three new clients a year.
To keep the process going, firm owners need ensure 12 to 15 opportunities in play at all times and start a new engagement every four to five months. Gulp. No pressure.
Below are the 10 most effective ways Baker has seen his clients successfully generate prospects---each a little more difficult than the next.
- Build an email list and send out a content-rich email newsletter monthly.
- Develop relationships with key influencers who regularly provide you with an “intentional referrals” (meaning people who will put their reputation on the line and tell a prospect “You ought to think about using this firm”).
- Produce a professional-sounding weekly podcast with guests and interviews.
- Create a workshop or seminar. Bring in one or more highly regarded guest speakers.
- Conduct proprietary research and offer first publishing rights to the top trade magazine in your industry.
- Hold a web seminar. This carries very low risk and “failure” (meaning low attendance) can be hidden. It also allows you to capture, re-purpose and rebroadcast content.
- Conduct an invitation-only round table. Invite a 50/50 mix of clients and prospects to a nice venue with great food. The draw: A moderated discussion about behind scenes “goings on” at each company. Note: Discussion and panel moderation is an art and can make or break an event. If you're not good at it, hire someone.
- Speak at a trade conference. Most conferences decide on speakers 6 to 12 months in advance, so pitch early. See Get a Speaking Gig: How Event Producers Decide Who Gets Onstage. Provide content useful to conference attendees and whatever you do, don’t sell services in the presentation.
- Contribute professionally written, content rich by-lined articles to the most influential trade publication in your industry. You won’t get paid for it, but the third-party endorsement of being published there is priceless.
- Once you’ve acquired a reputation as someone who produces great content, approach the editor of an influential industry blog that serves your targeted vertical market and offer to be a regular contributor.
“All of these tactics require a high degree of commitment and discipline, and most firm owners are not willing or capable of being as consistent as they need to be to realize the return on the time and effort investment,” says Baker. “In some cases it might be helpful to engage some help in the form of a professional writer and/or PR person, but the actual content needs to originate from one or more firm leaders or it won’t ring true with your audience.”
Baker says his observation is that lack of discipline, rather than lack of ability is the most common obstacle to execution. Those willing to tow the line consistently have the best shot at nabbing the better clients, better work and ultimately, the better bottom line.
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