The OCS market has changed in recent years, with more competition from non-traditional OCS players such as office supply companies and online retailers entering the market.
The good news is that the fundamentals of creating a business that prospers remain the same, which means that more than ever, OCS operators must ensure that they have an effective marketing program in place.
An effective marketing program will produce a constant stream of new clients. And a steady stream of new clients is critical in a difficult economy if existing customers who are struggling are to be successfully replaced if it becomes necessary.
The following are some suggestions to consider as you review your marketing plan to ensure you’re poised to succeed as the New Year unfolds.
WHAT MAKES YOU UNIQUE?
The first question to ask yourself is whether you really understand what sets your business apart, or does it just blend in with the competition out on the business landscape?
Every company says they are different. But do you really understand what, exactly, makes you different? This seems like a simple question, but the truth is that many companies are founded just because the owner believes he or she can do things differently or better.
Many owners mistakenly believe clients will naturally flock to the company doorstep. But nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, with the endless array of companies seeking customers, a business must identify specifically how it is unique and different. To be successful, a business owner must translate that point of difference in terms that are meaningful to the customer.
WHAT’S YOUR MESSAGE?
The message must clearly emphasize exactly how the company is different, and how, specifically, that translates into tangible benefits for the customer.
Every company needs a unique selling proposition (USP). It may be that your prices are lower, your services are better, or your products are different, just to name a few. It could be a combination of these factors.
But when you get right down to it, your USP is what motivates the buyer to respond to your product or services instead of your competitor’s, and if you don’t understand what it is, you will not succeed.
Pinpointing what makes customers choose you over your competition can help you determine your USP, and can serve as the foundation for a successful sales and marketing campaign. Once you better understand your USP and begin to build campaigns around those particular strengths, your company is much better positioned.
WHO ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS?
Once you truly understand the “soul” of your company — what sets you apart from the competition — the next step is to identify who your customer is and get to know them better.
Also, taking time to identify who is not your customer helps you determine the best place to spend your time and marketing dollars. Customers not likely to purchase your service can waste valuable time and money that could be better invested on your target customers.
Look for customers that have the potential to be great long-term customers. Be selective, and look for those that mirror your best current customers.
Keep in mind too that some surveys indicate that as much as 30 percent of new business is generated from existing clients, so be sure to create a business strategy that is sure to value and retain your existing customers. (That is a different article!)
To help pinpoint potential customers, consider Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) or North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) information.
SIC and NAICS codes can be rented, and they list companies by category. For example, using the code, you can get a list of all the law firms in your trading area sorted by geography, company size, employee size, key manager titles and other criteria.
Once you identify who your customer is and what makes them buy from you, study the customer that is not attracted to your business or who ultimately doesn’t buy from you. Consider such factors as price, location, presentation, product, personality of buyer and your company’s image.
In addition, for most customers who do choose your company, there is usually some element of emotional connection. Buying decisions can often involve emotions, so definitely consider what emotions to tap.
Finally, asking questions about your competitor can reveal valuable information, too. What does the competition do better or differently than you? Where do you excel over the competitor? How do potential customers view your firm versus the competition?
CONSIDER THE SALES DEPARTMENT
Next, take a look at all aspects of the sales department. It delivers the life blood of every company. The sales department is responsible for generating the sales that will fuel the programs for every other department within the organization.
Sales is a separate function from marketing, but the two departments work closely together. The marketing group must be fully aware of the sales activities and capabilities, and vice versa.
The first point to consider is whether your sales department is staffed correctly. In a difficult economy, many companies reduce the sales staff so much that it becomes difficult to generate enough new business for the company to ever fully recover. If your company isn’t staffed correctly, your competitor’s better-staffed department will gain market share.
Pay attention to all aspects of the sales department’s operations, evaluating everything from performance plans to closing techniques.
EDUCATE THE SALES TEAM
Each sales rep should create a detailed plan for generating leads and closing sales. An experienced sales professional with a proven track record can be an invaluable investment for a future filled with leads generated and sales closed.
Look carefully at sales team productivity. Add up the hours needed for lead generation, setting appointments and writing proposals, then compare it with the actual hours worked.
Is the sales person really working productively? Or is it more like 20 hours worked spread out over
Also, be sure there is a high level of transparency within the sales department so the entire team knows how well everyone is performing.
Posting individual results where everyone can see them, for example, can create healthy internal competition and inspire everyone to new levels of productivity.
Ask yourself if the sales department truly understands it is the engine of the company’s growth. If things are running smoothly in the sales department, sales are up, revenues are up, jobs are secure and the future of the company is bright.
DO YOU USE TOP SALES TECHNIQUES?
When your sales team thoroughly understands not only your company’s products and services, but also the latest sales techniques, they can perform much more effectively.
Finally, consider new methods to generate leads. In the past, many companies mistakenly overlooked outsourced lead development services because they believed they could prosper solely on the sales department generating leads on its own.
However, professional telemarketers can identify target customers and set appointments for your sales team, which can be an excellent way to identify prospective new clients and keep your sales team selling.
And don’t overlook networking! Make sure your sales people are out in the community networking. It can be a significant source of new lead development.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Although the sales department is critical to a company’s growth, in many respects the marketing department is even more important because it supports the sales department’s entire operation. All too many operators searching the budget for places to shave expenses stop looking exactly where marketing expenses begin.
In fact, this is one of the biggest mistakes possible — marketing is the program that will generate revenues, producing a constant stream of new clients that help build the bottom line and grow the company.
Marketing is an investment, not an expense. Marketing programs should be continuously evaluated and updated, but never sacrificed in the name of the bottom line.
A PLAN MUST USE ALL RELEVANT DATA
For your marketing program, consider all the sales data that has been gathered and analyzed, then incorporate it into a marketing plan.
Make sure that all of your marketing materials work together to clearly state your value proposition; what, exactly, sets you apart from the
competition, and why they should choose your company.
As you consider the best way to communicate your company’s message, be creative and consider all the options available, including an up-to-date sales kit, brochure, direct marketing, unique drop-off packages and your company Website.
Consider promoting your services through media advertising, event sponsorships and trade shows, or any other setting or outlet that helps you tell your message.
And don’t overlook social media tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Consumers are increasingly gathering information on these Websites, and if you don’t have a presence, you’ll lose sales to those who do.
THE BIG PICTURE
Finally, be sure you understand all aspects of your company’s operation, taking a fresh look at each aspect of the organization.
Review everything from key customer lists and sales productivity figures with a fresh eye always measuring what’s working and what’s not.
Be sure to ask questions such as: “Are the products we offer priced competitively?” “Do we really know if our customers are satisfied?” and “How can our sales team close more sales and remain relevant to prospects and customers?”
OCS Marketing Tools
- Direct marketing flyers
- Company brochures
- Company Website
- Media advertising
- Event sponsorships
- Trade shows
- Social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn)