Subject: Re: Practical Thread: Advertising to businesses
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 04 Mar 2003 11:04:18 -0800

Faber Fedor <faber@linuxnj.com> writes:

> One of the things I've been struggling with is "how does one advertise
> to find more clients?".  

I don't think advertising is particularly effective in getting
business clients.  I also don't think advertising is particularly
effective when selling consulting services.  I think advertising is
most effective for selling commodity products to consumers, and that
is not what you are doing.

(I know that Accenture does big ad campaigns.  A significant role for
such an ad campaign is to confirm to their existing customers that
they are a big firm, and that it is valuable to work with them.  Also,
Accenture can afford to advertise so much that when anybody might need
their services, they are likely to see an Accenture ad fairly soon.
You can't afford that sort of coverage.)

Work the problem backward.  Suppose you wanted to purchase consulting
services of the type you are selling.  What sort of advertising would
reach you?

What I think is likely to be more effective than advertising is cold
calling potential customers.  That is, be a sales person.  Spend 15
minutes finding out what you can about the company--often the web site
will give you the names of some relevant people.  Call them up.  Leave
them a voice mail message.  You have about 45 seconds to give them
your name, why you are calling them, and your phone number (twice if
possible).  Practice the pitch several times before you place the
call.  Make sure you give them a good reason to call you back, in
fifteen seconds or less (``I can help you cut 50% from your IT
costs.'').  Be prepared if you get a live person, although that is
less likely; when I was an executive I didn't answer the phone for a
call from an outside line, because I got so many sales calls.  That
doesn't mean I didn't listen to the messages; it just means that I
didn't care to have somebody pressure me in person.

Cold calling is hard, and takes a lot of practice.  It's hard just
calling somebody you don't know.  Also, almost all of your calls will
get no response.  Some live people will hang up on you.  You need
patience and determination, and you can't let yourself get
discouraged.  At least, not until you've given the approach a couple
of months to succeed or fail.

If you really want to do advertising, then I personally think the most
effective is targeted mailers.  You don't need an advertising agency
to do this.  There are usually graphics arts consultants in any city.
Find one, and have them help you design a card: who you are, what you
do, testimonials, how to reach you.  Print up a thousand of them, and
mail them to your client list.  This is not too expensive.  With luck,
prospective customers will file the card until they need your
services.

These ideas assume you know approximately who you are trying to
target.  If you don't know, then that is your first job.  Try to
clarify precisely who your potential customers are.  There aren't that
many ``multi-employee, multi-million dollar businesses'' in any
particular area.  You should be able to identify most of the ones who
might use your services.

I'm sure other people will have different experiences and different
suggestions.

Ian