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Lots of phone calls and late nights stuffing envelopes was business as usual, all to get your name in front of a potential customer. But few people answer their phones anymore. It’s all mostly done by email, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Today you can e-blast 1,000 prospects with the push of a SEND button. How long would it take you to call 1,000 people?
Today’s marketing needs to combine traditional and “out-of-the-box” thinking. But if you believe “out-of-the-box” marketing is just limited to Facebook, LinkedIn, and passing out your business cards at your daughter’s soccer game, then you are indeed working with a very small box.
Truth be told, Facebook and LinkedIn can be useful tools for a portion of your marketing, especially if you are trying to reach brides, but it shouldn’t be the only resource in your marketing toolbox. If you are waiting for Warren Buffett to friend you on Facebook, don’t hold your breath. Only 3% of companies have said they have ever sold anything on Facebook, according to several industry experts. But if used correctly, and with a splash of persistence and ingenuity, you can achieve some of the results you want through social media. At the very least, it can’t hurt you (unless one of your drivers posts a photo on Facebook of himself downing a six-pack while on the job).
The marketing process has changed dramatically during the past 30 years. Before, all it took to get in to see a client was a phone call and a briefcase. Or, if you were really lucky (and gutsy), you just knocked on their door unannounced.
In the good old days, that decisionmaker would have been the company president’s executive assistant or travel manager. But in the era of company downsizing, a lot of travel decisions are being made in the procurement department. This means the person who now orders ground transportation has probably just got off the phone from ordering those plastic mats that go under office chairs.
Here are some other ways you can maximize your marketing/PR efforts in 2017 and beyond.
1. Reach out
Emails, phone calls, LinkedIn messages, even Skype meetings all serve a purpose in our “not-enough-hours-in-the-day” business lives. But you should never ignore the power of that rare opportunity to shake a hand, pass out a business card, or look someone straight in an eye unfiltered through a computer monitor. Join local ground transportation associations, be seen at limousine conventions, and make your presence felt at your local Chamber of Commerce. Build your brand by talking to people face-to-face. It’s something no fancy, high-tech, graphics-loaded website can ever compete with.
2. Good PR
There are many key ways to reach potential clients, starting with good public relations. Never think of yourself as being in the witness protection program — you want as many people to know about you as possible, in a positive light, of course. Send out press releases to local publications and trade and association magazines about the good you do in the community, charitable endeavors, new hires, acquisitions, bumps in your technology prowess, your green initiatives, etc. Send them your company newsletter, put them on your e-blast or e-bulletin list, or drop them a postcard.
3. The power of the bylined article
Never pass up the opportunity to be branded an expert. There is probably no better verification than to publish in a leading industry trade publication such as LCT. But don’t stop there. Chances are wherever you’re located you are close to a weekly business publication (i.e. in Boston we have the Boston Business Journal). If you have something important to say about your industry, let them know. If you get published, you will be in front of hundreds of potential clients. And don’t worry if you have trouble writing a shopping list; there are people out there who can make you sound good. Once the article is published, it can take on a whole new afterlife. You can put it on your Facebook or LinkedIn page, put on your website, sent via e-blast, reproduced in your newsletter, printed out and displayed at trade shows and business expos, etc.
Speaking of newsletters, these can come in two shapes and sizes, but both are effective. Still, there are pro’s and con’s for both formats.
Partnering with professional sports teams can be beneficial. Not only does it give you the opportunity to pick up a client (the team), but also gain access to thousands of potential clients. Most sponsorships come with “perks,” in the form of tickets, signage on scoreboards, program ads, and select nights when you can “woo” your good clients and potential clients, often in private suites. Aligning with a local sports team also gives a boost in credibility. People feel if a major sports team is letting you drive around an athlete worth millions of dollars in human capital, then a level of trust has been forged. I understand for many companies, aligning with the Chicago Cubs or Miami Heat will not be affordable. But you can bet if you’re based in Ohio, the Toledo Mud Hens would welcome you with open arms when they throw out their first pitch next season.
6. Hiding in plain sight
Sometimes the best networking is where you least expect it, like in your company lunchroom. Your own company could very well be a mother lode of networking opportunities. For example, maybe one of your target companies is ABC Pharmaceuticals. But if you don’t ask, you’ll never find out Brenda in your accounting department is married to the brother of the CEO of ABC Pharmaceuticals.
Involvement in charitable events also can generate attention to your company. But being on the board of a charitable event or organization lets you rub shoulders with major players. Plus, charitable events, along with just being a feel-good thing, are media magnets when generating press for your company.
Finally, you should also avoid obvious marketing mistakes, like branding your business with a name too long to remember and too hard to type as a URL. When asking people to email you, lose the Yahoo and GMAIL account. Nothing screams “small company” more than a search engine email address.
Effective sales and marketing has one goal: To land customers and increase your bottom line. This can only be achieved if they know you are out there. True, going after prospects is like a battle, but it shouldn’t be a sneak attack. You want them to know who you are and you are coming their way. Let them see the whites of your eyes before you go after the green in their budgets.
Steve White is the owner of Steve White Public Relations in Boston, MA. He has a 35-year track record of providing marketing & PR services to companies from all industries across the country and the UK, including ground transportation operations. He can be reached at [email protected] or (781) 254-6204. Please visit his website at www.SWhitePR.com
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