I'm a firm believer that businesses must always grow or face extinction. So, early last year when my business -- which specializes in producing short promotional videos known as "sizzle reels" -- was seeing high levels of return business but not much in the way of new customer acquisition, I immediately set out to make some big changes.
Over the next 30 days, my sales team and I conducted a full assessment of the sales operation -- everything from lead generation through the point of sale -- with the goal of improving new client acquisition. After careful analysis, we came up with a five-point game plan that helped to significantly improve revenues in less than six months.
Here are the five steps we came up with, as well as some of the lessons we learned along the way.
1. Instruct the sales team to operate with a 2-for-1 mindset. Whenever we sold a new client we encouraged our team to turn that one client into two. We created a program that gave free gift cards and catered breakfasts to clients who gave us referrals. Not long after, our business's bottom lined surged without having to spend a dime on lead generation. Today, most of our clients have morphed into as many as four new clients. For every $250 we've spent on referrals, we've received an average of $4,000 in gross sales.
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2. Adjust our keyword strategy based on client feedback. Over many lunches, conference calls and email exchanges, we asked our clients to tell us what they thought about our service, where they heard about us and why they hired us. The most telling thing we learned was that most of our clients found us online but rarely by using any of our traditional keywords. Some were minor differences (while we were already using the phrase "sizzle reels," we found that "sizzle reel," the singular form, generated 10 to 15 times more interest). In other instances, our clients were using keywords we hadn't even considered.
This led us to the conclusion that how we defined our product and how our clients defined our product were on two separate wavelengths. Adjusting our pay per click and organic search engine optimization strategies increased our online traffic by nearly 100% in a single month.
It also helped fortify our market position online. Based on the keywords our clients suggested to us, we bought up several keyword-rich URLs, for anywhere from $100 to $4,000 per URL. After reviewing a year's worth of Google analytics, we realized that buying these "hot ticket" URLs and turning them into highly-optimized landing pages was helping us to build our search engine rankings while also locking out the competition.
3. Simplify the information-gathering process. Client feedback also taught us that they didn't want to call us or send an email through our general inquiry address because they didn't know what to ask in order to get a quote. In response, we added a "request a quote" page which asks customers to answer questions we think they might ask us in order to get a quote. This way, we can collect everything we need to provide them with an accurate quote without needing to have an actual conversation. The page cost $100 to build and helped us book $15,000 in new business in just the first week it went live on our site.
4. Compute in the cloud. Moving our company's operations online not only helped us provide information to customers quicker and close deals faster, it also slashed our overhead expenses by $2,500 a month on average. We were able to develop a much leaner, more efficient selling system by using online tools such as SlideRocket.com and Proposable.com -- both of which offered us instant access to our most updated documents and real-time viewing analytics for our proposals and presentations -- and others such as Freshbooks.com, Box.net and Google Docs.
5. Use testimonials to build our reputation. We were fortunate to have a roster packed with name-recognizable clients including Old Spice, Pampers and Gap. We needed to reach out to several of our clients for testimonials, which we could then use to sell new clients. We collected those testimonials and display them on all sales materials and online. While we can't put an exact dollar amount on what this tactic generated revenue-wise, it is clear that it has made it much easier for our sales people to close sales. Big names equal instant credibility.
Scott Gerber is the founder of Sizzle It!, a New York-based sizzle reel production company specializing in promotional videos for PR and marketing professionals, and the Young Entrepreneur Council. He is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, columnist, public speaker and author of Never Get a "Real" Job: How To Dump Your Boss, Build a Business and Not Go Broke (Wiley, 2010).