Q: I just launched a catering company specializing in organic, vegetarian cuisine. I'm not 100 percent sure how to advertise my service. Should I advertise in natural-living magazines (there are several in the Vancouver area), or should I send my advertising to organizations such as Greenpeace and Sierra Club for their general meetings and such?
A: To successfully launch your company, you'll need a hard-working B2B marketing program that reaches out to qualified prospects and moves them through the sales cycle from cold to warm to hot. Your program must incorporate a range of marketing tactics that, over time, bring prospects incrementally closer to a decision to hire you.
Cold prospects are organizations you've identified as well-qualified but that have little or no awareness of your company. They can be reached through advertising, public relations, cold calls and networking. Begin a campaign of magazine advertising to showcase your unique specialty in natural living publications in your area, and set an ongoing public relations program in motion targeting the same publications. Also create a prospect list of qualified organizations, and support your marketing efforts with telephone calls. To round out your efforts to reach cold prospects, begin networking within select groups where you're most likely to come into contact with members of your target audience.
Once you've begun calling on top prospects and leads from your advertising and PR programs start to roll in, you'll need to set up a database using contact management software. This will help you consistently maintain ongoing contact with warm prospects -companies and individuals with whom you've previously spoken or met. Initiate a direct-mail campaign to make frequent contact with your database. And support the campaign with sales activities, including follow-up telephone calls as well as meetings with prospects generated by your direct mail, advertising and public relations.
Hot prospects are the ones you've successfully moved through the first two stages of your sales cycle. When your marketing program has brought them to this point, you'll need to get personally involved to supply the "heat" to close sales. Instead of holding ordinary meetings with your top prospects, arrange to bring sample box lunches. Breaking bread together will help you showcase your abilities, forge positive relationships and close key sales.