Q: I've started a video surveillance business, and I've been focusing on retail stores. I recently handed out 550 fliers describing my products and prices, without one reply. We've also done 1,000 phone calls, followed up by a free estimate, which sold just five systems for a profit of $3,000 in 60 days. Do you have any marketing tips for us to increase our sales? We think there's a big market for this business in our area.
A: Like many entrepreneurs, you may have launched your business based on a "feeling" that there's a big market, without necessarily making sure one exists. What you need is concrete data. Decide what constitutes a good prospect-is it their size, revenue or location? How many stores that fit your criteria have no video systems in place and can afford to buy one in your price range? Are you facing entrenched competition or perhaps a completely saturated market? Without this information, you're simply marketing in the dark.
So before you do anything else, it would be smart to hire a research firm to conduct a telephone survey of your retail prospects. You should also perform a competitive analysis by gathering your competitors' marketing materials. Use them to evaluate your pricing and the ways your company adds value-additional services, products or features-that can help you stand out. Then come up with distinct benefits you can use to position yourself against your competitors in sales calls and marketing materials.
Your most important goal should be to meet with qualified prospects-the ones your research tells you will be receptive to your message. Instead of passing out fliers, which can detract from an otherwise quality image, create color brochures to use in meetings. While your telemarketing program has yielded marginal results, you may see a higher return once you refine the list based on your research data. Your low conversion rate may also be due to underdeveloped telemarketing skills or a faulty script. Consider hiring a telemarketing company to help you overcome these difficulties and increase the number of appointments scheduled. And don't overlook networking at business and professional functions-they're terrific places to meet retail prospects.
Great customer service that leads to positive word-of-mouth will also play an important role. For each of the five systems your company has sold, ask for referrals and solicit customer feedback you can quote in your marketing materials. While building relationships with the right prospects and customers takes time, it's the best way to lay a solid foundation for sales.