Even though he's a talented guy who can troubleshoot technical problems and whip up cool software in a flash, my developer lives project to project and his business often ricochets between feast and famine. Unfortunately, there's no list he can rent of companies with impending tech disasters or sites that are about to get hacked. And running ads on TV, radio, bus benches or in newspapers or magazines wouldn't be a cost-effective way to reach his target market.
That's why I suggested that he turn traditional marketing on its head and adopt a strategy that makes clients come to him. A locksmith, I explained, has no idea who's going to lock himself out of his house or when. But, by advertising in the Yellow Pages or putting a sign in his window, the locksmith can improve the odds that, when someone in his service area does get locked out, he's going to get that call.
Thanks to the Internet, I told my developer, identifying customers' pain points is pretty simple. Just make a list of the search terms that business owners and executives might type in when their site gets hacked, their network gets infected by a virus or their customer database gets hopelessly screwed up. Then design a web page for each type of problem that you solve and optimize it for the search engines. Once you see which pages get the most traffic, you may want to buy some keywords as well. This way, at 3 AM or whenever the client's technology fails him, you can ride to the rescue and charge a premium price for your service.
It's clearly a strategy that works. Several months ago, I sat down with the CEO of data recovery company who had an impressive list of Fortune 1000 clients posted on his site. He doesn't have a sales force, and he himself hasn't spent five minutes making cold calls. He reeled in all these clients using search engine marketing. But, while he's managed to build a nice business helping companies save the data on their hard drives and laptops, he now needs to figure out how to turn these individual sales into long-term relationships -- the kind that generate monthly retainers and software development projects.
As for my web developer, the first step is getting his phone to ring.