Spreading the Word

Don't quite know how to reach your customers? Our Marketing Expert shows you how to find them.
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Q: I've just started a computer consulting firm. How do I get the word out, short of taking out a full-page ad in The New York Times?

A: There are many alternatives to costly mass media for marketing your computer consulting business. Your top priority should be to set up an ongoing marketing program that employs a variety of tactics to reach a narrow target audience. Here are four ideas to get you started:

1. Build a targeted prospect list. Write down a target audience profile-that's a detailed description of your best prospects. What types of businesses are they in? What characteristics do they have in common? Then build a list of business-to-business prospects that fit your profile to use on an ongoing basis. Tap business directories, trade journals and magazines, Internet sources, association membership lists and other resources to locate the names of prospects that fit your criteria. Decide how many prospects you'll call per week and be sure to follow through.

2. Network with your business prospects. Identify the business and professional groups in your area whose membership is composed primarily of information services professionals or business executives who'll be good referral sources for you. Before joining, attend a variety of meetings, then select only those that proactively support networking and lead exchange.

3. Establish yourself as an expert. If you enjoy public speaking, you can give seminars at high-tech conferences or talks at luncheon meetings for technology-oriented groups. Another option is to write articles or columns for trade journals or even your local newspaper if it's read by your prospects. A related PR tactic would be to create a tip sheet, such as 10 Ways to Prevent Computer Crashes, for local print publications or business and trade journals to run with your byline.

4. Advertise selectively. Instead of taking the gunshot approach via mass media, run a small-space ad campaign in the media that reaches your target audience with the least amount of waste and that they look to for information on computer technology.

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