As with any marketing or public relations plan, the type of marketing and your approach to outreach marketing will depend on your business type and your overall goals for success. Most certainly, your outreach plan is intended to create business for your company. Growing your lead base means growing your business, and this will be your main goal. However, in some cases a business simply may be looking to network for future needs. There are plenty of great reasons to do outreach marketing. Here are a few:
- Maintaining momentum for growing a business.
- Creating a new buzz for a company where traffic or sales have slowed down.
- Networking with new business contacts and building new contacts.
- Gaining a competitive edge by working with competitors to discuss market conditions and issues that affect your business.
- Cross-referring customers to peers in different industries.
- Finding new avenues that you have missed in the past.
Food-for-thought question: If you owned an upscale furniture store in Hollywood and you wanted to be the source for furniture for Hollywood stars, what would you do to get their attention? How would you contact them? One way would be to solicit addresses of their agents or publicists and ship out one free piece of your most unique line of furniture for them to keep. Be creative!
· Attend your local chamber of commerce meetings regularly.
· Be involved in community and charitable events, including parades and fundraisers.
· Search your chamber of commerce directory for businesses that you think would be good networking resources. Once you solidify a group that you would like to network with, contact each one individually or as a group via e-mail, personal visits, lunches, or chamber events.
· For customer targets, attend trade shows and, as mentioned above, stay involved with community events. Hometown events usually draw a nice crowd and provide an opportunity to educate potential customers on what you have to offer.
· If you have a specific group in mind, such as college students, there are specific ways to reach individuals in the group, whether through their respective schools directly or via sporting events.
What if your business is unique? Let us say, for example, in this economy you are a handyman or cleaning service specifically geared toward foreclosed homes. In today's marketplace, as foreclosures increase, real estate agents are showing these homes to prospective buyers, but in some cases the properties are not maintained. You may not necessarily go out in the community and sell your services, but you would contact every local bank within a 50-mile radius, or a radius in which you are comfortable working. If you do not get a response or an answer on the first try, you follow up via phone calls, messages, e-mails, and even leaving marketing packets. For some businesses, it is customary to take treats such as coffee, donuts or bagels to prospective customers on a regular basis. You may not be doing business with this customer or company today, but you create a relationship by continually visiting and initiating a good rapport. If a business is home-based or Internet- based, these business owners should still work closely with local community organizations and attend events that may initiate traffic to their Web sites.
Outreach marketing is just what the term implies: creating rapport, building or strengthening business and customer relationships. and seeking out new clients in the same manner. No matter what type of business one may have, no marketing materials or company Web sites can take the place of excellent customer service and building good business relationships. Building those relationships turns into priceless opportunities.
Real world example: WAA, a small development company, is building a 200-unit luxury apartment community in a historic, uniquely diverse town. "Uniquely diverse" refers to the town's melting pot of ethnicities and lifestyles that makes it truly different. "Historic" refers to the fact that famous architects once roamed the streets of this great town and influenced may architectural venues in the area.
With ideal location and incomparable amenities, the apartment community will be one of a kind. However, the town is not happy about the development. Its leaders doubt the knowledge of the small-scale company from another state because they do not believe this company knows anything about their market and their residents. Thus, they are not inclined to welcome or embrace this new business into their community.
This is a tough situation that happens more often than not. Sometimes cities and towns are not fond of certain new businesses because residents are so close-knit and established that they are afraid of change. Furthermore, they fear that new businesses may not be able to grasp their distinctly unique market.
· Every month the town offered numerous events geared toward every group in the area, such as couples, children, seniors, etc. WAA's marketing group made sure to have a presence at every event, by attending and handing out appropriate promotional items.
· Every weekend the town held a farmers market. WAA purchased eco-friendly shopping bags to hand out to all who attended.
· For the children's events, they sponsored food, games, and carnival attractions.
WAA overcame a major obstacle simply by "joining" the community and showing the town that not only did the company want to be a part of it but wanted to be a successful business as well. Outreach marketing is about overcoming these obstacles and breaking down barriers. With each visit, each conversation, and each meeting, you can generate new prospects, new customers, and new friends.
How Outreach Marketing and Good Customer Service Can Drive Sales
If someone comes into your place of business and your approach is less than enthusiastic, that is no way to convince the person to purchase your product or services. Surveys indicate that customers will travel farther to their favorite grocer, pharmacy, gym, and fast food venue because of the service or the way they were spoken to or sold on the product. This is why your outreach is so important. Approaching your target audience members in a way that gets them excited really makes the difference. Through outreach marketing and putting yourself out there you can really make a name for yourself. Along with outreach marketing, you should advertise in spots where you will hit a solid part of your market. Your outreach marketing and advertising efforts will work together to create your successes.
Good customer service is like good public relations: It is a walking, talking advertisement. If your customer service is top-notch and your customers are happy, referrals will follow. Your first impression is certainly a lasting one, but every impression from the first meeting through your outreach and all subsequent meetings matter as well. In today's society, small and medium-sized businesses have a unique advantage over larger companies: real human customer service. Many larger enterprises have automated systems, online chats, out-of-the-country call centers and special numbers that take customers through various touch pad menus. It is not that these bells and whistles are bad, but sometimes it is just nice to talk to another live person when you have a question or comment.
Familiarity and trust are the other two components that will help you grow sales through your outreach marketing efforts because consumers want to be able to trust and know the business they get their products and services from. If you moved to a new town and you had two shopping venue choices, Target and J.L. Smith's, you would have more of a tendency to shop at the Target because you are familiar with the name and you trust the store to have what you need. While J.L. Smith's seems similar and you have heard it is "just like Target," the fact is that it is not Target and, until you know for sure that the two stores are alike or that J.L. Smith is going to have what you need, you will not go there. You may go if you received a coupon for a bottle of your favorite body spray or shampoo or if you had the time to get familiar with the store. However, simply driving by may not entice you to spend money there.
Large retail venues do their outreach marketing through community charitable events in many cases and then, to gain market share, they do heavy-duty local marketing that includes television, radio, weeklycirculars, and sometimes direct mail. You also will see that sometimes they have sponsored local sports fields as well. They are very likely to sponsor Youth Baseball teams, church events, and sometimes even family reunions. When a large retailer or other large company gets involved on the community level, it is quite impressive because, while the public has an ideal that these larger companies should get more involved, it is nice when they actually live up to a positive image. No one ever expects to gain grandeur from tragedy, but when large businesses step up in local communities where disasters have taken place, they are remembered.
Sales are the bottom-line goal of every company; in other words, the goal is to sell products and services and be successful. When customers are not necessarily beating down your door, you have to go that extra mile and perform marketing outreach. Even when customers are beating down your door, outreach is still a great tool to keep your head above water and retain current customers who will refer friends and family. That is part of the magical formula of outreach marketing; companies that use it effectively and consistently will see growth in their customer and lead base.