If we were to ask someone how to generate interest in what we are selling or providing, their first answer is likely to be advertising. However, advertising has changed dramatically in past couple of decades as people have gotten away from reading their printed (and often home-delivered) newspaper as their primary source of news and information and have turned to online sources and TV.
While direct mail, flyers, billboards, signage of other types, and ads in smaller publications have replaced newspaper advertising expenditures to a large part, they are just more ways of taking one’s message to the consumer and trying to make a connection.
Now, we have several companies that compile and sell leads to businesses. How good the quality of those leads are in terms of the number of sales that might result would have to be directed to each company or salesperson who purchases them. The idea that we would need to pay someone to do what we are supposed to do – cultivate and find new leads – just seems like we are paying someone to do our work, with no guarantee of how well they are going to do it.
Though advertising in various forums and at various expenditure levels is historically the way to promote a business and get the word out to the public that products and services are available, it is not the most effective – especially for smaller companies and for aging in place businesses.
Advertising, in its many forms, is passive. It relies on the person who might have a need for what is being offered seeing or hearing about it, identifying with it, and then making contact with the company providing it, or a retail outlet for it (through email, in writing, in person, or by phone). As good as a product or service might be, and as much as someone might need to know about it and then use it, nothing happens until an awareness is raised and a connection made. Then the sales process can begin.
Rather than some type of formal advertising, the two best ways an aging in place business can attract interest in what is being offered and to locate a potential client is through intentional marketing or spontaneous referrals.
Intentional marketing (also known as proactive contact, prospecting, or farming) is the process of meeting people directly, one at a time. We strike up a conversation with them as we learn about how they are and what their potential needs might be. Of course, only a few people we meet this way will be interested in doing business with us, but that is true of advertising also.
The major differences between prospecting or intentional marketing and advertising is that it costs nothing to do, we know exactly who we have talked to about what we offer, and we can gauge their level of interest. In both the indirect, passive method (advertising) and the direct, intentional one we can record their contact information, and we can pursue additional contact. The intentional method lets us know exactly who we have talked to rather than waiting for that person to surface and identify themselves to us from advertising that we have done.
The second way of getting business is also free to use (unless we occasionally reward people for their efforts), and this involves having our satisfied clients (or even those who could not use our services but appreciate what we can do) tell our story for us. It is said that the best salesperson for our business is not us (although it seems like it would be), but the people who have invested in our products, services, and solutions.
Having our satisfied clients (people that Ken Blanchard calls “raving fans”) working on our behalf night and day in places where we aren’t and with people we don’t even know yet is a great way to multiply our efforts. The best part is that it happens without our direct involvement or even requesting that it occur. So, instead of purchasing potential sales leads from a source that makes them available, we are getting real leads from people who know what we do and know the needs of the people with whom they are sharing our message.