Growing your business: Part 2
It’s Sunday afternoon, cold and rainy, and as I wait for the first football game to start, I look through my “seeding list,” a little list that I keep in a notebook that is always with me.
My “seeding list” is comprised of names of people, companies, or opportunities that I encounter over the course of the working week that I think are worth further investigation. In my previous column, I mentioned that growing a business is a lot like farming; it requires seeding, cultivating and harvesting. This column is specifically on seeding.
For many companies, “seeding” is a responsibility of the marketing department, and the activities of choice are tradeshows, websites, advertising and email campaigns. Some very motivated salespeople sometimes get involved by making cold calls, but this is increasingly rare. Relegating seeding activity to a select few people involved in marketing roles is one of the three most common mistakes I see in many companies. Believing that marketing has to be a “big budget” undertaking to be effective is the second.
Companies that wish to grow need to be strategic with their seeding activities – even those that already have their order books full. When business starts to slow down, big deals are lost, or expected deals fail to materialize, that’s the time when new opportunities will need to be cultivated and harvested. The best way to keep the hopper full of opportunities is to consistently and intentionally spend time seeding, and the best way to do it cost effectively is to make sure you measure the pertinent results. Failing to measure accurately is the third most common mistake.
The default measurement for many companies is often the total sales figure, but it’s important to measure with greater granularity if you want to improve the return on your specific marketing and seeding efforts. For instance, a contract email marketer that I once employed found that “person to person” emails yielded far more replies than bulk email campaigns did, and that there were specific times of the day and days of the week that yielded the best results. She observed that she often got instant replies to direct emails that she sent out on Saturday or Sunday evenings between the hours of 8 and 11 p.m., but never got replies to bulk emails sent out during the business day. In her role as a “seeder,” she didn’t measure sales – she measured “replies,” “replies converted to phone conversations” and “phone conversations converted to appointments.” Converting opportunities to sales is a measurement for the cultivators and harvesters, not for the seeders.
The same is true for tradeshows. Many companies measure total sales attributed to the show, or total leads generated by the event, or perhaps only the cost of participating. But as any good accountant will tell you, to get better results requires better measurements. How many connections were made in advance of the show? How many connections were made at the show? How many opportunities were qualified from those connections? How many of the qualified opportunities were for what specific products? How many of those opportunities were followed up promptly and personally? How many resulted in products being quoted? Many companies have concluded that they have to be in certain tradeshows, and that those events are very expensive. But by being more intentional with their pre-show, at-show and post-show activities, and by measuring those activities more granularly, they can derive far greater yields from this expensive seeding activity.
But as I said, not all seeding activity has to be expensive. Before the first kick off, I sent out a few specific emails following up on some items on my seeding list. By half time, I had received two interesting responses. By noon tomorrow, I’ll make two phone calls, and hopefully make at least one new appointment for the week. Every face-to-face appointment represents a new opportunity that can be cultivated—but that’s a topic for the next column.
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2013 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.