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It's Back to School Time!
by Robert Middleton
Action Plan Marketing

If you have kids you're probably experiencing some relief at the end of a long summer. The kids are back to school as we all enter the closing stretch of 1998.

Remember, the excitement, the anticipation, or even the dread you experienced when you were about to return to school? You got new clothes, new school supplies and hoped this year would be a little bit better than the last.

Well, with my little analogy I want to suggest that the fall is also a kind of "back to school" for business as well. The weather is cooling off (yes, I know I have many subscribers in the Southern hemisphere, but bear with me), the summer holidays are over, your clients are back in their offices and it's time to get down to work.

It's also a great time to think about your marketing. (You knew I'd get around to that!)

What I want to suggest is that you take advantage of this upward direction and break out of your cocoon. I recommend you spend some serious time for the next couple of months developing and implementing a marketing campaign to those on your client/ prospect /associate list. Here's one approach:

  1. Get your database together on your computer. Update your numbers and your email. If you don't have some information, use that as a reason to give that person a call. -- "I was just updating my client list and I realized I didn't have your e-mail address. I'd like it so I can keep you posted about the new service/ program/ newsletter/whatever I've developed."
    This is a very easy call to make and often leads to new business right away.

  2. Take stock of your business.
    • What have you been working on most for the past few months?
    • What's exciting you?
    • What has the most potential?
    • What are you talking about the most?

    Do you have anything written up about those services? Take some time to develop a written overview of this service or angle or idea. Maybe it's a workshop or a way of working with clients or a new slant on an old approach. But get it down in writing. Writing makes ideas real, makes them tangible. Make sure to include all the benefits of this idea to your clients.

  3. Now look over your database and segment it. Who's hot, who's not? Who should know about this new service? Who's likely to respond most enthusiastically? Those are the people you'll contact first.

  4. Now figure out your contact strategy. If you have a handful of large clients it will probably be different than if you have dozens or even hundreds of smaller clients. Mail-call? Call-mail? Call-mail-call? Mail-call-mail? I'm not sure which will work for your situation, but create a strategy, test it out and fine tune.

  5. Now you need to write a letter. It's even more important than that page or two you put together (which you may or may not include in the mailing). Write the letter as if you were speaking sincerely to a friend sitting across from you. Explain in the very first sentence what the letter is about -- the benefits they receive. -- "I've been working on a new process-improvement service that I've had some tremendous success with and I though you'd like to hear about it. With XYZ company we were successful in shortening time to market for their widgets by half. It's saving them $10,000 per month." Then go on to say more about this process/service/project and let them know you'd like to get together to discuss it.

  6. If you want to grow your business - grow your income - grow yourself, you've got to build on your successes. Don't wait to be discovered. Share your successes, share your ideas, share your energy. Don't think of knocking on doors because you need work. Knock on doors because you have something to give.

  7. Make your calls proactive, not passive.
    Contrast this approach on a call:
    a) "Hi, things are a little slow around here right now and I wondered if you had any projects coming up?"
    to this approach:
    b) "Hi, I just came up with a new idea for increasing production on your widget line.
    I'm not absolutely sure it will work for you but I'd like to sit down and see if it makes sense. Do you have some time later this week?" What do you think would be more effective??!!
This whole "campaign" might be to just 10 companies, but if you have something valuable to share, something that works, something you're excited about, I promise people will want to know about it. And, of course, project opportunities can open up from there.

So, time to get back to school in your business. Dust off your database, start writing and making some contacts. I'm willing to bet you get much higher marks this semester!

Now that you've read this, you might conclude that you need marketing help. Robert Middleton has been helping service businesses attract new clients since 1984. You can contact him at:

Action Plan Marketing
378 Cambridge Avenue, Suite B
Palo Alto, CA 94306
Tel: (650) 321-4449
Fax: (650) 321-6646
Email: [email protected]

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You might also be interested in visiting his website and filling out the Marketing ScoreCard to help you understand exactly where you are with your marketing.

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