By Vilis Ozols, MBA, CSP
This article appeared in the California Collectors Association monthly magazine; Collectors Ink, in the Texas Collectors Association monthly magazine and in the CRS News quarterly newsletter in 2005.
One of the biggest issues that causes a collection agency stress, uncertainty, and financial distress is when there is not enough new business coming in the door. Even more stress, uncertainty and financial distress are caused when there is NO new business coming in the door. There is a great saying I use with consulting clients: “New sales solve a lot of ills.”
Many business owners wish that there was a simple formula for getting new sales. As a person with an MBA in Marketing, I have a tendency to oversimplify the process of bringing new business in the door because there really is a very straightforward formula for the process. If you follow this formula you will very easily get more clients. Does this sound too good to be true? Well it shouldn’t. Marketing and getting new sales in the door is neither magic, nor smoke and mirrors, nor luck. It is merely the net result of the combination of marketing efforts that you undertake.
There is a secret though, and that secret is this: No one marketing effort will do the trick; you must undertake a “program” of marketing efforts. New business coming in the door will rarely be a result of one marketing effort. It is inevitably the result of the synergy of a combination of marketing efforts. For example, the person met you at a chamber of commerce event, heard you speak at a business forum on collecting debt, saw your name on social media, heard good things about you from his brother-in-law (whose cousin uses you for collections), and then saw your agency’s new employee announcement in the local paper. When you read this example, you might think that it comes down to a lot of luck. The reality is that each one of these encounters is a component of the “marketing program.” Your results will be directly proportional to the number and effectiveness of your marketing efforts. It all happens with intent and with your discipline to run a program!
What doesn’t work? The biggest issue most business owners encounter that doesn’t work for effective marketing results is what I term “hit and run” marketing. As you go through the following list of efforts your attitude might be “But I tried that once!” Maybe you ran an advertisement, or attended one meeting, or tried doing one press release. Once is not enough. The secret here is the cumulative effect that you can only attain if you are running a marketing “program” that employs multiple techniques of presenting your person, products, and company to your prospective customers. The way you guarantee marketing success is by doing all (or as many as possible) of these items, and by doing them frequently.
So, here are just some of the components of a marketing program. To make the formula work for you, try to perform as many of these components as possible. As you go down this list, keep track of how many of these you, or your company, are doing. If you have multiple instances of these components, your cumulative result will be even better.
Direct mail campaigns: Direct mail does result in new business. The best direct mail, however, is to your own generated lists. Gather names, put them in your database, and increase your response percentages!
E-mail campaigns: Send good information that provides value to your prospects. Just like direct mail, gather names, put them in your database, and increase your response percentages! Give them the “opt out” ability to avoid spamming them.
E-mail capability: Get with the program – even if you’re a technophobe you need a corporate e-mail address (and AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail and MSN don’t count as corporate business e-mail addresses).
Press release campaigns: This is the cheapest way to get publicity. Send out regular press releases. Target your local paper and your trade publications for a higher percentage of coverage. Could you do this once a month?
Personal relationships with editors: The most effective way to get publicity to fall in your lap is by knowing the trade publication editor or local paper editor. A simple note, phone call, or visit will help accomplish this.
Items you can sell/give to clients: What memorable giveaways can you leave with clients? A University of New Mexico study showed that giving gifts during a sales presentation increased the likelihood that prospects would purchase. It also found the value of the gift was not a determining factor. A $2 pen increased the likelihood as much as a $10 sports bag.
Home Page/Web Site: This is easier to do than you might think. If you don’t have one, get one. It’s that simple.
Have a business logo: It’s a recognition tool!
Distinctive slogan or label: Come up with a good one and plaster it on everything you have. It becomes part of who your company is and makes you more recognizable.
Presentations at professional organizations: If you really are good at what you do, how many people know about it?
Mastermind/Peer group: Learn from someone who is better than you!
Remember the people who give you clients: Set up a system to keep in touch with these people and treat them like the gold that they are. Have a special list with their names and numbers easily visible and stay in touch.
Upscale marketing materials: Spend double on your business cards; that extra $40 to $80 is a great investment. What does your card say about your level of service?
Present seminars: Hey, doing a seminar to your target market makes you an expert! Experts are more desirable vendors. Try presenting to your local Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, or Rotary, trade association. (Then send out a press release too!)
How many promotional packages do you send monthly? Are you following up and then staying in touch?
Average number of clients monthly: The more you have, the more you get – if you are staying in touch!
Collect testimonials from clients: This is called third-party credibility – it’s not you saying you’re great; it’s your customers saying you’re great!
Press appearances (print/TV/radio): Appearing in the media makes you an expert because only experts appear in the press, so go for it – you’re an expert! Sometime you don’t get on air or in print at first. Your goal should be to get into the press’s rolodex so they call you when they need an expert! This is also third-party credibility – you’re not the one saying you’re an expert; it’s the press saying it!
Articles written: Writing articles makes you an expert/celebrity because only experts write articles! Experts/celebrities are more desirable vendors. This is yet again, third-party credibility – it’s not you saying you’re an expert, the article you wrote proves you’re an expert because of what it says!
Trade or publication advertisement: Make sure you only advertise to your target market (but do it often and sustain it).
Newsletters/year (print/electronic): Make the newsletter so good that they don’t dare throw it away or not read it.
Member of organization: Yes, we are all too busy for this, but if you’re there and visible, more people know who you are and what you do!
Strive for association leadership positions: Everyone in the organization knows its leaders – how many people know about you in your organization?
Written business plan: Your memory is a lousy marketing tool! This article suggests more initiatives than you can keep track of using your memory. The large number of concurrent diverse marketing approaches is the secret to getting new business. Plan your work … then work your plan!
Referrals given to other professionals: It’s almost impossible to refer business and not get an ancillary benefit yourself from it. Whether it’s giving different kinds of debt to other agencies, or serving as a “trusted advisor” with your clients’ best interests at heart, anytime you help someone else get business, it will help you get business.
Professional certification: This is the professional association (not just you) saying you’re good at what you do! Examples: Certification for agencies, Professional Practices Management System (PPMS), and certifications for collectors, Creditor Collection Specialist (CCS), Professional Collection Specialist (PCS), Healthcare Collection Specialist (HCS), and Higher Education Collection Specialist (HECS), all from ACA International.
Do you have a client database? Just do it! Even better, have a contact management system that reminds you to call and to follow-up.
Do you have a marketing employee? Are you an army of one or is someone working hard to get you business?
800 number: Really quite inexpensive and a true credibility builder.
Is this a daunting list and a strategy that is beyond you? It must not be. The results are guaranteed. If you do these things, you will get more business. If you don’t believe it, check out your fastest growing competitor. It’s a sure bet that they are doing more of these things than you are … and look what it has done for their new sales!
In the words of Jay Conrad Levinson, author of Guerilla Marketing: Marketing is not an event, but a process . . . It has a beginning, a middle, but never an end, for it is a process. You improve it, perfect it, change it, even pause it. But you never stop it completely.
Vilis Ozols, MBA, CSP, (www.ozols.com) president of the Ozols Business Group in Albany, NY is a motivational business speaker and leadership consultant. He is the author of 3 books, he’s a former pro beach volleyball player and he has spoken to businesses in all 50 U.S. states.