Weekly Business Idea

September 8, 2017 – Are You Planting Seeds?

Posted on | September 8, 2017 | No Comments

Main Idea:

Where do you acquire new customers?  How long is your sales cycle?  More importantly, how long is your marketing cycle?  Do you know where you get new leads from?  Are you intentional about planting seeds to acquire new leads?  How effective are you at planting seeds for the future?

Expansion of the Idea:

I recently received a call regarding providing services to a small business owner.  It was an unusual chain of events that led to the call.  However, it was several different seeds, and a little luck, that caused the small business owner to call.  The conversation started 7 months ago but quickly became dormant.  During that time, there was also a little interaction on social media. The connection was revitalized by some volunteer work I do and hopefully will lead to some new work for my firm.  The point is that it took 7 months just to get to the point of talking about what they need and whether we are a good fit.  That might take another 2 months.  If we start doing work it will be another 3 or 4 months before we are paid for any of the work.  That is close to a year from the beginning of contact to when we start realizing any benefit from a new client.

Most small businesses have a longer customer acquisition cycle than they would like to believe.  They believe that they need new customers so that they can increase sales next month or next quarter.  The reality is that it could be anywhere from 3 to 12 months from the time that their marketing message is converted into business.  And then it might take another 6 months to convert the new customer into a customer for life.  There probably isn’t a standardized time frame for acquiring customers.  However, there could be a normal range for doing so.  The question is whether or not you have identified it.

The first step is to separate two terms, sales and marketing.  Frequently we combine those terms but they really are separate concepts and need to be approached completely different.  Marketing is the process of getting potential customers to raise their hand that they are interested in your product.  This includes identifying the product you are selling, its price, how you will sell it and a strategy for promotion.  The sales process is the system for completing the sale after a potential customer indicates that they may be ready.

The second step is to think through your marketing process.

  • What are you really selling?
  • What services are included?
  • How are you going to price the product or service?  (See July 14, 2017 weekly idea.)
  • How are you going to promote the product or service?
  • Will you advertise or do something different?
  • How many times do your potential customers need to hear from you before they may be willing to talk to you about buying your product?
  • What is the time period?

There is a lot more to a fully developed marketing plan.  The point is that it takes time.   The sales cycle is a separate process that will be discussed in a later weekly idea.  It is more concrete.  It is also irrelevant if you cannot get the right number of new prospects.

There is an old Chinese proverb that says “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.  The second best time is now.”  We need to plant our marketing seeds now so that our future businesses will be healthy.

Here are a couple of things that I think will help.

  1. If you don’t have one, develop a full marketing plan.  Get outside help if necessary.
  2. Ask your team about the process of acquiring customers.  Plot out a time line.
  3. Define your current marketing activities.
  4. With your team, evaluate your current activities.
  5. Talk to a new customer and learn how they came to be a new customer.  People are normally willing to help you if it is personalized.  I recommend a phone call if possible versus a survey.
  6. Map out the execution of the plan.
  7. Start now to plant that tree.

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  • About

    These weekly ideas are brought to you by FitzGerald & FitzGerald P.C. For more information about how to use these ideas with your small business contact Tim FitzGerald at trfitz@fitz-net.com.