Marketing Your Company: How to Get New Business
Tony Szak was looking for more than just a sales boost when he started his construction referral program in April 2010. In fact, the president and owner of Onalaska, Wis.-based Empire Development & Construction (EDC) needed a structured business framework that not only brought in new residential and commercial construction clients, but also engaged and motivated his entire staff—from office managers to field guides—to seek out new customer opportunities.
Szak was looking to increase his commercial clientele while engaging his staff in the hands-on efforts of finding new business. But training employees to proactively look for new clients isn’t an easy process, especially if they are unfamiliar with sales and marketing. But business owners like Szak have found success in leveraging employee networks to develop customer relationships.
From rewards-based referral programs to encouraging employees to get out and network, business owners can engage a full staff while promoting business and generating sales leads.
Here are five tips to get your entire staff involved in business pitches:
1. Create a positioning statement
In order for employees to market your business effectively, they must first be educated on what to communicate to their network. Todd Wiseman, a national sales manager for Oasis Integrated Services, a business solutions company in Tampa, Fla. that specializes in private management and outside services, suggests developing a structured statement that communicates your business relevance, captures attention and explains why customers should want to do business with you. “A good positioning statement also makes the person you're speaking with want to learn more about your company,” he says. “At the end of the positioning statement, the audience can redeliver easily remembered sound bites of company information to someone else.”
If everyone in the company is communicating the same statement, Wiseman says, you can be confident that potential customers are getting the best information. “Employees feel an extra sense of pride when they know this special thing about the company they're working for,” Wiseman says. “It helps company morale, because employees are getting excited about what they're doing—that’s the key to success.”
2. Open communication in the workplace
Internal relationships are the foundation of achieving outside sales. By constantly talking about job efficiency and how individuals can perform better, every employee is in tune with company goals. With in-house training sessions and open discussions, goals are visibly achievable by the entire staff. “We want the entry-level laborer to know as much as the lead supervisor,” Szak says. “If the lead guy can’t make it that day, we still want the job and the business to move forward.”
Hold specialized marketing training sessions to get employees comfortable with marketing and sales, an area in which some construction industry employees have little experience. Train your staff about the business side of operations, because it’s an effective form of empowerment, says Matthew Harrington, performance strategy consultant at New Directions Consulting, Inc., an international business management and consulting firm in Bennington, Vt. “Build a hands-on strategy of how your employees can most effectively do these [marketing] tasks,” he says. “Allow employees to build skills by involving them in the processes, conferences and strategic conversations.”
To empower employees it’s important to first focus on their involvement and engagement to build up their competency, he says. “Employees will only become powerful, internal marketers,” Harrington says, “If they feel competent and commited to the strategy.”
3. Develop a structured referral program
Szak found success in a referral program that encompasses both employees and clients. When someone refers EDC for commercial or residential work, Szak offers a $50 gift card to one of two local restaurants or a bakery. These restaurants are also past clients of EDC, so Szak is able to send potential customers to see the company’s work while redeeming a free meal. “The power of referral is huge,” he says. “Everyone can benefit.”
And customers aren’t the only ones who can take advantage of the program. Through weekly meetings with staff, Szak encourages every employee to look for potential clients for specific projects. “If someone helps bring in a new client, they get praised at morning meetings in front of the whole staff,” he says. “Other employees see how great it is, so they are inclined to try harder. “ Gift cards are also given to Szak’s employees, but the increased job security that comes with finding new clients is the ultimate reward, he says. And Wiseman agrees that offering some type of compensation is the key to a successful referral program. “Whether it’s a prize, money bonus or extra vacation days, you need to have something employees can earn for their efforts,” he says.
4. Network locally and on social media sites
With profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, Szak has found creative ways to leverage his employees’ social media networks. When posting updates or photos to the company’s Facebook page, Szak includes a link to the EDC website and tags individual employees in pictures. “Not only are my friends seeing the posts,” Szak says. “But people are also seeing it on my employees’ pages.”
In addition to social media, encouraging employees to join industry associations is a great way to cultivate solid, face-to-face relationships. For example, EDC has both office and construction managers involved in a local builders association. “Join an area association or get employees involved in business networking groups,” Szak says. “It doesn’t happen over night, but you need to build trust with people before they will start referring you.”
5. Give a little respect
Finally, employees are more likely to seek out new business when they feel like a respected asset to your company. Getting everyone involved in business pitches is key to the growth of your business and the enrichment of your most fundamental tool—your staff.