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Rainmakers at Work

Developing and Retaining New Business

By Barbara A. Pellow

We have all heard stories about special dances used to bring rain during times when crops needed it the most. In business, a rainmaker is someone who develops business for themselves or their company, and keeps new business coming in the door.

Some sales people sit around waiting for rain. Their attitude seems to be a combination of passive hope and resignation. Others, including the most successful, take positive action to make it rain. They are the ones who aggressively promote their businesses through advertisements and direct contacts, and create new opportunities for their businesses.

Over the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to watch two rainmakers at work. While they took different approaches, the results were consistent—new prospective purchasers and a compressed sales cycle.

Event Marketing
Event marketing is defined as a live activity related to selling products or services. The biggest benefit to event marketing is the ability to shorten the sales cycle. In selling a new account, the sales representative spends a great deal of time trying to get that initial appointment. A well-staged event with a good value proposition is a mechanism to attract prospects and facilitate the establishment of a relationship. If there is an existing relationship with a company, a seminar gives you the opportunity to extend your reach into new departments.

Successful event marketing has three critical components. First, you have to invite the right target audience and effectively promote the event. Secondly, taking the time to properly hone your message is critical. The event needs to include educational content that provides value to your audience. The final ingredient is follow-up. Follow-up is the most important, yet frequently most neglected, element of the event process. It is how you turn prospects into paying customers.

Custom Data Imaging Corporation
Frank McPherson is president and founder of Toronto-based Custom Data Imaging Corp. (CDIC) and is a marketing and technology visionary. As digital color came to the market, he recognized the business opportunity variable data printing provided and seized it. CDIC opened its doors in April of 1999 and reached profitability in its first year. From a target market perspective, CDIC specializes in helping marketers, agencies, and advertisers produce highly customized direct marketing campaigns.

McPherson says, "You have to demonstrate what you can deliver. We promote ourselves through targeted, innovative direct marketing." He cites an example where he sent out a single shoe telling recipients to come to a seminar to pick up the match. The typical approach for CDIC is using a customized campaign to get recipients to participate in a marketing event.

Frank sets his business apart by hosting seminars that educate agencies and marketing executives in Toronto. CDIC recognizes that timing is everything. The meetings are typically run early in the morning to catch people on their way to work before they get distracted with other activities in the office.

Once the prospect arrives at the seminar, there is continual reinforcement of the importance of a customized message. The participant receives a personalized notepad with a full color side bar, and a personalized calendar with important dates highlighted. "I talk in these seminars as an educator. People listen better when they are being educated versus sold," says McPherson.

Frank is also a master at follow-up. He ensures immediate—and personalized—communication with everyone who attends, thanking them for their participation. For those people that RSVP but do not show up, he assumes they are interested but an emergency meeting or client crisis may have kept them from coming. He sends a personalized version of the handouts so they understand what they missed, and a notice about the next upcoming event. And last but not least, there is focus on sales follow-up and direct contact. Within 30 days of each session, CDIC picks up at least one new customer.

Market Connections
Market Connections was incorporated in 1992 by its two principals, Michael Moran and Daniel Brown. The company was created in order to provide a variety of graphic design, document management, print-on-demand, publishing, and production services to the United States and Canadian direct marketing community.

The company has delved into the world of custom publishing through newsletters. This is a big and growing business opportunity. According to the Custom Publishing Council, corporate America produces more than 116,000 unique custom publications annually and spends $30 billion each year doing so. Last year, 13.2 percent of the average corporate marketing budget was spent on custom publishing, up from 11.1 percent the prior year.

According to Moran, "We focus on the delivery of high value, industry-specific customized newsletters for the financial services, dentistry, and real estate markets." The agent can log onto the Internet, select appropriate content for his or her client base, upload names and addresses, and request a targeted newsletter.

"The value proposition to our customer base is that the newsletter is a persistency tool. We get testimonials all the time from our financial services customers. The financial advisor will go to somebody’s house and they will see a copy of a newsletter sitting on the coffee table with certain sections highlighted. They immediately realize the value of maintaining that persistency in communication," says Moran.

He aggressively looks for opportunities to sponsor seminars in the financial services market to drive his digital printing business. His approach is to align with associations and actively drive seminar content and participation. Moran sees this as a cost effective way to get his message out into the market.

Moran worked with the New Jersey ABA Marketing Network to promote a session focused on a topic that community bank marketers care about—1:1 Marketing. He developed and designed high quality customized digital color pieces to drive participation. Most importantly, because he was participating in a session driven by the ABA Marketing Network rather than being driven by a vendor, participants had a strong propensity for purchase.

Plan and Follow Through
Doing an effective job at event marketing requires a commitment from your entire company. Staff members need to dedicate the time to get messages and educational content right. And the sales team needs to commit to attracting existing prospects and customers to the event, and following through with prospects after the event.

As you talk with firms like CDIC and Market Connections, you learn that they have benefited from the impact of business-building event marketing with measurable results. More clients, more revenue, better client relationships, and motivated employees are just a few of the advantages when you take charge and make it rain.

Jul2006, Digital Output

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