Sales vs. Marketing: How Do You Get Clients?
Sales are the lifeblood of a business. When distributors pose the question of how others get clients, others jump in to share their favorite sales tactics. The older veteran distributors typically recommend the old fashion way: knocking on doors. They swear by cold calling and canvassing, claiming that’s how they built their business in their 30-plus-year business careers, which I would argue they probably haven’t done for a while.
Then there is networking. That’s a popular way, either by joining local business networking groups or networking via social media. And also another popular way—referrals and word of mouth.
All of these are perfectly valid ways to get clients. In fact, that’s how the vast majority of distributors have built their businesses.
Short Term vs. Long Term Strategies
There is a generalized mindset that business growth is achieved by hiring more salespeople, hoping they will bring in new clients to add to your book of business. This makes sense in the promotional products business because of the relationship-based nature of the business. Given the potential longevity of clients, building relationships plays a critical role in retaining clients and maximizing their potential.
But, when it comes to growing and getting new clients, if your entire business growth depends on cold calling, networking and referrals, your reach is limited by a number of factors, some of which you have no control of. Just to name one, it’s getting harder and harder to connect with potential buyers and get their attention, so it takes a lot more work and time to get an appointment, let alone make a sale.
And you certainly can’t control referrals, especially their quality. I remember in my distributor days, one of our big clients sent us their beloved cousin, who was starting a business and wanted to order 100 pens and five T-shirts, but their budget was so tight, buying these was a big stretch for them. And they had a PNG logo they loved. Or their aunt, who was organizing a high school reunion and needed 30 super cool tote bags, with a budget of $2 each.
Sales Strategies Produce Fast Results
There are two basic ways to grow your business: implementing short-term strategies and long-term strategies.
Sales strategies are short-term strategies, including all the actions you can take to generate clients in the short-term. They are meant to produce fast results. As hard as it might be, if you go out everyday knocking on doors, networking or cold calling, you will come back to the office with a few orders sooner or later.
For small distributors, getting new clients in this way means getting busy with the production of these new orders, which are probably not big ones. With all the extra work getting all the logos and items you need when you start a new client, you’re really busy for two or three weeks producing these orders, and you stop networking and cold calling. So when the orders are completed, your pipeline is empty.
And you have to start all over again. I call this the cycle of doom.
How do you get out of the cycle of doom? Simple: marketing your business.
Long-Term Strategies Build Your Brand
Long-term strategies have to do with getting new clients to come to you. They are all about building your brand authority and visibility, and generating traffic to your website. This requires a very different set of actions and takes a long time to show results.
So if your business is experiencing a serious low and you need to generate business now, it does you no good to focus on long-term strategy activities.
That said, most distributors have done very little marketing throughout their business lives.
I have talked to distributors in business for 20-plus years, some in the seven-figure range, who have always focused on the short-term direct sales strategies, but they have not built a brand at all. So even though they have achieved a certain level of success above average, they have the usual average-generic brand look and feel, very little visibility, no authority and no website traffic to speak of.
To be fair, back when they started it wasn't necessary to have a distinct brand, and the way to build a business was knocking on doors. He who knocked on the most doors won.
Having a Distinct Brand Is Critical Today
It is important that you dedicate effort to the long-term marketing that will build your positioning as an authority in your market.
This is true for all businesses, but even more so for distributors, because you are in the branding business. You really cannot afford to be a generic brand that comes across as just another seller of the same products.
So in order to create a system to get new potential clients coming to you, you need to do certain things regularly to actively build your brand and authority online.
This takes time to show results. They are long-term strategies. It can be discouraging and hard to stick to these activities, because you won’t see immediate results and wonder if it’s working at all. But if you dedicate time and effort to the brand building strategies, eventually you’ll start to be found online and start getting opportunities and leads, and that’s how you can stop depending on referrals and one-to-one efforts that are so time-consuming.
If you’d like to know more about how to do this, we are hosting a free webinar next week, you are welcome to join.
Attracting prospects and clients is all about marketing, and marketing means finding ways to get seen by your potential buyers, so more people know about your business today than they did yesterday.
This is achieved by creating relevant content that builds your brand authority, which will drive traffic to your website.
It does take a while, but once it starts getting noticed by Google—and your potential clients—it has a compounding effect, where your online footprint multiplies, and the more you do it the more it builds upon itself. That’s how you create value in your business, when you build your brand you’re creating assets because of the long-lasting effect.
If you’re in it for the long haul, investing in long term strategies is the only way to leverage those buyers who are searching online. You want to be in front of them to be considered a contender.
That’s how you put an end to the cycle of doom.
And if you need help in getting started, we specialize in distributor marketing. Whether you are looking to DIY, do it in-house or outsource it completely, we can help!
We believe that small distributors can compete with big guys by leveraging digital marketing. And we want to help, that’s why we’re hosting a free webinar on the subject.
This article was first published in Action Marketing blog. Action Marketing specializes in SEO and strategic digital marketing for distributors. For more marketing articles, free webinars and guides specific to the promo business, visit the Resources section of ActionMarketingCo.com.
Gloria Lafont is a mother, grandmother and business owner. Throughout her business career she has started, bought and sold a dozen businesses in the branding and marketing field, including a distributor company. She’s currently president of Action Marketing Co., founded in 2007. Her company focuses on helping distributors increase visibility, generate awareness and drive traffic so they can connect with more of their ideal clients and generate more leads and sales.
Gloria is a big fan and supporter of education and the cultural arts, volunteering her time and donating marketing support over the years to help various organizations grow in membership and revenue. She also enjoys the South Florida lifestyle mix of business, beaches and arts.