Timothy A. Zercher, president and CEO of Pueblo-based EasySocial

How does your business acquire new leads for business-to-business sales? At EasySocial our initial development and growth was entirely through referrals from clients. Referrals are ideal because they show that your business is good at serving your clients and trust you enough to recommend you. Referral-based business is still the biggest driver of new business. However, there comes a point when you’re ready to grow your business faster than referral-based business development alone can achieve and additional tools are required. After all, the last thing you want to do is annoy your current customers by constantly asking for introductions.

So what are your other options for business development? At EasySocial we have created a process for accelerated business development that is successful for us and our clients. In this article, I will walk you through our process.

Step 1: Get to know your ideal customer.

When most people think about advertising or marketing, they give very little thought to who they are trying to reach — instead focusing on what the message is and how they’ll get the message out. This is, in my opinion, the wrong way to approach advertising/marketing. The first step should be to spend as much time and energy as needed to really understand who your ideal customer is: what they look like, where they live, what kind of media they consume and how they think. Once you have this information, you can easily make decisions on the “what” and “how” of your message.

Step 2: Determine your message.

Once you understand who your target is, determining your message is fairly simple. It needs to motivate your ideal customer to give you pertinent information or contact you. You also need to let them know why they should use you and not your competition. Do you have something extra that makes your service/product better than average? Or excellent customer reviews and testimonials? Figure out what sets you apart and make that part of your appeal.

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Step 3: Choose your channel(s).

When choosing channels, here are your basic options: magazines, newspapers, television, radio, direct mail, social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram), PPC (pay-per-click, e.g., Google ads), or hyper-targeting. These questions can help you evaluate your options:

1. Does your ideal customer pay attention to this channel?

2. How much does it cost to reach 1,000 potential customers?

3. How many times will those 1,000 potential customers see your ad? We shoot for 15-30 impressions per potential customer as that seems to be the sweet spot.

4. How quickly and effectively can you measure results from each version of your message?

Step 4: Determine and build message delivery.

This step is probably the simplest of all. Now that you have the who, what and how of your message, it’s time to create the message itself. Your options are dependent on your chosen advertising channel, and include:

1. Still creative — image ads, probably with some text.

2. Video — most marketing teams have a preferred film crew or two.

3. Audio only — radio ad reps will usually help you create these.

Any good marketing team will be able to help you create these advertisements. Bonus tip: Don’t use a team/rep that doesn’t help you shape the message as part of their service.

Step 5: Test and repeat to dial in your strategy.

This seems like an easy process, but is actually pretty complicated to execute for two simple reasons:

1. Just because your advertisement didn’t work at first, doesn’t mean it wasn’t effective. Some studies say that it can take as long as six months to see the total payoff from a single ad.

2. It can be tricky to know where new business is coming from. If you choose digital channels like PPC, social media or hyper-targeting, you can see leading indicators like total clicks to the site/lead funnel page and total number of people who have engaged with your ad. But, with old-school channels like print and radio, figuring out if a new customer has come in the door because of your ad or because they Googled you is very difficult.

Regardless of how you track the effectiveness of your advertisements and which channels you choose to deliver your ads, once you complete the ad you need to make a concerted effort to measure its effectiveness. That data will help you determine whether any changes are necessary. Pro tip: If possible, run multiple versions of the ad on multiple channels during the same period to see which ad type and channel performs best. That way you won’t waste weeks/months between tests.

In the end, nothing in advertising or marketing is certain, but if you follow the above steps, you should be able to eliminate a large amount of guesswork and turn your betting into investing.

Timothy A. Zercher is the president and CEO of Pueblo-based EasySocial. Zercher can be reached at easysocial.solutions.