It takes a lot of effort, time and money to land a new client. The process can be downright painful at times. It’s interesting though, that most company’s strategy is to finish that first project and then start the grind all over again looking for the next new relationship.

I’m thinking, why throw a potential long-lasting engagement down the drain? Why not put a plan in place to turn those one-off projects into retainers? If that piques your interest, here are five ideas to incorporate into your soon-to-be-in-play retainer strategy:

Constantly Reintroduce Yourself

Suppose you run a marketing agency and you are providing print material services to a client. Does the client know you also offer social media strategies, email marketing, web design and copywriting? Sure you mentioned those services at the initial sales meeting. But now its months down the road. Do you think they still remember? Are those services still in their consciousness? Will your company name come to front-and-center in their mind at the very moment they need one of those other services, if you’re lucky?

Why not head off this problem? Create a system whether by email, social media or with a newsletter, that constantly reintroduces clients to your service offerings. Perhaps in the first month you talk about the company’s prowess doing email marketing. The next month you shift to discussing your tactics for generating leads using social media. Keep this process going all year perhaps sending something out monthly or bi-monthly. Remember to always stay benefit focused. Highlight the results you produced for someone else? Forget about features and functions. Those discussions come later in the sales process. When you have covered talking about all the services the company offers start over.

Be a Fly-on-the-Wall

Keep an ear to the social media conversations and trends taking place. How does what’s happening effect your clients? When you come across interesting headlines do you read the article or posting and then move on to the next author or blogger? Why not pass a link off to the clients that could benefit most from knowing that information? It doesn’t take much time or effort to be a newsagent for your clients. When you happen across an industry influencer do you pass that name along to the clients that could benefit most from that person’s perspective?

Clients will admire your approach. They’ll think – Wow, this guy is thinking about my business day and night. She’s even thinking about my business when we’re not even doing business.

Scout the Competition

Perform some due diligence on your client’s competition. When you see them in a place where your client does not have a presence, mention the fact. When you come across announcements made by competitors let your clients know. I’m not talking about spending a lot of time and effort. Just keep your antenna up. When you come across something of interest to a particular client pass it along. Don’t squander the opportunity. Passing the information along may actually lead to a conversation – a conversation that leads to more work.

Occasionally Circle Back

Stay abreast of what your client’s are up to – past and present. Set some time aside every month to reacquaint you with what your client’s activities. Take a quick review of their website. Have they announced any new products or services? Are they attending any trade shows in the near future? What’s happening in their In The News section? Any Press Releases being sent out? What chatter can you find in the social media communities?

Once you understand what changes have taken place the next step is to think about how the newly gained insight can be leveraged. Is there a current service offering that can be expanded upon or customized to fit their needs? Is there a way to up-sell or cross-sell the client?

Be a Good Listener

Customers give up a lot of information during a face-to-face talk – are you listening, watching, looking around? Think of yourself on a recon (reconnaissance mission) instead of a sales meeting. Be alert as you move from the front door to the conference room or private office. What do you notice about employee morale or the culture? What’s on the walls? Are there awards on a table or showcase?

What’s the person you’re meeting with into, sports memorabilia, auto racing, kids in the family, personal awards or commendations? What floats this person’s boat? Being able to have a personal connection can’t hurt the relationship.

During the conversations, listen to what pain points or problems people mention. Is there a way you can help even though the issue may be out of your area of expertise? Can you refer someone that can assist? The company will see you as a problem solver.

In closing, remember in everything you do communicate value. It’s why companies should do business with you and not the competition.

“I’d like to introduce Bob Thompson. I met Bob while writing for, a great place for insight by the way. Bob has a new book out and I just wanted to let all my readers know. Click on Bob’s link below to learn more about his latest masterpiece.” John Leavy

This past week I had the pleasure of keynoting the awards dinner at SCORE in Boston, a conference run by Omega Management Group for the past 12 years. Omega’s NorthFace ScoreBoard Award℠ is the only industry award I’ve seen that is determined exclusively by customers!

While preparing for my speech, it occurred to me that in my 35 years in business, in a wide variety of customer-facing jobs, I had never had a job title that included “customer service.” And yet, I felt a kinship with these service leaders. Why?

I eventually traced it back to the start of my career. In 1978 I joined IBM straight out of college as a Systems Engineer, a technical position in a sales office. My job was to work with customers to understand their business problems and find solutions that would help.
During training, I learned IBM’s three basic beliefs. These beliefs were part of the company’s culture and became part of mine, too.

  1. Respect for the individual
  2. Best possible customer service
  3. Pursuit of excellence

Let’s take a closer look at that second one. Notice that IBM didn’t say “best possible customer service” only applied to those in customer service jobs. Rather, it was a philosophy that it was everyone’s job to serve customers. For example:

  • Developers serve customers by creating solutions to help customers achieve their goals
  • Plant managers serve customers by producing high-quality products that don’t fail
  • Marketing managers serve customers by knowing their communication preferences
  • Sales professionals serve customers by providing insight to solve business problems
  • Call center agents serve customers by resolving problems with speed and empathy

I’ll admit that being “customer-centric” is a fuzzy concept. Maybe it will help to simplify to this:
Customer-centricity is serving customers in a way that also creates business value.
If you think of it that way, then we are all in “customer service.” Don’t let it become just a job to fix problems.

About Bob (please include this bio with the post)

UntitledBob Thompson is an international authority on customer-centric business management who has researched and shaped leading industry trends since 1998. He is founder and CEO of CustomerThink Corporation, an independent research and publishing firm, and founder and editor-in-chief of, the world’s largest online community dedicated to helping business leaders develop and implement customer-centric business strategies. His book Hooked on Customers (April 2014) reveals the five habits of leading customer-centric firms.

For more information visit

Everyone would agree that selling, especially when “you” are the product or service such as in consulting, could be difficult and trying at times. Much goes into the selling process; selling the right product or service to the right person at the right time with the right features for the right price. Sometimes the door is slammed in your face at other times luck prevails and you land a new client.

If you run your own business you have no other recourse when a sale goes sour but to pull yourself up, dust yourself off and get back in the game. To that end, I thought we could take a few moments to review what makes a good salesperson great. Here are seven traits that if acquired and applied can make you the best darn salesperson out there:

Consistent – Whatever you do you need to do it consistently. If it’s a monthly newsletter make sure it goes out monthly. If its weekly blog posts make sure they’re posted on time. If you’re determined to make ten cold/warm calls per day then don’t procrastinate and try and fit them into the last 30 minutes of the business day. Doing that gives you the perfect excuse to get off the phone, “Well I tried, but everyone I called was too busy to talk.”

Inventive – How do you land that first meeting, that initial foot-in-the-door conversation? You’ll have to be more creative than the person blasting people with junk emails. If you’re an author you might consider sending a free copy of your latest masterpiece to prospects as an icebreaker. If you are a marketer you could offer to do a free audit of the company’s marketing plan, website, email marketing campaign or social media efforts. A strategy like this turns a sales appointment into a working meeting where the potential client receives an immediately benefit at no cost.

Impactful – The product or service you’re hawking has to affect the company’s bottom line and it has to change the client’s business in a positive way and the sooner the better. Make sure the product or service your selling stands alone against its completion.

Sincere – Without sincerity on your part there will be no trust coming from the client’s side. The client must believe you are truly engaged in solving the problem and not focused on just selling another widget.

Legwork – Know your prey. Don’t waste time trying to sell to companies that are not a good representation of the businesses you work with on a daily basis. Do the investigation necessary to understand where the company is headed, what they do, what their obstacles are and what products or services you could offer to help them reach their goals.

Whining – Tom Hanks line as Jimmy Dugan the manager of an all female baseball team uttered in A League of Their Own, “There’s no crying in baseball,” fits in business as well. There’s no time to hold pity parties. No giving up. No tantrums. Just keep trying it’s your only option if you intend on staying in business.

Tenacity – “Third time’s the charm” does not always apply when reaching out to potential prospects. It might take a dozen touches before the person responds to your message. Believe in what you’re doing and keep trying. If one marketing tactic, such as email marketing, is not producing positive results then switch to something else social media, a newsletter or phone call for instance. Keep changing things up until you hit a rhythm.

There are other terms we could have used in our list of seven traits but we’d only be splitting hairs terms such as: Audacious, Focused, Bold, Serious, Succinct, Confident or Resilient. Seven seemed enough for anyone to work on at any one time.

Are you applying all these traits when trying to win new business? What can you do to acquire the missing elements? Who can help? What needs to be done? When can you start?

Let’s build our marketing dashboard in EXCEL just like last time when we constructed a marketing schedule that way we can share information between the workbooks if the situation arises. We’ll build the spreadsheet with the marketing channels to the left and 12 columns representing the three or so months we’ll run our campaign. Here’s a snippet of what the LinkedIn metrics look like:


There are separate sections to track what’s happening with our address book contacts, our Twitter followers, our blog readership and those receiving the direct mail pieces.

Certainly, there are some spreadsheet numbers that will be more meaningful to us as the campaign evolves. It’s great to acquire new connections but if that’s all that happens with the new relationships then our efforts, the time and money being expended, are not moving the all-important, proverbial needle.

Next time we’ll breakdown all the LinkedIn numbers and discuss which ones mean more than the others. For now, our focus will be on the marketing dashboard overall.

You’ll notice we have the LinkedIn metrics listed first followed by our two offers the marketingSNACKS newsletter and the free eBook 101 ways to Generate a Truckload of Targeted Leads.


Even though the metric numbers will hopefully be increasing as we reach out to the LinkedIn audience the real payoff comes if they take one of the offers. From there, we’ll work to have them become what we’ll call an opportunity. Let’s define an opportunity as someone who moves the relationship to the next level by taking some action an action such as subscribing to our newsletter or downloading our free eBook.

As time passes, some of the opportunities will turn into leads. We’ll define leads as those that show an interest in the products and services we offer. We won’t push things. We’ll move at a measured pace. With some sales skill and a little luck a portion of the leads will turn into prospects and then finally into customers or clients.

You’ll also notice listed among the numbers to track are four that matter to the bottom line, Contacts Made, Appointments Set, Contracts Signed and Revenue Generated 2014.

These are the all-important numbers to generating more business. If we’re not setting appointments and closing deals then our marketing efforts are floundering. Forget the good feeling you’re having reaching out to new people and staying busy with all the marketing tactics. If you’re not engaged in winning new business then surely the completion is busy.

Here are a few more snapshots of the metrics we’ll collect over the course of our marketing campaign. We’ll talk about each channel in more detail moving forward.

Dashboard3      dashboard4

I built my launch schedule in EXCEL. I’m sure it could exist in several other formats as well. Here’s a snapshot of the first few weeks. As you can see the LinkedIn status is changed to alert the connections announcing the 101 Ways to Generating a Truckload of Targeted Leads eBook on November 11th. Those recipients in the address book receive a similar announcement in an email. Tweets go out all week. Remember, people are not listening to their Twitter stream all day hence the repeated messages on different days at various times.

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 10.53.25 AM

Week two takes a slightly different tact. The marketing focus switches to announcing the free bi-weekly newsletter marketingSNACKS. The announcement goes out to four groups or audiences the LinkedIn connections, those in the address book, plus the Twitter followers and the blog readership. The announcements go out on Wednesday. People are usually the busiest on Mondays and Fridays.

So far you can see that we have developed our marketing launch to involve four different audiences being offered two different marketing pieces the eBook and the newsletter. Most people will likely opt for one or the other a few will take both offers.

The strategy here is that some people will want more information while others will be satisfied with less. The goal of any marketing campaign is to hit the right chord to uncover what interests people most.

Here’s a look at Week 6:

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 10.57.13 AM

As you can see the marketing campaign is turning into a well-oiled machine.

As our 90-day Marketing Plan develops we’ll add two more audiences those that visit the company website and those that will receive a direct mail piece.

For those visitors to the website, the marketing effort will include two strategically placed ads one for the eBook and one for the newsletter. Those interested will be directed to separate landing pages so we can track their involvement.

As long as we have our marketing plan humming along on the Internet why not try a piece of street mail to see if we can garner any enthusiasm.

Here’s how we when about identifying potential prospects. First we made a trip to the local library. Okay, we could have called by phone but we wanted to start building a relationship with the person that compiles all the business references. Once there we looked into the different business listings that were available and compiled a list of 150 potential companies that fit the characteristics of our ideal client. We’d like to end up with 100 good names so we took more than we needed because invariably some companies will fall off our list for one reason or another.

The next task was to write a great introductory letter. Ours included a few shocking quotes to catch their attention followed by a problem, our solution and the benefits they would derive from using our approach. The letter closed with a short intro of who we are and a mention that we would be following up in a few days to make sure the letter reached their desk and to answer any unanswered questions they might have about what was said.

The letters will be sent out in batches of 10. Ten calls are all we can follow up with and still keep working on current projects.

To close let’s remember that launching the marketing campaign whatever it looks like and sticking to that commitment is what matters most. We won’t learn as much if we just run the campaign for a few weeks and then move on to the next shinny object.

Let’s not make a major mistake many businesses do when launching a marketing campaign. They treat everyone the same. Whether the recipients are past or new customers, current clients or potential prospects. Everyone receives the same message in the same manner at the same time.

People are different. Some read blogs or newsletters while others rely on videos or webinar to gather their information. Some respond better to a phone call while others prefer contact by email. Then there’s social media, a whole different animal.

The marketing methods have to match up with the way a particular audience prefers to be reached.

Let’s suppose we’ve identified five different audiences for our 90-day marketing campaign. They might people from our address book, LinkedIn connections, Twitter followers, blog readership and businesses we’ll target with direct mail pieces. Each of these audiences will have to be treated in similar yet different ways. Various tactics will be employed with slightly diverse marketing messages.

Here’s how the process looks broken down:

The Address Book Contact:

Two emails will be sent using MailChimp an email service. One email announces the offer a free eBook. A second email will be sent a week later offering a free biweekly newsletter. Recipients will be sent to two different landing pages so we can track which offer works best. The statistics provided by MailChimp will tell us the success rate of the two email campaigns. Those that take the eBook offer will automatically be subscribed to the newsletter. Of course, the newsletter provides an opt-out option. Spamming people won’t get them to change their mind.

The LinkedIn Connections:

The status section on the LinkedIn page will be used to announce the eBook and the newsletter. One offer will be broadcast one week with the second offer coming the second week. Two weeks after the initial offer was announced, the LinkedIn email addresses will be exported and imported into MailChimp. This gives us the ability to send two emails to those that are not monitoring the status lines of their connections. Recipients will be sent to two different landing pages so we can track which offer works best. Again, the statistics provided by MailChimp will tell us the success rate of our two email campaigns. Those that take the eBook offer will automatically be subscribed to the newsletter.

The Twitter Followers:

The Twitter followers need to be treated differently. They’ll receive three tweets per day Monday through Friday at eight-hour intervals. This will give us global coverage. HootSuite a social media desktop will manage the tweets sent out. One week we’ll offer the free eBook. The second week we’ll offer the free biweekly newsletter. Twitter followers will be sent to two different landing pages so we can track which offer works best. The statistics provided by HootSuite will tell us the success rate of the two campaigns. Those that take the eBook offer will automatically be subscribed to the newsletter.

The Blog Readership:

The Blog Readership will also need to be treated in a different manner. Two ads will be designed and posted on the blog to announce the free eBook and biweekly newsletter. Blog posting will be excerpted from the eBook and newsletter to create interest. Google Analytics will be used to track the ads and posts effectiveness. The readership will be sent to two different landing pages. As in the past, those that take the eBook offer will automatically be subscribed to the newsletter.

The Direct Mail Recipients:

Don’t discard direct mail as a way of reaching new prospects unless you have empirical evidence it won’t work in your specific situation. Everyone receives his or her fair share of what might be termed junk mail. Let’s face it. These companies are not sending ads out knowing they will have no affect on potential consumers.

Here’s a process you might consider. Visit the local library and build a list of 100 businesses in your city that meet the requirements of your ideal prospect. Then develop a compelling letter perhaps include something free, along with introducing your business and your products or services. You could just offer to sit down with them for a cup of coffee. Follow up the letter with a phone call. Make sure to tell people you will be calling them and when.

These tactics will get us started, but these tactics just discuss the initial touches of the marketing campaigns. Multiple-touch strategies also need to be in place.

In our next installment of the 90-day Marketing Plan we’ll look at the different ways to send out your marketing message. If you missed the last posting here it is: Turning Marketing Goals into Measurable Metrics.

Not everyone reads newsletters or does social media. How are your target audiences staying informed? It won’t do any good to design and write a powerful newsletter if the people you send it to dispose of it before reading your brilliance. Here’s your next assignment. Do some digging to find out what types of marketing collateral your target candidates follow. What types of messages make them take action?

Do they watch webinars, subscribe to email blasts or newsletters? Are they on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or YouTube? You’ll need to know where they hang out before developing and launching your first marketing volley.

You’ll need a variety of marketing methods as well as a series of campaign tactics to be successful. We’ve all read the marketing books that tell us prospects need multiple touches before they respond to an offer. How many touches? That’s the age-old question. A question only you can find the answer to. It might be seven touches for one company while another has to touch its prospects eleven times. There’s no hard and fast number for all businesses.

I can’t tell you the number of companies we deal with that tell us, “Oh yeah, we did a direct mail campaign last year. It didn’t work.”

There are probably two glaring reasons their approach failed and their money was wasted. First, they did one direct mail campaign and that was all. Second, the people they sent the mailing to probably don’t respond well to junk mail in the first place. No research was done ahead of time.

There are two parts to choosing the right marketing materials for you and for your prospects.

  1. What marketing tactics are you most familiar and comfortable with using? For instance, if you love writing then publishing a newsletter or blogging might be in your wheelhouse. Perhaps in your personal life you’re a social animal and love connecting with people. Then doing social media in your business would become second nature. Let’s assume you have a passion for video and do it well. If that’s the case then doing brief videos and posting them on YouTube or Vimeo might be a fit.
  2. What types of marketing materials do your targets read? You have to do some serious investigation. Of course, the competition will not tell you how successful their marketing campaigns are so you’ll have to do some educated guessing. If the competition can be found all over the social media channels then it’s a good bet your target prospects are there. If they are offering newsletters or doing email campaigns then let’s assume they work, at least at first. Here’s where prototyping comes in. The best way to spend your marketing dollars is by prototyping small campaigns to measure the response. Try launching a newsletter and measure if people take action based on your calls to action. Just because people open and read your newsletter—that’s not the end game. We want people to take some action. Buy something. Call us. Subscribe.

How do you come to a decision on what to use? Strike a balance between:

  • What you’re comfortable using
  • What you do best
  • What you can afford
  • What you have time for
  • What methods produce the best results

There’s loads of research out there on the Internet that will tell you email campaigns work great for some audiences. Social media is a marketing monster for certain groups as well. You’ll have to figure out what works best for you and your target prospects.

Of course, if a particular marketing tactic is not something you do well and you know it will produce the desired results then you’ll have to hire the job out.

Do your research. Try things. Go get ‘um.

In the first installment of our 90-day Marketing Plan we discussed choosing a dollar number to chase. In that example we talked about increasing our revenue in the coming   12 months by 100K. If you missed that posting here’s the link: Developing Attainable, Realistic Marketing Goals.

Now that we have a dollar goal we need to reduce it to measurable numbers and percentages so we can track and adjust our trajectory to make sure we reach that monetary plateau.

The first question we might ask ourselves is, “How many deals do we have to close to generate that 100K?” In order to come up with that number we need to know our average deal size. Let’s say our average deal over the past 12 to 24 months has been $11,000. That means we’ll need to close 10 new deals to reach our goal of making 100K. Nine deals would bring in 99K but let’s not undersell our selves. There’s nothing wrong with making $10,000 more than our stated goal.

Now that we know how many new deals we have to close it’s time to think about how many appointments we have to set to win those deals. Let’s suppose our close rate when making a presentation to a new prospect is 33%. So if we need to close 10 new deals and our close rate is 33% that means we’ll have to sit down with 30 qualified prospects. The emphasis is on “qualified.” Let’s recap our numbers so far:

Goal for the next 12 months = 100K
Number of new deals = 10
Number of new appointments to set = 30

We have some good metrics to shoot for. We’ve used sound logic and the numbers are measurable. We haven’t used any guesswork or gut feelings. What other numbers do we need to develop?

We’ll have to find out how many leads make up those 30 needed appointments, how many opportunities comprise the missing number of appointments and how many people have to be reached to generate that number of leads. Let’s talk about how those numbers are decided upon.

In our example, let’s say 20% of our leads turn into appointments. That means we do a pretty good job of marketing to the right crowd, with the right message and have attractive offers. Now that we know our percentage of leads that turn into appointments we can come up with one more metric that needs tracking. If 20% of our leads turn into appointments and we need 30 meetings then we’ll need to produce 100 leads.

How many opportunities become leads? That’s the next question we have to answer. For this conversation we’ll say 33% of our opportunities turn into leads. That means we’ll need to produce 300 opportunities.

So that we’re all on the same page, let’s define an opportunity as someone who takes an action such as registering for our webinar, subscribing to our newsletter, downloading a white paper or signing up for a free trial. The person, opportunity, has to take some action to move the relationship to the next level. Just because someone follows you on Twitter or connects with you on LinkedIn does not fit our definition of an opportunity. They have to show interest in what we’re selling.

The last number we need to develop is how many people we have to touch in order for them to become opportunities. Let’s say for this metric 3% of the people we market to become opportunities, they take some action when we send them an offer an invite to a webinar, a newsletter subscription, an email blast or some other offer. If 3% of those we touch take action then our marketing campaigns will have to reach 10,000 potential prospects. That does not mean our marketing campaigns just have to reach 10,000 strangers. There 10,00 people have to be “ideal” prospects people that have an interest in what we’re selling.

Here’s a recap of the latest numbers we’ve put together:

Number of leads = 100
Number of Opportunities = 300
Number of those to reach = 10,000

Now we have all the numbers in hand to measure our progress as we move toward our $100K goal. As our efforts miss those numbers we’ll be able to increase our marketing efforts where and when necessary.

If we don’t take the time to come up with goals, we’ll never know if we reach our destination or ended up some place else. This advice sounds a lot like something Yogi Berra once said: “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” [For those readers who are not lovers of America’s pastime, Yogi is a Hall of Fame catcher who worked behind home plate for the New York Yankees. His baseball career spanned 1946-1965.] Now, back to marketing.

If your current marketing efforts are bringing in so much business you can’t keep up with the new client kick-off meetings you’ll probably want to bail from this article series, so here’s the unsubscribe link. Nice meeting you.

The best goals to shoot for are those that are reasonable and attainable. There are a few things to consider when developing marketing campaign numbers that are reachable.

A good measure of an attainable goal is to look back at the average deal size of past successes. Then set a number. Done. Let’s imagine these numbers are not available, now what?

Let’s further suppose other issues exist that make it difficult to come up with a numerical marketing goal.

First, let’s suppose you’ve been working for the same client these past dozen or so years. It’s been a good gig, but it’s not growing your company. You’re thinking we’ve been out of the marketing game so long our skills are rusty heck they’re nonexistent. Besides, the marketing scene has changed dramatically in the past decade.

Maybe you’re thinking business has been good and bad up and down. It’s going to be difficult to come up with sound numbers to shot for.

Let’s consider a third scenario. You’ve been chasing all sorts of business delivering what ever services the client demands. Perhaps you’ve even bought business thinking the client will send more business your way, which in my experience never happens.

So to come up with numbers isn’t going to be easy.

Okay, we’ve outlined all the good reasons for procrastinating about launching a new marketing plan, now let’s talk about developing some marketing goals we can go after and get this marketing plan underway.

The best place to start is by throwing out a number any number. This practice gives us a starting point, a place to begin a discussion. In this example, we’ll use 100K. One hundred thousands dollars, is the amount of additional revenue we want to generate in the next 12 months. You might be thinking of a number that is half that or your number may be in the millions. The important point here is that the number you come up with has some connection, some relevance to past performance.

If your business has never generated more than forty thousand dollars in one year then 100k is not a realistic, attainable goal. Change the number. If you get half way through the execution phase of your 90-day Marketing Plan and have not come close to raising 50% of the goal then change the number. Consistently missing the goal week after week only serves to demoralize.

Remember the most important part of goal setting is actually setting the goal itself. An achievable goal excites, motivates and instills confidence in those working towards the finish line.

When our kids were young the whole family was immersed in America’s pastime—baseball. Over those ten years, I coached dozens of Cooperstown wannabes. What interest me are the conversations we had at the baseball field versus those I have when speaking to a business prospect.

Not one of the players ever asked me, “How do I hit a home run?” The question was the same from every player, “Is it my turn to bat?” They instinctively knew it would take loads of practice, foul tips, strikeouts and ground balls before they hit one over the outfield fence.

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