How To SCORE New Business When No One’s Buying.
By Maribeth Kuzmeski
If you’re a business owner or executive, our current economic woes probably have you chewing your nails. The Dow’s down. No, it’s up again! Whoops, it’s definitely down again! Meanwhile, folks around the country are losing their jobs in droves. And another corporation, the umpteenth one this month, has been accused of cooking its books. Somehow, in the midst of all this madness, you still have to bring in business. But how . . . when no one’s buying what you’re selling?
That, says Maribeth Kuzmeski-author of the new book Red Zone Marketing: A Playbook For Winning All The Business You Want-is a slight exaggeration.
“Being in an unsteady economy doesn’t mean that no one’s buying,” she says. “It may mean that fewer people are buying. But those people are going to buy from someone. Why not your company? You should look at the current situation as a call to action-to be on your toes, to be quick on the draw, to think creatively about how to convince those buyers that they need your products or services. That’s what Red Zone Marketing is really about.”
Kuzmeski’s book has plenty to say on the subject of attracting-and keeping-clients and customers. Its title comes from Maribeth’s business philosophy (also the name of her marketing consulting firm). Basically, Red Zone Marketing compares the most critical and magnified area on the football field, the red zone (the final 20 yards before the goal line) to the most critical and magnified area in business (the unmarked territory where you either lose or win a prospective customer).
In other words, Red Zone Marketing inherently relies on its practitioners “stepping up” their efforts at the moment of truth-so it’s the perfect philosophy to embrace in challenging economic times.
Red Zone Marketing (the book) is packed with proven strategies to help you SCORE with greater frequency once you’ve reached the red zone. Besides its literal meaning, SCORE is an acronym for five key elements of Red Zone Marketing. Below is further explanation of each letter, along with Kuzmeski’s comments on applying her philosophy to the economic challenges we face today:
S – Specific Niche Positioning:
No company can be all things to all people. Red Zone Marketing explains how to identify, target and nurture your niche, that small pocket of potential clients or customers whom you enjoy working with and whose needs you can fulfill. Doing so will help you use your time more efficiently and effectively, will provide the highest return on investment, and will yield a stream of qualified referrals.
“Now is the time to hunker down and really focus on your niche,” says Kuzmeski. “Put your efforts into finding the people who most want, need and can afford your products or services.” “
Don’t make the mistake that many of your competitors do,” she advises. “Don’t assume that nobody’s buying. Of course somebody is buying. Do a little market research and figure out precisely whom your company can best serve. Then, go after them with a vengeance. This may mean that instead of selling six services, you begin focusing on your two top sellers-but you really, really sell those two.”
“And another thing,” she adds. “Don’t let your own fears and perceptions about the market cloud your efforts. When you get out there and try selling, you might be pleasantly surprised.”
Red Zone Quoteworthy Quote: “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is-try to please everybody.” -Herbert Bayard Swope
C – Create a Client Experience:
According to Kuzmeski, creating a compelling client experience means servicing the clients you have to the nth degree. Her book is filled with creative, proven ideas for giving clients something to talk about, wowing them with the unexpected, and implementing systems for “Keeping In Touch (KIT)” with them on a regular basis.
A big part of creating client experiences is giving them what they want-which may very well mean asking what’s important to them. Simple concept, huh? And Kuzmeski adds that, in times when people are watching every dollar they spend, creating client experiences is all about finding new ways to show your value.
“You must find better ways to connect with your clients’ bottom lines,” insists Kuzmeski. “People are tracing revenue sources more than ever before, so being able to articulate your value and the benefit to your clients will score huge points in your favor. This means that you must not be shy about telling clients exactly what you do for them on a regular basis.”
“Of course, many people feel uncomfortable patting themselves on the back,” she adds. “If you’re one of them, I suggest that you let someone else do it. Use testimonials from satisfied clients to prove that your products and/or services get results. Red Zone Marketing describes some easy, pain-free ways to get these testimonials. And there are other ways to make yourself look good-for instance, if you’ve been featured in magazine articles, send copies to your clients.”
Red Zone Quoteworthy Quote: “It’s the oldest lesson in the world: unless you’re customer-driven, you go out of business.” -Walter Wriston
O – Opportunities From Obstacles
In Red Zone Marketing, Kuzmeski devotes much ink to the art of turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones. She offers up compelling examples of business people she has known who turned potential disasters-for instance, poor customer treatment and even a devastating fire-to their advantage.
This is an especially apt section of the book when you consider today’s obstacle-strewn business environment.
“I have lots of financial services clients, and as you can imagine, they’re being hit pretty hard right now,” says Kuzmeski. “Many people don’t want to invest in the market right now, so the temptation for financial advisors is to lay low and not pick up the phone. I tell my clients that’s a mistake: why not call people who are being ignored by their financial advisors and offer them something besides high-risk investment products? Here, the obstacle is that there are valid objections for not investing right now. The opportunity is that other financial advisors are not talking to people-so why not pick up their slack?”
“An obstacle that companies in every industry are facing is pressure to decrease their sales force,” she adds. “This doesn’t make sense at all, but it’s a common reaction to a shrinking budget. Why not increase your sales force instead? Think about it: if your competitors are cutting salespeople and you’re hiring them-as long as they’re competent, of course-you’re going to automatically jump ahead of them. And with so many people out of work, untapped talent is abundant right now . . . there’s no better time to seek out the best and brightest.”
There’s one other way to turn obstacles into opportunities: come up with a whole new idea.
“Now is the time to innovate your product line,” urges Kuzmeski. “When there are big changes in the marketplace, someone must step up to the plate with new ways to meet new needs. Be that company! And think ahead. Just because something is working today doesn’t mean it will work tomorrow. In other words, if it ain’t broke, break it! I love the quote from Wayne Gretsky that goes something like, ‘I don’t skate to where the puck is, I skate to where the puck is going.’ That’s what I urge all my clients to do.”
Red Zone Quoteworthy Quote: “When one door closes, another opens, but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” -Alexander Graham Bell
R – Referral Responsibility
What is the easiest, most inexpensive way to find prospects? Referrals! Clients you acquire through referrals are loyal, easy to close, cost-efficient and are themselves sources of future referrals. Kuzmeski’s book is filled with innovative ideas on asking for referrals, finding surprising sources of referrals, and saying “thank you” to clients who provide this valuable service.
“Referrals are a common sense way to get new business,” insists the author. “But surprisingly, very few people make an effort to get them! What I always ask clients is this: ‘If you had zero dollars to do any marketing, how would you find new business?’ They usually have to think about it awhile, but they almost always come to the conclusion that they would ask current clients. So why not do it anyway?”
“It’s true that many people would rather do almost anything but ask for referrals,” she admits. “But once you get past the initial discomfort and get in the habit of asking-every client, every day-it becomes second nature. And it certainly addresses the ‘no money to seek out new prospects’ objection! Referrals are just what the doctor ordered for companies hit hard by the current economy.”
Red Zone Quoteworthy Quote: “Once you have sold a customer, make sure he is satisfied with your goods . . . Your product may be of such long life that you will never sell him again, but he will sell you and your products to his friends.” -William Feather
E – Extra Point
The “extra point,” according to Red Zone Marketing, is passion. “It’s Enthusiasm; it’s Excitement; it’s Expectation; it’s Excellence,” writes Kuzmeski. “It’s developing a mindset that gives you a winning Edge . . . If you do have passion, then you’ll find it easy to get up in the morning, overcome challenges, carve out a niche, ask for referrals, get that new business, and give your clients the extraordinary, outrageous kind of service that will keep them on your team forever.”
That’s all well and good, but how do you sustain the “extra point” in the face of economic doom and gloom? Like Kuzmeski says, it’s all in your mindset.
“Just because you read in the headlines that times are hard doesn’t mean you have to make that your reality,” she says. “Believe you can do it and you can! If you have to, turn off the TV when bad news is being broadcast. Refuse to participate in mournful, pessimistic discussions about the economy. Instead, reconnect with your own passion for your job! Keep yourself motivated by staying busy, constantly trying new ideas, and giving your work life all you’ve got. It may sound simplistic . . . but it works.”
Red Zone Quoteworthy Quote: “In life, as in a football game, the principle to follow is: hit the line hard.” -Theodore Roosevelt
One final piece of advice? This is not the time to cut your marketing!
“Now, when everyone else is stepping aside, it’s time for you to stand up,” asserts Kuzmeski. “Yes, you may have to refocus your marketing efforts, you may have to try common sense ideas that don’t cost a lot of money, you may have to accept that finding and keeping business is tougher than ever-but you must not give up. Stay in front of your customers, show them your brilliance, ask how you can serve them even better. You may very well find that, economic woes or no, you’re prospering more than ever. And that may be the best news you’ve heard all day.”