Three Easy Strategies for New Accounts

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“More business.” It’s the credo of every consultant, for good reason: New business has a funny way of paying the rent (or the mortgage, or simply the down payment on the private island you’ve been dreaming about.) Of course, finding new business is harder than it sounds. That’s why most consultants work by word of mouth, waiting for clients to come to them in the hope that a trickle here, a trickle there will cover the AmEx bill.

It doesn’t have to be that way. There are easy and fairly quick ways to find new business that won’t drain your time or wallet. And they’re closer than you think.

List Magic
First, try some direct mail—the smart way. Point your Web browser to www.zapdata.com. It’s a Dun & Bradstreet service tailored to people like us. D&B is a credit-rating firm that keeps tabs on most companies in the United States, large and small alike. (They might even keep tabs on you.)

Take a moment to register (it’s free) and build a customized list of prospects. It’s extremely simple: Just choose your location and let the wizard guide you through the rest of the process. You can specify the type of prospect you want (law firms, retail outlets, dentists, publishing companies and thousands of others) and their size in employees, gross revenues and more.

In return for your efforts, ZapData spits out a list of prospects with contact names of your choosing. It also tells you how much you pay for each contact.

Be a Guru
Next up: project brokers such as Guru.com. Once again, the process is wondrously simple. After you register, you can search through thousands of projects in database management, custom programming, Web design, networking and more, placing bids on the ones you like and competing with other vendors based on your skills, price and location.

Guru has many subscription levels, including a free service that lets you bid on projects without paying a dime. But their paid subscriptions — none of them expensive — give you high visibility and let you tap into advanced search features to locate the best projects. No matter what your subscription, though, Guru will send you a daily e-mail with new projects that match your skill set, even if you choose to pay nothing.

Guru’s chief rival is Elance, a site with much the same strategy. Register and you’ll be able to bid on projects from companies around the globe, including some in your own backyard. And if you doubt that project brokers like these can bring you business, consider these two nuggets: Elance just announced its first vendor to book more than $1 million in sales through its Web site, and the number of vendors that made more than $200,000 has spiked by 26 percent in the last six months.

And Last But Not Least …
Don’t forget that your best source of new business is old business. Past clients are often the quickest route to new dollars. Some will bring new projects to you (if, that is, you’ve satisfied them in the past), but you also can bring new projects to them. Did you install a network for your last client? Then it’s time to upsell them with virus and spyware management. If they’ve signed off on that, move on to intrusion detection or encryption. Remember one of the basic truths about business: Work breeds more work, as long as you do it well.

Of course, you don’t have to perform the work yourself (and to be frank, you should not perform it if it’s beyond your skill set). But you can find experts who are willing to act as sub-contractors and or give you a referral fee for the job.

The result? The time you invest in these strategies — list brokers, project brokers and mining old clients for new work — might bring you more work than you need. And by most definitions of success, that’s the first step to the finish line.

David Garrett is a Web designer and former IT director, as well as the author of “Herding Chickens: Innovative Techniques in Project Management.” He can be reached at dgarrett@certmag.com.

Some Direct Mail Tips
Direct mail is daunting. After all, it involves so much: writing, design, database management, sales, and a way to track it all and crunch the numbers. But in truth, it’s a lot simpler than your average SAT. If you got through that, you can get through direct mail too.

First, know that you can do amazing things with inexpensive tools. ZapData and other list brokers can give you lists of prospects for pennies each. And a color laser printer can let you print stunning envelopes, stationery and simple brochures.

Oddly enough, the simple approach also might be the best. Most direct mail gets trashed because it looks like direct mail. It’s printed on cheap paper with gaudy graphics or fonts with hackneyed language on the envelope. (“Check enclosed,” “Make a million bucks” or “Your once in a lifetime chance.”

My advice? Don’t bother with such foolishness. A simple, reserved envelope with nothing but an address, return address and a stamp (not metered mail) is too intriguing for most business owners to throw out. Less, as Coco Chanel said, is more. It’s also a good way to make more money.

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