The Best Way to Attract New Customers for your B2B Service Business
You’re a business with a service offering looking to penetrate your local market as the best choice in your field – so how do you do it?
As a business owner, I know the daunting task of looking at the market in front of you with absolute uncertainty about the method by which you are going to have to use to realise your dream of becoming a successful business owner.
By no means am I saying that I have it all figured out. However, I have now spent more than four years finetuning my method for growing my business and I have some insights that have been forged out of lots of trial and much error.
To give you an example, I spent more than $7000 of my company’s earnings this year on my first tradeshow experience earlier this year. I knew I was going to walk away from my first experience knowing I could have done better, but damn, I did not expect the experience to be so unforgiving. Live and learn, I suppose.
Any way, that explains the crux of why I am here today speaking to what I hope amounts to be more than a couple of fellow small business owners. I have a passion for experimentation and learning business by putting my money where my mouth is and trying different things. I know there are business owners that aren’t quite as passionate about the experimentation aspect of business, so I am hoping to unleash my knowledge on my fellow business man and woman, so that we can learn together and become better at this thing they call “business”.
So without further ado, please find my approach for customer acquisition below. Ahem… I hope my competitors would be so kind as to turn a blind eye to these learnings haha.
Referrals are King, and will always be King.
Since I started business, this is all I would hear from older, wiser, more experienced businessmen and I listened with deep skepticism. I believed they were “old school” and could not see the opportunity in digital outreach through advertising and so on. My arrogance has a tendency to teach me very valuable lessons.
After four years of much trial and error, I have created many opportunities for the dismantling of this idea. That, somehow, through exceptional strategy and advertising I could beat the odds and acquire customers by the bucketful using digital marketing methods (eg, PPC, social ads etc).
Again, I am only four years in and I am learning still, and it’s possible that my resources limit my ability to see the true potential of other methods of acquiring business. But, honestly, referrals are just so damn easy. The trust is already established because someone they trust has referred them to us and, so long as I don’t completely botch my the conversation we have (it happens on occasion), then it’s pretty much a done deal.
Qualified cold leads are more expensive to get, and even more expensive to close.
You don’t have a ton of control over how large your referral network is (the market controls that over time with presented opportunities); BUT, you do have control over how much you get out of your existing referral network.
It starts with providing exceptional service. This means consistently setting and exceeding expectations for customers, with excellent customer service.
Secondary to that, you must point your marketing efforts to your referral network. Make sure your customers are aware that you still exist by keeping in touch with them, either through quarterly emails to check in or, social media posts pointing to recent success.
These points promise to keep your referral engine healthy and working hard for you.
When I first started blueberrycloud in 2014, I knew two things about myself:
- I had skill when it came to technology (I.T. + web design)
- I could run my mouth, I was extremely social, and I enjoyed people (generally speaking)
I figured that most web developers didn’t enjoy the social side of business quite as much as me (again, arrogance), so I figured the best way I could use my advantage would be to attend networking events and do most of my work marketing the business there. Shortly after, I signed up for every website that offered networking events:
It worked well. In this particular scenario, my arrogance worked well for me, it removed doubt that would of otherwise perhaps impeded on my ability to succeed at networking. So I went in blind, shook hands, and made a positive first impression with as many people I could. I had a great time.
My focus is never on selling people on my business (at networking events). I am simply friendly. I always ask about them, how they’re doing, and what they like to spend their time doing outside of work. This helps create a relaxed environment where the personal feels comfortable sharing. I find that eventually the conversation leads to business, and we end up having a much more open and relaxed conversation about business than we would have otherwise.
Be prepared however, as sometimes, you or the other person can get so caught up in the personal conversation that you forget to talk about business before your time is up. Keep in mind however, this is a win! If you literally bonded that hard and lost yourselves in a personal conversation, you can count on that person to be a raving fan of you and hold faith that when you reconnect next, that they will go out of their way to find out about what you do so that they can help you. Chances are, you’ll probably want to help him / her too. This is an odd but very great play in business.
Online Marketing / Website
The third most effective tool in my “toolkit” if you will: Online Marketing.
For me, the most important asset in my digital marketing toolkit as far as marketing and lead generation is concerned: My website. Yes, I’m running a web design company and I, of course, believe in the power of what I do and you may think I’m bias but I’m not. This article holds no bias and it’s intent is to share and inform – that’s all. Give me a chance to explain my logic and how it’s worked out for me.
The three most important steps in my process of taking a complete stranger and converting them in to a customer is as follows:
- Make a good first impression: Good hand shake, make eye contact, be positive, respectful and kind.
- Give a brief overview of what I solve, and what I’m looking for in my business.
- Reach in to my pocket, pull out my business card holder and give the person a card.
- Give them a reason to check out our website eg, we just redid our website, check it out, I’d love to hear what you think.
To maximize my success, each of these steps must be impressive and surpass mediocrity in the eyes of the prospective buyer. The first impression is something that you can develop overtime through practice and personal / emotional development. Your pitch should be short, sweet, and to the point. Again, something you will refine and practice over time until it becomes second nature. All, stuff I am sure you’ve heard or thought yourselves before.
Here is where I’m different.
My business card must be a memorable experience. It is the staple to my conversation. I make sure that I escape their autopilot mode of pretending to read the card and then placing it in their pocket to never be looked at again. I make sure that my card is not only noticed, but examined.
How do I do this? I spend extra time choosing a design, colours and materials that promise to feel different and unique enough to warrant someone to become curious about the item they’re holding.
For example, my card thickness is the thickness of 3x business cards stacked on top of one another. With a full blue on one side, and white on the other. My brand promise is embossed in to the front side so that you can feel the letters as you rub your thumb across. It’s simple but there is so much going on that you can’t help but to question the item you’re holding.
Please see what I mean with my business card below.
I have heard it all. From “Damn… these are thick man…” to “Man you could seriously hurt someone with these cards”. Haha. It’s all good. The business card is being remembered, which is great.
Once the business card is on the table, enticing the person to then check out my website for more awesome work becomes more effortless. Most of the time, you will have to follow up with an email after you’ve met with them just to thank them for their time, and remind them of the discussion, and also remind them to check out your website and share their thoughts.
The thing is, much like the business card, the website should feel different and unique so as to get beyond their auto-pilot mode of scrolling through the website that looks like every other website, closing the tab and continuing on with their day. The website should feel unique so that you engage their curiosity enough that they are interested to examine you further. Again, making a memorable impression.
This combination of events leaves you in a position where you have absolutely maximized your opportunity at selling yourself and your business to a complete stranger. This is why I’ve had people call a year after we met to discuss the development of their new website, with absolutely no follow up in between. To be clear, I’m not encouraging people to not continuously follow up after meeting someone but I’m just speaking to how powerful this approach can be if done right.
Lastly lastly, Online Marketing / SEO
The last thing that I want to mention is the power of SEO.
Real quick, for those of you that might not know, SEO (in my terms anyway) is the Search Engine Optimization which refers to practice of improving where your website ranks in the organic Google search results. This does not mean the paid ads section of the Google search results which sits at the top and bottom of the Google search results. It also does not include where you rank on the list of business in the “map section” of the Google search results. It’s the section that’s left over after considering the “paid” and “map” section.
One of my areas that I wanted to improve on this year was the area of SEO for blueberrycloud. I started in January and shortly thereafter I have achieving my goals. I landed myself on the first page of several Google search results pages and found myself beating competitors that had been in the business much longer than I. All this to say, I was happy. My goal was to dominate the Google search results pages and I found a way that seemed to be working for me. I liked it.
In short, I used HARO to get other high quality websites to link back to me by offering myself up as an expert source for topics relating to business, technology and digital marketing.
I’m now getting leads where I wasn’t getting any leads before which is a very good thing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not rolling in the money as a result of these changes, but it’s an improvement that I’m happy to see that it is working and worth something.
Wrapping up with a recent story & thoughts
To share a quick story that I find funny and cool relating to this recent SEO and general marketing improvement effort of mine:
I received a sales call and, like I usually do, I ask the person how they came across our brand. He replied that one of my competitors led to us, because he was too busy to take on the work. Somewhat perplexed and curious, I asked who it was. I wanted to know who was on my side. I generally have a good rapport with my competitors, especially with one in particular, and I wanted to a throw a thank you and then look for ways I could return the favour in the future.
Anyhow, he rejected my request and said that if all goes well, he would tell me who it was. I was fine with this. I mean, at the time, the sale was more important than the information so I proceeded ahead.
I get in to the meeting and I don’t waste much time before asking how he had come across us.
He tells me that he called up a competitor (someone I actually did not know), they said they were too busy to take on his project. So, my competitor proceeded to suggest that he (my now client) visit his website and click the “3 Best Rated” logo at the bottom. And voila! There I was. One of the top three best rated web designers in North Vancouver.
Okay, so he didn’t exactly find me in the organic section of the Google search results. But 3 Best Rated is a website that ranks highly on search for web design so I made sure to apply to be one of the top 3 and I got in. It wasn’t difficult, honestly.
The whole point here is that putting in work in your SEO along with your other marketing channels, and being as close to everywhere as you can manage and afford will get you leads. The story behind each lead generated may be odd, imperfect and loopy but the more places you are, the more you’re opening yourself and your business to being found in unimaginable ways.
If you have stuff to add, correct, or if you have questions, comments, feedback, please email me at mazdak(at)blueberrycloud.ca. Please no offers or I will junk you.