By Cary McGovern
In last month's column we discussed the three methods for selling records management: the survey, the fast-start event and telemarketing. All of these methods can work well for you in the development of a sales strategy. In this month's column we address several additional factors related to selling records-management services in a self-storage environment, including sales strategies, marketing tools and resources. Remember that anything done well requires a plan, and the first ingredient of a plan is a goal.
Setting a Sales Strategy
Your sales strategy should be based upon your commitment and resources. Always remember that marketing is an expensive undertaking. It requires people, materials and, most importantly, time. Your budget should always be considered first before you develop your strategy. You may be willing to spend a certain amount for marketing on a monthly basis rather than investing a large amount up front, so the timeline of the marketing will also guide your strategy.
A strategic plan generally covers a wide variety of issues: the budget, the timeline, the methodology, tactical implementations and measuring the results of your effort. All of these should be considered in your marketing strategy. Since your budget is generally the primary constraint in any marketing plan, it will guide everything else. Once you have set your budget and your implementation timeline, you can move forward toward developing the plan.
Targeting Your Market
You should know how to target the market before beginning the plan. What kind of records-management business do you want to have? Will yours be an aggressive marketing plan? Will you focus on a certain vertical market share such as hospitals or lawyers? Do you want to begin with just a few small units and grow from there over a long period? First, know who you are and what you want your business to be.
Setting Some Goals
Goal-setting has both quantitative and qualitative attributes. How many, how much and how often are the prime considerations for the quantitative attribute, while internal control, quality of service and profit margins are some of the qualitative attributes. Let's discuss each of these.
Quantitative issues concern your ability to manage the sales cycle (discussed in last month's column) from the initial customer contact to the close. It is fair to say that it is difficult to manage a large number of prospects in varying stages of the sales cycle without the right tools. Since the logistics of records management require scheduling and management, you should always schedule your sales effort based on your ability to follow up and follow through. If you fail to manage this, you may lose customers before you get them.
The qualitative issues require you to maintain control over your sales cycle, provide expected levels of service to your clients and know what your margins are on each new client. Needless to say, managing a sales campaign is essential to the success of your program.
Selecting the Tools
As mentioned above, selecting the right marketing tools is as important to you as hammers and saws are to constructing a new home. You should always have the right tools for the task at hand. Some very important tools to consider include the following:
Contact-management software--The best way to manage any prospect list is to use a scheduling system to manage the activity of the sales cycle. One of the best products that I have found on the market is GoldMine 4.0 from The Aberdeen Group.
Materials and brochures--To launch any sales campaign, you will need several types of marketing materials. A brochure usually describes the value and benefits of your service and gives the prospect a list of phone numbers to call about signing up for the service. Contact letters and fliers are also useful. Your marketing materials should always carry your message succinctly and professionally.
Color and image are always important. A Web site with e-commerce Internet sales tools and access has become an inexpensive method for developing prospects and leads. Information Architects (www.enterpriseonline.com), a Web-development company, offers low-cost, standardized, Web-site design with e-commerce capability for the records-management industry.
Telemarketing scripting and methods--Telemarketing is a commodity in today's business environment. Telemarketing sales representatives can range from annoying to professional. It is imperative that you choose a technique and script that fits the personality of your operation. I recommend the telemarketing resources that are available from your local bookstore, Amazon Books at www.amazon.com or other Internet book providers. Search on the keyword "telemarketing."
Developing Prospect Lists
There are more options today to help you in the development of prospect lists than ever before. The traditional methods still exist, such as commercial directories, telephone books, local business guides and so on.
The Internet has given us the most powerful method for searching databases of information very simply. You can begin your search with business-finder Web sites such as Big Yellow (www.bigyellow.com) or Info Space (www.infospace.com). Once on one of these pages, you can search by company type within a city or zip code. This information can easily be imported into programs like GoldMine or simply "cut" and "pasted" onto your computer database.
Developing your list of prospects is the most important step you will take. Remember that your prospects become your customers based on how you manage your marketing strategy. Always remember that nothing happens until the sale is made. You may have the finest location, the best staff and the most appropriate facility, but until someone buys your service, it has no value.
Regular columnist Cary F. McGovern is a certified records manager and owner of File Managers Inc., a records-management consulting firm that also provides outsourcing services, file-room management and litigation support services for the legal industry. For more information about records management, contact Mr. McGovern at File Managers Inc., P.O. Box 1178, Abita Springs, LA 70420; phone (504) 871-0092; fax (504) 893-1751; e-mail: email@example.com or Web: www.fileman.com.