By Steven J. Hyman
Marketing is one of the most important aspects of a successful records-management business. As in any other industry, developing and implementing a sales program takes active effort. The most important elements of a good marketing campaign are:
- Fundamental knowledge of the records-management business.
- Knowledge of the market and competitors.
- A professionally designed website and marketing materials.
- Effective advertising.
- Sales appointments, lead tracking and referrals.
- Tradeshows and participation in associations.
Fundamental Knowledge of the Business
Understand and clearly define the services you offer. To successfully market records management and command the best prices, you must know your clients’ needs, even if they do not. Sell management, not just storage. Records should be organized, indexed in a software program, bar-coded for tracking, and categorized for retention. Once they have been properly cataloged, clients will know what they have and be able to easily locate and request documents.
State-of-the-art features such as web access and digital imaging can dramatically increase sales. Imagine how using these management tools compares to simply storing hundreds or thousands of boxes in a self-storage unit, forcing the client to search through stacks of files. Even when a file is found, there is no way to know if other files contain relevant information.
Be prepared to explain to clients how you can save them money and streamline their operations. Most do not take the time to analyze how much they spend on storing records—or what they lose in time hunting for them. Knowing the benefits of your business will allow you to demonstrate how records management can greatly improve their businesses without significant increase in cost.
Knowledge of the Market and Competitors
Know what your competition offers. The best way to do this is to survey competitors about their services and prices. You do not have to precisely emulate them, but be aware what information clients are getting when they call around for services in your area. Whenever possible, differentiate yourself by offering services and programs your competitors do not.
A Professional Website and Marketing Materials
If you expect potential clients to perceive you as a quality organization, you must have professional marketing materials. When you contact unfamiliar prospects, they will request information about your company and its offerings. Usually, they want to be directed to your website. Your marketing materials are the first impression a client has of your organization, so they should put you in a positive light and clearly identify how your services benefit customers.
Advertising can be an important source of leads, but many companies rely too heavily on the Yellow Pages. While phone directories are a good option, keep in mind most people who fi nd you in a phone book will also be contacting other vendors. Your vehicle signage is actually a great way to drum up business. Some companies have reported success with targeted direct-mail campaigns. Do not overspend on print advertising. Save your funds for more efficient applications.
One of the most effective ways to promote records management is telemarketing. To implement a program, the first step is to identify a list of candidates. Hire a company with a good reputation for obtaining qualified leads, in this case, a list of individuals responsible for handling business records. Your telemarketing company should also have a sound understanding of records-management services and their key benefits.
Sales Appointments, Lead Tracking and Referrals
Once qualified appointments have been scheduled by the telemarketing process, a knowledgeable salesperson meets with prospects and discusses the benefits of a professional records-management program. It is important for the salesperson to understand the scope of work required to satisfy the client’s needs. After the meeting, he will submit a proposal that demonstrates his knowledge of the client’s requirements and outlines the specific benefits the company can offer.
In almost all cases, the records-management company can show cost savings and improved services. Develop a strong, well-designed template that can be used as a starting point for your proposals. This will ensure a professional, comprehensive proposal can be rapidly submitted to interested parties. Follow up consistently and frequently with leads in a professional manner.
A successful sales program requires a plan and organization, so use a good lead-tracking software. It should be intuitive and easy to use. While some programs will offer lots of bells and whistles, a simple, straightforward program will be used with greater confidence and efficiency.
One of the best places to seek new leads is existing clients. Do not overlook referrals as a great source for new business. Spend time building relationships with customers, and do not fail to express gratitude to those who help you. Consider incentives or a similar reward-based program.
Tradeshows and Participation in Associations
Two potential sources for leads, information and advice are local tradeshows that target businesses and governmental agencies, and trade organizations dedicated to records-management professionals. Most major metropolitan areas have a local chapter for ARMA International, an association for professional records managers. Other popular organizations include PRISM (Professional Records and Information Services Management) International, the Institute of Certified Records Managers and AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) International.
This article covers the basic concepts of establishing a well-planned records-management marketing program. These concepts can strengthen your sales efforts. A professionally executed strategy can go a long way toward guaranteeing success.
Steven J. Hyman is president of DHS Worldwide, which provides software solutions, including sales and lead tracking, to the global records-management industry. Mr. Hyman has assisted hundreds of companies in developing and implementing records-management operations. He is a frequent speaker at national tradeshows and has published articles in leading trade publications. He can be reached at 904.213.0448 or firstname.lastname@example.org.