Generating Customers B2B

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bwood2019

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Joined
Jul 31, 2019
Messages
16
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3
I'm starting up a calibration company. Basically we're a service company that provides calibration services to companies that require calibration of their testing equipment to ensure that products are within appropriate parameters. It also ensures regulatory requirements too. I'll admit that I have the technical skills (both military and commercial experience) and understand how to put together a great program to benefit customers but I am absolutely terrible at sales and marketing.

I was wondering if anyone could point me in a direction to help me find ways to generate customers as I move forward with my plans. I'm targeting largely manufacturing sectors including electronics, food, safety, and government contracts too.

Thanks,

Bradley Wood
 

SARubin

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Joined
Apr 19, 2018
Messages
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Hi Brad,

First, welcome to the forum. And congratulations on your decision to become an entrepreneur.

Now as for your marketing dilemma...
(NOTE: I only deal with private sector business. So as far as government contracts, this advice may not apply)

You're in a tough spot as a start-up. If what you do is a regulatory requirement, then your potential client base must already have someone they work with (as required by law)?

So you're basically going to need to woo customers away from your competition.

At any rate, like any good marketing plan, the first thing you need to do is determine what makes you any different from your competition.

And there does seem to be quite a bit of competition. I just did a google search for "calibration services company" and it came back with about 65,200,000 results. (On the brighter side..."calibration services company in ohio" brought it down to only About 3,130,000 results)

So the first question we need to ask is "Why would anyone choose you over the guys they're already working with?"

We need a unique hook that makes people give you a chance, instead of just ignoring you.

Are you better? Faster turn around? Lower price with a better guarantee? Extra service related bonuses that the other guys can't, or won't offer? Is there something else that sets you apart?

Is there a loud complaint coming from the market that you can satisfy (something that your competition isn't doing)?

Another option is to joint venture with a complimentary business so you can offer something that no single business can offer.

Because without a USP (unique selling proposition) that differentiates you from the competition, you're going to need to rely on your networking skills and personal charm to attract clients away from their current provider (and you already said that you stink at sales)

Of course you can always try to saturate the market with advertising (direct mail, email, online social media like LinkedIn, etc.) and hope that you catch the right person just as they're becoming disgruntled with their current vendor for whatever reason.

But that could be a long, and/or frustrating way to go if you're doing it all on your own.

So first, figure out your USP. (you'll need to do a bit of market research on your competitors for this)

Second, make a list of the businesses in your area of operation that can use your services.

Third, (and this is most important) study those businesses on your list, and learn all you can about their operation, and the decision makers that you'll be contacting. Because when you contact them with your marketing, you'll need to make an impression that you know, and care about them and their business.

Because when we set all the "feel good fluffy" advice aside, nobody cares about what you can do until the they know that you care about them.

Anyway, Brad, do these first 3 steps and you'll be 3/4 of the way towards some powerful marketing for your new business. After these steps, you can start working on the actual promotion.

And be prepared for follow up marketing. Because in your situation (unless you get real lucky with your timing) it will likely take multiple contacts from you before you become familiar enough for them to consider you as a viable option.


Of course, you'll still eventually need to talk to the decision makers. So you might want to spend a little time discovering your own personal selling style. It could be calm and confident? Or authoritative and helpful? Or sincere and qualified?

Whatever reflects the authentic you is usually the easiest to maintain in the long run.

I hope this gets you started. And good luck with your venture, my friend.

All the best,
SAR
 

bwood2019

Member
Joined
Jul 31, 2019
Messages
16
Points
3
Hi Brad,

First, welcome to the forum. And congratulations on your decision to become an entrepreneur.

Now as for your marketing dilemma...
(NOTE: I only deal with private sector business. So as far as government contracts, this advice may not apply)

You're in a tough spot as a start-up. If what you do is a regulatory requirement, then your potential client base must already have someone they work with (as required by law)?

So you're basically going to need to woo customers away from your competition.

At any rate, like any good marketing plan, the first thing you need to do is determine what makes you any different from your competition.

And there does seem to be quite a bit of competition. I just did a google search for "calibration services company" and it came back with about 65,200,000 results. (On the brighter side..."calibration services company in ohio" brought it down to only About 3,130,000 results)

So the first question we need to ask is "Why would anyone choose you over the guys they're already working with?"

We need a unique hook that makes people give you a chance, instead of just ignoring you.

Are you better? Faster turn around? Lower price with a better guarantee? Extra service related bonuses that the other guys can't, or won't offer? Is there something else that sets you apart?

Is there a loud complaint coming from the market that you can satisfy (something that your competition isn't doing)?

Another option is to joint venture with a complimentary business so you can offer something that no single business can offer.

Because without a USP (unique selling proposition) that differentiates you from the competition, you're going to need to rely on your networking skills and personal charm to attract clients away from their current provider (and you already said that you stink at sales)

Of course you can always try to saturate the market with advertising (direct mail, email, online social media like LinkedIn, etc.) and hope that you catch the right person just as they're becoming disgruntled with their current vendor for whatever reason.

But that could be a long, and/or frustrating way to go if you're doing it all on your own.

So first, figure out your USP. (you'll need to do a bit of market research on your competitors for this)

Second, make a list of the businesses in your area of operation that can use your services.

Third, (and this is most important) study those businesses on your list, and learn all you can about their operation, and the decision makers that you'll be contacting. Because when you contact them with your marketing, you'll need to make an impression that you know, and care about them and their business.

Because when we set all the "feel good fluffy" advice aside, nobody cares about what you can do until the they know that you care about them.

Anyway, Brad, do these first 3 steps and you'll be 3/4 of the way towards some powerful marketing for your new business. After these steps, you can start working on the actual promotion.

And be prepared for follow up marketing. Because in your situation (unless you get real lucky with your timing) it will likely take multiple contacts from you before you become familiar enough for them to consider you as a viable option.

Of course, you'll still eventually need to talk to the decision makers. So you might want to spend a little time discovering your own personal selling style. It could be calm and confident? Or authoritative and helpful? Or sincere and qualified?

Whatever reflects the authentic you is usually the easiest to maintain in the long run.

I hope this gets you started. And good luck with your venture, my friend.

All the best,
SAR
Thanks for your reply. I know that the internet has a lot of saturation but a lot of those searches are for companies that might do something like calibration services for a Fluke 87V. They do a separate page for each model number that they cater to in case a customer searches specifically for calibration of a particular unit. I guess its mostly landing pages. But there are still some powerful companies out there that are opposition, I've worked for a few.

Most companies don't need to do calibrations for regulations, but some do. It all depends on their ISO certification. However, most places should do them to help productivity, quality concerns, and safety. That is why there are several levels of calibration certifications from basic "does it work?" to accredited to the highest degree of accuracy.

Again, thanks for your reply and the tons of information you've given me. How would you go about researching the businesses in my area to find out some of the information you mentioned? How do I target them so I can get the decision makers? Thanks again!
 

SARubin

MVP
Joined
Apr 19, 2018
Messages
40
Points
18
Most companies don't need to do calibrations for regulations, but some do. It all depends on their ISO certification. However, most places should do them to help productivity, quality concerns, and safety. That is why there are several levels of calibration certifications from basic "does it work?" to accredited to the highest degree of accuracy.
OK Brad,

In this case I'd recommend picking a single target market to start with (start with just one category of audience), because your offer will be determined by what your audience wants, or needs.

If they need it for regulatory concerns, then that's the main focus of our message.

Something along the lines of... "As a quality manufacturer of (insert product here) you already know how important it is to stay up to date with regulatory standards. That why we offer you (insert your USP here) so you can be absolutely certain that...etc."


If they're not regulated, then we need to present a reason for them to pay attention to you.

Possibly something along the lines of... "From one business owner to another, we both understand what it means to keep our business running at peak efficiency. Lost productivity, quality concerns, and safety issues cost more than just money. They can also destroy the trust of your customers. That's why keeping your equipment calibrated will allow you to... etc."

Of course you'll need to change up the language to fit your industry.

Sorry, I don't know much about your industry. So this advice is a bit generic and standard issue for advertising and marketing in general. The main thing is we need to find out who your target audience is so we can craft our offer to them specifically.

Of course, if you have a big enough budget, and can afford to saturate the market with your message (akin to throwing spaghetti against the wall to see if anything sticks) then there's a good chance that you'll eventually make something happen. And that's great.

But for us mere mortals who need to make every advertising dollar count, it's a worthy investment of time and energy to understand our market before we begin testing our message.


How would you go about researching the businesses in my area to find out some of the information you mentioned? How do I target them so I can get the decision makers?
I'd start with a google search of businesses in your area that fit the criteria of your ideal client. Sometimes you can find key contact info right on their website.

Another place to start would be your state department of business registry (I don't know what you call it in Ohio, but in NH we have the corporate division of the secretary of state that lists all registered businesses, along with some contact info)

Researching your ideal clients will probably take some time. It could take a couple days, or more, depending on who your target audience is.

Another option is to pay a list broker (search "list brokers" on google). It will cost money, instead of time, but for a price you can buy a list of highly qualified business owners (with contact info) who fit just about any criteria you want.

Once you have your list, then I'd do a small amount of cyber stalking of those people. Nothing creepy, just see if they have a Facebook page, LinkedIn page, or other social media page.

You might find out they have interests that you can relate to, and people who have things in common often do business with each other.

Anyway, that's a basic concept of how I go about it.

There's a bit more to it than that. And the market, message, and medium you use to contact them will ultimately depend on who you're marketing to. (the luck of timing also plays a role, because someone who's not ready to buy today, might be ready next week. That's partly why multiple contacts can be very effective)


It's not a difficult as it sounds. Just take it one step at a time and you should do fine.
And don't expect it to all fall into place in a day... It's a process that takes a little time.

And it all starts with understanding your USP, researching your target audience, and connecting what you do to what they want.

Best of luck to you.
 

bwood2019

Member
Joined
Jul 31, 2019
Messages
16
Points
3
A little update on my findings thus far. With the work I want to get into there appears to be something like 15,000 plus businesses that would require or could benefit from my services in my region (Dayton through Columbus) not counting feasible onsite locations in Indiana and Michigan too. I've identified that these are mostly general manufacturers, electronics, food, and other testing companies (usually places that do specific testing like freezing tests for light bulbs, for example).

I was thinking about my USP and I have to concede that I can't compete with price and would probably need to be right in line with what is generally acceptable in the industry. So I would need to compete with the other concerns of customers which would include customer service, data errors (quality), and convenience. The majority of my business would be mobile customers where I would drive my van or other vehicle to the customer's facility and do onsite calibrations. This is nothing new in the calibration world and I think customers expect this service now anyway. Where I do have a leg up on the competition I believe is in my quality system, software, and customer service potential. I'm planning on a web portal that is password protected that gives customers access to calibration certificates, history, and recall but I am also including other functionality including the ability to pull reports from the data to show changes over time. I also have the ability to handle all of a customer's calibration items by having contacts and in-roads with plenty of other calibration companies that handle specific items that I cannot handle. This was another complaint of customers is that a company couldn't take their entire program over.

My quality system is state of the art. It uses proprietary database management software that pulls from federal, manufacturer, and server-side databases in order to make sure that the technician is always using the correct datasheet, model number, procedure, etc. which cuts errors by 99.5% leaving only errors regarding largely customer influenced tolerances and such.

So using your great advice I think that this could be used to help market the business and pull customers in. I've also found some great examples for businesses that don't currently do calibration in order to visually see the impact calibration can have on productivity, earnings, and safety.

On a last note I want to thank you all for your support and knowledge. I think by having everything ordered it helped me think through my USP a lot more.
 

Ironcore

Member
Joined
Nov 14, 2018
Messages
11
Points
3
Great replies in this thread.

Have you considered using a social media platform like LinkedIn? They have a sales navigator premium feature that allows you to specify the type of role and person you look for. Since you are starting out it would be very beneficial to start establishing a personal relationship with the people who will be making the purchasing decisions.

Approaching people out of the blue is always a challenge. Yet, if people feel comfortable with you on a personal level then it is naturally easier for them to also set up a professional relationship where money changes hands.

Paid advertising at an early stage is very likely to just burn through what little cash you have. So I'd advise you to avoid that, at least for now.

Picking up the phone, getting in those meetings, and chatting with the right people, getting to know them, and then setting up the first meeting/call would be a far more "low risk" approach. Naturally, that requires time.

Does any of the above seem like something you could do?
 
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