If you’re thinking of bidding on a new opportunity with the public sector that has just been released…STOP! and ask yourself how well do you know this customer and importantly, how well do they know you?
We all know that it’s easier for people do business with people they know…the relationship has been built over time resulting in a degree of trust. A common understanding develops and importantly we know the personalities of those we might work with.
This isn’t some clever sales technique but just common sense – when you know your customer well you can understand the problems they’re facing and the worries they have; you can see how your solutions might help; and, it’s easier to work out what is the best way of working together for mutual benefit. So to help improve your connections, here’s our 10-Point Action Plan to building a complete marketing strategy to improve your chances of winning more bids:
- Think Strategically – research your market to really understand who your public sector customers are, the issues they are facing and the solutions you can bring to solve them. Audiences will change relative to a particular area or sector and your approach should reflect a ‘local’ agenda that is specific to them.
- Get Networking – attend the events, meetings and conferences where your target audience hangs out. But avoid selling and become a sponge sucking up information to learn as much as possible so you can use it in any follow up. Debate, discuss, contribute and seek their opinion on issues so you connect and can follow up afterwards. Read the media your target audience reads and regularly contribute whenever possible with market leading intelligence that encourages their interaction.
- Be Personal – the personal approach will always be more appreciated so identify the key people including decision makers, influencers and connectors. Any resultant interaction will need to reflect the situation and the people concerned and build on relationships at the right level. Also, research your competitors to understand what they are doing and how you can do it differently or better.
- Be Visible – be seen to be experts in your field by speaking at conferences, hosting info-events for the public sector that addresses a particular area relevant to them. Bring in other experts outside your company so it is not seen as a blatant marketing exercise but one of sharing information and raising standards/ awareness. Video and record your events so you can share them personally and over the internet with your target audience- extract written highlights and put them into a blog/ email/ marketing brochure so they always have the key points (and your company/ personnel details) to hand.
- Be Brand Aware – everyone knows Coca Cola, MacDonald’s and Virgin…but do they? Provide personal brand awareness of your integrity, openness, CSR activity, community activities, etc. in your interactions whenever possible that are relevant to your audience and their issues. Simple stories about how you work and the successes you have achieved at a local level in collaboration with people/ public sector puts a human face to your company and connects you much quicker.
- Give Away Valuable Information – provide lots of ‘free’ information (articles, special reports, ‘edumercials’, etc.) aimed at providing simple market or issue knowledge and then ramp it up to a particular problem as you move into the trusted advisor position. (Be careful to stop a little short of providing the complete solution so you can leverage this into a paying opportunity).
- Become a Trusted Advisor- become someone who is known to be able and willing to help as an expert in your field without always charging them. If you can’t answer every issue then become a ‘connector’ by linking people up within your company to help the public sector.
- Stay in Contact- use a 7 Step Marketing approach from the first point of contact to the point of conversion. After meeting or talking with someone follow up at least 6 more times with emails, useful information, phone calls, events, etc. Avoid selling and lead your potential customer to consider you as a trusted advisor so you build a strong relationship. Once you have built your initial relationship be sure to connect at least once a month, or more often, with emails, blog postings, newsletters, referrals, free information, etc.
- Remove Risks- identify the risks that the public sector are exposed to and consider the ways you can remove them with a ‘guarantee’ of outcome. The public sector is very risk averse and will avoid it at all costs so any business models, previous experience, or methods that have worked well will be of particular interest to them. If you can, take on the risks and allow them credit for any success so they will feel more relaxed in the relationship.
- Use Referrals- if you find it hard to meet the people you want to meet then get introduced by contacts. Make sure you state the reason why they should speak with you and what they will gain from the discussion so you eliminate those initial barriers. This makes the referrer feel good and can be used as a reason to continue your dialogue with them as you keep them informed on progress. The potential customer also feels good because it reconnects them with their colleague, or creates a new relationship, and they get to talk to an external agent who has been ‘vetted’ by someone they trust. Avoid being passive and suggest people in other local authorities that your potential customer should speak to or connect with about a concern, issue or problem- be careful that you have a good relationship with both parties and that they are likely to recommend you as a trusted advisor/ problem solver. Also, develop strategic alliances with other professionals and companies that your potential customer might benefit from and who will reward you in any opportunities that arise.
You might remember the old BT advert, “it’s good to talk”…so what are you waiting for?!…it’s also good to share, so please add your comments and experiences and you will have already started taking action on points 4, 6 and 7 of your 10-Point Action Plan.