Flicking through the BA in-flight business magazine a few days ago, I read Deborah Meadon’s (Dragon’s Den) ‘Agony Aunt’ answers with great interest. One of them caught my attention: a gourmet food business owner who wanted to know how to promote the business in addition to using social networking sites. To which Deborah replied that you can speak about how great it is ‘until the cows are home’, but that the best way to get the message out there is for people ‘to taste the product’.
Most ‘food’ business owners should find this a fairly straight-forward thing to organise, but what if you provide a service?
Whilst some services are easy to ‘taste’— a copywriter’s or photographer’s work can often be sampled via a website, for example — this is much harder for accountants, solicitors, HR and business consultants. Evidence of someone’s work or expertise is not always tangible or easy to see.
Testimonials can help to provide a feel for the service provided, but even the most enthusiastic testimonial is not as good as an actual taster or trial session that gets you right in front of a potential client and enables you to demonstrate your expertise in real-time.
You can achieve this by giving a talk to a group or help to brainstorm solutions for a small business problem during your one-to-one meetings. You can provide a short business review or team up with complimentary service providers to offer bite-size training sessions.
One of my clients does just that: free breakfast learning sessions to pre-selected SMEs who invite their clients to treat them to a networking and learning opportunity. This is a win-win scenario for all, which invariably leads to regular new business for my client!
I know people who will point out a major downside to offering ‘free consultancy’ — devaluing your service. I agree, it can be disheartening when you find yourself dealing with a ‘freebie-seeker’ who doesn’t value your offering and who has no intention to buy from you. Or you may find that your ‘potential client’ actually has no need for your service, or at least not right now.
In all these scenarios, you may not get new business directly from a taster session, but it may help you indirectly when you get recommended to that person’s contacts or receive feedback and testimonials.
Here are a few tricks to make sure taster sessions create the right impact:
- ensure that the participants are potential ‘ideal clients’ who invest in business services
- make your ‘freebie’ strictly time limited
- give value and share freely during that time but leave your ‘tasters’ wanting more
- create a follow-up process as part of building a relationship with the prospective client
So whether you are a new start-up or have an established service and are launching something new, make sure you look for opportunities to showcase your expertise and add value to your prospective customers.
She runs Success Network and is co-author of “From Contact to Advocate” – a 7-step approach to developing referral relationships in business. This networking handbook helps women to network with authenticity and apply a simple and consistent structure to generate more business!