Real life transcript of an Internet marketing consult for an SME

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I recently did a one hour consultation with Stephen Conroy, the owner of cong IT in New York.

Stephen had requested a meeting to give him a feel for what he should be doing in order to market his new business.

We chatted on Skype and at the end of the hour had covered quite a lot of ground. Poor Stephen had his ear bent by me for most of that time.

But it occurred to me that seeing a real-life marketing consultation that deals not only with good marketing practice (predominantly Internet based, in this case), but also shows the other side of the coin - interaction and thoughts from the business owner himself - might be really interesting to everyone else.

The following transcript of our discussion has been edited to remove any sensitive business information and is reproduced with the permission of Stephen Conroy, the owner of Cong IT, which provides IT consulting services and products into New York.

Internet marketing strategy, planning and implementation transcript

coachconroy: Hi David
David Mercer: Hi Steve...
Am ready whenever you are
coachconroy: Ok let’s go
Basically looking to establish my small IT company more here in NYC
I want to offer consulting work primarily and technician support
My solution that I want to market is XXXX XXXX
so there are two that I need to focus on separately I guess.

David Mercer: Ok.. I take it the consulting and technical support is unrelated to the product?
coachconroy: yes
David Mercer: ok
let’s treat them as separate for now
Looking at the consulting work first
I note that you have a web presence
congit.com
I’ve got it up here in front of me
coachconroy: Yes that’s like version 1.2
I still need more content and material etc

David Mercer: ok. Is this site going to be your primary point of contact
for new customers
or do you have offline/traditional points of engagement
i.e a physical store
coachconroy: No store. Yes website should be collecting leads etc
David Mercer: Ok, so we’re looking at predominantly internet based initiatives
with possibly some traditional advertising thrown in
coachconroy: Yes some print if needed

David Mercer: ok
do you have a client base already, or are you starting from scratch?
coachconroy: I have about XXXX clients at the moment
David Mercer: ok
look after those guys because they are going to be important for your marketing efforts going forward
coachconroy: Yes I’m taking good care of them

David Mercer: ok... the first thing you really need to do is look at your own offering closely. I know it may sound redundant, but it’s really important to understand exactly what you offer so that you know how to present it
In other words, the term "consulting" is fairly generic. It doesn’t speak to any one individual. As you’ll see a bit later, we want to be as focused as possible.
So, you need to draw up a list of things that you do
because this will help you to focus your marketing efforts once you have segmented the market
Stop me, or feel free to ask for clarification at any point
coachconroy: No I get it... I just need to do it

David Mercer: by having a large bulleted list of the things that you do, you can pick and choose which are most relevant to the market you are going for at any one time
coachconroy: I have some items listed on the website... my top 5 solutions is sort of what i would like to go after
David Mercer: ok, yes that’s perfect. I see those.
Once you have this itemized list, it is time to go ahead and think about who might use these services
again, you don’t want an answer like "any business that uses IT"
you want an itemized list of the "smallest common interest groups"
So this could be IT department managers for SMEs, it could be internet startup CEOs
You basically take that "any business that uses IT" group and subdivide it into its constituent parts
Now you are left with an itemized list of services on your side, and an itemized list of target markets on the other side.

coachconroy: That is where i want to go
My target market would be small companies 2 to 200 people. They would be located in my area. Most of my clients now are small money management firms
But that market is hurting right now.
So i want to get some diff types of clients
David Mercer: Ok. The consulting you offer is IT based, right? So it’s not necessary that you cater for money management businesses?
coachconroy: Correct.
David Mercer: Ok, so what you need to look at, is who you were dealing with in the money management firms (i.e. the title of the person in charge)
and add those titles to your list on the target market site
This is where you need to be creative and perform some discovery
even if it means going in to some other firms and finding out how they are structured
by speaking to them
You might even be able to make some good contacts during the course of your research
I can’t stress the importance of understanding who are going to be marketing to enough
You want to be able to speak to them almost as if it was you talking to an individual.. even though you are marketing to potentially thousands of people across the city
You might find interesting new opportunities like this too

coachconroy: The thing is the small business is usually the owner
The owner usually get the recommendation from the prime broker
David Mercer: Sure. Without a doubt, the owner is often the guy to speak to directly for small businesses. So "small business owner" goes on your list.
If there are more complex relationships involved in your target companies - i.e. recommendations from existing service providers, then you need to take that into account and find a way to reach the service providers
The point being that by having a segmented list of target audiences, you can shape and mould different marketing campaigns to suit those markets
Ok, let’s move on... we can always talk about this in more detail at a later date.
Armed with the knowledge of who you are speaking to, you now need to think of the best ways to find and engage them

coachconroy: Ah ok that makes sense
David Mercer: This should also take into account the requirements of your business. For example, if you only have the resources to handle say 20 clients. It may well be that approaching people directly is the best way to market. Cold calling is horrible and disruptive
IMHO, so perhaps use existing clients to get recommendations… etc
coachconroy: Yes I am working with the existing clients
David Mercer: Ok good.
Once you have worked out the best ways to find these people, you need to know what you are going to say to them that will convince them to use your service
coachconroy: Yes that is where I am stuck

David Mercer: yep, it’s not easy :)
but, if you know who you are talking to, and have a good understanding of their needs
coachconroy: Basically they all need technical support
David Mercer: it is a lot easier to pitch something to them - whether it is face-to-face, or via your website, articles, blogs etc
yes, they all need tech support
coachconroy: They all need the basics of IT hardware, email, etc.
David Mercer: Granted. But they don’t just need that. What they want is a) for nothing to wrong, and b) for someone to fix it as soon as it does

coachconroy: Agreed
David Mercer: You need to compare yourself to what is out there. Find something that you believe gives you a better value proposition
coachconroy: The value prop is going to be a per user price model...
instead of hourly
They come onto my platform that is supported by my company etc
David Mercer: Ok, but what is the benefit? (I’m playing devil’s advocate, here… not putting you on the spot)
When someone looks at what you are offering and says, Why?
What do you say?

coachconroy: Less technical issues. You know your costs each month, yearly etc
David Mercer: Good. That first sentence is great. "Less technical issues" All small business owners hate technical issues
That is the type of thing I am talking about. You need to lead with a set of powerful positive messages
that speak directly to whoever it is you are targeting
coachconroy: Ah ok...
David Mercer: For IT managers, you might want to lead with "ease of use" (so they can spend their time playing Diablo with their other lazy IT managers)
You get the picture, right? It’s the same product but there is great scope to deliver a specific and unique message to specific and unique people
It takes quite a bit of research, work and planning before you are even ready to approach people

coachconroy: Yes
David Mercer: but the preparation becomes worth it when you consider the savings in cost (by advertising in a more focused manner), effort (by approaching the right people with the right message), and time
coachconroy: Ok got it
David Mercer: Ok. Once you have you have your product, your target audience and your message, you can start the actual marketing
For this, you need to research what options you have available
In your case, you are looking specifically at new york, right?
This is great because from a geographical point of view, your campaign is already partly focused
Obviously, your website is going to play a pivotal role
You need to ensure that it is set up for two things:
1) to drive traffic through organic search and social integration
2) to convert traffic into paying customers, registered users, newsletter subscribers, and/or followers on twitter, LinkedIn and so on

coachconroy: yes i see
David Mercer: but, because you have done all this preparation before hand you can now make landing pages that are designed specifically cater for individual market segments
coachconroy: I need to get some formula together
David Mercer: you can write blogs/articles/press releases that are of direct interest to specific audiences
coachconroy: Some web page flow to get them to become clients
David Mercer: right. There is both and art and science to "converting" people. But in general, you want to get your message across clearly and easily. You want to make it easy to purchase, without adding distractions that can cause people to leave the site
So, your overall goal is to get "the right people" to your website, and have your website "convert" them to meet your business objectives.
In this instance, your business objective might be for them to give you a call to discuss things, it could be to make a purchase directly, or it could be to request a callback...
that’s up to how you think your website can most efficiently be used

coachconroy: My issue is that I’m doing a lot of the actual work at the moment...
coachconroy: I need help creating the content etc...
David Mercer: Ok. This is always a difficult part of the business. Either you need to build up that content slowly (since you are in the best position to produce that content, as the owner of the business). Or you need an employee to do it. Or you have to hire someone to do it. Unfortunately, content production is labor intensive, which translates to expensive
especially if it is going to be top quality, SEO enhanced, relevant and engaging
It’s a difficult business decision

coachconroy: That is the issue right there...
The marketing people should take a clue from the IT people and sell marketing as a service subscription.... lol
David Mercer: Ah well... there’s an article I wrote about that exact thing that got a lot of interest on technorati. Hold on, I’ll get it for you:
http://technorati.com/business/article/turn-sales-into-internet-marketin...
Read that when you have some time. It’s interesting from the point of view that you should always be turning sales into an opportunity for marketing to make more sales
coachconroy: I will read it today
David Mercer: Obviously, it is important for you to maintain your core business functions. But, it is really important to grow and market too. So, my advice (and of course your free to throw it out)… is to put aside a few hours each day for marketing purposes - research, blogging, discovery and so on
Keep it up on a regular basis and you will eventually be in a good position to market aggressively and successfully, with a website to convert well for you

...

Ok, I stopped it there. After that we got into discussing our next step, so the marketing aspect took a back seat to practicals of our working relationship.

I hope that has been interesting for you. Drop me a line or a comment here and let me know what you thought.