Barbara E. Thompson
With the boom in networking, many contractors are turning to outside organizations to locate prospective clients, create or improve their marketing materials, and help in the search for additional field technicians for their growing businesses. If you can build the cost of this "outsourcing" into your budget, you will have more time to do what you do best: install and maintain campus and premises-wide structured cabling networks.
For example, all too often, when you are at a customer site taking care of cabling and client issues, you probably should be out looking for the next installation job. One way to increase sales is to use an outside marketing company to improve the quality of your sales leads.
Because of the difficulties involved in marketing, many contractors rely on referrals for new business. Although referrals represent an excellent source of new business, you can never be sure when--or if--a referral will happen. This makes it difficult to plan for company growth and develop new business when you need it.
"One of the primary functions of a marketing organization," says Jeffrey Roberts, president of Grace Technology Marketing (Cleveland Heights, OH), "is to locate sales opportunities when the prospect is ready to make its selection but has not yet settled on a cabling provider."
For instance, a number of cabling project opportunities may exist that you are unaware of; a marketing company such as Grace can provide sales leads and information about these prospective customers. "If you`re a professional cabler, why not use a professional lead-generating company to help build your business?" says Mike McGuire, president of Miken Communications (Milwaukee, WI).
In addition to referrals, most businesses use other traditional methods of generating new business, such as the Yellow Pages, direct mail, trade shows and paid advertising.
"We found that the average cost of a qualified sales lead from advertising, direct mail and trade shows is $200 to $1000 per lead," says Lou Weinstock, Grace`s national cabling group manager. "By comparison, for clients in Cleveland and Milwaukee, we were able to create qualified sales leads at a cost of only $97.50 per lead."
Another step in the process of developing new business that can be outsourced is designing marketing literature. In today`s competitive business environment, you must give prospective customers a good reason to choose your company. "It`s difficult to grow past a certain point by referrals only," says Jim Mansfield, president of Computer Cabling Solutions (Mansfield, OH). "It`s important to have marketing materials that illustrate what we`re capable of [doing]."
As your business grows, you may have little time to spend on hiring additional qualified technicians. One option is to hire an outside employee search company, commonly referred to as a head hunter, to help locate qualified employees. By outsourcing the screening interviews, you can locate in a minimum of time the field technicians with the required cabling expertise. Mansfield says that working with an outside search company like Grace "saves a tremendous amount of internal time. I just don`t have time to handle the screening process and conduct 50 interviews to hire technicians."
As more corporations downsize their staffs, and businesses are forced to produce more with less, outsourcing is one way to grow a business. However, always get an itemized estimate from the outside organization to ensure that the outsourcing cost does not outweigh the time it will save.
For more information on outsourcing, call Grace Technology Marketing at (216) 321-2000.