Hi there folks – I am Harry Brelsford, the author of the accliamed SMB Consulting Best Practices book. I am posting up a especially useful passage on free or low-cost ways to market yourself as an SMB technology channel partner and consultant.
BTW – I hold an amazing conference each fall. The 7th Annual SMB Nation conference is Oct 2-4 in Las Vegas!
Free Marketing Opportunities
“Ah, finally!” you say, your favorite part of the chapter: free marketing stuff. I agree. Many inexperienced business people, SMB consultants included, overpay for marketing functions. There is a time and a place for top dollar and top shelf, but it’s unlikely now is that time. Rather, for the SMB consultant on the way up, it’s critical to keep expenses low in order to keep ROI high (more on ROI mathematics in the Minder section of this book). In this section, I spell out a few freebies you can start using tomorrow.
Brelsford’s Dozen: Giveth business cards
Set a goal of giving out 12 of your business cards per quarter (every 90 days) from this point forward, which amounts to one business card per week, a modest and achievable goal. Over time, this becomes a very powerful tool, as you’re name will spread exponentially in your community.
BEST PRACTICE: The above point of “modest and achievable” shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s been said time and time again from the school of life to the hallowed halls of the Harvard MBA program that a successful business person doesn’t do one thing great but does lots of little things well. That is, you don’t need to have the wisdom of Solomon to invent new marketing models to be successful. Rather, just give away one of your business cards per week.
Consider some of the group listed in the last section (chamber of commerce, Rotary, etc.) as avenues for you to attend events, participate in meetings, AND give away that weekly business card.
BEST PRACTICE: You can also do what Dorothy did. (No, I don’t mean click your heels and say “There’s no place like home!”) I used to work with a seasoned professional named Dorothy a while back at a national contracting firm called 1-800-NETWORK. At the time, being full of pride, I probably didn’t learn as much from Dorothy as I could have. However, reflecting back and having made amends, I think Dorothy really had a great practice when it came to giving away business cards. Dorothy’s technique was to hand out two business cards at once with the phrase “…one for you and one to pass on to a friend.” Needless to say, it was easy for Dorothy to meet and exceed her card giveaway quota.
To Dorothy -> you go girl!
Brelsford’s Dozen: Receiveth business cards
Not surprisingly, you now want to endeavor to obtain a dozen business cards per quarter (again, one per week). This is a fundamental SMB consulting marketing activity—and how you build your book of contacts. My premise here is simple enough. In Chapter 7, you’ll learn more about being a rainmaker as I expand on the “building the book” concept.
Brelsford’s Dozen: Attend a dozen marketing events per quarter
Now for one of my favorite activities: eating hotel donuts and drinking coffee at marketing functions. Seriously, your goal is to be an SMB consultant on the fast track. You need to be seen everywhere, much like a rising star in
Hollywood. You’re job here isn’t as difficult as the cast of NBC’s top-rated show Friends, who necessarily need to be seen at the trendiest LA restaurants. Rather, it’s to find some marketing venue to attend each week and “been seen.” A couple of ideas:
• Host a table at a Microsoft Big Day/Business Solutions Seminar in the USA. I followed the Big Day circuit for over a year in the Pacific Northwest and had my table with other technology professionals in the back of the presentation room. The idea here was that local technology professionals could register to host a table for the day and speak to attendees (primarily business people) during the breaks and lunch hour. The table sign-up process is shown in Figure 5-16 and is found from the main Microsoft Business Solutions Seminar Web site (www.msbigday.com) by clicking the Technology Providers link on the left side.
Microsoft’s Big Day/Business Solutions Seminar is a great free marketing method for SMB consultants seeking exposure. You must register for a table to present your brochure and other marketing materials.
BEST PRACTICE: Expanding on the marketing versus sales discussion centering around Microsoft Big Day/Business Solutions Seminars, I can offer the following. When I hosted a table at these events, I found it to be true marketing. Introductions were made and it was incumbent on me to follow up on the lead I obtained. I never consummated a sales transaction at my table, thus I didn’t view it as strongly as a sales event. Go ahead, host your own table, and make your own judgment. One thing is for sure—the price was right: FREE!
• Join a trade group. Earlier I spoke about the WSTPA trade group I belong to. I consider my monthly meeting to be one of my required marketing meetings. That’s because the WSTPA has a real social element to it where “networking” (the human interaction form, not the multi-layer OSI model approach) is strongly encouraged. Another example shown in Figure 5-17, is the monthly chamber of commerce mixer (typically called “After Hours”). Nearly every chamber hosts such an event and, once you’ve paid your membership, attendance is usually free (or costs little). When you think about it, it really doesn’t cost anything to stand around and talk to the membership, eh? Salute!
As an example, here is the Bainbridge Island Chamber’s announcement for the after hours event and monthly luncheon.
• Make-ups. So what if you miss a weekly marketing venue? What to do? Like the Rotary club, you need to endeavor to do a “make-up” meeting. You’re not relieved of this responsibility. Like taking antibiotics for a health malady, you can double-up after missing.
Microsoft marketing machine
The Microsoft Partner’s Web site provides a wealth of marketing materials at www.microsoft.com and even some special marketing opportunities. In Figure 5-18, you’ll see a recent SBS promotion (the SBS 2000 channel services provider rebate program) where, after passing an SBS assessment examination, you could be listed in the worldwide partner locator tool. These deals come and go with great frequency, so please continue to monitor the Microsoft Partner Web site closely. A specific link to Microsoft marketing materials is members.microsoft.com/partner/salesmarketing/marketingtools/ default.aspx?nav=rn
At no cost to you, by participating in the recent SBS 2000 service channel rebate program and passing the online assessment exam, you were listed for free in the partner locator tool for potential clients to find you.
Another wealth of Microsoft marketing support is the “Go To Market” (GTM) campaign I’ve mentioned several times in this book. A recent four-day GTM Hot Lab offered the following ISA Server resources to attendees, in the form of two discs, on the third day of the event, which was dedicated to security (Figure 5-19).
ISA Server marketing materials (disc-based) given at the GTM campaign. You did not need to pay for these marketing materials, although there was a modest fee to attend the GTM ($50 per day US).
BEST PRACTICE: If you’d like to attend GTMs and benefit from Microsoft’s marketing resources, sign up via the Microsoft Partner site at www.microsoft.com/partner. One vendor that presents the GTM Hands-on Labs, Ascentus from Vancouver, BC, listed these GTM campaigns recently on its Web site at www.asentus. net (Figure 5-20).
More and more GTMs can be expected worldwide over the next several years from Microsoft.
Finally, there is the “must read” Microsoft Partner’s newsletter that is shown in Figure 5-21. You can subscribe to this at the Microsoft site for partners explained earlier in this section. This newsletter is a mother lode of free or nearly free partner benefits. Get it! Read it! Use it!
Microsoft Partner’s newsletter. Notice the first item is a free support offering.
I am a consultant at a medium-sized IT firm. My company targets big projects from large corporations. I tried to sell them on the idea of a small business “practice” that would concentrate on building and supporting SBS networks. They showed no interest. Lately, I have been contemplating leaving my firm to develop an SBS consultant business. I am a good tech, but I am not a salesman. What specific steps do I take to get started?
Thanks in advance.
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Thanks for the e-mail and great story. I’d like to emphasize simplicity. In my writings, I speak towards something as simple as giving out your business card this week to a business person. Period. Then next week repeat the same behavior. Likewise, try to receive a business card this week from a business person and then repeat that behavior next week.
The road to SMB consulting success isn’t so much knowing the nuts and bolts of SBS (which I assume you already know), but in marketing yourself. This road is paved with a thousand successfully completed simple marketing tasks, not one enormous breakthrough marketing idea. Far too many people focus on the one killer idea and don’t complete very basic tasks, such as giving and receiving business cards. You get the point.
The chapter in my SMB Consulting Best Practices book, in which your e-mail appears, is loaded with tons of marketing stuff using the old five Ps of marketing lecture. Combined with the other chapters in my book, you’re probably going to suffer from information overload on what your next steps are. But please! Just take one simple step at a time.
All the best to you mate… .harrybbbbb
Harry Brelsford, CEO at SMB Nation
MBA, MCSE, CNE, CLSE, CNP, MCP, MCT, SBSC (Microsoft Small Business Specialist)
PS – my Small Business Server 2008 (SBS 2008) book is now here! J
PPS – my fall show, SMB Nation Fall 2009, is in Las Vegas on October 2-4, 2009.