[note to self: needs to be better organized, shorter, clearer and straighter to the point]

You've got the business facilities, the business cards, the pamphlets, the shingle above your door, your email address, website, telephone, computer, letterhead and  a means of getting around (vehicle or public transportation).

The key is to develop a written marketing plan, schedule it into your agenda, take action and monitor the results of your efforts. If you are doing something, and after three or four weeks nothing is changing (give it a fair chance), it might be a good time to modify your approach. On the other hand, if you are starting to get new clients, notice what's working and what's not and refocus your efforts. You may be on the verge of a snowball effect (gets bigger as you consitently put effort into it).

So how do you generate leads that convert into sales for your new business? The old approach of spraying awareness of your business just isn't very effective in todays market. "Build it" does not automatically translate into "and they will come".

If you were thinking of mass mailing, you may as well just hand over your bank account because there won't be anything left in it by the time you are done. There is just too much junk mail going around these days. Most people just don't pay attention to it unless they are looking for something specific.

What's the alternative? In today's market, your best approach is to give up trying to tell people what you have to offer and focus on finding out what their needs are instead. You'll actually generate more business from identifying your potential clients and taking the time to conduct information meetings and networking with them than you will from a mass mailing but only if you know how to make the most of it.

Looking for customers is kind of like looking for a job. A survey conducted in 2010 found that only 7% of people are successful at finding jobs by mass mailing their resumes. 33% of them found success by asking for lead from people they know and following up with them. 47% were successful by going out and meeting potential employers. By contrast a whopping 84% of people were successful at finding a job through networking and doing information meetings. And yes, you can be even more successful if you combine two or three approaches like networking/information meetinsg and asking for leads at the same time. When you are looking for customers for your new business, why would you expect it to be any different?

By the way, simply going out and getting in front of people to tell them what you do will often result in a "I'm sorry, I have no need for your products/services". When this happens, what's your fallback position, become a pain in their neck until they give in? That's not going to work. If anything, they will develop resentment towards you and you'll never get their business. you end up walking away feeling rejected and with no viable options.

The real drawback to this approach is that you walk away knowing nothing of their needs. For all you know, what they might have actually been saying is that they don't need your product/service today but next month might be a different story but you will never know.

Meeting with potential customers to tell them about your company and the services you offer may get you an odd job here but it is not a sustainable plan. The good news is that there is a better approach: Go meet with them and take the time to learn about their business.

Instead of going out and trying to sell your product/services, take the time to learn about their business and their life and uncover the pains they associate with it. Talk to them about the seasons of their business year, when are they busy, when are they not and how they handle that. Find out about their services, who their major competitors are, what is coming up for them and who their clients are typically.

With that information, you will be in a much better position to discover when is the best time of the year to approach them, what pains you can help them with, what services could you make use of or help out others by sharing contact information, and who else you can approach to market your business. Strategically align your business with theirs and your services will complement each other. It will no longer be a push but a collaborative win-win situation for everyone involved. When your clients interest or even your competitors interest are in line with your interests, trust and long term relationships are formed.

Not only will you find out what you can do for them in the short term, you will also find out what you will be able to do for them for years to come and know when to contact them. This will not only be more beneficial to you but to them as well. You may even be able to provide them with suggestions on how to improve their business.

You may even end up creating a new product or offring a new service that you had not even previously considered in order to meet your clients business needs.

In the same conversation, you will also be able to enquire as to who their competitors are if you ask the right questions. Their competitors are opportunities to generate more leads. The door will also be open for them to give you referrals so other people they know who might need your services. When you leave, your potential client will be left with the feeling that you understand his/her business needs and are out to help them, not be a pain in their side.

After you have meet with them, you will be in a better position to strategically send out your paper mailing to them at an optimal time, when you know they will be needing you. When they receive that envelop from you, it will no longer be just another piece of junk mail. It will be a piece of important mail from a potentially valued business partner. In fact, you can then even follow up a few days later with them by phone just to make sure they received your pamphlet. If it is a personalised and customised letter reminding them of their needs and how you can satisfy them, even better.

They say that you need to get in front of people 7-10 times before they will consider doing business with you. That includes telephone calls, business card, meeting in person, pamphlets, email, website, and especially regular interaction on social media as you can imagine.
Remember, all your potential customers care about is their business. They don't care about you or your business unless it somehow benefits them. You need to get out of the mindset of trying to generate business for yourself and start thinking about how you can meet the needs of your customers.

It is important to note that there are people who will never be your customer but are, I believe, actually even more important than a customer. I call them "Connectors". They are people who don't and probably never will need your business but are more than delighted to recommend you to everyone you know. In essence, these people are like a free marketing team for you. Other people that can make your job a whole lot easier include people in related businesses. For example, some great places to leave your pamphlets might include hair salons (if you are targeting women), associations, social and business networking groups like Toastmasters, eWomens Network, Courses, Meetup.com, Networking events, Business Network Canada (BNI), Chamber of commerce, Board of Trade, www.infoentrepreneurs.org/en/ are excellent places to find entrepreneurs who need your services. Most of these places will allow you to come visit at least once if not a few times without becoming a member. Take advantage of the opportunity to be a visitor while you can. You may discover that some of these places are bursting with opportunity and well worth the membership fees.

Contact everyone you know and ask them if they use services of businesses in your target market. For example, you probably know several people who use a snow removal service even if you don't use it yourself. If they do, get their contact info and ask if they recommend them you give them a call. Then you can call them up and say "so and so" recommended that you give them a call. There is no shortage of leads to keep you busy until you have more clients than you can handle.