As an independent telecom agent, you’ve scoured over articles on ways to market your business for free. But are these freebies costing you time that could be used for selling? Is it time for you to designate some of your marketing tasks to a professional? If hiring an ad agency isn’t in the budget, it doesn’t mean you can’t afford some assistance. So what are your options?
Hire an intern
Research your city’s university and community colleges to find out how to create an internship program. There are plenty of marketing majors out there looking for some experience to put on their resume. If you can offer the requirements of the internship program, you just have to decide whether you will offer an hourly wage or college credit.
This is your best choice if: your marketing plan involves heavy social media. College students haven’t had the chance to establish much of a marketing portfolio, but social media is second nature to most 20-somethings.
Hire a virtual assistant – Outsource
Web sites like ELance and oDesk can connect you with a wealth of marketing professionals with a variety of skill levels. Employer accounts are typically free and the web site takes a percentage of the hired person’s pay.
This is your best choice if: you are looking for assistance with printed marketing materials, a web site, or any other design. Many companies turn to outsourcing for article and blog writing. However, we find that for telecom, this can cost you more time in the long run. Telecom is almost like a foreign language to outsiders, and by outsourcing articles, you might find yourself spending a lot of time on editing articles if the information is inaccurate.
Hire a consultant
Work with a fellow independent contractor and hire a marketing consultant to help you create long term marketing results.
This is your best choice if: you are ready to create a strategy for the bigger picture. A marketing consultant is kind of like an independent telecom consultant in that they are experts in their field and will map out a long term strategy, but they may have to use outside resources for graphics, design, etc.
Hire an ad agency
If business is booming and you’re ready to invest in some higher end marketing, interview a few marketing agencies to find a perfect fit. Check out your city’s Business Journal Big Book of Lists to find the top ranking agencies in the area. Keep in mind that some large agencies require that a potential client earn a minimum annual revenue.
This is your best choice if: you want it all. Advertising and marketing agencies take you through building the core of your brand to executing campaigns. Typically, all of their departments are in-house, and you’ll work with a team of specialists which might include your account manager, a business development expert, a copywriter, and a graphic designer.
A helping hand with your marketing is not out of reach. For those of you who have experience working with outside marketing help, share your advice below!
A lot of changes are happening in the Channel – many providers are conducting large layoffs, IT managers are turning their attention to the security risks of employees using their own mobile devices, and, in general, the lines between IT and telecom are blurring. Along with change often comes opportunity. How will you turn these “threats” into more business?
- Provider layoffs of direct reps could mean more competition. It only makes sense that some of these former direct sales reps are going to turn to the Channel. But think of it this way – with less direct sales people, providers are starting to realize more value in the Channel. As long as you stay sharp on the industry and keep up with provider trainings, you really should benefit. Plus, as a professional sales person, a little competition has never scared you, right?
- Channel news sources are blowing up with information on the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement. Mobile devices, especially smartphones and tablets, aren’t going away any time soon, so this “industry threat” could be a huge opportunity for you. IT managers are used to working to prevent outside threats, and now they need to learn how to protect their data based on the use of their own employees. That’s where you come in.
- This year’s Channel Partners Conference and Expo is focused on the convergence of IT and telecom – and that’s the way the industry is going. While this may seem like a new development to your clients, this is not news to you. You may have been providing these combined solutions for years, but with this realization comes great marketing for you. For instance, now that “cloud” is a buzzword, how many more clients have actually asked you for it recently compared to just a couple of years ago when they would give you a blank stare when you mentioned Hosted VoIP?
Good business people know how to adapt to change. Great business people find opportunities in change. What industry threats have you turned into positive change?
Are you The Most Interesting Man in the World? Unless you are Jonathan Goldsmith, and were hired by Dos Equis to play the role, probably not. This spokesperson embodies the Dos Equis brand, and he shares their point of view on life, that it should be lived. Following the birth of The Most Interesting Man, Dos Equis saw a significant growth in sales of imported beers and he is now an unforgettable figure in mainstream media.
Like Dos Equis, you will “begin living life” when you properly brand yourself and your business. You will see an increase in sales of not only one product or service, but others associated with your brand as well. This brand becomes the personality that identifies your products, services, company, and most importantly, you. Branding is an important part of growing your business, yet many agents attempt to go about it without a plan.
Rise to the top by following these 3 branding basics:
1. Be unique: Set yourself apart from other telecom agents. Consider your strengths and weaknesses, target audience, and your corporate values. What do you want your brand to mean to your customers? What names, images, and phrases do you want customers to associate with your brand? This discovery process is as important as the brand execution.
2. Embody your message: After you have discovered what makes you unique from your competitors consistently communicate this uniqueness in all aspects of your business. This includes your email signature, website, advertising, email and mail marketing, even how you represent yourself and your company in person.
3. Be the expert: As the telecom professional, you are the expert. Represent the products and services you sell as such. Reach out to your partners and begin testing and using their products and services first hand. By doing this you will be able to give an accurate account of how the phone services and products actually work.
Identify what makes you unique, consistently communicate this message, establish yourself as the expert in the telecom community and begin seeing an increase in sales. This brand is what will set you apart and what will keep you top of mind for your prospects and customers.
What branding basics have you had success with? Anything you want to add? Please share your comments below.
When you were a child, did anyone ever ask you what you wanted to be when you grew up? My earliest recollection of this was at the age of 7, when I told my family I wanted to be a Priest because of all the money they collected in the collection baskets. They MUST be rich, right?
My next recollection was that I wanted to be an inventor, which eventually transformed into being an entrepreneur. That’s why entrepreneurs…that’s right…YOU reading this blog right now…are my heros today.
And today I find it funny that, of all of the Super Heros out there, 1 is considred the most dominant, with three others tied for second. Here they are listed by the decades they were considered popular:
Super Hero Popularity Breakdown:
Spider-Man = 4 eras (60′s, 70′s, 80′s and 00′s.)
Superman = 3 eras (40′s, 50′s & 70′s)
Wolverine = 3 eras (80′s, 90′s & 00′s)
Batman = 3 eras (70′s, 90′s & 00′s)
Captain Marvel = 1 era (40′s)
Hulk = 1 era (60′s)
Punisher = 1 era (90′s)
Spawn = 1 era (90′s)
That’s right, Spider-man is considered by many to be the most popular super hero of all time. I think Superman must be a very close second. And Batman and Wolverine are close behind. I always liked Superman (thought Spiderman was creepy).
What I find most interesting is that of the 4 major super heros, 3 of them are loners. Superman, Spiderman, and Wolverine work by themselves. And they are admired by children around the world for their ability to dominate and win consistently.
The only problem is, that these 3 super heros are a complete myth when it comes to real life, and especially my real life heros, entrepreneurs (and thus telecom agents). I’ve known hundreds of entrepreneurs in various niches…all of whom display varying levels of degrees of success and failure. I’ve noticed over time that 99% of the successful ones are like Batman. They always have a Robin that gets them out of trouble and is critical to their success. They may not be on the front of the papers, and hopefully they don’t wear green Speedo swim-trunks to work, but the "house" would fall apart without them.
And I’m not talking about an admin assistant. I’m talking about a partner or a right hand man/woman…A Yin for the Yang. A Tic for a Tock. A Pot for the Lid. Smart, trust-worthy, reliable, and grounded. If you’ve got a Robin, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Your Telecom Agency
Growing a telecom agency, like any business, is not easy. There are multiple parts of the business that must be run seamlessly to ensure customers are satisfied, money is not thrown away, vendors and employees are managed, doors are being knocked on, new technology is learned and incorporated, and thought and energy is invested into the future. If you’re a killer sales person, you may not be well organized. And if you’re highly detail oriented, you may not be the best at initiating sales and closing business. Superman can seemingly do it all, right? But really, he’s really just knocking out bad guys. Doesn’t require a highly sophisticated set up acquired skills and abilities. To assume that Telecom Agents, or any small business owner, or really any human being, can become successful by themselves, is a myth (if not an outright Hollywood lie).
The $10M Question
Do you want to take your telecom agency to the next level? Who’s your Robin?
If you do want to grow and you can’t answer this question, maybe its time to get on the bat-phone and find one.
A well established brand makes new clients feel like they are in safe hands while existing clients are excited to refer peers to their latest great find. Branding is an important part of growing a business, many companies attempt to go about it without a plan. Don’t be the telecom industry’s best kept secret.
Know what makes you different
Why should clients choose you over another telecom agent? If you don’t know, you better find out before a potential client asks. Consider your target market, your company values, and what you want your brand to mean to clients. Review your SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. Take note of compliments you have received from clients. What stands out?
Have a consistent message, no matter what the media
Consistency is key. Once you know what makes you distinct from competitors, make sure it is represented in everything you do – from your advertising campaign down to your daily interactions. This includes your web site, email signature, the articles you publish, conversations with clients – everything. If your advertising claims you have top customer service, but clients are left disappointed, your brand will never succeed. Focus on what you do well and emphasize that.
Be a consultant, not a salesman
In Telecom, success is determined by repeat business. To develop relationships, become a problem solver for your clients – a consultant rather than a salesman. Once they realize you’re interested in their success rather than meeting quotas, they’ll value your suggestions and recommend your services to others.
Present yourself as an expert
Represent the technology you sell. Many providers offer demo accounts to their channel partners at a discount or, if you ask nicely enough, for free. That way, when someone calls your company for recommendations on phone services, you’re using high definition voice rather than cutting out.
Don’t forget to schedule time for social media. Join telecom-related forums on LinkedIn and share your opinions on your peers’ posts. Answer telecom questions on your Facebook. Write about client issues in your blog. Make it obvious that you’re offering your expertise at no cost.
Keep them coming back
Does your web site serve as merely a billboard or as a valuable resource? Keep visitors coming back by offering them things like white papers, case studies, and testimonials. Adding a blog or forum to your site allows your clients to stay informed and creates an interactive aspect. If you don’t have a blog, add an RSS feed to your page or at least keep your press releases current.
It will take time to create a recognized brand, but if you are strategic, you can avoid wasted time, mixed messages, and confused clients. Any tips you would like to share? Leave them in the comments below.