Five ways to attract new customers and grow your business
In today’s hypercompetitive, customer-driven business world, you need to look at new ways to make your business stand out. By exploring customer service initiatives, new sales channels, and private label financing, to name a few, you can attract and keep new customers.
1. Improve the customer experience
Without quality customer service, people won’t want to buy your products or use your services. First, businesses/vendors and their customers need to make sure they are the right fit for one another. For example, for equipment vendors, the right vendor should have the right selection of equipment along with the experience that instills confidence. Next, both parties need to make themselves accessible during business hours and deliver effective and informative communication. Keep phone and e-mails on topic, and be proactive should any unexpected problems occur. Lastly, sending a thank-you note via email or making an occasional follow-up phone call can go a long way in showing gratitude, which is essential in the business world.
2. Introduce new merchandise as it becomes available
Because of increased competition, changing customer expectations and innovative technology breakthroughs, the introduction of new equipment/merchandise, or updated versions of existing merchandise, can help drive sales and differentiate your business. In many cases, new or updated equipment offers some form of functional benefit(s) to your customers, and this can be used as a key selling point.
3. Find new sales channels
Marketing your business with traditional offline strategies such as television, radio and print advertising can be costly. Consider various online marketing efforts to see which ones might build awareness of your business.
Online marketing will continue to grow as your customers increase their mobile and tablet usage, so plan accordingly. Update your website regularly; make sure it is supported on all mobile devices, add fresh content, and check that all links and online forms are working accurately.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads are a great way to drive traffic to your website and get your company name out there. PPC ads don’t have to be expensive and can be easily monitored to see how much business they bring in. When growing your online presence, be sure to join in on the conversations that those in your industry are having. Be active in online forums and take steps to maximize your online network.
Reach out to your loyal customers and offer incentives for them to write reviews and rank services. Ramp up your social media strategy and utilize all appropriate networks that are beneficial for your business.
Also, consider making a persistent effort in business networking, as it keeps you connected with business owners in a wide range of industries.
4. Offer flexible financing to your customers
If you run a business than offers higher priced items, such as equipment vending, instead of requiring a 100% cash payment, leasing allows the customer to obtain the equipment they need for a manageable monthly payment. The ability to update their equipment helps business owners avoid technology obsolescence and the difficulties that come with outdated software, technology and equipment.
In addition to lease payments being affordable for your customers, they can also be deducted under the Section 179 tax provision. Make sure your customers consult with their tax advisors to find out if the equipment they’re financing is eligible for the Section 179 deduction.
5. Utilize online sales tools
Find the right business management software and customer relationship management (CRM) software to effectively and efficiently manage all aspects of your business. Today there are desktop and cloud-based software systems for you to choose from that offer the scalability that your business requires. Next, the success of your business relies on sales, so you can benefit greatly from a robust online sales management system. Depending on the system you use, you will be able to keep track of your orders, as well as provide your customers with the accessible resources they need to get lease quotes and submit online finance applications, to name a few. Having real-time access to all of your financing transactions saves time and provides you with an instant snapshot of how your business is doing. Some sales management systems have a variety of additional online tools that let you calculate lease payments, submit finance applications, present purchase options, track sales performance, run a variety of reports and more.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.