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In the digital market, there are many vendors vying for the same customers. As web offerings increase, but the potential customer base essentially stagnates, or at best, grows more slowly than the products and services offered, it will become increasingly difficult to find new prospects. To stand out from the crowd, your business has to do more than just offer a product. It also must do so in a unique and memorable way. Your business must think about more than the current sale, it must also consider how to make a one time purchaser into a long term customer.

Offer something unique. Your product may be something which is available in one form or another from a variety of vendors, but that does not mean that you cannot have, or create, a unique marketing draw. Perhaps you feel that you have insight into the industry which other vendors do not. Blog about your knowledge, or if you have enough detailed technical information to do so, write a whitepaper. This demonstrates your specialized knowledge, it makes you an expert in a crowd of websites who limit communication to generic FAQs.

When you offer something, get something back from a potential prospect in return. For example, if you have something on your website that you offer to customers as a free download, such as a whitepaper, request their email or other contact information. This contact information does not automatically translate into a prospect, but it does indicate specific interest in your product by at least one specific user.

Ask permission. There’s a saying that it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission, but just the opposite may be true when gathering potential prospects. Do not subscribe people to your mailing list without expressly communicating your intent to do so. It may seem like an obvious match from your perspective, but you need to consider the perspective of the potential customer as well. People sometimes spend their first couple of minutes with morning email weeding through the junk mail. It’s an annoying reality of email, but don’t be an annoyance to someone who may one day become a customer. Consider how many times you have added an email to a spam filter versus how many times you have gone into your spam filter and removed an existing entry. Once you are in someone’s spam filter, you are likely to stay there permanently. Don’t get into the spam filter in the first place by sending unsolicited emails.

Build on your reputation with existing customers. This sounds simple, but there is a wrong way and a right way to do it. The right way is to be completely open and forthright about it. If one customer is happy with your service, tell them directly that you value them and their ideas about other potential customers. Facebook received some negative publicity when it went about this process the wrong way: Facebook decided that if a customer used a product, they could be translated into an unintended spokesperson for that product. Public reaction was terrible. Build a relationship, not a database.

Ask satisfied customers to let you mention them. In a business to business relationship, this is a win-win proposition. The customer expands their presence and your product gains legitimacy by actual testimonials. It may be tempting to rework the statement you put on your website in a testimonial, but resist the temptation. Ethics issues aside, the customer may be able to address potential customers better than you can simply because they are both in the same, or nearly the same position.

For more information on how to identify and gain prospects, and turn them into long term and loyal customers, please contact us.

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