By Steve Snyder
One of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs in early-stage companies is how to get more traction, how to drive faster growth. In every case, precise target audiences need to be defined. Who are the ”right” target audiences for our product or service? To start, do some research, talk to prospective customers, identify real pain points. Initially consider 1 or 2 audiences at most, not 3, 4, or more. Focus is critical. Without focus, enormously valuable resources will be wasted. Consider this “exploration” as an experiment. Experiments are wonderful things. The worst that can happen is you don’t get the outcome you expected but you gain knowledge to get you closer to your goals.
Winning sales is not easy. The effort to bring in a single new customer can take an enormous amount of time and money. And for many types of products, sales cycles can exceed 9 – 12 months. Rather than focusing on selling to 1 or 2 or 3 new customers at a time, what can you do to focus on a dozen or two dozen or three dozen customers at a time, or even 100 or 200 or 300 new customers at a time? The answer can be found in SALES LEVERAGE.
Think about companies or organizations that already sell to your primary target audience. And then create a compelling value proposition that clearly explains why your product is the perfect addition to the product or service they already provide to their target audience. By way of example, let’s assume that you want to target professional service organizations. This could be law firms or accounting firms. As you construct your marketing and sales plan, consider the power of partnering with professional associations. An affinity marketing partnership with professional associations can be an ideal way to gain traction more rapidly. This, is sales leverage.
How does it work?
Membership in most professional associations is voluntary. For instance, an attorney in Boston may choose to join the Boston, Massachusetts and/or American Bar Associations. Membership is strictly voluntary. During difficult economic times, many associations have seen membership levels (and associated revenue) decline as members take a harder look at the ROI of their membership dollars.
An affinity marketing partnership can provide immediate solutions for an association to not only reduce member attrition but to grow membership and add new sources of revenue. Here’s the key: Association members must feel that they are getting a return on their membership dues investment. Each member must perceive great value in their membership. Offer to market your product to Association members at a discount. An Association member could be offered a 20% discount from your standard price. However, if a non-Association member wants to purchase your product, no discount would be offered. Members recognize more value in their membership and have more reason to maintain their membership. And consider providing a new revenue stream to the Association partner, perhaps 4% – 6% (on a sliding scale) of every dollar of revenue that comes from their members.
With this new relationship, you’ve solved major challenges for your Association partners and created a strong sales stream for your company using sales leverage. The great thing is that there are many, many thousands of Associations across the country and around the world that focus on your specific target audiences. The American Society of Association Executives is a great place to find Association listings.