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Promotional ideas for a service company?

I've been reading about the ideas of promotions, but I'm at a loss on how to apply promotions to my company, or if it's appropriate. I am a 1-person engineering support company. I don't sell a physical product, and I don't sell a standard service, like an oil change or tax preparation. My "products" depend on the customer (generally small businesses who lack specific in-house expertise). I do things like technical writing (user manuals, reports, presentations), test development (data acquisition, sensors, data analysis) and product development (conceptual design, market analysis).

I am paid based on time and materials. I am considering two tiers of promotions....one tier for people who sign up for my newsletter (business/engineering articles, or other informational items of value to the specific client), and another tier for people who actually set up a consulting agreement.

I'd appreciate any ideas, and will be happy to clarify any part of my business. I am not a salesman, advertising exec or marketing genius, but I am learning, and hope to keep learning to make my business succeed.

-Sue Kristoff - by skristoff
I am paid based on time and materials. I am considering two tiers of promotions....one tier for people who sign up for my newsletter (business/engineering articles, or other informational items of value to the specific client), and another tier for people who actually set up a consulting agreement.
What would you give away? - by Thomas
What would you give away?
That's what I'm looking for insight on. Some ideas could be X hours of free service, a discount on the service rate, or some sort of free assessment of, say, a current testing program they may have. - by skristoff
That's what I'm looking for insight on. Some ideas could be X hours of free service, a discount on the service rate, or some sort of free assessment of, say, a current testing program they may have.
Some people in our office will give away a free market analysis to home sellers to get into the house hoping to give a listing presentation. I don't think this is a good idea because the sellers who do call only want the free analysis or turn out to be listings you don't want. - by Thomas
Some people in our office will give away a free market analysis to home sellers to get into the house hoping to give a listing presentation. I don't think this is a good idea because the sellers who do call only want the free analysis or turn out to be listings you don't want.
Always get the money on the front end and give the incentive on the back end. msnwnk; - by Jolly Roger
Always get the money on the front end and give the incentive on the back end. msnwnk;

Exactly. That's why I was thinking along the lines of a discounted rate, or X free hours with a new project. I was just wondering if there was anything more creative or interesting I could do. - by skristoff
Hi Sue,

If I were you, I would create a special report on and around the biggest problems your market has. In terms of lead generation, free special reports and white papers have the highest response rate (79% - Marketing Sherpa research).

This is a cross-breed between a brochure and a sales letter. The credibility comes from the fact that your statements are referenced to research materials.

Some ideas could be X hours of free service, a discount on the service rate, or some sort of free assessment of, say, a current testing program they may have.
I wouldn't offer personal service for free. You can convert this service into a email course and automate it.

I would also stay away from discounts. It can screw up your market positioning big time. Instead of "premium" you become a "low budget alternative"... main for low quality buyers who can give you only headaches and stomach ulcers.

Thoughts? - by Bald Dog
I'm new to this site but have been in the sales profession for many years.

First, my suggestion is to NEVER discount the price of your services to gain market share.

Second, identify your best customers. Focus your marketing efforts to build that into an additional 10 best customers.

Chuck - by Sales Pro 1000
First, my suggestion is to NEVER discount the price of your services to gain market share.

Second, identify your best customers. Focus your marketing efforts to build that into an additional 10 best customers.
Priceless advice Chuck. thmbp2; - by Jolly Roger
I would try to address your potential clients concerns. Offer them a consultation within which you'd provide a rough idea of scope and total project cost.

This would give them a rough order of magnitude from which to understand how feasible it may be for them to undertake a project with your services.

Make these by appointment only and dedicate a day, afternoon, hour to do them in so that they do not consume your day.

Lance Best - by Lance_Best
How about some type of value added bonus that could help with account penetration. For example when they hire on for 'test development' as a bonus you can offer a free consultation on 'product development'. - by Houston
One of the core difficulties in selling services is that the client very frequently doesn't realise how much they need you and how much the problem you solve is truly costing them.

So it's very difficult to sell a large project or engagement "cold". They need to be gently shown just how important it is that they hire you. And this can take time and work on your behalf.

A white paper or report is great for establishing your expertise and getting your foot in the door if the client really does understand how big their issue is. But if they don't, it's unlikely to get you into a big sale beause it doesn't automatically tell the client how big the problem is for him/her (although the best ones do have things in them that help the clients self-diagnose which helps).

A good tactic is to have an interim step. A small (easily buyable) analysis or healthcheck project where your run the rule over the client's business and identify where they're strong and where they're not so strong.

This allows you to further establish your expertise. But more importantly, it allows you to identify the specific areas where you can really help the client, and to quantify how much those are worth to the client. It's not just a matter of quanitifying the initial problems the client highlights. It's about identifying root causes and examining the knock-on impacts of the problems. With this, you will be able to build up the clients perception of his/her need so that they realise it's well worth paying your (hopefully huge) fees to address it.

Of course, the analysis must also deliver a lot of value to the client in and of itself.

So the sequence is whitepaper/reort to get you in the door -> analysis project to establish that there's a strong business case for action -> big project

As for discounting. I've seen it done well and badly for these sorts of projects.

I would say:

(a) Only ever discount an initial analysis that is clearly differentiated and of a different nature from the normal "delivery" work you do.
(b) Make sure the client fully understands that you are investing in the project in order to build a relationship with them. Then need to invest in the relationship too somehow - even if it's only manpower to support your work.
(c) Don't call it a discount. It's an investment (and therefore has an implied payback later)
(d) Avoid quoting your hourly rates if you are discounting - give a fixed price quote (should be possible for an initial analysis phase) to make it more difficult to compare the rates later.

If you don't have to discount, then don't. But if a discount on a small initial project can win you a huge whale downstream then go ahead.

Just make sure you've thought it through. My experience is that purchasing professionals are smarter nowadays and frequently backcheck and compare all the rates you have given them.

Ian - by ianbrodie
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