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Ideas for marketing support services?

I'm in the process of implementing the ideas contained in the blog entry "Technical Self-Employment Is A Fat Paycheck Waiting to Be Pocketed" at

http://homepage.mac.com/monickels/techjob.html

The point of this article, which I've been pursuing for a few months, is to offer computer support services - mainly admin and repair - to small businesses. My hope is to upsell higher value services. My near term goal is to keep the lights on.

I think I need some well focused ideas for putting the word out and getting publicity. Even a little business would be incredibly helpful.

Here is where I stand right now:

Chamber of commerce meetings have been a dry hole. I've done this consistently for about 3 months. Everyone else is in sales mode and the attendees are oversaturated with everyone else's hype.

My personal network is limited. I left the FTE world years ago and the number of people I know in development jobs has dwindled. I can see orgs like the chamber enhancing this but I also see that it will be excruciatingly slow.

I maintain an office, a separate phone line, have a web site devoted to this business.

I have about $9K in a corp. bank account (not living funds) that I can use for advertising and related things.

I am placing a 1/4 page consumer advertising magazine (due to go out around memorial day) advertising these services. It goes out to an upscale region and should get seen by some managers and business owners in addition to home users.

I am considering using a "telemarketer" employed by someone I know to do canvassing and lead generation in the form of a phone survey.

I've been handing out business cards like crazy to everyone I know and telling everyone I know what I do. No bites.

It's been suggested to me that one avenue is to go for grass roots prospecting is to attend technical user groups and make myself known as a guy who can offload PC support tasks from "serious" developers.

I've tried some non conventional advertising techniques, such as flyers with tearoffs posted on public bulletin boards. I've gotten exactly one call from about 10 postings. People are tearing the cards off though.

Other ideas? I need 'em.

Thanks.

Wouldbe entrepreneur
Sunday, April 25, 2004

I'd try to set up a relationship with retailers who are providing other goods and services to small businesses. Any computer stores around? ComputerWorld, Circuit City, Staples, Sam's Club? What you're doing now is called "cold calling", it's usually not a very good way to make sales; referrals are best.

Tom H
Sunday, April 25, 2004

Create a newsletter with actual content (either single sheet back and front, or single sheet trifold) - write about things like new developments in business technology, independent reviews of business software, "How-to" articles on common business apps (Word, Excel, Quickbooks, etc). Put an attractive headline logo with your business name, a footer with "find more tips at" your URL, "Subscribe to this newsletter by email", etc.

Value. Make it valuable. Make it something they WANT to read. Make it clear in the newsletter that you are open and available.

Also - can you give presentations at the Chamber of Commerce meetings? Give presentations about the same subjects.

Hopefully, when they need to upgrade their software, or get broadband, or keep their network from going down, they won't open the yellow pages - they'll call their "friend" who knows so much about computers.  They're business people - they'll understand they have to pay for your services.


Other suggestions:
- Build a relationship with other professionals. Do you have a lawyer, an accountant, a business planner? If not, get them. Use their services. And let them know what you do and that you're looking for clients. Referrals work. ;)

- Buy and read "Selling to VITO" by Parinello - it's about successful cold-calling.

- Buy and read "Solution Selling" by Bosworth - it's about sales methodologies.

Buy a tablet and use it in the Chamber of Commerce meetings to take notes. NOTHING has ever gotten me more attention than taking notes on my tablet.

Hope this helps, and best of luck!

Philo

Philo
Sunday, April 25, 2004

www.computerconsulting101.com

Philippe
Sunday, April 25, 2004

I thought about starting a business like this but found something else to do instead.  If I were doing it, I'd probably use a free promotion as an initial marketing effort.  It would be something could be done well quickly and with a minimum investment other than time.  Maybe something like a system checkup with spyware cleanup, defrag, patch update, etc.  The point being to get out to meet people who would use your service, show your competency and leave behind some marketing materials for them and anyone they know who may need your service.

Doug
Sunday, April 25, 2004

I'm considering a "prix fix" special for some defined services like adware cleanup and windows update. I considered a free offer but most people who have heard "free" have critiqued it with the opinion that it devalues my image and would attract bottom feeders. 

Wouldbe entrepreneur
Sunday, April 25, 2004

You're almost exactly in the same niche I'm currently working (due mainly to personal circumstance).  I'm in a small town of about 85000 and I've found the only thing that really works is networking and referrals.

I've got my baseline work (ie regular) doing "total care" support for general practitioners.  This I got by doing a bit of research on which were the most popular clinical packages and making myself familiar with their foibles.  A lot of these packages work on a subscription model, so there are usually a number of quarterly updates you can count on for income.  Just before (about a month) the most popular package launches it's update, I'd send out flyers empasizing a seamless update with zero impact on business operations (ie out of hours updates).  Doctors, by and large, couldn't be bothered reading up on MDAC updates, checking common control versions etc so they are receptive to offers assistance at these times.  Emphasize the business case and word the flyer so the practice manager (head receptionist) won't tune out when she screens it for the doctors.  This worked wonders for me.  Add to this 24 hr on-call and other services and I had a good stream to build on.

From this, I get a lot of referrals from the doctors to their patients from which it just snowballs.  Of course I've had to be extra diligent to ensure the base of this network (doctors) doesn't fall over as in a small town like this a bad name is a business death sentence.

Caveat:  I did this when the govt was handing out financial assistance for GPs to computerize so there was an unusual demand for these services at the time.  It may pay to search around and see if there are any similar initiatives in other business areas and try and "ride the wave" as it were.

Motown (AU)
Sunday, April 25, 2004

"If I were doing it, I'd probably use a free promotion as an initial marketing effort"

Beware of "tire kickers' who just want the freebee.

Trick is to offer a free initial consult to people who would pay if they trusted you.

So... better option: Give them a 100% money back guaranteed.  Explain to them that you want them to be happy so they'll refer  people.  Make sure they really BELIEVE that if they aren't satisfied you'll give'm thier money back without any grief.

This way, you eliminate a lot fo the tire kickers.

Mr. Analogy
Sunday, April 25, 2004

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