Many IT business owners ask me what’s the best form of advertising to boost their business. One avenue I very rarely see explored is one I believe can deliver excellent results – in particular in the IT industry. First, consider that a typical IT firm is not trying to sell a product – it’s trying to sell a relationship.
From a marketing perspective I often see IT firms in a similar light to accounting firms. When a business chooses to deal with an accountant, it’s a long-term decision. It is very rare for a business to change accounting firms each year. The average engagement length between a business and a specific accounting firm is 5.8 years. In our modern world, most people probably have a longer term relationship with their accountant than they do with their spouse!
An accountant has to do a really bad job to lose a client and there is no logical end to the engagement – tax needs to be paid every year. IT firms are in a similar situation – although there is a logical recurring timeframe when a client may consider their IT relationship. If you have trained your clients to renew their infrastructure every three years (which you should do) then clients may take the opportunity every three years to test the market.
On the upside is the fact that once you secure a client, you should have them for at least three years.
Which comes back to my original point with accountants – people are unlikely to start a three-year relationship with you based on some glitzy pretty ad.
It is generally agreed that word-of-mouth (WOM) is the absolute best form of advertising – in particular when you are selling a three-year relationship. The problem with WOM is that you have no control over it. You can’t decide to run a WOM campaign in a new area or ramp up some WOM to hit some new targets.
In trying to find the closest equivalent to WOM that you have control over, I arrived at the case-study. Now the case-study concept is not a new one but I believe it’s vastly under-utilised. There are a few rules I have in relation to creating a case study.
First, don’t make it too long. An effective case-study should not be any longer than two pages.
Second, you need to make a clear connection between the business problem the client had and how your firm solved the problem. Some people are fearful that you will be giving away your IP but I don’t believe the level of detail in a case-study will be enough to help your competitors out.
Then you need to humanise it. You need people to be able to relate to the character in the story. What you are trying to emulate is a conversation with a mate at the pub.
.Last, pick a client that is the epitome of your ideal client. If you are after more clients from the manufacturing sector and ideally ones who have 30-50 PCs, create your case study based around someone who fits exactly in the middle of that target.
The clients you are chasing need to be able to relate to the company in the case-study.
If you follow these basic case-study rules, you can create a case-study you can use in a campaign. In fact, I would recommend creating several case-studies so people can see your breadth of work. Offer an existing client the chance to promote their business in the case-study so they receive some free advertising.
You will be amazed at how readily people will agree to give freely of their time to help you.
Once you have the case-study, then you need to get it into the hands of your potential clients. Use existing clients to help you but then you may also need to use some of the various methods to deliver the case study – web sites, social media, newspapers, etc.
Tell me if you think case-studies are an effective way to secure new clients at firstname.lastname@example.org.