(MoneyWatch) Prospects today are bombarded with websites, speeches, and seminars that contain glittering generalities and do not distinguish the sales people from their competition. What's a better option? Conduct proprietary research on topics of interest to prospective clients and turn them into sales magnets.
For instance, learn what prospects want, and then package it into your own upfront diagnostic process. Or, name and define the research-based five steps involved in the customized design for your customers. Why not name and define how your implementation follows a rigorous set of quality controls that you've put together based on prospect input.
Do this and it will make the competition offering "custom solutions" sound like they are winging it. You don't have to be a marketing research expert to pull this off. Here is a nine-step action plan to make this learning-into-earning strategy work for you:
1. Conduct proprietary research. You can use this research in lead generation tools like websites, seminars, and publicity. Remember those lectures in science class about the scientific method? Well, it's time to dust off that knowledge. The scientific method is about observing, forming a theory (or hypothesis) and then experimenting to test the results.
2. Pick the trifecta. From your experience and observations, pick the three biggest problems you solve for clients and turn each problem into a research topic. Give them news they can use.
3. Ponder this first. Ask yourself: "Will this research be relevant to potential clients, seminar attendees, and trade-journal editors?" If no, rethink the topic. If yes, proceed.
4. Go surfing. Surf the web to review the literature of books, articles, and published studies that relate to your research topic. Collect data through opinion surveys, focus groups, and analysis of case studies. Probably the best thing you can do is interview about a dozen people who match the description of your target client. Tell them you are using the information to write an article. (You are, right?)
5. Crunch the numbers. Analyze the data to draw conclusions and make recommendations. Write a summary report on the findings of your research. This can be as simple as a report or as elaborate as a book.
6. Put the info to use. Adapt the research information in your seminars, speeches, how-to articles, website content, and publicity.
7. Talk about packaged solutions. From the research and your experience, create your own defined problem-solving system that will help you attract clients. Outline what you already do to solve customer problems. Then break this process down into a series of defined steps (usually five to seven are enough).
8. Name the process. So what do you call that thing you do? Give the process an intriguing name, typically no more than four words. Begin with "The" and end with "System," "Process," or "Methodology" for your proprietary process name.
9. Make a federal case out of it. Search the U.S. Patent Office website to find out whether you can trademark the name (steer clear if it's already been used in your industry). Seek legal protection of the process as intellectual property through the U.S. Patent Office. You can hire an attorney for about $1,500 (filing fees included) to help you or do it yourself based on the instructions on the Patent Office website.
One bonus piece of advice: Include the process on your website, but only give enough detail to describe it in general so you have room to adapt it for each selling situation. Also include the process in your speeches, seminars, and proposals. Continually improve the process, and be sure to document the improvements.