Pilot Fish, who are your sharks?

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The purpose of this blog is to talk about how service providers can become more successful. So today’s rant is about the pilot fish that attaches to the shark—at least conceptually. As we all learned in grade school, the pilot fish and shark have a symbiotic relationship, or, in simple teams, they share a “mutually beneficial” relationship.

(Actually, sharks have symbiotic relationships with lots of different kinds of fish…)

As service providers in a still-emerging marketplace, we struggle to have continuity in our monthly and quarterly revenues. With a few exceptions, most have a difficult time seeing revenue streams out past six months. The obvious strategy is to hire a business development person who can shmooze potential clients and feed the machine. But most service providers have limited staffing and may not be able to afford a business development person. Or worse, they employ someone to do business development, but in an effort to save money end up hiring either a rookie or someone without any sales/marketing experience. In either case, the likelihood for failure just increased.

Casual Hook-ups 

One strategy to grow your business is to establish relationships with other service or product providers who are calling on the same clients you are, but may look a lot more like sharks. For example, as laser scanning providers, it would make great sense to ally your company with the local Autodesk or Bentley retailer. They’ve got established client relationships, but might be looking to sell them on the newest packages that incorporate point cloud data. Well, you gather point cloud data! 

Identify their leadership and ask to assist them in their business development efforts in the reality-capture space. Once you get the management brought into the idea—then work down to their sales force. The goal is to get their sales effort working in tandem with your efforts.

Other great alliances for scan providers would be surveyors, engineering firms, and architectural firms. All these businesses are pursuing clients who benefit from fast/accurate laser scanning.

The critical component is to make certain that you aren’t just trying to suck leads out of them—instead, you are providing them with solid market intelligence such as contact names, local industry gossip, buying habits, etc., that they can benefit from. Your chance of success is zero if you don’t offer value to them as well. And, honestly, you’ll have to take the initiative to develop the trust in the relationship by sharing some solid marketing intelligence.

You must provide an initial and sustainable benefit to them while establishing trust or this won’t work.

“…to boldly go where no man has gone before” 

Other symbiotic relationships may include industry associations, non-profit groups, and/or local networking groups. The internet is a great source for you to search out these groups. Once identified, you need to qualify the group and see if their membership is your target audience.

Then engage. And by engaging I mean getting your technology in front of the members—notice I’m emphasizing technology versus a sales pitch about your company. Don’t forget that there are still huge groups of people who’ve never even heard of a laser scanner! Focus on what the technology offers and share it with others so they can see the benefit. You’ll impress and develop relationships that will provide you with previously unknown opportunities. Your business will grow.

From there, seek out presentation opportunities, news article options, or participation on their subcommittees. All of these will allow you to leverage your business at a low-cost basis.

Remember Me 

Every company has its own unique personality. Those that are more memorable have greater chance to succeed. Identify what makes your company different and in establishing these symbiotic relationships make sure your allies know why you’re different. It will make it easier for them to talk about you. If they have an elevator speech about your company, you’ve got it made.

The Carrot 

Finally, never (NEVER) let leads thrown your way go unappreciated, or you’ll kill your chances for future leads. Make sure you thank the lead source and if possible, let them know the outcome. In doing so, you’ll provide sense of mutual accomplishment. 

Assuming you accomplished something…

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About Author

Ken Smerz

In an attempt to shine light on the rather significant question that service providers throughout the U.S. have struggled with, I’ll be authoring a series of articles that address some challenges service providers face and hopefully offer some constructive advice gleaned through my work running Precision3D Scanning. I want to emphasize that my opinions are just that—and nothing makes me more qualified than anyone else trying to earn a living in an emerging marketplace. I encourage your feedback.

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