Recently, I received an email from Shawntay Vaughn of Johnson Computer Technologies, which read in part:
I have a pressing question. I am the office manager for a very small IT company (less than 5 employees). I am also responsible for the sales and marketing for the company. Since I have been with the company, I have tried to create a marketable image for the company, however I am having difficulty selling the company. Mostly, because I am stuck behind a desk.
We don't have any other sales people and I am always needed at the office. I have tried to convince the president that he needs to be the first sales person, but he is the lead IT consultant and he also teaches at a university.
Do you have any suggestions for growing this company from 5 employees to 10 within the next 6 months to a year?
Thanks for your email, Shawntay. Just because you're stuck behind a desk doesn't mean you can't do good marketing. One of the most important things you can do as an IT service company is to get yourself at the top of Google's listings for your locale. When someone searches for "IT consultant" you want to be the very first item, and you want the text that's shown under your link to say that you're the answer to their problems.
I assume you have a web site. Make sure that it has that key text close to the top, and that the site gets updated frequently. A blog is a good idea, not only for this, but also because if you talk about the kinds of things you do with authority, that also markets well. It's important, though paradoxical, to leave "marketing language" out of that -- talk about the subject matter (e.g., the kinds of problems customers run into and how you deal with them) instead of about how great you are.
Leave comments open on your blog, and respond to all of them. A little free advice can go a long way towards future business.
Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ can get your presence known. You have to be careful, because those can become a real time sink -- but if you stay on topic and link to the articles on your site, it can improve exposure.
Of course, the very best marketing is the opinion of your existing customers. See if you can get some of your customers to give you a recommendation you can publish on your site. Ask them if they know of anyone who could use your services -- perhaps offer a referral discount.
Teaching at the university is good marketing. So is contributing to open-source projects. Always do so in a highly visible manner, without appearing to pat yourself on the back.
Good luck, and let me know what progress you make.
What other advice would you give to Shawntay?
Chip Camden has been programming since 1978, and he's still not done. An independent consultant since 1991, Chip specializes in software development tools, languages, and migration to new technology. Besides writing for TechRepublic's IT Consultant blog, he also contributes to [Geeks Are Sexy] Technology News and his two personal blogs, Chip's Quips and Chip's Tips for Developers.