Over the years, OCS operators have experimented with many ways to attract new customers and to increase their allied product sales through different marketing strategies. Let's take a look at what has worked. I will be making short comments on some of these marketing methods.
Marketing techniques designed to land new accounts and build allied-product volume include:
» Recruiting, training and deploying a direct salesforce.
» Setting up, training and equipping a telemarketing department. (This takes a huge burden off the salespeople and saves them valuable time in lead generation. In larger cities, where security is tight, this is the best way of getting leads.)
» Route drivers. (They can hand-deliver your menus, product sheets, announcements, etc. directly to the decision-makers in your accounts. If properly trained, they can sell additional services and products, as well as generating new leads for your salespeople.)
» Yellow pages hard copy. (Today this tool is very weak in generating leads, but having a small listing in the print edition is better than not having one, since your competitors may be listed.)
» Yellow pages Web (Very strong today, and a must. Your listing must link to your Web address to provide full information about your company.)
» Website. (This is where our industry is now flourishing, with so many opportunities to get the attention of the buyer. The more you tell, the more you sell. You can display your menu offerings and the customer can order directly from your site.)
» Truck advertising. (Very effective, and inexpensive in the long run. Don't forget to advertise on the roof of your delivery truck, if you serve the bigger cities, where people in multi-story buildings can see your ad on top of your truck.)
» Radio during the "morning drive time" period. (This can work well if you trade out your services in lieu of paying for advertising. Sponsor a free coffee and bagel breakfast for the tenth office that calls in. Get the contact information for everyone who called in, and follow up with a free week's trial of coffee -- with doughnuts on the first day. You also can gear your ads to stations that specialize in reaching office populations.)
» Referral programs (This is a must, and is one of your most inexpensive ways of generating leads.)
» Trade shows. (Setting up a refreshment booth and conducting a drawing to win a month's free coffee or water service has been effective over the years.)
» Charity events. (Very popular to get your brand out to the business community and to the general public. Giving away free coffee and bottled water with your name on the bottle is good PR.)
» Networking groups. (This is a big lead generator. Look into getting involved in your business community with "business networking." This is where a group of businesspeople who specialize in all office-related goods and services get together and trade leads with one another. Only one of each kind of business is permitted to be part of the group, so there is no competition within it.)
» Co-marketing with a vending company. (Sharing customers with a local vending business has worked for many OCS companies, as long as they do not have coffee service and you do not have vending. A written agreement must be signed as the "non-compete" part of the contract.)
» Customer service. (Your own order department, if well trained, can generate new allied sales and services to your existing account base. Do not hire "order takers," but do hire "sales customer service" personnel for your order department.)
» Product menu brochure. (A must!)
» Message-on-hold. (You have a captive audience of people who call in and cannot be transferred immediately, so why not advertise your products and services to them while they are holding?)
» Invoice and statement stuffers. (Including announcements and advertisements in mailings to clients is an inexpensive method of getting more of your message to your customers.)
» Case stuffers, too.
» Advertising on your cartons and cases. (Will be seen by many employees.)
» Ads on thermal pots, airpots and glass bowls. (A captive audience that will see what you're selling in the form of hot beverages.)
» Invoicing. (Have an area on the front of the document to show "monthly specials," etc.)
» New product samples packed inside cases. (This is an easy way to get your current clients to try new things. Get your suppliers to give you extra promotional product for this sampling.)
» Customer surveys. (Get feedback from your customers on all areas of your business and ask what products or services they would like to experience. Also ask them what products or services they would like you to carry -- you may find that you currently do.)
» Public relations, press releases to media in your area.
There are so many ways for you as operators to advertise and market your products, without spending a great deal of money. All the above combined will generate new revenues for you and your company. You just have to find the time and do it.
Please let me know if you have used other methods to market and promote your company. I can be reached at (516) 241-4883, or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
LEN RASHKIN is a pioneer in office coffee service. He founded Coffee Sip in 1968 and later merged it with Dell Coffee. He also founded the Eastern Coffee Service Association and National Beverage & Products Association.