Launching a New Business
Client: Sullivan & Associates (SAI)
An Award Winning Project
How do you persuade your former competitors to become your clients? This quandary was presented to Schweitzer Consulting, LLC (SC) by Sullivan & Associates, Inc. (SAI), an executive coaching firm led by recently-retired construction company president Garrett Sullivan. For years, Mr. Sullivan had gone head-to-head against the very construction executives he now sought to counsel. Our strategy -- allow SAI to essentially "coach" the readers of Hawaii's construction magazine by authoring monthly expert columns. This has won over SAI's previous competitors and paid dividends with new clients.
To win over previous competitors. To demonstrate (not just tell, but actually demonstrate) that SAI knows how to grow construction companies.
- Business Issue: SAI's biggest challenge was that its president was seeking business from his previous competitors. Secondarily, the new company (SAI) lacked name recognition. The silver lining: SAI's president, Garrett Sullivan, was widely recognized in the community as the SBA Small Business Leader of the Year, the President of the General Contractors, and a recently retired president of a large construction company.
- Impact of the Issue: SAI had to demonstrate to Mr. Sullivan's former competitors that he was no longer a competitor, but rather a trusted, valuable advisor.
- Research: As the construction sector experienced layoffs and budget cuts due to the struggling economy, we knew that its executives had three primary concerns:
- Increasing profits and winning new bids;
- Reducing costs; and
- Avoiding expensive mistakes.
Intended Audience(s): Construction company owners/CEOs (previous competitors).
Goals/Objectives: We were selling something "invisible" - management coaching - and had to transform it into something tangible (for an audience of previous competitors).
- Audience characteristics: Our target was a deep but narrow swath of construction industry leaders - less than 1,000 key individuals.
- This group is primarily male, aged 40 - 55+, who are concerned about their construction businesses.
Client's desired outcome:
- Detailed Objectives: Use a tactic often reserved for products - distribute "free samples." The difference here was that our "free sample" wasn't a product people could hold in their hands, but a written advice column that demonstrated SAI's knowledge of construction company management and ability to increase profits.
- The goal was to earn a full page of editorial coverage (with a photo of Mr. Sullivan) in an expert column, entitled "Best Practices," in Building Industry Magazine, Hawaii's only construction industry publication since 1954. (For website archives of the articles, go to http://www.buildingindustryhawaii.com/best.html)
- To place 12 "earned media" articles (one per month) resulting in an ad value of $1,950 ;
- To author useful, meaningful articles that speak to construction executives' concerns (described in item 1);
- To reach SAI's target market with the articles (described in item 2); and
- To re-purpose the articles in an advice library online (with measurable website hits) as well as to use them as the genesis for full presentations to be given to construction executives/business leaders.
For SAI to achieve a specific monetary goal in billings (which the client wishes to keep confidential), regardless of the number of clients.
Solution Overview: Throughout 2012, our key, simple strategy was to showcase SAI's business savvy by authoring an expert column in the monthly construction magazine.
- Projected impact: Persuade SAI's previous competitors - with each new column - that SAI possesses the unique leadership skills that other construction CEOs urgently need.
- Project imagination/problem solving: We reasoned that the monthly column would serve as the core oundation of this PR program. It would provide the platform, voice, and content to feed into other tactics including a speaker's bureau and website engagement through downloadable budgets and an advice library.
Efficacy of project/budget: Since we received earned media on the articles, there was no out-of-pocket expenses for the coverage. The only expense was the PR counsel/writing time, editorial calendar, website updates, and speaker's bureau coordination which equated to approximately 6 - 8 hours per month or approximately $1,500 per month.
Implementation Challenges: The magazine's deadline is not flexible. Our internal deadline was one week before the magazine's which left time for unexpected delays. This was a life-saver when juggling travel, client work, and other obligations.
Measurement: When you consider a target audience of previous competitors - and the fact that the construction sector had been in the tank for almost five years - the results have certainly exceeded expectations.
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- FINANCIAL RESULTS: SAI exceeded its income goal by 33%.
- NEW CLIENT RESULTS: SAI signed seven new clients including one mainland client and one international client. SAI also signed a new non-construction client (in the retail sector).
- ONLINE RESULTS: SAI received a total of 74,222 website hits and 34,966 sessions during 2012. This breaks down to an average of 95.54 visits to the website per day.