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Friday, September 19, 2008

Consultants: Using Internet forums for your marketing

Tim Nagle, in the Richmond VA area, has started promoting his consulting business through provocative postings.

One of the most effective ways for you to market professional and consulting services is to achieve expert status on relevant Internet forums. As you contribute and post your insights and observations, your reputation will soar -- if you do it right.

If you do it wrong, you'll be seen as an opportunist, or worse, as a spammer. Forums have their own rules and personalities -- and unless you really know your way around, you risk a flame war or, worse, banishment.

Several months ago, for example, and relatively early in this blog's history, I stepped over the line at, when I invited readers to participate in a survey. You can avoid similar mistakes by reading the forum rules, which are usually clearly posted.

Humbled by the error, I set out to correct things, always checking with the forum administration BEFORE posting if the activity could be seen as stretching the rules.

Sometimes, new people arrive on the scene with a real splash. Tim Nagle, who goes by the user ID "Remodel Bud" joined the fray with some provocative postings beginning with this thread, "Sales Training Instruction 9 - 2 - 08". Intrigued, I phoned Nagle, whose RemodelBuddy weblink takes you to a regional leads referral service for the Richmond, VA area.

Before starting out on his own as a consultant/local leads service provider, Nagle says he had been a partner and successful manager of the Champion Window, Siding and Patio Room branch in Richmond, which he turned from a money-losing business into one of the most successful branches in the Champion network, generating upwards of $10 million in sales each year. Nagle says Champion decided to use his location as a training centre for other location managers, who could see first-hand how to do things properly.

He's now setting out as an independent consultant, and naturally, his clients are likely the people reading the forums (and this blog).

Nagle believes contractors should hire only commissioned sales representatives. (This point is debated by many pundits -- but the consensus seems to be for retail-focused direct to consumer sales, commission sales appear to have the greatest industry acceptance.)

But where/how do you find the great salespeople you need to run your business?

First, says Nagle, make the business truly appealing -- show the representatives you are planning to hire the quality of the environment and the existing sales force. (When he took over responsibility for Champion in Richmond, this meant a few months of house cleaning, as many lower performing people left.)

"The hiring process starts before you hire anyone -- you are building the culture in the office; a great environment leads to great success," he said. "Whenever I interview a salesperson, I let them interview the other salespeople in the office -- and they want to work there."

To find new representatives, "you are out looking for people actively, networking, checking other companies, home shows, contractor businesses, that's generally the best means of hiring.
"Building a sales team is a constant work in progress," Nagle said. "You have to be working (at recruitment) when there isn't a need to look."

For his consulting service, Nagle said fees vary depending on what is required. Some people, he said, just need phone consultations, and these can be accommodated for $50 per week. In other cases, Nagle said he is asked to conduct full-blown on-site sales training and hiring -- and this of course will be more expensive. He is selective in the clients he works with; a young, struggling contractor with a brain on his head and willingness/eagerness to learn will receive his services for lower fees; he will decline doing business with people who don't want to learn and listen.

Is Nagle worth his fees? I can't be sure -- but his writing and communications suggest he knows what he is doing -- and of course you can check his references and validate his abilities in the early going of your relationship. One thing is certain: Some solid consulting from experts who really know their stuff can save you much agony, frustration, and wheel-spinning as you build and maintain your business. And you can learn something from Nagle about marketing your business by connecting with Internet forums relevant to your potential client group.

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