S P O N S O R S
Find out more
Hall Of Fame8 Corners of ECommerce
C I Readlist
industry is on
the verge of
into a thousand
fragments due to
the knowledge explosion
and the proliferation
of new technologies.
There are no
more grand theories
that hold sway
over the entire
It's better to
All material on this
A Week In The Sun
We're packing up the office and staff for a week of reflection courtesy of our clients at Kiahuna Beachside.
This week's edition of the newsletter is a long interview with Len Duffy, CEO of The Proposal Group. Len, who has been an innovative player in his industry for over a decade, has very effectively integrated the Web into his corporate marketing efforts. While all of the media attention is focused on big players with big budgets, we think that the truly profound web successes are being created by entrepreneurs like Len who see each visitor to a site as a potential customer or ally. In his business, large quantites of traffic may be the opposite of success.
1st Steps: Tell us a little about your company.
Len Duffy The company's mission is to assist our clients in preparing proposals to their potential clients, usually the government for new business. The proposals must be in exactly the format expected and present significant benefits to the ultimate customer.
We have a basic cadre of proposal managers, all trained by me, who work closely with specific clients. In this manner, we develop close, long term relationships with our clients in which we effectively become part of their organization. We operate as a "virtual" organization by using a database of writers and graphic artists to find the person with the best qualifications for each specific proposal. We then have an organization that provides all the production (word processing,final graphics preparation, printing, binding, and delivery to the customer.
1st Steps: A high-end, business to business operation like yours sounds like a long shot for success on the net. What made you decide to use the Web in your marketing program?
Len Duffy It allowed to establish an immediate presence as a group that understands the uses and benefits of the internet in designing and developing proposals. There are a couple of large proposal organizations who are competitors. Typically, they are not interested in client efficiencies as they charge by the hour and the more hours they apply, the more money they make.
Our organization, on the other hand, establishes long term relationships with our clients that are focused on efficiently delivering finished winning proposals and sharing in this win, either through a bonus system or through a subcontracting relationship after award.
1st Steps: How, exactly, do you use the web for marketing?
Len Duffy There are three methods. The first is somewhat passive in that companies reach us either through hyper links from related organizations or through search engines.
The second method is to use it as a complement to traditional marketing techniques of referrals, and networking. In this method, people are directed to visit the site during the course of a conversation. Also all promotional and letterheads have references to the web site, as well as do business cards.
Finally, I review the summary of who visited the web site each week and where possible, contact the company offering our services.
1st Steps: Who is your competition and how does the web help you learn from them?
Len Duffy Joyfully, very few of my competitors are on the web. The industry can be divided into two distinct segments. Several large companies and a large number of small or one person operations. One of the largest, Shipley Associates, barely mentions proposal consulting seems to have moved from consulting to training (http://shipleyfqc.com/index.html). I couldn't find Steve Meyers and Associates, another large one.
Some small organizations have sites such as Jim Kendrick ( http://www.ari.net/kendrick/) and Doug Glass (http://www.uscontracts.com). What is interesting, the smaller practitioners generally cooperate, linking to each other's sites and actually referring business amongst ourselves when we are overloaded. This is generally not the case with the larger firms who view everyone as an enemy.
1st Steps: Are your customers on-line? Given their size, does the web really work as a tool for communicating with them?
Len Duffy Many of my clients are on-line. While it is often nice to visit their site, the communication generally occurs via e-mail. what is the is very useful for is to pre-visit a company prior to that crucial first appointment. It is always a benefit to have an understanding of their public face prior to talking with them about helping them capture new business. After they are clients, I generally understand a great deal more about them than they are willing to share publicly.
1st Steps: In your marketplace, the deeply personal style you've chosen seems like a non-starter. Does your website, with its focus on your family and values really help you market the company?
Len Duffy Naturally, a great deal of thought went into this approach. One of the reasons I believe I retain clients is because I let them know they are dealing with a human being, not a faceless professional group. The principles that guide my personal life are the same principles that make me focus on building long term relationships with my clients based on an understanding of who I am and what life forces drive me.
There are probably some potential clients who would find this uncomfortable. One of the interesting aspects of my business and the stage it is in is that while clients are interviewing and evaluating me, I am doing the same. The clients who would be turned off by the small portion, Practical Philosophies: Mirrors Of Our Work (http://www.lenduffy.com/mirrors2.html) of my web site that focuses on the personal principles that shape my business are those who I would probably not want to build a business relationship.
1st Steps: Any final suggestions for other business to business marketers?
Len Duffy Yes, you have to view the web site as another component in the marketing tool box. It provides instant information when someone asks about your company and you can just summarize and then say, "Just visit my web site to find how we work and why we are successful."
In industries where your competitors do not typically have a web site, it provides a credibility that you are at least ready to move into the next millennium. For those in industries where it is common place, it now becomes the cost of admission for doing business.
Finally, use your web site statistics for possible leads to new clients.
1st Steps: Thanks, Len.
Take a look at the Archives. We've indexed all the past issues with topic pointers.
All material on this site is © 1995, 1996 by IBN (The Internet Business Network), Mill Valley, CA 94941