Leads are the lifeblood of any business, but many small- to medium-sized businesses don’t have the resources or research assets they need to fill their sales funnel with ease. HCDC, Inc. (i.e. – Hamilton County Development Co. Inc.) has a solution that makes growing your business easier: the Office of Innovation + Creativity.

Hamilton County companies with revenues of roughly $0.5 million to $50 million can apply for free technical assistance, thanks to a partnership with the National Center for Economic Gardening (NCEG) and funding from the county government.

Through the program, NCEG’s expert researchers devote 36 hours to exploring two to three key questions the participating company has about its sales and marketing efforts. The program, which began in 2018, is accepting applicants through September 18.

To learn more, Cincinnati Future spoke with Paul Fisher, Director of Innovation for HCDC’s Office of Innovation + Creativity.

What’s the profile of the companies you’re serving?

Fisher: Businesses looking for an extra set of hands to help them grow. Some have plateaued. Some are still growing, but they’re looking a year or two years out. Maybe they’ve plateaued on their base product, but they have two or three other products they’re thinking about, and they need help doing market research. Or maybe they’re thinking about expanding into other industries and need some help identifying which ones and compiling a list of qualified sales leads.

Why does the program focus on sales and marketing?

Fisher: Cincinnati has a wonderful startup ecosystem.  There’s a strong collection of talented people, public and private organizations, and companies working together to fuel prosperity in our region.  Cincy’s startup ecosystem does a great job at offering support to entrepreneurs along their journey.  Leveraging marketing to provide a continuous source of new sales opportunities is an elemental need of any business.  Businesses in our network routinely tell us that they need help identifying new sales leads.

Why focus on small- to medium-sized companies?

Fisher: It depends on the region, but they represent about 15% of the businesses, plus or minus, and they employ about 30% of the workers. When they grow, they add jobs disproportionately. That comes from research by the National Center for Economic Gardening.

What resources does NCEG provide?

Fisher: Market researchers with 15, 20, 25 years of experience. Plus, they have access to high-powered corporate databases, tools that [large] companies can afford more easily, like LexisNexis and Euromonitor, big market-research products that are paid sources.

How much time does the participating company have to commit?

Fisher: It only takes the actual company up to 12 hours. There’s an hour or so for an application and about two hours to do a discovery call with the market research group to home in on the top two to three sales and marketing questions they have and finalize a scope of work. The other nine hours are dedicated to reviewing core deliverables including market research reports, qualified sales lists, and digital analytics recommendations. Most of the time spent is focused on rolling up their sleeves and doing the work for the company.

Any idea what the dollar value of the service is?

Fisher: If you were to go and pay for this all yourself, it would cost you anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 for the databases and then call it $100 to $200 an hour for the service. An engagement is probably worth $25K.

And participating companies spend how much?

Fisher: It doesn’t cost them anything.

For more information, and to read success stories from program alumni, visit https://hcdc.com/oic/.