Although I am not a marketer, as a business advisor I am often asked what are the most effective ways to market a company. Business owners tend to ask me what tactics they should use to gain the ‘best’ and ‘fastest’ results. My advice is the same for business management: before you execute on a business initiative, you need a plan. Before you implement a marketing tactic, make sure you invest the time and resources in having a professional strategic marketing plan.
As a business owner, you know what you know, and what you don’t. Marketing, as an aspect of a business, is no different. Hiring a strategic marketing agency to develop your strategic plan is just good business sense.
A big part of any strategy is understanding how your customers value what you do for them. Depending on what data you may already have, a strategic marketing agency will conduct in-depth research on your customers and competitors to understand what brought them to you, and also why they stay.
As a result of the research analysis and the agency’s experience, they will be able to create an area of difference for you – something unique that differentiates your business from others in your industry. This brand identity is rooted in what your customers value.
This strategic marketing plan will now act as your roadmap and provide direction for all aspects of your marketing efforts and determine what tactics will be most effective in targeting specific customers. This is similar to how the strategy in a game of chess is needed to determine the moves made on the board.
Once your strategy is complete and you know what tactics are required, you can make an informed decision as to who will implement them. You’ll need to look at your internal resources and skill sets and compare them to external ones. If you choose to take them on in-house, think about who will manage them from a marketing perspective. You may choose to outsource only a portion of your tactics while taking on the rest internally. When it comes to implementation, you have a few options. Taking the time to plan can save your business thousands of dollars in needless tactics.
As a business advisor, when I meet with business owners we discuss a multitude of business-related issues, most of which fall into these four categories all of which have a direct impact on your bottom line: operations, finance, human resources and marketing. In this blog, I’m going to focus on the fourth category: marketing.
Marketing is about communication. Your business could conceive of the most innovative and useful product/service, but what good is all of that effort if nobody knows anything about your product/service or your brand? Having a good product/service is no longer enough to sustain a successful business. You need to communicate that you have a good product/service, what makes it a good product/service, the benefits that your product/service will provide potential customers, and what makes your product/service different from or better than what your competitors are offering.
Simply put, whether B2B or B2C, people are unlikely to just walk into your business and give you their hard-earned money if they don’t know who you are or what you’re selling in a marketplace defined by endless choice. Marketing is an absolute necessity for any business, small or large, because it answers the three most important questions that customers have about an unfamiliar brand: “Who are you? What do you do? How are you different?” When you make an effort to answer these questions effectively, your business will reap the benefits. Effective, value-added marketing heightens brand awareness and trust, allows you to reach your target audience and boost your customer base, and increases your bottom line.
Marketing is necessary, but I assure you that it isn’t easy. Too many inexperienced businesses make the mistake of treating marketing like medicine – only to be used when something goes wrong. Only when a product isn’t selling or revenue is dwindling do these businesses decide to consider marketing as a last-ditch effort.
Successful businesses treat marketing like food – regular, sustained, and practiced consistently. In other words, successful businesses never stop marketing. In doing so, these businesses ensure that they are always in communication with and attuned to the needs of their customers.
We have established that marketing is an essential business function, but what about the cost? Maintaining consistent communication with your audience certainly isn’t free. How much money should you invest in marketing in your business?
To make money, you need to spend money. There are a number of factors that influence how much your business should invest in marketing, such as the age and size of your business, and the level of competition in your market.
The most common strategy that businesses use to determine marketing budgets is by taking gross or projected revenue and allocating a certain percentage towards marketing. Though the exact percentages vary, newer, less established businesses benefit from an increased allocation of gross or projected revenue towards marketing (10%+). New and emerging brands need to invest a greater percentage of revenue in marketing early on in order to increase brand awareness and market share. On the other hand, established brands can generally allocate a lower percentage of revenue towards marketing (5%+).
Make sure you have a strong brand story, one that clearly differentiates your brand from your competition by clearly identifying who you are, and the value and benefit your services or products provide to your customers. Marketing gives your brand a “human touch”. Like a good friend, customers are more likely to connect and do business with a brand they feel they know and can trust. In this way, effective marketing has a direct impact on your bottom line.
Marketing has the potential to take your business to a level of success that cannot be achieved by idling and waiting for your prospective customers to find you.
How much importance is placed on marketing in your business? Are you spending the appropriate amount on your marketing efforts?
It takes more than a great sales person to ensure a successful business. As a business owner, you cannot rely on the efforts of one individual person to keep your company afloat. A sales person will not succeed without the necessary infrastructure, which is what I will be discussing in today’s post.
I often hear the line, “If only I had a good sales person…”, and in all my years of dealing with business owners, I have come to realize that the answer to your sales problems starts with evaluating everything BUT your sales people.
If you are wondering where to begin, look internally. Below are a few questions to ask yourself to determine why sales are not where you think they should be:
Do we have a sales process?
Does everyone in the company understand the sales process?
How long is our sales cycle?
Do we have a cohesive understanding of all sales elements to train new sales people?
Before you start your search for the “right” sales person, follow these simple steps and you will save yourself from always thinking “if only I had a good sales person..”
- Define your sales cycle and process.
- Define your target market – exactly WHO are you looking to sell to?
- Determine what the marketing message is for your target market.
- Decide what tools and materials your team needs to effectively communicate your message to existing and new customers.
- Communicate steps 1 to 4 with your team through cohesive training.
One last note: It is important to understand that a sales person with years of experience and a book full of contacts will not perform the way you expect them to without proper training, the necessary tools, and a defined process in place. When you can provide those, you can focus your hiring on a sales person with the right skills, desire and motivation.
Have you taken the time to truly understand why you are not happy with your sales? I’d love to hear your own experiences, so please share them with me in the comments!