When you start a business and then right through till you exit that business, say through a sale, the one thing you need to continue to do, to grow and sustain your organisation, is market the products and services that you offer, effectively.
There is an old adage in business, and to quote Peter Shilton;
"If you stand still there is only one way to go and that's backwards".
It is a competitive world out there, no matter what industry sector you are in. With the advancement in digital, anyone and any business can have an online presence. What you may think are competitors, grabbing attention on social media and the web, may not directly take business away from you, but certainly they can create a lot of noise and influence potential customers decisions and spending habits.
So how do you ensure;
1. Your businesses products and services stand out from other businesses and more importantly your competitors offers.
2. That you/your business attracts the right sort of customers and you don't waste money on "pointless" marketing activities that just generates tyre kickers and time wasters.
At this point I must highlight that I am not a marketeer however, I have spent many years in Sales, Key Accounts Management (KAM), Business Development Management and Leadership roles and ultimately through experience have learned what does and does not work, predominantly in a B2B business environment.
To be successful in business it's about spending time, working "on" the business and "doing your homework".
6 key areas to focus on before you devise and launch a Sales or Marketing Campaign for your business.
1. Carry out Market Research.
2. Understand your market, is it in the growth, maturity, or a decline cycle.
3. Obtain feedback from your existing customers, to fully understand the value that your customers are buying.
4. Determine who your target market is.
5. Test your marketing campaign.
6. Always follow up and ask for feedback.
Oh! and if you outsource your marketing
a) Create a brief
b) Go out to at least 3 potential suppliers
c) Do not go for the cheapest, be realistic on budget and note, there is grant funding out there to assist in marketing, which allows you to increase your budget.
d) Measure performance of your suppliers. i.e., agree a Service Level Agreement
e) And please do not abdicate full responsibility to your supplier, at the end of the day,
It's your business!
So, please read on and I would be interested in any thought's, comments from your experience too.
1. Market Research.
Spend some time doing desk work to simply understand;
- How big is the market for your products or services?
- Define a region or a geographic area that you want to target and sell to.
- And get an idea of who else is competing in that market place.
Just searching online is a great place to start.
This task is imperative, the first client I worked with when I set up my business consultancy contacted me and asked if I had any marketing experience. The business had spent a significant sum on updating their website to target a new sector. But within 6 months had not returned any sales. I asked, "Did you do any market research?" The answer was "No". When I "Googled" their services, there were 16 other businesses offering the same service within a 10-mile radius. I then introduced them to a marketeer I knew who helped them differentiate and focus their marketing activities. Needless to say, with the help of a marketing specialist with experience, their business grew and over a couples of years they met all their sales objectives. Mind there's no silver bullet and it does take time!
2. Understand your Market.
Through further research, obtain industry trends, data and predictions. A good place to search is any Industry Sector Member Organisations or Accreditation Bodies. You should be able to find out if the market your business operates in, is within a growth, mature or decline phase. The benefit of knowing will help you to determine how competitive, how tight the margin challenges maybe and what the specific growth potentials areas are, within your sector. Whilst in a growth phase, you can get away with a few things. Obviously, if your market is mature it is important to get across your added value. Whilst it will likely be very competitive, having a robust and efficient sales process will help secure business. But as an industry sector moves into decline, as many do over time, it will become even more competitive, as will mean survival for many businesses. You'll find it will be price sensitive and you will have to make a strategic decision how long you continue to operate in that market. It is well worth in advance, considering alternative markets, re-purposing and establishing different uses for your products and services or pivoting the business utilising existing capabilities and knowledge.
3. Obtain feedback from your existing customers.
What you sell and what your customers, clients actually buy are completely different. Therefore, it is important to know why your existing customers, keep coming back and for what reason. It is likely to highlight things like, "peace of mind", "feeling good", "reassurance", "helps us sleep at night", "professional", "great service", "always welcoming" "you know us, our business so well", "does exactly what it says on the tin", "it's easy", "always have in stock" or "always respond in a timely manner".
Look through any customer testimonials and feedback too, as this analysis will help you establish how you may position your marketing, your brand and also assist in some key words you can use in the text to leverage your sales promotion and sales campaigns.
4. Determine who your target market is.
This is so fundamental to having an effective sales or marketing campaign or promotion of your business. Start by looking at your existing customer base, What demographic are they from? Age, gender, location, what's their interests, business sectors they are involved in themselves, how they buy and use your products and services. Chances are you will discover a common theme. You then need to decide, do we want more of those types of customers? Determine if there is growth potential to obtain more customers like you already have, which you will have established from the first and second exercise. Then once you have established your ideal target customer, sometimes called a "persona", find out what they read, what social media platforms they use, where they go and this will help you decide where you should market (platforms, publications) and how. So rather than taking a blunderbuss approach and hoping to attract a new customer, use a sniper rifle approach and specifically go for target customers. In B2B it is much easier as you can actually name and research the specific companies, and specific contacts and decision makers. (LinkedIn is a great resource). However in B2C it's still possible to target demographics, by post code for mail drops, street sign promotions and you can also select specific personas on social media platforms too.
5. Test your marketing.
Before you go off all excited and launch a new campaign, or new website or promotion. Test the market, this tends to be inexpensive, allows you to try different approaches, such as A-B testing and a chance to get some feedback to determine what works best. Choose a small selection of existing customers or prospects, but key is capturing any feedback. Simple things like colour of text, layout of adverts, print, the lead wording on email campaigns can have a great effect. Remember unless you engage and resonate with your target audience within 3-7 seconds, you will likely have an unsuccessful marketing programme.
It is always good at this stage to also sense check prior to launching a full campaign, the customer journey. From raising awareness, to creating interest and desire and how you get them to do something (a desired behaviour) i.e., to commit and accept, so be clear on any call to actions (CTA's) and make these prominent in your promotions.
One previous client of mine had spent a small fortune on Pay Per Click (PPC), however converted none of the interest generated and pushed to their website. They didn't understand Why? On my research the website was poor, was not really clear what the offer was and what it wanted the visitor to the website to do. Therefore, the bounce rate was incredibly high and limited time was spent on the website by new visitors. They have now invested in a new website utilising a Web Designer and SEO Specialist, I know well and would recommend. It is good to hear this business is now flying based on a structured and well researched and thought out approach.
6. Follow up and Feedback.
Finally, as and when you launch your new website, or sales or marketing campaign. Always ask for feedback. Key is learning through the process which will help you develop the business going forward.
Ask questions such as
- "How did you find us?"
- "What was it that drew your attention to our products or services?".
- "What do you think of our marketing, brand?
- "Was there anything in particular that stood out that made you contact us, purchase our goods?"
- "Would there be anything you can suggest that we could do, to raise further awareness of what we do?"
I am sure there is other areas that I have missed or skipped through but more that happy to take any feedback myself and also happy to hear your experience and ideas. And if you want a quick review in respect to how effective your business is, in going to market, do just get in touch.
Please note, my first consultations are always free and there's no obligation to take anything forward either.
Director, Business Consultant, Advisor.
Peter Fleming Business Consultancy.