Small businesses often face the challenges of cashflow and limited marketing budgets, and it is therefore more critical than ever to make sure you’re engaging the right clients. Marketing tactics can seem complicated today, with a maze of jargon and a range of activities fighting for your meagre marketing budget. Sadly, many entrepreneurs lack knowledge of the marketing basics, and so end up not achieving much impact at all.
Your efforts need to ensure you connect with your ideal customers…
Truth be told, there is no quick fix in marketing a business. And yes, there are some techniques that can ensure fast turnaround of leads. However, the number one challenge remains that of getting quality leads and brand exposure for well-targeted markets. This simply implies that more of the potential customers that can potentially contact the business need to be “ideal” in order to convert a sale or to sell to. They must need the services or products and qualify to purchase.
Do not waste money in areas that will not bring in business. Do the basics right, offer more staff the option of working remotely and get a good workflow system in place.
There is no cookie cutter approach in marketing that will guarantee the same results, as each business, industry and market is different and fluctuates. What is not different, however, is that no matter what you are selling, you are more than likely not the only one. It is tricky to get the balance right between having ideal brand awareness versus driving a business sales lead generation strategy that is measured and converts into business results.
Here are five tips that will demystify most of these business challenges for you when planning your marketing spend next:
▪ Know your business
Understanding your product and/or service is most likely what you are great at already – knowing your business is not a given. In fact, 90% of businesses we work with need support in better understanding their business – that means reviewing the business model, structure and repositioning their business brands. Remind yourself why you started the business and what it means to your target market. Many get stuck in hard selling, rather than positioning the offering as a solution to an existing need. Knowing who is buying from you, the patterns on when they buy, how often and why, are helpful in planning better ways to reach your ideal client.
▪ Know your market
Start by taking a close look at what your competitors are doing. You will learn a great deal from them. Be smart and learn from their successes and failures so you do not have to pay for making these mistakes yourself.
The leading competitors have better and winning strategies, so what are they doing to get clients? I am not implying you should become a copycat, but rather understand the strategy and come up with your own creative ideas that follow a similar tactic. An example would be leading retailer Pick n Pay’s creative Stikeez campaign 1 and 2, that gave Checkers, Spar and Food Lover’s Market the green light to run similar (and perhaps more successful?) customer loyalty and incentive campaigns.
Also consider the start-up and new kid on the block you have heard about or may not be aware popped up. They may be more innovative and pushing boundaries, as they are able to be agile and adapt to the changes in your market or industry; perhaps even being better at social media or integrating new technology. You may be able to learn how you can modernise your offering by looking at these.
▪ Know your business numbers
This again sounds simple, yet in practice it took me years to get my own business numbers into a process that showed me the true reality of my business flow: in sales, production, and actual income or money in the bank. Often high overheads can impact the business, and in addition to the basic 101 of knowing your balance sheets, ensure you look at minimising your business expenses on hard costs – expensive rentals, phone bills, office luxuries etc. Do not waste money in areas that will not bring in business. Do the basics right, offer more staff the option of working remotely and get a good workflow system in place. Manage systems, not people; these systems can also provide you with the numbers.
Once you have worked on saving on expenses, you will have more funds available to place into areas of the business that can convert into business sales. Work out what you want to achieve; large targets never helped any business without a game plan of how to get to the target.
Do this little exercise in what I call reverse engineering: break down your targets into how many sales you need to make, over which period (per week or month), and then work out how many actions there are to achieve the numbers. This means that you need to know what your real profit margins are, i.e. cost of sale. Do not guess – work it out per service, per product. You also need to work out what it takes to make a sale, what the process is to warm up a potential customer and where leads come from. Also break down targets into whether you are selling to a reseller wholesale or direct to consumers. Split the % of sales in your target; you are likely to make more money selling directly vs. to resellers, but with resellers you get a bulk income injection for your cashflow.
▪ Create your sales strategy now with realistic goals
Start with planning how many customer leads from each source (or funnel) are needed, how many mails and calls need to be made; feet through the door to sell to the percentage of them that you need to convert into sales, where they will come from, how you will offer them value, how you will sell to them, and why they would buy from you. You will not sell to all your leads, and not during the same period. The maths is simple: if you had 100 enquiries, calls etc. and you sold to five that day – you have a 5% average conversion rate. This you can also break down now into where the lead come from, to see how many come from an advert or social media, and so on.
An easy method tracks weekly or daily leads, including which platform they came from them or which marketing activity brought them in. You can track who sold to them (from your sales team), what and how much they bought, how long it took to close the deal, when they paid and how. From this you’ll be able to see what is working best and make good decisions based on solid knowledge.
▪ Expand your reach to grow your business
Since you are keeping an eye on measuring your marketing efforts versus your business results/conversion now, you can move onto cross-checking how your business is performing in your niche market or primary target market. Have you really got the market and are you offering them value? If so, can you do it better? If not, ask yourself first whether you gained the credentials and have you built up a good solid business within this market, so as to give them the value they’re looking for. Before you think about new markets, please ensure you have a sustainable plan on client retention and that you remain on top of your game.
Never forget that selling to someone who has already bought from you is so much easier and cheaper than marketing and finding new customers. Innovate on your offering by providing “wow” experiences and selling what they need with real value in order to sustain your business momentum. You can also expand your strategic partnerships to include add-on services that may support your offering, without having to change anything to your business model – and then you can increase your sales. Think about potential partners and how you can create joint ventures; this can also take your business to the next level.
Once you have worked out and implemented the above, you want to consider new markets that you can add and market to in order to gain a new flow of quality leads – perhaps take a niche industry approach and get more focussed in your sales approach to target market segmentations. See how your service/product helped an industry and look at what other industries may benefit too; adjust your messages and campaigns to address that niche industry. Remember that your business cannot be everything to everybody – segment and package everything with each niche market in mind, and why they need you/it.
Marketing a business is simple. But you need to make sure that you’ve got the right foundations in place, and that you’re constantly tracking your efforts against a solid plan.
This article first appeared in the August/September issue of Your Business Magazine. Read the rest of the free issue online or download to enjoy later!