Zig Ziglar said people would ask him, “Do you think money is important?” His answer, “Money isn’t the most important thing in life, but it’s reasonably close to oxygen on the ‘gotta have it’ scale.”
If you don’t sell anything, then your business doesn’t have the oxygen it needs to live. The purpose of sales and marketing is to supply the money for the business by acquiring it from customers in exchange for valuable products and services. Sales and marketing isn’t everything, but it ranks reasonably close to oxygen. If you’re feeling short of breath with your incoming revenue, this article should give you some fresh air.
Many business owners say things like this: “Our marketing is all word-of-mouth.” or “We are so busy we don’t need to spend money on marketing.” You may have made a similar comment yourself.
Every business engages in sales and marketing activity, even though they might not think of it that way. If people are buying what you sell, then sales and marketing is happening. While you may feel more secure than the business owner gasping for the next sale, your position is possibly even more unstable. Sometimes people who make statements like the ones above discover too late that things aren’t working anymore.
Consistently effective marketing is created from experimentation and common sense. Marketing is not a magic formula, but there are principles and best practices you can follow to increase the effectiveness of your marketing. We will weave in a few of the basics as we discuss the topic of Planning Sales and Marketing. How do you go about planning your sales and marketing?
Planning sales and marketing should be part of your annual business planning. Your sales and marketing plan should dovetail with your overall business plan. Your business plan should include a revenue goal. Your sales and marketing plan should be built to make sure you reach your revenue goal. One of the best ways to do this is to strengthen the weakest link in your sales and marketing process. Discover what is the bottleneck to increasing your sales. Then make plans to improve that area.
Your plan should have three main parts:
- Dollars Budget
- Time Budget
How many dollars should I spend for advertising? A correct answer to this question reflects some important aspects of your business. How much growth do you want? How much unused production capacity do you have to fill? What is a safe amount to risk? Will your monthly cash flow safely accommodate increased dollars going to a new marketing initiative?
Failure to budget time is one of the biggest culprits that will sabotage a marketing plan. Interestingly, what gets scheduled usually gets done. Assign a specific person to be responsible for executing the plan, and also allocate the necessary time needed. This time budget is for the time that your people on your payroll will invest. It should not include time for freelancers or marketing firms. Resources such as this should be part of your dollars budget.
Use a simple calendar, (paper or digital), to track the progress of your marketing projects throughout the year. Perhaps there’s several steps or processes within one project – record the deadline for each step along with the final deadline. Verify each month (or more often) that you are on target to meet the completion dates of each project.
Plan for Research
A successful furniture manufacturer sold his products through his own retail furniture store. He moved into a new community to assist in a church plant. This area promised to be a good market for his furniture due to a large population with plenty of disposable income. He built a new furniture manufacturing shop with an accompanying showroom. However, sales were disappointing—something seemed to be missing. Customers who visited the store seemed excited about the handcrafted quality and impressed with the silky smooth finish. But after they saw the price tags, many of them wandered toward the exit without buying.
Were prices too high? Was the styling not desirable? Was there something distasteful about the building, sales staff, or display? The owner wisely took time to research by asking questions of the shoppers. As a result, he decided to raise the furniture prices in his entire store by approximately 30%.
Why did he do that? He had discovered that prospects were comparing prices in his store with another high-priced furniture brand. Since the prices were much lower than the comparison brand they simply couldn’t believe they could buy the quality and styling they were looking for at such low prices.
After raising prices, the store began selling more pieces of furniture. A bit of time invested in research paid off much more than dumping more advertising dollars into generating new leads that would not have converted to customers anyway.
David Sauder said, “Research is two words: ask questions.” You know the people with most of the information you need. Ask your employees, customers, vendors, and even competitors.
Plan Your Strategy
Marketing Strategy should be based on three main things.
- Your Annual Goals
- Your niche or brand positioning in the market
- The key message(s) that need to be communicated to your target audience
Annual goals should be set using the S.M.A.R.T. Goal approach. S.M.A.R.T. stands for
Specific – Can an eight-year-old tell if it’s done or not?
Measurable – How will you measure and report?
Achievable – Would your wife or business partner consider it doable?
Relevant – Is this goal important to achieving success right now?
Time bound – When is the deadline? Or, how often will you measure results? (daily, weekly, or monthly?)
Setting goals that meet the S.M.A.R.T. requirements assures that you know how to take appropriate action on the goal.
Your brand position (niche) in the market needs to be clearly understood so you can determine who to market to, ways to reach them, and what to communicate to them. Your brand positioning is based on the unique value that you bring to your customers — the reason they buy from you. There are many ways to create unique value. For example, your lead time is shorter, you educate customers better, your sales staff is nicest to deal with, or your location is the most convenient.
What are the most important things that your prospects and customers need to understand about why they should buy from you? Write words, capture photos, and draw illustrations to communicate these key points. Boil it down to simple ideas that are easy to understand. Then plan to repeat these points throughout the year. Pricing is an often overlooked part of communicating your key messages. As you can see in the story on research, price sends a strong message. In fact, it is the biggest single communicator of value. Your price point sends a message. Be sure that message is telling the truth.
Plan Your Marketing Pipeline
A prospective customer is on a journey and might not buy from you on the very first interaction. This is important to remember as you build out your marketing plan, because it keeps you from focusing only on one area.
Marketing is not a single “thing.” Rather, think of marketing as a machine made up of interconnected parts that fit together and work together to power your business forward. You’ll want to plan for each the following aspects of marketing:
- Lead generation. Lead generation tools (think advertising) help you inform people that you exist and that you have a solution to a particular problem they may be experiencing.
- Lead conversion. Lead conversion tools like sell sheets and your website help you educate prospects and guide them to a buying decision.
- Sales and CRM (Customer Relationship Management). You’ll need to invest in processes to stay in touch with customers and track each engagement.
- Branding. Broadly speaking, your branding is your reputation. More specifically, your colors and logo, your culture, and the quality of your work all contribute to making your brand what it is.
Plan for Upgrading Your Marketing Tools
Imagine that as a 10-year-old boy you wanted to be a logger. How would you get started? You start by breaking off a twig by hand. It’s a really nice twig, and you find a buyer. You go back and break off another one, and you sell that one. Soon you develop a nice flow of customers. You even start getting behind in production. Breaking off twigs with your bare hands is hard work, but thankfully you have saved up enough money to buy a hand saw. Now you can both reduce labor and increase production.
For a while you can easily keep up with orders. But as orders steadily increase, you find yourself once again up against your capacity. Fortunately, you have saved enough money to invest in a chain saw. Once again, production spikes and the work is easier than ever. Eventually, you are running a logging crew using feller bunchers, skidders, and log trucks.
You can develop your sales and marketing tools in the same way—a little at a time in response to needs that result from your previous progress and growth. The content in your marketing pieces should be based on your experience in selling to customers. Your marketing pieces should answer the questions and address the objections that you commonly get in conversations with prospects.
When you answer the question ahead of time, it saves you time and is also more convenient for your prospect.
Next month we will explore more ways to keep the oxygen flowing into your company including testing and measuring, how to calculate Marketing Return on Investment (MROI) and how to manage marketing projects.