According to Huff Post, "optimism is high for small business owners, with 37 percent declaring their coming year's business prospects as excellent and 45 percent as good. Eighty percent plan on increasing hiring in 2014 as well as increasing the number of products and services." They recommend investing in growth as one of the key initiatives to be on the forefront of a rebounding economy.
While there are still major challenges facing small businesses this year such as, finding and recruiting top talent, knowing how to target ideal buyers and having the resources and know how to create a strong strategic growth plan, there are SIX easy steps you can use to start building a killer marketing and sales strategy. Let's face it, sales and marketing drives top line performance and business growth. Although profitability should always be a focus, marketing and sales is the first place to begin your planning in order to take advantage of opportunity in the marketplace.
Bring your team (small or large) together and host a series of workshops that will give you and your team time to prepare, plan and participate in helping you create your strategy. Collaboration is the best way to ignite creativity in your business and get the best ideas. These six strategies will not only set the tone for your marketing and sales strategy but for your overall company strategy too.
- Choose an ideal target: Create a list of characteristics of your ideal buyers. It's not always easy to put your ideal target in a box but categorize them A, B and C. A targets being i.e. most profitable, easiest to do business with, geographically located, specific niche your company serves the best. B targets could be those that i.e. are likely to buy but sales cycle is longer, not as profitable as A but definitely should be on radar, potentially outside of your geography are still with in range. Finally, C are clients that have not been i.e. profitable in the past, are time wasters, not in your wheel house but we keep saying yes to, etc... Now, these are just examples -- you get the picture! Make a list of clear distinctions between ideal buyers and not ideal so that you can begin building your brand differentiators. This exercise will serve you well.
- Start with the words you want to own in the marketplace and execute a strategy to own them: Now that you know who you want to target, do a little research and have everyone in this workshop bring it with them to have a more effective brainstorm meeting. If you don’t know how you want your customers to find you, then don’t expect them to track you down. For example: A company optimizes its site to appear high in natural web searches for terms such as “laminate flooring,” “porcelain flooring” and “hardwood flooring,” which are key product areas for the company. How? It publishes unbiased content – which includes these keywords – to help site visitors tackle their building projects.
- Create your brand promises: In this section of your strategy, you want to design the experience you are promising your customers that clearly differentiates you from your competition. And it’s critical that you know how to measure daily whether you’re keeping your promises. I.e. Your promise should reduce risk by 50%, Increase sales by 30%, etc... The more quantifiable the better and actual promises resonate with your audience.
- What is your brand guarantee: This is a bold claim! If you set this properly, there should be some pain in your system if you let your customers down. This keeps your team laser focused on keeping your promises. I.e. 30 day money back. Your company could offer the policy to customers who are unhappy for any reason but if your company works really hard to keep quality up and prices down, you won't have to exercise this strategy often. The key here is to drive your culture to exceed expectations and gives the customer a risk reversal to do business with you. Make doing business with you a no-brainer!
- One-phrase theme: Create a 'behind the scenes' theme to rally your company around. You should keep this secret. Creating a common theme that everyone can get excited about is so important to the success of your initiative. I.e. We designed a 'Living with Passion' theme to drive work/life balance in a company we worked with. When we audited this company, we found a lot of disgruntled employees, poor morale and overworked and underpaid attitudes that were killing the company's reputation and it was supposed to be a luxury brand. Reputation is everything when building a luxury brand so if we were going to get everyone 'loving' their jobs again and creating a great customer experience, we had to change the mindset and culture. So we had a year long 'Living with Passion' internal campaign and soon our clients' ratings online for customer service began to soar and they won all kinds of industry awards. Bingo!
- Plan your activities: Strategy doesn't work without ACTION. After each workshop, list who will do what and when. Make sure to have specific due dates, discuss potential constraints and resource issues before they happen. Be proactive in your planning. Don't let great ideas sit idle - momentum is built by taking action.
Very few companies start with the basics of targeting the right buyers and putting the messaging strategy that reaches more of them. They just don't know, what they don't know! In our consulting firm, we find most clients don't realize that strategy, culture and planning all go hand in hand. These simple SIX steps will profoundly affect how you approach the market as you capitalize on what many experts are calling a rebound soon to happen in our economy.
Start planning and start growing!