So, how’s 2012 shaping up for you business-wise? In our January Food for Thought article (So what’s your strategy for 2012?) we highlighted the need for having a clear strategy if your aim is to build upon what you’ve already achieved last year. Now that we’re five months into this year, are you following a specific plan or simply throwing money and resources at activities you hope will work?
A lot of businesses exist because of owner interest in a particular market, product or service. It’s maybe where they have previous experience or a passion. Others have evolved from an earlier idea that changed over time as new customers came on board. Whichever, a common problem that many owners and managers face is knowing where to apply their marketing spend in an effort to create opportunities for new business. Often a limited budget is focused on a limited number of activities that aren’t particularly successful. Furthermore, these activities are trying independently to generate enquiries. Realistically then, what level of success can be expected?
In conversations we have with some in the voice and data channel, those activities often centre around a website and either print or online advertising, as well as perhaps some form of social media activity and a bit of PR. But when these disparate activities don’t generate what was hoped for, they wonder what they should change – where they should shift marketing spend. This is an entirely wrong approach!
Without suggesting reinventing the wheel, the right approach is being clearer on the sort of business you want, what groups of customers will help you shape that business and deciding how you can be proactive in making contact and developing relationships. In short, don’t get sucked into simply advertising the attributes of products to everybody in the vague hope that someone will tell you they want to buy from you. That’s like waving a flag with your name on it in the hope passers-by will be attracted and ask you what you do. While there’s a place for that sort of activity, the reality is your flag is waving in the wind alongside lots of other similar flags.
- Ideally, what does your business look like? Are you looking to grow revenue or profit or, uncommonly, both?
- What sorts of customers do you want to work for and where are they?
- What problems or aims do the products you currently sell overcome or achieve that these types of customer have? Talk their language and they’ll be attracted by what you say.
- Are there related needs that you could address with additional products that you don’t sell already but have access to? These are new revenue streams.
Even from these simple steps you can have a clearer picture of what you want to achieve, who you want to sell to, what marketing messages will create an affinity between you and them and what activities you can do to present those messages. With this knowledge, review where you talk to customers today. Do you need to refresh the content on your website for example? Your activities shouldn’t just be passive either. Flag waving isn’t enough – you need to identify specific potential customers and, armed with an understanding of their business, be proactive in making contact. This might be through email or by directly calling them. Either way requires a consistent follow-through. Remember, it can take several points of contact for a new prospect to become familiar with your name and what you do. For this reason, proactively targeted and co-ordinated marketing usually yields stronger results than just blind sporadic advertising but still requires you talking to someone at the end of it.
And remember your existing customers of course. Examine critically how close you are to them, how often you talk to them and how aware you are of their current and looming business needs. Tell them what you say to potential customers and uncover new opportunities. The more you do, the more they’ll become an advocate of your business and the more ‘free’ word-of-mouth marketing comes into play.
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Read our previous article ‘Generic needs and specific desires’ or take a look at our previous articles.