Monthly Archives: October 2010

Getting sales – the single biggest issue for a small business – Part 2

Businessman waiting for sales

Last week I talked about having a simple sales & marketing plan for your business. It doesn’t have to be particularly fancy, but you should have bounced ideas around with your team (find someone to do this with if a sole trader) and written it down. The act of documenting it is important, clears up muddy thinking and gives you something to work with.

Given your product / service is competitive, you’ve ensured that it has unique qualities and should sell, the next thing is to have potential customers know about it (simple isn’t it). You tell them by using PR (see how to get free PR), marketing and advertising, so that they come to you (called “pull”). Then you also go to them, by direct sales techniques like mailshots or leaflets, telesales, salespersons’ appointments and exhibitions (called “push”).

You may be thinking “well that’s not rocket science” – and it isn’t, but most small businesses don’t lay out a plan for doing these simple activities.

Can all this be done for nothing? Probably not. The term “guerrilla marketing” became popular a few years ago to describe how you can obtain publicity by unconventional means using creativity rather than money. This is now largely taken over by the idea of viral marketing, where a low cost web video for example, can suddenly take off and make a product well known.

However, if you are going to grow a business, you are probably going to need to budget for marketing and sales expenses. It needn’t be a huge amount and the budget can start small and grow in line with increased revenues.

All of your efforts though will be wasted if you are aiming your messages to the wrong people. Not only wasted, but expensive. It is much more efficient to use a focused campaign to an exact audience. The cost of advertising alone will be much less if you are only taking out ads to a small precise group of potential customers for a product that they particularly want.

Some of you will know this as market segmentation and it is important. You need to understand exactly who your customers are and split them down to addressable groups. These groups may have slightly different aspects to them. They may have different ages, backgrounds, location and needs, which will allow you to tailor your marketing exactly to each group. Address first the easiest to win and use the revenues and testimonials from that to market to the next group.

In a blog you can only give so much information and I’ve probably reached that by now. The key message I’m giving is to get a sales and marketing plan laid out (see Essential marketing plan content). The very act of brainstorming the content and putting in place measurable actions will galvanise your sales activity. You’ll feel more enthusiastic and in control than ever before.

If by chance you missed it, here is a link to Part1.


Getting sales – the single biggest issue for a small business – Part 1

Waiting for sales

Hands up those who have more sales than they can handle? It does happen, but for most small businesses it is a constant battle to get customers.

You’ve got a good product or service; in fact you are probably very proud of the quality and cost effectiveness of your offering. But sales don’t seem to be coming in very fast. I hear this time and time again.

Occasionally when I look at what the business is selling, there are problems with the product, or poor customer service that over time results in less recommendations and repeat business. But most often it’s because no one knows about the company, or they are just being out sold by the competition.

So then I ask “let’s look at your sales & marketing plan”. There is usually either a silence, or protestations that the owner hasn’t the time to do such a thing. In fact most small businesses don’t have a plan, but instead place an occasional ad and go to the odd exhibition when they think of it.

Yet it needn’t take long to think through what you are going to do during the year to get better known and to achieve more sales.

A short session brainstorming ideas with colleagues / partners can quickly put the bones of a plan together.

Ideally it would initially address your basic identity (brand), what you want to be known for and what is unique about you (called the USP – unique selling proposition in the theory books). You may instinctively know that, but try putting it on paper and think it through.

Then, how are customers going to know about you? PR (public relations) isn’t just for the big boys, but it can be expensive. A typical minimum retainer for a PR firm to get you some visibility is around £1k a month and can be much more.

You have to choose wisely also, making sure that the PR company understands your market. I’ve generally been disappointed when I’ve seen the quality of PR that had done for companies.

As an alternative you can do your own free PR. It can be time consuming and that is a reason for using a carefully selected agency, but if you can’t afford an agency, don’t ignore PR, you can get some publicity very cheaply yourself. For our Company Partners members we’ve got a good resource describing how to do so “How to get free PR”

So what else should you be doing to get sales? I’ll look at that in Part 2.

Oh yes, my bit of sales…. Would a hands-on workshop, plus free business plan software and marketing tips help? Have a look at our next business plan workshop.