Is it just me or do we all get this?
Undoubtedly as a nation of small/medium sized businesses, to break out of the SME sector, or even just to progress from small to medium, or to market leader in your niche market, you have four choices, three of which won't provide you with the full potential you need, and one that will.
This is predominantly for businesses that trade in a B2B environment, selling products and services that others also sell – a typical competitive market which accounts for the vast majority of us. So first to analyse...
What does marketing do?
Marketing is not sales, it is an influencing process. Undoubtedly marketing has the ability to induce human response, but to rely on this alone in a B2B market place is missing the ultimate opportunities that potentially lay ahead.
With digital marketing unlike the high cost traditional methods, you can talk and influence very cost effectively without renewing expensive assets like direct mail pieces, or brochures. Once you have an effective website you make it more effective. You proactively and reactively market for example using email marketing direct to inbox, or reactively using a website that has gained high ranking on Google for your relevant search terms to name two important proactive and reactive mediums.
Marketing today provides you with the ability, through digital channels, to talk to many thousands of prospective clients, whether they need your service or products now or in the future. It is why you continually need to market to them, and be available as and when they need you, if you’re not then a competitor is very likely to be.
There are four ways to build a business and I have seen all four in perfect action. No.4 is the trait of the most successful, and those businesses that progress to market leadership in what is now a very competitive and saturated business world for most industry sectors.
- You place a few sporadic directory listings, Yellow Pages being an obvious route for trade style businesses, but much less effective than it was. You then wait for the phone to ring! It can work and has for many over the years, but is it really effective in the modern era that consists of multiple places for searching the services or products you need.
- You do the above, but you have an active telemarketing/sales team constantly contacting your prospective and existing clients (and of course, a great database). Very common and does work very well, but it forgets about one very significant attribute of the most successful in business today – building a brand and reputation!
- You follow number 1 again, sitting back and waiting for the phone to ring - your sales is reactive rather than proactive. However you have added to your repertoire the addition of marketing to build a brand and reputation. This certainly works, and the UK’s market leaders, whether they are leaders by location or industry can prove this, but is it the perfect answer to growing a business? People eventually buy from people, so sales is part of the process, but if it is just reactive, then you are missing out that all important No. 2.
- You implement numbers 1, 2 and 3. You proactively market and sell your business well, you have continuous communication through all channels and continuous human to human contact from your activities. You build a strong knowledge around your prospects, through a continuous market research and sales processes, and build your own reputation using both marketing and sales. The trait of the most successful businesses and market leaders.
Yes it really is that simple, obvious and pretty straightforward, but do all businesses act in this way? Simple answer is NO!
Never miss a future opportunity to market and sell your wares
B2B is about confidence and showing leadership in your market through your marketing. Your sales team have to be confident, almost aggressive but certainly very proactive. The data you hold has to be up to date, intuitive in providing alerts for sales teams, and marketed to on a regular basis.
(I use the word aggressive because the word proactive can seem a little wishy washy. Aggressive, but not to the point of annoyance which can have the opposite effect!)
Businesses who consistently adopt route number 4 always succeed, unless of course the products and services they sell are inferior (by that I mean are known to the potential customer to be inferior, but still, in reality they would have to purchase to find that out). On the other hand, if your products and services are better than the competition, the same process is highly important – you have to tell the market this, as they will never guess.
“Educate the market like you would a child, tell them several times and continuously through both marketing and sales channels so the message sinks in.”
Emphasis on why!
Why do prospective customers choose one supplier over another? There are many reasons through your sales or marketing (or both) channels:
Personalities (sales – people buy from people), personality (marketing – people like what you have to say), credibility (marketing and sales – speak with confidence), achievements (marketing and sales – let them know of your achievements and tell them how proud you are), demonstration (case studies/testimonials - marketing and sales; demonstrate the proof of your achievements), the tease (marketing and sales – remind them that their own competitors or similar organisations use your services).
Let’s just repeat what the last paragraph means…
Personalities – Marketing adopts a personality of the company – confident, proactive and deemed opportunistic and useful to the recipient.
Credibility – Giving people reasons why they should use you above the competition. By using comparisons, case studies, testimonials – the abilities of the company are demonstrated.
Achievements – the very best companies exude a real pride in their achievements
Demonstration – Showing those reasons, and repeatedly exampling the reasons why the prospective customer should use you – prove it to them, they invariably need the proof to tick that final box in the decision making process.
The tease – the process of continually demonstrating to the prospective customer that they could be missing out by not using you, i.e., demonstrating that their own competitors use you, so why don’t they – they will ask that question themselves through continuous marketing and demonstrating this as fact. The very essence of human nature is to desire something that others are benefiting from. For those of you who are as old as me, you may remember that good old Sunday afternoon quiz programme Bullseye. When the host said have a look at what you would have won after the contestant missed that all in important double top, how many of you thought how cruel. No one likes to miss out – a typical trait of business owners and decision makers especially - we don't like coming second, or indeed missing out.
Success comes from a lot of hard work and focus as we all know in business, but the key is using all channels aggressively and in a focused, consistent approach. The more targeted you become with your approach, and the stronger the marketing and sales work together as part of this focus, and finally the more successful a business becomes. In real terms we all know this, and it isn’t rocket science, but how many B2B businesses are run in this fashion?