The Bermuda Triangle conjures up images of mystery, danger and disaster. All too often, marketing gives the same feelings to those who don’t understand it or have failed at it.
Just as three points always make up a triangle, these 3 marketing and sales support mistakes create an area where profits and progress can be swallowed in a “perfect storm” of sales prevention.
1. We know who our customers are. Living in deeply parochial New England, we all too often hear something along the lines of the familiar refrain, “But we’ve always done it that way”. This promotion of the ostrich method of marketing (and/or management by sticking your head in the sand) when it comes to progress and the acknowledgment of changes in technology, styles or buying behavior is extremely dangerous. Or the conversely but equally effective business killer, “everyone is our customer”. Though I’ve seen some Mercedes and BMW’s on my trips to the local Wal-Mart, I’m pretty sure that even they do not expect to have everyone as their customer. In an era of ever-increasing specialization, the need to define your target audience is no longer a nice-to-have but an absolutely need-to-have requirement.
2. We don’t need (or can’t afford) marketing. No less an authority than the late business guru Peter Drucker said that all businesses had only two priorities, innovation and marketing. He also commented “the goal of marketing was to know and understand the customer so well as to make selling superfluous.” Sounds not only important but mission critical to me. Yet the corporate marketing services budget is often the first thing to be cut (if it exists at all) in a down turn or when companies feel the need to reduce costs. How dumb is that?
3. Engaging in “pixie dust” marketing. The other reaction in a downturn is to say something like, “quick, let’s do some marketing to get sales up”. The recent commercials advocating that Yellow Book advertising is the “cure all” to a bad sales month or quarter only serves to reinforce this type of thinking. But rarely if ever does a one-hit marketing effort drive results and even if it does in the short term, it’s highly unlikely to do so over the long run. Marketing is not an event.
In the opening sequence of the classic television show, The Beverly Hillbillies, the character of Uncle Jed (played by the actor Buddy Epsen) is chasing a rabbit and fires his rifle - missing the rabbit and only ends up taking a big chunk of dirt out of the ground. But, miraculously, “up from the ground comes the bubblin’ crude”. He and his family had struck it rich with a single random shot from the old trusty family hunting rifle.
In our “hunt” for anew business leads to help create sales however, it’s likely going to take considerably more effort than one or even a few random shots to create a steady stream of prospects. Only with both sustained and intentional effort can we generate the ability to acquire the correct prospecting targets initially and, the right customers eventually.
For many years now, the funnel has been used as a diagram in countless sales and prospecting discussions. Sales training has often focused on bringing prospects through the “sales funnel”. But that is absolutely the wrong picture to have in our heads. In building a sales (marketing and sales support) list of qualified prospects, the proper image should be one of a pipeline. Something that has a continuous flow of prospects, not a voluminous, unqualified top end.
Your revenue pipeline is likely going to take more time, energy, and resources than you may hope for or be comfortable with. But there are rarely any shortcuts to building a process that will deliver a steady stream of prospects in the long run. Though the tactics will change depending on your business, industry and circumstances, consider implementing the following 3 concepts when building your pipeline.
Identify. For each of your particular products or services – find those customers most likely to buy. Spend some effort profiling your existing best customers. What are the common characteristics? In all probability, similar people or businesses exist who share the same needs and values and would make ideal prospects. And therefore, are more likely buyers of your services.
The ultimate goal of marketing is to Attract customers by making yourself attractive to them. It is the concept of pulling ‘em in rather than pushing information out – thereby – pushing them away.
Marketing is everything you do to promote your business; from the second you dream about it through the time you actually have customers buy your products and services. It encompasses all aspects from naming and branding your company through the ways you present your value proposition to your target audience. Peter Drucker, the acknowledged leading management authority of the 20th century, said that marketing and innovation were the 1st concern of all businesses, more important then anything else including finances.
Good marketing and sales support is not an expense but rather an indispensable investment. Most successful companies, even ones that had a unique market position at the start, eventually have to differentiate themselves from the competition. The only way to do this in both the short and long run is marketing.
Today marketing consists of the original big four of price, product, place and promotion, but now also includes people, productivity, process and physical evidence. Solid marketing communication strategies and consistent tactical execution are the only way to guarantee that you stay top-of-mind with both your prospects and customers.
Done correctly, effective marketing will:
With inflationary pressures, competitive price-cutting and disruptive technologies so prevalent in today’s market place, marketers often scramble to choose the right places to invest their smaller budget dollars. Well-defined marketing communication strategies and programs, implemented consistently, gives you the best chance to stay ahead of the turbulence.
Do your homework. Drop phrases such as; “We think”, or “But we’ve always done it this way”. This is no time to guess. Invest in research, focus groups and/or surveys. You don’t want to find yourself touting features and benefits no one cares about.
Increase marketing budgets. Yes, I said increase. When competitors are pulling back, it is a great time for you to make a ‘name’ for yourself with prospects that may actually be paying attention right now.
Get more where you are. Existing customers know you (for better or worse). If you have additional products and services that they could be buying from you, now is the ideal time to tell them. Market to them consistently.
Make the best better. We all have products or services that outperform some others in terms of revenue and profit. Concentrate and promote those. If you must choose to pull back somewhere, do it with your weaker offerings.
Today being Valentine’s Day, all sorts of romantic messages, flowers, cards, candy and dinners abound. Expectations run high, and credit card bills run higher. But, we know that in order to keep our loved ones around, it is critical to notice and appreciate them from time-to-time, especially on the special days.
Here’s the question then, in your marketing communication efforts, how much “love” do you extend to your customers (and prospects)? And, how often? Just as in personal relationships it is important to feel connected through specific regular acts of kindness, it is equally important to do in our business relationships as well.
As consumers, we have more choices than ever in our shopping lives. There are more products available and more channels in which to purchase them than ever before. In business, it has become critical to communicate with our audience in whichever media they prefer. One size does not fit all.
Just as some people would prefer one red rose to a box of chocolates, certain buyers may prefer to be in touch with you via: mail, the web, with mobile devices or tablets or via social media. Make sure your marketing communication strategies include all of these tactics to ensure the widest possible delivery of your messages and offers.
At work, integrated, multi-channel marketing programs that include all these methods are your best bet to help your entire audience feel “loved”. At home, go get the chocolates, flowers, cards and…throw in a romantic dinner too!
In talking to marketing executives everywhere the common sentiment appears to be one of uncertainty over what to do and how to market today. And yet having the right marketing communication strategies and programs that generate awareness, interest – and – leads, has never been more important. Here are a dozen thoughts to consider that we’ll explore in future ponderings.
Marketing is in the biggest flux it ever has been.
Multi-channel marketing still appears to work the best.
Figuring out the right tactic(s) is very hard.
The primary goal remains attracting and keeping attention that leads to action.
Think about change for a moment. Change is a word and a concept that often immobilizes even the most goal-oriented, determined and successful business development professionals among us.
Think of a happy circumstance you are experiencing right now or the flush of pride over some recent accomplishment. The reality is that something had to change for you to create and enjoy the new experience.
In physics, escape velocity refers to the speed needed to “break free” from a gravitational field. A rocket ship leaving the surface of the earth requires about 11.2 kilometers per second (km/s) of velocity to counteract the effects of gravity. Interestingly, the further away you get from the source of gravity, the less energy is required to “pull away”.
All objects on the Earth have the same escape velocity. But, what is different is the amount of energy needed to accelerate objects of greater mass to achieve escape velocity.
In just the same way, to change any circumstance in our life, we must have sufficient thrust and constant momentum to break free of the conditions that are keeping us in their hold and not allowing us to discover something new. Just like the Earth’s gravity, we have habits and slips in our forward momentum that keep us locked in place. Just like the rocket ship, we must have some required minimum amount of acceleration to move us toward our hoped for destination.
Retain. With retention rates at all time lows and customer loyalty harder to come by, it is important to prove your value to your customer on an on-going basis. In the “good old days”, we could get by on being just good enough. But in the 21st Century, performance is not a nice to have but a must-have in order to keep your customers for the long haul.
Picture a stool. You can be supported quite comfortably on one that has three legs. But have you ever tried to support yourself for any length of time on a stool that only has two legs? If you have great marketing that helps you find customers and a great sales effort that helps you get customers but an inadequate customer service effort that does not allow you to keep what you’ve gained, then what have you got? Or, if you have good sales production and convert most of your opportunities and good customer service and keep almost all that you earn but marketing does not drive enough opportunities to sustain your organization, what have you got? A one or two-legged stool will only get you so far.
Meatloaf was wrong. Two out of three is not enough. If you only have two pieces of the business development puzzle that work, eventually, you might not be eating anything but meatloaf for dinner.