Business Marketing - "Shark" versus "Anemone"

At the heart of any successful sales program are a heathy number of leads generated by a well formulated marketing program. Equally, where sales or revenue levels are not hitting the mark – then generally there is no effective marketing plan in place.

Few businesses have the volume of sales or revenue that they want, with a sizeable group hovering below what they actually need to have a sustainable and viable business. 

Common within most of these is the absence of a defined marketing strategy, instead having collection of marketing activities with little or no congruity, measurement or consistent application – which unfortunately in many cases, leads to little positive results.

Noting that there are already many thousands of different documents, books and charts devoted to marketing from a range of marketing experts, this article will confine itself to a handful of practical observations and tips drawn from the experiences over time. 

  1. Decide what you want to be, a Shark who searches out sales when it’s hungry (and then eats them) or an Anemone who sits waiting for a sale to find them, hoping that it does not starve between meals. Different marketing approaches are needed for each, as well as different levels of cash resources.
     
  2. Understand what your value proposition is – why is your product or service better than someone else’s. You must be able to define and articulate this. As a word of warning, simply relying on the catch cry of “better service” does not really differentiate you for new clients.
     
  3. Do you have relevant marketing material – ie. catalogues, product brochures, web sites, samples, displays etc. The type/form of these will vary from business to business due to your product or service, but only relying on the spoken word is tough. Some industries use samples effectively to potential clients – to touch, test and feel the product, others use displays so a product can been seen, yet others may use case studies or testimonials. Whatever collateral you use, ensure that they are current and relevant to your target market and support your value proposition.
     
  4. Define your target market – these are the optimal people you want to do business with. The more your can define this market, the more you can understand its characteristics (size of market, geographic, demographic spending and buying habits, etc), so you can customise your marketing to them more effectively. 
     
  5. From your defined target market, do the math to ensure that your market is large enough to sustain your product. A brilliant product, which is well priced and sold to an inadequate market will seldom be viable.
     
  6. As part of your market review, consider both the existing competition – size, product match up, and the likely reaction to your product entering the market. Look for gaps or weaknesses in the current offerings to the market and see if you can align these to your offering and value proposition. If competition is too strong, then once again, a great new product may not deliver the required return.
     
  7. With all marketing activities, they must be measured and managed. Too often businesses have no idea what element of their marketing is bringing prospects to the door. Every program should have a set of KPI’s assigned to them to assess performance – accepting that measuring some elements can be tricky.
     
  8. Plan your marketing program and it’s different elements. A marketing calendar setting out all of the different activities is a good way of ensuring coverage at the right times of the month/year/season for your product. It also aids in aligning your sales force for any specific market drives or trade shows/exhibitions. Most products and services have some form of seasonality or cycle to them, with some just very pronounced. Understand your products cycle and exploit the peaks and minimize the troughs. Planning in this way will also make it easier to see that your different activities are congruent and aligned.
     
  9. Consider companion products or services and explore referral or companion marketing strategies. Ie. if you sell pool pumps, align yourself with pool companies – consider the cross marketing opportunities as these may provide exceptional synergies.
     
  10. As for our last tip – it’s pretty simple, have a plan!

History has shown that even a poorly put together marketing plan that is measured, managed and targeted to a group is better than simply undertaking a bunch of scattered activities.