Marketing and sales have always been put together as intertwined disciplines within business for many moons. Although they are very different, which is why we always recommend them having individual director representation, one cannot really survive without the other.
In order to generate sales, you need awareness, communications and mechanisms to take a prospective customer along the purchasing process. And in order for your marketing generated enquiries to convert into buying clients, at some point the sale needs to be closed.
However, within small and medium sized businesses it is often the business owner or MD that responsibility falls to for both sales and marketing, which is why sales performance often looks like a rollercoaster track, full of peaks and troughs. This short blog provides you with 5 failsafe ways to help you create a smoother ride!
1. Set a marketing budget
Many of the issues surrounding marketing investment revolve around cashflow. When you have cash in the business, you are more likely to invest in marketing and when you don’t you are not (which is ironically when you need to more). By understanding the KPIs in your business and setting a clear realistic marketing budget for the year ahead you can control your spending so that it is optimised to the best effect. This will help you to avoid overspending during buoyant peak periods, which will enable you to have the budget when times are harder.
2. Allocate resource
One of the most common issues which surrounds the sales rollercoaster is that because it is the MD or business owner who is responsible for sales and marketing (and most other business disciplines), marketing rarely gets the time and effort it deserves. When things get busy in the business, marketing takes a back seat which then has a knock-on effect on sales. When things go quiet, suddenly in becomes important again and the rollercoaster can start to climb again. In 99% of cases the MD is not a marketing professional either – they are shooting in the dark. Make sure you allocate marketing responsibility to someone, either inside the business or outside the business who has the resource available. Companies such as Opportunity Marketing were set up so that SME business owners could engage with a highly experienced marketing professional to take care of their marketing at a much lower cost than employing a marketing manager full time.
3. Plan activity for the year ahead
If you have a budget set and some resource allocated to make it happen you can plan your marketing activity for the year ahead, safe in the knowledge that it will happen as you have both the time and cost resource covered. This will avoid continuing to approach marketing in a scattergun fashion and therefore ensure that you have a steady stream of activity taking place throughout the year. It is impossible to stick a regular pattern of activity if there is no activity schedule in place.
4. Identify a few different target markets
Now in our experience, before we work with clients on creating their marketing strategy, very few SME’s have specific target markets. However, in marketing terms it is critical and it is also important to have more than one for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if all of your focus is solely on one target market and something dramatic happens to that sector which sees a fall-off in demand – you will find yourself plummeting down a major sales dip. Similarly, if that market’s purchasing behaviour tends to be very cyclical and seasonal then this sales pattern is going to be reflected in your own business. If you can have a couple of other target markets that are complementary in terms of seasonality then you can ensure a more stable sales performance all year round.
5. Don’t assume
Assumptions can be dangerous. We have spoken to many businesses who claim things have gone quiet because “it is Easter” or “everyone is on holiday” or “Brexit”, when we have clients in the exact same sector who are thriving and having record months. It can be too easy to accept a drop in sales performance because things are “generally quiet” – and by accepting it you are actually subconsciously not trying as hard to get the sales in, which in turn means sales continue to drop. It is called a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yes, there are things which are beyond your control which will affect your sales performance, however you need to focus on those things you can control in terms of what marketing and sales activity you are carrying out.
Any one of these five key steps can help you even out the peaks and troughs of the average SME’s sales cycle. If you implement all five you will find you won’t even be on a rollercoaster anymore, merely a flat train track destined to hit your sales targets for the year ahead!
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