Category Archives: Sales and marketing alignment

Nicola Peaty

How to market small businesses on a budget.

By Nicola Peaty

budget recession, deficitGone are the days of expensive advertising and glossy brochures for most marketing budgets. The positive spin is that we have been forced to think cleverly about how to target customers which can then produce more effective results and without incurring large invoices. Quite often it is the time, thought and effort that is more important than the amount of money spent.

Below are our suggestions for low cost marketing ideas which can be selected according to your specific needs or as a collective campaign.

1. Content. What else? We’ve discussed and explained the benefits of content in our other blogs. Quite simply, it can be free if you or a colleague can write content and it can give customers so much added value and position you as the expert in your field. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/how-to-write-content-for-your-audience/

2. Social media. No surprise. Again if you’re in charge then it’s your time and no cost. Try to co-ordinate across the various platforms and encourage your biggest ‘fans’ to share and interact. See our related blogs on the various social media platforms; http://www.vgandassociates.com/facebook-as-a-marketing-tool-for-your-business/     http://www.vgandassociates.com/the-dos-and-donts-when-using-linkedin-to-market-your-business/     http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-on-how-to-use-twitter-for-your-business/    http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-on-how-pinterest-can-work-for-your-business/

3. Website. To be honest, any business these days can’t really exist without a website. It’s the first place people go to check out your ‘existence’ and credibility. All social media should link back to the website and your content updated to give Google fresh ammunition to drive traffic to your site. But it does not have to cost the earth. Keep it simple and easy to navigate. Make sure your proposition is understood and obvious. Good clear branding is essential so that customers know and remember you. Include clear calls to action and a response mechanism. Then you’re good to go. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/creating-an-effective-website/

4. Video. You don’t have to be Stephen Spielberg (or have his budget) to produce something which conveys your message in a simple but effective video. People are visual and love watching and listening more than reading copious amounts of words, so keep it short, to the point and interesting. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/using-video-for-marketing/

5. Infographics. Depending on your design capability as to whether you pay for these or not, infographics are so useful when communicating key points and messages to your audience. Whether it’s a specific explanation about something technical or an overview of a product, they help convey visually so customers understand quickly what you are aiming to put across. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/infographics-explained-with-a-little-help-from-some-infographics/

6. Database. Make sure that you have all your contact data in order so that it’s in the most effective state for your target marketing. If you have missing data, then fill in the gaps. Analyse the data so that you know exactly who are your most lucrative customers and who are your hottest leads. With your database ready to go, then you are in a much better position to ‘hit’ the right people with the right message.

7. Loyalty. If you find out from your database that you have a selection of loyal customers, then consider reward schemes and loyalty cards. Also, tap into these loyal customers to refer friends and give testimonials. You can even use them as successful case studies to demonstrate how your company works and get good results.

8. Networking. Mingle with the right people at the right events and it could be worth your while. Know who you want to meet and what you want to say before you go along or it could be a total waste of time. Be prepared with business cards and make sure you collect cards from useful contacts and then follow them up post event. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-for-successful-networking/

9. Host your own event. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate as long as the purpose and/or content pulls people in. Seminars with good content and no oversell will position you well. Customers are more likely to come for the content and as a result follow up with enquiries.

10. Email marketing. As long as your database is complete and up-to-date, then email marketing can be low cost and effective. Targeting the right customers or leads with the relevant message will produce the best results. Email can be used for promotions, feedback, competitions and even surveys. Design and delivery is dependent on your in-house capability and resource but in no way has to be expensive if you need to outsource. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/common-email-marketing-mistakes/

11. PR. Write a press release about your business or product/service, giving it as much unique individuality and then circulate to all local media. You never know you could strike lucky and one of the local press or websites will choose it as it relates to other content or they are in need of some local business information and news. Or, offer to write for a trade magazine or website that relates to your business giving your expert view, opinion or market update. This will certainly give you credibility and exposure. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-writing-a-press-release/

12. Related partnerships. Working with complimentary and non-competitive companies can have a mutual benefit. It gives you exposure to other customers and allows cross-promotion. By each company referring the other, you can only stand as a win win.

13. Business cards. We may no longer need glossy brochures and can afford elaborate literature, but the basic business card is one essential that any company still needs. They are functional and can be distributed throughout your company to give out to useful contacts in the field. Make sure they are fit for purpose, include all important details including website/contact numbers and have clear branding with strapline if applicable. Don’t overcrowd the card. If you have more information to include, then you may require a postcard or flyer to supplement the card.

14. Go local. Maximise what is on your doorstep. Use your local community and contacts. Do you have local social media and press you can use to promote your company? Are there local events, trade fairs, community gatherings and business groups you can tap into and take a stand or just network? Consider where your target customers may go in and around the area and hand out flyers in these places for them to find and pick up such as shopping centres, the library, leisure centres etc.

15. Try before you buy. Some people just need a little trial or taster before they commit to a purchase. An easy idea is to offer a small freebie or discount coupon. Everyone likes a bargain and if it persuades the customer and as a result they like your product, then you may have a new sale.

Nicola Peaty

How to generate leads for your business.

By Nicola Peaty

lead genGenerating leads for your business is the fundamental criteria for success or failure. However, it is all about quality leads not just quantity. There is much more sophistication in the art of the various lead processes in terms of generation, nurturing, demand, qualification and conversion. Marketers have to combine strategic planning with tactical execution and focus on progressing new prospects to delivering sales-ready leads. So before marketers get stuck into the array of lead generation possibilities, you must have the following in place: 1. agreed company objectives including target markets and measures; 2. the appropriate systems eg prospect database, CRM, marketing automation; 3. cohesive teams with the same aims and understanding especially sales and marketing; 4. plans to progress leads down the marketing funnel and towards sales conversion; Next it’s down to the marketing team to plan the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ in terms of targeting, promotions, messages and execution. Below is our top list of recommended ways to source new leads. These are by no means exhaustive and each must be considered as to their relevance and value in accordance with the set objectives and type of market. referralsReferrals: Even a young company will have some kind of customer or associate relations which they can utilise to leverage potential new leads. Tap into existing contacts who you can trust and who will positively promote your business in order to open a few new doors. Linked In is a great B2B network for quality professionals who can help you ‘connect’ with potential new customers. For more established companies, hopefully with some solid customer relations, ask them to give their testimonials and refer possible contacts who they believe could benefit from your services. Peer reviews go a long way to adding credibility and reassurance for prospective customers. Choose your advocate clients who you know can champion your company and products and would be willing to make the effort to refer you to others. Reward schemes can help incentivise customers to ‘refer a friend’, but monitor and assess the quality of the lead referred to ensure they are relevant and not just a way of accessing the reward on offer! Alliance partnerships: Similar to referrals in a way, by joining up with business partners who compliment and don’t compete, you can generate leads both ways to help each other. It does depend on mutual trust and willing, but it makes sense that both parties can benefit if the customer is relevant to both companies. For example, in the wedding industry, bridal wear shops can refer to florists and cake makers without competing, in the agreement, that they will refer them as well. Events: These are the opportunities to bring your company to life and give a face to the brand. Not everyone enjoys events, so it’s important to select the right person to represent the company in the best way and to achieve the desired result. Networking groups help both new and established companies, whether you are just starting to promote yourself or targeting specific types of contacts. (See our blog on Top Tips for Successful Networking). Not everyone enjoys Tradeshows can be hit or miss and it’s all about the preparation and execution. Ensure the right type of prospects will be attending so that it’s not a complete waste of time and effort. Exhibition stands are only successful if they have skilled people manning the stand who know how to attract visitors among all the other stands fighting for their attention. Once a visitor has engaged, it’s all about having the right message and promotion. speechA great way to convey your brand as a voice of authority and as an industry expert is to give a specialist talk either at a trade seminar or by creating your own session. Choosing a topic that will advise or give insightful detail and opinion will hopefully generate new interest and therefore potential new customers. Whatever your approach to events, make sure you have contact capture forms ready and follow up post event with email, call or meetings as agreed. Search traffic: How often do we all go straight to Google when first looking for a product or service? Whether it is searching locally for a company or fact finding for specific details, the search engine is the major source of potential online prospects at the very beginning of the ‘lead funnel’ for marketers. You have a choice of SEO, SEM and PPC, but in order for you to attract quality traffic, it is essential to use specific keywords and terms that will match what your prospects are using when searching for your type of product. Avoid generic terms that will only cost you more, compete with the big players and not necessarily deliver qualified leads. Include details that will help produce the best result and match for the prospect in search, for example product specifications and location of company. Ensure you have the matching content ready and in place on your website including tailored landing pages. Visitors want to be able to click on a link that takes them directly to the information they are searching for (and not the homepage), otherwise you will lose them very quickly. Content: Great content can be used in many ways to attract new leads. By writing and/or speaking about topics which leads are interested in and searching for, you can become the source for fact, opinion, advice and the latest developments for your market. As long as the content is relevant, of value and targeting the specific type of leads, your content marketing plan can be very powerful as a lead generator. (See our blog on How to write content for your audience.) Social Media: Integrating your social media messages and promotions with great content can help drive traffic to your site and generate new leads. Getting likes, shares and +1s will build your audience organically. Remember to be creative and use visuals and videos as well to stand out, attract attention and even go viral. (see our blogs on Google +,  Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and video.) Use social media as a way to monitor discussions and get involved with your expert input, so that you can build your profile and raise awareness. You can then attract new followers and start customer interaction to nurture new leads. This takes time and effort so use a dedicated resource to keep track of any leads generated and how to progress them further down the ‘marketing funnel’. Contact details: This includes both yours and your leads. First make sure that you have company contact details at all lead touch points, so that they are able to get in touch should they have any initial fact finding questions or enquiries. Include as many ways for the prospect to make contact eg email, tel, online form, and ensure you respond in time with at least an acknowledgment or with the full details to their query. Make sure you also have data capture points for all new leads, whether that be online, face to face at an event or with a telephone enquiry. Start with the minimal basics and grow the details as you have more interaction. Offer incentives for leads to give more details eg to download information or for certain promotions. The idea is to build profiles and intelligence about your leads in order for targeted marketing. Automated email marketing is a good way to filter leads and build intelligence by a sequence of emails which contain specific information. Different emails are triggered according to how leads respond to each email and thereby tailoring content to their needs. It is essential to keep all captured contact data up-to-date so that you are able to manage your marketing effectively and segment the leads according to their specific needs and requirements. Once you’ve done the hard work in generating a new lead, you can then progress the lead according to your nurture and conversion plans.

lead gen funnel How to grow your business with social media

Nicola Peaty

What is demand generation and why does it matter?

By Nicola Peaty

leads to prospectsHow can we create a genuine demand for our products/services? This is the all important question most companies ask their marketing department. This is where demand generation plays a key role. It’s much more that raising general brand awareness and goes into more strategic, longer term aspirations for building customer relationships.

Demand generation engages and nurtures quality leads that can be passed onto the sales department to convert to actual purchases. Campaigns have to be thought through and focused on a target audience with a specific product/service. The process and communications must be based on an understanding of what the buyer needs and how your product/service matches their requirements.

The first stage is to build a knowledge of the target market for your particular product/service. This can be based on research or an analysis of customer trends, and should give you a clear picture of what these customers are looking for. This way, you can focus your messaging and personalise your communications as much as possible.

Data management throughout the marketing process, will allow you to track your target contacts from initial selection through to how they respond to content and nurturing and assess whether you are ‘connecting’ in a positive way in order to move them closer to the final buying stage. All intelligence gained throughout the campaign should be captured for both positive and negative outcomes as a learning for your chosen target market. If unsure of potential offers or outcomes, you can always test reactions by splitting lists with different offers and analysing the results for future reference.

Content marketing comes into its own when strategically planning demand generation. Messaging will be specific to the goal in mind, whether that be promoting a new product, re-engaging lapsed customers or upselling to loyal customers. Together with the knowledge acquired about your target prospects, content should play to their interests and inform and excite them about what you have to offer them. This is where quality content delivered using the appropriate channels will reap far better rewards than generic mass marketing via blanket emails or advertising.

Another crucial part of demand generation is nurturing the prospects. This means keeping a close eye on them and tracking their responses, engaging with them through conversation and interaction and responding when necessary. Reports, ebooks, blogs and webinars are great tactics at delivering key information and encouraging a response and questions, which will help to build an understanding of both what they need and your relationship with them. All the while through this process you are aiming to personalise more content, time the right sort of communications and determine when the prospects are qualifying to become ‘sales ready’.

A critical success factor in demand generation also relies on the way in which marketing and sales work together. In order for marketing to pass on qualified leads to sales, there must be a certain ‘status’ which has been reached by the lead and agreed by both departments at the start of the process. According to the campaign objective, the prospect should meet the agreed criteria by which they were first selected, and have responded with actions and behaviour throughout the campaign according to the predetermined goals.

The measurement of success will rely on how well you manage your data, set out your success criteria, engage the right messages with the right prospects and pass to sales at the optimum point at which the lead is ready to purchase. A full analysis of the campaign will identify areas for improvement, points which reaped great response and potential messages/offers which generated the least reaction. This learning can obviously then feed into future campaigns, where you can possibly short cut the process or indeed spend more time on nurturing a lead.

The ‘obvious’ return on investment can be measured by the amount spent on marketing the campaign versus the sales generated at the end. However, this should factor in previous experience of this type of campaign and with the chosen target market. Budgeting and forecasts should become more accurate following more campaigns and a deeper understanding of the market and trends.
Below is a chosen infographic which helps demonstrate the main stages in the demand generation process:

demandgenprogram
Please refer to associated blogs:
Content for your audience: http://www.vgandassociates.com/how-to-write-content-for-your-audience/
Sales and marketing: http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-how-to-build-a-more-productive-marketing-sales-relationship/

How to grow your business with social media



Nicola Peaty

Top tips…How to build a more productive marketing / sales relationship.

By Nicola Peaty

Why should there be two departments within a business who historically tend to clash, and sales-v-marketingyet are both working towards the same goal? A lot is down to simple misunderstanding and lack of clarity in terms of role definition and process. Some marketing departments will believe that sales are all about pushing their product to purely meet their short term commission, while some sales teams consider marketing are just there to order branded golf balls!

Below are five tips for building a more productive relationship between the two essential functions in any business.

1. The winning partnership: the two teams should have mutual respect and moreover mutual agreement in how they can both meet the company’s objectives. Sales and marketing should understand the company’s strategy and tactics in generating and growing revenue, for both short term and long term targets. This way will they be far more successful in working together for the same goals.

2. Understand the customer lifecycle: from prospect through to warm lead, from to new customer to loyal customer. Both parties must know how they are segmenting their contacts according to the relationship between the company and the contact. Appropriate targeting and messaging is then applied according to the stage of the customer lifecycle. Both sales and marketing should agree a plan of communication for each segment and work together by using the most appropriate method depending on whether an early prospect needs more brand awareness, right through to a long-term customer managed as a key account in sales.

3. Effective campaigns: it is so important that sales and marketing agree on the most effective campaigns for the various market segments and business need. Whether it be lead generation, lead nurturing or a promotional initiative, both functions must be fully aware of communications going out to the market with the agreed messaging and calls to action. This will ensure mutual focus and consistency.

4. Attributing value: the various customer segments will have a potential revenue value to a company, and both sales and marketing should be accountable for their actions in how they optimise the full value. By attributing this value to each department, it will help both parties understand they are contributing to the company’s revenue targets.

5. Accountability: each department must take accountability in measuring ‘successful outcomes’. While it is obvious when sales have financial results from winning business, marketing sometimes struggles to prove how it has contributed to the bottom line. Therefore, all marketing activity must be measured and leads tracked throughout the pipeline. This way ROI can be attributed when a lead which has been generated from marketing, is passed on and converted to business by the sales team.

See also our blog How to create an effective sales proposition:  http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-on-how-to-create-an-effective-sales-proposition/

 

 

Nicola Peaty

Top Tips …. How to create an effective sales proposition.

By Nicola Peaty

There cannot be anything more important and fundamental to a business than its sales salespropositionproposition. This is the whole purpose and crux of any company and what it has to offer its target market. But the key is to be able to offer an effective proposition that will lead to the success of the business. This therefore means that the offering has to be considered by the company, of value to its customers, and critically, the preferred choice over the competition.

Below are our top tips to consider when creating an effective sales proposition for your business:

1. Define your target market – Who are your key demographic group or groups? What do they have in common? What are their priorities? What is important to them? And essentially, what do they want that your product/service can provide? When you’ve found the common dominator which ties the group together, then you can build your solution that will meet their need.

2. Solution offering – What are you selling and how does it fulfil a need? It’s so much more effective to sell the solution rather than just pushing the product. It would be ideal to find a need which currently does not have a solution offering. If this is not the case, then it’s important to find the unique selling point to help push your business, see point 4.

3. Benefits – This is your company promise of how you can be of true value to your customers. How can you convince your audience that your product has real worth and significance which can make a positive difference to them? Tangible results are always a great way to measure how you can add real value.

Econsultancy list their five product values which can to be of true benefit to the customer: http://econsultancy.com/blog/4380-five-must-use-sales-value-propositions

4. Superiority – So, your customer understands what you sell and how it can help them. The question now is why should they choose your product over the companies selling similar products? What is your competitive edge and how are you outperforming rival companies? This can often be difficult especially in a busy or crowded market. The important point is to make sure that whatever your unique selling point is, it’s something that is of real importance to your customers. There is absolutely no point in being different for the sake of it. It must have significance and impact which resonates with your customer, so that they believe and decide you are the company of choice.

5. Statement – Time to pull all the above together in one clear and concise statement. This should be the first thing any customer could see or read and learn about what your company provides. It should draw the interest of your audience and use the appropriate language for your customers to understand.

Here are a few good examples of sales proposition statements which include what the product solution and benefit and tangible outcomes:

* Our products help people leverage the internet to triple their market reach and cut marketing costs in half when launching new products.

* Our clients grow their business typically by a minimum of 30-50% over the year while cutting costs by 35%.They accomplish this without working 80 hour weeks and sacrificing their personal lives.

* We help large companies reduce the cost of their employee benefits programs without impacting benefit levels. With the spiralling costs of health care today, this is a critical issue for most businesses. One of our recent clients, a large manufacturing company similar to yours, was struggling with how to reduce spending in this area. We saved them over $800,000 in just six months. Plus, they didn’t cut any services to their employees, nor did their employees have to pay more.

Here is a link to see more great examples using visual images – 10 value propositions you wish you had:
http://www.impactbnd.com/blog/10-value-propositions-you-wish-you-had

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