When it comes to growing a business, being able to increase sales is essential. Being able to increase sales while staying sane is crucial too – yet so many organisations go for business growth in a way which is destined to be painful.
I’d like to help you avoid some of that pain. As a marketing strategy consultant, I’ve been brought in to help growing businesses create a marketing and sales infrastructure that allows them to scale sales and grow their business in a steady, sustainable way – let’s look at the steps I take them through.
The Five Steps
- Making sure your marketing stands out
- Having clear goals that everything works towards achieving
- Creating effective marketing campaigns and sales messages
- Building a strong marketing and sales funnel/pipeline
- Having the right team around you
Remember: we’re helping you build a long-term, sustainable business that has the choice and capabilities to grow year after year. Each of these steps takes time but they allow you to build a strong business that can be built on.
Let’s look at each step in turn:
Step 1. Making sure your marketing stands out
The marketplace is crowded. People are bombarded with marketing and sales messages every day.
Overwhelm is on the increase – we have busy, full lives and we’re very good at filtering out what we don’t want/need to notice
So, how do businesses make sure that their marketing stands out – for the right reasons? We begin by understanding what’s going on in the world of our customers.
A key part of a marketing strategy framework is the ‘Marketplace Audit’ (also known as a macro-environmental marketing audit). This audit makes us look outwards and systematically assess what’s happening in the world of our customers. We then figure out how these things are impacting them now or how they’re going to impact them in the future
How do you do this macro-environmental marketing audit? Many organisations use a PESTLE analysis, done well, to organise their thoughts. It’s crucial to do the Analysis and also then take the time to consider:
- How is this affecting our audiences?
- How do we need to adapt to show we’re still relevant to them?
The second part of making sure your marketing stands out is to know what your competitors are doing (this forms a part of the micro environmental audit).
These are the organisations and businesses that are competing for your audiences’ time, energy and money at every step of their Buyer’s Journey with you.
There are different ways to do a Competitors Audit and the best way is to start at the end. Start with the questions you need the answers to.
These questions might be:
- Why do people choose our competitors and not us?
- How well do our competitors get people’s attention?
- How well do our competitors nurture people through the marketing and sales pipeline?
- What do our competitors offer that we don’t?
Gathering information on your competitors is the first part – next, you need to determine:
- What can we learn from them?
- How can we do better?
- How can we show our audiences that we really understand them?
- How can we stand out from our competitors so our audiences really understand who we are and what we offer and why they should choose us?
A word of warning:
This step, doing a marketing audit, should not be skipped over or done lightly.
How can you make sure your marketing stands out from everything else going on in your customers lives if you don’t actually know what is going on?
By the end of this step, you should know what is happening in your marketplace so you can make sure your organisation stands out. In marketing speak, you know how to create your competitive market positioning.
Step 2. Having clear goals that everything works towards achieving
All your marketing and sales activities must be set up to help achieve your organisation’s goals.
At this stage, you need to get complete clarity around your organisation’s goals in terms of income/profit/turnover.
Then you can start to determine your strategic marketing goals – in other words, which customer groups you expect to get your income from.
These can be expressed as strategic marketing and sales goals such as:
- To get 50% of our income from Customer Group A
- To get 25% of our income from Customer Group B
- To get 25% of our income from Customer Group C.
But before you can really firm up those marketing and sales goals, you need to make sure that it is possible to sell that much to each of those customer groups.
You need to answer the questions:
- Who can we really help in the marketplace?
- Who do we really want to help?
- Who is it profitable for us to help?
And that’s where segmentation comes in.
Segmentation is the process of looking at everyone you could possibly ‘help’ with your products and services, and then choosing to focus on certain groups. Very few organisations have the internal resource to be able to sell to ‘everyone’. Focus is essential.
This is why segmentation goes hand in hand with ‘competitive market positioning’ – because it helps you determine exactly how you want to be known in the marketplace so the right groups of people are attracted to your business.
Once you have determined your segments, you can then revisit your competitive market positioning – i.e. how you want to stand out from your competitors.
You can assess:
- Does this market position still work?
- Is it a good way to stand out?
- Will it appeal to the right groups of clients, or will it turn them away from us?
And, once you have gone into the detail and built a Segment Profile for each segment, you can revisit your strategic marketing objectives and figure out:
- Can we get the number of sales from this segment that we expected?
- What data shows that this is likely to happen?
- How hard will it be to get that amount of sales from this segment?
- Do we need to revise our strategic marketing and sales goals?
By the end of this stage you will have determined:
- Which segments you are focussed on reaching
- How you want to be known in the marketplace
- Realistic strategic marketing and sales goals that achieve the business goals.
Step 3. Creating effective marketing and sales messages and campaigns
This is the part where most organisations start – they leap into ‘doing’ marketing and sales. It’s like building a house without having an architect’s drawing and not bothering to dig the foundations. You’ll have some success but, eventually, it’ll all come crashing down.
Remember, we’re working here to help you scale sales and build a long-term, sustainable business that has the choice and capabilities to grow year after year. Not to get money in quick, then run.
You now know who you need to market to, who the competitors are, and how you need to stand out from the crowd.
Let’s go deeper and begin to create those marketing and sales messages and campaigns that are really going to work.
In this step, you need to take that Segment Profile and do more with it – really get to understand how the person you are selling to works and what they need at each stage of the Buyers Journey with you.
If you operate in a marketplace where more than one person is involved in the decision to make a purchase – and most of us do – then you need to map out who is in the Decision-Making Unit.
This clearly shows you who the most important people are when it comes to deciding to buy from you. Ideally, one person will stand out as they might hold multiple roles in the DMU.
You can then take that person and create a ‘Customer Persona’ for them.
This is different to a ‘Segment Profile’. A Segment Profile is more generic – a Customer Persona is where you imagine one person in that profile.
You give them a typical name, a typical job title, and even find a photo of what they may look like. You build up a complete picture of them so, when you create your marketing and sales material, you are creating it for them.
You have them in mind and are constantly thinking, ‘Does this appeal to you? What questions will you be asking? Am I giving you the answers you want?’
And a key part of creating a Segment Profile and the Customer Persona is understanding the communication preferences of these people.
- What is their communication style? Visual? Audio? Hands-on?
- How much time do they give communications at different stages of their buyers’ journey?
- Where do they find their information from?
- Who do they get their information from?
- What format do they like it in?
The key aim at this stage is to build up a really detailed understanding of your audience and how they like to be engaged and communicated with.
The second part of this is to put yourself in their shoes and think about why they want to engage with your products and your company. You are starting to create the marketing messages but in their language.
To do this, I take people through a workshop where we determine:
- What problems are you solving for them with your products?
- What is the language they use to describe those problems?
- How do they describe the solutions that you offer them?
- What words do they use?
What are the emotional reasons for choosing your solutions?
- What are the emotional reasons for rejecting your solutions?
- What are their logical reasons for choosing your solutions?
- What are their logical reasons for rejecting your solutions?
- What would they say are the key benefits your product gives them? How do they describe those benefits?
- Why do they prefer you to your competitors? What words do they use to say this?
By the time you have finished going through this, you now have pages of useful marketing and sales messages, written in the words of your prospective customers.
The final stage is organising these messages. This is where a ‘Hierarchy’ of messaging can come in, combined with different messages for each stage of the Buyers’ Journey.
Take some time to create the following messages:
- What is the ONE thing you need everyone to know about your organisation/products (turn this into a strapline)
- What is the ONE LINE that you will say again and again to describe your solutions – the line that really sums up what you do (this goes on all of your marketing and sales and it should be reinforcing your market positioning)
If someone says, ‘That’s interesting, tell me more’ what is your ONE FOLLOW UP LINE (choose something that really has an emotional resonance with your key customer group)
- The key benefits (choose the top five benefits of using your products, using the words your clients would use).
It’s best to begin with this hierarchy of messaging aimed at your key customer segment (you can then do it for other segments). And once you have this, you can start to match the messages to the stages of the Buyers Journey.
As you move through this, keep that Customer Persona front of mind and ask yourself:
- What information do they want at each stage of the Buyers Journey?
- What do we need to give them?
- What messages help them understand more as they move through their journey with us?
Make sure you map it all out.
Then, combine it with how they like to be communicated. You now have the exact knowledge you need to create marketing and sales campaigns that work.
By the end of this stage, you have marketing and sales messages that appeal to your audience at every stage of the Buyers’ Journey. You know exactly which marketing communication tools to use to reach them, based on their communication preferences. You can create those marketing and sales campaigns, confident they will work.
Step 4. Building a strong marketing and sales funnel/pipeline
It’s now time to start building the whole infrastructure to create your marketing and sales pipeline. This is the marketing and sales technology that you are going to put in place to help you communicate with, engage with, and measure where your audience is at every stage of the Buyers’ Journey.
So, we always begin with questions:
- What tools/technology do you need to reach them at the awareness stage? E.g. if you are using social media, which platforms? How do you run your social media? Which scheduling and monitoring tools do you put in place?
- What tools/technology do you need to engage them and give them even more content at the Interested stage? For example, what tools do you set your landing pages up with? What do you use to send out your automated emails?
We carry on through every single stage of the Buyers’ Journey, determining the best marketing and sales tech for the job, and your organisation’s budget.
It could be you use a ‘one-stop’ solution, like HubSpot. It could be you ‘zap’ lots of different pieces of tech together. Or you use WordPress plug-ins on a WordPress site.
Once you have decided what to use, go back over it all and check:
If we use this / these, will it create a seamless experience for our audiences?
This is about checking that, from a user’s point of view, it all flows well together and feels like the same organisation throughout the whole Buyer’s Journey.
By the end of this step, you know which technology you need to build and run your marketing and sales pipeline, confident that it also provides a seamless user experience for your audiences.
Step 5. Having the right team around you
By the time you reach here, it’s obvious what kind of marketing and sales you need to do and the tools and technology you need to do it.
If you know what you need, then you now know who needs to be on your marketing and sales team to make it happen.
For a growing business, bringing people in on an employed basis isn’t always the best option – the business is in a state of change, so the skills and knowledge you need today might not be what you need in 6, 12 or 18 months’ time.
I often advise you to choose a more flexible approach to having the right team.
First, begin by listing out all the different tasks that need to be done. Then decide what skills and knowledge is needed to do them.
Look internally – do the people you currently use in marketing and sales roles have the skills and knowledge needed?
Look externally – are you using suppliers or freelancers who already have the skills and knowledge?
If not, can they acquire that skill and knowledge to the level that is needed in the timescales that it is needed? If not, who do you need to bring in?
A key part of having the right team around you is deciding:
Who is going to be managing the team? Who is going to have that overview of what needs to be built and make sure everyone is playing their part?
Really, the person with the overview should be a Marketing Manager who has little involvement in the actual doing.
Sounds strange? Well, think about an orchestra.
In an orchestra, you have a conductor whose role is to make sure everyone else is doing their part at the right time. The conductor brings them all together to make everything work together and sound beautiful. Do you ever see the conductor run off and play the violin? Or pick up a flute to blast out the flute’s part?
If you are playing an instrument, you can’t really have a good handle on what everyone else is doing and check they are playing their parts correctly. You are too close to the detail to take the overview and ensure that you are building the right thing.
The same is true for this marketing and sales process – you need one person with the overview, who is making sure all the different parts of building the infrastructure to scale sales are happening.
The five key steps to take to build a business that can scale sales and deliver growth year on year involve a systematic, methodical approach to building a marketing and sales pipeline. It shows the importance of a marketing strategy and how to set up a business using a strategic marketing framework.
Done well and with thought, once this is in place you can increase sales whenever you want. It takes an investment of time, money and effort. But, it’s worth it.
About the Author
Kara Stanford is the CEO and Founder of The Marketing Spaces. She is also a Strategic Marketing Consultant who, for the last 10 years, has helped SMEs take the steps to scale sales. Kara teaches CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing) professional qualifications with the Oxford Professional Education Group. You can find her on LinkedIn.