Thought Leadership

Thought leadership is not about boasting or bragging, rather it is about sharing informed insights to hopefully inspire people. Thought leaders are not afraid to propose new ideas, new models or different views on a topic.

Thought leadership when done correctly can help further a person’s career or a business. Being a thought leader should mean becoming a trusted source of information on your chosen topics by delivering the answers to the biggest questions on the minds of the audience seeking enlightenment or education.

So here are a few tips on using content marketing as a launch pad in thought leadership for you, your business or even the team you mentor.

THOUGHT-LEADERSHIP

Thought leaders speak and present

They speak to educate not to sell. Thought leaders seek out opportunities to present as to impart their insights from research or experience. They rise to the challenge of delivering opinions so to drive debate on topics. Thought leaders advance the adoption of ideas by speaking on commercially relevant, and research backed points of view. They are dreamers and doers; they talk about “blue sky strategy” from their own research or from research gathered through clients, customers or competitors.  They rarely speak about product, brand sponsored white papers or rehashed content that copy ideas already well discussed.

Give time freely with no expectation can propel someone into thought leadership and general awareness. A good lesson here is to accept non-paid speaking engagements if it puts you in front of an audience that facilitates dialog and exchange of opinions. Regardless of the event, the audience or the setting, a thought leader will always deliver meaningful content.

Thought leaders write and share

Thanks to social media and the access to content marketing channels, a constant flow of well researched articles which you have written will keep you visibility high and credibility in-tact.  Thought leadership is not about writing a few 600 word articles and then retiring your pen, in a digital world people will soon forget you. A constant stream of articles shared across social networks and forums tells people that the author is a thought leader year worth following on a continuous basis.

Articles need to be a minimum of 800 words although most research based articles can be 1500 words plus. Longer, deeper articles demonstrate the time taken to craft the story, to prove research undertaken and ensure reference points are covered in detail.

Once an article is written, the article needs to be published. For whitepapers and heavy research based articles, a good starting point is a professional or membership based organisation to which you belong that publish articles. Explore trade publications that cover your industry or topic.  Also submit articles to local newspapers, on-line news, on-line interest groups and publications.

Consider sites like BizSugar, LinkedIn Pulse, Academia, and inc.com, Forbes or Harvard Business.  Make sure to also publish to your own social networks to reach more people and improve your profile in visibility. A few options include publishing to your own website, your blog, and post on your LinkedIn profile or to groups, publish to Tumblr, Google+ or Medium.com, send out an email with article link to clients and connections. Send out a message regarding your article on Twitter, Facebook and relevant forums you feel would benefit from reading the article.

Thought leaders publish research

Research does not have to mean focus groups or an academic background, it has more to do with , homework on the topic you are going to write about. Write about topics you have expertise in, deep knowledge and first-hand experience in. Focus on writing great content with supporting information that will make you stand out from your competitors by giving more than just a bunch of research jargon or results.

Articles should be interspersed with references, quotes, trends, external research, supporting documentation or forecasts. Though leaders will use the research element within an article to gain the readers trust when sharing ideas, creative thinking or a different view on a topic. Some research and support ideas include interviewing experts in the field you are writing about, conduct surveys, share real stories about your own experiences, tap into social media channels to gather opinions or ask someone in authority to write a footnote.

A mistake to avoid if never publish in a hurry. Save a draft, let it cool and with fresh eyes review it yourself, rewrite sections where it does not make sense, spell check it and then depending on the level of “news” within the article you could share it first among friends, work colleagues or a mentor to check for errors and give you honest feedback.

BUSINESS-IDEAS

The vision of every thought leader is to be in the spotlight. The knowledge you share can bring about business opportunities, social influence, a better job, an award or an accolade, acknowledgement from your industry or a mention in a newspaper that engages your audience to rally behind the topic you have been championing.  A constant presence on the speak, write, research channels can lead to an invitations, doors being opened and new  ventures that never possible before, including the chance to mentor and encourage other people to become thought leaders themselves.

For lots of thought leaders it is a very personal journey, a deeper reason around, why am I here, what is the meaning to my work, what would I like to leave behind? As the articles get published, the influence will grow and the exposure to inspiring people will be the most rewarding. As a thought leader, regardless of the topic or reach of your publications, you will leave a lasting legacy for yourself, other people, a bright young business brain or even an industry.

Sales Strategy

To have an effective sales strategy a business needs to consider its products, its market and how the sales effort will be directed to ensure it captures profitable growth selling to customers. Sales strategy is a business decision on (1) who the sales teams are going to sell to (2) what are they going to sell them  and (3) how are they going to sell to them?

business-game

Sales strategies ensures market and customer coverage with plans that give the best possible opportunity to win business. In more detail, a sales strategy defines  the customer segments it wants to target(verticals, industries, geographical), the business value propositions for each segment (product, pricing, distribution), how the sales force will be structured (inbound, field, deal value) and the selling processes.

Today’s business is more about “Smarketing” than sales and marketing. Effective business strategy brings marketing and sales together to drive traffic, generate leads, build awareness and improve consideration levels so more customers buy. In a nutshell a good sales strategy will help a business identify and take advantage of the best opportunities available.

Sales strategy Tips.

Business planning

The sales strategy must be based on the business and marketing plans. Outline in as much detail as possible – how will the sales team deliver marketing objectives, plan to target market segments and how will they support marketing activities, such as content marketing or promotional events. Next identify the key aims of the strategy – sell more to the same? Is it about market penetration or market development? Also which target markets you are aiming for and the time, money and resources needed.

Understand the market and find out more about your existing customers or target customer profile. What are their needs, what problems need solving, what products they consider and what they expect from a product or supplier?  Research when, where, how and why the existing customer base buys.  In a B2B sales environment identify who Influences buying decisions both inside the company and on social networks or industry forums. Monitor key trends in the market and social media, trends like market changes and the activities of competitors.  Identify what will be the key drivers for the business that the market will buy.

Pay attention to the cost of customer acquisition and selling costs. List existing customers in order of profitability then create a list of existing, potential and major customers. Always include the total cost of selling to each one by sales channel. Identify the metrics or sales KPI’s that will enable the business to understand what a profitable customer looks like. Now use these profiles to target similar companies. So the sales strategy plan should now be in line with the marketing strategy and the planning should have costs associated to the sales efforts.

Target customers

Business growth depends on acquiring new, profitable business with different customers. Plan how you will approach every new customer. Maybe to win the business of a key customer, you may offer acquisition pricing, creating a loss-leader or maybe giving the product on a trial basis. Make sure you have a plan to move prices and margins back up to a profitable level, or else live with reduced margins from these customers.

For existing businesses develop more business with existing customers. Plan out what you will do to get existing customers buy more and buy different products (‘up-’ and ‘cross-selling’). Plan how to keep retain customers and build relationships. A sales strategy should include a mix of customers, to help safeguard sales revenue. Do not rely too much on one customer, and be aware of potential customer finance problems.

Sales plans should include a balance between time spent developing new business and that spent on existing customers. Forecast and manage seasonal sales or sales cycles.

Reaching the customer

Now that customer target selection has been set, you need to decide which sales channels will be most effective in selling to which customers. Do you sell direct or through channels? Map out the costs of each channel against the benefits it would bring.

Most businesses have a direct sales strategy. Direct sales methods include web, e-commerce, selling face-to-face, direct mail, social selling and telesales. Selling face-to-face is the most expensive sales method, and works well for enterprise high-value sales with a longer sales cycle.

Also, never rule out joining forces with other businesses to boost your sales effort.  For example, related, but non-competing, companies might share customer information. In reaching target customers marketing needs to support the sales channels by communicating with the audience to create awareness and build up the consideration level within buyers for your product. Marketing strategy is about influencing how customers would prefer to hear about, and buy, your products or services

Sales plans

Together with your sales managers and team(s), prepare the sales forecast. Sales forecasting is a detailed breakdown of the sales to be achieved each month, by customer and by product .Base forecasts on previous sales levels or if a new business base on the business plan. Take into account information about customers’ buying habits, sales cycle and other factors such as pricing and marketing activities. Plot the likelihood of achieving sales, using a percentage figure, and set out timescales when you expect to close them. Agree how much traffic, enquiries and leads are needed to achieve the forecasted sales growth. Divide out how many leads should come from new and existing customers.

Sales planning should identify customers by name where possible but always the number you expect to sell to. Define the number of sales you expect from sales KPI’s such as meetings, calls or other contacts (your sales ‘conversion’ rate). Determine the frequency and levels of sales activity needed to achieve targets. For example, allocate the amount of time to be spent on each account. Remember to include the whole range of activities needed to complete a sale. Decide how many sales people you need to achieve your sales targets, and allocate territories or accounts. Plan sales costs in proportion to the sales or profits you expect to make.

sales-and-business

Prepare the annual sales budget. This is a summary of the yearly sales forecast and acts as a benchmark to compare updated forecasts during the year. Prepare worst case, likely case and best case versions of the budget, and plan what you will do in each case. Revise your sales forecasts monthly, quarterly or annually, using past performance as the guide. Compare sales closed and the sales pipeline with the sales budget. If there is a significant difference between the two figures, find out why. Sales leadership is about adjusting to new challenges, planning new sales initiatives and knowing when to adjust sales expenditure.

Don’t underestimate the sales cycles. The total amount of time taken to complete a sale or acquire a new customer can have a critical impact on a business’s cash flow. If you have a market development strategy, new product or service, it will take longer to make sales. Work with customers’ decision-making habits. Plan out sales drives and product launches in detail. Align sales to the other business activities. An example is not to forecast sales that the software development team cannot deliver. Plan the sales campaigns and social selling to support the marketing strategy (new product launches or new whitepaper). When the sales strategy has been defined, a business may need to adjust the marketing plan as the sales team could have identified a new customer group to target.

Selling resources

There is now a range of sales tools available to a business of any size that will increase efficiency. A CRM or sales forecasting tool is essential to manage information on customers. Consider what resources could make your sales people more productive (example: premium LinkedIn account, Pipedrive, Trello, Zoho, and Salesforce). Also plan to provide appropriate admin support to allow sales people more time to focus on selling. Ensure sales people have access to documents like content marketing pieces, research papers, white papers, industry stats and market research. Use an on-line sales report tool (like Pipedrive) to record relevant information for each customer contact.

Inform and support the sales team. Have regular sessions to make sure sales people understand the business mission, what sets the product or service apart and train them to communicate this to customers. Understand just what value your product or service will bring to the customer’s business; this is the value proposition. Give sales people key information about pricing, profit margins, negotiable areas and product roadmaps. Demand that sales people record their sales activities and produce weekly reports. The sales pipeline by sales person should be scored for each customer deal, reflecting the potential value of sales and the percentage likelihood of conversion. Train the sales people regularly to improve their product and market knowledge as well as selling skills. Monitor and drive progress in supportive, weekly one-to-one meetings to review progress.

Measuring performance

Cost of sale analysis. Review and quantify the time and money spent on different customers. Focus on profitability, margin or deal size before volume of sales. Dig into the win/loss ratio, cost per lead, lead to conversion and cost per customer sale. Analyse which customer segments, sales people and channels are most productive, and the reason why. Monitor the returns on sales costs. Separate out sales force and sales support costs. Analyse conversion rates monthly, using the sales team’s pipeline, forecast and weekly activity reports. Work out how many sales have been made, the cost of customer acquisition and calculate the average value. Measure the data between leads, visits, proposals and deals closed.  This goes for both new and existing customers. Examine each stage in the selling process to find out where customers are falling out of the sales funnel.

Identify problems in the sales process or funnel and find out what has caused them. Do you have low sales into new accounts because of long lead times or the value proposition needs tuning. Identify dead deals or dormant accounts and follow them up. Always remember that selling to an existing customer is far easier and cheaper than winning new ones.

strategy-plan

At the end of the sales and business strategy planning process, a business will have when combined with deep customer insights and needs plus the buying processes will have identified growth channels. Tailor the sales strategy to the market opportunity will ensure sales leadership make winning decisions about where to allocate sales and marketing resources, how to structure the sales force, and how to choose the best sales process that will drive results on a constant basis for the business.

Customer Targeting

Customer targeting or who a business sells to whether it is B2B or B2C, is a key part of the business planning process. Customer profiling and target selection is critical as it defines the marketing strategy, resources, costs and customer target selection lists for the sales team. A businesses services or products may have appeal to a wide range of customers or markets but the reality is you cannot target everyone at once so you need to list your target customers by demographics, segment, industry and size to get the best return possible.

customer-targeting

Every business wants as many people or buyers as possible to know about their business. However when it comes to customer acquisition the more customers you want to reach, the reality is the more time, resources and money it’s going to cost. Defining the customer acquisition strategy and target customer selection may feel like you could be ignoring some groups or segments but it is important to remember that you’re not excluding anyone; for now the business is choosing where to focus, to spend the time and money to win new customers at reasonable cost. Customer targeting focuses a business and ensures all marketing and sales resources are being maximised. Focusing on a market segment or profile of businesses/consumer who could be interested in what company is offering allows you to communicate and engage with that segment more deeply. The cost of customer acquisition alongside the product to market fit is critical for any business success.

Customer Targeting – Action Plan

Consult the business plan.

Review the business plan, the business mission, the product strategy, and then look at the goals the business has set itself, next analyse the products and/or services on offer. Think about how the products or services you sell solve a problem for a potential customer. Also, think about what sets you apart from the competition in your industry—what makes you different? Where are the low hanging fruit? And who might be interested and who may benefit most from having what you are offering. In customer acquisition knowing why customers buy and why they should consider you is vital in identifying your target audience.

Now move on to the information you need to know and why. What do you need to know about your potential customers in order to reach them?

As your ideas become clearer, refine the business plan and go to market strategy to focus on who you want your audience to be, remember product to market fit is a key building block in business success so target selection is ultimately about the customer. Rather than think about who you would like to sell to, think about the market, who do you believe is considering or likely to evaluate the products and services you offer.

customer-acquisition-strategy

Research your customer targets.

Start with free publicly available research. Existing sources like LinkedIn, Google, Industry whitepapers, articles and forums can help most businesses gather together information about your market, the industry, your competition, and the profiles of the potential customers you have already identified. While it takes time and effort, the cool thing is that someone has already done the work and the information you gleam will not cost you anything. Join groups, follow influencers on Twitter, and get access to updates on social media and what the competition is talking about.

Create a typical customer profile.

Once you have narrowed down the customer target list (segment, demographic, vertical, and industry), now you will need to create a typical customer profile. This is not an in-depth profile but a brief outline of what the typical customer may look like including demographics and profiling information:

Demographic information: This might include for B2B targeting – company size, industry, location, financials, and buyer path or decision trees. In B2C this may include – customer age, gender, location, ethnic background, marital status, income, and more.

This information can be essential for developing the actual customer profile list. Demographic information will help you identify the type of person or business who you believe will be most open to buying your products and services.

Locate your audience.

Next step is to get immersed in where your customer target profiles live on the web. Find out what forums, groups and social networks they engage with. Can they be social influenced with content; do they invite connections, what is their culture, habits or interests? The information put together on customer profiles together with knowing where the on-line locations your target audience hangs out or how they use technology will improve your chance to create awareness and shorten the sales cycle.

Refine and improve.

Customer target selection and profiling is a continuous effort as your products and growth stages change. Every business needs to continually conduct research and tap into social networks for conversations to stay current on market and industry trends including your competition.  Also it is important to track how your current and potential customers move through the buyer funnel. A key part is to have the marketing tools and insights to make sure you can track leads, traffic, sales, social interactions, requests for information, and more. All of these customer touch points are important to monitor. This marketing data will help the business to identify trends, patterns, and possible areas of improvement. Refining and improving your cost per lead, cost per sale and lead to revenue metric will ensure you maximise the marketing efforts as your business grows.

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is the process of generating leads, traffic and attention while reaching influencers using social media networks. Social media marketing encompasses activities such as social selling, content marketing, audience reach and status updates.
Social media marketing also impacts on SEO or search results as content marketing (articles, blogs, whitepapers) and status updates (news, press releases, stories) when shared or published leads to search engine discovery around a set of keywords or a title. Research also shows that people also search on social media sites like LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Facebook etc. to find relevant social media content. Social connections who share a company’s social media links can also impact the position they show up on search engine results for keywords, whether within a social media network or on Google.
In marketing, harnessing the power of content marketing, social selling and social influencing can deliver big increases in traffic, audience and customer engagement. Before a business talks about marketing automation, social bookmarking, social sharing or social data they should discuss how to get the fundamentals of social media marketing right. Whether your social media marketing is designed to drive traffic, generate sales leads or reach a wider audience, following these ten simple rules will help lay the foundation to serve your marketing, customers, brand and business better.

social-media-marketing

#socialmedia rule 1. Listen
Listen to the sounds, chatter and conversations on social networks. The success of social media and content marketing efforts follows the rule of more listening and less talking. No point talking about what has been talked to death. Read your target customers and competitor’s on-line content, join social discussions in a meaningful way (not for self-promotion) to learn what’s important to them. Only after listening and hearing what is being shared can a business create content and ignite conversations with well-crafted words that add value not clutter to people’s lives.

#socialmedia rule 2. Be a hedgehog
“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” In social media it is better to specialise on topics you know than to be a jack-of-all-trades. A focused social media plan and content marketing strategy will be more successful in engaging a target audience and help build brand awareness than social media activities that attempts to be all things to all men.

#socialmedia rule 3. Quality counts
Quality over quantity. The beauty of quality words will be remembered long after the promise of a low price has faded from memory. It is far better to have 100 influential social connections who read, share and talk about your content to their own network than 1000 connections who disappear after reading your sales pitch.

#socialmedia rule 4. Be patient
Patience allows content the time to fall into place and make an impact. Social media results and content marketing success will not happen overnight. Quality always stands the test of time, social media requires time to filter around so have the patience to work steady and focused to achieve results.

#socialmedia rule 5. Publish often
Social media is not a one hit wonder. The article may be a masterpiece but one swallow never made a summer. Publish quality content regularly to build the on-line audience of followers and fans, quality content published at regular intervals is far more likely to be shared on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and on other blogs.
The network effect of the sharing content or article links on social networks and the discussions that follow regarding the content will tap into search engines like Google, so the content will show up for keyword or phrase searches. These links could grow from ten to hundreds or thousands, reaching out to connect you with people searching on-line.

#socialmedia rule 6. Connect with social influencers
Social influencers can be a conduit to spread your content to a wider range of people who could be interested in your products, services and business. Seek to be and connect with social influencers, spend time building relationships with them through the power of words. If a blogger or brand is seen as an authoritative, interesting source which shares really useful information, the likelihood of your content getting shared with social influencers follower’s increases, which can put the business message in front of a huge social audience.

#socialmedia rule 7. Be a teller not a seller
Craft and tell great stories to get people to listen, too many businesses believe social media marketing is about promoting their products and services. This has the effect of people switching off. Create content that adds value to social conversations. Jumping in on existing social conversions has limited value, better to be known as who creates amazing content. This is what really develops and builds relationships with social influencers. In time, those social connections will become a powerful channel to spread the word on your business.

social-media-networks

#socialmedia rule 8. Build ties even weak ones
Social networks ties people together for shared interests and conversations. Building relationships and connections is one of the most important parts of social media marketing success, so always acknowledge every person including weak ties who reaches out to you or favours your content as six degrees of separation means that everyone is just six steps away by way of introduction from any person in the world.

#socialmedia rule 9. Remain constant
Apart from publishing content on a regular basis, you need to be available and have a constant presence with your audience. You need to participate in conversations, share other people content, get involved, and be seen to be engaged and active. Eaten bread is soon forgotten and social media followers can be fickle. They or your competitors will replace you if you are not seen on social networks for weeks or months.

#socialmedia rule 10. Share and show
In social media there is always room to share for a story that is not your own. Show people you care about the industry by sharing content, it is unrealistic to expect others to share your content and talk about you but you won’t do the same for them? So, plan to have a portion of your social media marketing showing content published by others. Showing you value content, articles and social conversations that are not your own will make you a social influencer.

Why Customers Buy

Customers buy solutions to problems or solutions for outcomes they need to make their business or lives better. While pricing is important it usually ranks 3 or 4 on buyer’s criteria. Too many businesses rely on the assumption in the era of digital self-education that the most important thing to a customer is price. But buyers and consumers are moving away from the traditional purchasing funnel to a more enlightened decision journey that uses the Internet to change the way they research, value and buy products. If sales and marketing plans have not changed in response to the new buyer-driven decision journey, it better start soon.

So why do customers buy?

Before we answer that, the first thing to understand is that every customer has a “decision journey”. This journey has pre-purchase and post-purchase steps. The pre-purchase journey can be described as Awareness Consider Evaluate Buy.  The post-purchase journey is Reflect Feel Decide.

In this article we will discuss the pre-purchase customer decision journey. Understanding the customer journey and its steps as to why customers buy can speed up the sales cycle improve conversation rates and drive revenue.

decision-journey

Awareness.

They say the goal of marketing is to reach potential customers within a specific market and influence their buying choices by making them aware of their brand or products. Today, buyers are so well informed and knowledgably thanks to the explosion of social media and digital channels, they can create a buyer “consider list” without the company ever having a sales conversation or contact.  Marketing has to align itself to the awareness part of the decision journey. To raise awareness companies need to focus on buyer-driven marketing of which the internet is at the core. Pushing out brochures, advertisements or media buying as part of a company-driven marketing plan is still relevant but buyer-driven marketing is about creating digital properties that pull buyers towards the company, digital properties like whitepapers, product specific informational web sites, content marketing, customisable content, free product interactions, social selling, tools to engage people on social conversations about your industry and products, comment posting and world of mouth interactions, context marketing, etc. So buyer-driven marketing is about raising awareness to buyers who are already most likely engaged on the internet for your products and services.

Consider.

This is the part of the decision journey where consumers and buyers narrow down their buying funnel and start to consider what companies, brands or products they would contemplate purchasing from or not.  Has the buyer-driven marketing plan got the business into the consideration phase of the journey? This can be measured by trigger events like web traffic, sales leads, inbound enquires, white paper downloads and via social media channels like twitter and Facebook. This is where marketing, sales, customer service have the tools to cover all the buyer touch points to make it easier for the buyer to move to the Evaluate step.

Evaluate.

This part of the decision journey is where buyers add and remove companies or brands as they further narrow (and qualify) their buying funnel. General evaluation leads on to active evaluation where information gathering, sales conversations, meetings, presentations, proposals come into the mix. Research shows during the evaluation phase buyers look for ease of use, ease of implementation, product offering and ease of connection to company (multiple touch points). This is also where buyer-driven marketing pays off as buyers now start to “pull” information from the internet, information like product reviews, white papers, and previous buyer ratings while also pulling insights into the company and product via free trials, proof of concept, face-to-face, phone or web interactions, customer references and company policies.

Buy.    

Commitment to buy. Where the buyer selects a brand to do business with and makes the decision to purchase. This is where the company ensures all steps are kept to a minimum, whether its clicks, paperwork, compliance, set-up, downloads, configuration and payment.

Smarketing – integrate all customer-facing activities

The shift in buyer-supplier selling process and the buyer decision journey means that marketers and sales leadership must adopt and view this change as an opportunity to be in the right place at the right time, giving buyers the information and support they need to make the decisions. Sales and marketing have to be one where every touch point from customer facing activities, web sites, PR, leads generation, customer awareness and sales is everyone’s responsibility.

Consider and Evaluate – connect the dots for the buyer

What the buyer is looking for during these steps is Value. If a buyer cannot see the difference between two products, then price wins. If sales and marketing do not address the customer question “How will I benefit from this product or service?” in their buyer-driven and connect the dots for the buyer then the buyer will remove the company from the decision journey or go for lowest price solution.

Remember, people buy because they have needs, a problem needing solving, a goal that needs fulfilling, a situation that needs to be remedied, something that affects their life or  business, and needs solutions.  In the Consider and Evaluate steps buyer preferences usually fit into three main categories, known as PPI:

Productivity – efficiency, ease of use, outputs

Profitability – ROI, making money, increase revenue, improve profit margin

Image – brand, style, reputation, approval, desirability (this is mainly consumers)

Buyer-driven marketing is focused on the buyer priorities with messaging on Productivity, Profitability or Image. Buyer-driven marketing also answers the question “WWFM or what is in it for me?” So why do customers buy?, most likely because a company and its people understand the customer decision journey, created an awareness link to the buyer and then sales, marketing, customer service and product working in unison took the buyer through the Consider and Evaluate steps with a systematic approach based on insights and relevant information

Marketing Plan

A marketing plan is a series of tactics that deliver agreed goals for the business

First thing for any small business to note is that marketing plans do not have to be a complicated fifty page document. Marketing plans and go-to-marketing strategies may get more advanced and complicated as a business grows but for the vast majorities of companies a simple, effective marketing plan will suffice. Do not write a marketing plan to please an investor or bank manager, write the marketing plan as your best bet to get customers interested into what you are selling.

marketing-plan

Most small businesses will usually find one key marketing tactic that produces a consistent return on investment (ROI) plus two or three secondary tactics which when added together allows the business to grow revenue. The key marketing tactic can range from trade-shows, SEO, PPC, inbound marketing, social selling to advertising. The key marketing tactic selected is the marketing foundation and it needs to be solid, deliver consistent results and removes any fear of the marketing plan failing.

Don’t panic if your business is new or it has not found one yet, please read on.

A great tip to identify what type of marketing plan is right for a business is to ask this question “What is the lifetime value in profit of a customer we sell to?”

I suggest you then assign your business into one of these three customer lifetime profit value categories

  1. Sub €200 profit
  2. Sub €2000 profit
  3. Above €2000 profit

This is important as it defines your cost of customer acquisition (what it costs a business to get a customer to buy from them) and how much a business can afford to pay for clicks, traffic and a sales lead. The business should also figure in customer churn, do not over calculate how often or how long a customer will stay loyal to a business. Depending on the business model, the marketing plan also affects cash flow, because you pay for marketing upfront with a lag over weeks or months to get an ROI on the tactics.

  1. The lifetime value (profit) of the average customer is LESS than €200.
    The products or services sold may cost €50 to €200 or higher AND as a business if you sell to that customer two, three, four times over a three year period, the profit on that customer would be less than €500. An example of this could be an online florist. A bouquet of flowers costs €55, but the customer is probably going to buy two or three times a year means the likely profit from that customer is less than €200.
  2. The lifetime value (profit) of the average customer is LESS than €2000. The vast majority of businesses fall into this category. The premise here is that the product or service costs an amount that will generate a €2k profit, OR the average customer buys more than once over a period of time with the total purchases adding up to more than €2000 profit. An example here is an online SaaS software company. The average monthly subscription is €50. That is €600 a year over three years = €1800. With a 60% profit margin this comes to €1080 for the lifetime value (profit) of the customer.
  3. The lifetime value (profit) of the average customer is ABOVE €2000.
    This category usually applies to large one of consumer purchases or a B2B sales environment. The calculation here is that the sale or number of sales over a period of time (36 months) will generate in excess of €2000 profit for the business.

So, now that you have assigned your business to category 1, 2 or 3, here is some suggested key marketing tactics as the foundation to drive the business growth.

If a business is a 1 – Referrals/Local/AdWords

The key marketing KPI here is can you generate leads/traffic/enquires for less than €1 and the cost of customer acquisition (getting a sales or purchase) is no more than €10. A simple marketing metric is the business sold to 100 customers in a month and spent €100 on marketing, so the cost per sale was €1.

Maybe distribute flyers door to door with special offers, advertise locally online with free samples, and optimise your website for local target keywords. Ask customers for referrals to add to your email marketing newsletters. Send OUT newsletters to your existing customers. Attend local events and business organisations. Find one key marketing activity that generates enough customers where it costs the business as little as possible to get a sale.

If a business is a 2 – Inbound marketing/PPC/Social Media

In this category the sales cycle could be longer or need sales intervention. The business will need to generate a high enough volume of leads to generate the ROI needed to be successful. SEO work can be critical here but this should be part of an inbound marketing tactic. The use of social networks for social selling and content marketing to influence buyers should be considered. A good email marketing solution and a resource to work on social media campaigns is probably a must. Budgets permitting, Google Ad Words will deliver the quickest bang for your marketing buck alongside social media tactics.

If a business is a 3 – Inbound marketing/PPC/Social Media/Events/Sponsorship

Depending on your market segment, where customers generate a profit north of €2000 usually involves more lead nurturing, heavier buyer influence, bigger social media reach and plans for a more guided sales cycle. I have seen companies successfully use events as their key marketing tactic even if the sales cycle and cost per lead required more investment. The biggest success tactic from a marketing activity now used in this category is content marketing. Maybe consider putting a lead generation person on social selling to generate customer interest. A business needs to invest in resourcing the writing and publishing of well executed articles and whitepapers to set the business as a thought leader in their industry. While the cost per sales lead and cost of customer acquisition can be higher, the marketing plan tactics needs to deliver more solid leads or higher qualified customers as the marketing investment in this category can seriously impact the cash flow of a smaller business.

social-media-planning

Regardless of 1, 2 or 3, the key to making a marketing plan work is to be: CONSISTENT.

Plans take time, for a plan to work it must be implemented with both the heart and the head.  Every marketing plan has to have KPI’s and metrics. Implement, stick with it and adjust where necessary. Do not adopt the “give it a whirl” approach or alter course before the data supports the decision. In a digital world, social media marketing has overtaken sales and even brands as the core business driver. The buyer-supplier relationship has moved on, fast, the marketing plan needs to address how to deliver a consistent return on investment (ROI) via a key marketing tactic plus two or three secondary tactics which when added together matches the business strategy for growth.

Business Consultant

What does a business consultant do?
A business consultant works with a company or small business to review the existing practices in the areas of sales, marketing, product or finance amongst others and then to work with the management to make recommendations for improvements. Most business consultants specialise in one or two areas of business management, such as sales. For example, a software company might hire a sales and marketing consultant to help develop its market reach or customer acquisition strategy.

business-consultant
A business consultant brings expertise, experience and knowledge to help a company improve performance metrics or key performance indicators through the thorough analysis of existing business problems. The business consultants then develop plans for improvement alongside the management team. A business may consider engaging the hire the services of a business consultant for a number of reasons, for example, to get an external view on the business, to receive objective advice and recommendations, to tap into the business consultants expertise, or even as a temporary resource to help with aspects of the business where hiring a permanent employee is not needed.

A business should expect due to the business consultants relationships with numerous markets and industries, the consultant can transfer knowledge and insights that will be beneficial to the company’s growth or profitability. A consultant may also provide organisational change assistance to up-skill existing staff, coaching to staff, business strategy development, or improvement services in a department. A business consultant usually brings methodologies, templates and frameworks to uncover the identification of opportunities and then to act as the basis for recommendations for more effective or efficient ways of performing the business task.

The term “Business Consulting” is overused and can refer to a very broad range of services. There are numerous areas of specialisation with business consulting, in the area of IT (information technology) consulting, HR (human resource) consulting, Sales (sales and business development) consulting and others, many of which overlap like marketing. Business consultants range from the large diversified consultancy companies offering multiple services right down to owner run ’boutique’ consultancies which specialise in one or a few of areas.
The work of business consultants is also becoming more popular in non-business related organisations as well. As the need for professional advice and specialised knowledge grows, other industries such as government agencies, charities, universities, and other not-for-profit agencies are now turning to consultants to uncover opportunities that have helped private industry for years.

A small business consultant such as The Bitter Business will focus on helping smaller business and growth focused companies to improve their operations in sales, marketing and go-to-market strategy. While a consultant may specialise in a specific area they usually have insights in all areas of the business functions. The overall goal of a consultant to the smaller business is to help make the business stronger through identifying opportunities, addressing problems and recommending solutions for implementation.

The practical role of a small business consultant involves communicating with management and staff, reviewing strategy and process, watching the day-to-day business activities to understand what problems exist and why they exist. The small business consultant will work with the business owner or team to create viable solutions to problems, use analysis and research to present findings to the business owner. Also the consultant should be hands on, has the business skill to work closely with all the business stakeholders and staff to gather information which will be used to assess what changes need to take place to improve business performance, improve the business results and reach set goals. Once the gathering and analysing of information is complete, the consultant may develop the actual plans for the business detailing resources, actions and programs to be put in place

Some of the common business consultant’s tasks are:

Analyse and evaluate the business strategy against competitors and within the market.

Recommend strategies and tactics to increase business opportunities.

Create action plans and identify gaps in the business model.

Identify and implement business actions.

Conduct market research and information gathering.

Document findings and then present findings together with options.

Identify business requirements, resources, partners, channels, and routes to market.

Perform sales and marketing analyses and make reports.

Drive process improvements and efficiencies in sales, business development or social marketing.

Implement plans while evaluating the business prospects, goals and objectives for growth.

A business should not wait until it has problems to engage with a business consultant, rather a small business should be proactive in using their knowledge as an external lever to uncover how to make the business better and more successful.