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.

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

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.

Business Strategy in a Digital Marketing World

The future of business is digital, so when business leaders start to formulate a business strategy they need to understand that customers, products, business operations and competitors are now digital. Is business strategy being replaced with digital strategy? And do companies have the sales and marketing skills to compete in a digital marketing world?

A business strategy of viewing digital channels or methods as tactics is no longer valid. Instead businesses should see their company as an online ecosystem that connects digital resources both internally and externally to customers in order to compete. To stay competitive a business must harness digital technologies and channels, not just to deliver sales or superior customer experience but to drive operational efficiencies across all aspects of the business.

digital-world

One big question facing business leaders today is “Is our business constructed to thrive in the digital marketplace?

Digital disruption may be the only possibility for future business success as the barriers to market entry are being blown wide open. Competitors both large and small are rushing in grab a share of the market, so every business has to have a strategy in the digital marketing landscape. Bye now, most businesses know that digital is changing the way we do business. Every business must evolve and have a digital strategy that can take advantage of new sales and marketing platforms, data tools, and digital technologies that can get a business closer to customers.

The adoption of digital channels by the markets means a business must change and ensure that agile adaptation can be delivered in all levels of the company, both strategic and tactical. A business strategy for a digital marketing world may be the only option for some companies to survive and move towards a profitable future.

The market is pulling these business changes as the markets or countries with knowledgeable populations, high standards of living and education are demanding companies face up to the challenges in the digital landscape for communication and commerce. The reality is that digital advancement and the associated challenges will accelerate rapidly in the few years. Business leaders must grasp the straw and realise that innovation, flexibility, and speed of execution will be core to thriving in a digital marketing powered world.

Regardless of B2B or B2C, buyers are now highly knowledgeable, tech savvy, and the Internet and social media is their go to source for information. Today, people communicate differently, buy through different channels and expect a different flavour of products and customer support. The result is digital is not an add-on but is a mind-set, a lifestyle, a way of doing business.

Here are some suggested digital strategy priorities.

Integrated digital strategy across the business

While business leaders see that digital is having a strong impact in the area of sales and marketing they should also review customer service, finance, supply chain and human resources. While most companies start the digital journey by adding-on social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest) they do not integrate these social tools into an integrated business strategy. While the focus on near term activities such as lead generation are positive, to fully maximise the customer experience and operational efficiencies that can contribute to a competitive advantage companies need to expand out the digital strategy to all departments.

Business model evolution

The digital channels have changed customer interactions and expectations, impacted on channels of communication and delivery has resulted in business reviewing their business models. Forward thinking companies see digital transformation as integral to their evolution. Business model evolution is used to innovate and respond to changing consumer preferences including introducing new business models, services and product offerings to drive profits

Develop partnerships

IP, technology lead and more traditional companies can benefit from developing partnerships with outsourced sales, channel partners etc.in order to compete with companies that have grown up in the digital landscape. For the companies that do not have the skill-sets in sales, marketing or social selling, nor the capacity to adopt a digital strategy, it could be more efficient and cost-effective to partner with a digital enabler in their market space or outsource it internationally.  Outsourcing a requirement such as sales via partnerships could speed up the digital strategy while a business is able to harness a partner’s strength while addressing the market challenges.

Focus on the customer experience

The digital channels have seen the rise of faster communication, social news and user generated feedback content. The ability of one to many communication platforms has meant the customer experience is now a critical element for a company to gain a competitive advantage. Relevant in both B2B and B2C companies, the focus in the marketing strategy to a customer approach for content marketing, information dispersal and updates is critical. Companies should strive to deliver excellence across all its customer touch points. A digital marketing strategy should consider what new and innovative services would enhance the customer experience.

Social media engagement

Social media or social selling driven customer engagement can be the disruption agent to drive a business forward. Digital marketing is not just a series of social media tools. While social media tools are a great vehicle to drive brand engagement, companies need to accept “business as usual” is over. The future buyers for products and services live in the digital space, and so will their suppliers. Social media engagement is part of the digital marketing strategy involving content, access channels, audience interaction and ability to influence remotely.

Digital distribution channel

Digital distribution channels need to be explored, defined and redefined as the “4P’s” of marketing are being rewritten. Can a business’s product be delivered or accessed in another way or format?  Digital distribution and ease of customer use may be directly related back to the digital acceptance of the company’s senior team and the company’s ability to execute the digital landscape as a strategic business priority to give it some competitive advantage. Across all regions and market segments of the world, digital disruption to distribution channels is here now. The growing influence of the “Internet Always” population and the impact of digital technologies on the way we conduct business requires business to rethink strategy.

Every business whether start-up or large corporate needs to have a business strategy for a digital marketing world which means to start with acknowledging the changes and then respond accordingly. Remember this phrase “When technology and society change faster than businesses are able to adapt, then the result is extinction” – Karl-Heinz Land.

Business Strategy Template

Download this business strategy template guide to assist in business planning for a start-up business or implementing a business strategy.  A business strategy is a template for business success.

Download here: Business Strategy for Growth

business planning

The success of a business strategy depends on the resources (financial, people, time) available to the business.

5 Step Planning Process

  • Imagine – what products or services
  • Dissect – data and customer feedback
  • Expand – market research and tasks
  • Analyse – results, information, investment
  • Sell – customer acquisition, marketing, sales

Sales Strategy Plan

A sales strategy is the process of matching the business purpose or mission with a sales plan, then putting in place goals, metrics and sales tactics. The sales strategy will also map out courses of action and allocating resources to achieve the selected goals and tactics.

sales-strategy

A sales strategy is really about answering the one critical question “What is the best most viable method for the business reach paying customers for the product or service? Is it sell to or sell through, direct or indirect?

Before a sales strategy addresses how the sales team will sell or, it must first address how customers are buying. Today customers are seizing the balance of power in the buyer-supplier relationship, more and more aspects of the sales process is being played out online, so companies need to structure the sales plans and resources for this new reality.

  • “57% of the purchase decision is complete before a customer even calls a supplier.” (CEB)
  • “67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.” (SiriusDecisions)

Today’s selling reality.

Potential customers or prospects will have researched a supplier based on digital reach and industry influence before a sales rep ever gets to talk to them

Sales and marketing are now one team, an integrated “Smarketing” team that functions to target and acquire customers.

Understanding customers buying behaviour define the product offerings.

To sell more and win market share a business needs to offer more seamless customer service touch points through lower cost channels

Vanilla flavoured selling will disappear, sales teams need to be specialised, social enabled and multi-channel savvy.

Sales reps have to work at adding value in the sales process rather than just quote features and benefits.

Sales complexity and the sales process needs to be minimised to ensure selling costs are controlled in a tighter margin environment.

The key Sales Strategy Questions.

Asking and answering a series of sales strategy questions will help a business identify and take advantage of the best opportunities to sell better and more often. Also Sales leaders who acknowledge the new selling reality need to know how to answer questions like:

  • Does the business have a market development lead strategy (selling more of same product to same/new customers) or a product development strategy (selling new products to same/new customers)?
  • Who is the business selling to? Does it know which market segments have the best growth rates?
  • What is the most effective means of reaching target customers and what is the cost in taking this route?
  • How does marketing and sales share the workload and collaborate?
  • How does the business equip the sellers (direct, indirect, partners) with the right content, expertise and skills to navigate the customers’ buying journey and then differentiate the business value proposition?
  • Does the business collect and analyse data to forecast which products customers are likely to buy or trends developing?
  • What is the most effective sales and distribution model?

“To compete in today’s customer educated world, companies got to have something different. The product must higher quality, easier to use, more convenient to buy, or a better fit than the competition.”

Sales Strategy Selection.

The sales strategy selection should cover what is the customer sweet spot, what are you offering them, sales deployment for customer coverage based on customer sweet spot, sales and marketing activities, what sales and marketing enables/tools will the business use, how you will manage and track performance against the goals.

  1. The target market. This is the customer selection, customer sweet spots where the sales and marketing focus will be.

Give it some detail. Once the target market has been defined, give it some detail. How big is it, profile of customers, buying preferences then create a hit list. The hit list should be number and data driven, do you have 100 or 1000 or 10,000 prospects on the list.

  1. Reaching the target market. What is the primary reach method or put another way “what is your customer acquisition plan”, is it on-line, social media, cold calling, partners, channel or networking?

Regardless of the method to reach paying customers, reaching the target audience takes “Smarketing”, sales and marketing working together on tactics like content marketing, social selling, industry influence, thought leadership, blogs, and whitepapers, audience reach on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn etc.  Effective sales strategy using Smarketing means a business drives marketing qualified leads (MQL) and sales-qualified leads (SQL) into one sales funnel, then measures, monitors and ensures follow up on the leads generated for the business.

A business needs to map out the sales cycle and sales process. This is all about getting the sales team selling. The “Smarketing” effort should have a target of generating leads via inbound marketing, landing pages, request for information, social selling on LinkedIn and other social media sites, cold calling or field visits.

  1. Customer Nurturing. The sales process should be void of any unnecessary complexity or obstacles in customer interaction. The sales process has to include social selling, where the sales team gets engaged with social selling to the prospects. This stage is where prospective buyers are sourcing, digesting and reviewing information and content. A recent report by Act-On showed that 85% of Business-to-Business buyers said it takes three or more pieces of relevant content to help make a decision on progressing with a supplier. So, a business can lead nurture by influencing the buyer to take action by feeding them with relevant content on their terms or personalised preference.

Make sure the sales teams are delivering on what the marketing message promoted. Vanilla feature and benefit selling is gone, train the sales team to be industry experts, build the customer relationship. Don’t expect them to stay with you or use you for other needs if you are not taking the time to build a relationship with them. The sales process does not end with the sale.

  1. Collect and Analyse Data. This is one of the most critical aspects of a successful sales strategy. As a business moves forward with the sales plan it must collect, track and analyse how well the sales tactics, product offerings or pricing is working. Every sales rep to sales leader should be asking these questions:
  • How did it go?
  • What worked?
  • What didn’t work?
  • Did we hit the numbers?

Collecting the data gives the insights as to what works and what does not so a business can tweak the sales process.

So to recap, the Sales Strategy should cover:

Target Customer Profile – Customer Segmentation – Sales /Distribution Model – Sales Process Definition (i.e. Sales Cycle) – Sales Funnel Calculation – Pricing Strategy – Upselling and Cross selling Strategy

The actual Sales Plan Components should include:

Sales Materials – Content Materials – Sales Team – Smarketing, Sales Pipeline – Customer Nurturing and Channelling – Sales Cycle – Closing Techniques – Sales Forecast – Timeline – Budget

The challenge for sales leaders today is to better execute on their sales strategy. Buyers and business even consumers are going through changes in what they buy, how they buy, and what they are willing to pay for it. As buyers change how they buy, vendors need to change how they sell. The way a business sold its products or services is not going to cut it in the future. Sales strategies need to be nimble, social driven and customer lead. Now is the time to revisit and revise the sales strategy.

Digital Marketing Strategy

Any Irish company with growth ambitions needs to have a digital marketing strategy in order to take advantage of the growing opportunities for sales, inbound lead generation, traffic and customers that digital marketing can generate.

The internet is changing the buyer –supplier relationship, today businesses have to know that attention is a currency and social media generates lots of noise so it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract the eyes and ears of the companies target market. Small companies can compete with larger companies but larger companies have well-funded marketing departments, a business is also competing with social media itself for information dispersal and a multitude of social networks are trying to get the attention of the same prospects or traffic.

digital-marketing-plan

So digital marketing has to have a strategy, a well thought out strategy which must support the overall business strategy; in fact a company’s digital marketing strategy may be the engine that powers the sales strategy. Ask the question, “what is our digital marketing strategy based on?” is it customer growth, new product promotion, market penetration or market development? Digital marketing and social media channels continues to expand and influence the buying choices of consumers and business so it is vital that every business learns how to succeed in the online world. In some recent reports published into digital marketing, a lack of effective strategies remains the most significant obstacle to succeeding in digital marketing. In fact, a survey of digital marketing managers showed that over 51 percent of them believed that a lack of connection to business strategy prevented them from achieving the digital marketing goals set out.

A well thought out digital marketing strategy will help a brand or business reach digitally engaged audiences, build deep customer relationships, and create new markets, products, or even redefine the business model.

Planning and executing a digital marketing strategy is essential to out-thinking the competition. In the online world the ability of a business to thrive could well be directly related to how well the business is able to maximise digital media channels. Social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Tumblr or Twitter or keyword searches on Google means it is possible for consumers or potential customers to interact on a truly global scale. Buying channels and behaviours are changing, the sales process and customer acquisition tactics are being redefined which means regardless of the business size or industry, it is critical that a business learns how to tap into the power interacting and engaging customers online.

The number of digital marketing choices can seem confusing, companies can confuse digital marketing tools with digital marketing channels, what is social posting versus SEO, what has content marketing to do with marketing automation? As a result, it can be difficult to determine where to start. Without a clear digital marketing strategy the temptation by a business, particularly small businesses are to try and do it all. Get a video created and post it on YouTube, plug a few promotions on Twitter and Facebook, join lots of groups on LinkedIn, the list can go on and on. Some businesses even use a specific team to handle a social media channel.

The reality is, without the right digital marketing strategy, a business is simply wasting resources and time, even losing ground to competitors. Much the same as any business planning process, the key is to understand the business mission and vision, then get agreement on the overall business strategy roadmap, next develop an understanding of the customer base, what goals the business wants digital marketing efforts to achieve, then selecting a digital marketing strategy that will help you to reach both your target audience and goals. For instance, if the strategy is market penetration or development then the strategy is to reach new customers or if it’s a product development strategy then the strategy is to focus on launching a new product or service.

The point is, without a solid strategy, it is not possible to determine whether the digital marketing tools a business has invested in will actually help meet the goals that have been set.

There is allot of technology hype around tools, social media monitoring, digital marketing courses, SEO submission etc. so thread carefully as the easy option can be to simply jump in on the latest digital marketing buzz word  which may or may not help a business’s digital marketing strategy.

Developing a successful digital marketing strategy is as simple as:

  1. Understand the business mission
  2. What is the overall business strategy
  3. Identifying the target audience.
  4. Developing SMART business goals.
  5. Selecting a strategy for meeting those goals.
  6. Implementing actions and activities for the strategy
  7. Monitor, review and adjust the chosen strategy.

Start out thinking your competitors, develop a digital marketing strategy that can be resourced and has clear ROI. To bring the point home, MarketingProfs reports that 69 percent of senior marketers in large companies expect an increase in digital spend. The time to get digital marketing right is now as digital marketing will impact on a business’s customer acquisition, sales, product development and maybe ultimately business success.

Business Plan for Growth

Devising a Business Plan and Strategy for Growth

Business plan and implementing a business strategy is more than simply achieving business goals. It inspires people to work hard, makes the team feel part of a purpose; it incites actions and ensures that activities happen. Simply constructed, effectively executed, a business strategy is a template for business success.

  1. Take Time to Think

A business needs strategic thinking before any strategic planning. Maybe the biggest strategic obstacle to any business is if they can out think their competitors.

“If today was the last day of your life, would you do what you are about to do today” Steve Jobs

  1. Ask and Answer Key Business Questions
  • The purpose of the business
  • Strength of the team
  • Current effectiveness
  • Financial resources of the company
  • Target market trends
  • Current market position
  1. Know the Business Why
  • Real planning and growth strategies are founded on “Business Purpose”
  • Vision: where the business is going in the long-term
  • Mission: the business purpose and reason WHY for existing
  • Values: Who and what the business stands for
  1. Business Mission
  • Think about the Business Mission
  • The business mission concentrates on the here and now. A mission statement defines the fundamental purpose of any business. It identifies who the company is, what it does, and who it serves.
  1. Why do Business Planning?

A business plan gives a business options, it can Die Quickly, Die slowly, survive or thrive. Doing nothing is not an option; a no business plan is the weakest plan of all.

 business-planning

  1. A business strategy to Thrive
  1. Start with goals – what do I want out of this business?
  2. Create a vision of what the business needs to look like in order to accomplish your goals.
  3. Create a business mission to guide you along the way.
  4. Develop strategies to get you from where you are now to where you want to be in the future. Strategies require investments – which mean budgets, resources and timelines.
  1. What is strategic business planning?

Strategic planning is the process of determining the primary business purpose (the “WHY”), putting in place goals and tactics, then adopting courses of action and allocating resources to achieve the selected goals and tactics.

What causes business success?

  • Has history shown us that the No.1 business killer is lack of market?
  • When a great business team meets a stagnant market, market wins. When an average business team meets a great market, market wins. But when a great business team meets a great market, then something really special happens.
  1. Ideal Growth Plan
  • Desirable products or Services
  • Big enough market
  • An economical way to target and serve it.
  • Note: Product quality will not create market size; Steve Jobs learned that lesson with his NeXT business.

business strategy options

  • Market Penetration – selling more of the same things to more of the same customers
  • Market Development – selling more of the same things to different customers
  • Product Development – selling new products or services to the same customers
  • Diversification – selling new products or services to different customers

Market penetration

Market penetration is the name given to a growth strategy where the business focuses on selling existing products into existing markets.

Market penetration seeks to achieve four main objectives:

  • Maintain or increase the market share of current products – this can be achieved by a combination of competitive pricing strategies, advertising, sales promotion and perhaps more resources dedicated to personal selling
  • Secure dominance of growth markets
  • Restructure a mature market by driving out competitors; this would require a much more aggressive promotional campaign, supported by a pricing strategy designed to make the market unattractive for competitors
  • Increase usage by existing customers – for example by introducing loyalty schemes

A market penetration marketing strategy is very much about “business as usual”. The business is focusing on markets and products it knows well. It is likely to have good information on competitors and on customer needs. It is unlikely, therefore, that this strategy will require much investment in new market research.

Market development

Market development is the name given to a growth strategy where the business seeks to sell its existing products into new markets.

There are many possible ways of approaching this strategy, including:

  • New geographical markets; for example exporting the product to a new country
  • New product dimensions or packaging: for example
  • New distribution channels (e.g. moving from selling via retail to selling using e-commerce and mail order)
  • Different pricing policies to attract different customers or create new market segments

Market development is a more risky strategy than market penetration because of the targeting of new markets.

Product development

Product development is the name given to a growth strategy where a business aims to introduce new products into existing markets. This strategy may require the development of new competencies and requires the business to develop modified products which can appeal to existing markets.

A strategy of product development is particularly suitable for a business where the product needs to be differentiated in order to remain competitive.  A successful product development strategy places the marketing emphasis on:

  • Research & development and innovation
  • Detailed insights into customer needs (and how they change)
  • Being first to market

Diversification

Diversification is the name given to the growth strategy where a business markets new products in new markets.

This is an inherently more risk strategy because the business is moving into markets in which it has little or no experience.

For a business to adopt a diversification strategy, therefore, it must have a clear idea about what it expects to gain from the strategy and an honest assessment of the risks.  However, for the right balance between risk and reward, a marketing strategy of diversification can be highly rewarding.

  1. All Business Plans need Resources

Money – to fund cash flow, product, materials and resources

Information – Market and product research, market trends, market size, customer profiling, customer acquisition

People – The team needed to facilitate the growth plan, to execute the plan, to manage the costs

The success of a business strategy depends on the resources available to thee business. A good tip is to follow this 5 Step Planning Process

  • Imagine – what products or services
  • Dissect – data and customer feedback
  • Expand – market research and tasks
  • Analyse – results, information, investment
  • Sell – customer acquisition, marketing, sales

Every business should develop a “strategic hypothesis” and test it out making very small bets. Try to sell the idea to a customer before it’s built, look for a supplier, and ask a mentor or advisor who has some expertise in the new area.

10. People don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan

A business plan for growth should be grounded in your Business Purpose, Mission and Core Values, a solid business strategy will help you develop a plan of action and maximise your likelihood of success in achieving your vision.

 

Business Mission- Know why you exist

Why does a business exist? Every business needs a mission and a purpose. We know the overarching purpose of any business is to acquire, develop and maintain customers at a profit however any business must fundamentally know why they exist so the effort, work and emotional investment has a real meaning to all stakeholders.

Is there too little “know why” in business? Businesses with a purpose are usually led by a person with a purpose.

vision-mission

Business vision and business mission should not be confused, business vision is about imagining the future shape of the enterprise, the business mission is about the here and now, it defines the reason the business exists and its purpose. A business mission is about personalising who the company is, what it does, and who it serves.

Writing a business mission statement should be done in consideration with the business vision and values.

  • Vision: where the business is going in the long-term
  • Mission: the business purpose and reason WHY for existing
  • Values: Who and what the business stands for

“The business person who knows How will always have a job, the business person who knows Why will always be boss”

Business mission statements means there is a primary purpose behind the business or organisation. This primary purpose is the why the business exists and about putting the business on the right course for success. The business mission must be in the DNA of the business, in everything the business does, every action the business takes, every product it manufactures, every service it provides, every communication it issues, every transaction it conducts, and how the business conducts itself.

Without a business mission, the business is a ship adrift on a dark ocean, so when the going gets tough, the business has no compass, no reference points, no why does it exists, no purpose. The lack of a business mission will impact business growth, sales and customer focus.

In the business book Purpose, by Nikos Mourkogiannis, It describes four kinds of business purpose, “starting points” that govern what great companies do and how they do it. Each of these purposes represents a kind of “holy grail” as opposed to business goals (usually more financial based), missions or visions, or even a set of values. As Mourkogiannis puts it, “Let others play with ‘strategy’ and ‘tactics’ and ‘management.’ Purpose is the game of champions.”

According to this theory, true business purpose can be found in: (1)discovery, the challenge of adventure and innovation characterized by dot-com entrepreneurs willing to work 24/7 in search of the new or unknown, (2) excellence, in which high standards are not compromised for short-term performance (as with Berkshire Hathaway and Warren Buffett), (3) altruism, where the primary purpose is to serve (customers, employees, etc.) first and assume that profit will follow (as at Nordstrom), and (4) heroism, typically involving grand plans to change entire industries or even the way we live (Bill Gates and Microsoft).

vision-mission-values

The argument is that only one of these business purposes, if pursued rigorously and successfully, is required for success.

Every business mission is unique and individual to that business and listed below is a typical list it should cover:

  • The purpose and aim of the business (i.e., a definition of what the  company is and does)
  • The products and/or services the business offers
  • What the company aspires to be
  • What features/characteristics distinguish this business from its competitors
  • The businesses values, purpose and visionary goals

Creating a personalised mission statement for a business is not some exercise done in isolation, the mission statement must reflect the business’s core principles, connected to what the business stands for, it must be seen in the profile of the people the business hires and defines the culture the business is working to create. A mission statement binds the people in the company to make an impact on success of the business because everyone in the business understands and lives by the mission.

The primary purpose of why the business exists can be built around why and how the business serves everyone who interacts with it, in whatever way, and for whatever reason, at the very highest level of attention and quality the business can deliver.

A true, living business mission is about the business attributes that will draw customers centred on VALUE and RESULT. The values and results the business will deliver to the market or industry, and through, or as a result of the product or service being offered.

A good starting point on why a business exists is to look at its Values, Vision and Mission.

Values
Business or Organisation values identify the principles and ethics by which the entity on and its people conduct themselves and their activities.

Vision
Business vision is about the future, an aspirational description of the desired achievements of a business. A business vision asks – ‘Where is the business going?’ or ‘What will the business look like when we get there?’

Mission
As stated earlier, vision focuses on the future; the business mission concentrates on the here and now. A mission statement defines the fundamental purpose of any business. It identifies who the organisation is, what it does, and who it serves.
Where a business vision statement is aspirational, a mission statement is more practical. The mission statement should communicate, in an easily understandable manner, what the organisation does and possibly for whom.

Know Your Business “Why”

“Why does my company exist?”

In Peter Drucker’s book, The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask about Your Organization, Mr. Drucker writes “A mission cannot be impersonal; it has to have deep meaning, be something you believe in — something you know is right. A fundamental responsibility of leadership is to make sure that everybody knows the mission, understands it and lives it.”

Here are some examples of business mission statements:

Google: Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Apple: Bringing the best personal computing experience to consumers around the world.

Facebook: Give the people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.

Netflix: To revolutionize the way people watch movies.

The business purpose is the most powerful tool a business can have when it comes to attracting and inspiring the best people or talent, focuses the businesses activities and guiding strategic plans.

Sales Strategy – Marketing Services – Sales Consultant – Social Selling – Inbound Marketing – Lead Generation

I'm always available to have a chat on your business plans and any challenges in lead generation, social selling, marketing or sales.