Friday, April 29, 2016

5 steps to creating a marketing plan for your business

By David Ronald

Every entrepreneur knows that a business plan is a prerequisite when starting a company. Many entrepreneurs, however, don’t realize that a marketing plan is just as vital.

A marketing plan describes what you will sell, who you want to buy it, how much you will sell it for and how you will bring it to market. A good marketing plan describes the tools and tactics you will utilize to achieve your sales goals.

In this blog post I will examine five key steps to creating a marketing plan that will work for your company.

1. Describe your company's situation
No matter your industry, from big data to fintech to internet of things, positioning your product or service effectively requires an understanding of your niche market. Not only do you need to be able to describe what you market, but you must also have a clear understanding of what your competitors are offering and be able to show how your product or service provides a better value.

Make your situation analysis a succinct overview of your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

To determine your company’s strengths, consider the ways that its products are superior to others. What do you offer that gives your business a competitive advantage? Weaknesses, on the other hand, can be anything from operating in a highly saturated market to lack of experienced staff members.

Next, describe any external opportunities you can capitalize on, such as an expanding market for your product. Don’t forget to include any external threats to your company’s ability to gain market share so that succeeding sections of your plan can detail the ways you’ll overcome those threats.

2. Describe your target audience
Developing a profile of your prospective customer is your next step.

If you’re a B2B company, you may define your target audience based on their type of business, job title, size of business, geographic location or any other characteristics that make them possible prospects. No matter who your target audience is, be sure to narrowly define them in this section, because it will be your guide as you plan your media and public relations campaigns.

If you are a B2C company, you can describe prospects in terms of demographics—age, earnings, geographic location, in addition to lifestyle. Ask yourself the following: Are my customers conservative or innovative? Leaders or followers? Timid or aggressive? Traditional or modern? Introverted or extroverted? How often do they purchase what I’m selling? In what quantities?

3. Describe your marketing goals
What do you want your marketing plan to achieve? For example, are you hoping for a 20 percent increase in sales of your product per quarter? Write down a short list of goals—make them measurable so that you’ll know when you’ve achieved them.

4. Define your marketing budget
You’ll need to devote a percentage of projected gross sales to your annual marketing budget. Of course, when starting a business, this may mean using newly acquired funding, borrowing or self-financing. Just bear this in mind—marketing is absolutely essential to the success of your business. And with so many different kinds of tactics available for reaching out to every conceivable audience niche, there’s a mix to fit even the tightest budget.

5. Develop your marketing tactics
Your tactics are the actions you need to take to help you reach your target market and accomplish your goals. These include specifics such as direct mail, email marketing, print/radio/online advertising, blogs, social media, case studies, webinars, events, sponsorships and so on.

Never rely on one tactic alone. An integrated approach that delivers a consistent message across multiple, targeted platforms is the best way to ensure you reach your target market and get the most out of your budget. Refer back to who it is you are trying to reach, where they are, and what you want them to do.

Above all, be flexible. Track results and adjust your tactics and messaging as you go. I’ve seen many campaigns start out with one message and close out with a completely different one. Try out new email subject lines, test social media messages, and keep a close eye on what works and what doesn’t.

By applying steps 1-5 you will develop a powerful marketing plan that will help you grow revenues.

Thanks for reading. Do you agree with everything on this list?

Did we leave anything off?

Friday, April 22, 2016

6 word-of-mouth marketing tips for every entrepreneur

By David Ronald

Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most effective ways to promote your business.

How do you do leverage word-of-mouth marketing? Keep in mind that word-of-mouth starts with your brand narrative—that’s the story you give your customers to tell on your behalf, based on their experiences of your product and company.

(Click here to read our white paper on word-of-mouth marketing: 

It’s a collaborative effort. You create a new version with each customer and each experience they have with you. They bring their story (their needs, the solution they want, their expectations, their frustrations). And you bring your story (your employees, the solution you provide, your expertise, your partners). The two stories meld, or don’t, each time you two meet.
Here’s a list of some, not all, the things you can do to create word-of-mouth for your business. And do it consistently.

1. Survey your customers. Find out if your customers would recommend you to colleagues and friends and, if so what they would say. Find out what your customers like, and what they dislike, about you. Are you generating Net Promoters or Net Detractors? You should find that out before you create a word-of-mouth campaign that will accelerate the spread of your story.

2. Do more of what they like. Your survey will tell you why and when and where they recommend you to their friends and colleagues. Do more of that which inspires them to tell more. And stop doing what makes them unhappy.

3. Ask your employees. Create a similar survey for employees. That will tell you why and when and where they recommend you to their friends. Do more of the things that impress them and stop don’t the things that are demotivate them. Ask you employee about the tools and resources they need, and then find better tools and resources. Your employees write your brand story every day. Help me make it a best-seller.

4. Motivate your employees with incentives that matter to them.
Ask them what is meaningful—you may be surprised at what and how little it will cost, and how important that incentive is to their life. Then make it possible for them to achieve those incentives.

5. Use social media yourself. The operative word is yourself. Oh sure, it’s awkward and you may mistakes. There is, however, no message more unique and genuine than the voice of a CEO in their own blog, in their own writing. Consider writing your own blog, if time allows.

Or use Twitter. Join the millions of people who’ve looked like fools at least once in their life. It’s a party. And join them as they connect with millions of customers, prospects, partners, vendors, ideas, innovators solutions.

6. Know your community. What do they need? What solutions are they looking for? Find and deliver. Be a part of their lives.

These things, and more, form your story. Finish this list first. Then look at the story you’ve written. And if you consistently pursue and execute them, your story can be consistent.

Then see if you need outside help to accelerate the spread of your story through the mouths and communities of your customers. And employees.

There’s more, but this is a good start.

Let us know what you do to create word-of-mouth for your business.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, April 15, 2016

6 demand generation tips for your business

By David Ronald

Successful demand generation requires a strategy. Not just any strategy, of course, but one based on a metrics and processes.

In this blog post I offer some ideas on how to develop a data-centric demand generation strategy that works.

1. Buyer-centricity—strive to understand buyer prospects both in terms of their role as individuals and also in terms of their part in the collective buying process. A useful exercise is to develop personas that represent each buyer and include the influence vectors that inform the relationships between personas within the context of the buying cycle. It is then possible to structure the conversation threads that will inform the content strategy.

2. Content—“content is king” is only useful within the context and planning that make content relevant to the audience. Within the context of a demand generation strategy, this translates first into understanding the content consumption patterns of the target audience. Where do prospects consume information and at what stages of the buying cycle: search, social, peers, analysts? This understanding leads to content strategies with specific assets and media vehicles that are relevant and timely.

3. Research—reach out to current customers, including detractors and advocates, and interview them. Ask them about their influencers, buying processes, decision-making processes and so on. And you can also ask your salespeople the same about their customers to get additional insights.

4. Lead nurturing—with an understanding of the audience, relevant dialogue threads and business processes, and a content strategy in place, lead nurturing then comes into play. The process of building programs that successfully marry insights and operations is both an art and a science. The key success factors include the length, depth, and breadth of the content being offered; the logic that determines how a prospect moves through the buying cycle; the cadence of offerings; and, perhaps most important, whether the program is perpetual.

5. Analytics and optimization—analysis of the data gleaned from marketing efforts can provide real value to validate, refine, or change a demand generation strategy completely. Segmentation and testing are two examples. Consistent, results-oriented optimization of demand generation programs is a key factor in extracting the greatest possible value from them.

6. Sales readiness—work with your sales reps to develop frameworks that help them have relevant, highly targeted conversations with qualified prospects. The insights gleaned from the proceeding items on this list should also be made available to your sales team to use as part of these conversations.

Thanks for reading. Do you agree with everything on this list?

Did we leave anything off?

Leave us a comment or question.

Friday, April 8, 2016

7 sales enablement tips for every entrepreneur

By David Ronald

Some business people think that sales enablement is simply sales training.

It’s a common misperception that can lead to millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours wasted. Instead, sales enablement is about getting the right content into the hands of the right reps, at the right time through the right channel. It sounds easy, but it’s not.

(Click here to read our white paper on sales enablement:

Here are 9 tips that will help ensure that your sales reps are being supported by an effective sales enablement strategy.

1. Develop impactful sales collateral

An effective library of sales collateral includes crafting content that is relevant to specific buyer personas at each stage of the buying process. Avoid the mistake, for example, of talking “speeds and feeds” to someone in finance, or profit and loss to someone in engineering. Identify your key buying personas, understand their business issues and create content relevant to each one.

2. Create great sales playbooks

The role of a sales book is, essentially, to guide your sales reps through every interaction with buyer at the moment, from the first contact to the sales close (and beyond, if your business model includes seizing post-sales opportunities). Spend time developing playbooks and update them frequently as your interaction with prospects expands—learn from your failures and your success. And look upon the time you spend developing playbooks as an investment, not a chore.

3. Provide frequent training

Be sure to identify the necessary competencies, skills and knowledge that your sales team needs to be successful. And keep in mind that continuous education should be provided to all reps at all levels of your sales organization. Develop a blend of internally-led training and consultant-led programs that enable you to offer both the relevancy and inspiration that your sales team will benefit from.

4. Introduce a certification program

The purpose of a sales certification program is to identify gaps in the abilities of your sales reps so you know where to focus coaching and training. Develop a program that educates and reinforces key learnings. Provide incentives, hard and soft, that motivate your reps to strive for the next level of certification.

5. Leverage gamification concepts

The concept behind gamification is to apply game design techniques to engaging and motivating people to achieve their goals. Gamification can, therefore, play a huge role in increasing sales productivity—spiffs, stack ranking, and president's club trips have been widely used because salespeople respond to friendly competition, visibility, and recognition. Identify additional fun contests to incentivize to your sales reps.

6. Coach constantly

Coaching is about supporting your sales team, especially the junior reps, throughout the sales process. Coaching differs from training by being the rhythm which allows for constant reinforcement of best practices and remedy of poor ones.

7. Collect and act on data

It’s crucial to measure as many performance indicators as possible. For example, track how many opportunities are in the pipeline, how the pipeline to quota ratio is changing and your revenue run rates. The more you data you collect and analyze, the better informed you’ll be— and the more information you have, the high the probability that the decisions you make concerning sales strategy will be the right ones.

Thanks for reading. Do you agree with everything on this list?

Did we leave anything off?

Leave us a comment or question.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Advice on creating your unique selling proposition

By David Ronald

Your unique selling proposition, or USP, is that one special difference that sets your product or business apart from everyone else.

How do you determine your unique selling proposition?

Begin by identifying what is distinct about your business, why that is important, and what it means for potential customers?

What you are looking for is a unique selling proposition that a buyer can immediately grasp, understand and appreciate. If you can boil it down to a single sentence, that is even better. Then, if you want to be like the great businesses, you will begin to build all future marketing and advertising efforts around this core idea, you will teach it to your employees, and you will all begin to live it.

If you think about those businesses that have a very identifiable USP, you will notice that it is in fact a large part of their success. The USP is a reason for consumers to frequent a business, a catchphrase, and a distinctive hook for the business to hang their hat on, all rolled into one:
  • “Avis—We Try Harder”
  • “You’re in good hands with Allstate”
  • “Federal Express: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”
Interestingly, surprisingly even, most small businesses do not have a USP. They are just out there, doing their thing, selling their stuff, and never really distinguishing themselves in the market place. Maybe they succeed or maybe they do not, but if they do, it might be because they have a good location, or the owner has some great contacts, or some other factor, but often it is not because they offer something unique and distinct to the consumer.

That’s a shame, because in this overly-crowded marketplace, without offering potential customers something different and distinctive, without letting them know you can solve their problem, you will fail to stand out, and if you don’t stand out, success is very hard to come by.

You begin to create a USP by looking at the market and finding a need that either you successfully fulfil already, or which is unfilled but can be fulfilled by your business.

To create a great USP, consider these questions:
  • What characteristics of your business are unique?
  • Of these, which are most important to your customers and potential customers?
  • What gaps are there in the marketplace that your business is uniquely qualified to fill?
  • Of all of these, which can be most easily communicated?
Once you have decided which traits make your business unique, and what the market is looking for, boil the idea down to a paragraph or two. This will not be easy, but that’s okay. Write it and re-write it. Take the idea down to its core. If you cannot state what it is about your business that is unique and different, how do you expect your customers to ever know it? To be truly effective, your USP must create value in the mind of customers.

Think about FedEx again. Its USP combines what it does with what customers needed. That’s the gold standard.

By re-focusing your business on your USP, you can inject it with new life and energy. You know what the customer wants and you have positioned yourself to uniquely fill that need. You will not appeal to everyone, but to those that need what your USP offers, you should appear indispensable.

Indispensable – It has a nice ring, doesn’t it?

Thanks for reading.

Leave us a comment and let us know what you think about this post.