Most business owners would agree that maintaining or increasing sales is a vital need for their business. It's a common misconception, but many businesses tend to think of increasing sales only when things get slow. There are, however, many other reasons to increase revenue aside from simply compensating for a sluggish economy or seasonal downturns. Growth objectives and profit goals will typically require increased revenue which must come from increased sales. But whatever your motivation, the challenge lies in how to make it happen effectively and strategically — and quickly!
Strategic spaghetti slinging
A business owner once remarked to a colleague that he'd just engaged in some marketing, hoping to boost sales. He told his colleague that what he had done was send postcards to names on a rented list. The colleague then remarked, “Actually, what you did was commit a random act of lead generation.”
In other words, his effort to generate sales did not actually constitute marketing, which EMyth defines as the research and analysis of customers and the formulation of strategies and tactics that will generate leads. Instead, the business owner simply tried out a lead generation tactic that may or may not have resulted in some leads which may or may not have been converted to new customers.
There is a term in advertising spaghetti marketing used to describe the random spending of marketing dollars in an unorganized, unplanned way. The slang term is derived from cooking spaghetti where one will "throw spaghetti against the wall to see if it sticks," and although this method may result in some sales, the problem inherent in this approach is that no business has a bottomless pot of spaghetti! The effectiveness of this random, trial-and-error method is highly questionable, both in terms of cost and actual sales generated. A small business owner is limited as to how many unsuccessful sales tactics can be attempted.
Have a plan and work it
So what is the answer? The reality is that marketing and sales are probably as much an art as a science. This means that some well-planned strategies and tactics may not be as successful as expected. So other methods and tactics need to be tried, often simultaneously, in order to find the methods and tactics that result in sales. This could be seen as strategic “spaghetti slinging” — a planned and strategic effort to generate sales with the expectation that not everything may work as planned. Yet the need for a strategic marketing plan still exists. The beauty of this approach is that it minimizes both risk and cost while maximizing potential for success.
Getting them to buy
Although there are probably hundreds of lead generating tactics, or activities, for every business and every industry, we have provided a few that have been proven to work — and will again:
- Promote and host a live seminar or virtual webinar. If you are willing to speak before an audience, you can use this approach to position your business as a trusted resource and yourself as an authority in your particular field. The key with a seminar is to not “sell” your business, service, or product, but to provide valuable information for your customers and prospective customers. The result will be appreciative participants, increased awareness and favorable perceptions of your business, and potential sales as a result. One of our clients initially used this approach to provide much needed education for her clients and prospective clients who attended her seminar. Her first event was not only highly successful and well received, but she obtained a number of unsolicited requests for her services as a result!
- Reach out and re-connect. Many small businesses have a customer base that can provide a profitable source of either repeat business or referrals for qualified leads. An EMyth client recently took a print-out of his client database and conducted a two-week long phone calling campaign. His stated purpose was to simply check in with his previous customers, re-acquaint himself, and ask how they were doing. This simple act of targeted networking netted him a dozen requests for quotes on new business and quite a few purchase orders.
- Make your customers VIPs. Almost any business type can create an incentive program that encourages more business. One business we know of created a VIP club for customers that combines discount incentives with promoting referrals. Select customers were invited to become “VIP” members and given an initial, one-time discount on their next purchase. They were also given custom cards printed with the customer’s name to be given to friends, family and acquaintances who might come to the store. The cards served to identify the new customers as referrals and which VIP customer had made the referral. The VIP member received additional incentives with every referral who made purchases and the new customers were offered a VIP membership. The results were both immediate and ongoing!
There must be a method to the tactics
The real key to generating more sales is to continually focus on your customer’s needs, wants, and desires — and to always look for new and different ways to make your product offering meet your customer's where they are. It may be a cliché, but this is where “thinking outside the box” is truly a benefit.
How well you know your most probable customers — your target market — can make or break your sales efforts. And that's why marketing is so important. A healthy amount of research and planning at the beginning of your sales cycle will save you time, money and headaches - and increase your potential for success.