How is it that some companies grow and thrive, yet other companies stagnate or struggle to increase by much more than the rate of inflation?
Survival of the fittest is just as true in the business world as it is in nature. If you aren’t growing, you’re dying. Most, small and medium sized businesses, after an initial growth spurt, level out. Inevitably, they then begin to shrink and many will eventually disappear, never realising the plans of their founder/owner. So why do some businesses grow rapidly and scale-up to become sustainable, long-term successes? And how can you emulate them?
You can’t survive on your current customers
If you rely on your current customers, you will eventually go out of business. Customers change and reorganise, have mergers and acquisitions and for many other reasons go elsewhere. So you need a strategy to replace them just to stand still, and referrals and networking usually only provide enough leads and orders to survive and replace your lost customers but rarely do they provide enough to grow. If your plan is to grow, then you need to generate more.
However, small business owners are busy people wearing many hats from accounts, and janitor to delivery and sales, with no time to spare, so they tend to rely on networking and referrals – which is not enough.
The problem with networking
Networking is a very slow burn and it’s time consuming, with no guarantee of success. Waiting for referrals is also slow and generally fairly passive. Relying on both methods to generate leads will only replace lost customers, sustaining but not growing a business.
From my own experience I have a good network, but it took time to build up and, while it sustains my business, it was never going to build what I want.
B2B versus B2C
In this white paper I’m focusing on effective marketing to grow B2B businesses. That’s our historical specialisation and although we do a lot of B2C sales, it requires many different strategies and that’s for another blog.
However, both models, require effort, planning and investment in time and money. There are no shortcuts.
The four elements for growing a company successfully and consistently:
- Value proposition. Decide what you offer and the problem you solve for your customers. Look at your services critically and don’t believe your own propaganda. Make sure your product isn’t a problem looking for a solution. Make sure it solves real world problems for your customers that they want and need solving, and will pay good money for.
- Target market. “Everybody” is not a target, it’s a shotgun approach that means you sell to nobody. People pay for specialists, not generalists, so target a niche market. Don’t worry about the people you might exclude from your marketing; you probably weren’t going to manage to sell to them anyway.
- Compelling message. Having identified a customer problem and developed a good solution, now agree the compelling messages you’re going to put out. They must be clear and concise and explain:
- Why buy, (what will your solution deliver for your customers?)
- Why now, (why is it important to them to solve the problem(s) now?) and
- Why you. (what is special about you? What is your point of differentiation?)
Without an answer to all three questions, why would someone buy?
Too many businesses don’t explain what they do. Be specific and spell it out – but be concise. I hate straplines like: “We provide flexible solutions that solve our customers problems.” It says nothing. It neither states the problem or the solution.
Once you have developed COMPELLING messages, put these messages on your website, brochures, presentations etc.
- “Sales Factory™”. You’ve got a solid proposition, a clear target market and a captivating message. Now you must generate leads and convert them into sales. Please do not skimp on this – this is your growth and prosperity. Why would you spend a bunch of money developing your products and services and the not tell anybody about them. Conversely please be careful how you spend this budget. I have come across so many companies who have spent the money unsuccessfully – and hence wasted the money. There is no one silver bullet with lead gen, you need to use multiple channels but within an integrated omnichannel strategy. We call the process a Sales Factory™ because it is a factory with many sales machines in it. Each ‘lead gen machine’ does its bit and works towards a common end – manufacturing sales. Each sales machine needs to be finely and continuously tuned to ensure it delivers the best results.
Building an integrated Sales Factory™
- Create a cohesive strategy. This is an iterative process, it takes time to try out, test, learn and tune. Use multiple channels to ensure you capture your whole target market but be focused and targeted. Find out where your potential customers go and hunt them down there – not where your competitors go but where your customers go!
- Build a crystal clear website. It must have clear and concise messages (wishy washy “flexible solutions that solve customer problems etc etc” don’t say what you do nor the problem you solve. You only have a few seconds before they bounce and a high bounce rate indicates either no clear message or no clear target audience.
- Add clear Call to Actions (CTAs). Include CTAs, along with your contact details, on email signatures, websites etc, to tell your audience how to get in touch. My rule of thumb is to put a strong CTA on one in three or four pieces of published content too.
- SEO. This is very important but it takes time, typically three to nine months, to get on page one of Google. But it’s definitely worth it – they say that if you want to hide a corpse, put it on page two of Google – no one will look there.
- Keyword research. This is important for promoting your website through your content; it’s what customers are looking for. Check what your competitors are doing too.
- Pay Per Click (PPC). The best types of leads are the ones already looking to buy or who are in research mode. PPC on Google ads will put you in front of them – if you’ve done your Keyword and negative keyword research thoroughly.
- Social media. Great for reaching a wider audience but don’t spread yourself too thinly. I prefer LinkedIn for B2B sales. And make sure you use the same, consistent messaging that’s on your website.
- Social Ads. One of the best ways to generate good leads. The best social media platforms depend on your business Linkedin, FB, Instagram etc.
- Community management. ie working your social media. If you have an audience, then say something. Create and post content that’s regular and informative, reply to questions, join groups, link to influencers in your sector. And develop the right connections – 100 relevant links are better than 1000 casual “friends”. It’s also worth paying to boost content; for £50, 10 times more people could see your post.
- Retargeting. Ads that follow individuals across channels. A visitor to your website might have seen your content but didn’t complete a sale, they “bounced”. Retargeting allows your ads to follow them around from one channel to another. It requires specialist technology (which the Ministry of Innovation does provide for our clients).
- Emails/posts. Create a mailing list but beware of GDPR rules; you need to cleanse and maintain a list or you risk being blocked. This plays a key part in retargeting but it’s a numbers game. A list of 500 addresses is unlikely to sell anything to anybody, but ten times that number could start being effective.
- Cold calling. there is still a place for telemarketing/ telesales if used carefully. It works better when approaching smaller companies because you can spend all day trying to get through to the right person in a large company – too many gatekeepers.
The next step: Sales
Once you have your lead generation machines running, you can focus on the next stages for converting leads into sales: following up – building relationships with potential customers – and closing the sales.
Outsourcing your sales machine
You can probably gather that to be successful in generating enough sales to grow, you must be thorough and relentless; it takes a lot of time and effort. SMEs focus on delivery but sales are just as important. No sales means no delivery and ultimately, no company.
But you may not have the resources to create your own Sales Factory™, or maybe you don’t enjoy sales and marketing or you’ve tried doing it inhouse without success. There is an alternative – outsourcing.
Outsourcing is lower risk than hiring your own sales team; companies like the Ministry of Innovation work on a low base, higher commission basis, so you pay for and get results. You’re also getting specialists who focus on your growth and not internal politics or empire building.
When choosing the right Outsourced Sales and Marketing partner, you should look out for:
- Good processes. A strong Sales Factory™, generating leads in a solid and consistent way which they follow up and close on.
- A Good track record.
In summary, to generate the volume of sales needed to grow your company to the next level, you need an integrated, omni-channel strategy, dedication and hard work.
If you think you have the capacity to do all of this in a sustained, relentless and focused way, then you should enjoy the growth you deserve. If you think you’ll struggle to find the time and expertise, and you’re not already getting the results you need to grow, then contact Ministry of Innovation and ask us how we can help you take your business to the next level.