The Visit

To me marketing has one key aim of creating a process. A process of turning a suspect into a prospect into a client. There is a multitude of ways to deliver effective marketing, but getting that initial meeting should a core objective of the process.

When you get that meeting and start to plan the first visit to that prospect you’ve tried so hard to meet, you immediately have a decision to make – how many people do I go to the meeting with?

I mean, do you “fly solo” and rely on your interpersonal skills, charm and outright wit or do you take another team member in case the person you’re meeting doesn’t fall under your spell?! There are arguments for either of these options, but keep in mind that personal chemistry is always a crucial element in any relationship so maybe go with others if you’d like more than one bite at the cherry.

If you do take more than one person, any follow up should always be pursued by the person who gelled the best or could better offer the requite expertise. If you decide to go on your own (or you are part of a team of 1), the person you’re meeting HAS to buy you as much as the organisation you represent.

Remember your work shouldn’t start when you are in a room with him or her. It should start with doing your homework in advance of the meeting. Google makes desktop research very simple and it is very likely that the prospect has a website and social media accounts for you to review. You need to know as much as possible.

In fact, right up until the meeting itself, you can still collect valuable information about the person and company you are about to meet: the in-house magazine on reception, the plaque on the wall, the POS material, the reception screen, the receptionist etc etc. When about to meet an organisation in London, I happened to be in reception with someone else seeing the same company. The company he was from I just so happened to know and he said that this company was one of their clients so I dropped the mutual friend into my conversation with the CEO!

But it all starts in earnest with that initial handshake and then that walk or journey to the meeting room. Make the handshake firm and do your best to build rapport as quickly as possible. You may pick up personal details that can be used in a follow up, e.g hobbies and interests. Again, the same applies as you leave – the conversation as you walk back to reception can provide further insights.

I’ve had the odd surprise when making a visit like – “our CEO is going to join this meeting” or “I know we discussed ABC in our emails, but I’d like you to cover XYZ as well please” or “really sorry, but I’ve only got 15 minutes instead of the 45 we agreed.” Whatever the surprise, deal with it. Be confident and enthusiastic and deliver the core elements and key messages you aimed to deliver before the visit.

First impressions can make all the difference on your visit!


Keeping in touch with your clients

This really is far more difficult than you think and I will come clean and say that we are not as good at this as we should be, but remaining in contact with existing clients is vital. I’m not talking about calling up a client and saying, “hello, it’s me. Got any new work for me?” What I am saying is that by keeping existing or previous clients up to date with your services, personnel, other projects etc, you can keep the relationship going and possibly cross sell some of your other services. It also means that competitors will have a much harder job of prizing your clients away from you.

It’s never a bad thing to appear hungry for more work or to show other work you may have done, but you do need to find the right catalyst, something new or something interesting which you can send or use as an excuse for a phone call.

Your keeping in touch doesn’t have to be via a dedicated email newsletter or a mail piece put through the letter box, which can be deemed as impersonal if not done correctly, it can be as simple as engaging with your contacts on Facebook or Twitter. I’m a big believer of people buying people and the after sales process is as important as making a sale.

Don’t expect results overnight, but do expect results. It is quite possible that returning business might take months or even years, but sometimes more business might not be the only goal. By being consistent to what sold you to this person in the first place is what keeps this person coming back to you rather than someone else.

And don’t forget all your other marketing activities should also be out there working for you as a constant reminder of your existence – PR, advertising, social media etc. It’s crowded out there in every market and everybody is making “noise” trying to be heard. It is the job of your marketing to get you heard by the right people at the right time and your existing clients are the ones who got you to where you are now. Look after them. Stay in touch with them and put together a plan to do this as part of your marketing strategy.


Outsourcing sales and marketing….yes or no?

Outsourcing sales and marketing....yes or no?A question posed to me recently by a prospect was “is this process called “sales” something that could be outsourced as we don’t really have the time to do it properly?”

My simple answer was…”no!”

To me, is it possible for an outsider to make the impression required and not be found out as some sort of impostor! The only way in which it could work is for that third party to be incredibly economical with the truth especially if the prospect presses for answers to questions such as “who exactly are you?!”

I would never advocate putting your companies reputation on the front line without the person doing it having an intricate knowledge of your company. However, what you can outsource is the marketing of your organisation; the getting in front of people bit.

We’ve met a number of new organisations already in 2014 and have uncovered a trend in the larger ones where “marketing” is largely initiated in house. When pushed what they mean, inevitably areas like the brand, the website, the construction of the sales database and even the printed material had been done in house. So, on face value, these larger organisations seemed to be very active with their marketing, but they had turned to us for a review of their activity to see where things could be improved upon.

There is nothing wrong with having an in house team of people to administer marketing, but in our experience, the messaging and strategy must be correct before platforms like social media, direct mail, email marketing etc are configured and used and, to get these elements correct, I feel that turning to someone external and independent is the best way forward.

Be careful not to treat all prospects the same and bombard them with the same message. Similarly, why not take a step back and actually ask them if they want to hear from you and if so, using what platform. Do they want an eshot or something printed in the post? Would they prefer to hear certain things like case studies, advances in your resources or even new people? What features and benefits are you telling each category of prospect about – do you cherry pick the information you send out?

Also, what about your team? Do they all understand the core values of your business? Do they buy into them? Have you talked to your clients about what they like about you?

Do not under estimate the effectiveness of going backwards a step before going forwards with your marketing!


You can only initially sell a meeting

No matter what sort of sales and marketing strategy you implement, it is highly unlikely that any of the activities will result in a direct sell. In fact, making a sale shouldn’t actually be your objective. In my experiences, it just doesn’t work like that in professional services.

The aim of your marketing activity i.e having an optimised website, running a targeted advertising campaign, implementing direct marketing, holding a conference, making “cold calls” etc etc should be to get you infront of your prospect.

Bath Marketing Consultancy sees the marketing initiatives as a means to an end not the end in themselves. You should be employing them solely for the purpose of getting you to that all-important first meeting. Yes, advertising can be sexy, design can be pretty, PR fabulous but keep the purpose in the forefront of your mind: “I want to meet that person!”

Your aim should be to meet this person (or people) before your competition does and it will undoubtedly help if a meeting takes place against a background where the marketing messages you want to convey have already entered their brain! Your marketing, therefore, is preparatory. It is implemented to soften up your suspects, to turn them into prospects and ultimately clients!

Makes sense? If you need any help with your marketing, email me direct and I will come back to you or fill out our contact form………..

Time your sales call

Making a direct sales call to a prospect is still something that may well play a major part in the way you facilitate sales and as such you want to catch your prospect at their desk, in a receptive mood, and without a secretary or voicemail barriers. To do this it is likely that before or after official office hours (9am-5pm) is most likely. Not only are these times the most productive for a lot of decision makers, but they might be more open to having a discussion.

I’ve yet to find any data regarding the best day to make the call however, some claim that Monday mornings and Friday evenings are not ideal. I would disagree! From my experience is that both these days can work well if you play the game!

i.e At such moments, prospects are indeed likely to be concerned with other matters, but that pressure makes them want to get rid of you quickly and since the general rule is that they are not rude, the quickest and easiest route “out” for them is to give you what you want; an appointment. Try it!

On a more serious note, I would avoid making prospecting phone calls in the central part of the day as people may well be harder to reach as they might be out of the office, at lunch etc. You might well reach the dreaded answerphone so have a strategy to decide on about how to overcome it. I’ve written some advice on the answerphone in a previous post if you need some advice.

Whatever times and days you trial, you may well find your own pattern that works for you and to give yourself the best chance of getting that meeting, always be courteous, friendly, professional and honest.

What sometimes really helps this type of call is having something to discuss like a brochure or a sales aid that you have sent in advance of the call as you can use this as a bit of an ice breaker, but what form should a brochure take?

This could open a can of worms, but I’ve written about how to get the best from a company brochure in a previous article. if you need some tips.


Sales and marketing – you CAN do it!

I’ve written a number of posts associated with sales and marketing, but Bath Marketing Consultancy has had a number of meetings recently with clients and prospects who have indicated that boosting sales is their key requirement and I think it is important that we examine how the 2 initiatives interact.

Sales is defined by Wikipedia as – 8e34c-sales-marketing-funnel

A sale is the act of selling a product or service in return for money or other compensation. Signalling completion of the prospective stage, it is the beginning of an engagement between customer and vendor or the extension of that engagement.

Marketing is defined by Wikipedia as –

Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling the product or service. It is a critical business function for attracting customers.

To me sales, therefore, is an outcome of marketing. i.e sales is something that happens where marketing is the continuous process that facilitates it. Yes, marketing can and does play a major part in influencing a companies’ sales, but simply “doing some marketing” is not an instant route to increased sales! Marketing is very much an ongoing element to your business that has a start, a middle but no end.

However, what I would suggest is that, if your company simply wants more sales, you look at the offer you are making to the market first to make sure that the way in which you market the company will make a real and positive impact to your sales. Questions to ask yourself could well be……

Does the market you are talking to really exist?
Do some street and online research if need be to see what your target actually wants. After all, there is no point in making an amazing product that no one will really want (think Dragons Den!)

What is your brand saying about?
Are you coming across incorrectly? Don’t have a quirky logo with a wacky graphic if you are a more corporate type of company.

Is the look and identity really and truly reflective?
Don’t make false claims or say anything you cannot substantiate – “we provide the best service in Somerset….”

Is your USP clear?
Make sure you outline the reasons for people to work with you/buy from you

What platforms are you using to promote your company?
Where are you talking to your audience? There is no point in running a bus inner campaign when your target market are unlikely to use public transport.

What style and/or design you use?
Design is very subjective so don’t get too close to the design. After all, it is unlikely you are your own target audience.

What method and what frequency?
Are you advertising your company/product in the wrong magazine or maybe only advertising twice a year and therefore, are not building up brand awareness.

What are your competitors doing?
You are likely to be releasing your message into a noisy market; make sure you are heard and keep a close eye on your enemies!

Are there likely to be seasonal fluctuations that influence decisions?
An example of which could be a decrease in market size due to a national holiday period

Does each platform require a different approach?
It isn’t often that “one size fits all” and you need to make sure that the platform you use to market yourself is saying the right thing to the right audience. Consumers want to feel special so cut your cloth accordingly!

Is your pricing structure clear and justifiable?
Too cheap and people will be suspicious or not value what you are offering. Too expensive and people will form the wrong opinion of you.

The above are not the full suite of questions I’d want to know the answers to, but try them on yourself, talk to a marketing company who could then put a strategic marketing plan together………………….which will help sales!


You are all individual!

In my experience, the vast majority of clients think that they have unique problems and that their needs are “special” and, as a result, they tend to buy “a la carte” solutions because they are looking for a particular solution to their own, unique problem.

As a supplier or problem (or service) solver, you should try and avoid offering an off the shelf solution as part of your services as you simply wont appeal to the majority of clients as they want to be made to feel special.

The best and most successful professional services suppliers know this and a part of their marketing approach they aim to get the message across that they have the potential answer to the problem…….. i.e “I can help you!” You should be looking to say to prospects that your solutions are customised/tailored to meet their needs. After all Mr Prospect, if I cant, why am I in business?!

There are 3 key rules when dealing with new potential business –
Understand the problems
Offer the professional solution
Minimize any uncertainty

If you can really help…..and you can sell……..then success in business is almost assured! Remember, while you are pondering about what to do, when, who to work with, how much to spend etc, your competitors are very likely to be planning an assault on your clients. The downside of working in a service related industry is that you are only as good as your last job so act now.

Another point to remember is that “you” are most likely a professional first, a sales and marketing person second and this means that it is not deemed as failure if you need help in the form of marketing consultancy!

More sales please or do I mean marketing?

The word “marketing” has had numerous definitions and interpretations over the years, but, in layman’s terms Bath Marketing Consultancy sees marketing as a process that identifies and fulfills a customer need and this is not to be confused with the word “sales!!”
Yes, selling plays a part in marketing, but making a sale does not fall under the heading of out and out marketing. Similarly, marketing is also not just getting a brochure done or a website designed and built. I see marketing therefore, as much more than just a singular initiative or selling; it is a never ending process that should sit at the heart of every business.

The process of marketing should involve all of the following:

  1. Understanding your market
  2. Building your brand
  3. Planning the business strategy
  4. Managing existing clients
  5. Internal marketing/communication
  6. Winning new business

…….and these elements combined in a well thought out and fully costed marketing (or business) plan will facilitate “sales.” One other important aspect of marketing is that it is not just a quick fix when times are slow. It is a long-term effort that, if committed to, will yield results for your business.

Why “do” marketing??
Recently I met a prospect who told me that their business had got on well enough without dedicated marketing and why did they need to look at marketing now? My answer was that, in my experience, no company can sustain growth without a dedicated marketing strategy and the correct marketing platforms. Yes, businesses and brand can be built on reputation and referrals, but these things are unlikely to go on forever. In addition, every market is full of competition in some shape or form and I would assume that competitors are targeting new clients as well as your own so even a direct mail piece included in an invoice that encourages a repeat purchase could be a very effective piece of marketing.

In sum, my definition of marketing at the start of this post maybe brief, but it must encompass initiatives like winning new business. One area I always advocate to my clients is that of discipline i.e. to facilitate successful marketing may require a change in discipline, but if a business remains focused on what it wants to achieve and employing the correct routes to get there, the rewards are there. For example, how much of a market share do you think your business has? Probably quite a small percentage right? Well, flip the coin over – how much is left for you to get??! How much difference would be made if your share increased by 1 or 2%? Well, marketing and the selling it will facilitate will get you there!

"Marketing, marketing, marketing……

..when does it ever end?\” Was a question I was asked recently. The person I was with ran a niche, online retail business dealing with a specific type of beach clothing and he was exhausted at the amount of marketing initiatives he had to learn and then juggle to get his business where he wanted.

The initiatives he was running were SEO, Social Media, Events, PR, Sponsorship and product trials and he was exhausted!

My advice was to try and put in place certain disciplines where he did certain things at certain times and to try and make these disciplines part of his routine. \”Easier said than done,\” was his reply! I cannot stress enough how important marketing is to a business and how, if done correctly, it can make the difference to a business succeeding or failing so that extra effort to make time for it can really pay off!

\”What do you do then?\”
\”All of what you do and probably more\” I said as even more colour drained from his face!

In all seriousness, marketing has always been something that shouldn\’t have an \”end.\” It is a process not a singular event and, if you are in business and want to establish yourself as a creditable brand, the hours must be put in. You are the one person who knows the intricacies; what your company stands for, why you are different etc.

In addition, you are very often a large part of the brand so do go to networking meetings, invest in a decent online brochure that you can amend as your business changes and be proactive. Once thing a business can sometimes find it has in abundance is time and using it as a positive rather than a time to panic can make a huge difference not only to your chances of success, but to your levels of enthusiasm.

It still amazes me when clients of Bath Marketing Consultancy tell me how great they feel to see their new website climbing the rankings, or see a magazine with their ad in it!

How to open doors

Open that door!
In order for a business to grow, clients need to buy from you. Don’t expect many clients or prospects to buy straight away or to beat a path to your door in the early stages, but stick with it and you will reap the rewards. Similarly, most buyer surveys suggest that buying decisions are highly rational processes following elaborate scouting of the offers, the study of marketing material, the personal recommendations or even initiatives like social media.
Therefore, you must make sure that your company image is one that differentiates yourself from others and that your own marketing speaks volumes.

I write numerous posts on how to get your marketing ducks in a row – see this post for example – and how to give your business the best chance of success, but, what is it that attracts a prospect to stop, look and listen? Here are a few ideas you could use:

Offer a report on some original research – Who can resist free information? However, in order to be effective, the research must be original and new. Your prospect will most likely be in a better position than you regarding their knowledge of their sector so don’t tell him/her something they already know.

An in-depth analysis of his/her market – Similar to the above, but this is about having some sort of information that reveals your intellectual capacity. PR and literature are the most suitable vehicles to carry this.

Invitation to participate in research – This will depend on a number of factors, but, if the subject matter is relevant, the results made available and it brings him into contact with peers in his sector, it is likely that the prospect will participate. Flattery is quite key to this!

A critique of his activities – Obviously this can go straight to his heart! Be careful, but outline/highlight where the prospect could make improvements.  For example, in my  10 minute 121 meetings at networking, I concentrate very hard on adding value to peoples’ current marketing; giving them tips on how to get the most from areas like direct mail.

Are you a leader in your field? If you can truly substantiate that you are an expert, the prospect should be listening to you. You don’t need to be the biggest or even the best, but having extensive experience in his area will be of great value. Bath Marketing Consultancy does this in relation to the legal and retail sectors.

Exploit uncertainty – Deep down many clients fear exploitation i.e. “Am I being ripped off by Agency X?” “Am I the person paying for the MD’s new car and the businesses new swanky offices?” If you know information about their current supplier like a change in personnel or their costing structure, you can use it and it would take a very self assured client to turn a deaf ear to the information.

These are just a few of the techniques you could employ to open a door. Try one or try them all and then let me know how it went.