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I want to talk deeply about a crucial issue for your business by asking the question: is the tail wagging the dog?

Business growth expert Walter Dinale from the large accounting firm, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, believes there’s a dog of a tale where some business owners let their customers stray because they haven’t developed a magnetic marketing strategy. Dinale reckons you could be seeing great growth driven by sensational sales but sales alone won’t deliver sustained growth. A strategic marketing strategy underpins great sales.

How do you develop a plan?

It starts from a marketing plan being developed in the following way:

  1. Focus on identifying and meeting current and future customer needs
  2. Give marketing the credibility and authority to implement a customer-centric culture
  3. Allow the market to drive your business.
Give a poor performer a break

Successful sales people are seen as gods but often a weak seller is linked to a poor marketing effort from on top. Think about it. What would be easier – selling ads on Australian Idol or on a small business show at 7:30am on a Sunday? Idol is marketed to death while small business shows are unpromoted and doing the graveyard shift.

Do you want more sales?

Dinale argues that marketing creates the environment in which you can sell more things to more people more often. The lesson is that instead of helping to boost sales simply with sales support, sales training, data analysis, advertisements and promotions, smart business managers should use marketing to create a culture.

The plan focuses on your customer

This culture needs to be one of understanding what customers value, selecting target market segments, increasing customers’ perceptions of value, championing customer requirements and becoming passionate about service. A smart marketer is an essential cost to a business. However, they must be accountable and their efforts must be measured. Poor businesses often have a poor marketing plan.

What does marketing do?

Dinale says the marketer provides critical intelligence for product development, customer service, sales and other key customer touch points.

“They acquire and apply the customer data and information you need to develop the products that people want, then put them together with the services that customers desire and at a price they can afford to pay,” he points out.

What do the experts say?
The experts also suggest you divide up your customer base.

“By segmenting your market, you can develop effective plans for each customer group along with potential targets and become cleverer in how you sell to them and care for them,” Dinale advises.

“Companies that try to be all things to all people often fail.”

The marketing strategy

The team at Deloitte recommend the ‘four Ps’ approach for every target market or client grouping. Let’s go through each one.

The first one is product

Having segmented your market, you need to profile, prioritise and tailor the right bundling or products and services for each grouping. 

The next is pricing

As much an art as a science, there are many pricing strategies to pick from but generally, the market should largely determine price. Understand your cost structures, how your prices stack up against those of competitors, and pricing from a sales and budgetary perspective. Will your pricing strategy deliver sustained profits?

The third one is placement

Determining the distribution channels that best meet your customers’ needs should be balanced with corporate objectives such as speed to market, market share and profit.

And the last is promotion

An effective promotional strategy is about getting the right message to the right person at the right time. Move in the right circles (consider analysts, media, customers and your own team) and create a feeling of excitement about the product and your company. Tailor your message to each.

(This is good advice and just think – it has come from accountants!)

Now, to your brand

Along the way you have to think about building your brand. Brand is simply what customer thinks of your business and products. Know what your positive brand attributes are and find a way to get customers to see it your way. That’s what Coca-Cola and BP do with their ads. It’s not just ads but it has a lot to do with how customers interact with your product or service. If it’s a rotten experience, your brand diminishes and vice versa.

Cheap and good
Dinale suggests cheaper ways to build your brand include:
  • Ensuring your staff can clearly communicate your business’s core messages and values and that they ‘live the brand’, behaving consistently with the promise that you make in your marketing messages
  • Consistency of language and messages in all verbal and written communication
  • Having a strong, visual identity that is immediately recognisable, and is consistently presented through all your brochures, point of sale material, packaging, dress codes, etc.
Now it’s up to you

Once it is all in place, the business owner/manager has to make it happen. Empower the staff to play from the same plan and have everyone seeing the same vision. It will also require financial incentives to make it happen, but it is worth it. It’s like training a dog – it’s hard work but it makes life a whole lot easier.

Hot tip!

Businesses that start to implement marketing plans are well on the way to setting themselves up for long-term success. So get serious about this now!

Work on your business, not in it. To learn how, book a complimentary business assessment today with a Switzer Business Coach.

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

Published on: Friday, December 18, 2009

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