Contributed Column

Marketing 101

Five simple marketing “must-haves” to survive a down economy

by Christine Miller

Bringing your business to the next level in a down economy does not depend on how many followers you have on Twitter or how many fans you have on Facebook. It depends on the following five basic business “must-haves”; and guess what? None of them involves the Internet.

1. Have a sales goal.

You must have a sales goal. It can be as simple as “One million dollars in annual sales.” It could be as specific as “In 24 months, I’d like to have $3 million in business-to-business sales and $2.5 million in consumer sales.” Simple? Yes. But it is shocking how many small-business owners do not have a sales plan. Every employee, from the president of the company to the line worker to the salesperson, needs to have fiscal direction.

2. Have a vision of the perfect customer.

This is a crucial must-have that most business people never even consider. Let’s restate it this way: “Have a vision of your most profitable customer.” When will this perfect customer pay? Is the customer financially stable? How much potential is there for repeat business? Is the customer fun to work with? I guarantee that, at some point, you will have a customer you wish had never bought from you. We all do. By having this vision, you will have less of the bad and more of the good.

When you imagine your perfect client, also imagine that client’s perfect product order. How big is it? How profitable is it? Don’t forget that bigger orders are not always better. Make sure you have the capabilities to manufacture or deliver your service on time. When designing your perfect customer, remember to consider your business’s capabilities.

3. Have a target customer list.

Who is actually using your product/service right now? That’s the start of your list. Now add similar companies or their competitors to the list. Write down five businesses or groups you want to have as customers. Who are the biggest spenders in your industry? Are you looking for people or companies new to your product, or are you trying to take customers away from your competitors? How do these groups compare to your “perfect customer?” Make a list of these companies; then focus on how to make them your clients.

4. Have a customer relationship management system.

When I am asked to increase a company’s sales, the first thing I look at is its existing customer base. Is the business generating as much revenue as possible from its existing clients? If the answer is no, it’s usually because the business is not effectively managing its communications with the people who are already spending money with it. A CRM (customer relationship management) system will give you information such as when a contract is up, when the next sales cycle is going to start or when the customer hasn’t been contacted in a long time. Do not assume you will remember to call a client in two weeks for a new order. A couple of missed calls or forgotten contacts leads to lost revenue. Stay organized and stay profitable.

5. Have a sales professional.

As a small-business owner, I have an accountant, a lawyer, and a number of specialists whom I pay regularly to do things I am not qualified to do. A good sales professional will be able cold-call potential clients, maximize sales to existing customers, create and maintain a pipeline of potential customers, overcome objections, and gain referrals. Understand that not everyone has the skill, organization, determination, and patience to be a salesperson, but every organization needs one! •

Christine Miller is president of Miller Consulting LLC, which provides business-to-business plans and solutions to the sales and marketing challenges faced by small start-up to established companies. She can be reached at chris@millersalesconsulting.

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