Contributed Column

Marketing 101

by Christine Miller

Speaking of strategy ...

If you’re talking about sales and marketing for your business, you’re probably also talking about strategy. “We need a marketing strategy. We should develop a strategic plan. We need more strategic thinking.” While there is a lot of talk about strategy, there’s not always a lot of understanding.

Goals are frequently confused with strategies. A goal is what you want to achieve, and the strategy is the action needed to reach the goal.

If your goal is increasing sales, the first step in creating sales strategies for your business is to know your customers’ goals and/or strategies. Sit with your sales people, your managers, and anyone else on your team who can support your efforts and ask about their strategy for a particular client. Better yet, ask if they know the client’s strategy. Why? Because if you know the goals and strategy of your client or customer, you can offer products and services that align with that strategy.

When you have that strategic thinking session for the first time, you may be surprised. For example: If you owned a soap company and asked your sales manager for the strategy for a client named The Hotel, you might get the following answer. “The Hotel buys all its shampoo from us now, and my strategy is to get it to buy hand lotion as well.”

This type of response is common. However, selling hand lotion and increasing sales is a goal. If the goal is to get them to buy lotion, what is the strategy (action needed) to make that happen?

Imagine that conversation to the client, based on the idea that up-selling is a strategic move “… and since you buy all your shampoo from us and have premier pricing with our company, I’d like to offer you a great opportunity by having us also supply you with hand lotion.”

This type of thought process and conversation happens so much that it sounds normal. Now let’s look at how a strategic thinker might approach this situation, and go back to our example. The goal of the soap company is to sell lotion to The Hotel. After some team brainstorming and digging deeper into the account, someone else offers another thought: Instead of trying to sell the lotion based on volume pricing, the team member says, “Isn’t The Hotel trying to be eco-friendly?” Suddenly the conversation moves from price to a discussion about recyclable packaging and organic ingredients. Someone else suggests the soap company should share data that tells a value story — specifically how customers who care about eco-friendly products in their hotels spend 25 percent more per visit.

At this point, the strategy of the soap company begins to come into alignment with the goals and strategy of The Hotel. The conversation with The Hotel can now change to something like this: “… and since we last met I’ve been doing some research about travelers who prefer accommodations with eco-friendly and organic bath products. Those customers tend to spend 25 percent more per visit. Since becoming more green and attracting eco-travelers are goals of yours, I wanted to let you know that our hand lotion is a product that will appeal to those customers.” See how this feels and sounds different from the first example?

Strategy is so important and so often misunderstood. It takes time and some practice to get it right. I am committed to my work in sales and marketing, and want others to have the same passion — it’s one of my goals. My strategy? Write about all the cool aspects of this career and inspire others. •

Christine Miller is the author of Sales Geisha. She can be reached at

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