As a CEO or business owner you probably started your business with an idea and burning passion to convince others to help you, believe in your vision and even invest in you and your idea. The great news is it has paid off and you’ve grown the business over the years. But as time goes on you don’t see things moving or growing the way you would like.
In the beginning your product or service lead the market because of your unique advantage or excellent service but now you see more competition and more market confusion than in the past. You also see and feel more price pressure which was not there before and more recently your prospects seem to take forever to make a buying decision.
To help you get to the bottom of this let’s take some time for an inventory. I don’t mean a physical inventory of products in your warehouse or raw materials for manufacturing. I’m talking about a “3D Perception Inventory”. A look at how your employees, prospects, customers and the world see your company.
Let’s begin with your people:
Ask your sales people what your company does and see how many different answers you get. Write down their comments and descriptions for later review.
Ask your sales and customer service people to identify the top 3 problems you solve for your customers. Write down these answers answers as well.
Call a few of your customers and ask them why they bought from you.
Even potentially more valuable but difficult for many to do... reach out to a few people who did not buy from your company.
Finally... your printed and digital materials:
Look at each piece of sales, marketing or PR material you own and freely give to prospects and customers. Collect every piece of physical paper and print out any digital versions you have and lay them out on a table.
Look at your website... every page.
Gather any other items you have that tell your story... presentations, commercials, ads in magazines or trade journals, signs, lettering on vehicles, etc.
Once you’ve completed your perception inventory it’s time for analysis. What do you see?
Did you discover that your salespeople quickly responded with a clear, concise summary of what you do and easily list five problems you solve. Or, did each one have a different idea on what your company does? How many key problems could they identify?
What feedback did you get from customers and noncustomers? How did it mesh with what your sales people mentioned?
After reviewing all of your printed and digital materials did you find consistency, clarity and connectivity between the materials? Did they match up with Sales and customer feedback?
If you discovered a lack of clarity, an inconsistent message or confusion then what’s missing is “Marketing”. And you are not alone. Many companies skip the Marketing thing and the list of reasons is long so we’ll avoid going there in this article.
The business world has changed forever and the Sales Department’s ability to cold call or easily engage prospects is very difficult and will never be the same. Voicemail, email, social media, the Internet and a host of cultural changes have made it virtually impossible to do business in traditional ways.
Sales no longer picks up a cold lead and takes them through “your” sales process and convinces them to buy. Today’s buyer, regardless of industry or market, is doing their very best to avoid talking to your sales person. Here’s a tip... they don’t want to be sold too.
Instead they are taking the initiative to self-educate. They are learning about your product or service on their own using the Internet, social media and their friends. You no longer have control because you no longer control the message or even how prospects see your message.
Marketing is the Missing Link
No, I don’t mean the wrestler.
Nor am I referring to a discussion from The Big Bang Theory…
…or even Evolutionist theory.
Marketing, and more importantly Inbound Marketing, is the compass or navigation system you need in your business to bring clarity and direction. Excellent Marketing uses multiple channels and formats to reach out to your prospects. It uses words and terms that resonate and attract. Words your prospects identify and understand.
Marketers who understand the digital landscape (Inbound Marketers) and how inbound works, are the people you need to reset your business and get you back on track. Very often this means redefining or tweaking your strategy based on the problems you solve for your customers. Your focus should be all about the issues your customers and prospects have and how you solve them. It’s not about how many features you have versus the next guy but how clearly you help your prospects better understand their problems and how they can be corrected.
Keep in mind, it may not be about pain but gain. Your prospects may be looking for an opportunity to capitalize on that you may specialize in.
In each case, pain or gain, if the people who are looking for solutions can’t find you then you will never get a chance to help them. An old friend of mine used to say “The secret to success in sales is to be in front of qualified prospects when they want to buy, not when you need to sell something” (credit William T. Brooks, Speaker and Author).
Inbound Marketing is a different way to reach prospects. It should be your new strategy to put your company in front of qualified prospect when they are looking to solve a problem or take advantage of an opportunity.
Inbound Marketing is about attraction. It’s about attracting people to you and your website using as many channels as possible by publishing content about the pain and gain that interests them the most.
Inbound Marketing takes advantage of everything the Internet and Social Media offers and delivers important content to potential prospects when they are searching for answers or clues using Google, Social Media or their friends.
If you are like many businesses you may not have a marketing department and may not be in a position to increase headcount. If that’s the case, consider contracting or hiring a small agency that specializes in Inbound Marketing. They can help determine if inbound is right for your business and develop a plan you can embrace to experience the results first hand. As things progress you may decide to hire an inbound marketer and do much of the work yourself or continue your relationship.
Header Photo by Leon Fishman