I was talking with a number of consultants last week and we came to a common view: many SME businesses believe there is a simple answer to their business needs:
More Enquiries and Sales!
Certainly, revenue (well, profitable revenue!) is vital but I often hear business owners talking about a cycle of feast and famine. A push on business development can drive an increase in sales then while fulfilling that business, eyes are taken off the sales and marketing allowing the flow of enquiries to dwindle until revenues decline and the whole process starts again! How can enquiry levels be built and then maintained in the medium and longer term? How can customers be encouraged to come to you? This is the first of 2 articles where I suggest an answer – and an approach to achieving it.
The answer is, IMHO, driven by building strong, sustained relationships with markets and customers. You become known as a reliable, professional expert in your field, a natural point of enquiry when someone is looking for the products/services you supply – and that requires credibility Like it or not, building credibility takes time and consistency. If you want to build real credibility for your business, here are a few things to think about…..
Do I have a joined-up strategy?
It is an often-stated cliche but there is no Marketing Magic Wand! Don’t just try a single approach in isolation hoping it will be THE ONE, then drop it when it doesn’t really give you what you are looking for the try something new only for the same thing to happen again! A well-considered and joined-up strategy which brings together the core elements of your company and identifies messages demonstrating the real benefits you can offer to your target markets is more likely to deliver consistent results. To give your marketing the best chance of delivering, it is important to have a plan which takes a joined-up strategy and allows different marketing activities to work in harmony and be effectively controlled and managed.
Take time to develop a strategy
Creating a realistic, practical business development strategy is a vital step to building business credibility for your company. Demonstrating a well thought through strategy will build the confidence in your brand that is a vital element or real credibility. Creating a strategy can be much easier with external support – Click here for information on funding and expert help that is available
Do I have a realistic action plan?
The best strategy in the world is a waste of time if you don’t do something with it! If you want to build credibility through your strategy, you need to communicate and engage with your target customers and markets. I talked at the top about the cycle of business development feast and famine. Not having an action plan is another driver of this cycle as you tend to only do something when you think about it, when you notice. If you are busy, you are less likely to notice! An action plan sets out who is doing what and when to ensure your marketing communications happen and you talk to your markets.
Don't just act when you think about it - set out an action plan
Sometimes you just get too busy and something has to give. When this happens, it easy to let your own marketing suffer. It is simpler to forgive yourself than trying to get forgiveness from your customer (which doesn’t help your credibility either!) Conversely, regular communication with your customers and markets, delivering relevant messages with useful and interesting content means people get to know you, and the right content helps them to engage with you, to understand what you and your company are about. As this understanding grows and they see it fit with their own needs, your credibility becomes established.
Maintaining regular communication is where delegation can make the difference and having an action plan is central to effective delegation. An action plan should set out what needs to be done, by whom and when. Part of setting out your plan will be to make sure the person or people tasked with doing the job have the knowledge and capability to do it. If not, you will have to do it differently this time but maybe you have highlighted a training opportunity – and a well trained, capable team is a valuable element of credibility, but more on that another time!
Technology has revolutionised SME marketing. E-mail and other social media platforms can be great ways to engage with your market and with the host of support tools that are available, you can – when you have time – schedule tasks forward to happen later – when you are busy! You can also drive market communication from your mobile when you are out and about allowing you to make use of time that otherwise might be wasted.
OK, so you have a strategy and an action plan. Next time I look at putting them in to practice in the best way to build your business credibility.