Creating a marketing and sales plan
Creating a successful marketing strategy, looking for opportunities to sell products and services as well as effective communication with current and future customers is a demanding task.
If you are wondering if there are ways to make the development of your marketing policy more effective, you should consider the following:
- Have you formed an overall picture of your customers and identified the best prospects based on that image?
- Is your customer information scattered in emails, documents and databases?
- do you need specialized marketing material but do not yet have a professional printer?
- Do your salespeople follow procedures to track sales opportunities?
The following information identifies key marketing and sales practices that can help you develop a strategic marketing plan and sales process tailored to your business needs.
Creating a marketing plan
A proper marketing plan can shape the communication framework with your existing customers and guide you in attracting new customers. It can also help you determine the categories of customers you should target, how to approach them and how you will monitor the results so you know what actions are needed to grow your business.
If you do not have a marketing plan, you should not worry as creating it is quite simple. A successful marketing plan does not have to be complex or extensive, but it should contain enough information to help you create, direct and coordinate your marketing policy.
In order to assist you in this process, we have identified five steps that you should follow. These steps include gathering information before writing the marketing plan itself, as well as updating the plan after it is created. In describing the process, we use as an example, a new travel company, with a staff of 25 people, called Margie’s Travel.
Step 1: Position your products or services
To start your plan, remember the four basic elements of marketing: product, price, promotion and placement. Your goal is to put the right product or service available to the right customers, at the right price and at the right time and place. A good way to get started is to answer some key questions about your business. The following scenario for Step 1 is based on the marketing plan used for Margie’s Travel.
- Who do you want to buy your products from?
Margie’s Travel offers travel services tailored to the individual needs of busy professionals. According to the data gathered, the usual customers are property owners between 35 and 55 years old, with an annual income in excess of $ 100,000.
- What are the needs of these customers?
The target market of Margie’s Travel is well-to-do couples with children who want a travel plan tailored to the needs of a family. The goal of the company is to provide personalized and relaxing travel experiences suitable for every family.
- What differentiates your product or service from its competing products or services?
The competitive advantage of Margie’s Travel lies in the fact that it caters to families with children of all ages, combining leisure and entertainment travel packages and providing special short- or long-term travel plans, at home or abroad. Margie’s Travel also has the advantage of providing its staff with the ability to telework remotely, thus reducing overhead and start-up costs compared to a traditional travel service business.
- What are the most appropriate marketing methods for your business?
Research has shown that the most effective advertising tool for a business like Margie’s Travel is local newspaper advertising, such as subscription-based weekly newspapers ranging from 5,000 to 40,000 readers. Margie’s Travel also places ads in local newsletters community of boat owners and sends directories to larger companies. By answering these key questions about your business, you can build a solid foundation on which to base the marketing plan you need.
Step 2: Ask for the advice of trusted advisors To make sure you have a clear understanding of your business, you need to gather information from everyone around you. Schedule meetings with trusted friends, staff, consultants and peers and ask for their participation for the following:
- What is the target group of your business?
- What are the needs of your customers?
- What differentiates your product or service from its competing products or services?
- When and how often do you need to implement marketing policies?
- What will be the position of your company next year?
Receiving feedback on similar issues related to your business can help you prepare your marketing strategy as well as create targeted material.
Step 3: Request the participation of customers and prospective customers
To successfully reach your customers, you need to know what they think about your product, pricing, brand or service — and generally anything related to your business. Ask some of your current and future customers to tell you what they think about your business, products and services, the likelihood of them buying your products and competitors. You can ask these questions via email, phone or marketing cards. Incentives, such as discounts or samples, encourage them to comment.
Step 4: Write your plan
Now that you have feedback and an outline, you can write your marketing plan. Start by summarizing your market position and goals and determine what you expect to achieve within a predetermined time period.
A typical marketing plan can be organized as follows:
- Market summary
- Competitive environment
- Comparison and placement of products
- Communication strategies
- Promotion strategies
- Packaging and fulfillment
- Success measurement data
- Marketing schedule
With the marketing plan ready, you have at your disposal the necessary structure that you can use in order to maintain the smooth operation of your business.
Step 5: Monitor your results, update your plan
Reviewing your plan every six months helps you determine if the results are what you expect. You can easily track your progress with the help of a spreadsheet, where you can also calculate marketing costs and compare them with sales and other metrics.
You should also update your plan on a regular basis in order for it to respond to changing market conditions.
Creating sales processes
A sales process consists of a series of customer-centric steps that can be used by your sales team to build a solid customer base, achieve repeat purchases and increase revenue. Each step consists of individual key actions and has a predictable, measurable result.
If you are wondering if your small business really needs a formal sales process, see if you can answer “yes” to the following questions:
- Have your customers become more demanding than in the past?
- Is attracting and retaining customers a challenge for your business?
- Is not the reaction of your sales force always immediate when opportunities arise?
- Do your salespeople have difficulty conveying a consistent and professional image?
- Your customers’ data is not up to date and is scattered in many different places within the company?
Adopting a well-defined sales process can help your sales potential identify and evaluate opportunities, identify additional opportunities for repeat purchases, negotiate and close more deals, and establish an after-sales tracking process to ensure customer satisfaction.
A formal sales process also helps you understand any barriers to business customers, match their needs with your products and services, and prove that the products you offer can meet their needs. With the help of an efficient sales process, you can more accurately calculate the potential revenue from a given customer. For example, you can view consolidated information for all your sales line customers, consistently compare your company’s unique price to the competition, and build closer links with your customers and corporate partners.
The methodology of sales processes is determined by five steps: searching for potential buyers, evaluating them, submitting proposals, facilitating decision-making and securing repeat purchases. Each step consists of some basic actions with a predictable and measurable result.
These steps help professional salespeople achieve:
- Focusing on critical business issues facing customers
- Developing future value for customers
- Generating a strong desire in the customer to buy the products and services provided by your company.
Step 1: Search for potential buyers
In this first stage of the sales process, the salesperson informs about new opportunities, identifying new opportunities between the existing customer base and differentiating his / her company from the competition. Depending on the type of business, the search for potential buyers can take many forms, including networking, attending seminars and trade shows, sending promotional material, and making simple phone calls.
The goal of this step is to identify the decision maker or an ally in the company who can help you get in touch with the decision maker.
Step 2: Evaluation
At this stage of the process both you and your client form an opinion about each other. You calculate the potential revenue and expenses associated with a customer case to decide if it’s worth continuing, while the customer assesses whether your company can meet its business needs. At this stage, your professional salespeople need to be familiar with the detailed identification of the customer’s real needs. Next, they need to clearly and sharply analyze the ways in which your company’s products or services can uniquely meet their needs.
The purpose of this step is to convince the decision maker to proceed with a thorough evaluation of the solution you offer.
Step 3: Proposal
At this stage of the process, the customer usually limits the number of companies he takes into account. Small and medium-sized enterprises must be prepared to respond quickly to potential new opportunities.
When you reach this step, the promises are over and you need to prove to the decision maker that your company can deliver on its promise. You can create a mutually agreed product / service evaluation plan that highlights the key steps needed to demonstrate your potential and ensure a smooth outcome for both the customer and the seller.
Evaluation plan is an important tool that is often overlooked by sellers. After a customer agrees with the evaluation plan, the salesperson takes control of the sales process. This is because the customer can only follow the steps of an individual company’s evaluation plan, given the time, cost and resources needed to perform each step.
The goal of this step is to demonstrate the value that your business can offer to the customer, through the successful completion of the evaluation plan. The customer then asks the seller for a financial offer.
Step 4: Decision
Right now, you are so close to closing the deal that you are ready to start the festivities. Unfortunately, designs and details can change. For example, one of your sellers may have backtracked too much in recent negotiations, making the deal unprofitable. Or, conversely, another seller may have abandoned a prospective sale when they realized it had closed at a very low price. This is the fragile and volatile nature of this particular step of the sales process.
The goal of this step is to facilitate those agreements that are favorable to both the company and the customer.
Step 5: Repeat purchases
This step is crucial for the sales process. After signing a contract or repaying the commission for a sale, the product or service must be delivered and executed as agreed. A professional salesperson who is really interested in building a long-term, profitable business relationship takes ownership and monitors the customer to make sure everything goes smoothly. Satisfied customers are the ones who have the most chances of placing new orders and may want to act as intermediaries for new customers.
Implementation of the sales process
A well-defined sales process can bring significant changes to your business. But change sometimes causes distrust in some people. The following may be helpful:
Management support. The business owner needs to take full responsibility for the implementation of the sale process. As with any proposed change, professional salespeople will be watching closely to see if a new process has been implemented by the company. (Some companies offer compensation to reward employees who adopt new sales processes and achieve the expected results.) Business owners should make sure that everyone is involved in these processes.
Customize the sales process to suit your customers. The sales process should match your customers’ buying processes: SMEs sell to medium or large companies, SMEs sell to other SMEs, and SMEs sell to consumers. In general, the more complex the sales, the more steps the sales cycle has. You need to customize these models to meet the unique needs of your customers and your company.
Adopting a clearly defined approach. Implementing your new sales processes is not a one-size-fits-all process. Its implementation should be performed in stages.
To access your implementation more easily, follow these steps: research, implement, evaluate, optimize, and provide ongoing management support.
Step 1: Research
Talk to customers and incorporate into the processes elements that have worked effectively for your top salespeople.
Step 2: Implementation
Document your custom sales processes, customize any templates and forms you want your salespeople to use, and offer compensation to encourage the adoption of new sales processes.
Step 3: Evaluation
Consider the pros and cons of your sales process by securing prompt feedback from your customers. For example, did customer satisfaction increase after the implementation of the new sales processes? Are customers willing to act as intermediaries? Were new opportunities created? Do you make recurring purchases?
Step 4: Optimization
The sales process you use should be a dynamic changing tool in order to reflect the buying habits of the customers as well as the evolution of the staff and the delivery of your company. Look for trends and indicators in the measurement data of your sales processes and consider periodically reviewing the process to improve it as needed.
Step 5: Provide ongoing support
In the beginning, a sales process causes uncertainty and additional workload, and as a result employees may closely monitor management for any signs of relaxation in the face of the new process. The business owner and the sales manager (often the same person) need to support and enhance the process at every opportunity.