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Having worked and spoken over the last 7 years with many business owners, I have come to realise that very few see marketing as a strength in their company. In fact, many recognize it as a major weakness that stops them from achieving the true potential of their business.

In some ways this is not surprising. Many business owners have technical rather than sales and marketing backgrounds. By contrast, world class companies such as Amazon, Apple and Google don’t only have great technical strengths together with distinctive products and services; they also excel at marketing. Think of how brilliant Steve Jobs was at marketing.

If you wish to accelerate the growth of your business, you may well have to improve your sales process and selling skills, as well as the experience your customers have of buying from you. It is however likely that you will also need to raise your marketing game.  What do you need to do to achieve this?

In my view, there are 7 foundations which determine the success of your marketing activities. Put them into place and you will go a long way towards securing the success and growth of your business. Ignore them and you will struggle.

The 7 foundations are:

1) Choose your target markets carefully

Choosing your target market is one of the most important business decisions you’ll ever make. Which markets will you focus your marketing efforts and resources on? It makes sense as part of this to define what your best and most profitable clients have in common and then develop your sales and marketing programs to find more customers with that ideal profile.

2) Define and communicate what makes you distinctive

If you want customers to choose you, you must position yourself against the competition in a way that makes you stand-out from the crowd. A unique selling proposition (USP) is simply a description of your products, services and company which compels your prospects and customers to buy from you and not your competitors.

3) Give evidence for what you deliver

Positive testimonials about your products and services, given by satisfied customers, are one of the most powerful tools known in marketing. Testimonials “prove” that your products and services are as good as you say they are. It shows potential buyers that others have already tried and tested your products or services, and found them good enough to recommend. Providing case studies relevant to your target market also adds to your credibility and gives prospects and customers confidence to buy from you.

4) Communicate the benefits

It is vital in all your sales and marketing to communicate the benefits of what you offer. In reality, people don’t buy your products or services or what you do for them (features). They buy the results that your products or services bring to them (benefits). In a recent field visit with a salesperson , that sales person’s whole focus was on the technical features of the intruder alarm system and the system design that the company was offering. The salesperson completely forgot to mention the enormous benefit that they could deliver, the very thing the prospect was looking for – protection of their £7m stock in their new state of the art national distribution centre.

5) Test and measure your marketing activities

One of the biggest reasons for failed marketing is simply a failure to consistently test and measure the results of all lead generation methods. Marketing doesn’t need to only be an art – it must also be a science. You can enhance the effectiveness of your marketing spend by simply doing more of what works and refining or stopping what doesn’t work. Of course, this is only possible if you track the source of leads, and the sales which result from those leads, to know your return from specific marketing activities and investments.

6) Recognise the importance of the lifetime value of customers

Understanding the importance of the lifetime value of customers can have a radical impact on the way you view your marketing spend. Most businesses only assess the effectiveness of their marketing activities by measuring the immediate sales or gross profit that result from individual campaigns. Beware of stopping potentially successful campaigns by taking a short term view that fails to include revenues that come from repeat business after the initial sale.

7) Generate leads using multiple methods

Many owner managed businesses use only one or two marketing methods to reach new customers. For most, this is word-of-mouth or direct sales.

The most dangerous number is oneone key customer, one key employee, one lead generation method.

If your business is doing OK with only one marketing method, just imagine what you could achieve if you had three, five or seven proven lead generation methods!

With only one lead generation method, you also expose yourself to significant risk. What happens if you rely mainly on one salesperson and that person leaves, or if you rely principally on website leads and Google change their algorithm?

A well-known and respected marketer, Jay Abraham, explains this by using the analogy of the Parthenon in Athens. Think of the roof as total sales leads or revenue and the pillars as lead generation methods. If you only have one lead generation method, the roof is not only unstable but positively tottering. Better to have multiple methods –more pillars to hold the roof up. By developing multiple methods of generating sales leads, you put yourself on a firmer foundation for greater success and security.

There are many ways to generate sales leads. Here are a select few:

1. Google AdWords
2. Relationships with intermediaries such as building or M and E contractors or consultants
3. Referrals
4. Personal introductions
5. Email marketing
6. Social media activities
7. Telemarketing
8. Direct mail
9. Networking at, for example, technology update events and exhibitions
10. Public relations such as editorials
11. Advertising
12. Exhibiting and giving seminars at industry conferences and events

How many of these methods are you using? How many have you tested in the past? And if you tested them, are you sure you followed best practice in implementing them?

Why not evaluate how good your business is at marketing by scoring yourself out of 10 on each of the 7 key foundations covered above? Commit yourself to making marketing a strength of your company and you will accelerate the sustainable growth of your business.

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