Want to Improve Marketing and Sales? It Won’t Happen Without a System!
In Epicomm’s latest State of the Industry report, 53.6% of industry members stated that “marketing more effectively to generate quality leads” was an activity that “we have to do.” More effective marketing and sales, however, don’t just happen: You need a plan and a system.
Many of us in the industry rely on sales people to develop their own prospects and leads, develop a relationship with the prospect, and land the business—with little support from us. Then, we are surprised when these sales people leave us and take their accounts with them. But if all we’re supplying is office space, a car allowance and free coffee we shouldn’t be surprised. Those things won’t engender long-term loyalty.
Imagine instead a scenario in which your sales people receive a steady stream of high quality leads from your company’s marketing system, are trained to nurture those leads through a sales enablement process, understand how your company is different from all others in the marketplace and know how to sell based on those differences. That decreases the likelihood of a sales person leaving for another company that operates with no marketing and sales system.
Your fortunes can’t depend on who is coming and going from your sales team. Great companies are built on systems —including marketing and sales systems. That’s what really drives consistent growth.
What does a marketing system look like?
First, a marketing system has to have a firm foundation. Half of this foundation is created by having a clear understanding of who your customer is. Defining your customer as “anyone who prints and/or mails” doesn’t create a firm foundation. You have to be much more specific. Are there particular industries where you have (or can develop) a deep understanding of industry needs? Customers are desperate for vendors who understand them and offer specific solutions for their unique problems. They search out vendors who speak their language. You need to specialize. Specialization brings higher value and allows you to command higher prices.
The other half of the foundation is knowing where your customers “hang out.” Are there certain trade association websites they frequent? Blogs? Are they on LinkedIn? What specific groups do they belong to? Do they attend certain conferences and trade shows? Clearly understanding where your customers seek information will help make your marketing system effective.
Second, a marketing system has to provide consistent ways to get in front of prospective buyers. Those ways could include direct mail outreach, search engine optimization (SEO), a blogging strategy, speaking engagements, trade shows, and use of social media. The tactics will vary from company to company because each company’s target audience will vary depending on industry focus. Not only do you need the right message, but you must deliver it in places where your target audience will see it.
The third step is critical. It’s not enough to reach potential buyers—you must find a way to convert them. But you have to follow the process. Don’t be in a hurry to convert prospects into buyers. First you need to turn them into a lead—a lead that has reached out to you. You want to create a relationship that allows you to stay in touch, nurture that relationship, and continue to build trust.
But to get someone to reach out to you, you have to offer them something of value—something that they want. Today’s buyers want information: information that helps them be more successful in their job and helps them make the right decisions. You can provide that information, whether its white papers, e-books, case studies, checklists, product specifications, or comparison guides, in both digital and analog formats. You provide that information in exchange for your lead’s information (usually in the form of an email address or a phone number). That gives you the ability to stay in touch. And what’s great is that you’re providing this information at their request. You’re not forcing yourself on your leads, you’re giving them what they asked for. Those conversions take place on the web, via phone or text, or in person.
Once you have a lead’s information, do you go for the close? Do you call them and ask if they’d like to buy something, or see if there is something you can bid on? No. The big disconnect in the marketing and sales process today is between leads offered up by marketing and the approach taken by sales to those leads. A lead that has asked for information from your company needs to be nurtured. That’s the 4th step in the journey to becoming a customer—the sales enablement phase. If your company has provided a piece of content to a lead (perhaps a guide to digital print and its uses in marketing) it doesn’t mean that that lead is ready to buy. He or she is just beginning the buying journey. Marketing and sales need to work together to “enable” the future sale by continuing to provide valuable content that helps answer your lead’s questions and help him or her move toward solving a problem. Your sales person can greatly assist in this process by providing additional content that marketing has prepared for each of the buying stages.
This nurturing and sales enablement process, allows your company to engage with prospects sooner in their buying journey, and allows you to position yourself as a “trusted advisor.” That builds value for your company. And when the buyer does engage with your sales person, this sales person assumes a consultative role.
If designed and executed properly, a good marketing system will produce a steady flow of qualified leads to your sales team. With proper training and assistance from marketing, the sales team will know how to nurture these leads properly with additional helpful content. This nurturing process will lead to more and higher sales and, with that, a more loyal and productive sales force.
Wes Powell is president of TMR Direct, an inbound and direct mail marketing company. He frequently covers topics about integrating offline and online marketing efforts, marketing strategy and transforming businesses. Connect with Wes on LinkedIn and Twitter.