Essentially this means selling more of your core products or services to a wider audience. That rolls off the tongue easily enough, but do you have a viable sales and marketing plan to achieve it?
I take all of my clients through a four-stage process to establish the kernel of their business proposition, based on an excellent book called The Inside Advantage by Robert Bloom, one-time US CEO of global advertising behemoth, Publicis.
But before we even begin that process, I want to establish some core fundamentals about the business: what is its essential purpose, what are its vision and values, and its over-arching objectives (and why should anyone care)? And indeed how do those conflate with those of the management team?
To explain this in more detail, I strongly recommend you watch a 20-minute Ted Talks video by Simon Sinek, called “Getting To Why.”
Once we have that convincingly articulated, the four things that The Inside Advantage establishes mean that all senior management will henceforth sing from the same song-sheet, in terms of:
WHO is the core customer most likely to buy your product or service in the quantity required for optimal profit.
WHAT is the uncommon offering that your business will own and leverage
HOW is the persuasive strategy that will convince your core customer to buy your uncommon offering versus all competitive offerings.
OWN IT! Is the series of imaginative acts that will celebrate your uncommon offering and make it well known to your core customer. Aka your marketing plan.
It all sounds terribly simple, and indeed it is – what Bob Bloom was doing was getting the client to agree and sign off the Creative Brief for his agency’s creative team – but unless there is unanimity on these issues, there is a danger that different staff members will be pulling in different directions, diluting the effectiveness of your plan.
I well remember a sales training weekend for my own business, when we had grown to around ten client-facing staff: the trainer asked each of us in turn, including the three directors, to stand up and give a 20-second elevator pitch for what the business did. We all stood up and said something different.
Understanding who your core customer/prospect is means you have a better steer on:
• Where they hang out, what media they consume – in short, the best ways to get marketing communications to them.
• What sort of people they are – which informs the style and tone of voice of those communications.
• How many there are: is that enough to fulfill your long-term growth ambitions, or will you have to introduce different, improved or amended products/services to appeal to a wider audience?
Agreeing your uncommon offering – the things that you and your products/services do better than and different from your competitors (it is argued that no one has a genuinely unique proposition) – informs all your marketing communications. It is the umbrella that over-arches the features, advantages and benefits of the business generally and the specific products and services you sell.
Only once you have agreed the persuasive strategy that promotes the WHAT to the WHO can you start to write a coherent marketing plan – the OWN IT! of Bob Bloom’s process: the many activities you will plan and carry out to make sure all those customer prospects you’ve identified know all about you and your uncommon offering, and have opportunities to experience the benefits you offer at first hand. They can’t be bought if no one knows about them.
I do not intend to write a draft marketing plan here, nor attempt an exhaustive list of activities you might choose from – advertising, events, etc – to get your message across. Whatever activities are most appropriate for you, I would only lay down one more core principle: one or two occasional actions are not enough. I use the ‘Power of Ten’ principle personally: you should be doing at least ten different things to promote your business on a regular basis.
There is one more important thing to say about this subject, which you need to take on board if your planning and execution are to yield the hoped-for results. It is a (well-worn) phrase from management and business guru, Peter Drucker: “Marketing is not a function. It is the entire business, seen from the customers’ point of view.”
What does that mean in practice? Every single interaction with customers or prospects should form part of your marketing planning:
• Décor and signage – the physical environment
• Culture and leadership
• Brand identity
• Processes and systems (and their user-friendliness)
• Products, servicing and pricing (quality, value)
• People (dress codes, attitudes, knowledge)
• As well as communications and messaging.
Every one of these areas has an impact on how people think about your business. One negative interaction can undo months of positive messaging.
I have concentrated here on sales and marketing, because organic growth depends entirely on the effectiveness of your efforts in these areas – as understood by the Peter Drucker definition.