Sharon Williams is one of Australia’s leading thinkers in the emerging field of integrated marketing and PR. With her team at Taurus Marketing, not only does she work with some of our largest corporations – she also brings her knowledge and experience to the SME sector. Sharon is also widely sought after as a speaker at major local and international conferences and conventions.
And I’m delighted that Sharon is a speaker at the upcoming Sales E-Conference – “selling from recession to recovery”.
In a recent conversation with Sharon she discussed how marketing is often seen by salespeople and business people as a “wishy-washy” activity which simply produces T-shirts with logos and free pens. In this short conversation piece, Sharon will dispel this myth and share with us her thoughts on marketing as a strategic, measurable function which can be applied at all levels in business – both large and small. She’ll also outline a concise set of actions which both salespeople and SME owners can apply to make sure you make the most of your marketing activities.
The floor’s yours, Sharon.
In business terms, what is marketing – and what should it do?
Put simply, marketing is about attracting new customers and keeping your existing customers. Whilst it’s often wrapped up in vague terminology – especially in larger companies – at its core, marketing is about understanding why your customers buy from you – and then applying this knowledge when you communicate and sell to your customers and prospects.
All salespeople and business owners use marketing techniques – but often they don’t recognise that there are some basic principles underlying their communication which – if understood and applied – will inevitably lead to better sales results.
Every business must have a marketing plan to support their sales activities. The purpose of marketing is to help get past the “who are you” question. A solid marketing tool kit covers a range of things – including branding, presentation, logos, brochures, testimonials, case studies – and press coverage. Good marketing establishes credibility.
Salespeople today need to go beyond what is delivered by their marketing departments – and make sure they fully understand the material – and then apply their own understanding to the material and make it personal for their specific market group. It will really help them differentiate themselves from their competition because they’ll make sure it really fits their customers. It will take a bit of extra work – but it will pay dividends.
I know you emphasise the importance of PR. How does this fit in to a marketing plan, and why should we all use it?
Public relations – PR – is an essential element of marketing in today’s connected world. Smart salespeople and business owners are using PR to communicate positive messages to the range of stakeholders they are looking to influence – including customers, potential customers, other staff members and a range of partners and potential partners.
PR is about reaching your audience – as you define it. It means a host of activities, and can include sponsorship, newsletters, events – but primarily media coverage. Media coverage should now be an essential part of everyone’s marketing plan – no matter how large or small your organisation is. And even if you’re “just” a salesperson – the clever salespeople are finding ways to market themselves and establish their position as thought leaders in their industry. This gives them a great advantage over salespeople who don’t bother. Press coverage will not only bring you to a wider audience – but it will give you that very important third party stamp of approval. It’s no longer you saying something – with the proper PR, it becomes what others are saying about you.
So, what are the main things to remember when we’re putting our marketing plans together?
Over the years, as I’ve worked with people and organisations to make their marketing efforts as effective as they can be, I’ve seen seven areas which you should be careful to consider as you put your plan together. I’ll explain why each is critical – but first, here are the key points:
•1. Be focussed
•2. Be consistent
•3. Include others from your organisation
•4. Regularly review your plan
•5. Collaborate with your customers
•6. Learn from your competition
•7. Learn from your mistakes
Here’s some more detail on each item.
I often use the analogy of a dartboard when I’m discussing marketing activities. There’s so much you could be doing, it’s always best to focus and be clear about where you’re heading – and then target the best set of activities to support this goal. It’s sometimes easier for salespeople to do this because they’re usually given a pre-set budget or quota to achieve. But it’s then important to translate this quota into achievable parts – and to then think about what marketing activities you can realistically do to support this plan.
Everything you say, and all your communication, must be consistent. Your web-site, your brochures – and your personal communication – must be consistent and reinforce each other. This is often overlooked in larger organisations where marketing and sales are often separate activities – and often don’t communicate well. If salespeople aren’t comfortable with the material they are given – they won’t use it – and this can sometimes have costly consequences. It leads in part to my next point.
Include others from your organisation
Make sure everyone’s on song. In today’s world everyone’s selling – and everyone’s marketing. And the insights that can be gained from all sections of your organisation are usually underestimated by management. As a salesperson, make sure you get feedback from other parts of your organisation – listen to their perspective and get their input into your activities. Harnessing the power of the group is essential for consistency – and often uncovers fantastic innovation.
Regularly review your plan
Every plan needs to be reviewed and refined. If you’re an SME owner – no matter how small – find someone you can talk to about your plans. Talk about what’s working – and what’s not. Often a good coach can be a great sounding board for this function – or someone like me. I often sit with my clients and talk about how things have gone. The fact that I’m not too “close” to the business means I can be a bit more objective, and can help people see past ideas and methods they’ve perhaps become obsessive about – and sometimes just don’t work. We all need to let go of things that aren’t working.
Collaborate with your customers
Customers love to be involved and will often be prepared to give more than you think to support your efforts. This isn’t always possible – but salespeople are wise to regularly review things with trusted clients. It means they become more involved and helps builds real relationships – especially if you can use their ideas and suggestions to make your products and services even better.
Learn from your competition
The key point here is to not obsess with your competitors – but do take on board good ideas. Usually you’ll be best served if you adapt ideas and make sure they fit well with your established practice – but the competition is great source of innovation. You need to be watching what they’re doing, but don’t simply imitate – continue to use their ideas (and mistakes!) to continue to differentiate your organisation – and yourself.
Learn from your mistakes
The only people who don’t make mistakes are those who aren’t doing anything. So don’t worry about mistakes as such – but do try and avoid making the same mistake twice. Establish processes to measure the success of your activities. And – if you’re part of a sales team – share your mistakes as well as your successes. If you’re a sales manager, build and establish a culture that supports (calculated!) risk taking. A supportive environment will allow ideas to flourish. If an idea is unusual but holds potential – trial it and measure the results. Then replicate it across the team.
Thanks Sharon. I love the way you make a topic which is often clouded with vague terminology become so practical. At the E-Conference Sharon’s bringing even more practical advice to our audience in her session:
”Marketing tools that every salesperson must have to win business in down markets – and how to use them to get more business today”.
Make sure you don’t miss this session – and the other 9 presentations – and register today by clicking the link at the top of the page.
And if you’d like to find out more about Sharon Williams and Taurus Marketing, check out her web-site. You’ll also find a great set of resources to help make marketing & PR a valuable support for your business and sales activities.
Thanks for reading this post – Paul Sparks, Sales Effectiveness Australasia.
“Taking you beyond sales training and keeping you informed about the latest ideas, trends, innovation, research & best practice in professional selling and sales management”
If you would like to connect with Paul Sparks please email paulsparks [at] saleseffectiveness.com.au