Another important area of a well-structured Business Plan is your Marketing and Sales Plan. And here’s a clue card: Marketing and Sales are not sprinkles on the cupcake. They ARE the cupcake: the front end of cash flow in the order-to-cash process.
For all of you technically oriented businesses (my client base) who are operating under the mis-perception that:
a) everyone knows who you are;
b) you are in a niche business and, um, er, everyone knows who you are;
c) you’ll market yourselves when you need to, in 6 months perhaps, because your pipeline is now full because, well, you know, everyone knows who you are;
d) your pipeline will remain full because – yes you’ve guessed it – everyone knows who you are; and
e) your sales folks are constantly beating the bushes for new business because all doors are open to them because, well, you know the rest of that sentence….
It doesn’t matter that everyone knows who you are and how to get a hold of you if they think they need you. They won’t. So please don’t be that presumptuous.
I’m sure you’ve created an image and brand of yourself as the personification of your company AND your company as the go-to folks, haven’t you? And that’s a 24/7 job, not a matter of business lunches, meetings, conferences and golf outings.
A well-structured Business Plan requires a well-structured Marketing and Sales Plan.
And most folks in the industrial and manufacturing arenas regard marketing plans as the equivalent of throwing spaghetti against the wall from time to time and hoping it sticks. Particularly small-to-mid sized companies.
Marketing plans need to reach out to your target audiences to provide WHAT they are looking for, WHERE they are looking, WHEN they are looking via STRONG and CONSISTENT marketing statements. Marketing plans are the tactical implementation of a series of strategic initiatives. Not a four-color (expensive) ad here and there in a reputable industry journal (preaching to the choir) when your budget (non-dedicated) permits. Not a Tweet here and there when you think of it.
Based on your annual Industry Analysis, your understanding of your Customer Base, and your Competitive Analysis you should have a constant finger on the pulse of what makes your business tick. Determining the best marketing initiatives to support the efforts of your sales people become critical to keeping your company top-of-mind in front of not only current customers but also new customers and industrial and high-tech emerging markets.
The best salesperson and marketing spokesperson you have for your business is your website.
Your website is your unpaid 24/7/365 advocate operating across all time zones simultaneously. Is your website current? Do visitors to your website have to struggle to understand the navigation (hint: the fastest way of getting that person to hit the “back” button and go elsewhere). Does your website look like it’s been created by your sister’s 17-year-old son during Christmas break? Can you track activity down to the site of the incoming URL, location of the company and see which pages have been traversed by visitors? Do you understand why people are coming to your website (in response to recent advertising, participation in a trade show, sales blitz in a particular region?). Do you even regard your website as a critical tool for business development?
Are you advertising on Google via ad words?
Do you trust the traffic that’s reported as going directly to your website? Where’s that traffic coming from, anyway? Is your engineering and manufacturing niche capable of generating enough traffic that will result in enough business? Because not everyone who looks at the ad words or goes to your website is in buying mode. Which means your sales folks have to identify these leads and engage them in meaningful business development discussions. And we know that some sales people only want “qualified leads” which means they only want to work with prospects ready to sign on the dotted line with minimum development work on the part of the sales folks. No such easy button here.
Are you advertising on engineering and manufacturing-specific websites who have well-developed traffic and keyword search navigation?
Because when it comes to Word of Mouth, the Internet provides the most buzz with the greatest momentum and potential for business development.
Are your sales folks and sales engineers delivering marketing and sales messages about your technical deliverables?
Are these consistent with what a visitor to your website and online advertising is reading? Buying ad words which link to a website which doesn’t deliver against what is promised is a very good way to discredit your marketing and sales efforts.
And asking your sales people to commit to soaring sales quotas which your company has not supported by an aggressive and consistent marketing campaign is like asking them to give you something for nothing.
Which is why starting to think about your marketing plan and sales plan for 2011 right now is way too late.
Regardless of when during 2011 your fiscal year starts. Your marketing and sales plan is your battle plan. And your battle plan allows you to be proactive, responsive and nimble in the market place.
So where do you stand on the 2011 battlefield? Think about it.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013-2016. Her book Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools and is available on Amazon.