Getting customers: Sales and marketing

Marketing plans

As part of your business plan you will have established the characteristics of your likely customers. But once you’ve identified your customers, how do you actually attract them to your business?Your marketing should stress the business’s unique selling point, but what is your unique selling point? Is it your product? Location? Price? Quality? This is the most important message that your advertising needs to convey.Your ads must also have clear contact details, as there’s little point telling a customer something if they can’t find you.

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Business logo

Using a business logo will assist your business to become easily identifiable and memorable to your customers. The most important message of your logo is the business’s name. Additional design aspects such as icons should be considered as a secondary aspect.

  • Keep your business logo as simple and adaptable as possible.
  • You should be able to use it on a wide variety of items – for example on letterhead, business cards, shop windows and packaging.
  • To be useful in all of these functions, you should ensure that your logo is legible in a wide variety of sizes.
  • Your logo must also be able to be reproduced in black and white so that it will remain clear when used on photocopies or faxes.
  • Limit the number of colours in the design as simplicity of reproduction is a key concern.
  • Your logo should have a logical connection to your business’s trade, yet unique enough to stand out from your competitors.

    As part of your business plan you will need to develop a marketing and sales strategy to establish exactly how you plan to reach your customers. Your marketing plan will need to establish timetables to ensure that your products and services are promoted at the most profitable times. There’s little point launching a major marketing push for a new product if your customers are likely to be distracted by other events. Try to decide when your customers likely to be open to hearing about your product.There are many marketing styles and locations available, but which is correct for your business? A strong understanding of who your potential customers are and where they gather information makes this task much easier.

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    Using customers to source new customers

    Once you have established customers, they will be a useful source of information about your business and how to expand its reach.

    You can gauge the reaction to your advertising by learning how your customers heard about your business and why they were attracted to buying your products or services. This will give you feedback on which advertising methods are working best and which aspects of your business customers find most appealing.

    Even potential customers who decide not to do business with you should be used for market research. Accept their choice, but be sure to ask why they’ve made the decision as you can use this information to improve your service or product for your next customer.Marketing must be tailored to effectively reach your customers. Your market research should aim to identify where your potential customers will receive their information.

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    Using media

    Major media may not be the correct marketing approach for small businesses. As a startup business you need to ensure that you attract the core customers that you identified when establishing your business plan. Wider reach is a bonus that can come later.

    Local newspapers, radio stations and industry publications are more likely to reach your customers. Local media services could even give your business free coverage if you are bringing a new idea or service to an area as it could provide a news story.

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    Building trust

    Establishing your business as a reliable source of information is vital to establishing your customers’ trust and their return business. Customers should come to trust your business as a reliable source of information. Your staff will be an important marketing tool, as their knowledge of your products will earn this trust. Your staff should be able to answer questions about your business rather than having to constantly refer to manuals or to other staff members; this will only serve to frustrate your customers.The most effective form of advertising will be the satisfaction of your customers. A customer that has received a great product or service will be likely to recommend your business to their circle of friends and business partners. A customer who has had a poor experience in dealing with your business will almost certainly spread the word about their dissatisfaction. Never assume that a customer will return to your business; treat every transaction with the same level of service that you would give to your first customer.

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    Cold call sales

    A cold call is an unsolicited call to a potential customer. This can be a difficult proposition, but you can make sales in this way by carefully targeting your calls with directed research.

    • Identify potential customers who are likely to be interested in hearing about your product.
    • Plan your call. Why are you calling? What will you say?
    • Be direct, but don’t impose yourself.
    • Introduce yourself and your business.
    • State the reason for your call.
    • Tell the customer why you think they’ll be interested.
    • Ask if there’s a convenient time you could discuss the business.
    • If they don’t have time to talk, offer to send them information.

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    Easy ways to find customers

    • Offer customers discounts or free trials.
    • Establish a brand image for your business.
    • Maintain great relations with existing customers, who will help to spread your businesses message.
    • Find out where your competitors are advertising. If they are advertising there it’s probably working for them. Why wouldn’t it work for you?
    • Don’t forget the basics such as your business listing in the Yellow Pages and other business directories.
    • Maintain your awareness of your customer’s interests. Are there any events that they’re likely to attend? You need to make sure that your message reaches customers en masse.

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    Use the internet

    Most customers will expect to be able to find your business on the internet. It’s a simple way for potential customers to quickly find information about your business, in their own time without having to contact you directly.It’s unlikely that you’ll need to have run a large website. A simple display of your services, prices and contact details is plenty. Keep your website as simple as possible. Too much information will simply confuse and alienate potential customers. But if customers can gather basic information about your business on the web it gives them an opportunity to see what your business is actually offering them.

    Customers can also seek useful information on your business through a “frequently asked questions” section. Keeping your customers informed helps your business to run smoothly and quickly as they can easily work out if your business is what they are looking for.

    There’s little point having a business website if customers aren’t aware it exists. Your website address should be included on all business correspondence, just as you’d include the street address and other contact details of your business. Your after-hours answering machine message should also direct customers towards the website.

    By regularly updating your website you can encourage customers to keep coming back to discover new information about your products. Establish a database of customer’s emails and contact them with new offers and information about changes to your business. Only use this style of direct marketing if you are sure you are delivering information that will interest your customers. Offer these updates to all your customers, but emails should only be sent with the customer’s explicit consent. Happy customers will be thankful for this simple way of keeping informed about your business, yet you run the risk of annoying customers with unsolicited contact.

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