The “trick” to sales, once you have a product or service to offer and have identified your target market, is to reach out to that target market and establish a relationship. This is not all done overnight. Finding your people and establishing a relationship takes time. The days of internet “wham, bam, thank you ma’am” marketing have passed. (Yay!)
Depending on what you sell, your sales cycle may be long or short. It may also be that your clients call you when they need you (immediately!) and not before.
In the meantime, nurturing a relationship—sending regular emails with helpful information, having a blog or podcast, sending keep-in-touch notes and postcards via snail mail (remember that?), holding content-based webinars, even telephoning, are all ways to stay in front of your target market, help them know who you are and what you offer and hopefully—when the time comes to buy—think of you first. It’s about staying top of mind.
Advertising is Just One Piece of Your Marketing Plan
There are other aspects of marketing such as positioning yourself, your product or services in the marketplace, but to do that, you have to be in front of your target market. Too often, businesses think that all they have to do is buy an ad and the work will roll in. But that raises a slew of questions:
- What media do you buy the ad in?
- What kind of ad?
- What offer do you make?
- Where does the ad send them to?
- What should your ad budget be?
- How long should you run it?
- Should you even use ads as a marketing strategy?
And these are just for starters…
Nor sofun: People don’t even notice your ad until the third or fourth or seventh time they see it. It takes that long for you to register on their radars. It takes time to gain traction.
Advertising is just one piece of the marketing puzzle. And—more fun—every book and business is different. So every marketing plan is different.
Consistent is Better Than Fast
There is, in general, an order to the sales process, a logical progression. And too often we want to jump over steps and go for the quick fix. We need money NOW dammit!
I get that.
I love a quick pop as much as the next business gal. But the longer I’m in business, the more I appreciate steady, consistent sales.
In talking with small business owners, it’s that consistent income that is so elusive. There’s a reason for that.
Most of us wear all or almost all the hats in our businesses. That means we’re in charge of marketing, ringing up the sale, fulfilling the order, shipping it out, and following up with the customer. We’re working on our own websites, writing our blog posts, posting on social media. Even if we outsourced some of this to an admin, virtual or local, we’d still be doing a lot of the heavy lifting, especially when it comes to marketing.
Marketing is the life blood of any business. Marketing is what brings in sales. But in small businesses, it’s often feast or famine. We market, market, market and bring in a sale or two. Then we stop marketing to take care of the customer(s). When we’ve finished with them, we realize that no leads have been coming in because the marketing had slowed down or stopped. It’s a cycle that keeps us on the hamster wheel, spinning faster and faster and not getting anywhere.
You Need to Build a Pipeline
My goal for my clients is to create a pipeline of leads that convert to sales at a steady clip. If you want a reliable, consistent $5,000 a month, you really need to aim higher than that for those months when sales dip for one reason or another. Think about it. If you need $5,000 a month coming in and you usually make that, but you have two months in a row that are only $3,500, your business is going to suffer. But if you need $5,000 a month and you consistently make $7,000, an off month might be $5,500 instead of $3,500. Overshooting your goal doesn’t just give you money to tuck away for the slow months; it creates a baseline income above your waterline so you don’t get swamped in bad times.
That’s something people miss in their planning. Yes, you plan backwards from your income goal, but you need to raise that income goal before you start planning. You have to look at the time it takes you to deliver your product or service and factor that in. Most of all you need to track and measure where your sales are coming from so you can build a repeatable formula.
The marketing plan is just the starting point. It’s good to know what you need to do every day to market your business. It’s better when you start getting hard data that you can analyze so you know where your sales are coming from, how many times someone saw your ad before they contacted you, whether people responded to video or print or audio, and a myriad of other points that allow you to continuously improve and upgrade your plan.
A marketing plan is fluid; it can adapt to take advantage of the data. It should constantly be tweaked to produce better and more consistent results. It doesn’t have to be the stuffy, formal marketing plan that starts with a SWOT analysis of the competition. But it does need to be more than a few ideas jotted down on the back of a napkin.
If you’re not getting consistent sales, take a look at your marketing pipeline. If you don’t have one, we should really talk.