First published July 28, 2008
In most small companies sales and marketing is the responsibility of the same person. Often the person in charge has been with the company for some time and what they know about sales and marketing has been learned on the job. Sales and marketing are joined at the hip. In fact your strategic sales plan should be an outgrowth of your strategic marketing plan. Although there are multiple marketing objectives such as investing in customer relationships, building community, establishing your company as content expert in your field, etc., the fundamental purpose of marketing is (drum roll, please) to create sales opportunities.
It is amazing to me how many companies operate without full understanding of the answers to the following questions. So what are the key questions that should be answered for successful sales and marketing to occur?
- Who is the customer?
- What problem does our product solve for the customer?
- How do we reach the customer?
Let's take these one at a time. In K-12 publishing the customer can be a classroom teacher, a curriculum specialist, a technology specialist, a media specialist, or a site administrator – and that is just at the building level. There are a host of titles at the district level. Each of these customer types has different needs – expressed or not. Having a clear understanding of which of these is your buyer and who are the influencers is vital to crafting a successful marketing and sales strategy.
It's all about what the customer needs not about how long you've been in business or what your company history is or what your plans for the future are. You need to be able to clearly answer the question, "what problem does our product solve for our customer?" The answer to this may evolve over time, so you have to periodically revisit this question. It's about benefits; not features. Even though this is an often-cited mantra in sales and marketing, the lion share of sales collateral, company websites, and sales people themselves do not clearly convey the benefits of their product offering.
Third is the question of how do we best reach the customer? Current marketing trends are shifting rapidly as consumers in all walks of life have figured out how to escape the hundreds of marketing messages they receive daily. This landscape is guaranteed to shift on a regular basis so you have to systematically measure and analyze your efforts to understand your channels of business and understand what these customers are responding to.
All of this sounds very Sales & Marketing 101. But as companies grow and evolve, they often do not take the time to reposition their marketing messages to a shifting market and they end up with mismatched marketing and sales messages. All company messages as well as all company personnel need to speak with one clear voice that conveys to the customer in no uncertain terms what problem they are solving for the customer.
Is it time to revisit your sales and marketing strategies?