Advertising, business development, branding, networking, social media, content marketing, SEO, pay per click, exhibitions, conferences, referrals, lead generation, email, snail mail and telephone calling. What a minefield for a small business? With so many companies offering advice, what should you do to grow your number of potential customers? Putting the basics into context in the internet age will save you from all the companies offering specialist marketing services if you cannot afford a full marketing agency.
The simplest form of marketing revolves around matching the seller to the buyer using the best match of the 4 P’s, Product, Price, Place & Promotion. In more complex situations, e.g. expensive professional services, People, Processes and Physical evidence become important and the 4 P’s increase to the 7P’s.
Services and products are ultimately purchased by people. So it makes sense to design the promotion of the service or product to match the target market. And communicate the proposition via a channel they will use. Traditionally this has been carried out by segmenting the market by demographics, e.g. age, gender, occupation, social class, marital status, family life stage, family size, income, education, home ownership, ethnicity and religion. In the case of business to business you should target a “job role for a type of business” regardless of the person’s personal characteristics.
Research shows that there needs to be at least seven points of contact before a sale will occur. As with most activities in business, the same seven standard points of contact will not work in every situation. And therefore several solutions should be considered.
In the initial stages of a business, selling to those you know is often the most common way. Then you expand your market through referrals, which starts the next stage of business growth. In the early stages getting to know a lot of people via networking is a good stepping stone to establishing your business. As businesses get established, growth via word of mouth is common and soon business owners will get off the general networking circuit. Then be able to focus on quality partnerships and referral networks. Where there is a strong common interest. When asked, “how do you obtain your work?” most small businesses answer, “by word of mouth.”
But network is only one point of contact. It’s likely that someone will also look at your webpage, look you up on social medi,a or seek a reference before buying. So, consistency of message across all sources of information is vital and should be adapted for the audience of that platform. Understanding where your customers will look and providing the answers to questions they expect to find in those locations will provide the reassurance they seek before buying when they look you up.
Moving past word of mouth
Getting past growing by “word of mouth” for B2B businesses can be a big obstacle for an owner. As suddenly they find themselves in the situation where they are dealing with larger businesses. There are more people in the decision making and more external influences. However, it’s the same process, but the channels are more complex. To work out who the decision makers are, who influences them, requires set up of an industry relationship map. Then you can identify the key contacts. And the optimum channels to access the appropriate people worked out.
The internet age has added several hundred more channels, but your targets will only be using a small number. So, identify and include them in the seven points of contact. Maintain the pre-internet channels, referrals, advertorials and suitable physical networking. Everyone is different! As a result you may be fortunate enough to form a relationship the person in your “target ideal job role,” in the least expected places.