The Chartered Institute of Marketing defines marketing as "the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably."
Marketing is absolutely crucial for most businesses. If a company doesn’t know what products it sells, how much it charges, how it promotes them, where it sells them, what customers want and what the competition are doing then it will struggle to survive.
Organisations such as Business Link can help you prepare a full marketing plan for your business, but much of marketing is focused on what is referred to the four P’s of the 'marketing mix':
- The term product refers to services as well as physical products. The product part of the marketing mix is about how your product meets your customer’s needs and how your product needs to change. This area may involve making decisions on things such as brand name, product features and functionality, style, quality, packaging, after-sales service and support and product safety.
Place - This area covers how and where you get your products to your customer. This includes the different distribution channels you may use such as retailers or online and the processes involved in getting the product to the customer such as warehousing, logistics and order processing.
Price - As you would expect, the Price section of the marketing mix covers how much you are going to charge for your products. Will you be cheaper than the competition or more expensive because you product is better quality? This area also involves decisions about any discounts, offers or seasonal variations on pricing.
Promotion - In this area the subject of how you will communicate information about your product to your customers is covered. For example, you may use any combination of things such as advertising, direct mail, PR, personal selling or sales promotions.
Sales are vital to any business, especially one that has just started up. Although there are millions of different products and services being sold all over the world, there are certain principles of selling that are valid for them all and that you need to be aware of to make your business sales successful.
Research your market - It is crucial that you know who your customers are likely to be and therefore who to target. You need to know whether the person or company you are selling to needs your product or service, why they need it, how often they need it, who do they currently buy from, who is the decision maker in this company with budget authority for buying etc? The work you did in researching the market before starting the business and for your business plan will be very useful to get you started here.
Getting a foot in the door - Once you have done your research and know that your product or service is needed, you need to make the right approach. First of all decide what you want to achieve. Is it to provide/send out some of your sales literature, or do you want to arrange a meeting?
In many organisations you will also need to get past a colleague or secretary before you can speak to or meet the decision maker. Be polite, honest and cheerful and try to think of a persuasive reasons and benefits why refusing to transfer your call might mean that person has lost a golden opportunity for the company.
When you are trying to arrange a meeting with the decision maker, think in advance of one or two of the key ways your product or service could benefit their organisation and responses to all the reasons they may give for not wanting to meet you. Ask for a definite date and time for a meeting. If all attempts to arrange a meeting fail, try to find out exactly why they don’t feel that what you’re offering would benefit them at this point and if it would be better to call back later in the year.
Benefits over features - When you are trying to win new sales you need to immediately establish that you are not wasting the company’s time and that what you have to offer will be of value to them. Try to thoroughly understand what the customer wants by listening carefully, using open questions and focusing on the benefits of your product rather than its features. See the following examples:
- Feature - Faster processor on desktop PC
- Benefit - It will allow you to have more applications open at once
- Feature - New technology coating on tent
- Benefit - It will keep you dry if it rains heavily
Handling objections - Objections raised by the customer are often a good thing as they show that they are thinking seriously about your product. It pays to think of as many objections that you may encounter in advance and so that you can come up with some suitable responses. For example, if the customer says they have an existing supplier, try and demonstrate you are cheaper or better value. If they say your product is too expensive or they don’t have enough money, try to demonstrate how your product could save them money over time or offer flexible ways to pay.
Closing the sale - One of the most common mistakes for a lot of sales people is forgetting to actually close the sale! Once you realise the customer is ready to purchase your product, close the sale as soon as possible. This can be as simple as saying, “can I take your order now?” to the customer or “when would you like us to deliver?”. You can also provide alternatives such as “would you like to go for version X or version Y of the product?”.