Why aren’t people standing in line to buy from me? We have a good product or we provide a great service. These are comments I often here from people who start a business without some type of plan. Hey, I am not talking about a telephone book size plan. I am talking about taking the time to answer some simple questions
- Who can use my service or would benefit from my product? And why (what is their benefit!)
- How do I get me message to them? Personally, media, word of mouth, door-to-door, email, billboards?
- What is my message to them? What about my service or product distinguishes me from other choices?
- What order is the best method and most expeditious in getting my message out to the right people?
Simple questions that may lead to not so simple answers. How do I begin to define the market? You can hire someone to do the research for you or you can go to someone like D&B and buy so many leads based on some criteria you provide them. You may be able to find leads on the WEB by searching for free listings or join organizations that include people who are your market. You may have to just go to each business and/or house in certain areas to tell them about your service or product? There are many different ways to accomplish this aspect and no one way is the only way. In fact, you may decide to pursue it on many different levels. You may advertise on TV or a billboard. Maybe for you, a mail out campaign with some type of offer brings people in to you facility or store or makes them aware of what you have to offer. This definition and communication of your business is the most critical aspect to being successful. You may be able to go to your local business magazine and acquire a list of certain types of companies in your town with all the information you need. Now you have to develop the campaign to tell them your message and lead them to acquiring your product of service. In this process, many times people get so focusing on selling that they lose their identity. For example you promote your business as being higher quality than those currently in the market and yet you discount the price below that of your competitor because you are impatient or in a hurry. Another reason to develop a plan and understand it such that you maintain your corporate and product/service identity and integrity.
Having touched on your message, let’s remember that marketing materials can be of a wide range of quality and sources. You can pay to have them designed and used high quality materials or maybe you just do them yourself. Again they need to be clear and carry a message both about who the company is and what the product/service can do for them. In today’s marketplace, many business figure if I can call on enough people I will get sales. This can be true if you are not targeting a specific geographical area say like a restaurant or retain store. If you are incorporating the internet into your program and you can deliver the service or product to the end user then by all means proceed. Determination and effort can overcome a lot of things to drive a business to the success point. My point, define how and to whom you plan to sell. Determine how they make their decisions and utilize the appropriate method to deliver the appropriate message to them.
Finally, what are you expectations? How soon do you expect to close the first sale on best and worst case basis? Have a budgeted for the worst case basis and worked for the best case? Have I quantified the sales expectations into short and long term? Have I put together the resources to provide for the opportunity to succeed or have I pinched pennies and maybe need to stretch out my expectations. Many times we are blinded by our own brilliance or maybe it is naïveté or somewhere in between. However, this needs to be the most realistic conversation and plan you can have. You need to be clear on what the worst can be and am I willing to risk that? Or if it goes bad, what can I do? If it goes better than expected, what do you do? Increase production, hours, staff, raise prices or just turn down excess orders or business. Hopefully, you are beginning to see the importance of the sales or market analysis and planning. It is not about the format or how pretty it looks, it is about the meat.