Smart and cost-effective marketing solutions can be hard to come by for small business owners, especially when it comes to digital marketing options.  There are endless things you could be doing, (many of which sound confusingly techy) and the budgets required can be downright alarming.  If you feel this way, you’re not alone and you’re not wrong… but that’s not the topic of this article. 

In this month’s column, I want to take you a little further back in the process, and confront WHY you’re even marketing your business and product in the first place.

“What!?” I hear you ask.  Surely without marketing, there are no customers, which means no sales, which means no profit.  An all-round untenable position for any business to be in, right?

Right. There is no ‘build it and they will come’ approach which works for marketing and selling products online.  Even in traditional bricks and mortar food retailing, failing to market your products (i.e., to tell the right people what you’re selling and why it’s better than the alternative) makes success a pipe dream.

We need to market – but first, we need a crystal clear objective. To nail this objective, the question you should be asking yourself before you do anything else is what is my problem here and how will solving it make a noticeable positive difference to my business?

There are many problems you could be seeking marketing solutions to fix.  The most common are…

  1. Low, declining or stagnating sales
  2. Low brand awareness (no-one has ever heard of you)
  3. Small customer base (sales are only coming from a small group of repeat customers)
  4. Sales are OK but profitability is poor
  5. Uneven sales – people are only buying one product and ignoring others, or buying through one channel and avoiding others.

Whatever the problem is, working out what it is and analysing it as rigorously as possible is a critical first step.  Clients often come to me knowing ‘something’ is wrong, and champing at the bit to start changing websites, buying ads and email blasting customers.  However, without correctly identifying what the problem is and how solving it will make a measurable difference, any success will be down to luck rather than strategy.

A recent example arose with a client of ours who identified that the B2B (i.e. wholesale) part of his business was struggling. Turnover, new customer acquisition and profit were down considerably, so he contacted me to immediately begin work on tactics to drive sales like advertising, email newsletters and special offers.

I asked him to hit the brakes and go through the problem with me in more detail first. 

marketing solutions

Let’s get down to business here.

When we drilled down, it turned out that there were quite a lot of sales for this cohort of customers, but the sales volume and the profit was low. It turned out that to access deep discounts, resellers had no minimum spend threshold to meet.  As a result they were paying shockingly cheap prices irrespective of what they spent, and buying tiny quantities at a time. This offer should have expired years ago, but had somehow lingered.  To make things worse, all B2B shoppers received free shipping.

So, the problem was not a lack of sales. Encouraging more ‘cheap’ sales through advertising would have been like increasing the flow of water pouring into a leaky bucket.

It was a poorly structured wholesale program, which enabled resellers to buy too few goods at too cheap prices. The answer was to reintroduce a tiered discount structure with minimum spend thresholds, to remove universal free shipping and to incentivise larger orders.

At the end of the day, no one knows your business as well as you do.  There are marketing professionals who can guide you through strategies to ‘fix’ almost any problem, but the crucial role you play is in correctly identifying the problem in the first place. Working with a business coach or strategist can help immensely if you’re unsure where to begin.  Once you know the real issues, determining your objectives and choosing the right course of action will be simpler and more successful.

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash 

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