Write a winning sales proposal

The sales proposal you send your client is perhaps one of the only tangible references to your compelling sales pitch. Therefore you need to make it personalised and easy to understand.

Often, sending over a simple one-page quote with a summary of work and the price is perfectly adequate. This is usually the standard approach for existing clients who are familiar with you and your solution. However, for new clients who may compare you to other services, this won’t help you stand out – and a well-written email summary with an attached price is NOT the answer.

Remember, your sales proposal may sit on your prospective client’s desk for a few days or weeks – or they may have to share it with colleagues who aren’t as familiar with your pitch. Therefore, your sales proposal needs to be memorable and convincing.

Here are five simple tips to help you structure and write an effective, memorable sales proposal:

 

1. Keep your sales proposal brief

The key here is to balance helpful information with backstory and evidence. Ultimately, people are busy, and we all have shorter attention spans than we used to. You need to keep your proposal short and to the point.

While there is no set number of pages in a proposal, keep the information essential. The key is making every word count, breaking down content into easily digestible sections/chapters, and including quotes rather than complete case studies (these can be included in appendices or as links to your website).

 

2. Focus on the client and value

One of the most common mistakes businesses make when writing a sales proposal is making the proposal all about them, not the client

Your proposal should outline your understanding of the problem and how your solution is the best way to overcome challenges and add value to their business. You don’t need a comprehensive backstory about your company. Instead, weave your history and experience into the solution.

While it might be necessary to provide technical detail, try and keep these technicalities relavant to solving a problem or adding value. A laundry list of features may be required for a quick side-by-side comparison with competitors, but you should always be sure to connect features with benefits.

Top tip: When you outline a solution or reference a product’s capabilities, ask yourself: “So what?”. If your following sentence doesn’t outline how the client will benefit, it may not be relevant.

 

3. Give them pricing options

Traditionally, most proposals only offered one solution. However, you could miss out on a higher sale if you didn’t outline all the available options.

Providing multiple options at different pricing levels can make prospects feel they are getting the best value for money as they have more information and context when making their decision. In addition, with multiple options within one proposal, prospective clients are less likely to shop around at your competitors. This effectively sets you up as your own competition, creating a win-win scenario for you.

Typically, the rule of three works best for pricing. Think Gold, Silver and Bronze, or Enterprise, Business and Startup. In our experience, most people will settle on the middle option.

Finally, don’t forget to add timescales. Make sure you answer the following questions: how long will it take? And when can you start?

Top tip: Consider putting together a simple Gantt chart within the proposal. You can use the number of days/weeks/months instead of actual dates if you want to keep things open. This can help give the client a sense of urgency.

 

4. Don’t forget the design of your sales proposal

This document is perhaps one of the only tangible sales documents you’ll send your customer. Therefore, this document needs to looks great.

Humans are visual beings. Not only do visual elements such as graphs, flowcharts, or tables help break up large blocks of text, but they also help communicate complex theory simply.

While professionally designed documents can help you stand out, you don’t need to spend hours on the design. Using a simple Microsoft Word or a free Google Doc template can help structure the layout of your proposal can also work.

A fancy document with terrible content can lose a sale just as quickly as an excellent proposal presented poorly.

Top tip: Visuals should look professional and on brand. Coordinate your colour schemes, fonts, and graphics. This will help ensure your business appears capable and credible.

 

5. Create a flexible, personalised template

Creating a template will help save you, and your team, time when writing your proposals. They will also ensure your proposals stay consitant and on brand. Making them flexible is vital to ensuring you keep them personalised and not a copy and paste job.

For example, you can create templated sentences that help summarise your solution to the client:

This proposal is for [client] who [client needs]. [Your company name] provides [main benefit that differentiates your offering from competitors]. When [target client groups] partner with [your company name] we’re able to achieve goals like [example #1], [example #2], and [example #3].

The more tailored and personalised your proposal, the more effective and persuasive it will be.

 

Bonus tip: Always include a call to action

Always end your proposal with a call to action. What does the client need to do if they want to progress with things?

 

How ETC can help

If you need help writing winning sales proposals, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Quote based on value, not price

When you quote the price of your product or service, are you selling a thing, or are you selling something that will add value?

Many businesses, particularly small businesses, believe they need to be ‘low cost’ to win business and to be competitive against more established companies – this is not the case. If you understand the client’s pain points, you should be able to quote a solution that solves a problem and adds value to their business.

Quoting your solution based on value, not price, will increase your sales conversions, and as a result, you’ll be able to increase your prices and boost your profits.

 

How to establish value

Establishing the value of your service comes from the work you put in before and during a meeting with your prospective customer. Learning how to prepare for a meeting and asking the right questions in a meeting will give you everything you need to understand the problems their business faces (the pain). This information will allow you to outline how your solution can add value.

For example, imagine you are a roofer quoting to repair a leak at a factory. The owner describes how he’s had to stop or remove machinery because of the leak. Your solution (fixing the roof) is worth the lost revenue from the inactive machinery over time, not the cost of the repair.

Sometimes, the ‘pain’ isn’t so apparent to the client, and you’ll need to work a little harder to establish value. The key here is to understand things like:

  • Current conversion rate
  • Average order value
  • Profit
  • Time taken to fulfil an order (including aftersales)

This information can help paint a picture of how an investment in your solution will increase future sales and productivity.

For example, imagine you’re selling order processing software to track customer orders and send automated progress updates internally and to the customer. The value here is the reduction in time someone needs to spend updating people on the status of an order. As a result of your solution, more hours are available to achieve other things. Perhaps you’ve saved an additional salary, which would have probably cost the business much more than your solution.

With the right information, you may be able to outline both cost savings and increased revenue in one go.

For a guide on how to get the information needed to add value to your quotes and proposals, read our meeting preparation article and our conducting a sales meeting guide.

 

How to quote based on value, not price

Factfinding is essential in creating a value-based quotation. The questions you ask your prospective customer can help reveal the company’s pain’ points – which can sometimes be unknown to them.

Here are some example questions you can ask in your meeting:

  1. What is your current conversion rate?
  2. What is your average order value?
  3. What is the average profit from each order?
  4. How many sales do you need each month to maintain operations?
  5. How is the company structured? How many departments, and how many employees are in each?
  6. What are your growth plans?

For more information on how to conduct an appointment that gives you the best chance of closing a sale, read our conducting a sales appointment article.

 

The competitive edge

It’s important to remember that value is based on the customer’s perception. Without establishing value, your solution will likely be compared to a price they found online or the last thing they bought – which could be a cup of coffee.

By establishing value based on a genuine understanding of how your solution will meet their requirements, you will have a competitive edge regardless of whether your price is higher or lower than an alternative.

 

How ETC can help

If you need help increasing your sales quote conversations, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Conducting a sales appointment

The key to a successful sales appointment is to listen to the client’s pain points and directly outline how your product or service is the best value solution.

Many people believe that you need to be good at talking to sell your products or services. However, sometimes, the stereotypical, chatty salesperson trait can be counterproductive. Instead, to increase the chances of winning business from a sales appointment, you should concentrate on developing your listening and processing skills.

Here are our top tips on how to improve your sales appointment technique and give yourself the best chance of closing a sale.

 

Establish rapport

The first thing you should do in any meeting is to establish a relationship with everyone in the meeting – even if it’s a video call. Of course, everyone knows you’re there to talk about your solution, so there’s no need to be too familiar. Still, it helps if you showed interest in topics unrelated to the purpose of your meeting, such as their weekend activities, families or interests outside of work. Remember, people buy from people, so if there’s an opportunity to find common ground, use it.

The aim is to gently transition from this less formal conversation into the purpose of the meeting. Ideally, this transition should be seamless. A great way to do this is to talk about finding more time to engage in hobbies or spend time with the family – your solution can help.

TOP TIP: Keep an eye out for any personal items in the room. This could help break the ice. For example, they could have sports memorabilia on show. People love to talk about their hobbies. However, don’t pretend to be knowledgeable about something you’re not. You don’t need to share the same interests. The purpose is to show genuine attention and get them to open up about their experience.

 

Clarifying what their needs are

In every sales appointment, you need to position your solution as a means of solving their pain points.

If this is the first meeting, ensure you fully understand what they’re trying to achieve. This is also the time to validate any prior research done during your meeting preparation.

If this is a follow-up meeting, ensure you outline the key talking points from the last meeting and the purpose of this meeting. This helps to set expectations and remind everyone why you are there.

When asking questions, avoid closed questions that invoke a “Yes” or “No” response, and instead, practice using open questions that invite people to provide a detailed answer. These types of questions usually start with ‘what, ‘when’, and ‘how’.

Finally, make sure you really listen to their answers. When it’s your turn to talk, your answers will be much more factual, and it will be easier to directly link back to how your product or service is the solution to their pain – this is how you establish value.

 

Talk about value, not cost

One of the most common stumbling blocks in a sales meeting is your product or service’s cost.

Some people are uncomfortable about giving a price, and you can see them physically shy away from talking about it. Others are happy to provide one, as they are confident it is fair.

Regardless of the situation, it’s not about how you feel about the price. It’s always down to their perceived value of your solution. If you provide a price without establishing value, the cost will almost always be too high. So, how do you demonstrate value?

After you understand the pain points of your potential customer, you need to know how much it costs them to work around their problems or how these pains prevent them from achieving growth.

Ideally, you want to get a financial figure from them to understand their pain cost. This information can help outline how your solution is a more cost-effective option or identify how it can add additional value and open up new opportunities. Again, it’s always about the value to the client, not the price of the solution.

If you take this approach, you’ll find that you rarely ever talk about the actual price of your solution.

 

Always close

You might be familiar with the ‘Always Be Closing’ (ABC) sales technique. And while this does conjure images of ‘pushy’, perhaps unethical salespeople, it is a phrase you should remember for each meeting.

In a sales meeting, everyone knows you’re there to sell, so there is no need to be afraid to ask for business. If you have established value, the close should flow naturally, and you can move from talking about how you can help to when you can start helping – this is called an assumptive close.

The assumptive close can be a gentle way to establish a commitment by creating an easy way to start. A great way to achieve this is to get the diary out and pencil in a delivery date.

Finally, don’t fall at the last hurdle, get the paperwork over as soon as possible. Whether this is a quote, proposal or summary of your agreement, get it in their hands as quickly as possible. Generally, people are busy, and as soon as you leave the meeting, they will get absorbed into other things.

TOP TIP: A great way to keep at the forefront of a prospective client’s mind is to send them a ‘thank you for your time’ email following a meeting. Why not create an email template in your email client to save you writing one each time. Here are some guides on how to create a template for the most common email clients:

 

How ETC can help

If you need help turning your sales meetings from a conversation about price to one about value, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Five ways to prepare for a sales meeting

Most of the time, you’ll need to have a sales meeting to convince the decision-makers that your product or service will provide a significant return on investment (ROI). Developing a strong sales meeting strategy can boost your small business sales process, win more business and increase your profits.

There are two vital elements involved in preparing for a sales meeting: the first is preparing your attitude (read the first part of our sales series: A sales winning attitude), and the second is research.

There are two schools of thought when preparing for a sales meeting; either you can thoroughly prepare and investigate the company or you can have a more open approach.

Ultimately, your approach will likely depend on the type of sales meeting and your personal preference. However, regardless of your prefered approach, it’s always best to do some research and make sure you understand the company and their market before you meet with them. Nothing stalls the progress of a meeting more than making the wrong assumptions or delivering incorrect information.

 

5 things to help you prepare for a sales meeting – The full preparation approach

If your preference is to prepare for meetings fully, then here are five tips to increase the chances of a successful sales meeting.

 

Step one: Do your research

Start with the company’s background and understand why they exist (their purpose), not just what they offer. This can go a long way in establishing confidence in your understanding of their ultimate business goals. The best places to do company research include:

  • Companies House
  • Website
  • Review platforms
  • Social media
  • LinkedIn profile of the person you’re meeting
  • Partnering websites

TOP TIP: Remember, looking at a company website or literature alone won’t give you a true reflection of what the company needs. A company’s marketing is (or should be) customer-focused. It’s giving you a clue as to what they want the end goal to appear to be, not how they operate. Think Wizard of Oz – you want to see ‘the man behind the curtain’, not the Great and Powerful Oz.

 

Step two: Prepare questions

While conducting research, make notes and prepare questions. Make sure these questions open-ended questions to ensure the prospect elaborates on their answers.

As well as company questions, make sure you ask vital sales questions too. For example, understanding their timescales and budget early on could save you a lot of time if expectations are unachievable (or unrealistic).

 

Step three: Decide your approach

Tailor your pitch or story to the client. Again, your research will outline what’s important to the client. For example, if the client values responsiveness and good customer service, include case studies and instances where you exceeded existing customer expectations.

If multiple members of your organisation are attending the meeting, ensure you are all aware of the game plan. An uncoordinated sales meeting could be disastrous. Make sure you know your roles and responsibilities and agree on silent queues to know when to speak or stop speaking.

 

Step four: Decide your expected outcome

Defining the purpose of the meeting and setting expectations of your desired outcome will help ensure you keep your meeting preparation on track.

For example, is this going to be an exploratory sales meeting or do you need to close the sale in this meeting? Depending on the purpose, you may need to prepare a quotation to take with you, or ensure you ask certain questions to help you put together a proposal to send at a later date?

 

Step five: Practice

Practising your meeting with colleagues can help identify particular areas of strength or gaps in your knowledge. For example, if you have a presentation, this can help ensure it’s working as it should, and you know the order of the slides in relation to your pitch.

Asking someone to role-play the prospect can be a great way to test your knowledge and fine-tune your answers. Make sure you present your pitch as if it were an actual situation, as this will help you practice body language, tone of voice and the speed of your presentation.

 

Prepare for a sales meeting – The open approach

The main benefit of the open approach to sales meeting research is you shouldn’t have any preconceptions or assumptions.

It’s always best to do a little research, like understanding who you’re meeting and the purpose of the meeting. However, only doing this basic research should mean you don’t have any preconceptions about the company. You’ll have to ask questions and seriously pay attention to their answers.

This approach can make the meeting feel more natural. However, it does rely on your skills as an interviewer. If this is something you’re concerned about, it’s best to write down some questions you know you need to answer before you enter the meeting – it’s always best to know what you don’t know.

 

What is the best sales preparation approach?

At the end of the day, neither of these approaches has been proven to be better or worse than the other. However, understanding each method should help you refine your chosen technique, and you may even find that your approach is entirely dependent on the industry or individual client.

Whichever position you take, it’s about working in the best way for you. Your objective during these meetings should always be to gather enough information to answer their needs with your product or service effectively – and close the deal. How you get that information is up to you.

If you’re still unsure, one of the most effective ways to understand which approach to take can be to practice a technique called ‘Mental Rehearsal’. This visualisation process is what top-performing athletes use to help prepare themselves before a competitive performance.

Mental Rehearsal is designed to help you visualise your journey to success. This can be visualising your walk to the car, the car to the meeting, the questions in the meeting and the handshake accepting the deal at the end. It may be that by mapping out this journey, you identify where barriers to your success are going to be and can help you think about how you’re going to overcome them – either through research or writing a question to ask in the meeting.

There are lots of resources on visualisation techniques online. This one from American coach Jack Canfield is simple to follow and provides a practical example of Mental Rehearsal.

 

How ETC can help

If you need help preparing for a meeting, or want to discuss either approach to preparation, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

A sales winning attitude

Great products can attract business, but it’s your attitude that determines whether a customer buys from you. If you don’t believe you can close the sale, you’ve already lost the battle.

We often get asked to help entrepreneurs and business owners with their sales techniques, as many believe that only salespeople can sell. We’re here to tell you that this is not the case.

Anyone can sell. The only difference between you and ‘salespeople’ is attitude.

 

Preparing your business’ attitude for sales

First things first, are you talking to the right people? Building a pipeline of warm contacts to have a conversation with is much easier than cold calling.

If you focus on marketing and promoting your business to the right people, you’ll find your sales calls become a conversation with like-minded people rather than a hard sell.

Need help in creating a simple marketing strategy that works? Read our How to market your small business series.

 

Always allocate time for marketing and sales

When business is good and you’re busy doing the stuff you love, the first thing to drop is usually marketing and sales. Neglecting these core functions can have a potentially devastating impact on your sales pipeline and cash flow. So, even if you hate sales, make sure you set time aside to prepare for the future.

Interested in winning more business and earning more profit? Read our summary guide to creating a winning sales process for your small business.

 

Preparing your own attitude for sales

Many people, even if they’ve got a warm lead, still find it challenging. More often than not, your attitude towards the sale is the key to success. If you find selling difficult, here are some tips to help you get into the right frame of mind and increase sales:

 

Meeting preparation

In addition to your standard meeting preparation (researching the company, familiarising yourself with the contact and planning the best route), how many of you mentally prepare yourself?

Every sale starts with you, not your client. Time is precious; if the prospect wasn’t interested in what you had to say, they wouldn’t be meeting with you. Don’t waste everyone’s time by leaving the office and telling yourself you can’t close the sale.

Before you leave for the meeting, remind yourself that you will win the business. Keep pushing out any thoughts that contradict this and reinforce a positive attitude.

 

During the meeting

There are very few people who like to be sold to. So, why are you so worried about selling?

If you know how your offering will solve their problem, then engage in a conversation rather than selling to them. The best way to ‘sell’ is to tell a story, not directly selling to people. To help maintain a positive attitude, use pro-active language such as “when you do this with me, you will get this result” and “by working together, we’ll be able to solve this problem”.

 

After the meeting

Hopefully, your attitude during the meeting was enough to win them over, and you get a yes right away. If they need time to think it over, arrange a time to follow up.

Don’t let all your effort and that positive attitude go to waste. Always follow up sales meetings, even if you ‘think’ it isn’t going ahead. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Most customer relationship management systems (CRMs) or email clients, such as Outlook, allow you to set follow up reminders. You can even save pre-written email templates to help speed up the process. If you don’t have a CRM system in place, why not check out the free version of Hubspot?

 

Maintaining a positive attitude

Regardless of if things work out or not, remember to keep your positive attitude.

A positive, friendly and relaxed attitude to sales will help you build a sustainable relationship with your prospective clients. Your service might not be what the client needs right now. However, by maintaining a positive attitude, you’re more likely to be remembered when it is.

 

How ETC can help

If you need help preparing for sales meetings, getting the most from your CRM system and improving your overall sales process, please get in touch.

If you’re new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Interested in winning more business and earning more profit? Read our summary guide to creating a winning sales process for your small business.

Measuring your marketing success

Measuring your marketing is the key to optimising your business processes, marketing campaigns and lead generation.

Ultimately, marketing is a sales lead generation operation. It aims to bring as many potential customers to your sales operation as efficiently as possible. An effective marketing strategy is when potential customers reach the sales point ready to buy with little convincing.

Regularly monitoring and reviewing your marketing activities against Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will ensure they achieve the desired outcomes. Ideally, you should review your marketing plan every three months.

Here are some of the common KPIs you should measure:

 

Return on Investment (ROI)

Return on Investment measures a campaign’s sales revenue for every pound spent. So, for example, if you spend £1,000 on a campaign that generated $5,000 in sales, your ROI is $4,000 or 400%.

This is the best KPI to measure the effectiveness of all marketing campaigns because it also measures the quality of leads these campaigns generate.

 

Cost per Lead

Cost per lead measures how much you spent against the number of leads you obtained. This measurement factors out the sales process, and it doesn’t measure the quality of leads. However, it can be a useful tool for measuring how much active response a campaign received.
For example, if you spend £1,000 on a campaign and receive 10 leads, that is a cost of $100 per lead.

 

Conversion Rate

As you might measure a websites conversion rate, it’s important to understand how many impressions you need to acquire each lead. For example, to obtain 10 leads, you may need at least 1,000 people to see your campaign. This would give you a 1% conversion rate.

 

How to measure success

Today, it can be relatively easy to determine what marketing activity has led to a sale. Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRMs) can track customers’ behaviour and identify what information they saw before a sale.

If you’ve created your marketing plan based on the previous seven steps of our How to market your small business series, you should understand your marketing objectives.

You should regularly review your marketing to ensure you’re working to your core business objectives. Leaving your analysis until the end won’t give you the time to course-correct, build on what is working and change what isn’t.

 

How ETC can help

If you need help measuring your marketing activities or understanding which of your campaigns are performing best, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Building customer loyalty

Building customer loyalty is the key to customer retention and the success of your business. You want your customers to return and spend more money with your business whenever possible.

To achieve this, you need a loyal customer base. Loyal customers are less likely to use a competitor and often refer your business to others. In return, you’ll spend less effort on customer acquisition and increase your profits.

Here is an example of the different types of customers in your business (the customer loyalty ladder):

  1. Satisfied customers – stay with your organisation so long as expectations are met
  2. Repeat customer – habitually returns to your company to buy again
  3. Advocates – put their personal/professional reputation on the line to recommend your business to others
  4. Evangelist – Actively convinces others to use your business
  5. Owners – Feel responsible for the continued success of your business

So, how do you obtain your customer’s loyalty and move them up the customer loyalty ladder? Here are three simple ways to build customer loyalty.

 

Provide excellent customer service

Delivering excellent customer service from the start of your customer journey is the best way to make the customer feel valued and build loyalty.

Here are some things to think about in your customer service model:

  • Provide multiple, easy and quick ways for your customers to reach you. If you have a prefered method, give them simple guidelines to follow. Think about including:
    • Phone numbers
    • Email addresses
    • Online chat
    • Ticket system
    • Automated emails
  • Respond to enquires quickly
  • Give customer services representatives the autonomy to provide rewards or discounts*

*Offering small discounts to retain a customer can be more profitable than obtaining a new one – you can always cover the costs in your pricing model.

 

Invest in an aftersales process

Setting up a robust aftercare process will encourage repeat business and ensure your customers are experiencing the very best your product has to offer.

Think about when you buy a new car or stationary. Once the sale is over, you’re often contacted by the servicing team to book your next service or the office supplies manager to make sure you don’t need any more paper or ink for your printer.

These minor contact points help keep your brand in mind and can often lead to ‘upselling’ – more sales with lower acquisition effort.

 

Create a customer loyalty scheme

Loyalty schemes help to incentivise repeat business using discounts or additional perks. Essentially, you’re rewarding your customers fr continuing to use your products and services.

Loyalty schemes can be complex, data-driven, automated processes like the Tesco Clubcard or Nectar (Sainsbury’s, Argos, Esso, Ebay). In these instances, customers collect points in exchange for discounts with themselves and partners. Also, each time a customer buys something using their loyalty card, it’s recorded, and they’re given discounts on their next purchase of that particular product (or similar products). And in exchange for using these systems, the business gains vast amounts of insight into their customers, what they buy, how often they buy and how much they spend.

However, loyalty schemes don’t need to be complex. Many companies use a simple card and stamp system. For example, buy six coffees get the seventh free.

Rewarding your customers makes them feel good about purchasing and motivates them to keep coming back.

 

How ETC can help

If you need help retaining customers, building loyalty or creating a loyalty scheme, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Building an effective marketing database

How do you build and manage one of the most important business assets you have?

Your marketing database is perhaps one of the most critical parts of your business. Of course, as a small business owner, you could argue that you are the most important asset of your business. Still, we’re assuming you don’t want to work on your own forever and can’t remember everything about your customers. Therefore, your database becomes the lifeblood of your business and you can’t effectively run your marketing without it.

Building your own database will help you directly and regularly communicate with your contacts, network better, and allow employees to grow and manage your business.

 

What is a marketing database?

The term ‘database’ is relatively ambiguous, so here’s what we mean when talking about it in relation to marketing.

In its most basic form, a marketing database is where you store all of your contact information. In marketing, perhaps the most common link or association with the term marketing database is a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM).

Your database doesn’t have to be a fancy system, it could be an Excel Spreadsheet with a list of names and contact information, but it’s usually better if it’s a dedicated system – we’ll explain why later.

 

Why is YOUR database important?

You may do all of your business through Facebook, LinkedIn or even through re-sellers. So, why do you need to keep a database of customers and prospects?

Remember, these contacts aren’t yours. If Facebook goes down, or you’re LinkedIn account gets blocked or hacked, how are you going to communicate with your customers? These services are communication tools, NOT your database.

Example: Say you want to launch a product through Facebook advertising. Then, suddenly, your Facebook ads account gets automatically blocked because of an unknown ad’s violation – this happens all the time, and you may not have done anything wrong, but it can take days to resolve.

Without Facebook, how are you going to promote your sale? Hopefully, you have been busy building your own email marketing database in the background and can launch a supporting email campaign to announce the promotion yourself.

 

What should be on a marketing database?

The type of information on your database is dependent on the business. Typically, you’ll want to use your database to store contact details, such as:

  • Full name
  • Telephone number
  • Business address
  • Email address

You may also want to group different contact types in line with your customer segments. To learn more about customer segments, please read the second in our How to market your small business series: Organising your customers to grow your business.

 

What is a CRM system?

A Customer Relationship Management system (CRM) is a place where you can store your contact information. Typically, these systems have tools and processes to help you record interactions with clients, such as recording when you last sent them an email; helping you nurture your relationships with your contacts.

CRM systems can help you automate processes and set tasks related to contacts. In addition, you can record marketing and sales information for each contact and assign lead scoring for a prospect. CRMs also allow you to share connections with others in your business.

If you haven’t already invested in a CRM system, here are some free systems to consider*:

A lot of CRM systems can also be integrated with other platforms, such as an email or SMS marketing service. Combined, you can harness the power of your contact data with communication tools to deliver a sophisticated, efficient marketing campaign with relative ease.

 

Database marketing: making the most out of your database

Database marketing is about making the most of all your customer data to deliver more personalised, relevant and effective marketing messages to your customers.

Combining all the previous learning from our How to market your small business series, you can populate your database with more than just the standard contact information.

Think about how the likes of Tesco and Amazon promote their goods and services to you? They know precisely what you’ve bought and can tailor their communications specifically to you. This type of communication greatly increases the chance of future sales and gives you plenty of reasons to stay in touch with your contact.

 

Manage your data wisely

As detailed throughout this article, collecting customer information is essential. However, you need to be wise in how you collect data. Here are some things to consider:

  1. Build up as many ‘relevant’ contacts as possible
    Imagine you’re delivering a presentation on stage at Wembly, and you invite everyone in your database to come and watch. Your presentation has taken you 10 hours to put together. Everyone in your database turns up. Now, have 100 people turned up or have 12,500? The hours you invested are the same, but how many relevant people listen depends on your database.
  1. Relevance is key
    Don’t confuse quantity with quality. 10,000 people may have turned up to your presentation, but was it only relevant to 500 people? Could you have given those 9,500 seats to people who were in a better position to receive that message?
  1. Respect your data
    Imagine if one of your employees stole your database, set up their own company and used the information to poach your clients. You would be pretty annoyed they used your data to do this! As businesses, we need to think the same way for the people who have given us their personal data. Did they give it to us, or did we ‘steal’ (take) it from somewhere else. Respect the importance of the data you have, and your clients will be more willing to share their information with you.

If you don’t already, make sure you understand The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), especially the differences between communication types. Can you only email them directly? Have they agreed to be part of a marketing list, or are they a new contact and you’re using legitimate interest?

 

How ETC can help

If you need help creating an efficient database to successfully implement your marketing plan, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

 

*ETC is not affiliated or connected with any of the CRMs listed in this article. We do not endorse a particular CRM. For a complete list, please use your preferred search engine to find other CRM alternatives and conduct your own research.

Creating a clear, strong marketing message

Your marketing message – how you talk about your business, product or service is what’s going to get feet through the door and sales on the ledger. It’s an essential part of your marketing process, as it’s likely to be the first thing a potential customer will see.

A marketing message can be defined as: the words (or communication) used to motivate people to take the action you want.

Your marketing communications need to be straightforward and easy for people to understand. If you’ve put in all the foundation work;

then creating a clear, strong marketing message should be relatively straightforward.

However, please don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s a few hours of work to create an advert, leaflet or website that’ll generate hundreds of leads. There are many things to consider when developing a strong marketing message.

Here are our top three considerations for writing a clear, strong marketing message.

 

Focus on outcomes?

When writing a marketing message, remember to keep the customer at the forefront. It’s not about how great you are or what you do, but about the most desirable outcome for the customer.

For example, a florist shouldn’t focus on how unique or difficult a bouquet is to arrange, but how fragrant the flowers are and how pleased the person receiving them will be.

Not: “We spent hours making this; it’s a unique, complicated bouquet, so enjoy it.”
More: “Imagine the look on their face when you hand them these.”

As another example, a heating engineer shouldn’t focus on how the pipes from the boiler are laid to ensure they run efficiently and are hidden from sight – these things are expected (and can be covered in supporting material). Instead, the leading marketing message should be about reliable heating that’ll give you a cosy warm house with hot water when you need it.

Remember, it’s about addressing your customers problems. Make sure your message shows that you know the problem and how your solution can help. It may be that different messages are needed for different segments of your customer base. To learn more about customer segments, please read the second in our How to market your small business series: Organising your customers to grow your business.

 

Make your USP clear

In most industries, customers have a wide variety of choices. At the research stage, potential customers can be overwhelmed by various companies outlining how their solution meets their needs. So, how do they decide which brand to use? The answer is your USP.

Your marketing message needs to communicate why your solution is different. Your USPs should be woven throughout your messages and supporting materials. You’ll need to convince potential customers you are the better solution continually.

Top tip: Remember, your USP might not be directly related to the product or service itself. Your USP might be your experience, exceptional customer service, market trust, or your businesses’ core values (your sustainable, philanthropic or welfare approach).

 

Avoid jargon

Now more than ever, it is essential to create messages that align with the natural way consumers talk. Whenever possible, avoid business or technical jargon. Keep it simple.

Creating a great marketing message isn’t about sounding intelligent but how intelligently you convey your brand’s abilities to make customers take action.

You can still use technical terms in your message if it’s necessary, but try and keep your initial communications simple, clear and concise. For example, can you explain your brand, product and service to a stranger in a 30-second lift journey? (the elevator pitch).

Top tip: When writing your marketing message, ask yourself, can the average 14-year-old understand the words I’m using?

 

Other marketing message considerations

  • Break down your message – You don’t need to include everything in one starting sentence; you can take users on a journey by prioritising your message and breaking it down into easy to digest segments. Start with your strongest point.
  • Research your competitors – learn from their successes and their mistakes.
  • Create an emotional connection – create an emotional bond that stays with customers. This has been proven to be a powerful driving force in making purchasing decisions.
  • Experiment with different approaches – do you have to be professional all the time, or will a more casual, humorous message work?
  • Create a network of supporting materials – include links to customer stories, testimonials, online articles that support your message (guide those users who need to research on a journey).
  • Apply the “So what?” test – after you write something, read it back and if you think the audience will respond with “so what?”, re-write it until they say, “that’s exactly what I’m looking for”.
  • Hear your message through others – once you’ve finished your message, ask others to read it and then recall their understanding of your message without your words in front of them. They may not have remembered everything, but they should be able to recall the key points. You never know, they may present your message back to you in a way you hadn’t considered.

 

How ETC can help

If you need further help creating a clear, strong marketing message to attract new clients, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Understand yourself: developing your USP

Understanding what makes your business stand out from the competition, your USP, is vital in creating a compelling marketing message.

In today’s online world, most people are incredibly adept at researching and comparing product and service benefits. Therefore, you need to ensure your differences (your USP) can be quickly understood by prospective customers. Many businesses will jump straight into selling their product or service, talking about what makes it great. However, not including what makes you different from your direct competitors or alternatives could cost you sales.

Do you know what makes you different from your competitors?

 

What is a USP?

Your USP is your Unique Selling Proposition or Unique Selling Point. It’s what makes your business stand out from the crowd and tells your customers what is special about you.

If you can’t identify your USP, you’re going to have a hard time convincing prospective customers to buy from you instead of your competitors. In addition, without a clear USP, you will find it challenging to create a clear marketing message.

When you think about your USP, it’s crucial to think about it from your customer’s perspective, not your own. What makes you different in their eyes, not yours?

 

How to find your USP?

Finding your USP involves having a good understanding of your business, your target audience, your competition and your industry.

For more information on understanding your target audience, please read the first in our How to market your small business series: The importance of understanding your customer.

New businesses
As a new business, you will need to rely on competitor research, prospective customer questionnaires, and your own story (the reason you got into business).

  • Create a competitor research document and outline their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis) compared to yourself
  • Ask friends, family, ex-colleagues and your network for their views on the service or product you want to provide – you can even use paid for online services if you can’t afford a market research agency
  • Understand and document your ‘WHY’ – why are you doing what you’re doing and what are you trying to achieve?

Established businesses
If you are an existing business, make sure you’ve done everything outlined for new business first, as this will give you a solid foundation. However, as an existing business, you have an additional resource from which you can draw marketing intelligence – your customers.

Speak to your current clients and understand two things:

  • Why did they buy from you in the first place?
  • Why are they continuing to buy from you?

Most company questionnaires will focus on the current situation. However, if you’re trying to attract new customers, you need to know why your current customers chose you over alternatives at the start of their journey.

 

The importance of a USP

Understanding what your USPs are will help you create a compelling message to target new customers. Whether you’re creating a website or advertising campaign, always ask yourself if your message communicates the benefits you know people are looking for.

Top tip: Writing this information down and including it in your business strategy will also help you communicate your unique benefits to key business stakeholders, including employees, shareholders, and partners.

 

How ETC can help

If you need help understanding what your USPs are, or creating a compelling marketing message to attract new clients, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.