Building a Successful Sales Pipeline

The sales pipeline, or sales board, is a set of defined stages that a prospect moves through to become a customer.

An effective sales pipeline allows you to track the progress of sales opportunities and ensures you take each prospect on the best possible journey to maximise conversion. Keeping track of prospects also means you shouldn’t forget to follow up on leads, and it allows you to ‘qualify’ or prioritise opportunities.

If you want to increase sales and profits, you need a sales pipeline.


Do you have a sales pipeline or sales list?

It’s common for the sales pipeline to be confused with a list of prospective contacts. Although a contacts list is valuable information, it isn’t the best way to manage sales opportunities.

Here’s a quick test to see if you have a pipeline or a list of people you’re trying to sell to:

Right now, without opening more than one spreadsheet, document or app, you should be able to answer these simple questions:

  1. How many new prospects do you have?
  2. How many quotes are with clients?
  3. What’s the value of your last quote?
  4. How many days until you need to follow up on your latest quote?

If you can’t answer each of these questions with a number, you need to re-evaluate your sales pipeline.


How to create a sales pipeline

When creating your pipeline, we recommend you start by looking at the stages you went through to secure your last successful sale.

The structure of a sales pipeline can differ from company to company, but here are some typical stages:

  1. 1st Contact. This is the initial exchange of information; this could happen via a referral, a phone call or a meeting.
  2. Appointment. This is where you set time aside to understand their needs and outline your solution. This could be via a phone call, an online meeting or face-to-face.
  3. ProposalAt this stage, you outline the solution that best fits the prospect’s need and the cost.
  4. Follow-up. You should always follow up on each proposal. Sometimes, it may take several attempts to close the sale. Keeping on top of your follow up schedule will keep your pipeline live and useful.
  5. Sale (Close). This is where the final negotiations are made, and contracts are signed. The prospect is now a customer.

After you’ve written down the stages you need to make a sale, talk it through with someone who knows your business. They can help fill in any gaps or remove any unnecessary steps.

You may find that there are steps you want to add based on your sales experience. For example, you may like to send some introductory marketing between 1st contact and appointment, or your business may typically need two meetings before you can deliver a proposal.

The idea is to keep the sales pipeline simple but not void of substance. As a guide, why not refer back to the questions at the start of this article. If your pipeline doesn’t allow you to answer these questions quickly, you may have missed a step.

Top tip. At the appointment stage, it is important not to sell your services until you understand their particular needs or challenges. Your time at the appointment stage should be heavily weighted to understanding your customer’s challenges (often referred to as ‘pain points’). It’s important to understand your customer’s pain so you can tailor your sales proposal to directly outline how your services are the remedy.


Create your pipeline today

Today, most businesses have their sales pipeline on a spreadsheet or use a sales tool built into their CRM system. If more than one person is working on sales, having a pipeline that can be accessed remotely will help keep it up to date.

However, if you are a new business or sole trader, at an early stage, it’s probably best to keep your pipeline as simple as possible. A complex tool or spreadsheet might prevent you from continually using it.

Ultimately, a sales pipeline is only useful if updated and reviewed. Here are some simple ways to help you create and maintain a pipeline:


Online tools

Free tools like Hubspot and Trello allow you to create digital boards. You can then move each contact through the various stages of your sales pipeline. Here’s an example of what a digital pipeline can look like:

hubspot sales pipeline
Credit Hubspot:



Don’t want to use online tools? Why not use a spreadsheet? Create a list of all your prospects and detail what stage they’re at in your pipeline. You can then use filters and formulas for summarising information quickly.



Have your sales board information prominently displayed in your office on a whiteboard. Then, divide your board into a grid and manually move each contact through the board. This is a great way to feel physically connected to each stage of the sales journey.

Top tip. If you prefer to go down a digital route, we still recommend using a whiteboard. You can keep the detail on your digital version, but use the whiteboard to remind you how many contacts are in each stage without opening up a document or app. This is a great way to keep you sales focused.


The benefits of a sales pipeline

If used correctly, the sales pipeline is probably one of the most powerful sales tools at your disposal.

Without complicating your pipeline, adding additional information will allow you to measure sales success and evaluate specific areas of your business.

For example, if you record when you first made contact and when you closed the sale, you can start to understand how long it takes you to convert a prospect to a client (on average). This helps you better forecast and understand how many prospects you need at the start of the year to pay the bills and grow your business.

Likewise, this information can be used to understand how many prospects turn into customers. This will tell you how many prospects you need at the start of the pipeline to make a profit.


How ETC can help

If you need help creating a sales pipeline, or if you have one and want to get more from it, 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.

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.

Create a Winning Sales Process for Your Small Business

An effective sales strategy and process can make all the difference in a highly competitive market. Unfortunately, many small business owners and entrepreneurs feel overwhelmed when it comes to sales; either they don’t like ‘selling’ or don’t have enough time to follow a structured process.

In this guide, we’ll look at the top eight things you can do to improve your sales process, win more business and increase your profits.


Step one: A sales winning attitude

Many small business owners believe that only salespeople can sell. This just isn’t the case. Anyone can sell. The only difference between you and ‘salespeople’ is attitude.

When business is good, and you’re busy doing the stuff you love, the first thing to drop is usually marketing and sales. However, neglecting these core functions can have a potentially devastating impact on your sales pipeline and cash flow if you’re not careful. So, even if you hate sales, make sure you set time aside to prepare for the future.

Learn more about adopting a sales winning attitude.


Step two: Building a successful sales pipeline

The sales pipeline, or sales board, is a set of defined stages that a prospect moves through to become a customer. Each businesses’ pipeline might be different, but its objective should always be to keep track of progress and maximise conversion.

Learn more about building a successful sales pipeline.


Step three: Sales meeting preparation

There are two schools of thought when researching a company before that first sales meeting; either you can thoroughly investigate the company or go straight in there without doing any research at all.

Regardless of your prefered approach, it’s always best to understand a bit about the company and the industry they operate within before you meet with them. Nothing stalls the progress of a meeting more than making the wrong assumptions or delivering incorrect information.


Step four: Conducting a sales appointment

Remember, people buy from people. So it’s always best to establish a rapport with your prospective customer. You’ll find people open up more, give you more information and will sometimes tell you exactly how to win their business. Ultimately, the key to a successful sales meeting is to listen to the client and directly answer how your product or service is the solution.


Step five: Quote based on value, not price

Many businesses, especially small businesses, believe that they need to be ‘low cost’ to win business and be competitive against more established companies – this is not the case.

Quoting your solution based on value, not price, will increase sales and boost your profits. If you understand the customer’s pain points, this should be easy enough to demonstrate.


Step six: Writing a winning sales proposal

Sending a quote or proposal to a client may seem like a basic step in your sales process, and something that must be done after a meeting. However, it can be one of the most powerful, tangible sales tools you have. So don’t underestimate its value.

The proposal you send your client is perhaps one of the only tangible references to your compelling sales pitch, so you must make sure it’s personalised, get’s your value proposition across and is easy to understand.


Step seven: Follow-up

After each meeting, quote or proposal, don’t forget to follow up. Your customers are just as busy as you are, so sometimes they’ll forget to take action. In addition, prospective clients may have questions they’ve since thought about after your meeting or receiving your proposal; a follow-up call gives you the chance to address these.


Step eight: Customer care and up-sell

Once the sale is complete in larger organisations, customers may transfer over to an account manager or to the customer service team to handle any further communications. However, in small businesses, it’s usually best for the salesperson to stay in contact with the customer.

Keeping in contact with your customer will help you understand how they’re getting on with the product or service, allowing you to provide aftersales care; you will also have the opportunity to up-sell additional services.


How ETC can help

If you need help with your marketing and obtaining 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.

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 successful marketing plan

A marketing plan is an operational document that outlines how an organisation will communicate and promote its products or services to its target markets.

A good marketing plan capitalises on the business’s market research and understanding of its unique selling points to better promote and communicate its products and services to a target audience.

Or, to put it simply: It’s a simple step-by-step guide on how and where to market/promote your business.

Remember, depending on your business, it can take 3-6 months for your activity to produce outcomes. Planning will ensure you’re not missing out on time-based opportunities, help you allocate resources, and prepare for quieter business periods.

Marketing plans needn’t be an overwhelming, complex document full of clever marketing terms. However, not having one could be detrimental to your business.

Here are three steps to help you create a successful marketing plan:


1) Create an annual, calendar-based plan

While it’s good for a business to be flexible and adapt quickly to unexpected changes, you still need to have a structured plan for when things do go as expected. Running all your marketing on an ad-hoc basis just won’t cut it.

First, create an annual plan. Outline all the critical dates in the year, such as Christmas, Easter, Valentines Day and Halloween. While some of these events might not affect you directly, they may have an impact on your suppliers and customers.

Next, take a look at previous sales information and see if there are any trends. For example, do you need to account for the school holidays? Is August typically a slow month for sales?

Using this information, you can allocate resources and plan when key marketing activities need to happen. For example, as a flower shop, Valentine’s Day is typically an important event. Therefore, your plan for this event might look something like this:

  • Adjusted stock order complete by 1st December to accommodate increased demand
  • Temporary sales staff interviewed and employed by 25th January
  • Update website 1st February
    • New products loaded to the website by 25th January
    • Promotion codes loaded to the website by 25th January
  • Advertising should start on 1st February
    • Message approved 11th January
    • Designs approved 18th January
    • Printed materials ordered 19th January
    • Digital adverts scheduled for 1st February
  • Email campaign sent on 1st February
    • Email design by 29th January

As you can see, there’s plenty to plan for this event. What you might consider being a simple leaflet, webpage or promotion might require multiple steps that need to start months before the actual event.

In addition to this, if you’re using external resources, such as a design or web agency, you may need to factor in their workload too. Technically, it might only take them a day to create the things you need for your marketing, but they may need a week’s notice for that day. Planning will ensure your marketing activity can be delivered on time.


2) Keep your marketing plan strategic

While you might like to include tactical elements such as ‘social media post published to Facebook on 12th February‘, within your Marketing plan, it’s essential to link all your activity back to your core objectives.

Thinking strategically will help ensure all your tactical marketing activities are focused and support the larger business goals.

For more information on identifying your target customer, please read the first in our How to market your small business series: Organising your customers to grow your business.


3) Take action

As with all planning, it will be a waste of time if you don’t take action on what you plan to do.

Once you better understand your annual plan, you can begin to break this down into more manageable chunks. First, create a rolling quarterly plan, then assign actions and responsibilities each month.

Scheduling monthly planning meetings to assign responsibilities is a great way to keep activity moving. If two or more people are in your team, you could define roles for each task. For example, you may be accountable for the social media post that needs to be published on Facebook on 12th February, but your marketing assistant is responsible for creating the post.


How ETC can help

If you need help creating a successful 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.

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.

Organising your customers to grow your business

Customer segmentation is a critical step in organising how you promote your products and services to your customers. Once you know who your customers are, you can start understanding how best to talk to your different customer types.

Think about the different types of people you interact with through your life: family, friends, coworkers and strangers. Chances are you don’t speak to them in the same way. You also probably understand that they respond to you and your actions differently.

This works the same for your business customers too. Different types of customers have different needs, pain points, and expectations on how they expect you to communicate. For example, a customer spending £1m with your business will expect to be treated differently to someone spending £100.

The key to creating and sustaining successful relationships with all your customer types is to understand their uniqueness and tailor your communications to exceed their expectations. However, treating each customer individually can be time-consuming and expensive. This is why customer segmentation is so important.


What is customer segmentation? 

Customer segmentation is the process of grouping your customers (and potential customers) based on shared characteristics. For example, this grouping could be based on:

  • Geography
  • Demographics (age, gender, occupation)
  • Behaviour (loyalty, readiness to buy)

In understanding who your customer is, you will have created a customer avatar (an image of what your ideal customer looks like). Segmentation expands on this by allowing you to link and group similar customers types together.


Why is segmentation important?

Segmenting your customers provides a simple way of organising and managing relationships with your customers. This process also makes it easy to tailor and personalise your marketing and promotional efforts to the needs of specific groups. This can help boost customer loyalty and conversions – you’re no longer using a broad brush approach; instead, you are speaking directly to the customer.

Following on from our example in The importance of understanding your customer, where we look at a flower company. Flower customer A who wants to show appreciation/sympathy to someone else (occasional/circumstantial purchase) – let’s say Valentine’s Day.

With segmentation, we can add this customer to a group called: Valentine’s Day customers. Next year, before Valentine’s Day, you can send them personalised information about any Valentine’s Day offers – increasing the probability of them buying from you again.

In fact, most companies with loyalty schemes will use segmentation to show you personalised offers. Think about Tesco, each time you buy a product; they know you like it. When that product is next on offer, they can tell you about it and encourage you back to the store.


How can small businesses use segmentation?

Segmenting your audience can seem like a lot of time-consuming work for a busy small business. However, think of segmentation as working smarter, not harder. In fact, today, segmentation can make you appear like you’ve done more work than you probably have.

One of the simplest ways a small business can see the benefits of segmentation is through email campaigns. Email marketing platforms, such as MailChimp, allow you to create different customer segments so that you can send tailored emails to customers. You can even send one email to your whole database with sections that will change based on the recipient’s segment – meaning you only need to create one template for everyone, but it looks like you’ve sent a personal email.

Sending personalised emails based on segmentation can increase your email open rates by 203%, and according to Campaign Monitor, marketers who use segmented campaigns note as much as a 760% increase in revenue.

Segmentation can also work for paid advertising campaigns on platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Your detailed customer information will help you narrow down your audience, allowing you to create more focused marketing communications and spend less money.


How ETC can help

If you need help with your marketing and understanding who your target customer is and how to group them into meaningful segments, 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.