I was talking to a small business owner last week who acts as a Sales Consultant and Sales Trainer for SMEs. She was telling me about the number of clients who have set up a business based on their skills and experience in their own particular field, who then assume that they will be able to manage the Sales and Marketing of that business – without having the aptitude, skills and experience in those particular disciplines. 

I have experienced the same. Sales and Marketing is often seen as something ‘everyone’ can do, but what often happens is the activity is often neglected as the business owner pursues the operational side of the business – and then struggles to find leads who they can convert to customers. 

There is an interesting study of nearly 250 SME Owner-Managers across a range of sectors made by the ‘Centre for Entrepreneurial Management and Innovation’ in 2014, that might strike a chord with many. A summary of the Sales and Marketing findings were as follows…

The majority of owner-managers (80%) felt that they had a clear understanding of who their customers are and why they buy from them. The majority (79%) also felt that failure was treated as a learning experience within your sales and marketing team, and that word of mouth was their main source of new business generation (65% agreed). 

However, the weakest area was their possession of a formal marketing plan that they regularly reviewed. Just over half (54%) indicated that they did not have a formal marketing plan, and only 29% said that they did possess such a plan. 

Another area of interest is in relation to the question of whether marketing activities were sufficient to create enough qualified leads to allow the sales teams to achieve their targets. Only 30% agreed that this was the case, with 35% saying no and 35% reporting that it was only partially the case.

An analysis of the relationship between possession of a formal marketing plan and success in generating sales leads from marketing activities was undertaken. This found a significant relationship between firms that had formal marketing plans and those that were generating good sales leads. 

For example, nearly half the firms (49%) that reported having a formal marketing plan also reported getting good sales leads from their marketing activity. 

By comparison 50% of the firms that did not have formal marketing plans also reported not getting good sales lead generation from their marketing efforts. 

During the collection of the diagnostic data the owner-managers were asked to comment on things that were of concern to them. An analysis of these comments in relation to the marketing and sales area highlighted a sense many owner-managers had that they lacked the necessary skills and resources to undertake marketing, the following comments are typical: 

“I don’t have a lot of marketing experience. To me, I do a ‘roundabout’ way of marketing and I constantly look at what others are doing”. 

“I could be more targeted in my marketing efforts”. 

“We don’t do any marketing. Our marketing strategy is to do no marketing”. 

“My main problem is time and keeping on top of marketing. Website needs urgent attention as does the email database.” 

“I am branching into a new avenue soon, which will require a level of marketing that I am not currently performing.” 

“We don’t invest sufficient in marketing”. 

“I have no marketing team”. 

“I don’t have the money to invest in a marketing team.” 

Another common theme emerging from the comments was in relation to customers. This related to the need to both attract and retain customers. For example: 

“We have to have new designs frequently to keep customers coming back”. 

“I don’t know if we are reaching all prospective customers.” 

“A problem is not having sufficient recurring customers to increase sales”. 

“Letting customers know that my business is here; settling on my definitive range of products and pricing them accordingly.”

Do you recognise these statements? Of course, its not just small business who experience this, I have worked in Private Equity backed firms and large corporate’s where some of these statements apply just as much. 

What really surprised me is the high level of business owners who know who their customer is, but then are failing to get the leads they need.

It highlights the need for a plan. A plan to go out and find the right customers. A plan that encompasses everything from the brand through to how to find, talk to and retain customers. 

A lot of people don’t know where to start. I empathise completely. I feel the same way about physically building a website – wouldn’t know where to start, which is why I pick up the phone and call someone to help. No shame in that – not my area of expertise while others do it every day. 

But just the same as everyone needs a website, everyone needs a plan. In fact the plan comes before the website – and is so much more important. 

You might think bringing in someone to write a plan with you is expensive. In my experience, it more than pays for itself. 

Cost-savings – expenditure that is bringing you no benefit, but isn’t actually being measured – combined with an increase in quantity and quality of leads and of course, higher conversion and retention, before you know it, the cost of bringing in a marketing professional more than pays for itself. 

The cost of creating that plan is so small relative to the benefits of having that direction and peace of mind. You should investigate it!!

One Objective helps SMEs plan and manage growth through innovative and effective marketing. Everything from a project to write the plan through to P/T Marketing Director contracts