One of the greatest contributors to the value of a small business is sales and marketing. Weakness in one or both of these areas can hamper your profitability as well as your ability to scale and transfer your business. If you’re like many owners, you’re probably looking for practical and affordable ways to strengthen these functions.
We’ve asked Monica Villalobos, president and CEO of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, for some ideas to consider.
She listed seven:
- Make smart use of social media.
- Buy outside expertise.
- Develop a solid value proposition.
- Communicate benefits, not features.
- Listen to the customer.
- Seek out opportunities for teaming and partnering.
- Embrace diversification and creativity.
1. Make smart use of social media
Word of mouth has always been a smart way to build awareness of your products and services, but you shouldn’t rely on it exclusively. Today, social media can be a more effective and efficient way to build awareness, acquire customers, and remain top of mind. Every post has the potential to reach a significant percentage of prospects and customers in your target market, whether you’re selling locally, nationally, or internationally.
If you’re new to social media, hire someone “in the know” for a price you can afford. College students and recent graduates grew up with the Internet and are skilled in the use of many platforms. They may welcome internships or apprenticeships in digital marketing because they can add the work experience to their resumes.
2. Buy outside expertise
If you’re responsible for most of your company’s sales and marketing activity, you may become a single point of dependency. This isn’t ideal for your personal time management or the long-term growth of the business. Since adding to staff can be expensive and onboarding can take time, consider outsourcing the functions. Firms that offer marketing and direct sales services can bring fresh talent, new ideas, current software, and years of experience that will meet your needs. Explore the advantages of a retainer agreement and a performance-based payment arrangement.
3. Develop a solid value proposition
Every big business and major brand has a value proposition that is the centerpiece of its sales and marketing efforts. Small businesses need value propositions just as much but rarely develop them.
A value proposition is a single sentence that summarizes why customers should buy from you. It should communicate what customers find appealing about your business, what value your product or service brings to the market, and what distinguishes you from your competition.
4. Communicate benefits, not features
If you create a smart value proposition, the benefits of your product or service can play a starring role in your sales and marketing functions.
“Far too many small business owners focus on features, such as where and how a product is made or how it was developed,” said Villalobos. “Instead, they should stress the benefits, namely what the product or service will do for the buyer … how it will solve their problems.”
She cites DoorDash as an example of a company that “gets it.” The company delivers food but realizes its primary benefit is convenience and time-savings. Understanding that benefit has been key to its business growth and development.
5. Listen to the customer
Your customers can be one of your best sources of sales and marketing ideas. Holding a few customer focus groups — either virtually or in-person — can reward you with a wealth of information about your audience’s opinions, needs, preferences, media habits, and more. While focus groups may not be appropriate for B2B companies, they can be practical and cost-effective for B2C companies looking for quick market insight and feedback.
6. Seek out opportunities for teaming and partnering
Some of the large companies or organizations you do business with may wish to team up with your company, mentoring you on business expansion and diversification that will reduce your dependence on them as a supplier or customer. They may already have an existing program to coach small business partners. If not, they may be amenable to loaning you an executive for a certain number of hours per week. According to Villalobos, these partnerships are more common than you might expect. Her organization has facilitated many throughout Arizona.
7. Embrace diversification and creativity
The current economic environment reflects the importance of a fallback position when the going gets tough. Companies that are diversified are more likely to survive the challenges of a changing environment. For example, many restaurants that used catering as a side business have pivoted and made it their primary business and greatest source of revenue during the pandemic.
Being small should also mean being agile, which makes it easier to reinvent your business. Success reinventions include bakeries offering baking lessons as a subscription service; store owners contracting with Amazon Hub and other online retailers to become convenient pick-up spots for deliveries; small boutique hotels are renting rooms at special day rates to remote workers looking for a quiet space equipped with fast internet service; and gyms are streaming live fitness classes and offering customized home workout plans.
A sound sales and marketing strategy can add value to your business by increasing profitability, formulating new partnerships, or making it more attractive to a potential acquirer. Businesses that are dependent on one person, such as the owner or key employee, for this critical business growth and value building function are at risk if unforeseen events occur inside or outside the company.
MassMutual and our team of financial professionals have the experience and tools to help you with critical business needs. Talk to us today and learn how we can help better position your business for the future.
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This article was originally published in February 2021.