The Ultimate Guide to Sales and Marketing for SME’s
SME or small and medium-sized enterprises are those businesses that have a small number of employees, assets, and revenues. The threshold below which a business qualifies as an SME is different for different countries. For example, for the European Union, an enterprise with less than 250 employees is considered an SME whereas, in the United States, it is the organization that has fewer than 500 employees. For India, a business qualifies as an SME based on the initial investment in the same.
According to the US Census Bureau Data of 2016, SMEs make up the majority of businesses in most of the countries of the world. Therefore, for good economic development of the individual countries, it is important for these SMEs to explode their revenues. Thus, this is an ultimate sales and marketing guide for SMEs to prosper in their economies.
Difference between Sales and Marketing
Before we start discussing sales and marketing for SMEs separately, it is important to figure out the need of discussing them exclusively. Since ages, there has been confusion between the job responsibilities of the sales and the marketing departments of businesses. Let us decipher the difference between them once and for all.
What is Marketing?
- Marketing is using strategies to let your target customers know about your brand, products and services and that how your products and services can help them address their issues.
- Marketing is to research the market and know what exactly do people need.
- Marketing helps a business in attracting customers and promoting the overall business.
What is Sales?
- On the other hand, sales is using strategies to make your prospect actually buy your products or services.
- Sales is one-to-one while marketing is one-to-many.
- Sales is to understand the individual prospect and provide him/her with a suitable solution.
- Sales help a business in selling to the customers and making a long term relationship with them.
All in all, a business initiates the selling process through marketing by making the target customers aware of the brand and the products or services. Whereas, sales is the second step wherein the business closes its deal with the customers.
Marketing Guide for SMEs – Top Ten Marketing Tips for SMEs
We now know that a proper marketing guide for an SME is essential. This is because an SME cannot become a spendthrift in promoting its business. If it did, the revenues might increase but the profits will go down reasonably. Hence, to balance the equation between expenditure, revenues, and profits, you can use the below marketing tactics to promote your SME.
Although branding is slightly different from marketing, a few scholars keep branding as the first stage of marketing. Of course, before making your customers aware of what you have to offer them, it is important to make them aware of who you are. Branding is forever while marketing is short term.
Branding is giving an identity to your business. Your customers recognize you with your brand. Marketing, after branding, may or may not work for a certain product. However, if people have trust in your brand, your business is going to make it to good times.
To communicate your identity as a business to your customers, you need to keep a suitable name, logo, tagline, mission, and vision that identify your organization. Keep the logo in the exact colors wherever you want to leave a mark. You can do this by using your logo on envelopes, letterheads, email signatures, offices, advertisements, etc.
Very soon, people will start recognizing your business and associate your logo with your products or services. This is when your marketing tactics can kick start your revenue shoot-ups.
2. Understand your Business and Customers
Understand that a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy doesn’t work in this digital era. This approach might get you some customers. However, be sure to lose on some great opportunities to the other businesses in the industry who market according to your customers’ demographic.
When running an SME, you need to understand that you cannot sell sophisticated semiconductor machines to Government officials by advertising about them on LinkedIn, especially in a country like India where Government people are still rarely active on professional social media platforms. The correct strategy to reach such customers should be through emails, cold calls or direct registration as a vendor for various government departments.
You need to have answers to some questions before you plan your marketing strategies for a B2B structure. These are – who are your customers? What is the frequency of their online activities? Where do they live? What are their priorities? How is their work culture?
3. Invest in a Good User-friendly Website
For a standard marketing guide, this is usually the first point. Well, it is obvious that people will not stay on your website if they –
- Do not get what they expect
- Do not find your website usable
- Get confused on what to do on a website because it has too much or too less information
- Suspect that the website isn’t genuine
- Are not impressed or inspired by the website
If you can, take a survey of how people perceive your website to be. Check how much friendly, usable, genuine, inspirational, obvious, and easy your existing customers find your website to be.
If you cannot take a survey of your customers, try it with your employees or read this to know what problems does your website has for its users. Based on the survey, you can check out the websites of other businesses in your industry. These websites can give you insights and inspirations for UI and UX that you can use for your website.
It is very important (read indispensable) to have a website that is user-friendly and easy to surf for your prospects and customers. Moreover, it is equally important for a website to be mobile-friendly to work seamlessly over multiple screen sizes of every kind of electronic gadget. A mobile-friendly website looks something like below.
4. Social Media Advertising
Everyone is on social media today. Whether it is LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, almost every individual has an online presence at least one of these platforms. This is the reason why 95% of adults aged between 18-34 likely start following a brand via social networking. Moreover, SMM facilitates smart targeting of the customers by segregating them as per the age, gender, location, interests, online activities, etc.
Generally, LinkedIn and Twitter work better for a B2B transaction while Facebook and Instagram are better known for improving B2C marketing. However, depending on the industry, all of them find their usage in Social Media Marketing.
The best part about doing social media ads is that now it is quite convenient to create and run them. You need to structure your ads based on your target needs or a solution to their pain point that you have to offer. This means you need to run creative campaigns relevant to your target audience.
There are some simple steps that you need to follow when you plan to post your ads on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Alternatively, if you still feel the need for a tech-savvy individual, you can always reach up to a consultant or a third party who can help you go about with the ads.
5. Google My Business
This is one of the best marketing strategies for a business to work wonders in the local market. Hence, this point stands number one in the marketing guide for SMEs to gain credibility and success.
Google My Business helps your local customers to locate you easily in their nearby market. With the help of this tool and the reviews that you get for your business here, your business gains reliability from the locals. Gradually, your business earns popularity and trust from your customers.
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is increasing the quality and quantity of traffic on a website by making its web pages keyword optimized. SEO is one of the best modern-day marketing techniques. It is categorized as digital marketing.
No matter what the search algorithm of a search engine is, you need to ensure that your website appears on the first page of search results of the search engines. You can ensure this by keeping up with the changing search algorithms of search engines. This will amplify your chances of getting more and more quality hits on your website and thus promote your business to the maximum audience.
7. Content Marketing
A part of digital marketing is content marketing. The basic idea behind this is to provide valuable and relevant content to attract and retain customers. This ensures that when they need one of your products, the first name that comes to their mind is yours.
The biggest advantage of including this strategy in the marketing guide of your organization is that content creation isn’t a very costly affair but still it pays off long term benefits by attracting and retaining customers for a very long time.
However, it is difficult to create quality content that has the power to act as a lead magnet for quality leads. Good quality blogs are those that are SEO friendly, reader-friendly, consistent and relevant. Moreover, just blogs aren’t enough for your website to be content-rich to invite much traffic. Content also includes videos, podcasts, online courses, etc. You can use different types of content for different phases of your customers’ journey.
8. Email Marketing
There are various advantages of using email marketing. To begin with, email marketing still provides the highest number of converted customers out of all other sources. This is clear from the fact that 81% of SMEs depend on email campaigns as their primary customer acquisition channel and 80% of them rely on emails for customer retention.
Moreover, email marketing is easy to implement and automate, provides instant communication, allows various types of analyses through CRM, is inexpensive and ensures high open and turn around rates.
However, the important thing to remember is that you need to provide the relevant data to your potential customers through emails. If the data in your emails is not worth going through, it is just a waste of time for you as well as your customers. This might even lead your emails to land up in the spam folders of your customers.
To ensure getting maximum hits on your emails, you can personalize them; send your new customers a welcome email, send your loyal customers regular updates; and make your emails more interactive for your customers.
9. Print Media
Although less common for today’s digital era, print media still has its own place for the older generation. It is also quite helpful for local businesses to flourish in the local market. You can make use of newspapers and magazines to make your business popular among masses as well as classes.
Some of the common print media for B2B businesses are – Business Today, Forbes, Businessworld, Harvard Business Review, WIRED, Inc. India, etc.
10. Partnership with Other Businesses
This marketing guide point has its advantages for the small, medium as well as large-sized enterprises. When a business enters in a partnership with another business, the relationship benefits both of them. It is not even necessary for the two partners to be of equal size and status.
For example, when a cab operating company enters into an agreement with a food delivery company, the customers of both businesses get exposed to the other company. The loyalty of the customers of the cab operator forces them to use the food delivery company because their cab rides provide them free coupons or discounts over the food ordered from the same. This might even result in gaining the loyalty of such customers for the food delivery company.
Sales Guide for SMEs – Top Twelve Sales Tips for SMEs
When the marketing team has done their work, it is now time for action for the sales team to take over. It is the sales team that has to convert a lead generated from marketing to a customer. Hence, we have put together this sales guide to help the founders or the sales team of an SME.
1. Trade Shows and Expos
Well, this is a tricky thing to be mentioned as the very first point in a sales guide. This is because it is difficult to classify trade shows and expos as a marketing or a sales event. To know more about this incessant controversy of every organization, read this.
In a nutshell, trade shows are both, sales as well as marketing events. Generally, trade shows need a lot of initial efforts from the marketing team to buy and design a stall, and to put up posters and brochures, etc. However, it is the sales team that can interact with the prospects on a one-to-one basis, can explain and demonstrate the products, its benefits, value additions for the prospect, etc.
Although, participating in a trade show is a rather costly affair. However, this investment can help in generating leads equivalent to those generated by investing in the other efforts for almost a quarter or even half a year. Hence, this investment is totally worth the expenditure, time and efforts.
2. Cold Calling
They say cold calling is dead and taken over by warm calling. Read this to know more about it. Cold or hot, every organization, whether small, medium or big, needs this approach to be in place. It is important for the sales team to look for new leads constantly. Cold calling (or warm calling) is the cheapest way to keep interacting with new leads every now and then.
However, one thing that should be kept in mind is that the sales team should not waste their time calling people who are not interested in their products. They should not call random businesses (in B2B sales) or random people (in B2C sales) just to increase the number of calls. Instead, the sales team needs to focus on warm and qualified leads.
3. Start with a Small Niche Market
If you specifically target a small niche market, it will be quite easier for you to kick-start your business. Firstly, locating and targeting businesses of the same or similar industry in a small region would be easier. Secondly, the common day-to-day issues that the industry is currently facing in a particular region would be similar for almost all of those businesses, making it simpler for you to address them.
A big advantage that this strategy gives you is the possibility to specialize. However, you might fail in recognizing the best niche market to start with, but you still get to learn something. Moreover, if the strategy works for your business, you can specialize in the market and then you have two options to proceed – you can either carry on only with your specialization or look for other markets and explore your potential. Either way, selecting a niche is a long-term decision.
4. Understand your Customers
This is not the same as with the marketing team. Sales team need to understand the emotional and intellectual aspect of their customers on a one-to-one basis. You can do so by listening to your customers with full attention.
Sales representatives might encounter some prospects who know a lot about their product through research or experience. Sometimes, while interacting with such customers, sales representatives unknowingly get into a knowledge power struggle with their customers. This is a strict no-no. What you need as a sales professional is to know as much as you can about your customers and to show them respect.
Therefore, the best way to make use of your intelligence is to ask relevant questions to your customers and then analyze their responses. Further, you need to understand how these responses can help you pitch your products in a better way to address the pain points of your customers.
5. Believe in your Product
Since you are a small company, probably a start-up, so it is quite likely that not much people know about your business. Thus, it is of utmost importance that you should believe in your product sincerely. If you are just an employee and have not made, lived or grew up with the product, try to know more about the journey of your business. This will help you relate to the products in a better way.
The confidence that you have in the product will reflect in the confidence with which you pitch it to a potential customer. Believe that your products are not only the best but also the best solution to the challenges that your prospects are facing. Only this way you will be able to make your prospects believe in what you say.
6. Address Pain Points
The most difficult yet most important job of the sales representative is to unearth the real pain points of their prospects. This point is one of the most vital parts of a sales guide. The best way to do this is to ask questions and listen to their responses. Your customers are most likely to tell you their problems after a little bit of discussion and persistence.
However, remember one thing. Customers share their actual problems only with representatives whom they trust. Unless you create a trust for yourself, they won’t rely on you and won’t discuss their challenges with you. Being a start-up, it is difficult in the first step. Hence, it is important for you to listen to your customers, understand them and build a strong relationship with them. After that, you can win their trust and thus discuss their pain points.
7. Address Uncertainty ASAP
You are likely to encounter many uncertainties from your prospects. Some might disclose it but most of them won’t. They’ll simply discard your proposal in their minds, although unknowingly, as soon as the uncertainty creeps in.
As a sales representative, it is your job to foresee the uncertainty coming. You might be able to judge this through the body language of your prospect. For example, while you are halfway through your pitch, you might see most of the heads nodding. However, there is one that doesn’t because probably he needs the time or further explanation to digest the things you just discussed.
When you notice a questionable reaction from someone, you can ask – I believe there is something that didn’t come across 100% clear. If you want, I can explain this point further. You are most likely to win this situation, at least, by clearing all his doubts. Moreover, you give him an assurance that you care for your prospects.
8. Pleasant Experience
When we talk to five sales representatives for the same product that we are trying to buy, we remember the one who talked pleasantly and made us smile while disconnecting the call. We might not even like his product as much as we start liking him.
Unconsciously, the buyer’s mind starts favoring the salesperson who made the experience pleasant for him. Therefore, it is important to make every interaction that you make with each of your leads pleasant and memorable for them. This way, you become their personal favorite and leave an imprint behind that provokes them to come back to you to buy your product.
According to recent research, 80 percent of sales deals happen at least after five follow-ups from the salesperson. Unfortunately, most salespeople give up following-up a lead after two or three times. In other words, most of them leave innumerable deals when they are halfway through.
Let us see how this works. You call a lead and you hear some common objection from him that might take some time to resolve. After that duration, you call him again and hear another excuse that takes another one month to resolve. You call the third time and you get to hear that the manager isn’t approving for the deal. This time you give up.
However, there is a possibility that the lead has not even discussed your offer with his manager due to his workload. If you would have been persistent, you might have asked to talk to the manager directly.
As per the standard sales guide, there is another instance in which persistence can help. The lead might have given you some genuine excuse for not buying your product right now. Nonetheless, if you keep on engaging this lead by sending him your promotional emails, brochures, maintaining good relations with him and providing him with the relevant content, he will surely contact you the next time he needs the product that you offer.
No sales guide is complete without the mention of referrals. This is because this research shows that referral marketing influences businesses in a positive manner and shoots up their revenues. Moreover, surprisingly, 83 percent of customers are willing to refer after they have a positive experience but only 29 percent actually do. However, most sales representatives do not even ask for referrals from their satisfied customers and lose on some great opportunities.
A salesperson must focus completely on making the journey of his customer smooth until the deal is closed. However, after that, it is also necessary to ask a happy customer for referrals. This way, the sales representative makes way for a deal that is four times more likely to be closed.
Often times, small and medium-sized enterprises lack a well-built system to manage the sales pipeline. This might not look serious in a short while. However, if analyzed for a complete year, improper management costs a lot to the business.
This is where a CRM application comes into the picture in a sales guide. CRM or Customer Relationship Management application helps an organization in managing a company’s sales pipeline, email and messaging campaigns, and relationships with the current and potential customers.
For some small businesses, a paid customizable CRM might be an unaffordable system. However, there are numerous free CRM tools available online to support the SMEs and start-ups in managing their customer relationships. Implementation of CRM will help automate the sales process of the company and in turn, off-load the sales team from the redundant task of data management.
12. Set Goals
Setting goals is really important to achieve them. It is not only important for the sales teams, but with everyone. However, these goals should be SMART goals and not exaggerated ones that your teams start perceiving as impossible from the very beginning.
By SMART goals, I mean a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based. The sales goal should be such that it clearly specifies what is to be achieved and until when it can be achieved. The goal should be relevant in terms of either the number of products/services sell or in terms of revenue generated. The most significant point is that the goal should be achievable.
An example of SMART goal for a sales team would be to achieve a target of $100,000 a month instead of the regular monthly target of $50,000. This is specific because it clearly defines exactly what is to be achieved. It is measurable because at any given point of time, one can measure the success of the goal.
Doubling the target suddenly looks practically unrealistic. However, to make this goal achievable, there are certain resources and inputs that the sales team would require. These could be improvised sales plans, increased marketing efforts, the addition of new products or increased team size.
The sales target is obviously relevant because it is ultimately the sales team that has to put in the final efforts to achieve the goal. Finally, the target of achieving $100,000 is time-bound as it is expected to be achieved within a month.
The sales goals will definitely vary in different situations, industries, types of products or services and the size and value of the deals. However, it should always be SMART.
Following proper sales and marketing guides becomes essential for an SME because SME businesses have limited resources and huge ROI to achieve at least during the initial days. This is the time when they can either invest in preparing a system to implement these strategies with full force or hire a B2B sales consultant to help them in this.
A B2B sales consulting firm helps SMEs to prepare a full-proof marketing and sales plan according to the industry of the business. In addition, such firms also help in the concrete execution of these plans with the help of the required skill and man-force.