In part two of our series on the challenges faced by SMBs, we will be looking into how sales and marketing have changed. These changes create challenges and opportunities for small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs)
You do not need to be an economist or industry expert to know that sales and marketing have changed significantly over the last twenty years. Due to the power of social networking, the Internet has evolved from its origins as a passive/static roots, into something much more dynamic.
Consumers have become considerably more "savvy" and can spot marketing messages with ease, tuning them out in the mental equivalent of ad-blocking software. Today, the number of ads people see ranges from "...anywhere between 4,000 and 10,000, depending on where you live, your career, and how much time you spend online." Developing strategies to ignoring these ads has become one of the only ways in which we can cope with, and make sense of, all of the information.
Old school approaches to sales and marketing just won't cut it anymore. In years past, Coca-Cola may have been able to build a vast, multinational brand through advertising alone. If they were launching again today, things would be very different; success would depend on entirely different strategies. Times change and companies need to adapt to that change if they are going to survive.
There is good news. A relatively new approach to marketing has developed, called inbound marketing, in which instead of interrupting people with advertisements, you draw them to you with high-quality content. This blog is an example of inbound marketing. Ideally, your marketing should be so good that people want to consume it.
Inbound marketing is a long-term strategy which takes time to pay dividends. It is proven to be highly effective but requires an investment of both time and money.
SMBs typically have much lower budgets than their larger competitors. According to Entrepreneur Magazine, the average SMB spends $400 per month on marketing, of which 46% is dedicated to digital marketing.
Social networking is an ever-increasing component of the digital marketing landscape. This fact requires companies to put more trust in their employees than ever before. Today, every employee is potentially a public face for the company. Every time someone posts about their work online, there is a chance it will affect your company's reputation; for better or worse.
Due to changing buying habits and improvements in the overall online experience, there are many situations where salespeople, once essential, are no longer needed. Consumers have learned to find the information they need without your help. Fortunately, a strong salesperson, one who knows how to build rapport and relationships, remains indispensable.
As an SMB, your significant advantage is the personal touch. People do not buy from companies; they buy from people. Customers tend to do business with people they like, which gives the SMBs of the world a meaningful "leg up" over the nameless, faceless, mega-corporation.
It has always been salespeople with the best interpersonal skills who generate the best results for their companies. It seems unlikely this will change any time soon. Salespeople need to understand and work with new technologies. Some areas topics to consider studying:
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- Machine Learning (ML)
Leverage the CRM
The power of customer relationship management (CRM) systems is never more evident than when leveraged to augment the capabilities of a great salesperson. Use the CRM to empower salespeople to treat every customer as a unique individual. Sales and marketing are moving in a roughly similar direction – towards a more personalized type of business in which we get to know our customers above and beyond just names on invoices.
Armed with a bit more information about how sales and marketing have changed, it is up to you to make sure your SMB is adapting to those changes. It is unlikely this will require you to restructure your company drastically, but it will affect the way you do business.
Despite the challenges that come with the increased complexity of sales and marketing, new opportunities abound. There will be a direct correlation with the focus applied to build relationships with people and the outcomes achieved.
Getting sales and marketing right as a small business is not easy; time is scarce, and resources are few and far between. It is unlikely you will be able to build entire sales and marketing teams within you SMB. Instead, you will need to make sure that employees from across your company feel empowered to carry out sales and marketing on your behalf. Every time they answer the phone, they're marketing your business.
It is time to rethink your approach to sales and marketing to make sure that you are cutting through the thousands of messages to which you are exposed every day. You will know when you get it right because you will see the positive impact on your bottom line.