One of the largest line item expenses in any business is the cost of acquiring customers. In this new world economy of the last 5+ years, I dare say that this is more expensive than ever. If your objective is to do business with large, Fortune 5000 organizations, your business can expect to invest as much as 1-3 years of time building relationships, meeting procurement, waiting for open bidding periods, or in responding to RFI’s and RFP’s. The bigger they are, the longer they take, the more resources they absorb, and the more likely you may not meet all of their business requirements.
So how do you choose the organizations that you would like to do business with? The Fortune names are well known, their information is public, and their brand is prominent in the market you serve—but they take forever. Most of your competitors know this too. So trends suggest that your competitors are targeting mid-market organizations. They lack the sophistication and bureaucracy of the large companies, right? This may be true, but they are hard to identify in the market. And I can assure that the 800 pound gorilla competitor you fear also has learned that growth comes easier if you avoid the big companies!
Perhaps your organization is using the “shotgun approach” and is going to sell to every business in your marketplace large and small regardless of industry or uniqueness. You are selling to all equally. This is labor intensive which makes it expensive, but this is a way from the early days to find your fit in the marketplace. The key is to use this time that you go to market to gather customer insights through consultative questions and your observations.
Every business needs new sales to stay relevant and to even stay status quo. Therefore, selling and marketing is always important. How else can we sell more to lower the cost of sales?
- If you’re a startup or if you’re launching new offerings, I encourage your leadership and business development staff to talk to many industries, different size organizations, and organizations with varied culture and philosophies. Being Outside-In® and asking for target insights is “doing right things” in finding your ideal target market! Just make sure you pull together and refine your market as you get the insights you need.
- Analyze your business and its brand promise. This is quite challenging to undertake, but what exactly do you do better than your competition? What is unique to your company? Our family of Outside-In® companies has invested heavily in this process and have had great success. Be ready to uncover areas that you must improve in your business in order to make the most of what you do best! This is the ultimate way to refine your message, improve your services, and determine your choice customer.
- What does culture have to do with it? In the New York Times Best Seller, Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win, each chapter covers a company that has maverick leadership and is culturally led. Culture is a strong differentiator and very hard to copy by competitors. Yet it gives customers and employees a clear answer to the “why” question. You know the why question, right? Why do we exist? This gives your company a clear purpose for being and binds all three customers together. Each want to be a part of something bigger than themselves!
- Grow your existing customers. This seems so obvious but I see companies get out of balance and put more efforts into new customers than existing ones. Take cell phone companies for example. Listen to those great offers and ads and then at the end they point out they are just for new clients—so much for being a 10-year customer!
- Understand how the world of digital marketing has forever altered the nature of the relationship you can have with your customer and targets. Today’s buyer wants to buy, never be “sold to.” And they can research and get the information on you they need from websites, blogs, forums, reviews or social media—that is if you have them. Good marketing is not cheap, nor free. Embrace this reality. If you or someone in your company calls a new target, what do you think they will do if they are a little curious or perhaps even interested in learning more? Do they call you or your employee back right away? I bet not. They will look you up. The prospect may go to your website and maybe they will connect from there. So be certain to make sure that your digital presence represents you and your company because in true Outside-In® fashion sales starts today with your online story.