According to a recent survey published by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills 13% of the workforce is now classified as self-employed and in America between 2008 and 2012 there was a 431,000 increase in the number of people working on their own. Many self-employed people work in industries that have traditionally used a lot of freelance workers, such as IT and construction but self-employment is increasing across most industries and statistics show that in the period March 2011 to March 2013 64% of the newly self-employed are managers or professionals.
Some of the newly self-employed have little need for sales and marketing skills, for example a builder who consistently works for the same main contractor hopefully has as much work issued as they require, however for a lot of newly self-employed people learning the basics of sales and marketing will make the difference between just surviving and positively thriving.
This article is designed to help the newly self-employed gain the basics of the sales and marketing skills and knowledge they need, and if they cannot find the time to develop those skills themselves show them where to access the professional help they need.
• The difference between sales and marketing
• What is an integrated marketing message
• Online and traditional media
• Precision Guided Marketing – targeting the right prospects
• Using prospect appropriate language
• Sell benefits not features
• Find something unique about you and your offering
Sales and marketing, what is the difference? This is nice and simple and really they should be in the other order, because chronologically marketing comes first. Marketing is simply anything you do to find prospects to try to sell to. The sales process then attempts to turn those prospects in to customers. It is only at the end, when a transaction has taken place that the sales and marketing process is complete. Marketing encompasses all forms of advertising and promotion, the trick is finding the method that is most appropriate for you, whether it is advertising in papers and magazines, via a website, running a stand at a trade exhibition or sending out promotional material by mail. Any of these can work in the right context, the skill comes in ensuring that you choose the most cost-effective method to achieve your desired results and so keeping accurate records of your marketing spend and the results you get is essential. The easiest way to choose an appropriate marketing method is to observe what the best of your competitors is doing, and try to improve on that. The sales process that follows can be face to face, as in a retail environment, via telephone in a telesales environment, or increasingly online via an ecommerce site.
What is an integrated marketing message? An integrated marketing message is one that features in all your different forms of advertising and across all different media. Even if your business operates in a retail environment it is still crucial that you have an online presence, whether that is a simple website operating like an online brochure, or an ecommerce site that allows you to sell your products to a much wider geographical market. You should ensure that your business and its offering is consistent, so logos, products and any offers should be the same across all formats, so they compliment rather than undermine each other.
Online and Traditional Media
Of course there is still a place for traditional media marketing, newspapers, magazines and the like. Depending on the products and services you offer some local newspapers allow good, cost-effective coverage and specialist industry magazines can be excellent, if sometimes expensive to advertise in. The drawback with traditional publications is their shelf life, how long does your target audience retain the publication and establishing a presence in a local newspaper for example requires consistent advertising over a long period that can end up costly. Online marketing has grown exponentially and will continue to do so, so it really is essential that you embrace this. It is relatively simple and inexpensive to establish a website, although of course the more time and money you invest in it, the better the results you are likely to get. It is important to co-ordinate the initial website design with search engine optimization. You need to take the time to ensure that your website scores highly with the search engines for the most appropriate keywords and phrases by investing the time in research. There are online tools that can help you with this, alternatively you may need to engage the services of a website design and SEO company, if you do not have the time and skills to do this for yourself.
Precision Guided Marketing, involves targeting the right prospects. It may by an unpleasant analogy, but just as the air force no longer simply carpet bombs an area, in the hope that a few of its bombs land in roughly the target area, but instead uses precision guided munitions, to home in on a precise target, so the marketing industry has evolved to use carefully targeted marketing. If you know your target market, by geographical location, lifestyle, income range, ethnicity even, there are now available marketing solutions to ensure you do not waste your marketing message and budget on the wrong targets.
Using prospect appropriate language means that you should tailor the wording and tone of your sales and marketing message to your target audience. If you are selling a very technical product or service then it is reasonable to assume a certain level of knowledge in your prospects and your marketing literature can be worded appropriately. However most marketing messages could benefit from increased simplicity, and you also need to remember that the public’s attention span is getting shorter. I have also noticed a real trend towards more conversational style language in successful marketing, as the increased use of social media takes its effect.
Sell benefits not features, means that most people do not actually want your product or service, they want the benefits that it brings. Given that you are likely to know your product in much greater detail than your prospect, it is easy to slip in to the habit of just listing the features of your product or service, if nothing else you need to remember the simple phrase “which means that”. If you say this after the listing the feature then it gets you in to the habit of then stressing the benefit of that particular feature. If you cannot think of a relevant benefit, then the feature itself lacks relevance to that particular prospect.
Find something unique about you and your offering. People who are new to sales and lack confidence often struggle with this one, but it really is the most simple. It is highly likely that your product or service does contain at least one unique feature that sets it apart from the competition, that you can use the “which means that” phrase to link it to a benefit that is just not available anywhere else. If that is not possible then you do have one absolutely unique feature to offer, and that is yourself. If you prospect invests with someone else they are going to miss out on you, and all that you bring to the table. This should be your number one benefit, and the one you believe in above all others.
Sales and marketing really is not difficult, practice and analyse your results, use feedback from your prospects and hopefully clients, positive and otherwise, as lessons to improve your performance and you can master the process. If you struggle to find the time, given the other tasks you have to perform for your business, or find you really do not enjoy it you may have to consider engaging the services of a specialist sales and marketing company to help you. If you have at least a basic understanding of the sales and marketing process it will help you choose the right company to help you.