I assume that every small business owner has asked themselves this question – it’s one of the most important questions to address. Once you know what constitutes a great sales opportunity for your business, you can begin to channel all your marketing energies into finding as many of them as possible.
If you find yourself frustrated with the results of your marketing initiatives and are struggling to identify enough sales opportunities, one of two things are going wrong. Firstly, some (perhaps all) of your marketing efforts are being directed towards the wrong people. Secondly, the potential prospects you do reach are not being motivated to engage with you – either because they have no interest in buying at the current time or your product/service fails to stand out from your competitors.
The first problem arises because your definition of what constitutes a great sales opportunity is rather vague or your marketing doesn’t have the necessary focus. Time invested in getting clarity on these issues will pay dividends. Marketing to the wrong people is a complete waste of time and money.
I suggest going back to basics. Write down in detail what constitutes an ideal prospect or client. Depending on your business, it might be defined by size, by location or by market sector. In many circumstances, you should be looking for prospect organisations that are growing and profitable. This is especially important if they require / demand extended payment terms. If your clients pay you in advance of your delivering their purchase, this is less of a worry.
The last thing your small business wants is a bad debt caused by clients going bust. If you do decide to trade with buyers who look a bit dodgy financially, restructure your payment profile to minimise (or eliminate) your exposure. Insist on payment in advance.
Part of the analysis to define an ideal prospect will be an assessment of the size of the market that you will target. In many cases, you will find you are trying to address such a large market that is would be sensible to segment it into smaller niches. You can segment using parameters that fit your business although, sometimes, no obvious criteria arise.
In these situations, I would suggest you segment using criteria such as size or location. You could split your market into small, medium and large prospects or those in the North, South and Midlands. Your aim is to reduce the size of each niche you target until you reach something that is manageable.
I’ve used size and geography to segment large markets. Geography works well if you hold events such as seminars or conferences to which you invite prospects (and possibly clients). Your events will be held relatively close to your prospects’ location. Similarly, you can undertake several marketing initiatives with each one devised for prospects of different size. A marketing campaign for small prospects might be very different to campaigns which focus on medium or large prospects.
For example, small prospects might be put off if your marketing highlights your success with existing large clients. They might feel your main focus is on large clients and will look for another supplier which clearly works with small businesses.
Similarly, large prospects will be put off if they feel you specialise in supplying small businesses. By segmenting on size you can ensure small prospects learn more about your existing small clients. Large prospects will learn about your existing large clients. When prospects can see you have previously supplied similar sized businesses, they will be more likely to engage.
Once you have complete clarity on what makes a great client for each market segment, you can develop your marketing strategy to reach out to them. Much of your marketing will be similar but there will be some variation. Small prospects will probably engage more via social media; large prospects will tend to engage using more traditional methods.
By segmenting your market carefully, you will be able to fine-tune your marketing to focus only on the people who you want to reach and ensure your message is directly relevant to your audience. This gives you the greatest chance of attracting prospects who will evaluate your products/services.
- Review your definition of a good prospect / client in each of your market sectors. Evaluate whether you need to update your definition or redefine your market sectors.
- Identify how well your current marketing activities focus on your target markets. Look out for situations where some of your marketing is reaching the wrong people and should be fine-tuned.