The fifth of a ten part guide series on how to tackle the often complex challenges companies face when they are growing

The fifth of a ten part guide series on how to tackle the often complex challenges companies face when they are growing
Part five - The Reality of Growth - Raising capital in New Zealand

By Matt McKendry*

There’s no such thing as ‘it can’t be done’.

Imagine: your company is growing, the sales team is aggressively attracting new business and everyone else is focused on production and delivery. Dollars are rolling in the door. Sound blissful?

It’s a great start, but sales alone won’t deliver sustained growth.

Why?

Customers can wander unless there is a strategy to get into their hearts and heads as well as their wallets and to innovate to meet their ever changing needs.

A well thought out marketing strategy will help you do this and turn those potential strays into faithful and loyal friends.

Is the tail wagging the dog? We will walk you through:

1. why sales aren’t enough – time for a strategic marketing pedigree

2. developing your plan – brushing up on Marketing 101

3. executing and refining your plan – so your customers won’t walk.

If you’re a growing company, it’s time to unleash marketing.

Finding your market niche

Before a business can get traction, product managers need to unearth opportunities, identify customers and fine tune service delivery options.

If they do their job well, the orders will start to roll in and everyone will be embroiled in a frenzy of filling orders, dealing with delays and grappling with burnout. When sales skyrocket, sales people are increasingly perceived as ‘god-like’ marketing gurus. Perception, in this case, is not reality. Yes, it’s the sales team’s job to sell and to sell well.

But it is marketing that creates the environment in which they can sell more things, to more people, more often.

Sales people also tend to have different drivers from marketing. They are generally paid commissions or bonuses on sales but not paid to keep the business synchronised with the market.

If the sales pipeline dries up, the gulf between you and the customer can widen to a point where selling becomes almost impossible.

Then there’s your competitors, snapping at your heels. While you were busy filling orders they’ve been busy innovating – tweaking old products, designing new offerings, shaping new markets – all designed to lead your customers astray.

Unleashing your marketing muscle

Marketing is like scattering seeds so the birds flock to you, compared to sales using a sling shot and taking a chance with a lone bird.

You already have some great sales people in your company, but what should you do next?

Invest in a smart marketer (hire a consultant or bring someone onto your team) then give them the muscle they need to lead the business, not trail behind the sales team (see Figure 1).

Regard them as an essential overhead, core to executing your business strategy. Make them accountable. Forget smoke and mirrors; marketing’s performance should be directly linked to how well the business is doing.

A sound marketing plan will always include solid performance criteria. Often part of a marketer’s remuneration is linked to business performance. After all, it’s their job to provide the critical intelligence for product development, customer service, sales and other key customer touch points to ensure your business is aligned with the market’s current and future needs.

They should be in there as an advocate for market needs and batting for the customer.

Good marketers make your life easy.

They acquire and apply the customer data and information you need to develop the products that people want, then put them together with the services that customers desire and at a price they can afford to pay.

Put the customer first

Every good marketer will demand that your business has a good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program in place.

However, it’s people, not technology, that drive a good CRM program.

Contrary to popular opinion, much of relationship management is common sense and embodies the lessons you learnt through life (see Figure 2).

Treating people with respect and courtesy goes to the very core of a CRM program. Forget about technology in the early stages; make sure you’ve got the basics of customer service right first, and make sure your customers know you are putting them first.

Don’t get confused. Bizarre things can happen when companies want to ‘get up close and personal’ with customers – you’ve probably already experienced them. Annoying calls at dinner time from a call centre; aggressive customer service reps who are more concerned with selling than solving your problems; and those infuriating 14 level call centre voice response systems...

f you’re small but growing, you may not be ready for the expense of a top class CRM system; but if you look closely at your business, you’ll find much of the data you need to ensure a CRM program is up and running already exists. It might not be top of the line, but it’s  good start.

Take the hidden powerhouse of your business - invoices. They give tremendous insights into your customers’ payment processes and can help speed up payments to release an enormous amount of working capital. If you have customers that pay their bill on the 15th of the month, you should be invoicing those clients at the end of the previous month so you are paid within 15, not 45 days.

Ideally, a smart CRM program will help you to understand the nuances of your customer base, improve the order-to-cash process, lower operating expenses and free up much-needed capital.

Getting the balance right between customers and profits is crucial.

If you’re the type of business that over-services customers or clients, your CRM initiative needs to focus on ways to increase profits.

On the other hand, if you have little scope for over-delivering products or services, your CRM approach should focus heavily on programs to help you build and sustain relationships.

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Back to basics; the four Ps

It’s a business reality; different customers want different things. By segmenting your market you can develop effective plans for each customer group along with potential targets, and become smarter in how you sell to them and care for them.

Customers and markets can be sliced and diced by geography and demographics, or by combinations of sales potential, return on investment, ease of entry, and behaviours.

Companies that try to be all things to all people often fail.

You need to work through the following tried and true ‘four Ps’ with every target market or client grouping:

Brand champions

Brand is personality – and every business has one.

The only question is whether you have an engaging brand personality to which customers respond. Like Oscar Wilde said, “if there’s only one thing worse than being talked about, it’s not being talked about.”

If you have a ho-hum brand your customers will be ho-hum about you. Brand is how a customer thinks of your business and products, whether it be functional, emotional, tangible or intangible.

Large businesses tend to spend an enormous amount of time analysing their most positive brand attributes and working out how they should go about translating these attributes into every customer-facing activity.

You can’t create a strong brand with just large PR and advertising budgets.

Every encounter a customer has with your business is a brand building opportunity.

For this reason, there is enormous potential for the smaller businesses to enhance their brand without big dollars. Some inexpensive ways you may consider enhancing your brand include:

• ensuring your staff can clearly communicate your business’s core messages and values and that they ‘live the brand’, behaving consistently with the promise that you make in your marketing messages

• consistent language and messages in all verbal and written communication

• strong visual identity that is immediately recognisable, and is consistently presented through all your brochures, point of sale material, packaging, dress codes, etc.

As businesses evolve, so do their brand. It’s the marketers’ job to track changes, and tweak the brand accordingly.

Adding value right through the business

You’ve established your brand values, got on top of the marketing role and shared your plan with the sales staff. Next steps?

Take it right through the business, by managing the key influencers in your business and securing their commitment.

This involves:

• preparing thoroughly in order to understand, bring out and effectively address the key issues of each influencer

• asking probing questions and listening carefully

• resolving issues and pain points

• gaining commitment to move forward and implement the plans.

With your sales people on board and committed, it’s now time to get their remuneration tied to the marketing objectives. You’ll need to work with your head of sales to structure commission plans and establish quotas that work in the best interest of your business rather than those of the individual.

You also need to ensure your marketing approach is aligned with the sales function. The best way to do this is to map out the marketing and sales process, and look at what you can do to add more value (see Figure 3).

Keeping the promise

Now it’s crunch time. You need to ensure that all the time, resources and money invested pays off in terms of increased sales and profitability.

Beware the ‘big bang solution’ however, which promises the world within nine months but moves too silently behind the scenes. Invariably within six months:

1. the CEO starts asking for results

2. executive support begins to wane

3. there’s a change in the corporate strategy – should you start over?

4. division heads grow restless

5. people start distancing themselves from the project

6. everyone starts asking what’s happening.

A better scenario is to build momentum with a series of staggered wins and outcomes and a promise that every 100 days you will:

• re-scope and revise the marketing strategy to reflect what you’ve learned and what has changed

• enter a zone of creative chaos that comes with small wins balanced against inevitable changes in the environment

• make noise, communicate constantly, celebrate the hits, bury the misses and sustain momentum with your team.

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Matt McKendry is a partner at Deloitte NZ in Auckland. You can contact him here »

This Guide is part five of a series. It is used here with permission.

Part one is about Strategic Planning and is here »
Part two is about Alliances and is here »
Part three is about Managing Risk and is here »
Part four is about Raising capital in New Zealand and is here »
Part five is about Marketing and is here »
Part six is about Outsourcing and is here »

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