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Ignoring the importance of marketing is surrendering the will to make more in sales. According to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, UK small and medium sized businesses are losing billions of pounds because of weak marketing activities. Research by the centre shows that SMEs are only 40 per cent of the possible promotions and advertising tools that SMEs have at their disposal are being utilised.

Despite being short on time, SMEs can take advantage of successful marketing practices that combine old and new activities that can survive a new economic climate. Regardless of the industry, SMEs can employ tactics that are the bedrock of marketing.

If you are one of the business owners who think focusing on ways to promote your business is a waste of time, think again. Actually, taking that attitude is counterproductive to one of the most important aspects of being in business: making money. There are at least five marketing activities that could help SMEs improve their sales ledgers, which are discussed below.

Go Mobile

It’s not surprising news that by 2014, tables and mobile phones will become the most common way people will access the Internet. The time is now, and really has already passed, where you need to optimise your website to give consumers mobile access. There are actually ways to get a mobile site up for less than a tenner. In ten minutes, you can optimise a couple of web pages for the benefit of your customers and your bottom line.

Add More Value, Less Discounts

Offering discounts to get more customers through the door is a tempting tactic. However, you should try avoiding this at the risk of being seen as a cheap option. Instead of offering discounts to drum up customers, think of ways to add value to your products or services.

For example, you can offer a free consultation or product trial. Most customers will not hesitate to pay a little bit extra for the better experience that comes with the offer. In the end, your business brand will be stronger.

Stay in Brand Uniform

Speaking of business brand, any marketing activity that you use should clarify your brand values. You want to present a consistent look and feel so that customers are comfortable and know what they are getting. This applies to all channels and communication forms – from colours to the tone of voice used by you and your staff.

Motivate the Sales Team

Motivating your sales team is very important because they are the driving force of the business. Your sales people nurture existing customers and work hard to convert prospects into new customers. So, how can you motivate your sales team to the point of maximising the potential for the best results?

First, let’s look at what are potential de-motivators such as constantly challenging the sales staff. How can your sales people concentrate on customers when they are wondering if they will have a job? Or, they never know when you will move the goalposts? If you want to de-motivate your sales people, try changing pay schemes to up targets.

Another way that you can quickly de-motivate the sales team is to rule out of fear without ever praising good behaviour. While fear can be useful at the right time – some people respond to both the stick and the carrot – you do not want to rely solely on it to get people moving.

Now, there are a variety of ways to motivate your sales team without ruining sales goals. Creating an environment that works for everyone can be difficult for some sales managers. You have to take into account different personalities because what motivates one might not work the same for someone else.

However, most people can be motivated by two of the strongest human emotions – desire and fear. We have already addressed how using fear can backfire. But, fear of failure without constant prodding from you, could be enough to drive individuals to close the deal.

Consider rewarding your sales staff through pay incentives such as bonuses and commissions. Motivation based on money is not a bad thing, especially considering the purpose of having sales people is to sell products to customers. You want sales people who are hungry to close sales.

Performance under high-pressure situations is a good thing. You can also help people develop better skills and processes in the mechanics of sales. However, you have a greater challenge in giving them a hunger mindset.

Offering support when a sales person is working with a tough prospect is appreciated. Recognition when they manage to sign on the new customer after a long slog is vital to rewarding good behaviour. The next prospect seems less daunting after a public pat on the back for a job well done. Specific praise encourages staff to reach the sales goals you have set.

To get the most out of your sales team, consider creating a positive environment for selling your business products or services. Central to this strategy are:

  • Providing clarity of direction for sales goals. Everyone should be aligned with the direction of the company.
  • Giving your sales team the resources they need to achieve the goals.
  • Ensuring your team is disciplined enough to monitor their own performance on a regular basis.
  • Knowing key threats and having contingencies to overcome what is not working.

Make Strategic Use of Social Media

It is important to understand the basics of social media channels if you want to use these for your business. Marketing through social media comes with plenty of online guides – some for free – that you can use to help develop a strategy. However, these are only guides and will not do the work for you.

To win in the social media games, you will need a strategic plan that aligns with your overall business goals and objectives. In addition, you must include analytics to know whether any of the activities online are actually working in your favour.

For some business owners, social media appears to be too time-consuming. Sounds familiar? That is the number one reason many SMEs forego any type of marketing activities. However, keep in mind that social media might be working against you even if you are not currently engaged.

Imagine what would happen if a customer transmits an angry tweet about a recent experience with your business. After a tweet and several retweets, your online reputation could be in jeopardy. Imagine still if a communication mishap led to the awful experience.

If you were engaged with customers online, you could have dealt with the issue before it became overblown. Engaging in social media outlets where your customers are allows you to resolve issues before they give negative feedback about your business to others.

Connect your marketing strategy to social networks where over 60 per cent of UK companies already have a presence. With more than half of the UK population on popular social media sites, you will have an effective way to raise awareness about your business. Key information that your customers need to know can literally be at their finger tips.

Engage Customers with Conversation and Content

Tap into influential social networks to get an opportunity to start conversations with existing customers. You can also engage consumers that you are trying to reach. Not only will you have an opportunity to increase brand loyalty among customers, but people will feel that they have a personal connection to your business.

Equally important is providing customers information that is not always sales-related. Include engaging content on social media pages. Give customers a conversational springboard to encourage them to respond to different postings.

Build Relationships with Customers

Look at the content as a conversation starter that will lead to long term relationships with customers. Keep them going with constant interaction to help grow your business. Interact directly with people drawn to your social media profile and you will have access to an invaluable, instant market research tool.

Link Back to Your Business Website

Be sure to embed links within content postings that will direct people to your business website. Customers are not likely to buy anything if they are not on your website. You can showcase pictures of a new product line on your social media page. Include a link where customers can make a purchase.

Measure User Behaviour

Google Analytics is a free tool that marketers take advantage of to see how well a website is performing. With this tool, you can see how many visitors are accessing your site and whether they do so from a mobile device or desktop. You can give different techniques a go to see what works best for your business.

Use Social Media with Offline Marketing Activities

As you find your way through the social media world of marketing, don’t forget to include offline activities as well. Your presence on social networks is an integral part of strong customer relationship development, but none of these should replace existing offline marketing activities. If you have an advert, reference it on your social media profile page.