When it comes to creating a business plan, it's important to take a long-term view of your sales and marketing strategy - they are crucial elements for helping your business succeed.

Ben Michaelis, founder of International & Commercial Digital Marketing Agency ThinkEngine, discusses his top tips for thinking about your marketing and sales growth with the future in mind.

Little steps

Don’t try and run before you can walk! Over the years I've seen organisations of all sizes trying to take things a step too far before they have the basics in place. Ultimately, you must ensure that both Marketing and Sales objectives align with your overarching corporate objectives, otherwise you are doomed from day one. Many clients have approached me or my team and explained that they want to achieve ‘XXX’ Marketing or Sales objective, by ‘XXX’ date. However, after looking into that client suggestion through our research and audit process, its often found that the objective doesn’t often align with the greater corporate objectives. So how will it work? It seems a very easy mistake to make but it’s very often neglected, even by multi-billion-pound companies.

My suggestion is to think about the long-term and never just think about tomorrow. I frequently do not proceed working relationships with clients that are looking for a short-term fix. I am a firm believer that relationships flourish over time, and in B2B environments, I personally do not see the value in ‘one-off’ relationships. From my view you want to build trust, transparency and understanding with clients to work in everyone’s interests over a longer period of time. My tip is to work with a client so that they feel that you are as close to their business as possible; if you become invaluable to their business over the long-term, there would be no reason to change things. And remember, any clever and forward-thinking business will be identifying new opportunities to work with their clients and grow revenues.

Don’t over complicate things

Next up - keep things simple. You've got Marketing and Sales strategies, but do they align? Regardless of whether you are just starting out writing your business plan, or you are working in a multi-national company, you have to consider how long-term strategic planning can deliver you not only greater structure, but results. When I was started out, I had several quarterly and annual objectives which I managed to work to, and this gave me confidence that I was on the right track to growth. If in doubt, use the SMART objective approach. Where possible, make every objective you have Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound – this provides you the ability to actually measure your success rather than guessing. 

Growing your leads

How good are you generating leads? Have you thought about advertising to generate leads on platforms such as Google, Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter, for example? If you have, how effective is that advertising? Only you can answer that, but you should always be asking the question – ‘How could we improve?’. You have many options; one example could be to introduce targeted landing pages (with specific audience related content and/or downloadable content) to draw engagement, which will lead to signups or purchases from your audience. 

Automate processes to make light work

Use automation with workflow processes that work for your business when you're thinking long-term. For those of you who aren’t familiar with automation, this is a custom designed and built workflow process used in email marketing software. The way it works is simple; its sole purpose is to remarket and engage your audience using email marketing.

An example might be: if we were selling tickets for a B2B event or conference, you might send your email database recipients an email suggesting that tickets are now on sale, with an early bird price now available (this will help to gain signups/purchases). Then, a week later the automation process may be designed to email the database again with an insightful industry article which will benefit your target audience. A great mix of content and sales related material can work well.

However, your content cannot be too sales-focused. The likelihood is that your audience will unsubscribe from your data list out of frustration. Be clever and creative; it doesn’t take much time or effort to think about the pain points of your audience. If you can provide valuable advice, content or value, they will read it and make their own assumption on its quality. If you are that company that thinks outside the box, then you can maximise the potential of email marketing. 

Do you track the status of each sale?

How good is your company at nurturing leads with a CRM or sales pipeline software? Back in the day it was okay to use the ‘back of a cigarette packet’ approach to working out sales. But in an evolving digital world with fierce competition, you really can’t afford to be poor at using sales software that is designed to help you convert more clients or sales. Admittedly, some companies can do without CRMs or sales software due to their business or sector; however, many companies are seeing value in CRMs such as Hubspot, SalesForce or Active Campaign to deliver incredible benefits which could save their business vast sums of time and money. I would also suggest when you are using CRM’s and software, be really structured and use it day-to-day, it will make a big difference to your business development process. Another key benefit is that most dynamic and affordable CRM systems can integrate into your existing online platforms that you may use, and if you use them for both Marketing and Sales – it will help to deliver consistency and continuity across your company.

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