Everyone knows that a solid marketing and sales plan is essential for success in any industry. However, building this plan can be daunting, especially with all the moving parts a business owner experiences daily. So, where should you start?
When you’re building a new marketing and sales plan, always start by defining your audience and their respective needs and concerns. Recognize that companies doing businesses-to-consumer (B2C) sales will have very different messages and approaches from those pursuing business-to-business (B2B) customers. Likewise, companies hoping to win the business of local, state or federal government agencies (B2G) will also need to craft their message based on who their prospective customers are. Government prospects also have different concerns specific to them, such as the number of federal requirements they must meet. In addition, they may be looking for specialized qualifications or small business certifications from potential vendors. By addressing relevant points like these, you’ll suddenly be speaking in terms that are understandable and related to your prospective customers.
When you’ve trained your focus on your audience and outlined your messaging criteria, then you can begin to build a solid marketing campaign and sales presentation that speaks to their needs. As you start planning for success, be sure to avoid these eight rookie marketing and sales mistakes.
1. Not knowing your prospect well enough
Just as you wouldn’t expect to secure a job with a company without knowing their products or services, you can’t expect to win a customer if you don’t know the details of what they do and what they need. You should always enter conversations with prospective customers knowing their strengths and weaknesses, specific needs, and long-term and short-term goals.
One great way to understand your customer’s world is to attend relevant networking events where their employees and others in their industry meet to talk shop. At the bare minimum, take the time to look at what they say about themselves online, whether on social media or on their website.
If your prospective customer is a federal agency, there are many great resources such as USA.gov, USAspending.gov, FBO.gov and the Federal Procurement Data System that can help you understand the agencies’ goals, purchasing methods, missions and budgets.
2. Underpricing your goods or services
Know your product’s or service’s value and don’t undercut pricing just to get business. Not only does appropriate pricing keep cash flowing and the business strong, it also shows you are steadfast in your ability to perform the services you offer. Cutting your prices deeply and quickly might diminish your credibility with prospective customers.
One of the federal and state government’s preferred methods of procurement is utilizing the GSA Federal Supply Schedules. This website allows you to search for approved GSA Schedule vendors and can give you a range of how much the federal government spends on products and services you offer.
3. Exaggerating your capabilities
Only sell what you can deliver. Exaggerated claims often do exactly the opposite of what’s intended–they chase away clients rather than entice them. And even if you do win the business, failing to deliver on your promises never ends well.
4. Boring prospects with slides
When was the last time you sat through a riveting slide presentation? Your potential client probably feels the same way. While slides are the norm for many meetings, dare to be different by using the meeting time in better ways. Speak directly to the potential customers—instead of to a screen—and use the time to learn more about what they really need. This allows you to alter your offer to appeal to them—which can increase your chances of winning the business.
5. Always saying “yes”
Let’s face it: Saying “no” is difficult when money is on the table. However, saying “yes” to work you’re not qualified or staffed to do, or won’t be properly compensated for, will most likely do more harm than good. Sometimes a polite “no” is simply the best answer.
6. Wasting money on irrelevant marketing channels
While the wrong marketing strategy can be a pitfall in any market, spending money on the wrong marketing tactics or channels is a common mistake—especially among first time government contractors. In particular, many attempt to use direct mail. While often useful for B2B or B2C marketing, direct mail doesn’t usually make its way through to the appropriate people in a government agency. Instead, do some digging to find the channels your prospective customers frequently use, and tailor your message accordingly. Popular channels and mediums include social media platforms, email newsletters, sponsored industry reports and E-books.
7. Waiting to hear about Request for Proposals (RFPs)
Being proactive when it comes to seeking out opportunities is a smart move in any business, but it’s especially important for government contractors. Thanks to a federal “use it or lose it” budgetary policy, agencies aim to spend any remaining yearly allocated funds before the end of the federal fiscal year on September 30. Make sure decision makers have your name in mind by proactively reaching out to key contacts to share your business and capability updates. RFPs can be slow to arrive, and it’s always better to have your feelers out with agencies to understand what their needs are in advance.
8. Assuming, rather than asking
Making assumptions is usually a bad idea, and that’s definitely the case in the federal market. When you’re bidding on an opportunity, ask questions to learn about how the agency will make decisions when awarding the contract. It won’t lower your chances of winning the bid, in fact, it shows you’re engaged in the opportunity.
In order to be a successful marketer and sales person, it’s important to avoid the eight rookie mistakes mentioned above. Clearly defining your target audience is a great starting point that will influence every layer of your plan. Be sure to conduct proactive month-to-month outreach through channels your buyers use and be mindful of upcoming deadlines in your customers’ worlds. This is especially true if you’re courting federal customers– keep your business in front of potential buyers year-round and circle September 30th on your calendar! Whether you’re B2B, B2C or B2G, knowing your customer and heeding these marketing and sales mistakes will help put you on the path to success.
Lourdes Martin-Rosa is the founder and president of Government Business Solutions, a firm based in Miami, dedicated to providing services ranging from program management solutions to implementation. Lourdes also serves as an Advisor on Government Contracts to American Express OPEN®. She participates in breakout sessions and panel discussions nation-wide at the American Express Open for Government Contracts Events. She helps small business owners, just like herself, access impactful resources and gain the tools needed to become successful in the government contracting arena.