I declare my bias straight away: I was a member of the world’s leading chief executive organisation, Vistage, for five years. But this shouldn’t stop me telling you how the organisation is helping businesses throughout the UK increase their effectiveness, especially in these difficult times. Vistage groups typically comprise 12-14 members who are owners, chief executives or senior directors, mostly of SMEs (although around ten per cent are from major corporate and international companies), who meet once a month at a member’s place of business on a rotational basis. I recently attended a Vistage event for speakers and chairmen, and, inevitably perhaps, the main focus of conversation was around the difficulties businesses are facing with the lack of available finance. David Atkinson, one of the Birmingham chairmen, asked me this: “So, how do you adapt your ‘HEMP’ (Highly Effective Marketing Plan) process to deal with these conditions?” I’m embarrassed to say that my answer was less than coherent. David generously offered a summary of my ramblings, which I’ve used as the title for this list of my latest recommendations as to how you can adjust your marketing plan to cope with the current climate: Immediate Impact Marketing Stay focused on your goal Your desired result should be short-term – one to three months, typically – and very focused. Make sure it’s realistically something you can achieve. Get realistic about your pricing Your pricing needs to be immediately relevant to have real impact. For many of us this means tightening our margins, as sitting things out is rarely an option. Target existing customers Most businesses’ key audience will be existing and previous customers, rather than new ones. I’ve taken my own medicine on this point and called ten previous clients in the past week. I’ve set up meetings with five of them. Focus your pitch Very few businesses, or consumers for that matter, will be thinking about longer-term payback. They want instant results, and you need to communicate to them how they’ll benefit from your products and services right now. Emphasise why you’re better Your communications must reflect your brand’s personality and reputation, but it must also make it very clear that you’re offering something far better than usual value. If it’s okay for Harrods to have a sale, then it’s probably alright for you, too. The key is to make sure there is an element of scarcity. Stick to your guns and resist the temptation for a permanent sale. Set short-term sales targets Don’t set annual incentive targets for your sales team. Set daily and weekly targets. Remember to invest time in motivating your sales team to get excited about your marketing campaign. Get them involved and listen to their ideas. Do your researchMeasure your sources of enquiries or sales carefully. Put measurement tools in place – before you embark on any campaign – to ensure you’re spending your marketing communications investment as effectively as possible. Be consistentMake sure your literature, website, price lists and point-of-sale material all promote the same deals consistently. Pushing several deals at once only results in confusion. Picture: source
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