Creating an Effective Sales and Marketing Strategy

10 Steps to an Effective Marketing Strategy

Group of people during a presentation in modern office
••• Luis Alvarez / Getty Images

Review your sales and marketing strategy to boost profits and gain ground on your competitors. A good way to start is by breaking down the process into discrete, manageable elements. You end up with a checklist that can be reviewed to prioritize areas needing improvement and serve as the groundwork for an effective marketing strategy.

1) Markets

Research your current and future markets to learn why your customers buy from you and what you could offer to attract more customers. Identify ways to sell more to your most profitable customers and if there are bulk, institutional, industrial, or corporate markets beyond normal retail that you are ignoring. This data can help you determine if new features or services will attract new customers or if people will pay more for them.

To collect information, study what competitors are doing and collect information about your customers. You can use surveys to gather information, and you also can establish customer loyalty programs that require participants to register by providing some basic information about themselves. These details can help you figure out what demographics you are attracting—or failing to attract.

2) Competition

Know who your competitors are and what they are up to. What is the overall market trend and how are you holding up in terms of market share and profit position? How do you rank against competitors? What substitutes are there to your products and how much of a threat are they?

Use competitive intelligence to maintain and enhance your business's market share. This involves researching what your competitors offer, their price points, and what their marketing strategies say about the demographics they are targeting.

3) Distribution

Identify ways to get your products or services to new outlets profitably. This could involve increasing your web sales, expanding delivery options, contracting with additional retail outlets to carry your products, and more. You might even be able to find mutually beneficial ways to collaborate with other businesses. For example, if you are an event photographer, you could work with a florist or a caterer to offer purchasing options that include both of your services. Such an arrangement allows both parties to expand their client bases.

4) Supply Chain

Research suppliers thoroughly and have multiple options available when possible to avoid being at the mercy of wholesalers who might increase prices for raw materials or product components. Manage supplies more effectively by using multiple wholesalers to keep costs in check. Always be on the lookout for new suppliers who might be willing to offer deals to gain your business.

When shopping around for wholesalers, it's also worth checking if prefabricated items might represent cost savings over doing it yourself.

5) Positioning

It's important to know where you fit in the market, and knowing your competition is a big part of this. You might have a larger operation that you hope can be all things to all people, but it's more likely that you'll be zeroing in on a specific demographic, such as those seeking premium quality items or services, those seeking discounted products or services, or something in between.

If you're a low-priced pizza parlor struggling in a town full of low-priced pizza parlors, you might find that you'll be able to improve your market share by targeting those willing to pay a premium for top-quality ingredients or toppings.

6) Promotion

Do a better job of reaching your potential customers by figuring out where your potential customers are at. If you're trying to reach an audience through social media, for example, it's good to know which age group is using which platforms.

A 2019 Pew Research Center survey showed that adults are nearly twice as likely to be on Facebook than on Instagram. However, when looking only at those aged 18-24, the gap narrows significantly with 71% on Instagram and 80% on Facebook. Using that data as an example, it's wise to make you sure you don't forget about Instagram if you are trying to reach a younger audience.

7) Pricing

Review your pricing strategy to be sure it makes sense for everything you offer. Consumer demand, product availability, and other external factors all can play a role in how much you should be charging for the goods and services you are selling.

Perhaps you run an ice cream shop in a town that draws a lot of tourists during the summer months. When demand is high and more customers are entering your store, it's fair to charge a premium for the items on your menu. However, during the colder months when the tourist crowd is gone, you should update your menu and offer winter-themed items at discount prices to keep traffic heavy.

8) Customer Service

The first step to providing good customer service is understanding the kind of service your customers want. If you run a convenience store where people stop in quickly to grab a soft drink or a power bar, they're simply looking for a friendly cashier to take care of their transaction quickly and without hassle.

However, something like a full-service restaurant or a retail establishment that sells specialty products will draw people who are looking to be waited on or have their questions answered.

It's also important to seek feedback. Provide ways for customers to review your business. If you have a customer loyalty program, regularly contact customers who have not made purchases in a while to offer discounts or inquire about why they have not visited your business recently.

9) Financing

Review your capital structure regularly or have a CPA do it for you to make sure you are handling your assets and liabilities in the most cost-effective way. If you've achieved some success, are viewed as a stable business in the community, and have a solid reputation, you may be able to attract angel investors or venture capitalists to assist with expanding your business.

10) Consistent Strategies

Building customer loyalty and increasing sales to existing customers should be a constant focus of your operation. Bringing people in the door sometimes requires different approaches based on your needs at the time. For example, if the spring months of March, April, and May typically are slow for your business, it's a good idea to schedule events during those months designed to bring potential customers in the door.

Don't limit yourself to strategies built around sales. Consider holding workshops or training sessions centered around the products or services you provide to draw attention to your brand. Let the sales come naturally from that boost of attention.