Sales and Marketing Tactics for Entrepreneurs: Prioritize these 2 Things in the first 6 Months

Once you have laid the groundwork for your business and are ready to face the growth phase, it can seem like there is an endless road ahead of tasks to focus on, and doors to knock on. Yes. It's daunting, there is a lot to do and time-to-market is critical. However, think of this as the fun part! The beginning is filled with enchantment and possibilities.

Through speaking and working with many founders, I found that prioritizing what you are going to tackle in the first 6 months, is an optimal way to focus on the right things in order to successfully secure your financial stability for the long-haul. Here are 2 Things You Need to prioritize: 

1. Marketing. You've developed a 30-60-90 plan for your business that outlines your strategy. Now you have to put into effect marketing tactics that are going to drive customers and followers to engage with you on your site and via social media. In my experience, developing content is #1, and email and social are tied for #2 in effective ways to reach your B2B or B2C market. Here's the short list for marketing: 

Foundation: (Things you can do solo or with a field expert.)

  • Make sure your site is SEO-friendly and communicates your value. 
  • Have a Newsletter Sign-up on your site AND a web-to-lead form.
  • Create content via your company blog, and post there at least 2-3 times a week on relevant topics.
  • Utilize Social Media channels - effectively. Sharing each blog post, POV and inspirational content.
  • Find out where your customers are online, and follow them there...
  • Enable Google Analytics to track the progress of traffic and engagement.
  • Utilize social media tracking tools to measure effectiveness.
  • Create your monthly newsletter, if you have customers to highlight here - do it!

Distribution: (Ways to reach one-to-many)

  • Find at least 3 companies to share traffic with, or partner with on content swaps.
  • Shop ideas to larger industry sites on how to be featured in an article where you can showcase your Point of View to a broader audience. Demonstrate your writing skills and offer to focus on a topic that would engage their readers. 
  • Join discussions on LinkedIn, Twitter and comment on posts that are relevant.
  • Give kudos to others in the industry (via your blog or social media) and get on their radar, you never know who new business partners could be. (In the beginning you are better off treating your competitors as allies.)

Re-calibrate: (Alter your plan according to successes and failures)

  • Rank your success. Utilizing tools for measurement isn't just a best-practice, it's so you can make adjustments to your process. Make a list ranking your top referral sources, (SEO, sites, keywords)
  • Measure quality. Where are the most quality discussions occurring online? Find out - and quickly move on from the channels or discussion groups that are not resulting in meaningful conversations or leads. 
  • If you are spending small budgets on SEO, Social and Email marketing, calculate the CLV of these investments. 
  • Invest more. Once you have figured out 1-2 things that work, put dollars behind that strategy to maximize the return on your investment. Remember, it's all about reaching the right people at the right time. 
  • Once you have customers, broadcast your case study, even to prospects who have said NO thank you. 
  • Create your marketing plan for the next 90 days.

2. Direct Sales. Whether you are solo or have a team, make sure you have the sales pitch ready and that everyone is well-versed in your business value, customer pain points and pricing. Having spent most of my professional life in sales, these are a few strategies I would implement to acquire new customers:

Foundation:  

  • Celebrate your launch. Send out a personalized mass email announcing your business launch, send this to your entire network: Explain your value, and communicate who your ideal customer is, ask for introductions via this email. 
  • Know your target - it's important to build your customer profile and align your business value with what customers want.
  • Have a promotion. In the beginning, you are attracting early adopters. I suggest having a short-term promotion to drive more immediate sales at lower cost and for a limited time period.
  • Send personal notes. Take the time to customize your outreach. Don't just blast potential new customers in the beginning (leave that to a drip marketing campaign later). Reach out to specific targets and make the message about them.
  • Ask for the meeting. The goal is always always the meeting, or the call. Don't pigeon-hole yourself into making your outreach very specific, you will make it easy for someone to say no, because you may not have hit on something personal that resonates with the customer. In your initial email and phone call, just ask to learn more about their business and convey a compelling reason why you would like to speak. 
  • After the meeting, tailor your pitch to the customer - put the deal terms in language that they understand.
  • If you get the NO. Find out why.
  • If you get the YES. Ask for referrals. And get a case study.
  • Track all of your conversations, contacts and pipeline activity in CRM. 

Distribution: 

  • Attend networking events. Meetups, industry gatherings and conferences. 
  • Host a networking event. The easiest way to do this, is to host a breakfast before work.
  • Advertise your promotion. (This is where marketing and sales collide). When you've determined a short-term offer you are going to extend to new/first time customers - put small budget behind getting your message out there on the right channels. Even if you don't gain a sale, you could build your email list during this process. 
  • Socialize your wins. Each time you get a new customer, announce it! (with their permission) New customers tend to follow trends and will view your wins as confirmation that your product has viability. 
  • Re-target. Set up your retargeting plan for reaching out to prospects. 
  • Partner with PR companies, vendors, etc. to gain access to their customer lists and to extend your offering as an added value to their clients.

Re-calibrate: 

  • Measuring sales-effectiveness will be critical. How long are the sales cycles? How is your messaging resonating with customers? What are the biggest obstacles to closing the deal? How is the pricing model being received in-market? In the beginning, you may not have enough data, but when you utilize CRM, it's easier to track trends and evaluate why deals are lost. Once you spot an issue -correct it, fast. You know what they say - fail fast. So take the deal losses and adjust.
  • Get feedback from your team. Don't ignore the front lines. It is always management's job to eliminate obstacles and barriers to closing deals. Shadow your team's calls, survey the team on what's working and make the necessary adjustments to set them up for success.
  • Now that you've been listening to customers, and you've documented their pain points. Refine the pitch. Always make it about the customer. 
  • Build a competitive matrix. You knew who a few of the leaders were in your industry, and then you started selling. The insights you learn during the first few months when you are speaking with prospects is invaluable, put these on paper and apply the competitive learnings to future sales pitches.
  • Reward success. Your sales team is gold - make sure they are motivated by a clear incentive plan. With startups, these often change, be transparent with your team on current and future plans to adjust commission plans. 
  • Create a long-term forecast and project your revenue out 12-18 months (longer for operation models of course).