Why are your sales decreasing?
In my travels as a certified exit planning adviser and business consultant for over 11 years, I’ve noticed a pattern among businesses I’ve worked with – most of them sorely lack a company marketing strategy.
When their number one complaint is flat or decreasing sales, my first questions revolve around the sales team and my next set of questions is around marketing. These are the only two areas of any business, regardless of size or industry that drive revenue; every other area is a liability for the business.
For businesses looking to sell in the next 5 to 15 years, decreasing sales is not a situation you want to be in.
So, if sales are flat or down who’s to blame? Let’s explore.
How to Define Your Company Marketing Strategy
“Marketing” is a very broad term and what it is can be interpreted differently. If you were to ask a consumer “What is Marketing?”, they might describe it in terms of advertising and commercials, and they’d be partially right. These things are part of an overall company marketing strategy.
Ask the same question to someone in professional services (an adviser, perhaps) and their perception of marketing may focus on social media and online lead generation, and they’d be right too.
My point is that a company’s marketing strategy encompasses many facets of your overall business development. Marketing’s primary responsibility is to build a strong brand message that drives leads to a business. It needs to be effective enough that your salespeople have an easier time out in the field when they present your company’s services and products to bring in qualified leads.
What’s the True Cause of Poor Marketing ROI
If your marketing dollars are not driving leads, why do you think that is?
Could it be that the targets are off?
Do you have someone with a consistent eye on lead generation and strategy?
Some of the clients I’ve worked with have internal people who manage their company marketing strategy in addition to other responsibilities. What I have found in those situations (which are very common), is that the marketing strategy is put on the back burner to other more pressing, day-to-day tasks. Pretty soon, the marketing strategy is outdated and tactics are ineffective, resulting in very little return on investment (ROI).
Then what tragically can happen is the owners or decision-makers conclude that marketing doesn’t work, and they cut the budget for it.
If this just described you, I’d encourage you to reassess this decision. Remember my comment earlier on what drives revenue? Cutting your marketing budget is another method for shooting yourself (and your company) in the foot. It disables your ability to grow.
And if your desire is to sell your company soon, the last thing you want to do is cut your marketing, because it could deplete your enterprise value by causing a standstill in sales.
Growing and Measuring Your Company Marketing Strategies
Another essential part of a good marketing strategy for business exit planning is to track and measure the return on your marketing investment dollars.
Are your marketing efforts paying off?
Can you answer that question with a yes or no?
So many times, owners don’t know if the money they spend is generating a return, because they don’t know how to measure it, or they don’t have the internal capacity or expertise to do so. If that’s you, then the answer, in my opinion, is to hire a competent, reputable marketing firm who can do it for you.
I use the word investment when I talk about marketing dollars for a reason because that is what it is supposed to be. Unlike dollars we allocate towards many other business expenses like operations, IT, rent, insurance, etc., marketing dollars are allocated towards growth strategies that align with what we’re trying to accomplish.
When thinking about business exit planning, your marketing dollars are directly related. The more you grow your business, your selling prospects will also grow. Business exit planning needs proper planning with a realistic timeline backed by a dedicated marketing team or partner.
Whatever your primary initiatives for growth are, your company marketing strategies should support and align with them.
Business Exit Planning Includes Marketing
If you are a baby boomer business owner retiring in the next 5 – 10 years thinking about selling, it’s important to start thinking like a buyer.
What would they require from your business to deem it a candidate for purchase?
Believe me, they will always want to know what your company’s marketing strategy is and if it’s working. An awkward position for an owner is when they admit to a potential buyer that you don’t have a marketing plan or strategy.
I was recently in this situation with a client, literally across the table from the buyers. When the buyers asked about marketing, the owners didn’t have much to tell. Over the 18 months we worked together, I tried hard to make marketing a priority during their business exit planning, but they didn’t want to spend the money. The buyers looked incredulously at them when they said they had no marketing plan or strategy.
If you were the buyer, what would you think about a company that waited for the phone to ring?
Would you be interested in buying the business?
If you had interest anyway, would you pay top dollar?
Start Your Company Marketing Strategy for Exit Planning
For those who found their own story in this article, you may be wondering if it’s worth implementing some marketing tactics when starting your business exit planning. I say it’s almost never too late to build your curb appeal, update your external image, and refresh your message.
First impressions are long-lasting and hard to change, so make it as good as it can be as soon as you can.
And we have the tool you need to get started! Download your guide to building your company marketing strategy for business exit planning.
Through Evolve Systems, marketing agency, and Julie Keyes, Certified Exit Planning Adviser, collaboration, we’ve developed a marketing guide for business owners looking to sell in the next 5 to 10 years.
About the Author
Julie Keyes is the founder and owner of KeyeStrategies, LLC and has been an entrepreneur for the majority of her life. As the founder and operator of several companies, she understands what keeps an owner up at night and the balancing act required to work both ‘in’ and ‘on’ the business. Having outside perspective and mentoring made all the difference for her, as she spent years growing and improving her companies before selling and becoming a business adviser in 2011.
As a Certified Exit Planning Advisor and Value Growth Adviser, she works with business owners who seek to understand and maximize their exit and critical transition options. She is President Emeritus of the Exit Planning Institute Twin Cities Metro Area Chapter and a faculty member for their CEPA Program. In addition, Julie was awarded EPI’s 2017 “Leader of Year.” Her speaking engagements bring her across the country delivering her exit planning expertise to owner and adviser groups alike.