Sales and marketing for sole traders

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29th September, 2020

A simple approach sales and marketing for sole traders and new businesses

If, like Ben Paul, you’ve recently started a new business, you’ll be hungry for sales. But have you created a practical sales and marketing strategy to help get the ball rolling?

If you’re in the process of starting a business, or still in the planning phase, there’s plenty to do beyond writing a business plan.

Hopefully by now you’ll have thought about how much you need to charge for your products and services. You may have carried out some research to find out what competitors are doing and what they’re charging.

You may even have considered what your target market is. But, if you dedicated time to developing your sales and marketing strategy, now’s the time.

Every business owner will at some stage need to pause, reflect, then spend some time putting an actionable sales and marketing plan in place. Let’s start with the four steps I’ve identified below.

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1. Who are your potential customers/clients?


My business, The BD Ladder, is aimed at advising people who provide B2B (business-to-business) services, but whether you offer products or B2C (business-to-consumer) services, the basics here still apply.

You’ll need to understand who your target market is. The key here is to narrow it down to a handful of specific groups at most. Yes, do be specific.

As an example, saying your target market is ‘small-to-medium businesses’ is simply too broad an audience to begin with. It makes it hard to communicate with such a wide and diverse group.

What sectors within that group do you have the most experience with? Which sectors have the most pressing need for what you are offering?

Answering questions like this will give you clarity on who your audience is.


2. How do you align what you do to the target market you’ve defined?


Now you understand your customers, you can now begin to think about how what you offer will meet their needs. What is it that you do, that they want?

When I designed my new business plan, I really thought about this. It was clear that I would be targeting professional services firms in the main, so I needed to understand what their needs might be in the next six months. I have really focused on this, as post-lockdown, everyone’s business plans have changed, and they will be purchasing new products and services for different reasons.

Some of this will be good news if you’re starting out as a sole trader providing services. Many firms will be looking to employ contractors or those in the gig economy rather than having the costly overheads of a fully employed member of staff. So, like I did, really think about how your service (or product) offering meets new market expectations.


3. Create your new value proposition(s)


If you have a target client/market and you understand how what you do aligns to that market, the next step is how you express it.

You will need to be able to articulate your value proposition in a way that appeals to your target clients. Having this written down, perhaps for each service you offer, will help provide clarity going forward.

When asked, you’ll be able to answer succinctly and to the point. It should tell a compelling story to your clients. This will help you to communicate your value within your market, at the appropriate time. It will also help you to have clear messaging in your marketing efforts.


4. Plan your ‘go to market’ strategy


Finally, it is vitally important to plan how you will make sales. To do this you will need to market your new business.

As a sole-trader or new small business owner you’ll be short on one very valuable business commodity, which is time. So, knowing how you will perform your sales and marketing activities is key. If you are going to use referrals, have a plan on how you will actively ask for them.

If you’re going to make cold calls or use emails to get meetings, know that this is your sales tactic and plan the time to make these calls. This article provides more detail on how to develop a sales pipeline.

Finally, think about what marketing you will use. Does your business need a website? Which social media channels will you use? This takes a lot of thought and planning. That’s why, in the next article in this series, I’ll be looking at some tactics to “Get your digital presence right, for little cash.”


Getting started on your sales and marketing plan


Make sure you write down and record the steps above. Incorporate them into your business plan.

If you don’t have a business plan already, there are many available for free. And MYOB provides a number of resources to assist.

Thinking about your sales and marketing strategy early, really does help. I formed my plan during lockdown in NZ and had started initial conversations before we could physically all meet up. These led to my first clients coming on board, which was not only very pleasing, but a huge relief!

READ: What it’s like starting a business in lockdown

It takes time to build an effective sales pipeline, but with a plan you can start being successful, relatively early on.