With a new financial year upon us, it’s time to think about how you will achieve the budget and business goals you have set for the months ahead.
Consumer behavior shifted during the COVID-19 pandemic as lockdowns and social distancing protocols forced us to find new ways of shopping and transacting. It’s important to recognize that many of the changes your customers made will have now become a habit and are likely to become part of their ‘new normal’. Today’s consumers are finding products and brands through different channels, interacting with businesses in new ways and developing increasingly high expectations of the companies from which they purchase. If you want to remain competitive in the coming financial year, your strategy should focus around making your customers feel valued, personalizing their experiences and meeting them wherever they are.
Here are our top 10 sales and marketing strategies to help drive new business this financial year.
1. Social selling
As social media usage continues to accelerate across the world and more consumers rely on it to discover new brands and products, social selling is fast replacing cold calling as a key sales tactic. This approach involves using social media to find, connect with, understand and nurture sales prospects, and it often results in better lead generation than traditional sales methods.
Social selling is a delicate and unintrusive way to increase sales. By allowing you to plant an idea in your prospects’ heads and to continually develop it, it helps to build brand awareness and meaningful relationships with potential customers. If you are always available to them, answering their questions and showcasing your expertise online, your business should be top of mind when it comes time for them to buy.
One of the cornerstones of social selling is the practice of social listening - monitoring social media channels for mentions of your brand, competitors and products. Social listening allows you to better understand what kind of content your followers actually want, come up with new ideas based on industry trends, improve your customer experience by interacting directly with customers, and be responsive to the changing wants and needs of your customers.
Small businesses that are new to social selling may want to begin by focusing on just one social channel. Trying to manage several channels at once can be overwhelming, and may not give you the opportunity to realize the full potential of any one channel.
Automation is repeatedly noted as a key trend for 2021 and beyond in many areas of business, and sales and marketing is no exception. By shifting many of the menial, day-to-day tasks from human to machine, automation frees up sales teams so they can focus on building more high-quality relationships with prospects and customers, without the need to increase staff numbers.
- Marketing automation
Marketing automation refers to the use of software to automate a range of marketing-related activities. These may include personalized email marketing, social media posting, lead nurturing/scoring, return on investment analysis, and expanded customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities. Some marketing software will test, segment and analyze conversions at the end of each campaign, resulting in huge time savings and allowing you to focus solely on monitoring the results and optimizing to improve future performance.
By streamlining and optimizing the process of gathering, scoring and prioritizing leads, your business will be able to drive higher conversions and generate more revenue consistently.
- Sales automation
Sales automation is the process of streamlining manual, tedious and time-consuming tasks in the sales process so your sales team can focus less on admin and more on selling. CRM software that helps you track and manage your email, social media and phone interactions with customers and prospects is one of the most valuable sales automation tools. Other automated sales tasks can include order processing, inventory monitoring and sales analytics.
Don’t be tempted to automate every aspect of the sales process, however, as the human touch adds critical and irreplaceable elements to your deals.
3. Smarter resourcing
If you don’t have enough time or staff to devote to sales and marketing, you could consider outsourcing some of these functions to a third party. Hiring an outsourced team to take care of the administration and implementation side of your sales and marketing plan will free up your local team to focus on strategy, campaign and brand development, or other core business tasks such as nurturing client relationships.
Outsourcing can also help reduce costs, increase quality and efficiency, and scale up quickly, and will give you access to a broader talent pool than when hiring locally - meaning you have a better chance of finding the best sales and marketing staff for your business.
A range of roles can be outsourced to a sales and marketing support team, including:
- Digital marketing specialists
- Graphic designers
- Marketing specialists
- SEO specialists
- SEM specialists
- Social media specialists
- Video editors
Personalization involves tracking a consumer’s digital and in-store preferences and customizing communications accordingly. Research by Epsilon shows that 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalised experiences based on their needs, interests and preferences. Focusing on products and services that customers love, inviting them to exclusive sales events and keeping them in the loop with relevant industry updates will create brand loyalty with customers.
Using digital tools to track consumer behavior on your website can also help to maximize sales by allowing you to offer incentives to retrieve abandoned carts or to try out new products based on which products customers have previously browsed.
5. Artificial intelligence marketing
Artificial intelligence (AI) is another big digital trend that offers many opportunities in the sales and marketing space. With the capability to collect data, analyze it, apply it and then react to it, AI is revolutionizing digital marketing and driving huge advancements in customer experience.
AI marketing leverages customer data and AI concepts like machine learning and augmented reality to anticipate your customer’s next move, build more effective marketing strategies, and improve the customer journey through personalized product recommendations and timely customer service. The high levels of customer satisfaction that are likely to be achieved through this approach will help you to grow your brand.
Online retail giant Amazon is one of the pioneers in AI marketing, using it to show only relevant products to shoppers, based on previous searches, purchases and views. This increases the likelihood that a shopper will make an initial purchase or become a repeat customer. Other examples of AI in marketing include using augmented reality to allow customers to view products in 3D and “place” them in their home, or to virtually “try on” clothes; using predictive analytics to process data gathered from store loyalty cards and mobile apps to identify customers’ needs and wants and create more personalized, targeted marketing campaigns; and using chatbots to identify customer product preferences and narrow down their choices in an online store.
As the amount of information gathered on potential consumers grows, the use of this technology will become even more important due to its ability to make data-based decisions quickly and accurately.
6. Video and live streaming
Experiences during the pandemic proved that the use of video content can help consumers overcome feelings of disconnectedness and help them forge strong bonds with brands, making them more likely to purchase a product. Nearly nine in 10 people say they want to see more videos from brands in 2021, according to research by Wyzowl, and 68% of consumers say they prefer to learn about a new product or service through a short video compared to other channels. Furthermore, a subject line that contains the word “video” is eight times more likely to be opened, according to Vidyard.
Effective video content may be in the form of tutorials or “explainer” videos, testimonials and behind-the-scenes footage, or more casual social content. Platforms like TikTok - which now has close to 700 million users worldwide - and Instagram allow marketers to naturally weave brand content into users’ feeds. “Shoppable” video - where customers can click on a video to access product purchase details - is also expected to increase in popularity this year, according to Venture Beat.
With live content having the ability to generate greater impressions than posts published in news feeds, live streaming should also be part of your marketing strategy. During the pandemic, as more people worked from home and spent more time on social media, there was a rise in the number of brands going live to interact with consumers in real time. The use of live streaming is expected to continue to grow in 2021, as it is free, quick to produce, reaches a broader target audience and offers authentic user engagement.
7. Content marketing
It’s clear that today’s consumers want to learn about brands from content rather than traditional ads. Publishing a regular, high-quality blog is one of the best ways to drive targeted traffic to your website. Figures from Demand Metric show that companies who publish a blog receive up to 67% more leads per month than those that don’t. Blogs offer amazing SEO benefits and more long-term ROI than traditional marketing efforts. They are a great way to discuss your product, show your expertise on the industry, and establish yourself as a thought leader.
To get the most out of your content marketing strategy, focus on producing long-form, quality content rather than lots of short, uninformative posts.
8. Customer retention
With the economy still facing uncertainty, businesses struggling to recover from the events of 2020 should focus on keeping their existing customers happy, as it costs less than trying to acquire new ones. Forrester Research predicts that budgets targeting B2C loyalty and retention-based marketing will increase by 30% in 2021.
Mobile marketing is expected to be popular for customer retention in the B2C space. This might include strategies like personalized push notifications on smartphones and loyalty incentives for customers who download mobile apps to shop or transact directly. This will help strengthen brand reputation, which is all-important for firms as they navigate their way out of the pandemic.
9. Standing for something
In 2020, we saw consumers thinking more about social justice issues and seeking out brands that demonstrated a strong commitment to social and environmental sustainability. To solidify their relationships with consumers, brands should now ensure they follow through with any promises they made towards inclusion and cultural competency efforts.
Standing for something that’s important both to you and your customers can create a point of difference and help build respect and trust in your brand. Some ways you can demonstrate your commitment to a worthy cause include sponsoring (or donating a product/service to) a charitable event, or organizing a charity fundraiser and inviting your employees and customers to contribute.
10. Omnichannel strategies
Rapidly changing consumer behavior in 2020 in the face of the pandemic has made an omnichannel strategy more important than ever. With consumers forced to find new ways to shop, there was a large uptick in options such as click-and-collect, and these new shopping habits are likely to remain. Even as businesses have reopened, consumers are continuing to do as much as possible through digital and contactless channels, including utilizing digital payment in-store and ordering via touchscreen.
Today’s consumers are clearly not loyal to any one channel, and use many different devices to interact with businesses. According to MoEngage, some 86% of shoppers regularly channel-hop across two channels. They may research a product online or on social media on their laptop or tablet before buying in-store, make online purchases as they stand in the queue at the physical store, or use a smartphone as a shopping assistant while browsing in the store. Having the ability to meet consumers where they are has never been more important.
A true omnichannel approach must deliver a consistent experience everywhere you sell. Businesses should not only offer a wide range of different channels to serve buyers so that they can choose whichever they prefer, but it is imperative to ensure uniformity of customer experience regardless of the channel they choose. Ideally, you should be able to provide the ability to switch across different channels without losing any information for a seamless buying experience.
On top of that, each channel should be integrated with a dedicated database. A CRM system is effective for collecting and organizing all interactions with individual leads across channels.
To ensure your business is ready to embrace social selling to help you meet your sales targets this financial year, download our free checklist today.