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3 Reasons Marketing Is The New Sales

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September 22, 2020 9 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

have long been regarded as the driving force of — as they should, right? If you don’t have sales, revenue or cashflow… your business ceases to exist. So, it makes sense to celebrate completing monetary transactions. It’s the intrinsic sign your business is doing well. 

Somewhere along the line, though, the concept of sales became idealized and over celebrated. This idea that if you could coerce the “adversary” into your proposition then you’ve won is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Lusting after sales has driven what should be a peaceful process with no coercion or psychological manipulation into one riddled with slimy tactics and strategies. The consumer becomes timid and retreats deeper inside their shell of comfort and security, which creates inaction. They continue to do what’s comfortable because of fear of change and the memory of businesses that oversold and underdelivered in the past.

With the number of advertisements,  and transactional stimulus we face on a daily basis — we see about 5,000 advertisements a day, according to The New York Times — it’s no wonder that we’re facing lower conversion rates from cold calls, door-to-door and cold reach outs.

Mix that in with the fact that in the age of COVID, face-to-face cold is pretty much out of the question. So how do you drive conversions and sales for your business without being pushy or overselling your product? 

Turn to marketing. Here are 3 reasons why marketing is the new sales, and how to increase conversions in your business. Without marketing, there would be no sale. In fact, sales should have really been credited to marketing in the first place. 

1. You can use marketing to earn back consumer trust

Sales have always been a fundamental part of business. Sales also have always been a function of relationship building.

You’ll hear these principles in entrepreneurship often. Things like, “your network is your net worth” and “Sales is the lifeblood of your business.” And while these statements are predominantly true, they are also merely facts of the equation of business and life. 

It’s when sales are credited for the work of great marketing that people are capitalizing on the wrong idea. 

We all purchase based on a sense of trust. Can I trust that if I give you my money, I’ll get what you promise, whether it’s a cheeseburger, a car, a Siamese cat. Enough trust must be built up in order to overcome the risks of untruth, deceit or the consequences of these outcomes. Do I trust that this is made from safe ingredients? Will this car actually last for another 100k miles “easy,” as the salesman says? Is this cat purebred?

If you can earn the trust of your prospect and they need your product, they will buy.

So how is trust earned? 

By getting to know the nature of a person through interactions and relations. By stacking small dominoes of reliability and delivering what you say you’re going to when you say you’re going to. This is why salespeople are given with an unlimited budget and told to treat their prospects like royalty, so they can show up on time, deliver a good time, build relationships and treat them like they’re irreplaceable.

Related: How to Earn Customers‘ Trust

In this whole equation, where does marketing end and sales begin? And how do we use marketing to earn back the trust of the consumer?

We were already undergoing a massive digital revolution as a society. The normalization of social networks and apps in day to day life has become much more prevalent in the last 5 years. Because of this, we have new channels to market and sell. 

If you’ve been on for more than 5 minutes, you’ve seen how spammy salesmen attempt to gain your attention and sell you on a “discovery call about X.” This is an ugly example of idealizing the sale and not understanding the power of marketing.

Marketing is the act of creating a relationship with your customer, it’s the act of building trust and educating them on your service. If you truly have a viable offer and you spend enough time and energy marketing, all of a sudden they’ll ask you for the contract, the invoice, the bill.

They’ll ask you where to buy. 

So how do you ultimately earn back the trust of the customer? Show them you’re in it for them. Show them through , customer journey. By showing them how much you care, they’ll show you how much they care with their dollars.

Tactically how do you market to earn trust? 

Post consistently, educate and add value. Create small changes in their life before they ever purchase your product. Speak to them as if you’ve read their diary or lived inside their heart and mind. Relate to their struggles and give them hope for a better way. Be funny and relatable. Use memetics to drive culture and create an unspoken connection.

Craft a plan that ultimately shows the customer you care, and they’ll show you how much they do. It’s as simple as that.

Once they’ve purchased, though, what’s next?

2. Relationships are more powerful than transactions

Increasing the lifetime value of a customer is an often overlooked way of increasing revenue. When you first understand the notion that it’s harder to get them in the door than it is to keep them there your world changes.

If you have a client list you truly have a bank of leads right in your palm. Chances are that you’re not a one-trick pony. Your business likely has the potential to do a number of things, and one of the things that got you where you are was focusing on that one thing. Now that you’ve created systems and processes to serve your clients in that facet, there is likely to be another want or need. 

Use your customer list for market research and to gain valuable insights into which product or service will ultimately improve and build upon your current offerings. For instance, a credit repair firm is likely to offer types of funding and credit as well. It’s a natural customer journey, you focus on building your credit to use it. Why not invest in partnerships, certifications, or business partnerships that allow you to expand your offerings in a logical way. 

Related: How to Increase Customer Lifetime Value And Boost Profits

Create relationships with your customers along the way. We all love opportunities and possibilities, especially if we’re already invested in the journey. Use this opportunity to introduce them to the idea that the journey doesn’t have to stop when it’s over.

Avoid telling them that there is more work on the other side by emphasizing the process and making it a bite-sized and digestible journey for you to undertake together. Just like airlines use every flight to encourage you to fly with them again and to thank you for traveling, it’s important to do the same with each customer journey inside your business.

Related: 4 Ways to Sell More Using ‘Customer Journey Optimization’

When you show the customer you’re also invested in their success and that you’ve done the bushwacking to get them there faster, safer, or more efficiently, they feel how much you care about them. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Show them how much you care by compartmentalizing what you know about their pains, struggles, and wishes for life into a transformative customer experience and you’re sure to retain your customers for longer, increasing their lifetime value in several ways. Not only will they spend more with you, but they’ll be more likely to share their tailored experiences with friends or family members as it imparts changes in their life. 

As a bonus stream of revenue, look at things like monthly reoccurring revenue models that allow you to expand the customer experience in realtime… think Netflix, or even Entrepreneur Insider’s model for serving customers. 

3. Sales and marketing have always been linked

I learned from George Bryant that relationships are at the heart of all marketing. So, in essence, sales staffers who are wining and dining customers are actually marketers. They’re creating relationships and helping to educate the prospects on what your business can deliver. They are essential parts of the business and drive sales forward. But they’re engaging in marketing tactics that help drive the sale. 

So how do you employ these marketing techniques to drive sales in your business, especially in the digital age? 

Examine what other businesses are doing to have a direct relationship with their customers. For example, Disney took a huge step to create a monthly reoccurring revenue model and to take control of their customer relationships when they launched Disney+. 

As a marketer and business owner, we never know which marketing asset or channel is going to reach the consumer and cause the purchase decision. We just know what as we earn their trust and prove our product works through different psychological biases, eventually they will make that decision as long as we maintain a relationship with them. Instead of pushing for sales like you’re a telemarketer, smoothly incentivize the sale through heartwarming marketing techniques that show how much you care about them. 

Marketing truly is the new sales. Use your list to gain informed market research, create educational content surrounding their pain points, learn which new products your customers want and ultimately create a higher lifetime value from your customers. 

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The Trump campaign celebrated a growth record that Democrats downplayed.

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The White House celebrated economic growth numbers for the third quarter released on Thursday, even as Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign sought to throw cold water on the report — the last major data release leading up to the Nov. 3 election — and warned that the economic recovery was losing steam.

The economy grew at a record pace last quarter, but the upswing was a partial bounce-back after an enormous decline and left the economy smaller than it was before the pandemic. The White House took no notice of those glum caveats.

“This record economic growth is absolute validation of President Trump’s policies, which create jobs and opportunities for Americans in every corner of the country,” Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign said in a statement, highlighting a rebound of 33.1 percent at an annualized rate. Mr. Trump heralded the data on Twitter, posting that he was “so glad” that the number had come out before Election Day.

The annualized rate that the White House emphasized extrapolates growth numbers as if the current pace held up for a year, and risks overstating big swings. Because the economy’s growth has been so volatile amid the pandemic, economists have urged focusing on quarterly numbers.

Those showed a 7.4 percent gain in the third quarter. That rebound, by far the biggest since reliable statistics began after World War II, still leaves the economy short of its pre-pandemic levels. The pace of recovery has also slowed, and now coronavirus cases are rising again across much of the United States, raising the prospect of further pullback.

“The recovery is stalling out, thanks to Trump’s refusal to have a serious plan to deal with Covid or to pass a new economic relief plan for workers, small businesses and communities,” Mr. Biden’s campaign said in a release ahead of Thursday’s report. The rebound was widely expected, and the campaign characterized it as “a partial return from a catastrophic hit.”

Economists have warned that the recovery could face serious roadblocks ahead. Temporary measures meant to shore up households and businesses — including unemployment insurance supplements and forgivable loans — have run dry. Swaths of the service sector remain shut down as the virus continues to spread, and job losses that were temporary are increasingly turning permanent.

“With coronavirus infections hitting a record high in recent days and any additional fiscal stimulus unlikely to arrive until, at the earliest, the start of next year, further progress will be much slower,” Paul Ashworth, chief United States economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note following the report.

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Black and Hispanic workers, especially women, lag in the U.S. economic recovery.

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The surge in economic output in the third quarter set a record, but the recovery isn’t reaching everyone.

Economists have long warned that aggregate statistics like gross domestic product can obscure important differences beneath the surface. In the aftermath of the last recession, for example, G.D.P. returned to its previous level in early 2011, even as poverty rates remained high and the unemployment rate for Black Americans was above 15 percent.

Aggregate statistics could be even more misleading during the current crisis. The job losses in the initial months of the pandemic disproportionately struck low-wage service workers, many of them Black and Hispanic women. Service-sector jobs have been slow to return, while school closings are keeping many parents, especially mothers, from returning to work. Nearly half a million Hispanic women have left the labor force over the last three months.

“If we’re thinking that the economy is recovering completely and uniformly, that is simply not the case,” said Michelle Holder, an economist at John Jay College in New York. “This rebound is unevenly distributed along racial and gender lines.”

The G.D.P. report released Thursday doesn’t break down the data by race, sex or income. But other sources make the disparities clear. A pair of studies by researchers at the Urban Institute released this week found that Black and Hispanic adults were more likely to have lost jobs or income since March, and were twice as likely as white adults to experience food insecurity in September.

The financial impact of the pandemic hit many of the families that were least able to afford it, even as white-collar workers were largely spared, said Michael Karpman, an Urban Institute researcher and one of the studies’ authors.

“A lot of people who were already in a precarious position before the pandemic are now in worse shape, whereas people who were better off have generally been faring better financially,” he said.

Federal relief programs, such as expanded unemployment benefits, helped offset the damage for many families in the first months of the pandemic. But those programs have mostly ended, and talks to revive them have stalled in Washington. With virus cases surging in much of the country, Mr. Karpman warned, the economic toll could increase.

“There could be a lot more hardship coming up this winter if there’s not more relief from Congress, with the impact falling disproportionately on Black and Hispanic workers and their families,” he said.

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Ant Challenged Beijing and Prospered. Now It Toes the Line.

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As Jack Ma of Alibaba helped turn China into the world’s biggest e-commerce market over the past two decades, he was also vowing to pull off a more audacious transformation.

“If the banks don’t change, we’ll change the banks,” he said in 2008, decrying how hard it was for small businesses in China to borrow from government-run lenders.

“The financial industry needs disrupters,” he told People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, a few years later. His goal, he said, was to make banks and other state-owned enterprises “feel unwell.”

The scope of Mr. Ma’s success is becoming clearer. The vehicle for his financial-technology ambitions, an Alibaba spinoff called Ant Group, is preparing for the largest initial public offering on record. Ant is set to raise $34 billion by selling its shares to the public in Hong Kong and Shanghai, according to stock exchange documents released on Monday. After the listing, Ant would be worth around $310 billion, much more than many global banks.

The company is going public not as a scrappy upstart, but as a leviathan deeply dependent on the good will of the government Mr. Ma once relished prodding.

More than 730 million people use Ant’s Alipay app every month to pay for lunch, invest their savings and shop on credit. Yet Alipay’s size and importance have made it an inevitable target for China’s regulators, which have already brought its business to heel in certain areas.

These days, Ant talks mostly about creating partnerships with big banks, not disrupting or supplanting them. Several government-owned funds and institutions are Ant shareholders and stand to profit handsomely from the public offering.

The question now is how much higher Ant can fly without provoking the Chinese authorities into clipping its wings further.

Excitable investors see Ant as a buzzy internet innovator. The risk is that it becomes more like a heavily regulated “financial digital utility,” said Fraser Howie, the co-author of “Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China’s Extraordinary Rise.”

“Utility stocks, as far as I remember, were not the ones to be seen as the most exciting,” Mr. Howie said.

Ant declined to comment, citing the quiet period demanded by regulators before its share sale.

The company has played give-and-take with Beijing for years. As smartphone payments became ubiquitous in China, Ant found itself managing huge piles of money in Alipay users’ virtual wallets. The central bank made it park those funds in special accounts where they would earn minimal interest.

After people piled into an easy-to-use investment fund inside Alipay, the government forced the fund to shed risk and lower returns. Regulators curbed a plan to use Alipay data as the basis for a credit-scoring system akin to Americans’ FICO scores.

China’s Supreme Court this summer capped interest rates for consumer loans, though it was unclear how the ceiling would apply to Ant. The central bank is preparing a new virtual currency that could compete against Alipay and another digital wallet, the messaging app WeChat, as an everyday payment tool.

Ant has learned ways of keeping the authorities on its side. Mr. Ma once boasted at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, about never taking money from the Chinese government. Today, funds associated with China’s social security system, its sovereign wealth fund, a state-owned life insurance company and the national postal carrier hold stakes in Ant. The I.P.O. is likely to increase the value of their holdings considerably.

“That’s how the state gets its payoff,” Mr. Howie said. With Ant, he said, “the line between state-owned enterprise and private enterprise is highly, highly blurred.”

China, in less than two generations, went from having a state-planned financial system to being at the global vanguard of internet finance, with trillions of dollars in transactions being made on mobile devices each year. Alipay had a lot to do with it.

Alibaba created the service in the early 2000s to hold payments for online purchases in escrow. Its broader usefulness quickly became clear in a country that mostly missed out on the credit card era. Features were added and users piled in. It became impossible for regulators and banks not to see the app as a threat.

ImageAnt Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China.
Credit…Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

A big test came when Ant began making an offer to Alipay users: Park your money in a section of the app called Yu’ebao, which means “leftover treasure,” and we will pay you more than the low rates fixed by the government at banks.

People could invest as much or as little as they wanted, making them feel like they were putting their pocket change to use. Yu’ebao was a hit, becoming one of the world’s largest money market funds.

The banks were terrified. One commentator for a state broadcaster called the fund a “vampire” and a “parasite.”

Still, “all the main regulators remained unanimous in saying that this was a positive thing for the Chinese financial system,” said Martin Chorzempa, a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

“If you can’t actually reform the banks,” Mr. Chorzempa said, “you can inject more competition.”

But then came worries about shadowy, unregulated corners of finance and the dangers they posed to the wider economy. Today, Chinese regulators are tightening supervision of financial holding companies, Ant included. Beijing has kept close watch on the financial instruments that small lenders create out of their consumer loans and sell to investors. Such securities help Ant fund some of its lending. But they also amplify the blowup if too many of those loans aren’t repaid.

“Those kinds of derivative products are something the government is really concerned about,” said Tian X. Hou, founder of the research firm TH Data Capital. Given Ant’s size, she said, “the government should be concerned.”

The broader worry for China is about growing levels of household debt. Beijing wants to cultivate a consumer economy, but excessive borrowing could eventually weigh on people’s spending power. The names of two of Alipay’s popular credit functions, Huabei and Jiebei, are jaunty invitations to spend and borrow.

Huang Ling, 22, started using Huabei when she was in high school. At the time, she didn’t qualify for a credit card. With Huabei’s help, she bought a drone, a scooter, a laptop and more.

The credit line made her feel rich. It also made her realize that if she actually wanted to be rich, she had to get busy.

“Living beyond my means forced me to work harder,” Ms. Huang said.

First, she opened a clothing shop in her hometown, Nanchang, in southeastern China. Then she started an advertising company in the inland metropolis of Chongqing. When the business needed cash, she borrowed from Jiebei.

Online shopping became a way to soothe daily anxieties, and Ms. Huang sometimes racked up thousands of dollars in Huabei bills, which only made her even more anxious. When the pandemic slammed her business, she started falling behind on her payments. That cast her into a deep depression.

Finally, early this month, with her parents’ help, she paid off her debts and closed her Huabei and Jiebei accounts. She felt “elated,” she said.

China’s recent troubles with freewheeling online loan platforms have put the government under pressure to protect ordinary borrowers.

Ant is helped by the fact that its business lines up with many of the Chinese leadership’s priorities: encouraging entrepreneurship and financial inclusion, and expanding the middle class. This year, the company helped the eastern city of Hangzhou, where it is based, set up an early version of the government’s app-based system for dictating coronavirus quarantines.

Such coziness is bound to raise hackles overseas. In Washington, Chinese tech companies that are seen as close to the government are radioactive.

In January 2017, Eric Jing, then Ant’s chief executive, said the company aimed to be serving two billion users worldwide within a decade. Shortly after, Ant announced that it was acquiring the money transfer company MoneyGram to increase its U.S. footprint. By the following January, the deal was dead, thwarted by data security concerns.

More recently, top officials in the Trump administration have discussed whether to place Ant Group on the so-called entity list, which prohibits foreign companies from purchasing American products. Officials from the State Department have suggested that an interagency committee, which also includes officials from the departments of defense, commerce and energy, review Ant for the potential entity listing, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Ant does not talk much anymore about expanding in the United States.

Ana Swanson contributed reporting.

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