Last time we checked, there was no GPS device for business decisions. Ask your smartphone which direction to go in your marketing choices, and it’ll reply, “We don’t seem to be navigating anywhere.” (Ouch).
That’s because GPS (and smartphones) can’t help you. Like an old-fashioned road map, you have to figure out how to promote your business by yourself. And, like those winding, twisting lines on a map – there are dozens of routes you can take to get to success.
Don’t get overwhelmed by the choices. Here’s a breakdown of your options and why each one may (or may not) be right for you.
Before Choosing A Path
You should have your marketing ideas in good order and know a little bit about your customers. Answer these questions first:
Who is your ideal customer?
- What do they value (Quality? A good bargain?)
- When do they shop (At night? All the time? Only at Christmastime?)
- Where are your customers located?
- Why do they shop (For themselves? For their family?)
- How do they shop (Online? In a store? From their mobile?)
Besides knowing your potential customers, you should also have a grasp on your business, too. Be confident that you know:
- Who you are!
- What you are selling
- When you can deliver goods or services (Same day? Two weeks?)
- Where you are located
- Why your business is important
Map It Out
You must also decide if you want to sell direct to customers or through a third party. Knowing this first can make your route to success a smooth journey. Here’s a sneak peek at each option:
Sell DIRECT to customers:
- With An Online Store
- A Physical Shop
- Through Sales People
- At Trade Shows & Exhibitions
Sell through a THIRD PARTY:
- In Retailer Shops
- With Wholesalers
- Through Agents
- By Distributors
- Using Mail Orders
Start Your Journey!
Once you’re confident in your business model, can put a finger on your marketing ideas and thoroughly understand your customer base – you’re ready to pick a route (or two). Here are several to give you an idea:
Selling Online – is the most versatile way to sell and can be particularly helpful in business to business sales. It works for both niche and standard products and there are two ways to set-up shop:
- With your own website and store
- Through an online sales or auction website
Having your own site can eliminate competition and bring customers directly to you, but online auction stores can provide large numbers of visitors per day.
Having An Actual Shop – is the ultimate goal for many business owners and may seem like the best route when offering goods. Some advantages include:
- Having products on display for customers
- Building a brick and mortar brand
- Space for stock
It may seem like a store can automatically equate to more sales, but this isn’t always true. It’s an expensive form of direct selling thanks to rent and other costs. Rates, water, power and staff must be paid before opening (and whether you’re making a profit or not).
A Sales Person is a great option – for expensive products that only need a few sales to churn profit. It also makes sense if those products come with complex instructions or if there are multiple people involved in the buying decision. But it’s expensive and should be utilised only when profits are worth it.
Trade Shows and Exhibitions – are great options for direct sales. Even if you only make a few sales at each event, you generate leads – and contacts – that can turn into sales later on.
Retailer Shops – can sell your products for you, but only after you prove yourself. To get in with them, you may have to:
- Show your quality is up to par.
- Discount your price more than you want to.
- Guarantee you’ll have stock available.
Ask potential retailers what their buying policies are and always consult legal council about documents you don’t understand before signing.
Wholesalers – are best for low-value products sold in large quantities. Before deciding on this agreement, you should know that many wholesalers expect you to offer them a substantial discount (and better profit margin).
Agents – are highly experienced, self-employed sales people that specialise in certain sectors and work off commissions only. Besides their know-how, they usually bring a long list of contacts and sales leads with them too.
Sales agents can save you from having to recruit, train, or manage employees and they’re an especially good option for those businesses looking to launch new products or expand activity into new territories.
Distributors – operate in a similar way to retailers, but have a different approach to selling and usually expect high discounts or long credit arrangements from suppliers. Be careful when choosing this route and read all fine print. Seek help for contract terms you’re unsure of. Sometimes these arrangements can amount to significantly lower profits for you.
Mail Order marketing – is great for businesses with a wide range of products to sell. Catalogues and brochures sent directly to customers can amount to lots of sales. Just take extra care to fill orders (and resolve disputes) quickly and you’ll ensure a positive and profitable relationship.
For further information, check out this video from Gov.uk!
Ultimately, there’s no GPS guide on how to promote your business and it’s hard to find a shortcut for success. The routes are there and the choice is yours.