It’s vital that you learn how to market and sell in your niche. Remember: Marketing isn’t sales. Marketing is making everything you do in your business a clear window on the value you offer to your customer and then telling the world about it. Marketing is education. Teach people how your work makes their lives better. Here’s how:
Decide what you’re selling in the broadest possible terms. Be able to describe what problem you solve in the fewest possible words. Simplicity and transparency in your offer is the goal. No surprises.
Decide who to sell to and who not to sell to. A smaller group of targeted potential customers is better for a startup than a large universe of undefined prospects. “Everybody needs this” is a pathway to failure.
Organize all phases of your marketing and sales plan around the benefits to be gained by your target customers.
Identify the stages of client development and create marketing strategies for each: potential clients, prospects (those who have responded to your message), first-time customers, repeat customers and market partners. Build transparency, education and marketing into your entire enterprise.
Build your marketing and sales program with a goal of enabling customers to recommend you to others needing your solutions.
Finally, remember that closing sales means making yourself easy to understand, find and do business with. Most small startups will be selling directly to people in another organization rather than to consumers. What tools should you use to reach them? Email? Social media? Phone calls? Define each channel you’ll use and then make a plan for each channel.
Because you’re launching your startup in the second half of life, you have the time and patience to do things right. You’re not on a sprint to placate investors — you’re on a journey to create delighted customers. Make your age into a business advantage. You don’t need the latest whiz-bang business tools and techniques — you have time and wisdom on your side. Help your customers understand that your know-how, knowledge and networks are meant to serve them and their goals, not yours. That’s how you create loyal, repeat customers.
Tracking Your Data
Sales and marketing don’t mean much unless you can quantify them and analyze your results. Capturing data is a vital piece of your ageless startup’s success puzzle so that you can turn those numbers into cold, hard commerce.
You can protect your most valuable asset — your time — by organizing your enterprise data effectively:
Start with what you know (word processing, spreadsheets, simple databases).
Make control of your information a core sales and marketing function.
Make yourself easy to do business with by having all relevant customer data available quickly.
Accurately capture and store data to secure your past and create your future.
Learn to write/type everything relevant and store it in an easily retrievable way.
Keep all financial records in both digital and hardcopy form. Store backups off-site if possible.
Always accurately capture the most important information for business contacts you meet. You can get these from their business card. Transfer them into your own searchable system quickly. A searchable system is any tool or protocol you’re comfortable using that stores information in ways that you can quickly retrieve it on demand in the future. Databases are especially valuable in that they let you easily store not only full contact information and information about proposals and orders, but also complete conversations and relevant links to information about every person or business you deem important.
This is your business’s intellectual property, so treat it wisely. For every contact, you should have easy access to the following information:
Full contact name and title (as they prefer to be referred to)
Street address (with suite or office number, if appropriate), city, state, ZIP/postal code
Company/organization website URL
Internal company web page describing this person and their work
Keep a summary (including the dates) of each contact you have with the sales prospects in your database. Create, in advance, multiple tools in various forms of media — both print and digital (such as email templates, postcards, sales letter templates, brochures, etc.) — for contacting these prospects. Finally, build an outreach campaign; greet them with a light touch from your array of sales media.
Once you do all of that, turn your focus to creating and managing quotes, orders and vendor data.
Keeping Track of Client and Vendor Data
Create and store searchable, comprehensive files of all quotes you generate for your product or service. It will both help and protect you down the road. Identify every formal quote with a distinct quote number, what’s included, the date issued and date “valid until” information.
Make an orders file where you can keep track of sales. Each order in your file should contain the following information (if applicable):
Quote number associated with the order if relevant
All relevant aspects of the order
Financial details of the order including relevant taxes, date completed, date invoiced, date paid and payment information like a check or requisition number
You should also maintain files on all your vendors. Each vendor file should contain the following information (if applicable):
A distinct part or service number for every component that may go into your own product or service
All information about shipping costs and taxes paid for every component you buy from every vendor
A list of price changes for components you buy from every vendor
List of multiple vendors for similar products or services you buy
Full contact information for all vendors and backup vendors
While it may seem overwhelming at first, setting up data capture and management isn’t complicated — it just takes time. As an ageless entrepreneur, you can make time a business asset.
While storing customer contact information seems obvious, maintaining deep record-keeping practices that include retaining all past proposals and orders makes future interactions much more valuable to the customer as well as more efficient for you. Having every detail of past transactions readily available makes future sales more likely. Keeping information about all your vendors and how each one has supported specific projects makes future sales capture easy when the opportunity arises. As a businessperson, it also helps you keep a handle on changing products, services and costs that you need to stay ahead of to maintain profitability. Your business data is your key intellectual property. Grow it, protect it and continuously get better at utilizing it.