2016 sales & marketing planning starts now

How's 2016 going to work out for your business? The million dollar question for a lot of us. Here in Dubai a lot of people are looking at the continued depressed oil price and the sluggish property market, and have made the assumption that 2016 is going to be a year to roll your sleeves up and compete like hell. Anything less, and your business could be in trouble seems to be the common refrain among my circle of friends. If you're finishing off your 2016 plan, what's going to be the main theme for the year? Assuming that nothing is going to come easy in 2016, here are some thoughts that might help with finishing off your business plan for the year.

Working smarter (you're already working hard..)

We don't get points for effort, so let's focus on working smarter rather than harder.  Marketing and sales automation gives you the opportunity to more with less, building higher volumes of new leads and sales opportunities.  Evaluating the effectiveness of your marketing is always a good place to start. Measuring the right metrics is a key discipline to impose on your company culture.  Through lead tracking reports in Salesforce, we consistently see our clients achieve high volumes of leads from paid advertising, but with a very poor rate of conversion to closed sales. In a difficult economy, every Dirham spent on advertising needs to generate a return. Being able to access data and then make decisions to

The quick wins

We like starting a new year or business plan with some specific actions that will generate an impact in the short term. The top three actions that have worked for us in the past are

  1. Buy lunch. Take some money out of our Adwords campaign and spend it on taking your top clients out for lunch before the end of the year. Make sure that they're happy with what you're doing for them, and find out their plans for 2016 and if your business can help them achieve it. The bottom line is that it's going to be a lot easier and cheaper to keep your existing clients that to sign new ones.
  2. Ask for referrals. When you have your top clients out to lunch, ask for a referral for new business. If you've done a great job looking after them in 2015, there's no reason why each client wouldn't want to introduce you to their friends or colleagues that they know could put business your way. Referrals are usually the best source of new business, but for some reason, we're often hesitant to ask for them.
  3. Sharpen your response times. Do you know how long it takes between a new inquiry coming into your business and a salesperson responding back? If a prospective new client contacts you via your website, there's a pretty good chance that they've also reached out to two or three other companies in your industry. Make sure that your marketing automation gets an email back to the client immediately, and that your sales staff respond back the same day. This one tweak to your sales process can have a big impact on your new sales conversion rate.

Playing the long game with Pardot for lead nurturing

Lead nurturing is becoming a critical marketing activity. Lead nurturing is the activity that goes into helping new leads to move through the sales process with the aid of more information, explanations, shared case studies and other on-going communication. The initial inquiry from a prospective new client can often be made six months or more before they are ready to buy. This first inquiry can be made to get budgeting information or clarification on your product or service. Where most of us fall down is in staying in touch with these prospects over the time period between the first inquiry and the purchasing decision.

Pardot, and marketing automation, in general, is designed to help develop the middle of your sales funnel. Pardot focuses on the opportunities that you've already got in the pipeline which is much more effective (and cheaper) that focusing solely on trying to generate masses of new leads.

Set new rules for your sales & marketing teams

As more and more companies in Dubai and across the region invest in Pardot and Salesforce CRM platforms, we're seeing the need to rethink how the sales and marketing staff work together. It's becoming obvious that the lines have blurred between the traditional marketing (lead generation) and sales (revenue generation) activities. With an increased focus on inbound marketing and lead generation, the marketing teams are now taking a far more active role in engaging with prospects before handing the lead over to the sales team for closing.

I would encourage all companies to have far more interaction between sales and marketing so that the marketing team take a more active role in lead qualification and lead nurturing. This process becomes easier with tools such as Pardot but can have a great impact on new revenue. With the marketing team taking a bigger hand in the lead nurturing process, the Sales team get to spend their time on qualified leads.

Make better decisions with data from Salesforce and Pardot

Businesses that use data make better decisions, as the old saying goes, 'if you can't measure it then you can't manage it'. Salesforce or Pardot have the benefit of having stacks of data and reports to help analyze what is working in your business, and the impact that any change has on performance. Using reports and dashboards will enable you to react faster in 2016, tracking any changes to your marketing activity such as

  • Source of leads
  • Source of revenue
  • Marketing spend Return on Investment
  • Competitor SEO strengths and strategy

With so many companies investing in marketing automation and CRM technology here in Dubai, 2016 will see the companies that are able to reach and change course faster become more successful. Companies that are creating their edge through marketing automation technology