Four issues

I was lucky enough to spend a few hours mentoring a group of entrepreneurs at the e4f in Birmingham last month. It was refreshing to talk to some new businesses unencumbered by internal politics and complex structural issues! I came away stimulated by the discussion.

Four issues were common to the businesses I met; they are the same issues that need resolving in more mature companies, if only they were recognised. The context is technology businesses and new product development (NPD), but they could apply to many businesses.

The issues are segmentation, differentiated propositions, and pioneer sales:

Segmentation

Although segmentation is a basic pillar of marketing, it’s surprising how rarely it is used to good effect. In general, customers like to buy from suppliers that understand their business and address their needs – solve their problems with the appropriate solution. It’s very difficult to do this if you can’t segment the market.

Even if your product appears to be of universal application, there are often parts of the market that value what it delivers more than others do, or in a different way, or which have an immediate need. Once you have cracked the first few sales, or even just achieved a few sales meetings, it’s worth looking at the overall picture to see if there are some specific markets that appear to be more receptive, then focus on the value proposition for these customers. You will quickly understand the jargon of the industry, talk to customers in their language, and build a set of customer quotations and references to aid sales.

Differentiated propositions

Having segmented the market, you need to develop specific propositions, messaging and sales materials.  For example, although health service organisations and commercial enterprises have similar needs to communicate with their clients, their concerns about using social media might be quite different. Hence, when they are selecting social media tools, they may need different messaging and a sales approach that address their specific needs and concerns.

Pioneer sales

Someone once said: “Nothing happens in business until something gets sold”. Start-ups are good fun, but at some stage someone has to go out and sell the product/service. This is the real test of a good idea, and of the metal of the leader. If you can’t call prospects, get customers and capture the sales process, then maybe you need to hire someone that can, or give up. And once you start selling, be sure to capture all the good things that that the customer says about the product/service, to make the next time easier, and to be able to get more people sellng.