How to make marketing successful

by Leigh Wallinger.

For many small business owners, marketing is a source of great frustration. It seems that whatever they do, their marketing simply doesn’t produce the required results.

It is likely this failure is caused by them doing something wrong. All small businesses need more sales. This pressure causes small business owners to try and close deals too early, before their prospects are ready to buy. The result is a lost sale.

Owners need to back off, learn how to keep prospects interested and wait until each prospect is ready to buy. Trying to force the sale will result in failure.

The most effective role for marketing in small businesses is that of lead generator. If you can attract potential buyers of your product/service and nurture them until they are ready to buy, you will soon move away from the typical hand-to-mouth existence experienced by most small businesses.

To get your marketing back on track, follow the simple 3-step action plan given below. You really want to find more top-quality prospects – those whose requirements are a good fit to what you supply.

Most companies will have two sources of sales leads – one is through their marketing and the other is through referrals from their clients. Let’s look first at making your marketing work better.

Your first action step is to define what a top-quality prospect looks like for your business.  Once you have clarity of who you want to attract, your second action step is to define what these prospects want from their suppliers.

The answer will depend on your product line and industry but value-for-money, low risk, reliable products, hand-holding of new clients and a responsive support service might well figure in your answer. These points all need to be highlighted in your marketing – in your emails, in your marketing and on your website.

Your third action step is to define what makes you different to your competitors. This is often a stumbling block, especially for those companies selling services. It is essential that you can point to things which make you different in ways your prospects will value and appreciate.

Your marketing needs to convey this information specifically to those people who could buy your products or services. Your marketing messages should be in front of these people regularly. A single email or advert won’t give you the required results.Persistence and consistency will pay the greatest dividends. Get noticed and offer value to your prospects. They will eventually engage.

The second source of sales leads is your client list. Unfortunately, few of your clients will simply give you a referral. You will need to prime the pumps. There are three prerequisites to clients giving up one or more referrals.

The first is that your clients must be completely happy with your company’s performance in fulfilling their purchase. This means the results of their purchase must have been consistent with your promises. A good test of this is whether or not the client would agree to being the subject of a “success story” about their purchase.

The second prerequisite is that your client’s purchase has not given them a competitive edge over their competition. They are unlikely to want to help you sell to another company by giving you a referral. Similar restrictions apply to industries where secrecy is critical – such as applications in defence, national security, counter-terrorism etc.

Lastly, you still have to ask for a referral. The request has to be very specific otherwise your client will not come up with a name.

Many small businesses survive mostly on word-of-mouth referrals rather than on marketing to attract prospects. If you are going down this route it is essential you have a process in place to ensure all your clients remain happy and are asked for referrals. You might package this into something like a Client Retention Programme so you can ensure it is consistently applied to every client.

Not every client you secure will fit your ideal profile, this is to be expected. Small business owners should assess which clients require considerably more support than normal. It is easy for these high-maintenance clients to consume all the profits you make from their purchase(s). Sometimes it will be costing you money to have them as clients.

It’s worth considering what you should do with these clients. There is a compelling case to drop all clients who cost you money and use the time you save to give an even better service to your remaining clients and attract additional (profitable) clients. An annual exercise to flush out all loss making clients will help you maintain profitability levels.


Leigh Wallinger knows the problems that every small business owner encounters when trying to establish and grow a small business. After 30+ years’ experience he now helps small business owners to grow their businesses. Contact him by email (enquiries at or via

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