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A marketing strategy will help you identify your best customers, understand their needs and implement the most effective marketing methods.

The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Social media is firmly established as a marketing tool. Having a presence opens up new lines of communication with existing and potential customers.

Good advertising puts the right marketing message in front of the right people at the right time, raising awareness of your business.

Customer care is at the heart of all successful companies. It can help you develop customer loyalty and improve relationships with your customers.

Sales bring in the money that enables your business to survive and grow. Your sales strategy will be driven by your sales objectives.

Market research exists to guide your business decisions by giving you insight into your market, competitors, products, marketing and your customers.

Direct marketing can be a highly successful way to generate sales from existing and new customers. Find out how to target them in the best way.

Exhibitions and events are valuable for businesses because they allow face-to-face communication and offer opportunities for networking.

PR

Favourable media coverage can bring a range of business benefits. But how do you attract the attention of editors, broadcasters and journalists?

Closing a sale

Having the right information about your customers can help to seal a deal. Whether you use CRM (customer relationship management) software or simply keep good paper records, there are four key types of information that can help you make a sale. Rachel Miller reports

Previous customer interactions

Selling is about relationships. Being able to recall previous customer dealings and conversations is really useful, even when the last contact may have been weeks or even months before. With the right background information, you can provide a more targeted and personal service and you'll significantly boost your chances of making a sale. A CRM system can help here - it captures information every time there is communication with a customer, logging everything from phone calls to emails. So a sales person can bring up details of all these interactions at the touch of a button.

Previous buying behaviour

Analysis of buying trends can be very revealing. Looking back over past sales can reveal trends and buying cycles. By spotting patterns, you can target the right sales message to the right person at the right time. It can also help you identify key characteristics about your customers allowing you to identify more potential customers matching that profile.

A CRM system holds up to date information and, at any time, it can provide an accurate snapshot of your customers and your business. That real-time analysis enables you to spot trends and then shift focus and resources where they are most needed.

Customer information

If you are a business-to-business firm, you need to do your homework about prospective clients before you start pitching to them. Information about companies can be gleaned from websites, external directories and reports. These can give you valuable data and information on company revenues, new developments and future plans. They will also tell you who the top executives are and give useful background on them.

Previous sales methods

Looking at past sales can be very instructive. What was the approach that helped to win that piece of business? By learning from previous successful sales you can improve your sales rates and raise your game. This is another area where a CRM system can help and some will enable you to search your records for similar deals to the one you are working on (by sector, client type or product, for example) and offer insight into how those deals were successfully concluded. With these recommendations, sales people are likely to increase their conversion rates dramatically.

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