In September 2011, Stacy Mitchell, author of Big-Box Swindle, wrote a compelling article that appeared in Bloomberg Businessweek. The article exposed how much public money goes to big-box retailers despite the payoffs being few or none. In the article, Mitchell claimed, “Handing out multimillion-dollar subsidies to large chains has become commonplace in much of the country. These deals are premised on the idea that new shopping centers and big-box stores expand employment and create economic growth. The trouble is, these giveaways have done little more than help large retailers at the expense of small businesses.” The article cited Wal-Mart and the now belly-up Borders stores as examples of big retailers that have received bewildering amounts of benefits from local government officials and agencies.
On a positive note, many recent studies an reports, including several eye-opening reports from the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, are helping to make clear that, as Mitchell states, “subsidizing retail development produces neither job gains nor new tax revenue.” Hopefully, as more credible studies come out, more factions of our government—and more companies and employers—will recognize that long-term payoffs don’t come from using money to try and repair problems that are too deep for money alone to solve.
The last paragraph of the Bloomberg article suggests with some fervor is that it is service that creates customer loyalty and saves businesses—not tax exemptions and subsidies.
While dumping your own monies (or your investors’ monies) into promotional campaigns or external initiatives isn’t the same thing as getting a bailout from the government, trying to using money to dig one’s business out of a trouble spot without making significant internal changes at the same time is something that nearly every business owner has done—and later regretted.
If money alone won’t solve your problems, what are the internal changes you can make to dig your business out of trouble spots and win customers for life? Here are two important ones:
1. Investing in sales representatives
At Vendere Partners, we often marvel at the amount of money that companies spend on expensive (and often ineffectual) advertising and marketing campaigns, and, in comparison, almost nothing on creating and implementing service standards and training programs in the department that is likely to be the first to make contact with potential customers: the sales department.
Sales representatives are your front-line customer service representatives. Your sales representatives are the first people who have an opportunity to help you create customers for life. This is why, in addition to establishing service standards within sales departments, investing in solid sales training programs is so important.
Any sales-based business is, at its core, a service-based business. It makes sense that a sales-based business that loses focus and tries to rely on things other than service for success is likely to fail. If it doesn’t go out of business, at the very least, it fails to create the amount of loyal customers that it might have been able to create—without dumping giant sums of money into sweeping advertising and marketing campaigns or giving away millions of dollars in freebies.
Advertising and marketing campaigns aren’t bad things, of course. They can be wonderfully things, provided that they coincide with customer service-oriented sales practices. When you provide terrific customer service, you compete on a different level. You’re not relying on tricks, tactics, and giveaways to compete for customers; you’re relying on your company’s service-rooted culture and the organic sales strategies that are naturally born out of such a culture.
2. Converging sales and marketing departments.
Do you want to compete with your competitor’s ad campaign, or do you want to compete for customers?
If you want to compete for customers, you have to converge sales and marketing; that is, you have to align your sales and marketing departments. It’s great to put out things like articles, blog posts, case studies, e-blasts, press releases, and social media posts, but if these items aren’t geared towards potential sales leads and don’t generate buzz or capture data that results in sales, what good are they? Any press might be good press, but sacrificing your sales department for just any press is never a good idea. Marketing efforts should both support and drive sales so that sales representatives don’t waste time prospecting when they could be selling to leads that have already proven they have an interest in what your organization offers.
True, there is a natural division that occurs between most companies’ sales and marketing departments that isn’t always easy to bridge. However, if you invest in integration and outsource certain inbound and outbound sales and marketing functions that are either impeding the progress of both departments or are simply too expensive to perform internally, it is possible to bridge the gap between departments and create new and improved revenue streams.
Are you ready to invest in solving your company’s problems at the root level? Good! Contact Vendere for a free, no-obligation lead generation consultation. You’ll stand a much better chance of not only changing how your company is perceived in the marketplace, but of changing its actual standing in the marketplace.