As we reach the end of 2017 it’s time to take action — but not for this year. This year is, effectively, over. Hopefully you’ve made your plans, executed your strategies and are right now seeing your way out towards a successful conclusion of the year. That’s done, and now my best clients — and the smartest business owners I meet — are no longer thinking about 2017. They’re making their plans for growing their sales in the coming year. You should be, too. So here are a few things you want to do, right now, to increase sales in 2018.
3 ways to increase sales in 2018
If you want to start making more money next year, do these three things before the ball drops:
Create a database.
Create a marketing budget.
Choose the right tools.
The key to increasing sales in 2018 is smarter marketing. Let’s look at how implementing each of the items above can help.
1. Create a great database that’s ready for next year
If you don’t already have one, get a customer relationship management (CRM) system. There are many choices — from excellent, low-cost offerings by Zoho, to more expensive but more expandable ones from Salesforce.com and Microsoft.
Regardless of how these companies describe a CRM, it’s simply a database. Marketing is all about data. You need a database — one that’s clean, complete and accurate — for the most effective marketing to increase sales in 2018.
Sign up for a CRM system. Assign someone in your office to take it over. Have them learn how to import data from your accounting system, spreadsheets, email and other places — or hire a consultant to handle these tasks.
Segment the data where you can — products purchased, products that might be of interest, location, relationships, etc. That way you can slice and dice this data for communications.
2. Create a marketing budget
Ask any experienced marketer, and they’ll tell you that marketing is about money. Buy airtime and show off that gizmo to enough viewers, and you’ll increase sales in 2018. Display your ads in front of enough people and they’ll recognize your brand.
Touch, touch, touch enough times through emails, letters, messages and other forms of communication, and potential customers will think about you first when it comes time to buy something. To do this you need money.
Before the end of the year, sit down with a calculator and budget your 2018 marketing activities. Remember, marketing is an educated guess — not so much like gambling in Vegas, but still a guess.
Decide on your tools, and then get them in place. When creating your budget, create your metrics:
- How will you know the money your spending is creating ROI?
- What leads were generated?
- What opportunities were created?
Keep your budget and metrics on a spreadsheet with a separate column to track actual costs. The smartest marketers I know admit that their efforts are nothing more than trial and error. They do something, fail, adjust, tweak — and then do it again. They stick to a budget and they measure the outcomes.
3. Choose your tools, and then get them in place
There is no silver bullet in marketing. Your audience is everywhere, and they’re all getting information from multiple sources. What works for some might not work for you, and what works for you today might not work tomorrow.
Your job is to choose a marketing tool, commit to it, and then become excellent using it.
What kind of tool? How about an email application like the one offered by GoDaddy, among others? Or online advertising — maybe you decide to become the King of Facebook or the Queen of Twitter. Perhaps your audience will respond well to recurring snail mailings. Or maybe you’ll have better luck investing in search engine optimization and drawing potential customers to your website.
Based on what you know about your audience and customer base, take a chance with a marketing tool. My company does a lot of email marketing because my customers seem to respond well to emails. I have a contractor who handles this for me — she’s an expert with the tool we use.
A few times each month, we send emails to segmented lists from our CRM. But don’t just do this because I say. Maybe another tool — social media, Google AdWords, etc. — is better for your business.
Take the rest of the year to read, study and practice. Then make a quarterly plan for using this tool, allowing yourself room for adjustments.
Don’t wait any longer
You can increase sales in 2018. But the worst time to decide on that is in 2018. I’ve learned from smart marketing professionals that good marketing takes planning — and now is the time to be doing that.