The most effective business growth strategies, revealed by South African marketers

Posted by Daryn Smith on 27 June 2013 | Comments


In order to get insight into what types of business growth strategies were working in South Africa, we conducted a short survey targeting marketing managers in South Africa.

Our plan was to uncover the business growth strategies that are most effective in South Africa, and share these with the market in the hope that marketers can learn from each other and further grow the economy.

We knew before conducting the research that South African marketing managers are not using marketing strategies and tactics as advanced as other more developed countries, however we were surprised at the huge number that instead of trying to find new ways of reaching audiences, they have basically given up on marketing and have become glorified sales people.

80% of SA marketers find directly approaching prospects as the most effective business growth strategy

One respondent wrote, when asked about their best marketing growth strategies that “hanging around bars of hotels that have popular conference facilities” are how they find their company new clients.

Others said they profile prospects and try network with the, while 20% said they physically cold call themselves. These types of tactics are 1-to-1 tools that new business development executives should be doing, surely not marketers?

Direct approaches cannot scale

Using a direct approach like this means that if you are tasked with a business growth strategy, you need to cold call more people, attend more functions and be in more than one place at a time. This approach is simply not scalable.

The job of marketing should be to reach many people, and work out which of these people are qualified buyers and then the sales people in your organisation should follow up with these qualified leads. If the marketing people in your company are physically engaging with every potential customer, you will need a huge marketing team.

The fact that marketers have resorted to this direct approach shows that traditional marketing media no longer works

An agency that responded to the survey said their biggest challenge is to “find clients brave enough to do creative work based on sound strategy”, and only one respondent said that when it comes to business growth strategies in their business they run integrated marketing campaigns that covers outdoor media, TV, radio, online and social media.

The biggest problem with these integrated campaigns and the use of traditional media is that it is almost impossible to truly show return on investment. Can a marketer tell exactly which channel generated the most leads so that they can focus efforts on this channel again? If anything, they may be able to tell how many leads they got from a channel, but then can they tell which of these leads became customers?

Marketers have had their fingers burnt so many times by running expensive campaigns, but instead of giving up, they should focus on strategies that can prove ROI.

35% of respondents find word of mouth marketing works best

The things you hear from your friends and colleagues have the most influence on your buying decisions. 

To implement a word of mouth marketing strategy, you need to create great stories and talking points by focusing on making your product and customer experience amazing and so that people talk about it.

By combining word of mouth marketing together with inbound marketing you help create stories for people to talk about, and then increase the chance of those referrals turning into customers.

Business growth strategies focused on growing spend of existing clients

20% of the respondents said that their focus is rather on retaining existing customers and growing the amount they spend, rather than looking for new customers.

Focusing on existing customers is a good strategy, it is much more cost effective to reach existing customers using a good CRM platform, for example.

There will always be new competitors entering markets, trying to disrupt the current situation, and so although a good strategy, it should not be the only strategy followed for business growth.

Confirmation that leads turn into customers is a challenge

Many respondents also said that once they have found leads (as most of them used a direct approach, this would have been no easy task) their biggest challenge is ensuring that the sales team follows up on the leads.

One of the value propositions of CRM software is that once a lead is in the system it can be tracked. However because leads are usually not qualified when they enter the system, the chance of someone following up on the lead is low as they don’t have the time to follow up on another unqualified lead.

This shows that SA marketing managers are not using marketing automation to qualify leads and manage them until they are ready to buy and only then hand them over to the sales team.

SA marketing needs to evolve

Much of what MPULL have been saying in the market for the last few months was confirmed in the results of the business growth strategies survey.

SA marketing managers need to adopt new strategies such as inbound marketing that can prove how leads were generated, and turned into customers and then therefore show ROI.

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Author: Daryn Smith

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