A Guide to Sales and Marketing for SMEs

Updated on May 10, 2023


Business owners must understand the function of sales and marketing in their businesses as these activities are critical to the success of their business.

Sales is defined as the process of selling goods and services, and involves persuading potential customers to buy from you. Marketing, on the other hand, entails generating interest in a company’s product or service, and converting that interest into paying customers. This is done through various strategies like brand positioning, packaging, positioning, placement and promotion.

While both processes are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between the two. According to Indeed, marketing creates a new demand “or fits a product into an existing demand” while sales fulfils that demand. Together they work to achieve a company’s revenue goals.

The Importance Of Marketing And Sales

Without effective marketing and sales strategies, a business will struggle to attract customers, generate revenue and ultimately grow.

Effective marketing involves utilising a variety of tactics and channels to reach potential customers who may be interested in a company’s product and services. It plays an important role in a number of key business functions, including customer acquisition, by creating awareness of a product or service; customer retention, by building customer loyalty and revenue generation.

Read: Be Your Own Marketing Genius – We Show you How

Marketing is also crucial to brand building to help businesses stand out from competitors and create a loyal customer base. Finally, marketing can provide businesses with valuable insights into the needs and wants of customers. This information can help businesses improve their products and services, and better understand their target audience.

Sales plays an equally important role in a business. It enables businesses to generate revenue, which is a business’s main source of income, and is required for growth and expansion. A good sales strategy relies on businesses having a clear understanding of their target market and their pain points, and tailoring their messaging accordingly. Effective sales helps to build customer relationships and loyalty. It can also, according to Zetran, a cloud-based accounting software, can improve the profitability of a business by ensuring they focus on the most valuable customers.

The following is a guide for small business owners in South Africa on how to create a successful sales and marketing strategy.

How To Build A Strong Brand Identity For Your Small Business

A strong brand identity is a business essential as it helps people connect to your brand and stand out from competitors. Your brand identity is, however, more just a logo, it represents your business and creates the first impression that customers have of your business.

A great brand can also build customer loyalty for your product or company, says Jim Bull, chief creative officer and co-founder of Moving Brands, a creative agency, in the article ‘Branding 101 for Your Startup‘. Branding creates an association between the customer’s ideals and the product, he says.

“You’re taking your product and positioning it in a certain way so it attracts your target market.

“The more markets are attracted to you, the more money they will spend.”

Below are the fundamentals required to create a brand that stands out from competitors, builds customer loyalty, and fosters long-term success.

Have clear brand messaging – Be clear on the reason why your business exists and the difference it plans to make to the people it serves. This story should clearly communicate what your business does, as well as your basic values and history. Your branding should also clearly communicate your value proposition (how your product or solutions) can add value to customers.

Entrepreneurs can ask themselves the following questions to help them define their brand and their value propositions.

  • Who are we?
  • Why do we exist?
  • What is our unique point of view, and why should anyone care?

The focus should be on the ‘why’ and how you do what you do, instead of what you do, adds Bull.

“That’s really important, because what you do or sell will inevitably change with market and consumer behaviours, but the why and the how should be true for any new venture or initiative that you undertake,” he says.

Lastly, to be truly effective, your brand message should be communicated consistently across all marketing channels, including your website, social media platforms and email campaigns.

Have memorable visual branding – ​Your corporate or product design is a part of brand identity and builds the first impression and associations that customers will have of your brand. Your visual identity includes everything from your logo, website, the design of your store, the colours you use, product packaging or memorable ad campaigns, all of which come together to tell your company’s story, according to Hubspot.

Research by SproutSocial shows that visual branding can have an impact on the bottom line. “A well-designed visual identity can boost brand awareness and make people more likely to purchase, especially since 64% of people want brands to connect with them”.

​​Be customer focused – As more customers look to connect to brands before making a sale, to effectively market and sell you must show that you have the interests of the customer at heart. Customer-focused marketing ensures that the customers’ needs and wants are the driving force behind a company’s product and services. Some ideas for building an effective customer focus strategy include: making your customers feel heard, providing exceptional customer service, encouraging feedback as a way to get better. Demonstrating how your product or solution adds value to customers’ lives can ultimately build relationships and creates customer loyalty.

“The ideal goal is that over time, you will eventually gain brand equity like Coca Cola. This is a brand that is memorable and has over time gained recognition just by its logo. Consumers are willing to spend more on a well-known brand,” Perrow adds.

Read more: Branding and advertising – why you need to know the difference 

Download Cost-effective Digital Strategies For Growing Your Small Business

Get your comprehensive guide for small business owners looking to market their businesses online.

The Ebook covers everything from what social media platforms you should be using for your business to the ins and outs of lead generation and nurturing.

It also includes:

  • How educating your customers on your products can lead to sales
  • What social media platforms you should be using for your business
  • Tactics for lead generation
  • PLUS 4 ways to grow your email list

Understanding Your Target Audience

A good sales and marketing plan begins with understanding who your target market is. Creating a customer profile can help with this, and is also an important part of your market research.

Creating a customer profile makes it easier to communicate the value of your products and services to potential customers and convert them to buyers, says Marang Marekimane, a business strategist and founder of Business Processes Mechanics.

“Knowing that profile makes it easier to craft your marketing to drive sales,” she says. Additionally, knowing your customers can provide valuable feedback to improve your product, marketing or operations, going forward.

Some questions you can find out about your customers to build a customer include:

  • What is their age?
  • Are they male or female?
  • Where do your ideal customers live geographically?
  • How do they earn a living?
  • Describe your ideal customers’ likes and dislikes.
  • Why would this person be interested in your product, company or service?
  • Why would they buy from you as opposed to someone else?
  • What does a customer want from your product or service?
  • What makes your product or service more suitable to them than your competitors’ products or services?

Using Digital Marketing To Boost Sales And Engagement

In recent years, digital marketing has gained appeal as a cost-effective and effective way to reach marketing objectives and generate sales. A strong digital marketing plan can help businesses gain direction and increase its consumer base.

Digital marketing refers to the use of digital channels, such as search engines, (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, social media marketing, content marketing, email marketing, affiliate marketing, to promote products or services to potential customers. Its goal is to drive traffic and generate leads to ultimately increase sales and revenue.

For businesses who are keen to focus the marketing effort online, these are three of the biggest benefits of marketing your business online are:

Market directly to your potential customer – With digital marketing businesses can advertise directly to consumers without needing any third-party involvement. This is what is commonly known as direct-to-consumer advertising.

Build a personal brand – Social media allows you to brand yourself, your business and what you have to offer in a way that’s more experiential and goes beyond just a buy-sell relationship.

Measure and track what’s working – The power of digital marketing lies in ability to track all your marketing efforts. Businesses are able measure the effectiveness of campaigns through data and analytics, and make necessary changes based on what’s working. Google Analytics is one of the most popular analytics tools (and highly recommended) because it tells you exactly where your traffic is coming from, how people are engaging with your site and what actions they are taking.

Read: 3 Major Benefits of Digital Marketing for SMEs

A digital marketing strategy is crucial to the success of your efforts. Hubspot offers the following steps for creating an effective digital marketing strategy.

  • Build your customer profiles.
  • Identify your goals and the digital marketing tools you need.
  • Evaluate your existing digital channels and assets.
  • Audit and plan your owned media campaigns.
  • Identify your goals and the digital marketing tools you’ll need.
  • Monitor and report.

Read: Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses That Actually Work 

Digital marketing tools make it easier than ever to drive potential customers to your store and drive sales. The following is a guide on the digital tools and channels that small business owners can commonly use to their advantage.

Social Media – Social media can play a strategic role in attracting customers and driving online sales. Businesses can use social media to share content about the brand, advertise promotions to boost sales, or run ads to reach more prospective customers. Social media can also be used to engage with your existing customer and generate word of mouth marketing through user-generated content.

Email Marketing – Email marketing allows businesses to connect with customers directly through their inbox. It’s also one of the most effective and cost effective digital marketing strategies out there, especially to generate customer interest. Email can also be used to generate sales through promotions and special offers.

Paid Advertising – Paid advertising is one of the online tools that business owners can use to reach new potential customers. Where paid ads can be effective is enabling brands to reach a much wider audience and to target specific ads to them. Google or social media ads are examples of paid advertising tactics that small business owners can use.

SEO and Content Marketing – SEO increases a website’s visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) and ultimately drives more traffic and leads to their site.

Read: 3 Major Benefits of Digital Marketing for SMEs