Posted on April 30, 2019 by anstice communicationsAs the Digital Strategy Director atAnstice Communications, and with quite a few years of sales and marketing experience under my belt, people often reach out to me with a common question:“Do you have any ideas on how to fix slumping sales?”I‘m always happy provide insights that will help lead to answers. Please keep reading to discover what that entails, since it is never a one-size-fits-all answer. I will explain more below.
MY SHORT ANSWER? SHIFT YOUR FOCUS.
To do this, I always seem to revisit the principles in the reveredCircles of Marketingarticle by marketing wizardSeth Godin. In brief—though I highly recommend that every marketer reads Seth’sarticlein its entirety—the article says:When marketing isn't working, move one circle in. When the ads, spin, hype, and clicks aren’t working,move in. When adjusting price and telling stories to an audience that isn’t converting,move in. If fixing the customer experience and service aren’t moving the needle,move in. Ifmoving inisn’t doing the trick, it’s then time tore-evaluatethe product selection and distribution.
MY LONG ANSWER? LOOK DEEPER INTO THE CUSTOMER DECISION JOURNEY AND EXPERIENCE.
As theConsumer Decision Journey(CDJ) makes clear, sales area lagging indicatorof a whole sequence of events that drive a customer to purchase.Decreasing sales are only a symptom, not the cause, of the actual problem.The right prescription to heal slumping sales depends on having the correct diagnosis: Slumping sales to a business are like what a fever is to a person—a non-specific indicator of poor health. The fever isn’t the cause of poor health, only a symptom.If we put ourselves in the role of physician in this medical analogy (I love analogies as an illustrative tool) it’s important that we act quickly to diagnose the actual cause of the fever before prescribing a remedy.To help determine the cause(s), these questions must be answered:
- Is the sales slump simply an anomaly, like a viral cold, that will resolve quickly on its own?
- Is the slump more complex, like a bacterial flu, that could lead to pneumonia or worse if left untreated?
Treating a fever caused by a pneumonia is much different than treating onecaused by, say, a sunburn. Tylenol may temporarily relieve the symptom in both, but it won’t relieve the cause of the pneumonia itself.The answer to these questions will inform the correct diagnosis, but requiresinvestigationandtestingto identify and understand the cause orcausesof the fever to avoid treating only the symptom.
A 5-STEP APPROACH TO PROPERLY DIAGNOSE THE CAUSE(S) OF SLUMPING SALES:
STEP 1: Identify Possible Cause(s) and Rank Them in Order of Impact:
- Was there a recent change in marketing spend or marketing messaging?
- Are there any identifiable trends in changing consumer buying patterns?
- Has there been a change in product selection or inventory?
- Have sales team, sales process, service offerings or terms of service changed?
- Has our brand story changed?
STEP 2: Categorize the Causes:
- Which of the causes can we treat now to relieve the symptoms?
- Which causes require a more drastic or permanent solution to return to good health or prevent a relapse?
STEP 3: Evaluate the Causes
There are many potential approaches to help narrow down your diagnosis and prescription, all of which depend on accurately homing in on the most solvable cause:
- Which causes need a temporary solution?
- Which causes need a permanent solution?
- What is the best treatment plan for those?
- What leading indicator metrics can we use to monitor and predict the health of the business?
STEP 4: Consider Treatment Options:
Above all, a physician—or fixer—must abide by the main tenet of the Hippocratic Oath—First Do No Harm.In our case, this means making treatment recommendations based on what is most likely to heal the problem quickly without taking any undue risk of potentially exacerbating it in the present or future.Treatment options should include consideration of the following before coming to a decision:
- Is a discount likely to stimulate sales in poor-performing categories?
- Would increasing focus on awareness in high-performing categories close the sales gap?
- Based on our data, what are the best-performing promotions we've run to-date?
- Can we use our data to predict which options are most likely to succeed?
- Can the sales team be better supported?
- Is our product/service mix incorrect?
- Is a refreshed brand story required?
STEP 5: Prescribe and Act On the Best Treatment Option:
To do this effectively, use your data and your answers to the above questions to decide which of the four business growth levers needs the most attention to relieve symptoms over the short and long-term:The Four Growth Levers:
- Attract new customers
- Retain current customers
- Increase purchase frequency
- Increase average transaction value
Using all the insight gained from the earlier steps, and having decided on which growth lever to focus on, you are ready to prescribe a treatment plan to prevent the symptom from recurring in the future.
DO YOU NEED HELP DIAGNOSING AND TREATING SLUMPING SALES IN YOUR ORGANIZATION?
Given the many different data considerations and execution possibilities, it is often more effective and efficient to call upon an expert rather than try to learn and navigate the ever-changing world of data and digital best-practices on your own.At my organization,Anstice Communications, we offer many relevant services at a variety of price points to map out the best approach for your needs, and even execute and monitor the strategic plan if needed.I’d be happy to help you determine if this is the right path for you. Please feel free to contact me firstname.lastname@example.org.Marc Binkley is Director, Digital & Strategy at Anstice Communications,Canada’s leading boutique agency specializing in meaningful disruption strategies and FX.Follow Anstice Communications on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.