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You don't have a sales problem - you have an exposure problem

“We need to increase sales!”

That old chestnut. Sound familiar?

If you’re a business owner, I can all but guarantee at least once a week, you’ll look at your bottom line and think, yep, we need to make more money.

To achieve this, we hire salespeople, business development teams, commercial gurus, and more – but often the investment in trying to shore up your incoming sales doesn’t end up equalling the uptick in income you probably expected.

The reason why is pretty simple… you likely don’t actually have a problem with sales – it’s more likely that you have a brand exposure problem.

More sales will always help – let’s face it, we could always do with more money flowing in! – but what you might find is that you’re not investing in the right areas to support the increase in revenue that you’re looking for.

Let me explain.

As a business owner, the idea of putting big money into advertising can be daunting. Often, we trip ourselves up before the first hurdle, and assume it’s too risky, if the results aren't able to be directly tracked or attributed to sales conversions. Understandable! We all want to see a good return on investment.

In simple terms, exposure just means getting as many people to see and know about your brand as possible. When you think of a generic kind of product – such as milk, cereal, or cheese – there's likely only one or two major brands that immediately spring to mind. That's because those brands have done the hard yards for consumer awareness and have worked on their overall reputation. Those are the guys who have invested in their reputation, instead of just marketing individual product lines.

Although marketing your specific products and services definitely has its place (and you should regularly look at your marketing strategy anyway to make sure it’s fit for purpose) – it’s even more important to take that one step up and think about how you’re just letting people know you even exist!

This is a distinctly different approach to product advertising, which is basically going straight for the jugular and pushing your audience to buy. Having that bigger, more general audience exposure – advertising your brand, and not just your products – is critical. And it doesn’t matter your size: it’s just as important for the biggest corporate players as it is for the tiny rural businesses.

For a more specific example, Coca-Cola does exposure phenomenally well. If you think about how many dairies, how many fish and chip shops, and how many other little stores around New Zealand have Coke branding, it’s staggering. They are bloody everywhere! Coca-Cola understands the value of brand exposure, so they pay for signage, fridges, fitout, and other equipment that has prominent Coke branding. Alongside big broadcast, billboard, and online campaigns, they have achieved the kind of market omnipresence that makes brand recall super easy. This ultimately means that the decision to buy a Coke when you’re at the till grabbing a quick takeaway lunch becomes an easy one. (It’s also a very clever play for competitive advantage: as a result of their brand domination, it’s very hard to find yourself a lunchtime Pepsi!)

At the end of the day, you’re (probably) not the size or scale of Coke – but they do provide a great blueprint for how to approach brand marketing that can be a useful case study for even the smallest of businesses.

Just keep in mind that it's about improving your brand's reputation and increasing your overall visibility. It probably won’t result in everyone flocking to immediately buy from you – but with enough consistent exposure, the rewards will be tenfold (or even more…) down the line.

This exposure isn't about making a profit as quickly as possible, so you need to have faith that your reputation will start working for you.

When it does? Well… all those sales you’re after - they’ll much more easily come rolling in.

Allan Nicholson

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