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4 of the Best Sales Channels for SMEs in 2019

4 of the Best Sales Channels for SMEs in 2019

By Emma Roberts, March 11th 2019

This is a guest blog, written by Emma Roberts, a Digital Marketing Executive for Khaos Control Cloud.

2019 is the Chinese Year of The Pig, which will see favourable fortune and wealth for the luckier among us. With that in mind, you might be able to leave your sales channel decisions up to fate as an SME. If you’re not as bold as that, we’ll be discussing our top 4 sales channels for small to medium enterprises in 2019.

We will cover the following 4 channels, what to consider when choosing them, and why they’re especially good for SMEs:

  • Ecommerce and Online Marketplaces
  • Affiliate Sales
  • Magazine Catalogues
  • Face to Face Sales

Ecommerce and Online Marketplaces

Selling online, whether through your own website, or through online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, is arguably one of the biggest sales channels for small to medium businesses. You have no limits to who you can reach online, especially if you’re operating in a niche marketplace; you can target the right audience and pile marketing efforts into reaching the most relevant people.

Why is it good for SMEs?

Selling across online marketplaces means exposure to millions of people and using marketplaces like Amazon and eBay means a small business is likely to reach people they never could without the internet. Hosting your own website, with a relevant domain, can help with brand awareness and ensure you’re easy to find online.

Things to consider

  • Make sure you choose your marketplaces wisely, don’t try to appear on every marketplace under the sun just because they’re available to you. Pick 2 or 3 main marketplaces that fit with your business, its motto and products. Don’t, for example, sell on Etsy if your company sells car parts. Line the marketplaces up with your potential audience for best success.
  • Be wary that a lot of online marketplaces will limit your branding opportunities, which could cause a hit to your brand awareness.
  • There may be selling costs to appear on certain marketplaces, so ensure you do your research beforehand. Selling on Amazon, for example, carries a £25 monthly fee (for those that sell >35 items a month) as well as a fee for each item sold on the platform.
  • Alongside selling costs for platforms like eBay, there are also costs for creating your own website, purchasing a domain and paying to keep it running. There may also be other costs if you want to stray from templates and have a designer create a unique website for you, or if you’re looking to hire a developer to work on the code of your site. When just starting out, low cost options like Wix and EKM can be a good initial investment to develop an online storefront for your business.

Affiliate Sales

Affiliates are companies that are associated with your business, traditionally in the form of a partnership. Normally, affiliates are relevant players in your niche or marketplace and connecting with them benefits both parties, as you’re both exposed to the others’ audiences. Affiliation also ensures a level of trust is associated with your brand, because when your partners’ audience share the word about your business, their customers will have an instant positive association with you because of pre-existing trust of your partners’ business.

In this vein, partnerships are most often driven by commission. So, when you affiliate with someone, they will then sell your product on your behalf to whoever they think is relevant, and they will receive a commission for each sale made.

Why is it good for SMEs?

Affiliate sales are a great way for SMEs to sell their product with minimal effort. With most small to medium enterprises strapped for time, affiliation can ensure that your product is shown to entirely new (and very relevant) audiences, and the only thing you must do is develop the initial partnership and agree on goals/achievement markers to keep that partnership on track.

Affiliate sales also involve almost no upfront costs. The only costs to consider would be any marketing material sent to your affiliate (that they can then share with their customer base), and possibly a demonstration of the product or service you’re selling, so that the selling is as effective as possible.  

Things to consider

  • Affiliate sales and partnerships are a great method to get your products out to the right audience. However, make sure you pick your affiliates wisely. Ensure they have similar customers to yourself, or they are exposed to a similar customer base during their own sales process. That way, you’re not wasting your time on partnerships that won’t get you any sales.
  • Affiliations need to be taken on with some initial thought. Don’t just agree to partner with a business without first thinking about what you both want out of the partnership. Set goals, arrange regular meetings and keep up a solid level of communication. A healthy partnership ensures affiliate sales are made on both ends.

Magazines and Catalogues

Selling via a magazine or catalogue might seem old school, but this selling channel is still responsible for reaching certain audiences and increasing selling figures. Research suggests that if your target audience is millennials, catalogues and magazines are still a very important marketing and selling tool. A study ran by the Data & Marketing Association has shown a high response rate for catalogues in recent years, with a main reason being that millennials like catalogues more than other age groups1.

So, if your target audience is the young and hip millennial generation, catalogues might just be worth a go.

Why is it good for SMEs?

Catalogues are a familiar format for most, so SMEs may benefit from a more traditional seller feature to start introducing associations such as trust and familiarity with their brand.

Things to consider

  • Like all other sales channels, you’ll need to do your research. Upfront or large costs can be a burden with catalogues, and other methods (like emails) may be a cheaper for a small business just starting out.
  • Some catalogues will have written in clauses about selling your products to them with a discount – hit the calculator to predict your average ROI from your chosen catalogue to ensure you’ll be making a profit.
  • If your target audience is millennials, you might be inclined to jump ahead and appear in the first catalogue or magazine you spot. We’d advice researching first and find catalogues that fit your buyer personas and target audience. Every catalogue will be able to give you a rough audience guide, so you can match up your target audience with theirs. Alongside that, you can check in on your main competitors, and see if they’re appearing in catalogues (and if so, which ones). Appearing in the same catalogue or print as your competitors may seem like a negative, but as long as you don’t offer identical products and services, it might just be an opportunity to shine.  

Face to Face Sales

A classic selling channel. Face to face has a high success rate and can be a great starting point for SMEs. Being able to sell to people in person, instead of another method like over the phone, means you can judge their reactions, monitor their tone of voice and expressions, all leading to solid evaluations of whether they fit your ideal buyer. Face to face sales can lead to quick wins, if you target other businesses or individuals that fit your buyer persons, you may be able to sell a lot in a short amount of time. However, reach out the wrong people, and you’ll not only be wasting your and your sales teams time, you’ll also be losing money and possibly tarnishing your reputation in your local area.

Why is it good for SMEs?

Selling face to face means you’re able to start straight away. With other methods, you may be waiting on people to print catalogues or make sales, whereas with face to face, you can just get straight out there. There are minimal costs with selling face to face, all you need is some previous research to know who to target, and possibly some merchandise or your product/service to show off. This sales channel offers tangible results and can also be a great opportunity for SMEs to build new relationships, find new partnerships and build up some brand awareness in the local areas.

Things to consider

  • You’ll need to be careful who you reach out to, and how many times you do so. Nuisance sales people can continually harass individuals and businesses trying to sell products and services. Being a nuisance sales person is a bad sales tactic and can help to ruin any reputation you have built up – be careful to not retarget the same people too many times and keep a note of who you have already talked to if you’re going to businesses or knocking door to door to cold sell.
  • Consider any upfront training costs if you’re looking to train up a team to go around and sell. You’ll need to be aware of initial recruiting and training time if you’re training up a team of individuals.

When you’re an SME, choosing the right sales channel is half trial and error, and half audience targeting. Look to your competitors to set an example as to where you should be selling, but also don’t be scared to go rogue and try a sales channel no one in your market has before – you’ll stand out and customers may appreciate your boldness.

We hope this blog has helped you in considering which sales channel to pick – if you’re an online seller and you need a solution to control your day to day processes, take a look at Khaos Control Cloud. Our ERP application allows you to control stock, CRM, couriers, orders and accounting, all in one place, for a small monthly fee.

Khaos Control Cloud also works directly with Despatch Bay to make your shipping much simpler and stress-free. With this integration, you can choose between the best shipping services offered by a selection of the UK's leading couriers.

Sources

  1. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/12/21/millennials-are-more-interested-in-catalogs-than-your-grandmother-is.html

This blog was written by Emma Roberts, a Digital Marketing Executive for Khaos Control Cloud.