It’s not tricky selling ice-cream to beachgoers on a hot summers day. Just walk up and down the promenade with a cooler box and make some noise. A good bell will do.

The sale itself is easy, but why?  The market is captured, sitting right there on the beach. The competition are few – you make sure of that by chasing them away! Barriers to entry are relatively high; you need a cooler box, a supply of cheap ice-cream and the willingness to walk up and down under a baking sun.

It’s a tough job, but the sale is easy, and the marketing strategy reflects this. It’s simple – just ring a bell.

However,  as the sale gets tougher, the approach to marketing should become equally more sophisticated. You can’t do tough sales with easy marketing.

Tough sales are everywhere, especially in these economic times: engineering firms dependent on fewer government tenders; mining equipment makers fighting a declining industry and competitive imports; SaaS companies looking for a breakthrough in a see of software platforms. Tough sales.

What should a marketing strategy look like in these circumstances? It clearly can’t be as simple as “let’s post weekly to LinkedIn”. It needs layers of sophistication to facilitate that difficult sale. It needs to start with doing the hard yards of spending many hours understanding a market, analysing purchase criteria, studying key decision-makers and looking at the competition. In short, putting yourself, in the customer’s shoes. This should be followed by (tough) choices: who to focus on, what to offer them, how to frame the message; price the product and service the client. Hard work. Many layers.

If you’re facing a harsh sales environment, you can’t have a simple marketing strategy. Become more sophisticated in how you do marketing, and give yourself a fighting chance!