A 2-part series for CEOs, Presidents and other Execs on the Realities of Business Development
Most of the CEOs in our industry are researchers who either started their firms or rose through the ranks to take the helm. None came out of the marketing & sales world. Yes, they have responsibility for the overall growth of their firm, but many (if not most) built their business on good work, referrals and word-of-mouth. And many (if not most) are uncomfortable with the concept of a proactive, outward-reaching marketing and sales initiative. It’s not necessarily that they don’t want to do it, they’re simply not sure how to go about it.
In this two-part series, we’ll outline some of the primary marketing and sales concepts that all leaders need to understand to help grow their firms in our ever-more-competitive industry.
1. It’s all about the process.
Marketing and sales are processes. Being successful at revenue growth is not about luck, gut-feel or serendipity. And it’s not just about doing good work (hint: everyone does good work!)… it’s the result of a well-planned, disciplined, step-by-step approach.
So many organizations are re-active, particularly with their marketing… almost making it up as they go along. They simply don’t take the time to think through their marketing & sales efforts, to clarify the processes, to create a functional plan and then to execute that plan. But those that do are almost always come out on top.
Most importantly, the processes are learnable. At Harpeth Marketing, the process that we follow for ourselves and for our clients is The Marketing & Sales Pyramid™.
2. What gets measured gets done.
In business development, you must measure your results. Why? Simple… to see what’s working and what’s not. If it’s working, do more of it. And if it’s not working – stop doing it, or figure out a way to improve the results.
The founder of a major department store was quoted many years ago for saying, “50% of my advertising dollars are wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which 50%.” And while today it’s much more than just advertising, the thinking is still sound… and it’s a situation you do not want to find yourself in.
I’ve heard it said several ways why we need to measure:
- “What gets measured gets done.” If the boss is watching what you do, your marketing and sales team are more likely to pay attention to it and do it right.
- “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” If you don’t know what’s broken, you don’t know what to fix.
- “Measurement eliminates argument.” It’s awfully tough to argue with results in black and white.
3. There are two kinds of clients.
There are two kinds of clients – “first-time” clients and “repeat” clients.
Most marketing & sales initiatives tend to focus on finding those new clients. But the fact is, you can’t build a business on first-time clients… you need repeat/long-term ones to be sustainable. As importantly, getting existing clients to come back to you firm for more work is significantly easier and less expensive than trying to convince a prospect to “give you a try” for the very time.
So, as you put together your marketing & sales plans, remember to allocate time and resources to help you accomplish both.
4. Be patient.
Too many business owners give up on their marketing & sales plan if it’s not generating immediate returns. That kind of knee-jerk response can be detrimental to your business.
To be successful, marketing requires a sustained, multi-faceted approach to move your firm and its services from “unknown” to “recognized” to “preferred” in the minds of your prospective clients… and then to keep it there.
This means that your marketing & sales efforts must be frequent and consistent… not done only when you can “get around to it,” but executed every day and every week for a sustainable presence in the markets you serve.
Note: this especially applies to your salespeople… too many sales reps have lost their jobs in our industry because they didn’t close a big deal in the first month or two. In an industry with sales cycles of 6-12 months (or more), that seems a little rash, doesn’t it?
5. Strategy Before Tactics.
Far too common in our industry is the issue of implementing all kinds of marketing and sales activities without giving any real thought to what should be done, how it should be done and if it even aligns with the goals and needs of your firm.
Rather than just makin’ it up as you go… first, put on your thinking cap and start working on your strategic direction by answering these four questions:
- Who are you selling to? Think about Buyer Persona (the ideal buyer by title, department, key challenges, primary responsibilities, etc.) and Company Persona (the ideal client by size, location, industry, use of research, budget, etc.)
- What are you selling? Think about your products and services (that match the buyers above), prices and pricing schemes, bundling, productizing services, etc.
- What is your Position/Unique Value Proposition/Point(s) of Differentiation/Brand in the marketplace? While each of those items is a little different, essentially, the question you want to answer is, “What do you want prospective to think about your firm when see or hear your firm’s name?”
- What marketing messaging (that resonates with your buyers and supports your positioning) are you taking to the marketplace? Think about word & phrases, images, tone, benefits (not features), problems you solve, etc.
6. Listen and learn… and be prepared to get out of your own way.
Just because you want to sell it, doesn’t mean that anyone wants to buy it. Or better yet… you can only be successful when you sell what the market wants and needs.
Here’s an example… if you own a boutique qualitative shop specializing in ethnographies… and several of your clients start asking for bulletin board focus groups, should you start doing them? Maybe… maybe not. But you do, at least, need to think about it. In business, you need to pay attention to the market and be prepared to respond to it – maybe in ways you weren’t expecting.
Here’s a rule of thumb… it’s now 2016 – if your firm looks exactly like it did in 2014, you’re not paying attention!
7. Not all marketing is marketing.
Marketing isn’t just about ads, websites, social media and the sales team. Anything and everything that touches a client or prospective client and that can influence their perception of your firm should be thought of as ‘marketing.’
- Think about when you’ve waited in long lines at the DMV and how that influences your perception of that organization and the people who work there.
- How about getting stuck on the phone with an uncaring, even belligerent customer service rep… how does that color your opinion of that company?
And neither of those issues generally falls under the umbrella of ‘marketing.’
As you’re working on your marketing & sales plan, make sure to give some thought to those “touch points” not normally associated with marketing & sales. For example, how your phone is answered (friendly receptionist or automated voice attendant)… your billing process (easy and accurate or riddled with errors)… project personnel (friendly and empowered or a “that’s not our policy” attitude)… project proposals (easy to understand or complicated and full of jargon)… your offices and furniture (nice or embarrassing)… and, of course, the quality of the work you do.
It’s not just about the project… it’s about the entire experience.
8. You still gotta execute!
The fact is, planning isn’t all that complex. It takes time and it takes brain power… but when it’s done, it’s done (at least until next year). The real challenge in marketing & sales is in the execution of the plan… in making it come to life.
Sticking to the timeline, making sure all the details are covered, doing things on a regular basis (even though they might seem boring or redundant), taking the time to measure and report… now that’s hard. Plan execution requires discipline, persistence and determination.
In marketing & sales, plan your work… then work your plan.
9. People do business with people they like.
Remember this: “All things being equal, people do business with people they like. All things not being equal, people still do business with people they like.”
There are all kinds of tools and technology to help with our marketing and sales efforts. And they are important and necessary, to be sure.
But we are still in the people business… so good people skills and solid interpersonal interactions are still critical. And over time, with more interactions, that ‘like’ evolves into ‘trust.’ When that happens, you begin to build clients for life.
10. Seek first to help, then to sell.
“People don’t like to be sold… but they love to buy” (thank you, Jeff Gitomer). So the role of the business development function is to help them buy. This happens with things like:
- During each step of the Buying Funnel™, providing information that will help your sales prospect make a buying decision; this could include articles, case studies, white papers, etc.
- Offering up good industry resources (even if it might be a competitor).
- Connecting people to their mutual benefit.
- Engaging in online threaded discussions (in LinkedIn groups, for example) and sharing some of your expertise.
Helping builds trust… and trust is critical to selling success.
In next month’s article, we’ll explore 10 more concepts to help business leaders better understand marketing & sales. To make sure you don’t miss it, Click Here to subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter.