We’ve all heard of the 4 Ps of Marketing – the guiding tenets of Product, Place, Pricing and Promotions – to help guide marketing efforts. To help guide your ‘Promotions,’ there are the 4 A’s of Marketing. In chronological order, they are:
Awareness: “If you build it, he will come” only works in Kevin Costner movies. In the real world, if prospective clients don’t know about your firm, how can they buy from you? In their classic book, Positioning, well-known consultants, Al Ries and Jack Trout, submit that marketing is not a fight for ‘market share,’ but rather a battle for ‘mind share.’ That is, when a prospective client has a need for a certain product or service, you want it to be your product or service that they think of first.
To achieve this, you must build into your marketing plan those initiatives that continually raise the level of awareness of your firm in the minds of your prospective clients. Consider those marketing tactics that deliver multiple impressions over time. It will take a while for your message to sink in… so be patient and be persistent.
Importantly, as you deliver your message through different outlets (e.g. website, social, ads, blog, email, sales team, etc.), be sure that the messages are consistent in their look, feel and content. This practice, known as ‘Integrated Marketing,’ helps a prospective client recognize that all of the marketing messages are from the same organization. Your messages are additive – each one building on the one before in helping you to get to that top-of-mind position with your prospects. Change the look and feel of the message from one medium to the next… and it’s as though you’re starting over.
Finally, when you do get to that top-of-mind position – i.e., when your prospects do think of you first – don’t stop your awareness building efforts. You need to maintain them for two reasons:
- The minute you stop, count on a competitor to step in and displace you with an awareness-building campaign of their own.
- There are always new, prospective clients coming into receiving range of your message – make sure there’s something out there for them to receive.
Attitude: Over time, as the awareness of your firm grows in the minds of prospective clients, they begin to form an opinion of you – good, bad or otherwise.
Through a combination of repeatedly hearing your marketing messages, the content of those messages and the history of your work with clients, a perception is developed. Why is that important? Answer… because the client’s perception is the seller’s reality! Remember that rule!
Here’s an everyday example of how this works… Think for a minute about car companies… how many can you name? Probably a dozen or more – pretty easily. They all do a good job of building awareness for their companies and products.
Now, think about each company individually. What is your perception of them? What do you think of their cars? Are they known for the quality of their cars, high-end luxury, exciting design, great customer service or affordable vehicles? What about the buying experience at one of their dealerships? What we’re talking about here is your attitude toward these companies and their products.
Now ask yourself… what are you doing to influence the attitude of prospective clients toward your firm and its services? Look at this list for some ideas:
- Demonstrate expertise – speak at conferences, write articles, create white papers for your website, author a blog, initiate online discussions
- Do great work and deliver great service (in fact, build a reputation for doing it)
- Stress benefits (not just features or facts) in your marketing message (hint: almost nobody does this!)
- Get press coverage – people still believe what they read in the trade publications and what is reported on in websites and blogs
- Put together “proof sources,” including:
- Client testimonials
- A list of references
- Results of surveys of satisfied clients
Action: That is, you want a prospective client to actually buy from you. What’s in your marketing & sales plan to make this happen?
First of all… keep working at your awareness builders and attitude drivers. As you continue to do these things over a period of time, and layer on top of that a well-managed sales effort (yes, some selling IS required), you will influence purchasing decisions.
There are also a few items you might think about to help move the sale along, including:
- When you deliver a sales presentation, make it awesome! No reading from text-heavy PowerPoint presentations… instead, engage your audience!
- Putting together proposals? Same thing – make them outstanding. Ditto for your sales collateral.
- Selling skills: are the people responsible for lead follow-up, lead nurturing, networking and presentations the best they can be?
- Make doing business with your firm as easy as possible… in person, of course, but don’t forget about on the phone or on your website.
- Take a look at your pricing: are you providing good value for a fair price? Is your pricing flexible to support client needs? Are you willing to give a discount to a first-time client?
Action2: OK… a prospect finally does their first project with you. Great news! Right? Maybe… maybe not.
I submit that a first-time client isn’t really a client at all. They’re a “try-er,” not a “buy-er.” Just because a prospect does one project with you, doesn’t mean that they’re a “client for life” (the ultimate goal). You not only have to get them to do that first project, you have to build into your marketing plan a way to keep them coming back for more. And that’s what Action2 is all about.
What are you doing to build loyalty with your clients? What are you doing to encourage them to come back to you on a regular basis? In the consumer world, it’s easy… with things like coupons, frequent buyer cards, etc. In market research, it’s a little more difficult. Consider the following:
- Be consistent and helpful with your social media, including your blog, Facebook and Twitter
- Check your work – is it really the best that it can be?
- If a client makes a suggestion for improving your services, acknowledge their comment and thank them. And if they’re right (which they often are), make the change and thank them again.
- Do you have the best project staff you can afford? Are they empowered to make decisions and be responsive to your clients?
- What about the little [non-marketing] things? Are you invoices easy to understand? Is the person answering the phone friendly and helpful? When visiting your offices, are your clients impressed (or, at least, not un-impressed) with your facilities?
- Do you genuinely thank your clients for their business – with phone calls, thank you notes and gifts?
- Entertain clients a little… after all, you are trying to build relationships.
- Under-promise and over-deliver at every opportunity.
- Most of all, create a memorable buying experience for your clients.
- Call a handful of clients each month and ask them, “How are we doing?” Asking them not only solicits good information, but also engages them in your firm and helps them to feel ‘connected.’
Bottom line: Understanding the 4 As of Marketing is critical as you put in place initiatives to move prospective clients through the buying continuum, ultimately resulting in a loyal, long-term client. Keep this in mind as your craft your marketing & sales plan.