Yeah, it’s that time of year… time to start planning for NEXT year. (Already?!) There are strategic plans, business plans, operational plans, hiring plans – and our favorite – marketing plans.
In the work we do for our clients – and what we do for ourselves – we follow a framework for constructing plans we’ve named the Marketing & Sales Pyramid™. The Pyramid is a step-by-step, logical approach to business development. Here’s how it works…
Step 1: Do your homework
Before you can decide where you want to go, you need to understand where you’ve been and where you are right now. To lay the foundation for your marketing plan, take some time to do a little homework on your company, clients and competitors. This will include things like:
- A SWOT Analysis – get several people from your firm to do this
- Client and Ex-Client surveys – not just about project work, but about why they do/don’t do business with you, where you excel and how you’re unique
- An analysis of your revenue – e.g. revenue by industry, revenue by client type, revenue by service line, top 10 clients, etc.
- A Marketing & Sales Audit – take a critical look at your past plans, your website and social media sites, your sales collateral, proposals, capabilities presentation, advertisements, etc.
- A Competitor Review – even do a little ‘secret shopping’ if you can
Step 2: Make strategic decisions
‘Strategies’ are broad directional statements that define WHAT you will do to achieve your goals. Don’t confuse these with ‘tactics’ – which are the HOW you’ll do it. For example, a strategy might be to ‘position our CEO as an expert on the topic of mobile research.’ A tactic that could help support that strategy could be ‘to have him write an eBook on mobile research.’
Spend some time looking through the information gathered during Step 1. What trends did you see? What opportunities bubbled to the surface? Use what you learned in Step 1 to establish your go-to-market strategies. Consider:
- Define your target market (by industry, company type and buyer persona)
- What are their challenges, issues, pain points?
- Does your product/service mix need to change? How’s your pricing?
- How will you position your firm in the marketplace?
- What are your Points of Differentiation (PODs)… note: doing great work and having great people don’t count.
- What ‘messaging’ will you use?
Step 3: Build awareness
Now, based on your strategic direction, decide how and where you will build awareness for your firm and services. Spend your time and money in places where your target audience can be found. Remember, awareness-building is not only to capture the attention of new prospects, but to stay top-of-mind with existing clients as well. This will include tactics like:
- Your website
- Social media
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Your sales team
Step 4: Generate leads
Your awareness-building activities will help to generate a certain number of inquiries and call-ins, but to go beyond that, additional action is required. Building on Step 3, you need to implement activities that capture contact information from prospective clients for later follow-up. For example…
- Making eBooks or white papers downloadable from your website
- Hosting a webinar
- Exhibiting and networking at conferences
- Connecting on LinkedIn or Twitter
- Re-connecting with all those names in your CRM database that haven’t been contacted in a long time (I’ll bet there are hundreds… maybe even thousands!)
- Reaching out to new or existing clients to make additional contacts inside those firms
- Pay-per-click advertising (try it on LinkedIn)
Step 5: Nurture your leads
Just because you’ve generated a new sales lead doesn’t mean they’re ready to buy right now. It might take some time for them to get to know you/like you/trust you. ‘Lead nurturing’ means implementing a series of on-going activities to help your firm stay top-of-mind, so when your prospects are ready, they think of you. This will include…
- Regular emails
- Sharing useful content (articles, eBooks, etc.)
- An occasional phone call
- Engaging them on social media
- Leave-behind collateral
- Entertaining your larger prospects
Step 6: Create first-time clients
At this point, you’ve walked a prospect through the buying process and now it’s time to ask for the business. What can you do to help them to “take a chance” with you for the first time? To convince them that you are the right alternative (over every other firm)? To mitigate whatever apprehension they have about choosing you? Consider…
- A compelling capabilities presentation
- A clear, concise proposal
- Proof sources, like testimonials and references
- Case studies that showcase your expertise
- Providing quality content that shows off your knowledge
- Favorable pricing
- Some sort of warranty or guarantee
Step 7: Ensure repeat clients
New clients are great! But the key to the long-term success of your business is to develop repeat clientele. To do that, you must first do good work. Beyond that, you need to implement tactics that reinforce your firm as the provider of choice.
- Establish the role of Key Account Manager for your larger clients
- Conduct post-project surveys
- Maintain a strong communications effort
- Regular visits/calls by your sales rep
- Send Thank You notes – handwritten, not emails
- Give volume or frequent-client discounts
- Send unexpected gifts
Putting it all together
In addition to revenue, decide what you need to measure and how you’ll get it done. Some of the basics you’ll want to track include:
- Website activity
- Social media connections and activity
- Email open and click-thru rates
- PPC metrics
- Sales activity
- Bids submitted & won
The last thing you’ll want to do is to condense all of the above into a few usable management sheets. At a minimum, these should include a marketing & sales calendar, budget management sheet and measurement tracking sheet.
One final point… marketing & sales need to have a seat at the grown-up’s table. That is, when you have your weekly management staff meeting, besides reviewing the status of all the projects currently in-house and other company issues, make sure to set aside time to talk about your firm’s marketing & sales efforts – the variety of activities and an overview of the results. The more that marketing & sales are integrated into your firm, the more likely you’ll be able to get the support you need to carry out your plan.
Good luck and good marketing.