Those who are regular readers of my content have heard me say (on more than one occasion), that “Market Research is an industry that does not embrace marketing and sales”… particularly among agencies and consultants. And when these firms do decide to execute some business development efforts, they often just execute. There isn’t a lot of thinking or planning that goes into it… in reality, they’re just “winging it.”
Why does this happen? Why do the smart people at these firms not invest the time upfront to help ensure better results on the back end?
For two reasons, I think:
- They don’t know how. And that’s not a knock on them… but they are primarily researchers. Marketing and sales are often outside of their wheelhouse. And because of that, they’re uncomfortable doing it and even uncomfortable hiring for it.
- Technology is the other culprit. There are literally thousands of software platforms and apps to help people execute their marketing. Unfortunately, for those people without the requisite marketing and sales skills, it’s too easy to fall back on, “All we need is the newest technology and we’re good to go.”
With all of that sexy, high-profile technology available, I can understand how they might come to that conclusion, but it’s ill-founded and completely wrong.
The most effective marketing & sales happens in three distinct steps:
- Think. Take the opportunity to step back and look around to better understand your business environment… and based on that, make some strategic decisions for moving forward.
- Plan. Here, take the time to lay out the details of how you will be supporting your strategies. This will include things like an Activity Calendar, a budget and so on.
- Do. With all of the preparation done, it’s time to execute. To actually make things happen. And as you do, you also need to measure what you’re doing.
Let’s drill down into each of these to see some of the details involved…
Here, you need to observe, do research on and think about what’s happening in and around your business… and in the industries and markets you serve… and in the Market Research industry and with your competitors (a group that is morphing all the time, by the way). Based on what you learn, decide on the strategies (broad, directional statements) that will guide your marketing and sales.
Some of your fundamental strategies will be:
- What you sell
- Who you sell to
- Your position/point of differentiation in the marketplace
In addition, there are some go-to-market strategies that all businesses must consider:
- How do you build and maintain awareness in the markets you serve?
- How do you generate and nurture sales leads?
- How do you convince sales prospects to do business with you the first time?
- How do you ensure that first-time clients keep coming back? (hint: doing good work isn’t enough)
OK, you’ve gone through the Think process, so now you know what you need to do. The next step is to determine how. Take the strategies you’ve settled on, and from them, determine the tactics that best support them. Then build a plan around those tactics.
A quick lesson on strategies and tactics…
A strategy can be supported by multiple tactics… and one tactic can support multiple strategies. For [a really simple] example:
Let’s suppose you have only two strategies:
- Generate sales leads
- Establish a position as a ‘subject matter expert’
To generate sales leads, you decide to:
- Publish an eBook; downloaders of the eBook have to give you their contact information, generating sales leads
- Exhibit at the Insight Association Corporate Researcher’s Conference (CRC)
That’s one strategy supported by two tactics.
On the flip side, the eBook, while a great lead gen tool, also supports the second strategy… it’s a proven way to position your firm as a ‘subject matter expert.’ One tactic supporting two strategies.
Once you’ve decided on which tactics you will employ to support your strategies, two steps are critical:
- Establish a budget. Make sure you can afford to do what you want to do.
- Create an Activity Calendar… THE most important step of the entire process. Make sure every activity – and every step of every activity – is put on your calendar. Even those items that are frequent and reoccurring (e.g. tweeting every day) should be put on the calendar… you don’t want anything to fall through the cracks.
Great! Your plan is in place… now it’s time to really get to work. Now it’s time to execute!
Pull out that Activity Calendar and use it as a guide… doing what it tells you to do, when it tells you to do it.
And as you’re executing, be sure to monitor and measure your efforts regularly. Monthly at a minimum. Weekly would be better. Why weekly? Simple… the sooner you find out if something is NOT working, the sooner you can adjust it or stop doing it.
So, what do you measure? Here are my recommendations for the top items to consider:
- Website activity: using Google Analytics, keep an eye on how many people are visiting your website, which pages they’re visiting and how long they’re staying.
- Email marketing: using the tools that come built-in with all email platforms, track the number of emails sent, the number opened, click-thrus and which links were clicked on.
- Social media engagement: Are you growing your number of connections, are you posting regularly and are people engaging with your posts?
- Sales pipeline: Are you continuously adding new sales prospects to the top of the pipeline… and are those sales leads progressing through it?
Think. Plan. Do. Embrace this 3-step process to develop your most effective marketing & sales program ever!