Tuesday, 10 January 2017 17:35

What Marketing Plan?

Marketing is a HOT topic in today’s lack luster business environment. When I speak to business owners and decision makers about marketing their eyes tend to gloss over or turn upward. Dollar signs immediately come to mind with no tangible way to measure return on investment. Some think I am trying to sell them something when I am not. Others are very interested and are highly engaged in the subject. There are some serious challenges that business leaders need to overcome in the area of marketing. First, most marketers don’t know the difference between marketing and advertising. Marketing is about brand awareness where advertising is about making the phone ring.

Both disciplines, marketing and advertising, include systematic activities that feed into a well-designed sales process. Strategy and tactics are the essential elements of success. Lead generation is the primary goal of effective promotion marketing. My belief is that effective marketing starts at a relationship level. Relationships are the foundation to almost every sale for service organizations. We know that most of your business will come from two primary sources, 1) building influential relationships and 2) client referrals. For most businesses, mass-marketing is out of reach and mostly ineffective. In today’s economic environment creating impact and generating qualified leads is a must. Waiting for the phone to ring is a thing of the past.

Effective marketing requires strategy and tactics. First, you must define your ideal prospect. Who are they? What do they believe? How do they behave, and where do they hang out? Is your ideal prospect a baby boomer, or are they gen-Xers? Do they have families and live in the suburbs, or are they young professionals who live in the inner-city? What are their values and beliefs? Are they well educated or blue-collar workers? Do they go to church or to the natural science museum? The key here is to clearly identify the fundamental characteristics of your ideal prospects. Some businesses will have more than one type of ideal prospect. That’s okay. Just know who they are and where they hang out.

Knowing the make-up of your ideal prospect is the foundation of a well-defined sales process. So, are you making sales by design or by accident? Knowing where to find qualified prospects and how to engage them is the real secret. I call it a secret because only a few companies know how to do this well. Gaining access to your ideal prospect is a critical phase of the sales system. How will you spend your time and money to find qualified prospects? Effective marketing demands that you focus your resources directly at the bulls-eye not just at the target. Getting in front of the ideal prospect might provide you an opportunity to do your pitch. I hear this statement all the time from business owners and business developers, “If only I can just present my products to qualified prospects, I know they’ll buy.” I submit, if you can’t clearly define your customer that you are only making sales by accident.

Talented business developers know how to get in front of the right people instinctively. If you were to ask them what they do, most would tell you that they network. Networking is an overused and miss-understood business development activity. Networking is a highly effective business development skill. I believe that one discovers and builds lasting relationships with the right people when she is part of the right networks. A network can be any formal or informal grouping of individuals with a common bond (Dictionary.com, Feb., 2012). Dictionary.com defines networking as “a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest: Working mothers in the community use networking to help themselves manage successfully.” Knowing the make-up of your ideal prospect provides insight into where they might spend their time and with whom.

Get to know where your prospects hang out and consistently hand out with them. Become one of them and be of service. Adding value to these networks or communities sets you apart from those who go with the purpose to sell. The common cliché is, “people do business with people they know, like, and trust.” Let’s take this a step further. I believe people do business with people they respect. I have dozens of clients who have put their trust in me and they don’t really know me, but they respect me. The respect I’ve gained is mostly a product of the work we have performed in the community and with our clients. Through effective networking, one can gain the respect of others for who they are, what they have done, and what they represent.

The number one source of future business is your existing clients. Now, build a referral engine. More than by chance, your clients hang out with your ideal prospects. Keep in mind that “birds of a feather, flock together.”

So, hang out with your clients