Now is the time when marketing and BD people are starting to plan for the coming year.
But it’s not the same this time around. There are unique challenges in the mix, combined with a few of those old familiars. Let’s look at what the marketing blockers are and what you can do about them.
I was reading a report last week about marketers’ strategic priorities for this year. They include investing in digital tools and automation, reduced budget, looking at new segments and developing new products and services.
Couple that with the challenges of keeping up with digital trends, changing client expectations and managing the impact of the pandemic, both internally and externally, us marketers have quite the job on our hands.
So, what are the 8 blockers to marketing and how can you deal with these challenges?
1) Not spending time or money on the right things
We’ve learned a lot recently about what works and how to engage with clients virtually. There’s no doubt that this has led to firms changing the shape of their spend. Most firms will be keeping their budget the same or even spending less. This makes what you spend your time and money on even more important.
There are further nuances to this equation. Firstly, are your marketing activities doing the right ‘job’? That is, looking at the steps your prospects take on their buying journey, do you have the right marketing in place that will lay down the next step. You might offer really useful webinars, and get good numbers, but where do they sit on that buying journey?
Tip: Confirm your understanding of the customer journey and map out what marketing you have in place and what you’re missing at each step.
2) Not responding to changing client expectations
Effective marketing and BD has always been about anticipating and meeting client needs. However, it’s fair to say that we’ve had to deal with more, and quicker, change in the past year. What doesn’t change is the need to keep close to clients and warm prospects. Reminding them you’re there to help. And working hard on to create and maintain a 5* client experience.
It’s also worth taking a step back and spending time on thinking what’s changed in your clients world, how that affects your firm. It might affect how you deliver a service and the value you provide, or even to develop a new services. It might change how you communicate and how frequently, what packages you put in place or payment plans to make it easy to buy.
Tip: Take a pause for thought and look in detail at the characteristics of your ideal clients. Map their – possibly different – customer journey and situation, and decide how your marketing can deliver, whether that’s in finding more of the right clients, helping to win new clients or keeping existing clients happy.
3) Taking the tactical not strategic path first
You’re asked to put together a campaign to promote a new online service. Clients have asked for a webinar on a topic and you need to put together the event and the marketing activities that come before, during and after. Balancing the busy-ness of your everyday life with the need to think and plan is tough.
It also has a tendency to make your marketing reactive and you feel like you’re on the back foot. Carving out time for the planning, looking at your marketing and BD differently is crucial if you want to move how you’re positioned to more strategic, more advisory, more leading the change. And it will ensure your marketing activities are on point.
Tip: To inform your activities, look at your marketing through three lenses – what messages will resonate with your audience, how to earn the right to their time, who else is involved in their decision.
4) Not matching your customers’ needs, timing or decision-making team
One of the things we find when working with clients is that they are often doing some great stuff – but it’s just not working as they want it to.
They’re losing a few clients, or not getting the referrals and recommendations from those who are happy. They might not be converting enough warm prospects to paying clients or would like more enquiries from the right kind of clients.
The cause of this problem can be to do with a number of things, but often is related to not thinking through:
- What messages do we need to communicate, when?
- How long do they take to make a decision and when might they be looking for what we sell?
- Who else is involved in the decision and how do we address their valid concerns?
Tip: Using your answers to these three questions, identify what the implications are for your marketing.
5) Scattergun or yo-yo marketing
These symptoms are connected, but different. Having scattergun marketing shows itself in random marketing activities that don’t necessarily come together as part of a whole. They don’t link together to support a client’s buying decision. You’re asked to put on this event or talk to that journalist. Developing a thought leadership campaign or sending off this touchpoint to existing clients address your aims of positioning and nurturing respectively, but aren’t critical elements in a natural path to purchase.
Yo-yo marketing is consistency. It’s getting distracted by a big project or urgent stuff that draws you away from executing that daily, weekly, monthly plan you committed to.
A previous blog talks about yo-yo marketing and how to solve this blocker. For now I have one suggestion.
Tip: Spend an hour putting down on post-it notes all the marketing you do or plan to do. Place them at the relevant marketing stage in the journey. Look at ways to link them so that you’re supporting that customer buying journey.
6) Focus on the wrong things
For a firm who has been established for some time with a loyal client base and a decent presence in their marketplace, the main focus – at least initially – is:
- Nurturing existing clients (do they need more of what they’ve bought or could they refer you to other businesses who would value your services?)
- Introducing new products or services to existing clients
- Winning more of the same kind of clients from the same audience
I can’t tell you how many times clients come to us saying they need more new leads without really looking at how they can realise the potential that exists in existing relationships.
My recent blog talks more about the five ways to approach business growth, and in which order.
The big implication for marketers and marketing/BD plans is that there are different strategies depending on which of those five ways you’re focusing on. A key account management and client care strategy is important in the first way, for instance. A market penetration or sector strategy is best for the third approach.
Unless you have huge resource, however, you won’t be able to fully support marketing and BD plans for more than two or three areas. Having plans for each practice area, each office, each sector is simply not resourceable. You’ll end up inching along on multiple fronts rather than making great strides one a few.
Tip: Decide on a small number of areas you feel it is reasonable to support. Develop marketing plans for each one, a plan with one audience and one product or service in mind.
7) Proving ROI
The pressure is on this year like never before. In a recent survey of professional services marketers, 55% of people agreed with this. It always was a common theme. We’re often having to prove the value of marketing.
If you could identify where the gaps were in your marketing and, by plugging these, could increase the numbers of enquiries, conversions and loyal clients, this would go a long way to helping you prove ROI for marketing effort and spend. Beware, though, that you’re measuring the right things. Increased number of website visits does not indicate someone is ready to buy.
Another way of helping to prove ROI is related to understanding the job that marketing needs to do. It’s not one job, it’s actually six. To be there, be relevant, be proven, be helpful, be friendly, be consistent. Different marketing tools and techniques perform different jobs. And are most appropriate at different points of the customer’s buying journey. A LinkedIn post about your latest webinar won’t result in new clients directly. But if you see this as a part of their path to purchase and build relationships with those who attend, it might open up a BD conversation with a client who’s looking for help in that area.
Tip: scope out in your team what return on investment means in your firm and then discuss how you could demonstrate this.
8) How you’re perceived in the firm
It’s hard to prove your value if you’re reacting to requests. This is as much to do with the mindset of marketing – and how people feel about it – as it does with capability.
I believe that now is the time to take the lead in marketing. To move more towards being advisors and change makers. That’s not to say we don’t need to keep doing the doing and protecting the brand. It’s more a question of balance. And whilst most of you may feel you have the right skills and experience in the team to execute your plan successfully, there may be resource gaps you need to fill.
Tip: Have a conversation with the managing partner, managing director and/or your manager to scope out what the firm needs from marketing and advise on how you feel you can best support its business ambitions.