Building a good marketing plan helps motivate your audience to take the next step. And, in the end, to say “yes” to what you’re offering.
But of course, they need to want to come. Your intent needs to be authentic. It will be if you genuinely believe that you can offer them value (and they recognise that) and you want to be in the relationship for the long term, not just to make a quick sale this quarter.
Imagine you’re a client. You have a need in mind but you’re not going to go from “hello” to “for keeps” in one step. This is what it can be like for your audience unless you have asked six vital questions.
The answers to these questions will help them take the next step. They will also ensure you have the right marketing in place to support this journey and that it does the right ‘job’. And, it will mean that your marketing will better connect with clients and help you build a lasting relationship with them.
Related blog from Watertight Marketing: Marketing tasks at each step of the sale.
Can my prospects see my business and the work we love to do?
Make sure in your marketing plan that you’re seen in the right places, those where your prospects ‘hang out’, whether that’s online or offline. Engage in conversation or debate; ask them questions that relate to the areas you want to work in; ask them with the intent of understanding. Show up regularly enough that they can see you’re still around – whether that’s via LinkedIn posts, attending networking events or conferences, running seminars you invite people to.
Are we talking about the issues that are close to my clients’ hearts?
This is about being riv-eting:
Find out what’s happening in their sector that might be having an impact on their business or job. Think about their current challenges and priorities and their particular areas of interest. Consider what they need or want that you can help them with – an introduction, a supplier, an article, some ideas. If you’re struggling at this point to think of how you can be riv-eting, think of an ally, someone you’re close to who fits your ideal client profile and talk to them.
How this works in practice: I’ve been coaching a client who works in the property sector. One of the issues that he’s faced in that sometimes his firm is pigeon-holed for work that they do. To overcome this and to demonstrate that they are in touch with sector issues, he’s using a recent paper on a very current theme and sending it to those clients and prospects for whom this topic is relevant. It’s part of his relationship-building communications, underpins the firm’s credibility and demonstrates one of the areas the firm has expertise in. Including these kinds of activities in your marketing plan helps to position yourself credibly.
Do we stand the test of scrutiny?
If your client has got the point in their journey where they are sussing you out, they want reassurance that you’ve done this work for others and to what effect. You need to be proven. Testimonials and case studies are at the core of how to answer this question. Statistics, progress made, how people felt after they’d worked with you will all help. Remember to frame the testimonial you want that will speak to the objections prospects might have. Consider the difference between these two testimonials:
We worked with Bloggs & Co on a large project and were very pleased with the result.
We had a real problem with x. Bloggs & Co took time to get under the skin of the issues and made some insightful recommendations all of which we actioned. The results speak for themselves – a dramatic improvement in y. We’re so pleased we talked to Joe Bloggs.
Rather than simply asking someone for a testimonial, ask some questions they can answer – it makes it easier for them to give one! You can get something like the second one above by asking:
- What was the initial problem we helped solve?
- What in our approach stood out for you?
- What did we do for you that really helped?
- What were the results that made the difference?
- How did you feel at the end of the project?
And, the added benefit is that you have the bones of a case study that will showcase their success, and your work with them
Can my clients get a taste of what we do and how we work without spending lots of time or money?
This is particularly tricky when selling high value services. You’re asking clients to go from spending nothing to tens of thousands (or more) in one step. If you’ve never worked with them before, even if you’ve been recommended and all the proof is there, it can still feel like a leap. Sometimes they will be happy with a couple of meetings. As long as you give value in those meetings even before they’re working with you they will get a sense of what you have to offer. They may want you to present to the board and share some thoughts; that will give them more of an idea of what it will be like to work with you. It might be worth offering a lunchtime session or a small audit to kick things off, even if that’s at your investment or a small one for them. Something that they will get tangible value from in and of itself, even if they don’t go on to buy from you.
How this works in practice: One of my client’s core products was a £2,000 report. However, they were finding that the price was a barrier to clients who they’d never worked with and weren’t sure about its value. We came up with the idea of a lower price product (pitched at £995) as a segue to a fuller report. The fuller product was top sliced, so if they decided to progress to the next step the shorter report would be used, but it was also valuable in and of itself. This increased their conversion rate by 17%.
Will they feel welcomed when they buy from us?
It’s a common mistake to believe that once clients have said yes, all you have to do is deliver a great service and do wonderful work.
Whilst of course that is true, clients also need to be reassured they’ve made the right decision. And they want to feel like they’re in a relationship over a longer period of time, not serviced by a firm who is mainly interested in the transaction. So, be friendly and personal. Introduce them to the people they’ll be working with and give them their names and contacts details. Thank them for their business and let them know you’re looking forward to working with them. Think about how, in the first days and weeks, they can really get the value from what they’re buying – tips, articles, checklists all work well here. Have an early ‘expectations’ meeting so you know what they want in terms of delivery and communications.
How this works in practice: I was talking to a law firm recently about how they welcome their new clients. They said they dealt with it very transactionally. They sent their terms of business along with a letter of engagement, but it lacked warmth. It didn’t show that they were in it for the long term. The effects were felt in different ways. For instance, they found it hard to arrange client reviews after the work was complete, whereas if one was baked in from the start, it shows you want to build a relationship, to know how you’ve done and understand what’s happening in their world.
What can we do to make sure we stay close to our clients and understand what they need and want?
Professional services firms I work with often struggle here. Apart from the contact you have with clients during the course of work, what reasons can you have to stay in touch? Working with someone recently we brainstormed some ways to do this, for instance:
- Connect with them on LinkedIn and comment or like their posts
- Invite them to an event you think they’ll be interested in, run by you or another organisation
- Introduce them to a supplier you know they’re looking for
- Send them an article you’ve just written or spotted that is relevant to a recent conversation you’ve had (very much with “I saw this and thought of you” in mind).
Make sure the whole team working with this client is involved in the communication to their contacts. You’ll need to know what each other is doing but working as a team avoids the ‘bow tie’ relationship where only one person from your firm and the client is in contact. Ensure these communications are a part of your marketing plan.
Related blog: How to improve your communications with clients.
And finally, make sure you have a note in your diary to speak to them personally regularly – face to face review meeting, a quick chat on the phone or a catch-up coffee to see how things are going.