Imagine the situation. Your business is going well. You’re successful at winning new work and your feedback from existing clients is great, so you’re confident you’re providing a great service. You’re busy managing work. You have enough of your people (lawyers, accountants, surveyors, engineers) going out and committing time to business development. Like many firms, you are focused on winning more clients and growing existing accounts. So why do you need to invest in marketing?
Don’t invest in marketing if you want only short-term success
This was exactly the conversation I had with a business development director recently. When I delved further, he also shared that he was working 70 hour weeks and his business development manager was similarly stretched, and stressed.
Firstly, winning more clients and retaining existing work IS what marketing is about, as much as it’s the purpose of sales or business development.
Secondly, structuring your business development (focusing purely on the sales side of the coin) is not sustainable in the long-term.
So, here are the three reasons not to invest in marketing.
You don’t want your business operation to be repeatable
If you don’t mind operating at the level described above, then there’s no reason to build a marketing operation that can support your sales.
However, if you’d like your BD team to feel that they have all the tools they need to make their life easier and more productive, to help them to help their clients make the right decision and motivate them to buy, then look at the marketing that will run week by week, every month, year on year.
Whilst the sun may be shining now, no-one can predict the future. Of course, if you regularly scan the market horizon you can look at the what if’s and plan for some eventualities. But no-one can say when events might come left-field. The burnout of your BD person, for instance. The loss of a key client. A dramatic dip in the market. One of your key rainmakers leaving the firm.
How marketing can help you build repeatability
- Rather than basing your growth solely on new business (which you need to repeat every year if you want continued growth in the future), look at a marketing strategy which seeks to better understand your existing clients and how you can add value with products or services they are not yet buying.
- Proactive management, protection and development of your key accounts (true account management as opposed to project management of the work you do for them), which regularly opens up more opportunities and helps your clients feel your love. Related blog post: 7 customer relationship management mistakes that could lose you business
- Look strategically at your client service for all those other than your key clients. What marketing can be put in place that supports their buying journey and then keeps you connected with them once they are clients?
- Systemisation. There are many ways in which marketing can help take the strain. Ranging from tech solutions like customer relationship management systems and social media management tools like Hootsuite, to content plans to ensure you’re talking about the issues your clients care about, from welcome packs and regular check-ins with clients. They might take a bit of thinking and planning to set up in the first place, but well worth the time and effort involved.
You don’t want your business to be sustainable
Don’t invest in marketing if you’re happy to work with clients that you don’t like, that won’t sustain you energetically or that don’t provide the work that really floats your boat.
Related blog post: What would your postcard from the future say?
I regularly run workshops for clients in business development or marketing. One of the questions I often ask is: “who here works with clients they would rather not work with?” Never has anyone not put up their hand!
Working with the “right clients” (and defining who these are in the first place) is crucial. You soon realise when you’re working with the wrong client – you dread their calls, you are demotivated and de-energised when you work with them, they are difficult to deal with, it affects the quality of the work you do for them.
Of course, you need to work with clients that provide you with a decent income. Of course it needs to be profitable. But it also needs to link with what you enjoy doing, your firm’s purpose and what it does best.
The second point about sustainable marketing is that it’s often about using tools, and putting in place things that remain, even if your key rainmaker leaves the firm. What’s walking out your door then are skills. If sales success resides in a person you’re more at risk. If sales reside in a combination of tools and people, you can still grow your business if that person is not there.
Thirdly, if you ask those involved in BD: “what marketing can be put in place that would make your life easier and help prospects make good decisions….?” If they come up with at least one idea, that points to a need to invest in marketing.
How marketing can help sustainability
- Define who your ideal client is in some detail and share this profile throughout the firm. It doesn’t mean you don’t work with anyone else, it’s just helpful to have that focus in your sales and marketing.
- Consider the essential marketing tools that will engage your customers (which social media to they actively use, what issues do they read about that would help you build your cotent plan, what on the horizon issues are they facing that you can research).
- Speak regularly with those involved in BD, understand how they work and what materials, tools and information would help keep the conversation going with prospects. It could be building a library of highly relevant articles or blogs, or developing a thought-leader type piece of content, it could be setting up a communications plan to regularly communicate with warm prospects who are not yet ready to buy.
You don’t want to future-proof your business
Because marketing is not just about lead generation, brochures, events, SEO and any other tactics you might mention, it can help to future-proof your business. But it does this if you look at marketing in the long term, not just for this month or quarter.
How marketing can help future-proof your business
- Brand-building. Essential here is understanding what your firm is about, its vision and values, what products and services you offer, the problems they solve and their benefits to clients. Building a ‘brand’ beyond individual experts helps to position you at a business level.
- Investing in marketing (systems, processes, thinking, strategy, planning, keeping it going) will help protect you from market downturns. There’s a lot of research that shows that companies that invest in marketing do better coming out of a recession or market downturn than those who don’t. They’re in a better place at the point of upturn (less catch-up to do) and recover more quickly.
- Agility. Marketing planning is by its nature dynamic. You put in place a strategy and plan with a 3-5 year horizon but with 12 months in sight. And regularly review what’s working, what’s not and why. You can then tweak things as needed.
I’ve been working with a client recently after a gap of nine months. They told me that they had been slow to deal with a particular threat in the marketplace. I looked back at the SWOT analysis I’d done with them a year ago. There, in the threats, was exactly this issue and my recommendation that they have a small working group of people to think about how they should respond to it. Nothing had happened and now they were on the back foot. A prime example of how investment in marketing earlier would have helped to future-proof their business more effectively.