Posted in practice
on September 12, 2014 3:29 pm EDT
Talking Business: Another Column on Marketing? Yes.
Because there's more that needs to be said. Marketing is not just tactics and tasks. It's a strategy for initiating and developing customer relationships.
Of course, if we had the proverbial nickel for every bit of marketing advice we’ve digested, we could buy some Google Adwords or a Facebook ad or some banner placements on designerpub.com or some logo pens to hand out at tradeshows. Maybe letter openers would be better than the pens? What about shopping bags?
Developing a market requires ground-level knowledge, the patience to plant the right seeds and the diligence to give them what they need to grow.
“Let’s back up for a minute,” as one of my former employers used to say when a meeting started trending toward a consensus he had not defined. Marketing is not selling, although sales is part of marketing. Marketing is not advertising. Marketing is not tradeshow “presence.” Marketing is not logo shirts or logo pens, or anything with a logo. Marketing is not the logo itself.
Marketing is not just tactics and tasks. It’s a strategy for initiating and developing customer relationships. If you initiate enough relationships and develop them properly, they will generate a revenue stream. But if you consider your clients only as sources of revenue, they will sense that you see them as mere numbers, and look elsewhere for a service provider who demonstrates an awareness of their unique, individual needs and wants.
If every customer is unique, shouldn’t you just improvise, go after each sale, find out what the prospect wants to hear, and tell them that? There are many successful salespeople who do just that. They tend to be job-hoppers, though. They have a hunter’s approach to the market, and hunters are by nature nomadic, periodically moving on to fresh territory.Find Yourself
Marketing is a way of cultivating your client base, of putting down roots that will ingest the liquidity your business needs to grow. You can harvest without investing in the growing process, but then you’re just gathering roots and berries and, like the hunter, you will eventually exhaust the supply and have to leave. Developing a market requires ground-level knowledge, the patience to plant the right seeds and the diligence to give them what they need to grow. The seeds of healthy, productive and lucrative customer relationships come out of knowing your own identity as a firm: who you are, what you do, and why it has value. After all, that’s what you need to communicate in order to acquire paying customers. The answers may seem obvious. Who are we? Look around. What do we do? Ditto. Why is it valuable? Would we come in to work every day if it weren’t? Now stop wasting my time: I’ve got calls to make.
These things may seem obvious to insiders, but not to outsiders. Are you eager to write checks when you don’t understand what they’re for? Neither are your customers. Before you can capture value, you need to build an understanding of what you do and why it is valuable to someone who has a need for it and the resources to pay for it.
Marketing is a specialty, but it’s everyone’s job. At some point, everyone in your firm will have contact with people you are already working with, or people you would like to be working with. If they know what your firm stands for, it’s more likely that contact will be the kind that customers would like to repeat, instead of the kind that they will avoid like the plague.
Who you are is also about what kind of customers you want. Who are they, and how many of them are there? What do they need? What can they pay? You need answers that are clear, but not so specific that you can’t grow outside of a tiny niche. The Internet will expose you if you try to be one thing to one group of customers and another to a second group. You’ve got to make a convincing connection between these groups of customer needs and your firm’s values and capabilities.