The relationship between marketing and business development has been dissected over the past few years. Many focus on making the distinction between the two. But the symbiotic relationship between them is far more important. Effective marketing creates and supports opportunities for business development. But since the cause and effect nature of the relationship is not always easy to see, many firms neglect marketing in favor of more and more focus on sales techniques and training. Regardless of training, without effective marketing, the sales process is unnecessarily difficult. Without the proper tools and support, training isn’t going to make much of a difference. It’s like giving a builder ongoing education in the latest building techniques, then handing him a shovel and expecting him to build a skyscraper.
So what are the required tools? And how can they have such a dramatic effect on the ability of your professionals to sell services?
A Consistent Message
The first tool is your message. It’s what clients and prospects hear and see from your firm. It is the sum total of what is delivered by your website, your printed materials, published articles, word of mouth, and your reputation. You might call this your brand. For years, many firms have allowed reputation and word of mouth to be the weight bearers for their message. But the last 20 years and the digital age have transformed communications. Information about your firm is available from a variety of sources. Does this information carry the message that you want potential clients to hear and see? Your message is delivered both actively and passively on a daily basis. Your materials, communications, website, and branding all provide a message. Is it the right message? Does it support what you are saying in the sales process?
Brand and Image
Imagine you are heading into a meeting with a prospective client. The prospect was referred to you by an existing client. Preparation and understanding the client will allow you to maximize your opportunity. A savvy business owner will have researched you and your firm as well. To use a baseball analogy, do you think you’ll walk into that meeting ahead of the game or behind? Did your website instill confidence or create doubt? Did the prospect discover evidence of your industry-based expertise? Did they find value-added analysis from you and your partners which will lend credibility to your sales pitch? If you can’t say with confidence that the prospect’s research will set you up for success, your marketing efforts might be holding you back. In fact, you might have many more great business developers than you previously knew.
Are you consistently providing value-added information to your clients in a targeted manner? A functional database is the first step. Can you segment clients and prospects by service, niche or industry? Business owners want timely, relevant information, not a dump of readily available snippets of wisdom. You should be segmenting and targeting. If you aren’t, you may be placing an extra burden on your professionals.
Next, take a look at your primary materials. All of those things that speak for and about your firm when you can’t – your website, your brochure, your whitepapers, your published articles (or lack thereof), your newsletters, your logo and even your email signature. Are they broadcasting the right message? Do your materials make your firm appear to be a forward-thinking, client-centered, thought leader? Quality materials deliver your message and empower your business developers. Seasoned practice builders may be able to carry on a conversation with nothing but a business card; but younger professionals are empowered by having convincing materials, which support their ideas.
So, do you have the foundation for effective marketing? It is usually pretty evident upon close examination. If you don’t like the answer you find, don’t despair, there’s good news. You’ve identified a correctable problem – a limiting weakness that can quickly be turned into that will profoundly affect your business development efforts.
At Catalyst, we believe strongly that effective marketing at CPA firms requires a set of basic tools. Firms that have these tools in place, can consistently put powerful marketing initiatives into action which grow their firms. Firms that neglect these foundations generally have a much harder time getting value and results from their marketing initiatives – leaving their professionals underequipped for the challenges they will face.
We’ve developed a specific program for firms that recognize they are trying to play catch up all the time. It’s called Foundations Marketing. Our Foundations Marketing program takes a warp speed approach to developing the empowering tools that firms need to grow. We’ve put in into action with many firms across the country – and it’s easier and less expensive than you’d think. If you have come to the realization that your lack of marketing is holding back your business development, we are ready to get to work.