Professional Services Marketing Part 18
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Week 15: Phone cal with invitation to seminar or speech.
Week 19: E-mail with offer to provide your view of a recent event.
Week 22: Targeted direct mail campaign highlighting recent client results you've achieved.
Week 26: Outbound phone cal; prospect says, "Perfect timing. I was meaning to cal you. Let's talk. . . ."
Not only can you use this process to create short-term leads, but you can also create affinity for your company, building your prospect's basis for trusting you through your offers and your value. With sustained messages like this, your prospects wil want to work with you. What's most important is that when their elusive time of need becomes now, they'l remember you.
h.e.l.lO, I'M LAME We truly enjoy speaking with salespeople when they cal us. The enjoyment isn't always long-lived, though. Perhaps because we live and breathe sel ing every day, we are constantly disappointed with the lack of understanding from the sel ers regarding how to connect with buyers on the phone.
One way selers could make better connections is to have something worthwhile to tel us when they cal. Recently Mike received a cal from a sales representative with whom he has been working for quite some time. Our company has a particular need, and we might purchase something from this sales rep's company. We're just not sure when.
The cal went something like this: Sales rep: Hi, Mike, it's Dave Smith cal ing from Acme.
Mike: Hi, Dave. How goes it?
Sales rep: Going pretty wel. And you?
Mike: Just ducky, thanks.
Sales rep: I'm just caling to folow up.
Mike: [with silent voice] Ugh. Can't you do any better than that? [with out loud voice] Thanks for caling, Dave. We're stil in the same place as before. I'l get back to you when we've gotten further down the path of making a decision.
Sales rep: Great. Looking forward to speaking with you then.
In her wel -written and practical book Sel ing to Big Companies,60 Jil Konrath writes on Keeping the Campaign Alive, "To avoid sounding pathetic on fol ow-up cal s, don't ever say something lame like, 'I'm just checking in.' These cal s are as important as your initial one and require just as much planning."
We couldn't agree more. If you're going to cal someone to "just folow up," don't. Cal to offer some insight on new research your company just completed. Cal to offer a discussion with one of your clients who just succeeded in conquering the issue that this prospect is facing. Cal to see if you can take the prospect out for coffee when you're in town next week. Cal to see if the appointment of a new president at the company is going to affect what they need, and offer to speak to them.
But don't cal to "check in." As Jil says, it's lame.
Sustained Lead Generation Keeps You Top of Mind Ask yourself the fol owing two questions: 1. Think about 100 prospects for your services-not people you're currently speaking to, just people who are at the right organizations, at the right levels, who would buy from you. How many of them wil proactively seek out services like yours this month?
2. Over the next two years, how many of these 100 prospects are likely to have the need for your services and proactively seek out providers in your area, even if they do it quietly or through their networks?
The answers to both questions vary by service specialty, but usual y the answer to question #1 (seeking out services this month) is somewhere around "a few" to "a handful."
In contrast, the answer to question #2 (seeking out services over the next two years) is usualy something like 20 to 45 prospects and can range up to 80 out of the 100 prospects.
How do you take these 100 prospects into a longer-term lead generation? At its simplest, you could: * Get these prospects on a scrubbed target list.
* Send them direct mail and e-mail value-based offers regularly.
* Pleasantly, but rigorously, maintain value-based telephone contact with them.
Take these steps and add them to your overal marketing mix, and you are much more likely to be remembered by buyers at their elusive time of need. You're more likely to be one of the handful of service providers they bring in, and you may even be the one they are itching to work with because they've been reading your work and paying attention to your communications. And why wouldn't they feel this way, a.s.suming the communications you've sent them have been value-based?
Nurture the Leads You Already Have This brings us to the very important concept of lead nurturing, the process by which you keep people in your communication loop for those two years (or until they need your services).
According to a research report by BPM Forum, over 80 percent of generated leads are never folowed up on or are dropped or mishandled.61 Professional services businesses are particularly adept at neglecting the leads and business opportunities that they already have in-house, just waiting to be cal ed.
And the negative results are staggering. An April 2003 article in BtoB magazine citing a Yankee Group research study found that, in a business-to-business environment, "An 11 percent reduction in dropped/lost leads, combined with a 1 percent improvement in lead-to-order conversion rate, increased annual gross profit by 136 percent."5 This may sound far-fetched, but we've run the numbers and seen similar phenomena with our clients-and they're right. Many professional services firms think they need more leads, when in fact they could see improved results just by better handling of and nurturing the leads they already have.
Here's what happens. You target your market. You create your list of suspects. You engage targeted, integrated, and direct value-based lead generation campaigns; and you create leads.
However, some of your leads are not hot now. Often, these leads are dropped completely from the pipeline and lost. (See Figure 19.1.) Why do professional services firms let leads drop out of the pipeline? Maybe their database tracking is not standard across the board, and a contact simply did not show up in the right list. Maybe they got too busy with bil able work to fol ow up. Maybe the leads that needed nurturing were too much work for partners and vice presidents. Maybe midlevel marketing people were not expected to fol ow up. They have to watch the web site . . . the brochures . . . the PR campaigns. Tracking actual leads is not in their purview.
Figure 19.1 Pipeline Example 1 And so, for al these reasons and more, leads that may not be ready now can fal out of the sales pipeline.
According to a study done by Cahners Research, 89 percent of business-to-business buyers took more than 90 days to make purchases after they became a lead for a company.62 What if the leads your own firm has lost were shepherded back into the pipeline so they could make it al the way to fruition? The result would look something like the diagram in Figure 19.2.
For many professionals, the concept of lead nurturing isn't a regular topic of conversation. Change the one word, and make the concept "relations.h.i.+p nurturing," and the picture begins to take shape. What are the best ways to maintain and deepen relations.h.i.+ps? Things like regular interaction, giving versus receiving, and helping someone learn something new. That's al lead nurturing is, but it is systematic and focused on laying the foundation that wil lead to business relations.h.i.+ps based on value and trust by delivering said value consistently before the potential clients ever start working with you.
Figure 19.2 Pipeline Example 2 Marketing to Current Clients Answer: More often than most think.
Question: How often should I send marketing messages to my current and recent clients?
In How to Market Training and Information, Don Schrel o wrote: Regardless of how often you contact your clients and prospects (those who have already . . . purchased something from you), you're probably not contacting them enough.
When I was mailing to my own customers four times a year I thought I would "wear out my welcome." Years later when I was mailing to my client list every five days (yes, that's right, over 70 times a year!) I was surprised to learn that each mailing was stil profitable."63 Although these words were written years ago, they were reinforced in an article, "Getting the Most Out of Al Your Customers."64 This article a.n.a.lyzed, through fairly complex mathematical methods, the marketing spending of, among others, a major business-to-business service firm.
One major question the authors asked was: How much of a firm's marketing dolars should be spent on new client acquisition versus current client retention? While they had no silver bul et answer as to how much to spend on retention marketing, they did imply that it should be a significant portion of the marketing budget.
The article highlighted disconnect we al too often see: While firms should devote quite a bit of energy and focus here, many of the service firms we meet spend the goose egg, or close to it, on retention marketing.
Why Market to Current Clients When conversations at service firms turn to marketing, new client acquisition tends to top the agenda. "How can we get more new clients?" service firm leaders routinely ask. Retention marketing never seems to come up.
But marketing to current clients should be front and center in any service revenue generation discussion. Consider: * The financial effects of retention. While many service providers initial y boast, "Oh, we have practical y no client turnover," upon further examination, they do lose clients for one reason or another. If there's something you can do to increase the odds that a current client wil stay with you, you should do it. It typical y costs much more to acquire a new client than it does to retain an existing one. Spending on retention tends to have a very positive financial effect on your firm.
* Your "wal etshare." Most service firms have a variety of service offerings, but not al clients buy al offerings, nor do they buy them al from you. The service pie may actual y be divided among you and many other firms. In the financial services industry, your firm's piece of the pie is cal ed your "wal etshare" of the client's total buy. When it comes to generating leads for services, the most likely respondents to a marketing campaign for new services are satisfied clients of existing services. But you can't get more wal etshare if you don't let them know you have other services to offer.
Marketing can be a great resource to you if you'd like your current clients to remain your current clients and if you'd like to sel them more services than they're currently buying.
LEAD NURTURING AND RELATIONs.h.i.+P NURTURING-SAME THING We recently conducted research for a client on how often his firm's past clients wish to be contacted by their professional service providers.
Like most professionals, the client's hypothesis was that his past clients wil simply cal when they have more work. Like many professional service providers, his a.s.sumption was that to contact past clients too often would be an intrusion, an imposition, and, worst of al , unprofessional.
As a result, he was folowing the once-a-year (or less) approach to "staying in touch."
Our research findings, in keeping with what we have witnessed time and time again, were: Service providers do not contact their current and past clients enough outside of the necessary tasks of working with them.
An actual conversation (names of client and firm are fict.i.tious) with one of his past clients went something like this: John Doerr: I am cal ing for Smith & Jones. Bil Smith did some work for you in the past, and I am looking to find out the best ways for him to communicate with his clients.
Client of my client: How is Bil? I remember the work he did for us. Oh, gee, it's been over a year now. How time flies. His approach was so much stronger than others. He was thoughtful, asked great questions, and actual y changed what we were looking for. In the end, his suggestions made a huge difference for us.
John Doerr: Bil is doing great.
Client of my client: Good to hear that. You know, I had forgotten about how good his work was. Too bad you didn't cal last week. I just awarded a major a.s.signment that was right up Bil 's al ey. I am so busy right now-I have trouble remembering things from last week, let alone last year. The a.s.signment came up, and I cal ed who I met with most recently. They were in two weeks ago. Too bad for both of us, Bil probably would have been a great choice. Tel him to give me a cal soon.
This was not Bil 's only client who said this. Bil missed that potential a.s.signment from his client (and now maybe future a.s.signments with them as wel , if the new provider is good). What could Bil have done better to stay in touch with his clients, staying top of mind, without being a pain in the neck? Relations.h.i.+p nurturing with ongoing communications.
What Marketing Can't Do Let's be clear about a few things that marketing to current clients can't do: * Improve service quality and satisfaction: Marketing doesn't material y affect how good your services are. If your retention rate is low because your service isn't up to par, you'l be disappointed with results from any retention marketing campaign.
* Make a service inherently more valuable to your clients: You may provide one service to your current clients that they think is amazing.
You want to sel them a new service; but this service, no matter how good the marketing is, buyers simply won't buy. A service may be behind the times or ahead of its time. It may be too difficult to buy or too difficult to understand. There may simply be no need. Marketing can affect demand creation; but the service itself needs to be inherently desirable, valuable, and compet.i.tive for marketing to be most successful.
"Marketers have so long to go in the sales cycle from awareness to consideration to purchase. Nine, twelve, sixteen months or longer. New media and content such as blogs, podcasts, RSS, social networking, online video, webcasts, white papers, and the like are real y good for continuing that conversation and keeping the prospect warm. If you were to just keep e-mailing someone over the course of nine or twelve months without these new media, you'd just end up bothering them."
-Paul Dunay, Global Director of Integrated Marketing, BearingPoint What Marketing Can Do Marketing to current clients can: * Uncover ways to improve satisfaction: Through your marketing you can solicit feedback from your clients. Whereas most people think of marketing as some form of direct solicitation for a service, the marketing itself can actual y focus on improving client satisfaction through vehicles such as surveys. When you survey clients, you are communicating to them that you want to be as good as you can be. This is good branding for you, and the feedback you get can be invaluable to improve your services across the board and to fix satisfaction issues with current clients.
* Keep mindshare (and wal etshare) high for current services: With your current clients, two things are always happening: (1) If you're not in front of your client, they're not thinking about you; they're focusing on the chal enges of the day. (2) Your compet.i.tors are trying to get your clients to switch from you to them, or general y get the dol ars in their wal ets that your clients now send to yours. To make sure your clients continue to think about you, keep your messages in front of them when you, physical y, are not.
* Generate leads for new services: If you have multiple services you want your clients to engage, one of the best ways to let clients know about them is to tel them, over and over, through marketing. The most likely buyers of new services are satisfied buyers of current services.
* Reinforce the value of being your client: Do you have private events available only to clients? Exclusive research? Special benefits of working with you? Whatever these are, it's within your power to consistently reinforce to clients why they want to keep working with you.
We understand why many service firms equate marketing with acquisition of new clients instead of retention and cross-sel ing of current clients.
It's natural to want to add new clients to the fold. However, don't ignore the revenue growth and profit potential from your current client base.
They already like you, and you already know they buy.
Maybe you won the client last week. Maybe they've been with you for 10 years. Either way, make sure you're stil marketing to them. How often?
More often than you think.
Targeting "Like a poor marksman, you keep missing the target."
-Captain James T. Kirk Target Your Best Prospects Ask what's most important in the real estate business and you'l hear, "Location, location, location." Ask the same in marketing and lead generation and it's al about lists, lists, lists (or target, target, target). Although targeting is the least s.e.xy of al marketing activities, spending time developing and managing your primary target lists wil pay the biggest dividends in the end.
Targeting and segmentation are key early steps in any marketing effort and must be done with the utmost thought and rigor. Do you want to meet with someone who won't or can't buy your services? Do you want to spend time and money trying to generate relations.h.i.+ps that go nowhere due to poor targeting?
As we know, you need leads if you want to sel anything; and most professional services firms can use direct, integrated tactics (such as mail, e-mail, or telephone cal ing) to market to them. We also know that marketing works best with strong value-proposition messaging and brand recognition.
Let's say you've got your strong value-propositon messaging in place, and you're gearing up to market directly to generate leads.
Without a target profile and target list, you won't make much progress. On the flip side, targeting in general, and clean target lists and database management in particular, can be the key to great success and a compet.i.tive advantage for your firm.
Let's say you've targeted prospects who: * Work at the right level of the target organizations.
* Have the right t.i.tles.
* Control the budget or spending (decision makers).
* Can influence the sale (influencers and referral sources).
* Are in the right industry for you.
* Are at the right size companies.
* May have specific factors that make them good targets for you (e.g., a drug in the pipeline, certain kinds of technology, multinational operations, etc.).
Only after you've targeted your prospects can you create direct marketing and business development campaigns that position and brand you in the proper light. (Given your understanding from the preceding chapters of delivering value directly in your lead generation and of using offers and experiences to draw prospects into the seduction of your services, you can see how this might happen.) Once you hold a strong position in the mind of your buyer, you have narrowed the trust gap and increased the likelihood that the buyer wil accept an in-person meeting with you to discuss that company's current needs.
Achieving al these marketing outcomes depends first and foremost on your ability to create a clean, targeted prospect list of the potential client businesses and contacts that you think would be just right for your professional services.
The Boring Work of Targeting and Database Development Cleaning up prospecting lists. Deciding, one by one, which companies out of these 30 or 300 or 3,000 we should target for lead generation.
Finding out the names and the t.i.tles of the specific decision makers who would be the most likely buyers of our services. . . .
"I just don't have time to do things like this!"
Or "Just buy a list. Someone sels the right list for us, right?"
Or "This menial work is beneath me. I should do more important things."
There are many excuses for why people don't spend the time and the diligence targeting possible buyers for their services one by one.
Let's look at the excuses (and, yes, they are excuses) listed here: "I just don't have time to do things like this!" and "Boring." We've worked with many services firms over the years. When it comes to marketing, senior people at the firm meet again and again and again to talk about the web site graphic design, or the new logo, or the new brochure colors.
They go through 12 design round edits when they should have gone through 3. Edits from the firm leaders come in volumes in terms of their markups and commentary (didn't they have anything better to do al weekend?), and they meet endlessly debating the final renditions. Design processes have a way of spiraling out of control.
We can't remember the last time we heard partners and marketers complaining about the endless meetings talking about delving more closely into their specific targets. That doesn't happen.
In terms of the list part being boring, so it is. Get over it.
"Just buy a list. Someone sels the right list for us, right?" Every once in a while, a list broker or a.s.sociation has just the right list for you. Typicaly, they don't. When it comes to list compilers (e.g., Dun & Bradstreet, Hoover's, InfoUSA, etc.), in our experience, the data isn't clean enough for decent lead generation without a lot of scrubbing of the lists. The mythical "perfect list" is usual y just that: a myth.
"This menial work is beneath me. I should do more important things." Leaders at services firms spend plenty of time on brand ident.i.ty design, including logos, web sites, taglines, and the like. Design plays an important role in marketing success, but the time leaders spend on design sil iness is disproportionate to the success that good design can bring.
So how much time should you spend on targeting? In our research on What's Working in Lead Generation, we asked 731 leaders in professional services businesses a number of questions about their lead generation practices.
Among the questions were these two: 1. Do you consider your company's overal ability to generate leads to be excel ent, good, fair, or poor?
2. When it comes to lead generation, does your firm know: * The general profiles of your target companies?
Professional Services Marketing Part 18
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Professional Services Marketing Part 18 summary
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