Over the next two-and-a-half months or so you may be among the lawyers, accountants, consultants and other professional service providers taking a long hard look at your marketing, business development and sales initiatives. The dye for 2018 is pretty much cast. Time to focus on market movement, emerging trends, lessons learned, and begin the work that will chart a course for the coming year.

Whether your organization is breaking records this year, facing revenues in steep decline, or somewhere in between, you are likely about to spend a measurable amount of time in meetings focused on how to do more with less next year.

(The reason for the deja vu you’re experiencing is these meetings bear a striking resemblance to the ones you had last year. And the year before.)

Unless you are among a small handful of exceptions, you’re feeling pressure to increase marketing/business development/sales ROI. But identifying new targets is still a challenge. Generating leads is a mystery. Each year seems to bring new “best-ever-solutions.” And when it comes down to establishing priorities, choosing tools and allocating resources, you may trim a little here…add a little there…and end up with a slight variation on what you’ve always done — do your best to get your name out there, and hope the marketplace chooses you.

This Time, Build A Plan That Changes The Game

If you are working on a plan for 2019, without respect to where you are on the spectrum ranging from completely frustrated to enthusiastic, for the next 14 weeks this space is dedicated to you. Each week we’ll address a critical element in a process aimed at the creation of a plan that can put you in a different place when mid-September 2019 rolls around.

This week — Step 1: BOS — Build On Strategy

We know…strategy and strategic planning are overused, to understate. But trying to craft a marketing or business development plan apart from a strategic baseline is like attempting to build a house without a foundation — and to flounder, frustrate and fail.

Lest you drop out before we’ve really begun, creating a strategic approach for your efforts does not have to be a stumbling block. Executable plans are seldom the stuff of MBA projects. They do, however, require a sober approach to three critical elements:

    • A Market Awareness
    • A Self-Assessment
    • A Commitment to the Process

If you’re not up for dealing with these three things, now is the time to tune out. You’re doomed to continuing to depend on getting lucky, or repeating the most frustrating moments of your marketing and bizdev moments.

On the other hand…if you’re game, here we go.

Market Awareness

To presume to go-to-market offering a menu of services/products without having completed an analysis of market conditions is to invite frustration from the outset. Here are seven basic questions that should be asked to get you started on a productive market analysis.

    1. What does the competitive landscape look like?
    2. What is your value proposition? (Why should the market choose you?)
    3. Where do gaps in services/products (relevant to your offerings) exist?
    4. What market sectors are growing? In decline?
    5. Where can you leverage existing connections and relationships for growth?
    6. What is a realistic estimate of the cost to develop a new client/customer, and what is the projected 3-5 year value?
    7. Who are your specific targets in this market?

 

Self-Assessment

Call it a SWOT, an audit, an organizational inventory or any label that facilitates getting it done; but a clear understanding of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats is a critical step in the creation of a marketing, business development and sales initiative that makes a difference when it comes to carving out market share. Identifying the areas where this assessment intersects with the realities of market is what provides a strategic foundation for a plan.

Simultaneously, the owners of the organizations should articulate core values and shared aspirations — the three or four organizational principles and goals against which major decisions are weighed. Ideally, these are the things that brought you together as a partnership or team in the first place. This list will vary firm by firm; but examples of aspirations addressed might include:

    • a position of market or industry leadership
    • a specific financial benchmark — individual and/or organizational
    • a position relative to work/life balance
    • a specific stance relative to civic or charitable involvement

The recognition of shared aspirations is invaluable when a group of owners wrestle with issues that inevitably arise in the creation and execution of a strategic plan.

And no self assessment is complete without a clear understanding of critical operational and profitability metrics. Specifics here have a great deal to do with the nature of your organization; however, to sacrifice transparency here in the name of collegiality is to leave out a basic building block. 

Commitment to the Process

Plans fail, without respect to strategic foundation, when not executed to maturity. Instigating change in a marketplace comes with a life cycle. A solid market and self-analysis (including the identification of pursuit targets) should lead to a clear understanding of a realistic sales cycle and projected return.

Stakeholders must share a commitment to the initiative, its processes, and a calendar that accommodates consequential change.

This is not to suggest that accountability, tweaks and even significant adjustments should not be incorporated.

But significant and enduring organic growth is seldom the result of a three to six month “surge” approach to marketing and business development. Expectations that declining revenues and shrinking profits — frequent indicators of issues that transcend marketing and sales — can be turned around by pulling out the stops for three to six months, almost always result in a fits-and-starts approach. If your revenue isn’t growing, chances are good you have no real sustained strategy aimed at increasing market share.

Want to realize a measurable return on your investment in marketing and business development? Focus on building an initiative on a solid strategy to which all are committed.

Coming next week — Step two in our 14-week series on creating a plan that will make a difference.

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Eric Fletcher

With more than twenty-five years of experience, spanning broadcasting, advertising, marketing and professional services business development, Eric Fletcher is a seasoned connector — of ideas, people and strategic growth-oriented solutions. For the past fifteen years he has managed and directed teams focused on targeted business development and client service in the legal industry. Today he heads the marketing and business development efforts for Liskow & Lewis, and resides in New Orleans. Opinions expressed in Marketing Bran Fodder are his own.