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June 25, 2008

100 tips for consulting success #18

Marketing is goal number one!

Your career, the prosperity of your company, or the ability of your employer to be profitable over the long term is largely dependant on your ability to market.

Find them, win them, and then keep them.

Sounds a lot like any successful relationship doesn’t it?

Before your well developed talent can be used, you need to sell it; and before you can sell it clients have to want to do business with you, and before they can do that they need to know who you are.

Even if you are a freelancer or an employee, you have a brand. What is it? What does it mean? How do people feel about you when they hear your name?

Great, I get the point… now what?

There are lots of books out there on marketing, some are very practical, some are extremely theoretical, and others have very little to do with the reality of modern business sadly.

There are two sorts of marketers, as with every thing else; those that are smart and those that are street smart.

Street smarts are the hard won through success, failure, and the schools of hard knocks. Street smart marketers generally display the following attributes.

1) They know who their message is for

This can be a hard one to work out at first. I know I lost a lot of money on this in my early days when I had (and lost) a couple of businesses.

You think you are selling to the (say) Mining industry. But you are not. You are selling to people within that industry.

Managers, superintendents, VP’s or Directors (whatever) are you real clients, not the industry itself. All of whom read certain magazines and websites, they think in a certain way, and they have a lot in common. This is your demographic then.

Say, managers of large petrochemical companies, who manage a budget in excess of 10 million dollars. They don’t read time, they do read Hydrocarbon Processing. They are focused on reducing costs, but more focused on maximizing outputs. They know that there is a dramatic cost of neglecting safety issues, and they are begging for real talent at this moment.

That, therefore, is the target slice of your demographic. Street smart marketers do not use a shotgun, they use precision targeting devices.

2) They know what their message is

Once they know who they are talking to, they work out what they need to talk about. It could be topical, or it could be general. My experience is that the best marketing campaigns are those that are there for long term brand creation – not short term profit generation.

They know that their marketing message needs to communicate high value to their target segment, and they know that their message has to be tuned to what their audience needs to hear.

For example, they don’t need to hear about how their software can do three types of probabilistic analyses; they need to hear how it adds value to them.

They also know that they are not the only people trying to get the attention of their audience; so they need to be impacting, unique, memorable, and interesting enough to cause a impulse to act.

3) They know how to communicate it

Street smart marketers know that people don’t just jump to buy something immediately upon seeing a good advertisement or a snappy strap line. They know that we are what we repeatedly do, and that if they want to turn messaging into purchase orders then they need to continue to reinforce the message.

They know that journals and websites are part of that mix, as are blogs, podcasts, fostering word of mouth and other means. They know that postcards at the right time can do wonders for relationship building, and they know where their audience is more likely to see their message.

For example, (continuing with the petroleum and engineering theme) a series of flyers on bulleting boards around (say) London probably won’t get the attention of engineering managers in the oil and gas industries.

But a series of notes on bulleting boards in (say) Aberdeen, Scotland, probably will do.

But even before they have spent money crafting highly targeted and expensive marketing campaigns they know how to wring the value from all possible free (or paid) sources of marketing.

Books, expert appearances on radio or TV shows, conference speaking, public seminars, site visits, cold calls (yes, even that), networking events, small (free) workshops for targeted clients, and a whole host of other areas. Great stuff and fantastic fun also.

They also know that sincere recommendations from clients are worth far more than anything they could say.

4) Write the plan that will build the brand

Being street smart means knowing that things don’t just happen. Fortune may favor the brave but it favors the prepared a heck of a lot more.

Plan your activities. Plan a year ahead. Marketing is not an overhead; it’s the breath of your company. If you do not have a good, resilient and focused marketing plan then you will surely lose ground, slow down their pipeline, and have less chance of being present in their prospects mind when their need arises.

A good plan consists of time lines, a healthy mix of marketing tools, targeted events and activities, messaging development, as well as very specific targets and goals. It needs to understand that perseverance pays dividends.

Planning helps you to become more proactive, generates leads, presence and ultimately sales. Your marketing plan and targets should form an integral part of your pipeline forecasting strategy, helping you to see if as something an investment and not an expense that you make once you are already in trouble.

5) Execute, measure, refine and improve

So by now the street smart marketer has the target demographic defined, they have the message (hooks, strap lines and value statements) very clear and they have put together a robust plan for the next twelve months. The next step is to measure the results of every event, activity, action and product that you put out there in the marketplace.

Those that yield good results, then do more of that. Those that don’t get refined or cut, and then start looking for other marketing activities and tools that you can put into action.

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