From Marketing to Business Development
The Cost of Waiting – Why Marketing Can’t Take a Backseat
Which should come first, marketing or the business development? Many firms believe the answer is always business development. The impact of sales is immediate and identifiable. New billings are the lifeblood of growth. But additional investment in sales training might not always be the best way to improve results. Business development efforts are often held back by a fundamental failure to market effectively. How does a lack of marketing hurt your professionals in front of clients and prospects?
Within an accounting firm, marketing has two primary purposes. It should create and support opportunities for business development. If you fail to market your firm and your services, you won’t have as many opportunities for business development and you won’t fully capitalize on the opportunities you have. Image, message, and materials really do matter.
The marketing efforts of your firm should bring client service opportunities to each partner and should set the table for face to face prospecting opportunities. Are you getting new client service opportunities on a regular basis from areas outside of your personal referral network? When you meet with a prospective client, do you feel confident that your firm’s marketing is helping your efforts? A marketing deficiency can force you to outsell your competition or defend the expertise and client service abilities of your firm. For many firms, a small investment in image, communications, and marketing infrastructure could pay huge dividends.
Here’s a simple example of how marketing can help or hurt business development. Two firms are competing for the work of a profitable closely held manufacturer. Neither firm has a strong history with the prospect, but both have an introduction from a trusted advisor. The first firm doesn’t have a strong manufacturing industry team. But they do have strong marketing materials. They invest in marketing, image, and the promotion of the firm and its professionals. The prospect has researched the firm ahead of time and found that the partner they are meeting has authored several manufacturing focused articles recently. Their website is engaging, modern, and promotes manufacturing success stories. By the time the meeting takes place, the prospect believes in the manufacturing expertise of the firm. They go into the meeting halfway sold on the ability of this firm to meet and exceed their needs. The partner is equipped not only with their own ability to sell themselves and their firm, but a dazzling firm brochure and whitepapers on specific opportunities that may benefit the prospect. He has success stories illustrating how his firm has brought value to very similar clients. He’s not the most polished salesman in the world, but he’s prepared and backed by all of the right messages and information. This firm is probably not the most qualified for this opportunity, but their investment in marketing makes them appear to be very qualified. They may not have the people or experience, but their message says they do. The marketing efforts of this firm have set their partner up for success.
The second firm sends in their top manufacturing partner. She has over 30 years of experience working directly with manufacturers. By expertise, the firm is the leading manufacturing advisor in the region. But when the prospect does a little preliminary research, he finds very little about the manufacturing expertise of the firm. There are no published articles, no whitepapers, and no ideas. The prospect has viewed the website, which hasn’t been updated in five years. When the partner enters the room, she finds a skeptical face. She’s the most qualified person for the job at the most qualified firm. Her team is extremely qualified for the opportunity. Why doesn’t the prospect know who she is? The marketing of her firm has failed her. She has to start from scratch explaining the qualifications of the firm. But is it believable? Will the prospect believe what she’s saying over the previous firm? After all, the other firm’s partner was a published expert on all things manufacturing. On top of that, he came prepared with proven experiences and innovative ideas.
Who came into the meeting with a better opportunity? Despite having superior experience, qualifications, and professional staff, the partner from the second firm faced a difficult sell. The marketing efforts of her firm failed to effectively support business development. When considering how to improve new client acquisition at your firm, you can’t afford to skip past marketing in a rush to sell. A solid marketing foundation is a requirement for business development success. If you are looking for ways to improve your sales process and empower your professionals, taking a longer look at your marketing efforts may pay immediate dividends.