How to create your marketing strategy

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I want more marketing...

...said no consulting business leader ever.

It's not marketing that you want, it's more clients. Or more of the right clients.

But whether you like it or not, it's marketing that creates the leads that become the sales opportunities. And for marketing to be successful you need to create your marketing strategy. 

Of course, you might take the view that you don't really "do" marketing. However, that's impossible if your business is a going concern.

Going to in-person networking events is a form of marketing, and many consulting firms invest many, many hours in doing so. Yet those same firms are often reluctant to spend just an hour a day on Linkedin.

Business exhibitions are often touted as a great source of leads, and they can be. But harvesting business cards because you've offered someone a free gift provides nothing more than a list of people who want free stuff.

They are not leads!

The most common thing I hear when a firm needs more leads is the advice to get cold calling.

I've been there and done that, and sure, it can work. But you have to ask yourself: have you the time, the patience and the funds to find a needle in a haystack, or is there a better way? 

(If you're insistent on cold calling, read about my experiences of doing so, and what I advise you do here).


Can digital marketing be your metal detector and ensure you cold call the right people?

Perhaps your firm gets marketing, and particularly the importance of digital marketing.

You've invested in various marketing channels - perhaps some search engine optimisation (SEO), or generic digital marketing support, or maybe even a copywriter to help with content marketing. But has any of this truly paid off? 

Do you find that your marketing providers are telling you that they're getting great results, whilst back at the office the phone hasn't rang once? 

This will be the case if your experience is anything like mine was in the early days of my consulting firm. 

I did exhibitions, went networking, got cold calling, engaged telemarketers (once I realised I hated cold calling myself!), published articles in magazines, hosted webinars. You name it, I've tried it!

And, from a marketing perspective, I've had some great successes. For example, I once created and published an infographic that was picked up by an online magazine in the US. This resulted in my being interviewed alongside a senior strategy director at PWC, with my infographic included in the published article! 

However, because I was marketing in a silo fashion (and because I really didn't know what I was doing!), nothing came of this fantastic opportunity!

In fact, it was only through continuous disappointment - and the sinking of tens of thousands of pounds into marketing support services with near zero return - that I felt there must be a better way.

So I set about working out just what that was. But before we get to that, first tell me a bit about you...

Why would anyone hire your firm?

Consultants just steal your watch then tell you the time!

Ever heard that said? I don't know if the saying existed before 2005 when Martin Kihn published House of Lies but, as a management consultant working in the financial services sector in London, I certainly remember hearing both clients and colleagues use the expression.

On the one-hand, I get the sentiment.

Often clients leverage consultants to see the wood for trees. Or they engage a consultancy as an insurance policy - someone to point the finger of blame at if things go wrong! 

I believe these are all perfectly valid reasons, but I'd also like to think there's much more to it than that. 


Selling intangible consulting services is a challenge

The biggest challenge in selling consultancy is that the services are intangible, the fees are high, and you'll want at least some of the fee up-front. 

This means that, from the buyer's perspective, the risk is high. Especially from the perspective of the client who might just be betting their career on hiring your firm!

And this is where marketing comes in.

Not just to grab the attention of your prospects in the first place, but to smooth the journey from initial contact through to signing a contract. And ultimately, later on when it comes to future engagements with the client, and hopefully referrals. 

Now, the way in which to achieve this is to build trust. In the distant past there was sufficient time and resource capacity such that you could build trust purely through face-to-face interaction. But in most circumstances those times are resigned to history, even more so with the recent pandemic. 

Not only is face-time with prospects more difficult, but central procurement teams have significantly more say in decisions than they used to. Buying decisions are now typically made by committee. It's simply not feasible to build 1-2-1 relationships with everyone involved in the decision making process. 

Digital marketing affords you the opportunity to be in many places at the same time! 

With digital marketing you get scale. For you and your wider team. Digital marketing methods afford you the opportunity to build trust and smooth the buyer journey without having to be there in-person at every stage. 

So what about referrals?

We know we need to build trust, otherwise the sales conversations might never happen. Referrals enable us to fast-track some of the process. We inherit trust from the referrer. But that's often not enough in and of itself. Work still needs to be done to further instil trust in the prospect before he or she becomes a client.

And, whilst referrals are fantastic, few firms are able to grow on referrals alone.  


Marketing strategy definition

Of course, nothing builds trust better than a face-to-face conversation, which is why you mustn't limit your marketing to being digital-only. You need to embrace both digital and traditional marketing channels. But in today's pandemic ridden world, digital marketing has become more important than ever!

As I recently heard it more eloquently put:

To survive in business you must be able to market effectively in a digital world.

The ultimate goal of your marketing is to help qualify whether it's worth your time getting face-to-face or on a call with a prospect, rather than have your time wasted time with tyre-kickers. 

In the case of a professional services firm, there are 3 outcomes your marketing must achieve. This to me is the easiest marketing strategy definition, simply it must enable you to:

Omni-channel marketing

Whilst marketing channels can be either traditional or digital, we can also categorise them as either inbound or outbound.

An inbound marketing channel is one in which your prospects are encouraged to make contact with you. For example, your website might have a contact form and embedded online calendar where prospects can schedule a call.

Outbound marketing is where you directly approach your prospects. For example, cold emailing, cold calling or business exhibitions. 

The reality is that you need both inbound and outbound strategies, as well as traditional and digital marketing methods. 

This is what I call omni-channel marketing.

The problem, however, is that most people approach marketing channels in isolation. They do use multiple channels, but they don't do anything to combine them to work as one. This is exactly why outsourced marketing services often fail to deliver - because they're not part of a cohesive strategy.


Create your marketing strategy

One way to look at marketing is that it's a game. 

A game where you try to identify potential buyers amongst a sea of thousands; you vie for their attention; and you aim to draw them towards you such that you can have an in-person conversation.

In the game of marketing you have opponents - your competitors, who are also vying to get the attention of your ideal clients.

You have to beat them to it.

Not through underhand tactics, but through skill in the game. Remember, most consulting firms are pretty poor at marketing because they simply don't do it often enough or consistently! They haven't taken the time to get good. 

So, if marketing is a game, what are the rules of the game?

The Game of Marketing

There are 5 rules which must be followed to win at the Game of Marketing. 

Rules:

  1. Embrace failure: Marketing is all about trying things out, not all of which will work. If you're not prepared to fail, you will lose.
  2. Stop talking about yourself: Problems and opportunities are marketed, services are sold. Don't make your marketing all about you and your firm's services as your prospects don't care! Market your business as experts in solving the challenges that your ideal clients are facing. 
  3. Build trust: Marketing a consulting business is all about building trust, not funnels. 
  4. Be omni-channel: A single marketing channel is not enough. You must deploy multiple channels, across both traditional and digital, and ensure that they work in harmony.
  5. Every single marketing channel can work: ...but only if you commit to being consistent, persistent and patient.

Now that you know the rules of the game - which puts you ahead of the vast majority of your competition - let's look at how to play the game...


The game of marketing (marketing strategy technique)

We've already discussed how there are 3 target outcomes when marketing a professional services firm:

  1. Get known
  2. Build trust
  3. Generate leads

Therefore, you need to turn your knowledge and expertise into marketing assets, and then apply those assets to various marketing channels to enable you to achieve those marketing outcomes.

Professional services firms don’t typically need lots and lots of clients.

The sales cycle can be long, and prospects naturally cautious, especially if they have no prior experience of working with you or have not been referred in. Therefore, a lot of emphasis is required on building trust. 

How do you build trust?

Through education. That is, educating your client on the problems and opportunities that they face. Explaining the impact and consequences. And showing them how to overcome those challenges. 

But what exactly should you say, to who, and how?

Well, at The B2B Marketer the way we do it is through a model we've developed that we call: The Pyramid of Trust 

It’s a way of understanding the journey your prospects embark on, from not knowing that they have a problem, to understanding their problem in-depth, and to ultimately recognising that your business is who they should be talking to!

At that point your prospect will either reach out to you directly (inbound) or accept a call from you (outbound). 

Here's what The Pyramid of Trust looks like...

THE PYRAMID OF TRUST


Explaining The Pyramid of Trust marketing strategy technique

Not all prospects are created equal!

On the left-hand side of the Pyramid of Trust, from the bottom to the top, are the three stages of awareness that a prospect goes through. These are as follows:

01 The Oblivious

People who may not yet recognise or experience the problems or opportunities that you can help with.

They don't know you and so will give you very little attention.

02 The Afflicted

People who know they have a challenge to overcome; they're looking for a solution but they're not ready to buy just yet.

They will, however, give you more time and attention.

03 The Informed

People who know about you, your services, and how you can help them.

They just need convincing that you're the one to help.

On the right-hand side of The Pyramid of Trust are the 3 core marketing outcomes that we aim to achieve through utilising the different marketing channels - get known, build trust, generate leads.

Inside the pyramid are the many different marketing channels, both traditional and digital (this list is not exhaustive). The pyramid enables you to visualise how each marketing channel aligns to the different stages of prospect awareness - Oblivious, Afflicted and Informed - and to the target marketing outcomes. 

Once a prospect reaches the top of the pyramid, they are considered a Marketing-Qualified Lead (MQL). At this point your sale process should take over from marketing. 

The Pyramid of Trust provide you with a framework against which to determine your marketing strategy, and your subsequent marketing tactics (channels). Your ultimate aim is to generate marketing-qualified leads by designing and implementing a path for your prospects to journey from the bottom of the Pyramid of Trust to the top. 

(It should be noted that prospective clients can come in at any point throughout the pyramid - they don't have to ascend it from bottom to top in every instance). 


Create your marketing strategy - where to start?

Click the button below to download a free one page marketing strategy template using the Pyramid of Trust marketing strategy technique.

Before you populate the template, the most important place to start your marketing strategy is to determine what problems and opportunities you help your ideal clients with.

This means you also need to be clear on who your ideal clients are, and what products and services you provide to help overcome their challenges. 

More on this in a later blog article. 


Want help to determine and implement your marketing strategy?

Then take a look at our services page to see what we offer, or if you'd rather talk to someone, click the button below to schedule a call.


Images courtesy of Unsplash and the following photographers:
Vinicius “amnx” Amano 


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