How can you make adjustments if you don’t know what to adjust?
I would actually argue that it has never been a good time. But I digress.
If you want to make changes in 2014 to be sure your performance is better than in years past, you may have to reconsider your perspective on sales and marketing.
The problem is that making changes, when you have no clue what changes to make, is scary, and really not effective.
So how do you go about the task of improving your situation by making changes that make sense?
You Need to Conduct a Sales and Marketing Audit
When we go to the doctor complaining of some pain, the doctor doesn’t rush to grab a prescription pad. Well, not the good ones anyway.
No. A good doctor diagnoses the problem, THEN makes recommendations about the proper treatment plan.
Why would your sales and marketing strategy be treated any differently? Right?
So, if we agree that a diagnosis is needed prior to making changes, you might considering agreeing with me that the diagnosis should take the form of an audit.
So what makes a good sales and marketing audit?
I am glad you asked.
An audit is really just another way of saying an official inspection of something. That shouldn’t be hard to understand. The trick is making sure you are auditing the right things in the right way by:
What Are the Right Questions?
When you understand what worked well in the past, and what didn’t work so well, you are better able to make decisions about what to do now and in the future. The questions you ask now are to find answers to what is working now, and how you can change course for a more prosperous future. You have to ask the kind of questions that:
- Help you detemine what worked in the past and why
- What your goals and objectives for the future are
- How you are going to adjust to achieve them
The kind of questions asked suggested by Vickie Sullivan in “What are you signing up for?, by Bruce Marcus in “Are Printed Brochures Obsolete?”, and by Greg Wildman in “Advertising in Today’s Legal Environment, Myth vs. Modernizing.”
What are your goals?
I think Vickie Sullivan asks the question that every professional service provider should ask ALL THE TIME. Vickie writes, “Take a look at your goals and ask yourself: will my current and ideal clients give me this?”
Seriously, that question should be on your mind no matter the stage of your career, nuless you are already independently wealthy and known on a global scale.
Do Printed Brochures Still Work?
I am not referencing Bruce Marcus’s article to make the point for or against print brochures. I am including the article because when you are evaluating your marketing strategy, instead of concluding that something does or doesn’t work, you have to first ask, “am I doing it correctly. If you believe you are executing things right, and it doesn’t work for you, than by all means, feel free to eliminate it.
What are your preconceived notions?
In some ways related to the point above, Greg Wildman of OVC makes some really interesting points about what marketing for lawyers is or is not, but maintains that you keep an open mind, and check your oudated beliefs at the door.
A Few Practical Tips About Using the Right Questions to Create a Better Strategy
- Start your audit with questions about your goals, and the goals of your ideal client. You absolutely need to ask questions about your past experience. But if you don’t know where you want to go, and who is going to help you get there, you will be analyzing the past in a vacum.
- Ask questions about the past. Ask questions that help you examine your performance against your objectives. Most importantly, always, before you conclude on anything, one way or another, make sure you first determine if you did something right. Doing something wrong will produce results that may mislead you to prematurely eliminate the activity from your portfolio.
- Use the 6 W’s as a Question Framework. I created a simple chart that can be used to build a model for asking the right questions around four distinct components of a sales and marketing strategy. Just create a document, a spreadsheet would work, and down the first column list all the questions you need to ask, and use the 6W’s as a framework. Then, create four columns around the basic components of a sales and marketing strategy, or:
Identify your target audience, or your ideal client profile.
Determine what you need to do to reach them.
Figure out what it will take to get them to engage with you.
And once they engage, determine what it will take to retain them.
You can use the simple matrix to better examine the past, and make plans for the future. Wherever you need to make a decision, you can then refer to the matrix to either see the answers you already documented, or answers you still need to derive.
Additional Resources to Help You Ask the Right Questions or Take a Hard Look at Your Sales and Marketing Strategy
“Look Under the Hood for an Effective Content Marketing Plan” – Gina Fidel at Fateyes.com
“How Much Marketing is Just Enough?” – C. J. Hayden getclientsnow.net
OK, so now you are on board with asking all these questions. But really, what are we asking all these questions about? What are we trying to measure? What matters most to us and the achievement of our goals?
I am sure there are a million different ways to break this down, but I am choosing to keep it simple. I think you want to look closely at your Revenue, Activities, Assets and Technique.
You have to look at your revenue goals and whether you met them, exceeded them, or fell short.
You want to read “Professional Services Marketing” by the Rain Group. In chapter 2 they do a really nice job of laying out the questions you need to ask about your revenue. Some of it is common sense. Like, “Where did our revenue come from last year.?” But other questions might not be so obvious. Like, “Why did we lose the business we lost?” Or “Why did we lose the new business opportunities we lost?” “Has there been a shift in the market
For me, the message is that you have to dissect every inch of your revenue performance to find gaps. If there are leaks in your ability to cross sell or up sell, you need to plug them. If there are leaks in your client retention, you need to plug them. if you have leaks in your ability to drive referrals, you need to plug them. The point is, you have to determine where you are leaking revenue opportunities and plug the leaks.
You have to examine your sales and marketing activities to gain an understanding of what you did well and not so well, what you could add and what you could eliminate.
The major groups of activities that need to be examined include your:
- Primary Sources of Revenue
- Primary Sources of Client Acquisition
- Gaps or Leaks
Marketing and Sales Assets
Yes, I said assets. What is an asset? Anything you can use in the effort to sell and market your services. Content like eBooks, regular books, blogs, client reviews and testimonials. Media like videos, TV or radio commercials, or current advertisement campaigns. Do you have good lists or are your social networks strong. Your website. Your partner channels.
There are a ton of ways to examine your technique to make sure you are doing things properly. Everything works given the right techique and the right situation.
Some areas where people commonly use bad techique include:
- Website Design
- Social Media Marketing
- Cold Calling
- Direct Mail
- Offline Advertising
- Content Marketing is Just Another Commercial
A Few Tips About Analyzing Your Sales and Marketing Efforts
- Gain a complete understanding about how your buyers buy. Study your current prospects and clients to determine how they make decisions, where they hang out and where you can engage them. Then map your current sales and marketing activities to your findings. See if you are missing opportunities to engage.
- Higher a qualified expert to analyze your web presence including but not limited to your website and social media presence.
- Examine your content marketing strategy. If you don’t have one to examine, then you need to invest some time in developing one. Content is king. Today’s buyer wants to learn about you long before they are ready to make a purchase decision. And by learning about you, I don’t mean a sales pitch. I mean about what you can do, but in the form of presenting your expertise via content.
- Before you decide something doesn’t work, make sure you know you are doing it right. Don’t assume that something doesn’t work just because you are getting bad results. A great example is given in section one. Print brochures might work, but only if they are designed properly.
- If you are going to advertise, advertise your content. I can’t take credit for this one. This comes straight from John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing. John makes it clear that you can dramatically improve your advertising efforts if instead of advertising your services, you advertise a useful piece of content.
- Make Social Media not about you. If you have struggled to see results from activity on social networks, I would encourage you to examine two things. One, that you are on the right networks. Two that you are engaging not dumping.
Additional Resources to Further Your Understanding
“Duct Tape Marketing” – John Jantsch – You should read the entire book. It provides one of THE best examples of a complete marketing system to help you figure out where your gaps leaks are.
“Is Content and Asset or Expense?” – Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institue – Read the article even though its old. And then follow Joe. He is the man when it comes to content marketing.
You can anlyze everything to deatch, come up with all kinds of data, and all will be for nothing if you formulate the wrong cause and effect conclusions.
Note, this applies to problems as well as successes. Don’t assume that just because you are doing well, you know what you are doing. You want to keep a watchful eye out for the dumb luck factor.
By the time you finish your audit, you should have a solid understanding about what you are doing well, what you are doing poorly, what you are doing that you should stop doing, and what you are not doing that you should start doing.
Peep Laja at Conversion XL wrote “4 Cases Where Short Home Pages Out Performed Long Home Pages” – I bring this article to your attention for two reasons. One, it absolutely typifies the need to draw accurate concusions about testing anything in your strategy, and two, Peep is one of the best, if not THE best resources for anything and everything re websites being designed for conversions.
The point is that you shouldn’t make assumptions about things until you either know for sure what you are talking about, or you have the ability to accurately test your assumptions.
Here are a few suggestions to make sure you are drawing accurate conclusions.
- Read blogs from people like Peep – Stay away from blogs or advice that never seems to incorporate analytical thinking. Peep tests the crap out of everything with his team at Conversion XL. They have forgotten more about website design than most people will ever know, yet they still test.
- Implement web analytics – But DON’T just monitor web visits. Monitor everything you can from what pages are viewed to what content is downloaded to what sources are driving the most traffic. You can learn a lot about your target audience by their online habits. Much of what you learn online can be useful in studying the effectiveness of your offline activity.
- Be honest with yourself – I dont know too many people who enjoy cold calling. That doesnt mean cold calling doesnt work. Before you conclude on the effectiveness of an activity, make sure you are not in danger of rationalizing a decision that is really being made because of fear, insecurity or just plain laziness.
- Email Marketing – Make sure you are making the most of your email marketing system. You should be able to gather stats from every campaign to help you accurately assess the effectiveness and reach of your message.
Here are some resources that will help you think a little deeper about how to accurately asses cause effect relationships.
“Marketing Experiments Blog” – These people are testing maniacs. They will give you some great ideas, particularly as it relates to testing your online marketing strategy.
Website Credibility Checklist – Yes, Peep Laja again. But why? Because his work is that good. This article will help you make better decisions regarding your website.
“Follow the Logical Path to Marketing Success” – This is a great summary article by John Janstch outlining the Duct Tape Marketing system. It will give you a “flow” to use as a guide when you are looking at your own system. Gaps will reasily appear if you compare his system to yours.