Does the success of many of our marketing or business development plans hinge on the hope that our market somehow finds and chooses us?

Oh, we talk about strategies and grand plans. We might even flirt with data, throw a few targets up on the whiteboard, and make a pass at mapping relationships.

But reality sets in.

Daily demands distract. Working a plan…reaching who we need to reach…connecting with decision makers…it requires time. And tenacity.

At the same time that issues and obstacles are becoming clear, a seductive opportunity comes along. It can reach thousands in one fell swoop.

Or a new pay-to-play effort will put you in a room with 20 GCs.

It is oh-so-tempting.

An Uneven Trade

It’s not as if we forsake the targets on the whiteboard. We still want them; they will be the subject of our next strategic planning weekend.

But we test the waters of too-goood-to-be-true marketing.  And every time we bite on one of those opportunities, we chip away at anything that might resemble a strategic approach to growth and development.

It’s not a good trade-off. If nothing else, experience should underscore this. Have you ever received the value you bargained for?

Sometimes we’ll rationalize. If our name was just out there more. If the market just knew of our capability. If our brand was more recognizable. Or we determine that making contact is someone else’s job. The Company or the Firm should be generating leads.

And if you’re marketing an international cola, a global tech leader, or a regional car dealer, you might be affiliated with a visibility budget large enough to move the awareness needle.

But if you’re the corner donut shop, the neighborhood cleaners, or a regional accountant or corporate attorney, you will probably find it difficult to spend what it takes to create awareness. Let alone, motivate anyone to subscribe to your product of service.

One-off ads — while they might make us feel like we’re doing something — will not move the needle. Even In the fantasy world of Mad Men they speak in terms of campaigns. If the arithmetic won’t sustain your visibility efforts over time and with high frequency, not even the best Don Draper has to offer is going to help.

How Do We Make A Dent?

We don’t really believe any of that works . . . do we? Has one super ad ever worked on us?

If the objective is to build a client or customer base, and we’re not working with a plan that names specific targets, and is built around action steps designed to connect, we are, in effect, hoping the market will (somehow) find and pick us.

A Strategic Formula

Unless you’re spending a boatload and/or dealing in a commodity, your business development strategy should:

  • Begin with specific (and strategic) targets;
  • Include action items that create visibility;
  • Deliver value as visibility grows;
  • Repeat the visibility and value steps (you’re working on a relationship);
  • When you know enough about your target to develop a solution to what “keeps them up at night“,  orchestrate a presentation and pitch.

Sure…you can get lucky along the way, and happen upon a short sales cycle with someonoe that found you; but the truth is, we often make our own luck.

Wthout exception, every long-term rainmaker I’ve known who isn’t selling a commodity will, upon quizzing, confirm that the best business develeopment — the most fun, challenging and enduring work — comes by way of relationship.

Advertising and maybe even some of those pay-to-play opportunities to sell can support a disciplined strategy; but if it is the meat-and-potatoes of your effort, you’re really left to simply hope the market picks you out of the maddening crowd.

Not a comfortable place to be.