imageIn spite of mounds of evidence to the contrary, when it comes to marketing, business development and sales we can’t help ourselves. We cling to the hope of a viral happending that will change everything in an “unexpected” instant.

Others have pulled it off. Why not us?

The luck-of-the-draw . . . the right set of numbers. A silver bullet capable of piercing any problem. A grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the ninth . . . the “hail-mary” for a TD as time expires.

Strategic planning, big data, competitive intelligence and all manner of market research notwithstanding, we secretly hope a single great idea — maybe a tag line or a new logo, a killer event or a viral video will resolve all marketing woes.

Or, if we could just get a chance to make our pitch.

Buying-In To The Big Bang

In our gut we know it doesn’t work this way. Or do we just say that? Wasn’t it the “Just Do It” tag line (with a little credit to the swoosh logo, of course) that turned Nike into a leader? Never mind the millions invested in market research, target market identification and product R&D that preceded a multi-year multi-billion dollar multi-celebrity advertising campaign.

Companies like Apple and Nike make the formula seem simple: offer a good product (or service), create a superior message, and BANG! You’ve created a winning marketing strategy.

Only one or two issues: the strategic and sizable investments of time and money long before the sexy advertising debuts.

So what is today’s professional service firm to do? For discussion purposes, consider this three step stragedy as one way to start.

A Three-Point Marketing Plan

1. Identify A Target.

There are three reasons every marketing plan should begin with target identification: a) it is the only way to know exactly what your message should be; b) a target focus is the key to resource leverage (read success without a ten-figure budget); and c) (if no other part of the discussion has your attention) — apart from luck, strategic targeting is the only way to accelerate the hiring decision.

2. Learn What Your Target Cares About.

This is the baseline for meaningful connection and visibility. As tempting as it is to believe the marketplace will find our work compelling, a profitable business development pipeline — the thing that consistently ushers clients to your door — is the result of delivering value around what your target cares about. This is the stuff of professional equity. Asking the right questions is the key to definitive market intelligence.

3. Pursue Connection Around What You Learn.

This is the next natural step. Wondering about what to blog about? What organizations to join? Where to invest time and energy? Can’t figure out what you should do with social media? Still puzzled about what your marketing message should be?

A focus on the issues with which your target is concerned is the fabric of connection. And when it comes to long-term business development, nothing is more valuable to productive professional relationships.

Business development success is rarely about the size of a budget or creative genius. Both are nice; but connecting with a market is about resisting distractions, rejecting the siren call of silver bullets, and doing the roll-up-your-sleeves, often difficult work of choosing your target, and maintaining focus.

The bad news — there are no quick fixes. The good news — many in the marketplace haven’t figured this out. Yet.