1. Can you name the target(s) key to your success?
  2. Do you know and understand the core concerns of your target(s)?
  3. Do you have a clear solution/answer for these concerns?
  4. How will you create visibility, deliver value and build trust with your target?

Whether you are marketing a professional service, selling a product or seeking support for a cause, four questions provide the framework for increasing revenue.

The Targets

There’s no sugar-coating this fact: if you are unable to name your target — without respect to the superior nature of your service, product or cause — all you are doing is hoping to connect with the prospect(s) who will increase your revenue.

On the other hand, identify who you must reach in order to realize success, and you can put an end to the nerve racking periods of hoping the word has gotten out, and that your market will beat a path to your door.

Target identification is the foundation of proactive pursuits.

Where does it begin? For starters, consider that broadly speaking, there are three types of targets:

  1. those empowered to make a hiring decision;
  2. connections willing to refer, recommend and/or introduce you to a hiring authority;
  3. those possessing insight, information and/or intel that will help you connect with target types #1 and #2.

There is an understandable tendency to focus on target type #1 — decision makers — sometimes to the exclusion of the other two; however, the fastest (and most efficient) way to increase revenue is through strong connections with all three. It is news to no one that a referral — word-of-mouth — is the most effective marketing of all. Add coaches and advisors able to help navigate the ins-and-outs of a pursuit, and you have a portfolio of targets around which to build an effective plan of action.

Here is a jumpstart on where to find targets:

  • Audit your personal professional contact list/network. Divide your contacts into three categories — the Target Types 1, 2 and 3 noted above. Don’t forget to include former colleagues and clients, civic, charitable and professional associations and memberships, and those business cards you’ve tossed into a drawer.
  • Relevant industry association groups. For example, if you’re building a practice around healthcare, connect with the groups studying, advising, innovating and advocating for the appropriate area of healthcare.
  • Allies of your targets — who is already connected to and advising those you seek to reach? If you want to connect with investors for start-ups, a strategic target list will likely include certified financial planners and CPAs. If you’re a CPA seeking to build a corporate tax practice, your list should include CFOs, commercial lenders, and the like. Spend some whiteboard time naming anyone already connected to those you want to reach.

Two more notes on target identification: this is ultimately about naming individuals as opposed to listing institutions or groups. Selling professional services or enterprise level products, not to mention engaging leadership level support for a worthy cause, involves personal connections, trust and relationships.

While you might begin with generalizations, strategic target lists evolve as a pursuit matures — ultimately taking aim at individuals with whom you can build a relationship.

Core Concerns and Decision Drivers

This concept is straight forward: discover the issues or concerns that are top-of-mind for your targets, and use this understanding to shape your marketing.

Do this, and you dramatically increase the chance that your message will stand out in a marketplace where everyone tends to sound and look the same.

Communication that speaks to problems and challenges invites conversations that lead to new relationships, collaboration, increased engagement, and new clients.

A Solution For What Keeps Your Target Up At Night

Talking about Solutions to real problems or challenges is where this conversation often breaks down.

An intellectual property lawyer expressed it this way: “I’m an IP lawyer. My prospects either have an IP issue they need resolved, or they don’t. My practice doesn’t provide solutions to cash flow concerns.”

Putting aside the possibility that the value of intellectual property might, indeed, provide a solution to cash flow issues, you may be saying something similar. Accountants solve accounting issues. Management consultants address organizational challenges. And so on.

Consider the fund raising consultant for a well known nonprofit organization. Her approach to securing major gifts took a dramatic turn when she realized that name-on-the-building type gifts typically involve counsel from CPAs and estate planning lawyers, and factor concerns of the members of a donor’s family.

Recognizing that tax implications and concerns related to family inheritance dominated any conversation, she began identifying planning strategies that directly addressed these decision drivers. We’ll come back to her story in a moment, but at this juncture we note that as she offered solutions to these concerns, her calendar began to fill up with meetings with potential donors.

The concerns that impact the decision to hire you or support your cause come in all shapes and sizes. Listen long enough to understand the real problem or concern,provide a solution, and you are on your way to increased revenue.

Even in cases where the solution appears unrelated to your offering, presenting a solution can be a differentiating step — one that builds a bridge to a trusted relationship.

A Path To Visibility and Decision

This is about taking your solution directly to your target. Make real and strategic investments in target identification, understanding decisive drivers and core concerns, design a solution, and much of the angst around how to market and what it takes to actually get the business disappear.

Where should you spend time? Should you attend this conference or that networking event? Spend time where your targets spend time. (Or where you can gain insight as to their decisive drivers.)

Invest in finding ways to bring value to the challenges and concerns that are driving your targets to distraction, and you will discover that you’ve changed the business development equation.

Relationship mapping is a critical piece of this process. Where you do not have a direct connection with the target, identify the relationships that can get you there.

My fund raising consultant client mentioned above did not have a relationship with most of her potential donors. But her action plan included a relationship mapping process that led her to the trusted advisors already connected to her targets. These advisors became the focus of her marketing outreach, and the source of scores of introductions, referrals and game changing gifts to the organization she represented.

Tenacity Required

If time is not an issue, and resources are plentiful, the market-like-crazy-and-hope-the market-finds-you approach is much easier than strategic pursuits. But in the world we all live in, resources tend to be finite.

Successful pursuits are not for the impatient or faint of heart. They require rolled up sleeves, down-in-the-weeds research and planning, and a boots-on-the-ground plan for connecting with targets. It requires charting and staying a course.

Even so, the makeup of a strategic pursuit is simple: identify the targets you must reach in order to be successful; understand their problems and core concerns; build an answer — a solution — to the problems; and go-to-market following a relationship map and plan of action that connects you to your target.

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