PLEASE NOTE — Fair warning — this is an opinion post. The intent, as always, is to offer fodder for productive conversation; it is, however, less about business development, marketing and communication, and much more about what we value. As always, I am indebted to you for your time and interest. — EF

It is one thing to subscribe to a position because of a belief in alignment with deeply held values. Or to adopt a platform based on affinity for a cause. Or even to advocate based on an assumption that historical roots run deeper than individual predilections.

Continue Reading What Do We Value Most?

In a noisy, competitive and topsy-turvy marketplace, what is the key to capturing the imagination of your most coveted prospects?

We know it isn’t the case, but particularly in professional services, it is easy to market as though we believe it is our credentials…Or brand…Or budget…Or eloquence that will differentiate us from every other advisor hoping to land the gig.

Meanwhile, the market repeatedly suggests that we get over ourselves, revealing what drives the decision to engage one professional over another. Follow the advice in this video short from the BizDev Notebook, and grab the attention of the market you pursue.

(And if you’re searching for a way to gain traction in a market none of us saw coming, request info on the all new BizDev Notebook — eric@ericfletcherconsulting.com.)

In the summer of 1969, with less technology than what exists in the device you’ll use to share today’s social media tidbits, human beings flew to the moon.

We’re so desensitized to the fact of the matter, that the impossibility of the idea in the 1960’s, not to mention the price that would be paid, is lost on us.

This post is about today — not history — but imagine it for a minute.  They flew to the moon!

Continue Reading We Can Do Impossible Things

The life expectancy of “no-one-saw-this-coming” as an explanation for stalled business development is going to run out soon. Or at least, wear thin.

So for everyone who still has a practice to grow, here is a 4-step plan for the last 4 months of a year none of us saw coming. Buckle up…we’ll make it a speed round (because time is wasting).

Continue Reading A 4-Step BizDev Plan For The Last 4 Months of This Year

This post was originally published by CMO-Whisperer.com.

I admit it — I’m teetering on the edge of stir crazy. Some days it doesn’t take much to push me over the edge. But— and I’m about to insult some very good seventh grade writers — an avalanche of middle-school-level headlines attempting to capture my attention have set me on edge.

Continue Reading Glazed Over Eyes Don’t Count As Impressions

This post was originally written for and published by CMO-Whisperer.com.

Even if you aren’t familiar with the setup, you know this is a joke. Marketing and sales can barely stand to be in the same conference room on some days. No way they’re going to drop into a happy hour together. Even if it’s virtually, via Zoom.

Here’s the punchline: While marketing and sales squabble over resources, debate who should be held responsible and who should get credit, the leverage and growth to be gained in alignment is lost.

And that’s no joke. 

Continue Reading A Marketer and a Salesperson Walk Into a Bar…

More than two decades ago Fred Reichheld, among others, began working on a conversation and a system that helped organizations — particularly professional service firms — rethink the issue of client relationships.

In his book, The Ultimate Question (now available in an updated version), the discussion zeroes in on what the author defines as the ultimate measure of loyalty — whether a client would recommend you / your work / your firm to a friend.

The discussion of how to quantify loyalty precipitated important conversations.

Satisfaction, while critical, should not be mistaken for enduring relationship. Appreciation and allegiance do not necessarily equate to advocacy or evangelism.

The Covid-19 Factor

Even while Covid reframes many business development related conversations, Reichheld’s work remains a must-read for anyone serious about gauging the client experience.

As virtually every service enterprise rethinks what can be done to maintain or deepen, never mind create new relationships, there is another question.

The ultimate business development question is rooted in a different value system – the economics of listening – or, as Bob Garfield termed it, Listenomics.

But a word of warning: while it has enormous potential, the question has consequences.

The Question

Specific articulation will vary depending on the situation; but here is the essence.

What do you wish a firm / a company (like ours) would do that we’re not currently doing? What should we be focusing on? If you could design it, what would our working relationship look like — today, and a year from now?

It is a simple question; but the response can be disruptive. Eliminating the nonsensical – “cut your rates by 70%” or “give away your product, portfolio or expertise” – and suggestions will likely center on the need to innovate…to meet the realities of a market hit hard by a global pandemic.

There are plenty of reasons to resist: my plate is overflowing with my own set of challenges…clients don’t always know what best serves them…expectations of today’s market are unrealistic…and what about unforeseen risks.

On the upside, there are little things like differentiation and loyalty. And trusted advisor status.

If you are wrestling with how to engage your targets or clients in the midst of today’s disruptions, ask the question. But be prepared. Asking implies an interest in the ensuing conversation.

Most of us, I’m guessing, have recently had days where we didn’t really know where to begin — much less, how to realize the highest level of productivity.

This past weekend, while enjoying Ann Handley’s new book, Everybody Writes, I was reminded of the daily schedule of one of America’s most productive and innovative historic figures.

(A quick side note — you should add Ann’s book to your list of must-reads. It is one of the best, most practical guides to effective writing for business that I have ever read. It is, as you’d suspect, well written.)

But back to our point. Somewhere along the line — probably in some management class I attended — Benjamin Franklin’s template for daily productivity was cited as the quintessential example of the kind of organization that facilitates productivity and progress.

Franklin’s blueprint, however, failed to turn me into a productive genius; but it quickly became clear that the model wasn’t the problem. I tried at least a dozen “systems” — all the popular brands…all the super-organized notebooks, notecards and tools, all the new apps. None resolved my allergy to organizing. None made me as productive as I wanted to be.

Missing The Point

It took a while. But eventually I came to understand that at least part of the problem was that my definition of productivity was, to be clinical, screwed up.

My focus was on making a list, and checking things off — calls, meetings, administrative duties, project milestones.

Shortening the list meant progress.

In the process (tell me if this sounds familiar), on many days it felt as though I accomplished little of real consequence. Frustration doubled on days dominated by the need to react to the unexpected, meaning the to-do list got longer.

The Missing Ingredient

Turns out I was pretty much ignoring two things that make Franklin’s an approach that is genius — one that transcends even the best daily planner action list.

The first is its simplicity. 

With a day broken into just six blocks, there is structure, yet the schedule remains flexible enough to accommodate leisure, distraction, a real lunch break and the unpredictable.

This simplicity is big; but the second ingredient is the real game-changer.

A Guiding Principle

Embedded in Franklin’s personal template for each day are bookend questions:

    • Morning question — “what good shall I do today?”
    • Evening Question, as if to hold himself accountable — what good have I done today?”

These questions are the missing link — a guiding principle for each day.

Direction For These Days

As what we had come to think of as normal days continue to be disrupted…as we wrestle with unease or even a measure of fear…as we question how we should respond and what we should do today, maybe there is value in bookending our days with these questions.

Coming days are almost certain to present new challenges. Maybe We can zero in on direction if we’ll begin by asking, what good shall I do today?.

If the only reason you want to connect with me is because you have a sales pitch to unleash, I hope you’re selling a commodity.

Most of us make scores of commodity type purchasing decisions regularly — from toothpaste and soap to phones and computers — and we become experts at filtering the pitches.

When in need of a commodity, we either tune in or memory calls up relevant marketing messages; we may factor some combination of personal experience, brand equity and pricing data, and make the purchasing decision.

When timing isn’t right or the need not acute, most of us become relatively adept at postponing or tuning out the steady flow of requests, inquiries or pitches.

Playing A Numbers Game?

Those selling soap or phones understand the way their market behaves, and counter with frequency and creative branding, sprinkled with efforts to heighten felt need. Some combination of market size, frequent visibility, time and message determine the degree of their effectiveness. 

You may want to call it by some other name; but if you’re indiscriminately collecting names this week for use in next week’s mass-produced pitch, you’ve chosen to compete in a crowded and noisy marketplace.

On The Other Hand

If you seek to connect with me because you have an understanding of the challenges or opportunities I face, and you believe you can help, you have the makings of a different marketing and sales approach — one that, when executed properly, will immediately differentiate you.

For decades our prospective clients have been telling us — they hire service providers they believe they can trust. As our last post suggested, this is ultimately about believing that, at every turn, you have your client’s best interest at heart.

This is the essence of trusted advisor status.

A Bridge To Trust

A bridge isn’t built overnight, or in one or two conversations. But invest in developing a relationship based on the belief that you only act in the best interest of your prospect or client, and you’ve moved into rare air.

The blueprint? Be about the client; not about you.

This is, admittedly, easier said than done. But figure out a way for your marketing and sales efforts to deliver value — even today, in the midst of Covid-19 — and you change the face of your efforts.

Delivering legitimate value — something your prospect / market defines as helpful versus a one-size-fits-all mass-produced mailing that might as well be a copy of something the competition is distributing — requires learning what the prospective client will find valuable.

Translation: like the market has been telling us — invest in understanding the business of your target.

Building Blocks For Today’s Reality

Practically speaking, there are four things to apply to your Covid-19 marketing and sales efforts.

1. Do some Smart Targeting. Identify five specific targets to connect with this week — one per day. (If your schedule allows, make this two or three or five a day. The point is to be strategic. You can’t do this today with your list of 1000.)

2. Identify Business Drivers. Spend thirty-to-sixty minutes each morning researching your target of the day. (Again, spend more time here if your schedule permits.) Search newsletters, blogs, industry sites and content produced by your target and relevant competitors for common themes that provide insights into challenges or opportunities. Keep an eye out for consequential change.

3. Get Personal. Develop communication designed specifically for your target-of-the-day, and do two things:

    • Spotlight what you suspect to be a current need or issue based on what you’ve learned about your target’s business; and,
    • tee-up a complimentary follow up conversation for the express purpose of exploring the above. (or any other issue that is causing them sleepless nights). Making this conversation complimentary underscores your desire to provide value in an uncertain moment.

4. Follow Up. Of course, your communication should provide contact information. In addition (and especially in the case of existing clients), the “tee-up” noted above should include a follow up call from you two or three days hence.  When you make this call, remember the purpose: to see if you can find a way to contribute value. And if at first you don’t connect, try again.

The Consequence of Trust

It won’t happen overnight. But go to your market intent on building trust (versus selling a phone today) and you will have reinvented your business development efforts.

It is a frequently invoked label; but you know you’ve attained trusted advisor status when you are invited into the most strategic conversations.

Those who have cultivated trust are in meetings today — albeit a Zoom meeting in most cases — collaborating on solutions, and shaping what the market will look like when businesses begin to emerge from Covid-19.

A side bar: if you are among the group believing that understanding the law or compliance issues related to your market is the same as — to borrow the consultant-speak — understanding what keeps your prospect / client up at night, you may earn a measure of your target’s trust; but you are almost certainly leaving the most rewarding strategic opportunities for your competitors.

Finally, in acknowledgement of the fact that talking about it is not the same as actually doing the work, and in the spirit of wanting to provide value where possible, I have blocked Thursday afternoon for the next four weeks in order to offer a complimentary 30-minute conversation with anyone wanting to discuss marketing, business development and sales. No sales pitches. Just an effort to contribute where we can. Use the contact info here, or shoot me a note at eric@ericfletcherconsulting.com.