Small Business

When it Comes to Marketing, Strategy Trumps All Else

When it comes time to start paying attention to marketing your firm, make sure you get things done in the right order. Although there may be many tactics that could make sense for your business, what you really need to do first is build a solid strategy. Without a strong strategy, or purpose, how do you know that what you’re doing is in line with where you want to go?

Strategy isn’t just a buzz word or catch-all term. It’s an over-arching theme and process that defines your approach to what types of clients you want, which industries you wish to focus on, what new services or products you will bring to market and, in essence, how you’re going to grow.

Without a well-defined strategy, it’s too easy for businesses to get caught up in the “me too” line of thought or chasing the trendy marketing tactics. Not all tactics will be effective for every firm, nor will what your competitor is doing. Build a strong, forward-thinking strategy and the tactics will almost take care of themselves.

In order to build a strong, effective growth strategy, you need to have answers to some critical questions:

  • What are your growth goals?
    • Put some thought into where growth is going to come from.
  • Who is your target market?
    • Some clarity in industry, revenue figures, geography is a good place to start. Additionally, find out how, when and where they want/like to be engaged.
  • What problem are you trying to solve for your target market?
    • Don’t just try to “sell” your services, think about the challenges and obstacles your prospects have and how you can solve them.
  • What do your clients and customers value most about your services?
    • Think about the value you bring, not just the fees you charge.
  • How are you different from your competitors?
    • Think about how you stand out. Is it experience, client base, or something else?
  • What do you want people to think of when your company comes to mind?
    • What is your reputation in the marketplace? What do you want your reputation to be? This is the basis for your brand.

If you aren’t prepared to answer these basic questions or don’t know how to answer them, you aren’t ready to develop your strategy or build out a strategic growth plan yet.

For strategic marketing and business development to be effective, you must create a clear and consistent brand message that clearly articulates what makes your firm different and why a prospect should engage your firm. Start with the goals you want to achieve, then develop your value proposition, positioning statement and messaging strategy. Once you’re done with those, you’re ready to create your brand story and, eventually, your strategic marketing plan.

Not surprisingly, many professional service firms don’t always have specific and well-defined goals. This tends to lead them to implement tactics and activities that may not be effective in growing the firm. However, even if you do have specific goals and business objectives, it is difficult to reach them without a well-defined strategy. A lot goes into building a growth strategy, it takes research, creativity and strategic thinking to develop an effective strategy. But once you do, your likelihood of success is that much greater.

Yes, building an effective strategy is not easy, it takes time and effort. However, not taking time to do it right will undoubtedly lead to wasting more time and money pursuing the wrong prospects and implementing the wrong tactics. Taking the time to build a solid marketing strategy and tactical activity plan from the outset will ensure your time and money is being spent most efficiently and effectively.

Without a well thought out strategic growth plan, you are left with nothing but a collection of marketing tactics and activities that may, or may not, be the right set of activities needed to reach your goals. Having a plan helps guide your decision-making efforts and makes it easier to decide where to spend your time and money. Without a plan, you just have a calendar of activities that could lead you down the wrong path.

Tim Allen is an experienced professional services marketing professional with broad experience in strategy creation, branding and business development. Mr. Allen has held top marketing positions in both large, national CPA firms as well as smaller, regional firms where he has been instrumental in creating and implementing a firm-wide marketing culture. He has written and presented extensively on the intricacies of services marketing and is currently writing his first book on the transition from college to career and creating your personal brand for the millennial generation.

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