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Think Strategically, Act Tactically

By: Robert Middleton

Robert Middleton, of Action Plan Marketing in Palo Alto, Calif., has helped hundreds of professional service businesses attract new clients and get paid what they're worth.

His website is a resource for marketing professional services. Visit it at Action Plan Marketing.

I've learned that most business owners think of marketing as tactics; things to do to gain visibility, generate response and close new business. The problem is, tactical thinking can be very short-sighted. You might be making great headway but you may have no idea where you're going.

Strategic thinking means working on the "macro marketing principles" that steer your tactical marketing activities. Strategic thinking is like developing a constitution or mission for your marketing that helps you make the right decisions about day-to-day marketing tactics.

What are some of the most important Strategies you can develop for your business? The 5 P Model is a great place to start. For each P you should develop a Core Strategy.

Positioning

I work with many, many consultants. The first thing we struggle with is differentiating their practice from all others. If they don't differentiate themselves they gain no "share of mind." They appear to be the same as everyone else and their message gets blurred together with all the other consultants. So what's a good positioning strategy for a consultant--or any other service business for that matter? Does this strategy need to be clever, leading-edge or highly innovative?

Not necessarily.

I've found the most effective overall Positioning Strategy is to find the thing you're the absolute best at and then communicate that message with consistency and conviction. If you are the very best at "improving collaboration amongst cross-functional teams," go with that one. If you are excellent at "increasing productivity with a diverse workforce," go with that or if you "help ambitious people get more control so they can achieve the goals that are most important to them," then use that as your core message.

Sounds simple but it can actually be quite hard because describing what you're good at is often like trying to describe the water you're swimming in. Look at your business from your clients' point of view and ask what solutions you're providing. Why do they call you in? What do they say about you? What problems do you really solve? Use those insights as the building blocks of articulating a Positioning Strategy that is uniquely yours.

Packaging

If you're in a knowledge business I think we'd assume that your clients hire you for the knowledge you have and the ability to apply that knowledge to their business problems. Wouldn't it make sense then to adopt the Packaging Strategy of consistently communicating this knowledge in every way possible? Yet I see many, many knowledge businesses that have no written marketing materials, no published articles (let alone reprints), no in-depth information on their web sites (if they even have a web site), and no prepared presentations or talks on their area of expertise.

I believe the Packaging Strategy for most knowledge businesses should be very similar: Share Your Knowledge. Let your clients, prospective clients and associates know what you know. They are not mind readers. How can you complain that you don't get the respect you deserve for knowing what you know when you keep it a deep, dark secret?

Promotion

Your Promotion Strategy should be a direct outgrowth of your Packaging Strategy. Written materials, articles and presentations will only get results if you attain a certain degree of Visibility in the marketplace. With a core Promotion Strategy of Ever-Expanding Visibility you have a literally endless number of options when it comes to tactics. Every tactic that gets you more visibility; from networking to publishing articles, from speaking to doing a newsletter will result in more credibility, familiarity and trust. This ultimately results in more response from qualified prospective clients.

Persuasion

We never really persuade anyone to do business with us. The best salespeople Listen themselves into new business. Listening to the problems, needs, desires and aspirations of prospective clients is the most powerful overall strategy for developing rapport, empathy and relationship. If you put all your efforts into mastering all the tactics of selling, from appointment-making to presentations and closing you may miss the whole point.

If a prospective client called you as a result of your Positioning, Packaging and Promotion Strategies then it's really yours to lose. They already believe you can help them. By getting out of the way and really Listening to what they need you'll find the selling process becomes effortless.

Performance

I tell all my clients that Performance is the most important of the 5 Ps. No performance, no referrals, no repeat business: you're out of business. But what is the key Performance Strategy? Communication, keeping your word, going the extra mile? All of these are essential but the most vital of all is making the client feel Important (all the time). When that one thing is clear, all your client service and performance tactics will fall right into line.

Now I didn't say that this one (or for matter all the key strategies outlined here) would be easy. After all, as self-centered human beings, we tend to think of ourselves first and everyone else second. But imagine yourself as a client working with a service provider who behaved as if you were the most Important Person in the world. Would you willingly give referrals? Can you imagine going anywhere else? Wouldn't you use their service over and over and over?

I urge you to work to firmly establish your Core Marketing Strategies using the 5 P Model. I promise, if you do, marketing will become a whole lot easier and a whole lot more fun.

© Copyright 2000, Robert Middleton

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The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.

 

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