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Monday, November 23, 2009

This is one of my favourite sayings from Bill Good (read his book "Hot Prospects").

Even though the book's been updated (it includes a chapter on Google) Bill's an old school trainer on prospecting systems. I first read one of his books when I ran a sales team back in the early 90's and his pragmatic style and no-nonsense approach influenced me greatly.

"Prospects are located not created" is a fundamental fact of prospect marketing.

And when you think about it, prospect marketing is basically the opposite to search marketing. It's the Yang to Google's Ying, if you will.

Search has undoubtedly changed the face of business-to-business marketing. Compared with just 10 years ago; it's now easier for prospects to find you.

Or should I say, it's now easier for prospects to find enough vendors to give them what they want.

Because there's the rub.

Searching Google (and let's face it, in the UK that's 90% of searches) will give you some alternatives, but it'll not show you everything.

If you're not in the handful of suppliers a prospect looks at (either through organic or paid search) then you're not in the game. And, of course, the term search implies that prospects know what they're looking for.

Many times, when we open doors for clients, the prospect is aware of a need but hasn't yet decided how they were going to fulfil that need.

They were looking for ideas.

Are they busy searching Google to find get new ideas? Sometimes.

But they're also going to conferences, chatting with their peers and meeting new and interesting suppliers.

When someone actively seeks them out and engages them in a conversation about these issues it's a welcomed call. And typically leads to new business with little competition (compared with a prospect that found you on google along with the other usual suspects).

Another reason I like the "located not created" phrase is that is implies a search, which is what prospect marketing is.

Our campaigns always start with sourcing data and names and then scoring and segmenting the data-set; we're searching before we pick up the phone or send an email.

And when we speak with a prospect we're asking questions to qualify their interest.

Sometimes we strike gold and the timing is perfect. More often, we identify a future need which requires nurturing.

Either way, our focus is not about creating a need; it's about finding a qualified opportunity.

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Posted by: David Regler @ 2:32 pm |  0 comments  | Links to this post  

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Monday, November 16, 2009

I recently attended Social Media 09 in London, which was a face-paced tour of social media comment, case studies and demos.

As usual at these excellent mashup event, there are always some nuggets of information which change your perceptions.

For me, a couple of speakers nailed it.

Mat Morison talked about how "social norms", rather than "business norms" are applicable within social media and Andrew Grill made the point that it's the same rules which apply to any social gathering, such as a networking event.

Now these may seem obvious, but if you look at how many people behave within social media you can see how the point isn't always grasped.

It's a bit like seeing someone at a networking event who's rushing from group to group, working the room and gathering business cards rather than engaging in meaningful conversations.

In a networking environment you'd just call them a jerk; on a linkedin group you'd call them a spammer.

Many of the speakers used a simple 3-step approach for brands using social media. I think that it's equally applicable for business development.

Firstly you listen. Next you respond. Finally you engage.

It reminds me of much of the advice about "networking" in the 90's so it makes perfect sense in the context of social media, such as a Linkedin group that you've just joined.

Listen to what's happening and wait for an opportunity to respond.

Finally, once you understand the tone of the group you can initiate a discussion.

I kind of think that if more people took this approach then every LinkedIn group wouldn't have those "featured discussions" laying down the rules.

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Posted by: David Regler @ 12:40 pm |  0 comments  | Links to this post  

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

I was speaking with a client recently and we were discussing how the business climate seems to be improving.

Budgets are starting to thaw and prospects will at least speak with you... but we both agreed that things are unlikely to go back to "the way it was" anytime soon.

New business in the current climate is best characterised as follows:

1) "Jumping through hoops" - decisions take longer and lower-level investments are attracting higher-level scrutiny.

2) "Show me the money" - ROI is paramount and you need to clearly demonstrate the value you will deliver.

3) "More for less" - clients are re-configuring or watering-down large engagements to mitigate exposure and demand more for their budgets.

Now, whilst none of this may be startling news to any of us running business services firms over the last 12 months, it does throw up an interesting question:

Is this just a passing phase and an example of tactical, survival-based decisions by vendors and clients... or is this "business as usual" for the next few years?

I guess that depends on whether you subscribe to a V-shape recovery or whether you think it's going to be a long slow climb up. If you're in the latter camp, you might see this as an opportunity to re-shape your business to a more sustainable model.

What do I mean by sustainable?

Well, for example, I know of a major consulting firm who, in the last six months, have been over resourcing projects at no cost to the client just to avoid pulling people back to the bench.

This may be a sound short-term tactic to avoid losing talent but it's clearly not sustainable? If business does indeed rapidly bounce back then it could be the right choice since it enables the firm to quickly fulfil demand once the floodgates open.

Otherwise, it's just delaying the inevitable and handing an advantage to leaner competitors who can offer a more sustainable alternative.

Whatever you believe, there's some merit in looking at your current model and thinking in terms of sustainability.

As an example, at Maine Associates, we've always had a shared-risk engagement model, with some fixed fees and some upside. Sustainability for us means delivering new business revenue for clients within a timescale that allows them to continue their investment with us.

In the current climate that's been tough.

The approach we have taken is to re-configure engagements so that they deliver more "quick wins" and shift more of our fee earnings to a % share new business won. This enables clients to both commit to working with us over a longer period (which is necessary to develop a new business pipeline) and generate short-term revenue from our activities.

Crucially, as a model, this is sustainable for both parties.

It's not a short-term deal that we'll whip away when business picks up. If we do get a V-shape recovery and business bounces back then we'll share in our clients' success.

But if it's a long slow recovery, then our model enables both parties to maintain a relationship that's sustainable.


Posted by: David Regler @ 12:41 pm |  0 comments  | Links to this post  

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