[Guest Blog] Marketing – method or madness!

Heather Hobden from BHH ProgressAs business advisors, we spend our working lives where sometimes angels fear to tread – working with company owners on how to leverage greater profitability (and pleasure) from their businesses.

It’s both a privilege and a potential minefield, but we are what we are, so we take our own advice.

There are plenty of business advisors, consultants, coaches or whoever out there, ready and able to work at the turnaround end of the market. We don’t. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that work – we’ve done our fair share and earned our spurs on the battlefield. But what we do is focused at SME owners and leaders who are already doing well and are at the point where they can see that there is more they could achieve, recognising that it’s time for support. In other words, we have a clear target market.

So, in Koogar’s valuable space, why am I talking about business advice?  Simply, because what Koogar do is immensely valuable in the right time and the right place. I’m an enthusiastic (and occasionally quite good) clay pigeon shooter.  So my shotgun is useful – in the right place.  Not so popular in the supermarket!  In other words, the right tools in the right time and place.

And it’s the same with marketing – it’s an essential, valuable and flexible tool when used well and for clearly identified ends. And that’s where a lot of companies go off track. It’s too easy to call for marketing activity because sales are down.  But why are they down?  When did it start?  Are we sure of the causes?  Did our target market change?  Is our database dead on its feet?

Our strapline is Analyse, Act, Advance, and it applies to every area of a business.  So let’s take a look at how this applies to a company’s thinking on marketing…

Sales are down, or we want to increase sales for growth.

So, some key questions;

  1. Do we have clarity as to our target client base? Have we identified the client characteristics we do want, as well as the ones we don’t? (No point in working our socks off to service lots of clients who make us 10p each in profit, as opposed to a more select number who each give us £1,000 in profit.)
  2. Is our planned target base the same as the present client one, or is there a planned shift?
  3. Have we worked the numbers – how many extra clients can we deal with before we need additional staff and materials?
  4. Are we able to provide our marketing expert with lots of data and information on our target clients? This increases their ability to make a real difference. Of course, they’ll help with this, but they’ll be reassured and greatly helped by you knowing your own detail.

Once we can, robustly, answer yes to all of these, we’re ready to talk to the marketing experts. If not, we’re going to be shooting at the moon…..

It’s not me, it’s you…

You might be wondering what a Lily Allen album has to do with helping you increase your sales.

Well, the album hasn’t but the title has – let me explain.

When we meet a new client for the first time, we’re always more nervous than they are – Will they like me? Will they want what I’m selling?

It’s natural to feel nervous. But the down-side is that it makes us do things we shouldn’t.

For one, it makes us talk too much. Why is that?

There are many reasons, but we’ll look at two here –

  1. Fear of silence
  2. Desire to tell the client everything we can about us

Let’s look at silence first – we don’t like it, especially when we’re nervous. 10 seconds of silence can feel like an eternity. So we feel we have to fill the silence by talking. Here’s the thing – we don’t have to be the only one talking. In fact, we really don’t want to be the one talking at all.

We’re there to find out more about the client and their business so we can decide the best way to help them – and we can only do that by asking questions, and shutting up!

How many times have we found ourselves asking a question and then answering it before the client has chance to speak? Or even worse, talking over the client as they’re trying to answer? A simple rule to remember – if a question is worth asking, the answer is worth listening to.

And don’t be afraid to find out more. If the client gives us an answer, don’t be afraid to dig a little deeper – Why is that important? How did you come to that decision?

We’re not digging for the sake of it; we’re giving ourselves the broadest picture of the client’s situation in order to be able to help them in the best possible way. And it gets our client talking – and the more they’re talking the less we are!

So, why do we always fall into telling the client everything about us? Because we see it as safe ground – we know all about us so we feel most comfortable talking about it. But unfortunately, while we’re talking about us we’re not finding out about them. If we’re lucky enough to secure a 30-minute meeting , we should spend the first 20 minutes finding out about the client, then spend the last 10-minutes talking about us –  and there’s a trick to doing that, too!

So, what does Lily Allen have to do with this? Think about it – when we meet a client for the first time, it’s not about us; it’s all about the client. It’s not me, it’s you…

I’m sure that grabbed your attention and made you think about your next meeting with a client. 
 Please feel free to comment on the blog or if you have any matters that you wish to speak to Damian about.