Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Marketing Success in a Down Economy #8 - Feed Your Troops

Nothing sucks the motivation out of people as quickly as the absence of information -- in other words -- marketing to the people within your firm or company may be the best thing you can do to weather a down economy.

A recent study measured the effectiveness of having wide open communications with employees about the situation and health of the company they worked for. The results were astounding.
  • Employee retention - +44%
  • Customer loyalty - +56%
  • Safety - +50% better
  • Productivity - +50%
  • Profitability - +33%
Hmmm, are you saying Bruce that if I am frank, open and honest with my people about the ups and downs of my firm they will work harder for our success?

Yes. That is exactly what I am saying.

Unfortunately, in tough times when success seems shaky, leaders clam up and withhold information from the very people most equipped to lend a hand -- their employees.

When I was at Deloitte & Touche during the initial months of Sarbanes-Oxley activity we established a war-room dedicated to delivering information and resources to Deloitte professionals. We tracked every tidbit of anything SOX related and pushed it to everyone at the firm. We even tracked and reported on ROI for the firm and relayed daily updates to every producer, rainmaker and staff member. The result -- no person in the firm had any questions about where we were and what needed to happen next. Deloitte & Touche, and the clients of Deloitte & Touche weathered a significant change with few hiccups and significant stability.

Marketing to your own people has to be a first priority if you wish to survive in a down economy.

I encourage you to feed your troops. Do not let fear nor ego stand in the way of enabling the people most committed to your success.

(Return to Marketing Success in a Down Economy index)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Marketing Success in a Down Economy #7 - Peer Into Your Future

Successful marketing in any economy is part knowing what to do and part knowing were to seek advise.

At my last law firm I founded a leaders roundtable for my managing partner. Each member of his roundtable were handpicked leaders at other professional services firms in the region (banking, accounting, executive search, insurance, commercial real estate, investment banking, wealth management, etc.). The group met each month over breakfast to discuss the challenges of running a firm/company and offered advise and ideas to each other offer peer support. The cost? Breakfast and a small amount of time to coordinate. The benefit? Immeasurable!

In addition to sharing expertise a well bonded group will look out for each other and find ways for firms to feed together -- they seek synergies and partnerships. Sounds like a winner to me.

And peer groups are not just for leaders. A law firm rainmaker should form a peer group of other rainmakers. A law firm marketer should have a peer group of other professionals services marketers.

Especially in a tough economy I like being surrounded by my peers -- my business family. If you want help weathering any challenge consider my advise -- peer into your future.

(Return to Marketing Success in a Down Economy index)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Marketing Success in a Down Economy #6 - Snackification

In tough economic times we lose the ability to see much further than tomorrow.

Recently I successfully bid on project work for a law firm that needs a broad spectrum of marketing services. They had talked with several other marketing firms and even started down the road with one, but that firm put a proposal of services on the table that was so encompassing of everything they needed to do over the next many, many months that it was just too large to swallow (economically).

I "snackified" my proposal -- I broke up the work into short, prioritized, manageable, measurable projects and proposed clear starts and stops. So far no project will last longer than six weeks and each project will get them one, comfortable step closer to their larger goal.

Snackification (my word for this approach) has been around for a while. Look at mini-Oreo's, key-chain flashlights, cafe plan health care and the IPod Nano. If people cannot afford or relate to a larger choice, re-size intelligently and try again.

The same principle can apply at any professional services firm proposing work. Stop shooting for the whole shebang concentrate on selling steps toward a goal.

(Return to Marketing Success in a Down Economy index)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Marketing Success in a Down Economy #5 - Feed Your Clients Sunday Dinner

A tough economy creates fear and we all wonder what will happen next -- how will it effect me? This general fear causes us (you, me, your clients) to hunker down and get closer to anything familiar and reject everything that feels risky or uncomfortable. In short, we long to go home for a Sunday dinner -- a safe haven ritual filled with familiar people and feelings.

In this environment what are you saying in all things marketing? Your clients need you to feel familiar and safe to them. They need stability and assurance. So, are your marketing efforts promoting safety and stability or are you still shouting about growth, good times, and new, new ideas? There is certainly room for thinking about the future but sometimes we need the food that is comforting to us.

I would like for this tip to be more complicated but it's not. Are you feeding your clients comfort food and nurturing them? In a down economy it is time to adjust your marketing to what your clients are open to receive.

Time for a story.... Bob talks Harry into climbing a very tall and dangerous mountain. "Being the first to reach the summit," Bob exclaims, "will have us on the front page of the New York Times!" Harry would like to be famous and spent years getting ready for a challenge like this, so he agrees.

As they are ascending the mountain Harry loses his footing, falls over the edge of a deep crevasse and just manages to grab the cliff-edge. Now, dangling by his fingertips with jagged rock 1000 feet below Harry is no longer thinking about fame and fortune. He is thinking about surviving, right now.

Bob could rush over, look at Harry's predicament and continue to proclaim the hugeness of their fame if they reach the top, or Bob could rush over, grab Harry's hand and pull him to safety all the while saying, "Let's just get through this -- everything else comes second." Which message do you think Harry wants to hear?

Which message to you think your clients want to hear when they are feeling challenged by economic news outside their control?

(Return to Marketing Success in a Down Economy index)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Marketing Success in a Down Economy #4 - Make Your Brand Look In The Mirror

There is a small porch on Main Street in Disneyland (CA) with two chairs -- the perfect place to people-watch. I can sit there for hours and play people-watching games like "Match, Mismatch?", "Where Do They Come From?" and the most obvious game that we all play silently, "Did They Look in a Mirror This Morning!?" Come on... you know you do it too.

When is it that we become so used to what we see in the mirror that we no longer care what other people perceive? It's not that we should give up being ourselves to make everyone else happy, but holding the line at "normal" could be a huge step for some.

On the other hand, when it comes to your firm or company brand, it does matter more what other people think. Remember that "brand" is the complete package that is your firm or company (communications, PR, graphic treatments, client service practices, people, clients, the color of the walls in your reception area, etc.).

(Return to Marketing Success in a Down Economy index)

If you are looking for something to help your marketing efforts in a down economy take a long, hard look at your brand.

If your brand package has been in place for a while it has probably splintered and morphed over time -- maybe even to the point that your audience no longer knows whom you are. Maybe your brand is simply outdated and old (website is circa 2001 and clients have not been surveyed in 4 or more years). Maybe your target audience has changed rapidly and you haven't kept up.

Maybe your brand needs to be blogging or your invoicing practices need rejuvenation. Is it time to push your rainmakers through training on what and what not to sell? What do people think of your firm anyway?

One of my favorite marketing exercises is to create a persona for the brand of any firm I am working with (I wrote about it here). In short, I give him/her a name, dress him/her, teach him/her how to talk, walk, and function in the presence of my targeted audience. Then, every day we get up together, look in mirror, and go out and greet new challenges.

If your brand walked by me (or you) while we sat in those chairs on Main Street would we think, "Did they look in a mirror this morning?"

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Marketing Success in a Down Economy #3 - Start Dating Your Clients All Over Again

Developing new clients and sustaining those relationships is so much like dating. If you can remember when you first met your current spouse or significant other you might recall how much time you spent thinking about that person, all of the special things you did to impress him/her and how strongly you desired to be needed by him/her.

If you have been in that relationship for a while you know that (for most of us) over time our emotions calm down and the relationship becomes routine. We become less focused and maybe even take for granted that everything is moving along just fine. We stop our efforts to demonstrate caring, we become deaf to hints of need and put our relationship on auto-pilot.

Does this sound like a recipe for impending, emotional disaster? Yup, it does. All of this holds true in our client relationships as well.

Remember that logic is how we justify business decisions -- emotion is how we make them.

When the economy gets tight your clients need you more than ever, and you need them more than ever. You need to start dating them all over again!

When was the last time you took a client to lunch just to talk about anything but current matters? When was the last time you sat with your client team and brainstormed about the challenges of your client's business and developed ways to help them succeed?

In recent years Date Night has become a very popular activity with couples. It is an established evening each week when the pair are devoted to having fun together with each other without distraction.

Remember, your clients made an emotional choice to select you to be their service provider. Honor that emotion and start treating them as if you desire them as a client all over again.

There was a commercial running on TV several years ago for a company I do not recall. In the commercial the CEO walks into an all-hands meeting with several airline tickets in his hand. It is obvious in the commercial that tough times are at hand and he is telling his team that, "We've lost touch with our clients". Then he walks around the room handing out the airline tickets stating, "We are going to visit every one of our clients and let them know we really care."

In a down economy do not ever forget the clients that brought you at least this far. In fact you should work your butt off to let them know you still care about everything you promised when you first started dating.

(Return to Marketing Success in a Down Economy index)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Marketing Success in a Down Economy #2 - Don’t Spend Less, Spend Different

When the economy is up or neutral we point at our astute marketing programs as the reason for our success. Then, when the economy turns downward a bit we state we have no control our marketing programs are no longer justified. What!?

I would agree that not every marketing program or initiative is as effective in tighter economic times. But, if marketing has been part of your success till now then marketing has to be a priority spend when you're feeling crunched. Don't spend less, spend different.

I was with a large accounting firm during the last down economy. We were spending around $12,000 a month to have a diorama advertisement (the advertisements on the wall along concourse walkways) at a local airport. When the economy got a bit tough I suspended the diorama branding program and used the money to support a client teaming initiative and boost our targeted community programs.

In another instance I suspended any dollars spent on supporting our trade show booth at industry conferences. Instead we purchased banner stands that were strategically placed at the very same events and I increased the number of firm professionals in attendance to mingle and network with the audience

Adapting your marketing programs to changing times is essential, but spending less is an invitation to failure. If marketing got you here, then marketing will get you through. Don't spend less, spend different.

(Return to Marketing Success in a Down Economy index)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Marketing Success in a Down Economy #1 - Don’t Follow The Herd

Fitting in with others is part of our DNA. What clothing we wear, the homes we live in, things we do and just about everything else about ourselves are influenced by our family, friends, associates, and everyone else in the small part of the world we live in -- we are a herding species.

This influence also effects choices we make in business and in marketing our businesses. It is the origin of the infamous marketing statement, "If they are doing that then maybe we should be doing it to."

In the 1898 there were 40,000 people in Klondike, Alaska attempting to scratch wealth from a few miles of creek water. 40,000! Too bad that all of the richest sites had been claimed four years earlier. Yet so much of our herd flocked into the northern wilderness to crouch elbow to elbow all the time believing, "We're all doing the same thing but I can do it better!" Instead of striking out across the vast expanse of Alaska in search of different creeks holding new wealth, everyone piled into one small area.

Is that what you are doing with your marketing?

In a down economy (or any economy for that matter) don't follow the herd! In a down economy it is so important that now more than ever you stand out from the crowd. All of the next several tips I offer in subsequent posts are all about standing out.

Remember this, See the herd -- avoid the herd.

(Return to Marketing Success in a Down Economy index)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Driving Success in a Down Economy - Marketing Strategies for Business Professionals

This morning I gave a talk for the Harvard Business School Association . The topic was, "Driving Success in a Down Economy - Marketing Strategies for Business Professionals". Over the next several days I will be writing about the tactics I presented. As a lead-in here is the outline of what I discussed (as I post the articles I will link them back to this outline):
  1. Don’t Follow The Herd
  2. Don’t Spend Less, Spend Different
  3. Start Dating Your Clients All Over Again
  4. Make Your Brand Look In The Mirror
  5. Feed Your Clients Sunday Dinner
  6. Snackification
  7. Peer Into Your Future
  8. Feed Your Troops
  9. Put Relaxation In Your Daily Plan
  10. Shrink Your Menu and Promote Your Signature Dish
Some of the outline might already appear self-explanatory to you while other parts will have you scratching your head. As a teaser take a look at this post from 2006 -- it plays a part in the first bullet-point.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Do You Need a Law Firm Marketing Committee

A marketer from a law firm back East emailed me a question about forming a marketing committee at his firm. I emailed a response and am following up with this post.

First I would point to this article by Tom Kane and then to this follow up that links back to comments I made.

It can never be said that people wanting to form a committee lack in earnest concern for the purpose of the committee. BUT, before you go down this road spend some time discovering why people feel a need to form a committee. Some perceived need is not getting addressed and forming a committee is a polite way of stating, "I want more from something I feel I cannot control."

I do believe that any process that lengthens the distance between "I think - I know - I do" is a process that needs careful evaluation.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A Better Way to Get Your Professional Story Online

You might notice that I have added two link buttons to the right column of this blog. One links to my profile on a popular service we are all familiar with, Linkedin. The other you might not know about yet, VisualCV (or maybe I am just that far behind the eight-ball).

I heard about it a few days ago in passing conversation, made a mental note and then visited the site a few hours later. As you can tell if you click through on the link I have already put up quite a bit of information.

The service is in Beta and it's free (enter venture capitalist asking, "How are you going to monetize this?").

Here is my take on what they offer:

VisualCV is a place to park your professional whom-you-are statement. While the tool is initially designed as a complete multimedia platform for putting your capabilities in front of employers, I think it can be so much more. Take my situation for instance -- as a consultant to law and accounting firms I want viewers to not only see my professional qualifications to do what I do, I'd also like readers to find out more about the broad range of marketing stuff I can accomplish outside of regular employment.

VisualCV feels like a solid, credible step I can take to increase my SEO, offers a robust multimedia platform, and I don't have to create my own website or solution. No matter where I socialize on the Internet I can point at one place that is all about me -- a bookmark to my story.

I encourage you to check it out. This one feels like it has legs.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Secret to Your Success

I am recommending "The Secret", a video that could empower you to a completely new level of control over creating your own success. The movie was a gift from my good friend and brilliant marketer Kathy McConnell. Watch, listen, and be inspired.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Bruce Allen Speaking at Harvard Business School Association of Orange County Breakfast

I am scheduled to talk at the Management Networking Breakfast of the Harvard Business School Association of Orange County (HBSAOC) on April 16 at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach, CA. My topic is (quoted from announcement):

"Driving Success in a Down Economy ~ Marketing Strategies for Business Professionals: If you have been waiting for a golden moment to pounce and grow your business or practice – this is it! In the Southern California circle of hyper-successful professionals and executives almost all got their big break in an economic down-cycle. Now it's your turn! Acclaimed marketer Bruce Allen will be discussing the marketing strategies and tactics that will get you noticed and keep you ahead of your competition – things you can do right now to make a difference and planning for what's next." (here is the link to the announcement)

I would selfishly recommend that you book your tickets now, get to SoCal for a little sunshine on the 16th, and hopefully a bit of entertaining education for breakfast. Surf's up!!

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