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Managing Tactics or Growing a Business?

I sat across the desk from the owner of marketing company a few months ago. He was mining for information to help kick-start his agency's new business effort. He was clearly frustrated and repeatedly lashed out at his four new business people several times during the conversation. Yes, that's right, four, independent, new business people.

"I have no idea what they're doing," he lamented. "We can do it all. How they come back from any meeting without an assignment is almost criminal." And then my favorite nugget, "The problem with finding great salespeople is that they already own businesses. Just like me. My next step is to hire six more (bringing the number to 10) and fire the bottom eight after 90 days."

As he took a breath I sneaked in a question, asking him of all the company's capabilities, what he thought was their primary strength. A few minutes later, as the dust was settling on his, "The Buck Stops Here" paperweight, there was a pile of a half-dozen capabilities smoldering on his desk.

So I asked a different question; "What is the one thing that all clients want?"

"Grow their business," he answered firmly.

"And how do you do that?"

"Well lots of ways," he started but I interrupted him quietly and asked, "What is the one way, above all other ways, that you've helped a client grow its business - your best case study." From there the story became convoluted, jumping from client to client, tactic to tactic before abruptly ending before any conclusion made itself known.

And that is the problem I find at a lot of mid-sized marketing agencies and service companies in general. They provide tactical solutions to whatever problems their clients' have and seem happy to do it. Then they try to use the work as case studies to win similar tactical business from larger clients.

If they succeed in getting business from a larger client, they convince themselves they will build the assignment into a much bigger relationship. But it rarely happens. As good as their work might be, they have only delivered what many other agencies can deliver and as soon as they increase their price and/or can't deliver on an impossible deadline, the client will move on to the next agency in line at the door. The opportunity to develop the relationship is gone, if it ever existed. The agency takes the money, puts the client logo on the agency website and hopes another large client will see it and be impressed-enough to give them a shot.

That's a pretty old school business model which I totally get because I employed it at my own agency in the 90's.

Today, however, there are much better opportunities out there for mid-sized agencies to make a significant impact because clients of all sizes have come to accept that great solutions can come from anywhere.

What's needed is a legitimate strategic solution, start to finish, to the universal issue all clients face - the need to grow their businesses profitably. This kind of strategic solution will provide a far more compelling reason to be hired. You may not jump immediately to the Fortune 500, but you will win strategic assignments from progressively larger companies because you will have a discernible competitive advantage.

So if every client wants you to help grow their business, increasing sales and/or profitability, how will you show that you can do both especially when you don't have control over their mega-million dollar advertising budget?

You demonstrate your ability to quickly and cost-effectively add solid prospects beyond what traditional advertising is delivering and how you can accelerate their movement through the sales funnel. You show how you help these prospects qualify themselves in greater numbers and raise their hands as soon as they are ready to buy so the client's sales team can, very easily, convert the highest percentage of them. But you go further.

To keep them thinking about the importance of our current customers, tell them to think hourglass - at least in shape - instead of sales funnel and remember that the bottom half is considerably more valuable than the top.

Explain that cultivating the people who purchase will dramatically increase the rate of repeat purchases. You can show specific programs proven to build loyal customers and brand evangelists, maximizing their lifetime value to the brand.

In doing all this, you clear the mystery for your new clients and give them a partner they can count on to lead them across a marketing landscape that gets more volatile by the day.

That is the kind of power that transforms a company and the partner who provides it.

The key word through all this, is "value." You deliver straight-forward and valuable information to prospects at every stage of the journey, from casual awareness all the way through to brand evangelism. They use the insight you deliver to confidently make the right purchase decisions, for them.

Remember, you are detailing key points for them to consider and explaining why your products are designed the way they are. You are not selling here! Your goal, at this point, is to enrich their experience, deepen the relationship, and help it become personal.

As the process continues with you making additional offers of value, prospects will begin to qualify themselves. This is when your client's salespeople kick in and make their introduction.

When you can prove to your clients that your direct efforts have driven in more prospects and converted a higher percentage of them into customers, you're building sales. When your programs show these new customers happily made additional purchases at full (fair) price, became loyal and started singing your praises {selling for you), you have not only helped build sales but you're driving profitability as well.

You will also notice there is no line of competitors who can do the same, forming at the client's door.

And when someone asks how you help you grow your clients' businesses, you have a straight answer.