Marketing planning – Are you seaweed or a limpet?

Posted on: September 19, 2012

Last week, I had the good fortune to spend the morning with some bright young professional services marketing folk at a workshop entitled “Marketing and Business Development Planning in a nutshell”.

We acknowledged that whilst marketers needed detailed marketing and BD plans, fee-earners only needed a short, sharp one page summary (probably a list of targets and an outline campaign plan).

However, without a marketing or BD plan at all we are like seaweed in a turbulent and stormy sea – being pulled from one project to another depending on which partner or department shouted loudest. Although this might keep marketers fully occupied, it rarely had the desired impact on the firm or team’s real objectives.

However, with an agreed and well communicated plan we could be more like limpets – sticking closely to the rock of an important project or activity, immune to the tides and crashing waves in the firm around us. Then carefully moving to the next rock (project) when we had achieved our goal.

With an even spread from law, accountancy and property firms (as well as some actuaries) amongst the topics that the delegates wanted to cover included: how to make strategic choices, developing a plan for a new international office, changing roles from implementation to developing plans, helping partners formulate good strategies and moving from marketing to business development (sales) planning.

Fee-earners sometimes think in terms of “black box marketing” (or even “black magic marketing”!) – they don’t know what we do or how we do it, but they just expect results. This can make it difficult to get them to engage in a structured approach to business development planning.

There was a lot of discussion about using sales funnel/pipeline analysis to help fee-earners consider what level of contacts and leads were needed, and the process of moving them effectively through to relationship development and opportunity analysis. We also explored a worked example of taking an overall fee and profit target and breaking it down into the relevant cases/assignments and existing/new clients needed to achieve it as a way to inform strategy decisions. We also considered how gap analysis might focus attention on plans for developing existing clients and plans to win new business.

Group exercises revealed that the most valued building blocks for good planning included: a solid corporate/business plan, external market intelligence, internal information about clients, services and profitability, knowledge of capacity and skills, budgets and resources available and timescales. Plus, of course, involvement of the front line fee-earners. The challenge of matrix management – where fee-earners are organised into specialist teams whilst marketing plans are required in market/client facing groups – was the subject of some debate.

One of the key insights was that marketing planning is not a sterile, back room process but essentially an ongoing dialogue with fee-earners, where marketers guide discussion and discovery by presenting key data and asking incisive questions in a structured way.

At the end of the session, delegates indicated that their key takeaways were:

  • Use the sales funnel/pipeline tool
  • Engage with the fee-earners and understand their requirements from their perspective
  • Dispel the myth of black box marketing
  • Use theories, frameworks and tools to guide the process without using jargon
  • Gather information and evidence to support discussion and decisions
  • Set clear and achievable goals (using the “stepping stones” approach to keep long term aims in the frame if necessary)
  • Stay calm and focus (like a limpet)!

Thanks to the participants for their enthusiastic involvement on the day and some of the lovely comments on the feedback forms, which included:

  • “Kim is excellent – Second time at one of her training sessions and impressed”
  • “As a relative beginner I’m happy to have acquired BD planning ideas at a level to be a huge help in my situation. Now seriously considering CIM – Thank you for a helpful workshop”
  • “Thanks – time to get back to my text books I think!”
  • “Excellent, thank you. Very knowledgeable and great at delivering to all levels of experience and responding to questions and particular requirements”
  • “Good overview and nuggets. Thanks”
  • “Trainer had good knowledge of attendees’ industries”
  • “Kim is a terrific presenter – very insightful session”

For details of future training courses from PM Forum http://www.pmforum.co.uk/training/index.aspx – including the new workshop on “Achieving buy in”.

PM Forum is now on Twitter – follow them on @PMFGlobal (especially to hear news from the annual conference on Thursday 27th September). And, of course, please follow me at @RedStarKim

 

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One Comment on “Marketing planning – Are you seaweed or a limpet?

  1. Hi Kim – matrix management is a challenge, it relies on people developing a new mindset and skill-set of working more broadly and a higher level of self-leadership.

    One chalenge for marketing and other professionals is that it does tend to push you in the direction of becoming a broader generalist which may be attractive to some but may not suit people who are more interested in a deeper functional career path.

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