How’s your personal marketing plan coming along?

Simple Marketing Consultancy in Nottingham explain the personal marketing plan concept and how it can help build a sales pipeline.

It’s been almost fourteen years since I stepped into the uncertain territory of self “employmentdom” – and whilst in the past, I have taught the principles of the personal marketing plan (PMP) to many fee earners and marketers in professional services firms, Elliot & myself have now found we are actually having to practice it ourselves in our own business. We have also realised that actually, the skills are transferable and applicable to our clients, particularly those tasked with winning or retaining customers!

So then, what have we learnt that we can pass on to those who have yet to embrace this all-important process?

Three words: planning, conviction and patience.

In itself, the PMP is not rocket science. Perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but the fact that we get paid to help people develop their own PMP and to then “chivvy” them into carrying out the actions, makes us feel a little guilty, but perhaps this is because at first, without help and support from a kind and supportive mentor, a PMP and the actions involved can be very daunting. Especially if it is something the person has never had to do before and is scared, but quite frankly is probably even more scared to admit it for fear of ridicule by peers! This is when patience is of paramount importance and when we get a sense of pride and added value when we see these individuals gain confidence, start to enjoy the process and flourish in doing so.

One of the best examples of this came in Bev’s Grant Thornton days. There she was wandering down a corridor in the Midlands office when a newly promoted senior manager tapped her on the shoulder. “Can I have a word?” he said. “I need some help”.

They went into a meeting room where he proceeded to tell Bev that as a senior manager, he was now expected to bring in a six-figure sum in new fees. Bev will always say that she thought the manager expected her to be the one to “fix” his problem by getting on the phone and magic him up some new business meetings!

This is belief is quite common – expecting marketers to fulfill the role of sales/BD.

Instead, Bev went into a coaching mindset and explained how marketing and sales need to work together to achieve his goal, and that ultimately some of the responsibility for creating opportunities would fall at his door!

This process started by asking some questions. So Fred, Bev asked, (manager name changed to protect the innocent!), how do you normally win your work?

I don’t he said, it was passed to me by a partner. And…..he said…. his voice full of anguish, my work is all non-recurring so I’m going to have to do this every year!

By gum, Bev thought, this chap really is worried. Hence the word patience!

Rather than jump immediately to offer what he wanted (marketing to arrange his meetings) bev started to ask Fred some more questions.

Ok, Fred, which of the partners do you get along with the best? He named about five, so Bev asked how often he sat down with them for a coffee and informal chat and discussion about their clients and what work he had been doing in conjunction with them.

“Never” he said.

“OK”,  Bev said, “from now on I’d like you to arrange one meeting a month with each of these partners. Your aim is to get to know them and their hobbies and interests better, understand their clients and make sure they know what work you do and how you can help them solve these problems.”

So then Bev asked who else referred work to his department and he named a couple of law firms and banks. Fred was asked to write these names down and arrange to have coffee or a sandwich lunch with these individuals once a month, and to use his Outlook calendar (or CRM System) to diary a follow-up lunch three months later.

Fred was then asked how he told people how good he was and how many people he had saved from going to jail for not paying their taxes. He admitted he had hidden his light under a bushel.

So it was agreed he would create a “keep in touch” programme where, with help from marketing, he would send a monthly email to his focused “list” to talk about his work and highlight his successes.

Fred was now beginning to realise he did have a client list after all. And if he looked after them, even though his assignments were non-recurring, he should get repeat work from this network, and what’s more, he should be able to set a target for each one and therefore know when his pipeline of work referrers and new work needed to be topped up!

So, there’s the planning!

Now for the conviction. Marketers do play a key advisory role in this process, particularly in ensuring the right focus and target markets are approached with appropriate scripts and messaging. Marketing also has to play its role in ensuring a regular flow of enquiries through other marketing activities. But at some point sales has to carry on developing the relationship with the prospect/customer. This is when both the marketer and the fee earner must also show some conviction towards ensuring that the actions agreed in the PMP are carried through.

The fee earner must also be committed to the process of reviewing their client portfolio and breaking their annual fee target down into four main areas, and be prepared to network to find new contacts:

  1. fees from recurring clients
  2. new fees from existing clients either through new services or fee increases
  3. fees from new clients
  4. fees from work referrers

If targets are broadly set in each of these areas each quarter, it makes the annual target look much more achievable and far less daunting.

Once the PMP is at this stage, the marketer can also help develop a promotional strategy to ensure the right clients and prospects are invited to the right events for Fred to meet.

It is also important to ensure other relevant communications and touchpoints take place in a timely manner regarding the issues and services/products that interest clients/prospects and work referrers as this helps to keep name and awareness levels as high as possible so that if the buying opportunity does arise, there is at least a chance of being contacted to buy from when the need does arise.

Promotional campaigns aimed at converting these prospects and ensuring they are targeted effectively using direct mail, telemarketing, seminars and advertising can also be implemented, safe in the knowledge the money is being spent in a focused and cost-effective manner because it is targeted at the right people.

So, all this has been a success and Fred has his first meeting with a prospect. What then?

Again not rocket science, but all too often sales leads are wasted due to a lack of preparation and follow-up.

This is where the marketer should again step in to ensure they help the fee earner plan and prepare for their meeting. This should involve help to research the business and the people in the meeting. Are there any common contacts that you can approach for background or a testimonial?

This is also where maintaining sales statistics is important as it will help to identify training needs. If one fee earner is doing lots of appointments but not converting business there is usually a reason.

When at the meeting there is usually a common process:

  • Building rapport – getting to know you, common interests,
  • The business conversation – finding out about the business and what keeps them awake at night
  • How could you help – not a sell, focus on features and benefits your experience, skills or products will resolve
  • Overcoming objections – listening to reasons why they won’t buy and trying to overcome them without being pushy
  • The close – before going to the meeting go with an idea of what “must” be achieved, what you “intend” to achieve and then, what you’d would ideally “like” to achieve.

These “must”, “intend”, and “like” objectives can be as simple as ‘must’ start a relationship, ‘would’ like the opportunity to keep in touch”. The ‘like’ could be to get a second meeting.

The objective does not have to immediately be to get the opportunity to quote and win the business. But it is important for morale to be able to exit the meeting by being able to tick at least one of the must, intend, or like boxes.

After the meeting, it is vital all involved in developing this relationship receive feedback on what they did well and what could be improved. There should also be a clear follow-up strategy/action plan and a date set in the diary for when to next make contact.

For their part in this two-way sales and marketing team process, the fee earner must realise that providing this feedback is as important as conversion. Because if the outcome initially results in no sale, and let’s face it, how many of us commit on a first date, the prospect needs to see that you are keen to win their business, without being too pushy. Marketing can help you manage this. We do realise that you have to juggle a million and one things and are willing and able to help.

So, some vital questions to finish off this article….

What happened to Fred?

Well, three months down the line Fred, had billed 30% of his annual target and had the rest as a healthy pipeline, but as he now knew only 50% of this would convert he had added another partner and had been introduced to another referrer he’d met at a networking event who had heard from another referrer how good he was.

Has SMC used PMPs – Did it help develop SMC as a business?

As practical, rather than theory-based marketers, we are very pleased to say that yes, adopting these principles worked for SMC. More importantly, it has worked for our clients.

Yes, it was very daunting at first and some very deep breaths had to be taken to pluck up the courage to make these approaches – but when the choice is to do this or be able to pay our mortgage – it’s not too hard to find the motivation to want to win business! Plus we have some really loyal clients and work referrers who have respected our skills and recommended us to others.

If you would like to develop a marketing strategy and promotional plan for your business, or are interested to learn more about the PMP process please get in touch.


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