A question that I hear more than any other is “What will a new web site, brochure, video, etc. do for me?” Some people even ask me how many sales leads they should expect if they make such investments. Clearly, such questions may indicate ignorance about the difference between branding, marketing communications, and sales, but it’s important to understand just how each impacts the other.
The only time such a lack of understanding becomes a big deal is when a manager believes that a marketing or PR tactic will take the place of good old-fashion selling. Sadly, there are still managers who believe that a marketing program will completely eliminate the need for the real work of business development. They expect an ad to appear or a web site to go live and then for the phone to magically ring. Of course, it sometimes happens, but the truth is that someone still needs to do the grunt work.
At Brand Acceleration, we are most successful when we partner with our clients marketing, PR, and sales departments. In addition to thoroughly knowing how key prospects use such tactics, we want to orchestrate marketing communications efforts with such events as service launches, conference participation, trade shows, and carefully selected media editorials. Managed properly, such efforts can effectively soften the market, growing company or community awareness, and greasing the wheels for a timely sales call.
Without such coordination, the stage is set for the blame game. Sales representatives, under pressure from the boss, may blame the marketing department, and the folks in marketing will lay the blame squarely in the lap of sales people. Who’s to blame? Probably someone at a higher level. Someone needs to bring the teams together.
In our role, we have the luxury and obligation of meeting with the owners and/or top managers, digging in to find out what the big vision is for the company or community. I remember a time when our team sat with a client for just such a fact-finding meeting. After about thirty minutes of asking questions, prodding, and prying into some very personal areas, it became apparent that there was something we were not being told. There was a very uncomfortable vibe in the room.
Knowing that our chances for success would be limited if the leadership team refused to come clean with the facts, I stopped the meeting by looking the company president in the eye and making a point-blank statement. “Mr. Smith, there is clearly something unsaid in this conversation. If you expect us to help you, you’re going to have to trust us enough to tell us everything, in detail. If you’re unable or unwilling to do that, I’m afraid this meeting is a waste of time. If you’d like, we’ll gladly step out of the room so you can confer with your team. If not, I think we’ll thank you for your time and head back to our office.” The silence in the room was thick. People on both sides were holding their breath, waiting to see what happened next.
After what seemed like an eternity, Mr. Smith broke the silence. “You’re right, Jim. There is something we haven’t told you. We’ve hired a new sales director and we need to ramp up our sales and marcom (marketing communications) efforts in a hurry. The ownership team has made the decision to put the company up for sale and we need to make big improvements in order to command the sale price we want.”
Whew! Now that the big secret was out, we all settled down for a couple of days of serious talks with the owners and department heads. We had work to do and we had to think strategically in order to help them accomplish their goal. A year and a half later, after an aggressive marketing and sales effort, the owners announced the sale of the company and their retirement dates.
The entire process took loads of hard work and an openness that was often very uncomfortable. For us, it was a great experience. We loved the fact that we were not viewed as a vendor or outsider. We were part of the team, mutually working toward one goal.
If you’re ever in need of a partner firm that understands the meaning of collaboration and teamwork, I hope you’ll call me. I believe you will love our style. I promise, you will never feel like we’re there simply to get your business or sell more. Your goals are our goals. The rest will take care of itself.
I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to share your thoughts and personal experiences below.