Don’t build your group’s marketing on quicksand

Bill Wallsgrove is right when he says that the ‘best marketing for design groups is word-of-mouth’ (DW 14 March). The greatest asset a business has is its good reputation. Ian Cochrane is also right when he urges ‘be there, be relevant, be convincing, be bold and be yourself’ (DW 14 March). Both offer very valuable advice.

However, on their own these policies won’t take you the full distance. I suspect that what I am about to say falls into the boring-but-important category, but here goes anyway.

It is essential to build any marketing activities on really strong strategic foundations. If you don’t, however innovative or imaginative your marketing is, you’ve got quicksand problems.

To construct some powerful marketing foundations for your own business, try completing the following:

1. Accurately describe your group in the context of the marketplace. This will establish your market positioning.

2. Define precisely who wants it: demographically, geographically, psychographically. These will be your target markets.

3. Work out why clients should appoint you over your competitors. These will be your sales benefits or propositions.

4. Plan exactly how new clients will find out about you, when and how much it will cost you. This will be your implementation plan.

These are the four cornerstones; the rest will be supported. Deceptively simple? Yes, in theory, but it’s a bit more complex in practice. Many groups get as far as (1) a design group, (2) potential clients, (3) we’re experienced and great people to work with and (4) we will phone them or write to them. Then they fall flat on their faces in the quicksand, sinking a lot of time, effort and money into the dark and gloomy depths.

Oh, and the really boring-but-important bits? First, there’s no such thing in the design business as a universal marketing campaign; each approach needs to be carefully tailored to the potential client individual.

Second, most of the proactive marketing you need to do is to your current clients; that’s where the majority of your future business is going to come from. What do they think about you? Do they know what you do for other clients? Do they fully understand the range of services you offer? Will they act as missionaries for your business?

And finally, none of the above will work unless you’ve got a clear, long-term vision for your consultancy. There will be little point in blaming ‘the economy’ if you find that you’ve ended up building in the wrong place.

Shan Preddy

Management, marketing and training warrior

The Preddy Consultancy

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