The Old Rules Still Apply

MarketerCoverThe following article written by Tim Klabunde was published in the October edition Marketer.

Successful businesses are built on foundational truths that do not change with market conditions or time. To be successful in 2010 you are going to need to focus on the same things that business leaders needed to focus on in the last century: the people inside your company, the clients outside of your company, and your network in your industry.

People are the ultimate reason that businesses succeed or fail. Regardless of your placement in your corporate structure, your success and that of your company will be defined primarily by your relationships with people. The key is to build mutually beneficial relationships where people want to help you succeed as you help them succeed.

Rules that build success

We all know that relationships can be complicated, but there is a fundamental truth that determines if you are building up or tearing down relationships: relationships grow if you selflessly help another person succeed; relationships dwindle when you focus on yourself and your own wants.

If you meet someone for the first time, and they subsequently help you, you will be appreciative of their efforts and probably remember them. If that same person were to help you three times over the following month, you would keep an eye out for ways to help them in return. If they helped you a dozen times, providing you new client introductions, referrals, and leads, you would develop a strong desire to help them in return. This desire to help is the foundation of a mutually beneficial relationship where two people are constantly looking for ways to help each other. One important key to this happening is concentrated effort on a specific group of people that over time develops into multiple mutually beneficial relationships.

Rules for inside

Most everyone recognizes that they need IT support to succeed, yet many people approach their IT department with a focus on their own needs and then can’t understand why their requests are always at the bottom of the to-do list. In marketing we often seem to forget that the rules of building success with people outside our companies also apply to people inside our companies. We need people, both inside our companies and outside our companies, to succeed. People that focus solely on achieving their own success are rarely able to achieve it in the long-term because they lack the support of a team that wants to help them succeed. Consider what would happen if you started helping your IT department succeed by cleaning up your server space, purging or archiving old e-mails, and supporting their efforts in meetings. I can tell you from personal experience that the result with be that your requests will likely be given a high priority. The same applies to accounting, marketing, operations, human resources, other project managers, and even management. When you focus on helping others your build a team that wants to help you and make you succeed.

Rules for outside

We all know that when we market we need to focus on existing clients and prospective clients. What most people fail to realize is that, after marketing to your existing clients for additional work, the least expensive marketing approach is usually to market to others in your industry that can’t hire you! Networking is the art of building mutually beneficial relationships that provide a wealth of leads and referrals from others. Many people fail to build strong networks because in America we have improperly aligned “networking” with “sales,” and sales is something most professionals avoid at all cost. Sales should not drive the relationship; instead, the relationship should drive the sales. True networking is the development of relationships, and relationships are something that all of us have a God-given instinct and need to develop. What this means is that everyone in your company can help bring work in the door simply by being relational and developing an effective network.

The rules that still apply

So, there are some important old rules that still apply. A true network of relationships is not to be confused with the self-serving “good-old-boys” network.  Instead, success in business is derived from genuine relationships. If you are ready to build the foundation of your business this year, then it is time to refocus on people. After all, it is the people in your company that will make you profitable, and it is the people outside of your company that foster your growth.

2009 Marketing S&E Survey Executive Summary

smps-logoThis past week Michele Santiago of the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) forwarded me the executive summary of the 2009 Marketing S&E Survey as released by the SMPS Foundation. Looking it over I found a wealth of information and I wanted to share the highlights with you. Also, with Michele’s permission, I have posted a copy of the complete executive summary under the “resources” tab here on Cofebuz. I hope you find the information as interesting and as helpful as I did!

Summary of the Executive Summary

In the Design and Construction Industry:

  • Offices spent an average of 8.0% of their 2008 net revenues on marketing.
  • On average 4% of a companies workforce is involved in marketing full time.
  • An additional 10% of company personnel are involved in the marketing process, just not as their primary job.
  • About two-thirds of offices (63%) reported that there was no change in the number of their marketing-related employees in 2008 compared to 2007.
  • Among the offices reporting a change in the number of marketing related employees: 22% reported an increase and 14% reported a decrease in 2008.
  • When asked to look ahead to 2009 82% of offices indicated the number of marketing-related employees will stay about the same. 10% thought there would be an increase and 6% predicted a decrease.
  • Marketers’ mean age is 38.6. Females are the majority in the built and natural environment field, outnumbering males by a ratio of four-to-one.
  • More than four in five marketers (83%) have obtained a four-year college degree, including 16% who hold a graduate degree. (I would like to know how many have a marketing degree, at a SMPS VA conference last year it was less than 35%)
  • More than one in three marketers (36%) have formal design and construction technical training such as engineering or architecture.
  • Average marketing expenses breakdown: 36.4% on compensation and fringe benefits for marketing personnel, 32.4% on Business development, 15% for promotion (advertising etc…), and 6.4% on  planning and research (business/marketing plans, competitors, etc.).

As noted above, if you would like to read the complete executive summary, simply go to resources and look for “SMPS 2009 Marketing S&E Survey Executive Summary.” If you would like to read the full report, the information on how to obtain it is available in the last page of the executive summary.

Event Promotion (Increasing Event Attendance)

peoplesilhouetteLindsay Hilton with the SMPS Southeast Louisiana Chapter recently sent me this e-mail about event promotion:

“I am a board member of a small SMPS chapter (Southeast La., established last year) that is struggling to engage members to attend our events… Do you have any advice on how to entice our membership to come out to our events? For example, we try to host bimonthly social mixers at popular locations but the last mixer only turned out about six people. We also hold monthly luncheons with informative guest speakers from all over the country. This month’s guest is Randle Pollack. Even our luncheons produce meager results (about 20 guests attend). Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!”

I can’t say that I am an expert on events, but I shared with Lindsay my experience. I hope that you find it beneficial as well:

Thanks for the e-mail! I have likewise struggled previously to build strong attendance at programs and finally identified a couple of keys that have helped build the SMPS DC chapter lunch programs and the Design and Construction Network. They might not fit what you are doing perfectly, but they should give you some ideas. Here they are:

Provide a massive amount of value

  • Ensure that you have great speakers (I know you are already doing this in that you have Randy Pollock speaking, he is one of the best marketers in the industry).
  • Build programs that provide immediate value. For example, SMPS DC has an annual University program that brings in the Facilities Directors from all the local universities. The moment we invited our clients to speak, the principals from our firms started showing up to meet with the clients. Also, we asked them to talk about what jobs they have lined up this year so that everyone knows what is coming down the pipeline.
  • Make certain that the entire event is designed around great networking. Probably the greatest value that people get from attending programs isn’t the speaker, it is the networking. Thus make certain it is painless to network at your events. Also, consider trying to get people to attend that others would want to network with.

 Leverage WOM and viral marketing

  • Word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing has been the single most effective tool for increasing attendance that I have seen. Instead of just sending out blast e-mails about an event (which you should still do) build a group of people that are responsible to invite people during the course of regular conversations. So, if you send an e-mail to a friend that might benefit from attending ask if they are going to be at the program and let them know that you are going to be there.
  • Viral marketing is the art of building hype about an event. Although much more difficult to achieve (I have not yet been able to make it happen for our SMPS lunch programs) it was what made the first Design and Construction Network happy hour a success. Viral marketing excites people and builds a buzz about the event.

I hope that helps! Please note that I am not the expert on this, but it is fun to leverage our marketing backgrounds to solve problems!

It’s Back to the BD Basics

itsbacktothebdbasicsRecessions have a tendency to remind us about business fundamentals. It is through the refinement of a recession that wasteful spending is eliminated and that we again focus on the core capabilities that make our companies successful. It is also recessions that remind us that marketing and business development are not the functions of just one or two departments. When company backlogs decrease we recapture the essence of our mutual corporate responsibility to bring new projects in the door. 

Focusing on existing clients and services
It is easy to want to expand into new markets during a recession. The problem is that during a recession work is much harder to come by, both in the markets you currently serve as well as in markets that you don’t serve. Expanding into a new market requires both time and money to enter the market – two things that are not readily available during a recession. As a result, a recession is not the time to expand into new markets, but rather it is the time to focus on your existing clients and services.

The goal during a recession is to focus on bringing work in the door immediately. Most marketers will tell you that the fastest, least expensive, and easiest way to bring in new work is to focus on your existing clientele. This includes people you have sold to previously and others in the industry that are familiar with your work. So what can you do? Here are several things that you can do during a recession that will position you to succeed: 

  1. Don’t Wait, step-up your current marketing: When faced with the possibility of a decline in your workload initiate action immediately. Often when the slowdown reaches your doorstep firms find themselves among a large group of competitors that are competing for work. The idea is to immediately step-up the everyday marketing efforts that you have found to be successful in an effort to build your backlog going into the recession. In our industry this usually includes follow-up on outstanding proposals, using qualifications to bolster the effectiveness of your fee proposals, and pre-marketing RFPs.
  2. Call your existing clients: Especially at service firms, the “last line of defense” when you are in need of work is to pick up the phone and call your best clients to ask for work. Firms often hesitate making these calls because they are afraid of what others will think. Simply put, get over it! Calling your existing clients and asking for work is the most effective way to get work in the door in a down market.
  3. Focus on being the best: Now is the time to set-aside change orders and additional work authorizations (within reason) and give all of your clients 1,000 reasons why they should never even consider another firm. Begin by asking yourself, “What can I do to help this person that is above and beyond what they hired me to do?” Remember that focusing on being the best isn’t something that just one person or a group of people can do, it is a company-wide focus that requires buy-in to be successful.
  4. Diversify within your current markets: Pursue relationships and work in market sectors in which you are currently working that are stable. Generally in a downturn these markets include the federal and healthcare markets. As discussed above, now is not the time to pursue new sectors, but it is a great time to place emphasis on some of your markets that will handle the downturn better. This does not mean that you should simply respond to more RFPs, rather initiate new relationships and build inroads that will position you to win.
  5. Be Patient: Markets change. Just when you think you will run out of work the markets will start moving again. Firms that survive this economic cycle will again experience an upswing as industry and opportunity prevail in the free market.

Building your Marketing Culture

In marketing and business, recessions provide us the opportunity to unite our companies for future growth. The proceeding actions are just a handful of things that can be done to empower everyone in your company to be a part of the sales process. In addition to these, think about how you can leverage today’s challenges to develop a culture that embraces marketing and business development. Firms that succeed in building this culture today will reap the rewards of growth in the future.


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It’s Back to the BD Basics by Tim Klabunde was published in the February 2009 edition of Marketer.

SMPS VA – Rainmakers

smps-virginia-logoOn February 16th and 17th I will be Keynote speaker at the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) Virginia Annual conference in Charlottesville, Virginia. I will be speaking on the topic Creating a Culture of Rainmakers and will be joined in the afternoon of the 17th by a panel of Rainmakers from the Virginia market. If you want to find out more about what others have said about Creating a Culture of Rainmakers click here or check out the SMPS VA website for more information.

Building a Company of Rainmakers

When I first heard the term “Rainmaking” used as an euphemism for bringing business in the door I immediately thought of someone banging on a drum and dancing with the hope of producing rain. Just as I am skeptical of the success of a tribesman accomplishing this feat, so are many of our employers and coworkers as they wonder how the elite 5% of our companies are successful at bringing work in the door everyday. In order to truly build a company of rainmakers we have to breakdown this skepticism with knowledge, and then help others in our companies to truly embrace the rainmaking process.

Drums and Dancing don’t make a Rainmaker, but Networking does
As we discussed during my seminar on this topic at Build Business 2008, networking is the universal key to “making it rain” in business.  This is because everyone, even introverts, can be successful at building strong networks. The key to networking is selflessly and continuously helping other people. By focusing on helping other people we build mutually beneficial relationships where others want to help us in return. Over time these relationships develop into a strong network of people that are continually working to help us succeed. When we apply this process consistently, we find that our network is regularly providing us with leads and information that yield new work.  This is the process that turns someone into a Rainmaker.

Transforming Corporate Culture
Once we have demystified the art of networking we can then walk through the four steps of changing corporate culture: 1) Educating and Encouraging, 2) Defining Expectations, 3) Acknowledging and Celebrating Success, and finally, 4) Rewarding Success. As we follow this process we will find that building a corporate culture that embraces rainmaking is a choice rather than an accident.

Build Business 2008: Wrap-up

This years SMPS Build Business conference was nothing short of great: great friends, great information, and great fun. Some of my personal highlights included speaking at CPSM day on Wednesday on Building a Company of Rainmakers, celebrating with friends at this year’s awards gala, and finally meeting Randy Pollock, Mark Buckshon, and Mel Lester in person. I would like to say a special thanks to Kevin Doyle who worked with me at length to make certain everything went smoothly on CPSM day.  Also, extra thanks to Ron Worth, Lisa Bowman, Michele Santiago, Mark DellaPietra, Bill Scott, Christine Chirichella and the rest of the SMPS National staff that made Build Business such a great success. I have enjoyed getting to know so many of the SMPS staff and I am nothing less than impressed at the incredible job they have done as SMPS continues to grow.

Later this week I will post a follow-up to Building a Company of Rainmakers for those of you that are now apart of this blog’s network after attending Wednesday’s seminar. Also check out the PSMJ Resources Blog that was also active during Build Business this year for additional follow-up from the conference.  Thanks for the great coverage Ed!

Thank you again SMPS, I look forward to seeing all of you next year in Las Vegas for Build Business 2009!