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Setting Up A Marketing Plan

Dear Dave
We’ve been in practice for 26 years. Our firm has had its up and downs, but the last few years have been mostly up. At 36 people, this is the largest we have ever been. We work with mostly municipalities and counties on small to medium-sized road and sewer and water extension and improvement projects. We have not had to do much formal marketing, but we do see more and more firms competing for the same work and are beginning to become concerned. How do we get started with a marketing plan?
RY Oregon

Dear RY
Love it or hate it, good marketing remains a fundamental requirement for the long-term well-being of any professional service firm.

To do good marketing, it is first important to understand what marketing is. Business schools teach that marketing is the process of establishing and maintaining favorable conditions under which sales might someday occur. So, marketing is not about selling in a direct sense at all, but rather it is creating and preserving an environment conducive to sales.

A marketing plan is initially a research and development (R&D) program designed to answer some key fundamental questions. Who are your clients? Where are they located? What are their needs? How may you best meet those needs? How do you earn their confidence?

These days, many firms are finding it advantageous to develop one or more areas of specialization, or niches. Due to increasing client demands for no-nonsense service and support, generalist firms are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with firms who specialize and offer clients a creative range of extended services tailored precisely to each client’s unique needs.

Armed with a direction and a strategy, move to phase two: awareness and relationship building. Your firm must establish a line of ongoing communication and continually build rapport with the intended clients who fit within your overall marketing plan. It is under precisely these conditions that a sale is most likely to occur. In the final analysis, marketing boils down to building a base of knowledge and awareness between the buyer and the seller. Clients need to know who you are, and you need to know them.

Good marketing is two parts listening, to one part talking. Each client is different, and it is important to invest the effort to find out what these individual differences are. By doing this, you will be far better prepared to pattern your response to client needs in ways which will be the most appealing to each client. Preparation is an enormous competitive advantage over the firm which has not established communication and rapport, or does not fully understand the client being pursued.

For marketing to be productive, it must be done consistently and over extended periods of time. At too many firms, marketing is the first thing to get chucked out the window when everybody gets busy. Getting a marketing program up and running requires a significant amount of effort and investment. The good news is, the more you do it, the more you’ll establish momentum which will build upon itself as long as you keep it up. The bad news is, should you stop, your momentum will be lost, and very little will remain of your previous efforts should you later decide to restart your marketing efforts. That’s why it’s so important not to stop.

Given enough time and effort, you’ll be amazed with your marketing results.

Wahby and Associates