Strategic Design | marketing & branding thoughts by Nick Rice

Dynamic marketing, branding & design strategies that span the gap between business & creative.

Physician, heal thyself...

After eleven years in business, my firm just brought in our first management consultant. We've been growing steadily for the last few years, but have too much of our revenue coming from a single client (an all too common occurance in agencies btw). We know that and are taking a proactive approach to solving that. And part of that approach is me - Mr. New Business Development. I'm the first employee with a dedicated % of time going towards finding new accounts. So far we have grown entirely from referral business. Not too shabby for an $8M company. It says a lot about our CEO and the quality of work and service we deliver.

Currently we position ourselves like 99% of the marketing communication firms out there. Which is: we do good work, we have a proven process to ensure good work, we provide great customer service, and we generate a positive ROI/value for our clients. Everybody says that, whether it's true or not. Most importantly, those are reasons clients STAY, not reasons to BECOME a client.

Try this simple test for positioning; what's the answer when a client asks point blank "why should I choose you over so and so?" If you have a hard time answering or the answer is one of the statements in the paragraph above; your positioning stinks.

The funny part of this is how painful the process is to go through when you try to do it to yourself. We've hit the same dead end many many times over the last 18 months when we've tried to hone our own message and value prop. We do this very well for our clients - even they would say so. It just proves that you cannot operate on yourself. You need an external, non-biased, honest point of view to take a true look at your systems, your competition, your offerings, and your value.

Like all consulting engagements, a few bombs were dropped, a few people were irritated, a few gems were exposed. And like normal, it will take a little while to digest the entire experience.

It is a very good exercise for me personally. It gave me a different view of how I am potentially received by my clients. As a consultant, there are times to be brutally honest and times to keep comments to yourself. You cannot alienate your client along the way. Expectations need to be set up front (and agreed upon in writing), long before you come onsite. It's a big step for business (especially small business owners) to admit they need help. You aren't there to stroke egos, but you cannot call their baby ugly all day either.

When it's all said and done, we should have a clear vision for where we are headed, who specifically we'll target, and how we will position ourselves better than the competition in that space. We should have a plan to grow profitably. And there's not much sweeter in business than profitable growth - it's the best way to get rid of issues!

technorati tags > marketing, management, consultant, profit, company, growth

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