The most effective marketing focuses on why your best clients select your firm over other, often excellent, options. Not why you would select your firm. Not why they ought to select your firm. Why they actually select your firm. There are a variety of reasons clients might select your firm, so figuring out what really matters most to your best clients is critical. You might be surprised. There's a reason it's called the firm's secret sauce.
A firm's secret sauce becomes the foundation for a highly focused, cost effective, and universally understood strategic marketing plan and positioning that drives higher revenue, shorter sales cycles, and more of the firm's best clients.
Here are a few examples of how marketing is more than just an activity.
A commercial contractor was pretty sure the quality of their work, their attention to detail, and their reputation for integrity were the reasons clients selected their firm over and over again.
Talking to their clients, it became clear the bigger draw was the firm's approach to managing complex, high-consequence projects where delays are especially expensive for the client.
With this knowledge in hand, they started highlighting their approach as a differentiator with important benefits to certain types of clients. In a business where a lot of companies sound alike, they are now able to articulate not just how they are different, but why they are better. They now had a way to talk non-defensively about their higher fees. They re-framed their higher cost not as a preimum price, but to assure the project will be completed as specified, on-time and on-budget.
In an unexpected benefit, the leadership team saw the need to alter their business strategy. They hit the brakes on plans to grow down-market because they now saw their approach to managing projects wasn't a good fit for projects where on-time perfection weren't essential.
The company's growth strategy now centers around being selective about the projects it pursues. They bid on fewer proposals, but generally win what they go after. Revenue is up sharply. Every person at the company knows why their best clients select them, so client proposals zero in on specifcially why and how clients find them to be a better choice compared to other options. Powerful stuff.
A consulting firm that provided science-based assessments won clients due to their "better writing" in the reports they delivered. Or so they thought.
Digging deep with the attorneys and insurance companies the firm worked with revealed the firm's secret sauce wasn't the quality of the writing, but rather the nature of what they wrote. They delivered a superior kind of report that better supported business decisions that ultimately had to be approved by non-technical, senior executives. The industry standard was reports that had to be re-written for internal audiences ranging from Ph.Ds to CFOs. Re-thinking the deliverables to address the needs of both technical and non-technical audiences required creativity and a skillset uncommon in their industry.
Recognizing this not-easy-to-duplicate advantage allowed them to highlight it in their marketing. It also changed how they managed mid-level staff (to make sure they explicitly delivered their firm's secret sauce to every client), and even how they hired.
Imaging the shock and dismay when I told a software provider of home healthcare administrative systems their emphasis on improved profitability actually alienated the very prospects they were trying to win as clients. Fortunately, I also had the answer that grew into their secret sauce.
Nurses are like US Marines: once a nurse, always a nurse. The vast majority of home healthcare agencies are operated by nurses-turned-business-owners who are focused on providing good patient care using limited resources. Re-framing the benefits as operational efficiencies supporting enhanced patient care rather than as financial gains and owner profit transformed a struggling product into a market winner. So basic, and yet the excelelnt management team and outside investors thought like a software company.