Marketing is like any well managed investment, as it can increase a firm’s revenue. However, because most firms’ accounting systems treat marketing costs as expenses, it is often difficult to make the shift to thinking of marketing as an investment rather than an expense. As a general rule, firm marketing efforts should be directed at four distinct market segments: existing clients, referral sources, targeted prospects and the general business community.
A firm’s immediate objectives for marketing to this group is to create satisfaction, continuity and gain additional work and referrals. Cross selling to an existing client has the greatest potential for short-term payback because the client relationship already exists and the cost of selling is much less than to a prospective client. Concentrate your marketing efforts on ensuring that the client knows that your firm has expertise in other areas. When a client is dealing with a difficult problem and the firm has the expertise to assist, introduce one of your specialists in a relaxed and non-goal oriented atmosphere to discuss the problem with the client. In these circumstances, the client is more likely to ask your firm’s specialist for details about the specific ways that he or she can help.
Your marketing objectives for this group are both short and long term and include improving your interactions with your existing referral contacts, and ultimately, gaining more referrals overall. Maintain a healthy relationship with your existing contacts. Keep in touch by phone, through lunches and other means to ensure that your firm continues to come to mind when an appropriate referral opportunity arises. Develop productive new referral contacts by establishing a visible presence in business, sporting and social groups where these potential referral sources gather. Be patient. No matter how successful you are in connecting with these groups, it could be several months before a new referral source is comfortable with you and understands enough about what you do to recommend your firm to a prospective client.
Turning targeted prospects into clients should be the most important long-term objective of a marketing program, since this is where the future growth of a firm lies. Firms need to define and prioritise target prospects and identify those where the firm has the highest likelihood of making an impact. Firms can then focus their marketing efforts on the activities that will provide the greatest potential payback.
General business community
Since a firm is unlikely to gain new business quickly from this group, the marketing goals should be more general and long-term. Engage in marketing to provide good local exposure, build a reputation as an active and committed member of the community, and create personal relations with key business officials.
A strategic investment
While the marketing tactics used to reach each group helps to build awareness, enhance your firm’s reputation and get face-to-face contact, it is still the personal involvement of the partners and professional staff with each of these groups that ultimately gets the business. By promoting the view that marketing dollars are a strategic investment rather than an expense, management can set the ground rules for investing those dollars where they can obtain the highest return. Like other internal investments such as training and technology, marketing is an investment in your firm’s future. Firms that maintain their marketing investment in the bad times and increase it in the good times will have a better payoff over the years than those with a more short-term view.