Now is not the time to spread your message too widely; you’ll need to target the right customers to make it through this year.
I suppose the best customers are ones who come to you because you have the only game in town. I would wish to be so lucky, however most of us have to go out and drag them through the door.
That being the case, what we need to put in place is a system that ensures that our marketing and sales efforts are as productive as we can make them. Targeting the right prospects and using some hard rules to qualify them is critical if you are to drive a growth agenda.
I have seen far too many companies spread the net too widely on prospecting. Instead of taking a rifle to the problem they use a shotgun.
Instead of throwing up a small number of prospects with a high probability of conversion to good business, they generate lots of noise that takes an undue level of effort to refine. Instead of spending valuable resources on the best prospects, they waste resources chasing business that is marginal or unprofitable – or where they have a sub-optimal competitive position.
I have found that few businesses really understand what they are very good at, and even fewer translate this into an ideal customer profile. You need to ask the questions – what do I do that creates my highest competitive advantage; what generates the highest margins; and what deals do I close in the shortest lead time?
The answers should lead you to a definition of your best customers. Next, you need to review your marketing plans to see if you are correctly targeting that select group.
I have seen prospect lists of about 2000 where only 100 really fitted the ideal attributes. But when you find out that they only need five or six a year to meet their growth targets, you start to wonder whether any planning went into mapping the marketing on to the rest of the business.
Even if the prospecting system threw up 2000 leads, the qualification process should have excluded 1900 very quickly, allowing the business to devote its scarce resources to the best prospects.
When you do produce a tight definition of the ideal customer, you should investigate whether you can find a method of generating a target list of prospects so that you can be pro-active in going to them rather than waiting for them to hear about you.
Remember “birds of a feather flock together”, so often there is an existing forum to which your target customer belongs. This could be an industry association, a club, a journal subscription or a professional group.
Sometimes you can simply acquire a list. With the list in hand, you can be pro-active on putting your message in front of your target customer. Often this can be done at a fraction of the cost of a more traditional broad advertising or marketing campaign.
Growth is highly associated with deep expertise and a focused market. The more you do something and the better you get, the greater the competitive advantage you build, the more you can price at a premium, and the more productive in delivering solutions you get. This all underpins your ability to drive growth.
Tom McKaskill is a successful global serial entrepreneur, educator and author who is a world acknowledged authority on exit strategies and the former Richard Pratt Professor of Entrepreneurship, Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia.