I received an email from a talented, self-described Young Turk marketer named Cannon. He was frustrated, exhausted, and struggling to overcome several onerous Sales and Marketing impediments at his firm. He wanted to know how to get strategic Marketing done in a professional services firm plagued with the BS of PS.
His question had multiple parts, but I’ll address just one here:
I was in our HQ all last week and had a bigger week of struggles than average 🙂 I’ve wrestled the last few weeks to get alignment/consensus with a variety of business leaders on our strategy, who our customers are, and how we go to and serve the market.
It’s almost like the leaders ignore the hard questions/critical thinking and accept ignorance. How does a Young Turk win the hearts and minds of these leaders in order to get them aligned and grow with purpose?
Here is my response on how to get strategic Marketing done in a professional services firm.
First, Cannon, celebrate! You’ve hit the BS of PS trifecta! Your firm is 1. Enrolled in the Productivity School of Marketing, 2. Has a culture of optionality, and 3. Has a “Grow Everything” business strategy. That is fertile ground for a Young Turk to learn and grow!
Second, I suspect you’re having trouble aligning the organization because there’s a leadership gap and/or no incentive/pain requisite to shift your partners’ current behavior.
Third, unfortunately, consensus is an illusion in pro services. Firms do not operate on consensus; they operate on power, fear, and opportunism. Focus on creating prudent and productive action not building allusive consensus.
Here are some actions you can take to get unstuck:
1. Identify partners who are hungry, well-respected, and “early adopters” of new thinking
Work with them to implement your best thinking and stay away from other partners that drain energy and resources. If energy-draining partners come your way, take their orders and give them what they want without depleting your resources.
2. Work on your own with finance to identify the firm’s/practice’s ideal client
As you outlined, Marketing does NOT work without focus. Focus begins with intelligently segmenting the market and it looks like that job falls to you. Do a revenue and profitability assessment to rank clients and industries. Then, have coffee/lunch with a few partners identified in No. 1 and ask them about their favorites clients. Take copious notes on the attributes they use to describe them, words like big, small, forward-thinking, collaborative, risk-averse, dangerous, safe, complex, global, strategic, tactical, etc. Clarify additional attributes around culture, worldviews, and purchase mindset to create a “firmographic.” Your goal is to get 80+% of the profile on the down-low before feeding it back to the partners as a fact-based strategy.
3. Define success
Never do a project, campaign, event or other initiatives without defining MEASURABLE success. Success should only be measured in business impact–pipeline contribution, revenue generated, client satisfaction improvement, and/or market share. Putting a metric stake in the ground is the foundation and precursor to accumulating data and fact-based ROI numbers to prove or disprove proposed approaches/programs.
4. Make the client the focus of every sales and marketing discussion and decision
Consultants live to serve clients and seldom if ever want to alienate one. Before any decision is made ask partners client-centric questions like
- How does this benefit our clients?
- What would our clients think of this approach?
- What would our clients really like to do, see, be, experience?
- Why would a client like this?
- Does this make things easier for our clients or just for us?
- Does the client really care about a cute product name, magenta-colored fonts, your slide animations, etc.?
- Most important: What data do you have to substantiate your thinking/answer?
5. Never attend a meeting without data
Facts don’t care about your feelings. The Growth School of Marketing is built on data, learning, and adjustments, not feeling. Substantiate every decision with data. Rational consultants usually believe in data. They do not believe a marketer’s experience, intuition or opinions. Show them concrete funnel measures.
6. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize
Grow everything is not a strategy. Any leadership team that does not make choices is not a leadership team. They are anarchists. Anarchy leads to chaos and war. If your leadership team does not prioritize markets, clients, products, etc you have no choice but to jump on board the firm’s existing P&L structure. If it is geography, practice or industry then, that’s your primary prioritization mechanism. Focus on partners in No.1 (above) and then on revenue and growth rate. Start acting as if there is actual business discipline behind the prioritization and implement the other steps. When you start seeing success, come back and try attacking the alignment problem.
7. Use Toyota’s 5 Whys
Asking “Why?” five times drove Toyota’s quality and efficiency to the top of the car market. It will help you address willfully ignorant partners head-on and get to rational solutions to root causes. All you have to do is ask “Why?” a minimum of five times before settling on a solution to any problem/challenge.
8. Steel yourself for a long-term battle
Neither culture nor people change without a fight. Set your mind accordingly, pace yourself, and know that you are going to be wounded and scarred. But as you already know, Young Turks love the battle. You have this one covered!