Monday, April 21, 2008

Recession Marketing Discipline Number One:

Embrace your clients’ definition of value: The perception of bounty leads to sloppiness. In strong economic times, it is easy to look like a marketing genius…just sit back and catch the clients who drop into your office over the transom. In good times, we can get the faulty impression that we know what our clients need better than they do. As the economy slows, such hubris can lead to disaster. Instead, now is the time to ensure that you deeply understand and embrace your client’s definition of value in the client advisor relationship and what they need to succeed at three levels: corporate, career and personal.

Regarding value, this means understanding the risks and rewards that your client faces in hiring a professional services firm…and, specifically, your firm. The risks are financial but there’s also reputation risk. What else can you do to minimize the perceived risk in working with you and your firm? Service or ROI guarantees? Fixed or contingent fees?

Regarding the three levels of success, this means embedding yourself in the challenges facing your client’s company; their career and their personal life. What makes them distinct? What opportunities are they seeking? What are their top strategic objectives? And, how can you and your service help them achieve their goals?

How do you glean information about what your client values? Observe their behavior. Observe what they say about themselves and what others say about them. Ask. Use your intuition. Use Google. Buddy-up with other professionals who serve the client.

Pay special attention to your clients’ anxiety around job security in the current climate. Help them demonstrate their own value within their company and you’ll be the hero. Phil Rubin of rDialogue related some recent observations to us that reflect this thought: “The client (a VP, Marketing), after we finished an initial project that was very well received by the CEO and the board, thanked us for making him look good in front of the CEO. Of course I told him that this is exactly what we set out to do. It’s an idea that’s not new but highly resonant, especially during times like these when corporate executives are very worried about their jobs (remember the movie “Trading Places” when Eddie Murphy’s character talked about trader’s being worried about being able to afford “the GI Joe with the Kung Fu grip” for Xmas?). In the last ten days I spoke with two professional service client advisors who shared two unrelated studies they had seen (primary research) and/or done. The answers in both cases were that decisions were primarily driven by their likely affect on job security and potential for advancement. Nothing to do with building business, innovation, market leadership, etc.! It’s a pretty basic idea – make clients successful, make them look good, and they will be loyalty to you for as long as you can do that!”

Now more than ever you must understand risks and rewards – personally and professionally - from your clients’ point of view. Then, consistently strive to lower the risks and raise the rewards.

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