Marketing and digital technologies are creating a new set of business development rules for the evolving service provider. Today the advanced supplier is selling their services at the senior marketing executive suite where strategy, decisions and budgets originate.
The advantage of being at this level is the service provider can be six months in front of the buyer and can “take deals off the streets” before competitive bids reach the purchasing department.
In order for the service provider to get this senior level meeting usually they’ll need to look like something other than a printer; namely because the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or equivalent doesn’t own the production-level responsibility.
Setting expectations at the appropriate level and getting appointments with the CMO are typically achieved when the service provider makes a concerted effort to develop a brand initiative accompanied by a go-to-market message strategy.
In the best examples of brand positioning the service provider sets their language in a customer facing perspective – they create messaging less about themselves and more about what the CMO is charged with doing.
Personally, I think it’s less effective to talk about what we do: PURL’s VDP, DAM, QR, Workflow, etc., and more effective to talk about what our collective abilities mean to our customers: increased intimacy, dialogue, relevancy, follow through, synchronized integration, and measurement. Messaging should talk about how our abilities drive better quality of leads, increased conversions, higher retention rates, and increased optimization of our customers’ limited resources.
Google searches into marketing services will yield a plethora of useable content for organizations to develop this type of language for themselves. Additionally our supplier community (manufacturers and software providers) as well as associations have tons of useable information for us to license, borrow and emulate.
For the new entrant into this space I recommend two tracks of message strategy:
- Existing customers
- New prospects
For the existing customer that “knows you” as a print, mail, fulfillment company I feel your message strategy should be one that suggests “you’re evolving” and “our industry is changing”; “more and more our community is lending support for marketers to gain increased acceleration in their efforts towards customer centricity”. “We have a number of new ideas we’d like to talk with you about”.
For new prospects that don’t know you as a printer you’re “we’re evolving” message simply changes to “we are”, although I recommend cutting your teeth on existing customers in a collaborative effort to get started.
For the intermediate or advanced service provider my feeling is your acquired collective intelligence has value. You should be maneuvering towards getting paid for your counsel. Most mass marketers do not have significant experience in customer centric marketing, and they can derive tremendous benefit from you coaching them towards that direction. In my personal sales experience over the past year I’ve been getting paid for counsel in advance of production work in more than 50% of the cases. It’s profitable and past installations should begin to create “patterns” that you can replicate!
As for a promotions plan my recommendation is that your website, collateral, demos and sales pitch should all be in place before you begin in-field promotions. The following sequence works pretty well:
- Voice- your elevator pitch (which should have a consultative tone)
- Development of a social media marketing plan- which should be an adjunct of your website
- LinkedIn data mining (a great substitute for cold calling and switchboard systems designed to keep you out)
- Your own multi-media, multi-touch direct marketing plan (consider video if possible)
- Industry vertical participation- ultimately leading to you or your clients speaking at their events
- Open house (perhaps offsite) where you bring in some industry experts to speak on your behalf
- Webinars when you’ve developed a following
- General advertising (notice where this ranks on my “usual suspects” promotions sequence)
Naturally as with all marketing and promotions plans there is a strategic combination of both sequence and concurrent activities. While there’s a lot more, this is a good starting template in my opinion.
Would love to get your feedback!