Marketing Services Transformation- The Business Plan

By | October 4, 2010

Most commercial operations (print, mail, and fulfillment) are sitting on top of unrealized revenue somewhere in the vicinity of 50% of their current business volume.  Chances are that a six million dollar operation has an additional three million dollars of untapped revenue potential within their existing customer base.

While there are many sources or channels for achievement of profitable new production revenue, the digital environment within the marketing services space represents the largest volume and opportunity of sustainable profits by far.  Anyone in doubt might consider taking a close look at the world of the Chief Marketing Officer- a serious “shift” towards customer centricity is underway, and they’re looking for and appreciate answers… [hint] they are the ones with the discretionary spending authority!

The trick here is in tapping into that vein of opportunity; for many of us, how to do that still remains a mystery.

Many owners and sales managers within our community have learned a painful lesson; tapping into digital profits requires more than simply tweaking a traditional sales force in some new directions. there’s a lot more to it. In my experience working with service providers across the country that have sought to transform and grow their businesses, the owners and senior management teams that have put their energy into developing a formal business plan are the ones that have accelerated furthest and fastest.

Hopefully without over simplifying, I recommend creating a plan with four key areas:

  1. Executive leadership activities
  2. A marketing and promotions plan
  3. Sales achievement at “the business strategy level” of the marketing suite
  4. Implementation of marketing services “systems sales”

Executive Leadership:

Owners need to genuinely assess their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats relative to their production capabilities, customer and prospect opportunities, and sales staff realities.

In most cases, “less is more” when it comes to selection of the sales staff for senior marketing executive consultative sales attempts.  It’s is not uncommon to see the owner as one of the “few” that forms the tip of the spear in outbound sales. In addition to juggling all the moving parts in marketing and promotion listed below, owners and senior management should also be responsible for development and maintenance of an ongoing “Idea Bank”, a repository of best practices, observations, and distinctions as relates to industry knowledge.

Marketing and Promotion:

The baseline elements of marketing/promotions include:

  • Your ability to express benefits, particularly in light of the unprecedented results marketers can achieve with customer centric marketing strategies and logistical support.
  • It might be helpful to have a little less emphasis on all your “bells and whistles”- after all it’s the 3/8” hole we’re looking for not the drill per se.
  • Your branding initiative should  be synchronized across all media platforms used
  • Your sales staff’s elevator pitch should be well-polished. (This is a must!)
  • And as any technology support company will tell you- the ability to demonstrate synchronized marketing activity through self use. (Eat your own cooking.)

Sales Achievement – “Business Strategy Level”

As explained in my last post, a thorough understanding of the marketing executive’s job description, variations in marketing cycles, and knowledge of the nuances of their industry vertical will go a long way towards closed deals.  Some of the best deals I’ve seen happened because the sales person was seen as delivering a strategic plan; the sales process built a consultative relationship instead of pedaling applications.

It is not uncommon for those selling “applications and technology” to get paid only for the “use of the tools” while the company with the consultative approach is getting paid business strategy or consulting fees in addition to the traditional production deliverables!

Implementation Services:

I tend to break out application services into several subsets, including:

  • Implementation support team
  • Technology best practices
  • Ability to clearly define requirements or project scope for the agreed working deliverables

Each of these implementation components is capable of being a profit centers unto itself, particularly in light of the reduced pricing and increased capability of Software-as-Services offers. As for having implementation support, you can go it alone or you can seek the help of outsiders, (contact me and I can identify several dozen qualified sources of support to help you!)

In conclusion– start with an honest SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of your organization (third party moderator-referees are great for this).  Piece the puzzle parts together and you’re on your way to getting yourself six months in front of the buyer and complete elimination of “print” competitors.

As always, I welcome your feedback!

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One thought on “Marketing Services Transformation- The Business Plan

  1. Tina Stelzer

    Peter, these are great points. It’s tough to make the transition to successful marketing services provider, if it’s right for your business.

    A point I would like to make — starting with a SWOT analysis is great. Once you’re ready to settle in and write your plan, use the results from your SWAT to set a realistic goal and measurement so that you can determine when and if you’re successful in your transition. It doesn’t need to be super-scientific, just something you can measure, like “I want to add $XX incremental revenue over the next six months”, or ” I want to reach 9% net income in the next 18 months” or “I need to diversify my customer base so that one customer does not represent more than 10% of overall revenue”, etc. If you don’t set a goal or if you have method in which to measure, how do you know when you have succeeded? Or more importantly, when you do know it’s time to adjust your activities to better achieve your goal? Setting the goal of “I want to be a marketing services provider” isn’t definitive and can’t be successful precisely because you can’t measure it.

    Great article, Peter! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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