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Business development and marketing in challenging times

TURNING LEMONS INTO LEMONADE: PART II OF II

Mobilizing under-utilized staff to contribute to your firm’s business development solution.

Part I spoke about structuring a program where you—as the marketing/business development professional—can guide your ‘expanded marketing team’ (aka underutilized staff) to make meaningful contributions to your firm’s marketing effort.

Now, I’ll share some additional thoughts on organizing the effort, along with specific
to-do marketing and business development tasks that might make sense for your new ‘expanded marketing team’.

I.    Sourcing the tasks.

In addition to the obvious (ie. having staff tap into their existing network/contacts), use these three sources to identify and prioritize tasks that will make the most sense for these professionals.

Your own master to-do list. If you are highly organized, you might have a short, mid and long-term list. At a minimum, most of us business development professionals have some sort of a ‘wish list’ of ideas that we’d like to see realized if only there were enough resources (typically manpower) to make it happen.
Outstanding items you had previously delegated. If others are unable to deliver on their promises, perhaps you reallocate those activities/assignments to those who are willing and capable of full execution.
The firm’s strategic business development plan. While most of us seek to create business development plans that are fully executable, there are often a few plans that do not get executed because they were missing a champion. Are there holes that can be filled by your ‘expanded marketing team’?

II. Organize tasks into skill set buckets. Examples:

Market research: Collect/synthesize data on prospects; markets; geographies; competition; project leads. Many of your junior-midlevel staff have retained research abilities from university. Provided that you are highly specific with them about what you are looking for and websites/sources to review, they will come back to you with concise, informed content that will help guide your firm’s future marketing strategy. Well-guided research projects are a valuable asset to help inform your firm’s marketing strategy. You may want to provide them with a straightforward report template in which they can organize and deliver the information you’ve asked them to collect.

Due diligence. Similarly, for the opportunities that you are pursuing, positioning, and determining go/no go, why not assign staff to conduct due diligence (going out to a site, talking to people in the town where the project is located, wrap up research that you have not yet completed, etc)?

Electronic communications/media. Website design or updates; blogging; micro-blogging; social media; e-marketing; monitoring RSS feeds and google alerts of competitors, prospects, clients, market sectors. This category is especially pertinent, because we know what a time sucker it is to properly execute a solid e-communications plan. There’s not a single firm in our industry that has mastered social media, so tapping into junior to mid-level staff who have an affinity towards social media attributes is an ideal way to get your firm more entrenched in this phenomena that is not likely to go away.

Graphic design. Have staff prepare options for various special projects such as a postcard mailing series. Or, have them liaise between your firm and Crowdspring http://www.crowdspring.com/, an online graphic design and branding service.

Technical writing. Staff must understand the project, the scope of services provided, and how fees are prepared. These contributions would be highly valuable in assisting with fee proposals.

Marketing writing. Writing and editing is surely a natural skill for some people in your ‘expanded marketing team’. Give them templates and direction on how to craft first drafts of press releases; project descriptions; and award submissions.

Journalistic interviewing. Are the available staff members highly communicative? Are they inquisitive and good at probing to gain quality content? If so, they may be just right to handle some external client perception interviews (for projects other than the ones they have worked on for the most unbiased discussion). Or, if they are more junior, perhaps they would be good at interviewing internal project managers regarding existing and past projects, and filling in the information ‘holes’ that may exist in your project database.

Computer software.
Would it be worthwhile to ask a technically-savvy staff member to attend a few powerpoint training webinars, so that they could apply their extra time to elevating the aesthetics of your firm’s powerpoint presentations (include hyper links, proper animation for stronger emphasis of message, etc)? Or, if they have a thorough and meticulous personality, perhaps they would be a good fit to clean up your CRM (client relationship management) databases in terms of: data entry: lead tracking; project information (collected internally; cross-referencing projects and stories), and verification of reference contact information.

Coordination/administrative.
If you truly do not think that members of the ‘expanded marketing team’ could help with some of the aforementioned tasks, then there is always room for an extra set of capable hands to help assemble hardcopy packages: proposals; brochures; media kits; presentation leave behinds.

Networking.
For the mid-to-senior level staff who are highly versed with your firm’s message as well as the ‘perfect’ client to pursue, their networking efforts need to be managed in a far more organized manner when they are seeking to fill their extra (unbillable) time. My suggestion is to create a master document of your entire networking program, literally going through a list of potential functions/events every single week (along with their costs) to ensure that the firm’s visibility is at an all-time high.  Further, if those people are attending educational functions or events where clients are plentiful (ideal!), then create a methodical way for them to come back and deliver a mini-lunch/learn within one week after the session. This sort of knowledge transfer is often neglected during busy times, and what better time than now to reshape old habits!


III. Maintain structure; underscore accountability.

My suggestion to you, as the Business Development Director leading this charge, is to organize this into a formal process. Perhaps you dedicate one week to doing nothing but shape the ‘program’. Depending on the number of people available to you, you may want to do mini-training meetings in groups, so that you are consistent with guidance and direction. Further, create some sort of system with due dates and status reports.  Perhaps you schedule an ‘‘expanded marketing team’ meeting’ (which would include any staff slated to help you in the upcoming week) to occur immediately after your standard marketing meeting.

You may be thinking: “Look, I need to be out there calling on prospects. I cannot take a week of time to shape a program like this.” Mind you, I’m not suggesting that you completely disregard your business development followup. But I am suggesting that you put additional business development activities on temporary hold so that you can get this program {Operation: Grow our firm!} established. Many good minds are better than one; therefore, I do think you can spare a few days to pull this together to efficiently expand your marketing team, before returning to your regular work. You are more likely to complete the effort with success if you prepare it all in one concentrated sweep to ensure sincerity and momentum.


IV. Follow up; making it meaningful and making them feel worthwhile.

Remember, some of these typically billable professionals will be on board with becoming a part of your ‘expanded marketing team’. They will be eager to contribute for the good of the company and to grow their own intellectual bandwidth. Others will be resistant, and may either 1. complain outwardly or with their colleagues, or 2. simply not do what they are asked to do or not share a real interest in learning and contributing.

You need not waste your time with those in Group Two. They may not have a job much longer if their bad attitude persists. Your time is too valuable to try to delegate and teach to unwilling candidates. Instead, focus your attentions on Group One. Make sure to follow through and communicate their value.  For example, let’s say you ask someone to put together a market research summary report on a particular sub-market. Once you’ve reviewed it, why not analyze the data (or at least share your own thoughts) with the person that authored the report? Or, if you’ve given them a more administrative task such as assembling/binding fee proposals, why not take 10 minutes to sit down with them after the proposal goes out, and walk them through the various components of the proposal? Let them read the original RFP letter, and then explain your firm’s strategy towards winning the work.

Naturally, for the majority of your firm’s staff, billable work will (and should) be first priority. But the minute they are idle—or dragging their feet and adding hours to an already overrun project—is the minute they should be assigned marketing/business development related tasks. As for those that are resistant and do not step up with enthusiasm and cooperation—well, you may want to question their value in the bigger picture of the firm’s health. Granted, those that do contribute may not love the tasks (after all, they went to school to be an architect, engineer, designer), but if you guide them well, then they will add value, and that feels good for everyone.

As we enter 2010 with hope for a better year, this ‘expanded marketing team’ concept is an investment worth making so that you can keep your talented people for as long as possible, and use them in the wisest, most thoughtful way possible. At the very least, they have been trained on something new (good for their career, no matter what level) and your firm’s leadership will feel like it did everything possible to keep these talented folks for as long as possible. Even better, participants might tap into some valuable activity or information that allows your firm to win more business, and keep the firm together for the long haul!

PSMJ Rainmaker and RainToday

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