Three ideas to support growth in 2019

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The biggest challenges facing B2B companies this year are marketing ones. From generating demand to converting new business, growth will rest in large part on the marketing team.

If you’re thinking about how you can better support the growth of your firm in 2019, creating focus is the best place to start. Vague business plans are all too common in our industry – best summed up as sell more of everything to everyone. If we don’t have sound, targeted business goals to aim for, how can marketing demonstrate commercial impact? How can we help our firms to grow effectively and efficiently? Trying to cover all directions means spreading time, creativity, energy and budget too thinly.

We find asking these three simple questions – and drawing on available financial, client, competitor and market information – is a solid first step towards creating the strategic focus needed to deliver profitable growth:

#1 What are the biggest opportunities for growth?

Understanding where growth will come from is key. This means predicting the future financial performance of service lines, sectors and segments of clients – what do you need to help sell more of and to whom, specifically that will have the biggest impact on growth?

What: Which new or existing services, products, or combination of these are the highest value and the most profitable? And for which of the above is there growing or new demand?

Whom: Be as specific as possible. In high value B2B the pool of potential buyers is often relatively small – winning or growing just a handful of the right clients is sometimes all it takes. Identify and name individual, high-potential clients, prospects and buyers, if you can. Campaigns and activity targeting broad segments may work from a brand perspective but are often not specific enough to create and convert demand for individual clients and prospects.

Useful sources of information include:

  • Market data will help determine where there is growing or new demand. For example, the MCA compiles an industry report on the size, penetration and growth of the consulting industry by service line, sector, type and size of firm.

  • Financial data will highlight which services and clients bring in the most revenue and which are the most profitable. Looking back over a three year period will show where demand and margin have been growing, remained static or is declining.

#2 What challenges do we face in unlocking growth?

Spend most – if not all – of your marketing resources addressing real business challenges. Those stopping the business from unlocking opportunities for growth. For the greatest return, focus on new opportunities where your marketing efforts can have the most impact, not where you'll win work anyway or where you'll only see marginal – or no – gains.

The business challenges we come across that marketing can help overcome tend to fall in two buckets: generating new demand and increasing conversion, including:

Lack of differentiation in highly competitive markets: With very little to distinguish one B2B brand’s services from another, you need to create additional value to win work and protect margin.

Limited market share: Growing market share often means changing market perceptions in a way that unseats the leading brands.

Launching a new product or service: The best new services and products address an unmet or unrealised need in the market. The challenge here is building a compelling business case to create new demand.

Useful sources of information include:

  • Sales data will tell you if you are currently seeing the level of demand – number of RFIs, for example – or win rate needed to hit revenue targets. Partners or business development will also have a good idea where you need to up demand and/or improve conversion.

  • Profile is a good indicator of whether you will see enough of the right new business opportunities. In the legal sector, Chambers and Legal 500 rankings can be a good guide. For example, if you want to win bigger ticket work, but are not ranked in tier one, you will need to work harder to increase consideration and win work.

#3 How do we measure performance?

The desire to demonstrate ROI can lead us to focus on what we can easily measure – such as social media shares, downloads, etc. – over what we should be measuring – marketing’s contribution to hard commercial metrics.

Knowing what the businesses’ financial objectives are (revenue, market share and profit growth, for example) – the longer-term, lag metrics – is your starting point. You can then consider what metrics marketing can control that will be the best predictor of achieving those lag metrics – i.e. shorter-term lead metrics. For example, increasing the volume of new business meetings, invitations to tender, trial sign ups and conversion rates are all good predictors of potential revenue growth in B2B that marketing activity can influence.

If you can be specific about what metrics can be influenced and the numbers required, you can better set targets to measure and demonstrate performance in a way that is meaningful to the business.

Useful sources of information include:

  • Financial targets – translated into the number of new / existing clients wins – will give you a good indication of the level of activity needed to hit target. For example, if you need to win five new clients and your current conversion rate (meeting-to-opportunity) is 25%, your target is to generate 100 meetings.

  • The buyer cycle is also useful to understand. How do your clients typically buy? What stages do they go through? How long does it take? And how can marketing best influence a positive outcome?


A version of this article first appeared in PM Magazine.


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