Posted by: johnocunningham | December 21, 2012

A Key Part of Any Marketing Plan: What You Will NOT Sell

One of the most memorable quotes I ever got from a marketing expert in the professional services sector was this: “You really don’t have a marketing plan until you decide what it is that you are NOT going to do.”

This expert explained to me that successful service organizations set up boundary lines so that they can focus their professional energy for the benefit of the clients and industries they have chosen to serve.

Without such a boundary, an organization is likely to just take whatever walks in the door, easily losing focus and letting its people become distracted from the mission, purpose and objectives of the organization. This kind of reactive approach to business also leads people to take on work – just because it is there – that other providers often perform faster, better and cheaper. So when a client finds out after the fact that they might have gotten the same quality result quicker and cheaper from another provider, they stamp a negative value on your brand.

Furthermore, as one highly successful managing partner once said to me, “nobody even believes you if you say you can do everything.” Thus, a diffuse and scatter-shot approach that allows service partners to take on anything is totally inconsistent with the necessity to be credible in the marketplace by being candid about what you are really good at doing. You can not contend that your firm is “the best” at something when they try to do everything.

To really be the best, you have stay focused. You have to own a piece of ground, and your team must have the shared passion for the mission, purpose and goals you have chosen on that ground. So when you put together your marketing plan for 2013, think about what it is you are NOT going to do in order to sharpen your organizational focus. That means thinking about the types of clients you do not want to serve, as well as the practice areas that you are not going to sell.

You might also have to consider which areas of ground you can defend or take against your competition, as well as which areas you are not prepared to hold over the long haul. You will have to look at your personnel and resources to figure out what ground you can successfully stake out or conquer, and be realistic in developing a plan to that end.

If you decide there is something you simply do not do as well as the competition, then you have to be honest with your clients, and refer them to the best possible providers in that area. Some firms are already doing this, choosing to outsource or refer work involving various types of litigation support, for instance, including most e-discovery work. It is all about core competency, risk, efficiency and cost savings, as one Jackson Lewis partner has observed in this Law Technology News article.

So get focused in 2013, and stake out the hunting ground that best suits you, leaving the rest for others. If you do it right, it will lead to better hunting and better results.



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