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BrandingWire: Why are we losing business?

October 8th, 2007 · 10 Comments · Branding, Collaborations, Strategy

Brandwire

 

This month’s BrandingWire offering asks an interesting question.  A B2B consultancy that works primarily with high-tech and health care clients is losing market share.  What should they do?

Here’s their current situation:

  • They are losing contracts to lower pricing and bigger firms.
  • They’ve stopped growing.
  • If they do land a client, they usually only buy one project and don’t return.

Here’s how they describe their client profile:

  • Revenues: $1 million to $25 million
  • Employees: 150 or fewer
  • Verticals: High-tech and health care
  • Location: North America

Sometimes the best advice we need to offer a prospect or client is — you shouldn’t market anything right now. To jump into marketing tactics at this stage with this particular client would be putting lipstick on a pig. 

There are questions that need asking long before we pull the trigger on any attempt to help them attract new clients.  They have problems that marketing cannot fix.  And it would be irresponsible of us to encourage them to spend money that’s just going to perpetuate the problem.

This is a classic mistake many businesses make.  They’re struggling so they throw more marketing dollars at the problem.  But what if the problem has little to do with marketing?  Here are some harsh realities that this client needs to face before they launch any new marketing initiatives.

Your target market is too big

The range between $1 million and $25 million is huge.  Companies on each side of that size spectrum behave completely differently.  My guess is that our client needs to drastically narrow that range to find their sweet spot.  Right now, they are aiming at much too wide a target.

You don’t know how you are perceived

We need to have some in-depth conversations with past clients, current clients and those clients who opted for a competitor.  We need to understand, from their perspective, how this company is coming across. 

The biggie:  You can’t sustain business

But, without a doubt the most glaring problem we need to solve is the company’s inability to keep current clients happy and coming back for more. 

If you can’t earn a current client’s trust and more business, then you are destined to fail.  No business can be profitable with a revolving door or clients.  The costs of acquisition is just too high. 

Bottom line: 

This year’s marketing budget is going to be dedicated to identifying and fixing the problems that have gotten our client into this situation.  We can’t market them out of the hole they’ve dug.

As is the BrandingWire tradition, there will be several other marketing pros who will weigh in on this scenario. Check out their posts as well!

    Olivier Blanchard
    Becky Carroll
    Derrick Daye
    Kevin Dugan
    Lewis Green
    Gavin Heaton
    Martin Jelsema
    Valeria Maltoni
    Drew McLellan
    Patrick Schaber
    Steve Woodruff

10 Comments so far ↓

  • Cam Beck

    “The range between $1 million and $25 million is huge. Companies on each side of that size spectrum behave completely differently.”

    Right on the money, Drew.

  • Valeria Maltoni

    “But, without a doubt the most glaring problem we need to solve is the company’s inability to keep current clients happy and coming back for more.”

    Maybe they are viewed as a tactical shop? I also agree with Cam on your point about prospect size.

  • Lewis Green

    Drew,

    Good points. There are lots of questions to ask and to answer.

  • Martin Jelsema

    Drew: Your insight is right on. I’ve blogged particularly about entrepreneuers, who want to put the cart before the horse. It’s best to develop a sequence in building a business or solving a business problem. Getting first things first means you won’t have to redo stuff as often nor waste money on certain steps that aren’t at all useful.

    Martin

  • Kevin Dugan

    It occurs to me that many of the firms we have in mind when perscribing an approach here probably do not conduct annual employee satisfaction surveys. It’s one of the most valuable tools we have, telling us why clients love us and why they don’t impacts our marketing, sales and account service so hopefully it never (EVER) gets to this point.

    Thanks Drew!

  • Loredana Niculae

    not knowing your tarket market and who’s your customer can really hurt your results. I had a recent post on b2b market segmentation trying to provide some new ways in identifying cutomers in b2b.

  • Patrick Schaber

    Drew,

    “They have problems that marketing cannot fix”

    I would argue that the steps you’re proposing ARE marketing. Answering those questions you posed are the first steps to a successful marketing plan.

    BTW…just saw your Twitter….I agree on the calling in sick gameplan!

    Pat

  • Becky Carroll

    “If you can’t earn a current client’s trust and more business, then you are destined to fail.” I completely agree. This is about not being the ‘trusted advisor’ to these clients and not adding value to their companies. The marketing department should be stepping in to help with the appropriate customer communications and mechanisms to solicit feedback – quickly – so the consulting firm can bail out the water and get back afloat.

    Well said, as always!

  • Drew McLellan

    Thanks everyone for adding to this conversation. That’s what makes these BrandingWire exercises so much fun — the collective wisdom and insights that get offered up.

    Until next month…

    Drew

  • songfang

    Yes ,I have a lesson here ,useful !

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