Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Agency Owners: Avoid This Mistake!

New business is the lifeblood of any public relations or marketing communications firm. Finding prospects and converting them into new clients is normally the #1 need for most firms. Today’s economic uncertainties make this an even more pressing need.

However, ask most owners how they plan grow and win new clients and they answer, “By doing a better job of marketing.”

What they should say is “By doing a better job of selling.”

As both a former agency leader and current adviser to PR and marketing firms, I believe that most agency leaders confuse sales and marketing and as a result lack a real sales strategy to win business. And, a sales strategy is not just a list of potential new business opportunities,a training program to make your people better presenters, or more impacful PowerPoints.

Here‘s what I mean.
For many (perhaps most) agency owners, one of their biggest gripes is the lack of an effective marketing program to make that proverbial phone ring off the hook, generate more referrals and ideally stimulate prospects to simply award them the business.

Do the words “positioning”; “messaging”; new website; “USP”; recognition; reputation; etc. ring a bell? These are the words agency owners often use when either trying to fix their marketing effort or launch a new one.

The reasoning is simple: the better known (and known for the right reasons) the more likely we are to attract potential clients. Once they get to us we can “sell” them. And, they are not wrong – just a little misguided that this is the primary solution to their growth issues.

I believe that the real solution to growth lies with the right kind of sales strategy supported by a complimentary marketing program – not the other way around. If you know to whom you are selling, what they have bought in the past or could be buying now, and what you can offer them that competition cannot, then you have the basis for a strategic sales development program.

Do you have a sales strategy or just simply a marketing strategy? Or, perhaps neither.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Revenue Generator for PR Firms?

After reading Steve Cody’s entertaining and thoughtful RepMan blog the other morning, it just confirmed my feeling that helping clients develop outstanding customer service programs could be a big new revenue generator for public relations firms. It’s wonderful to improve one’s own client relationships – but why stop there.

Great agencies are always looking for new ways to become more valuable to their clients – and increase budgets at the same time. Harold Burson has said that the chief internal public relations officer must be the conscience of the company. Well, how about the public relations firm becoming the conscience of their client’s customer relations function?

It’s possible. Agencies need strong client relationships at senior levels to sell-in their value and expertise to the right decision-maker; true expertise (e.g. someone who’s been there/done that for a corporation) to give it credibility and knowledge of best practices; and the creativity to develop programs that improve what has to be one of the weakest areas of company/brand/user communication.

Here are just a few possibilities for agency customer service programs for their clients:

• A Customer Service Assessment Program to develop new policies and procedures based on an in-depth audit of the customer relations function (agencies help clients develop social media policies, why not customer relations policies).

• Customer relations training (agencies “train” clients for a variety of needs already. This becomes one more training tool in your toolbox).

• Role playing workshops and involvement programs with a client’s CR managers/staff

• Strategic integration of social media tools (e.g. twitter) with the customer relations function.

• Strategic counseling in the agency’s role as “customer relations conscience.”

• “Mystery” customer programs to assess and measure impact.

These are but a few. And they may not be the right ones. There are a number of great corporations who put a premium on excellent customer relations. Study them and adapt their techniques to your clients.

Be one of the first to carve out a niche specialty in customer relations communication.