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#47: How Much Marketing Effort is Enough, and When?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, May 13, 2009
When the consulting business turns down, we take advantage of the lull in business to crank up our marketing effort. This year we are collecting all the information we can to build a database of prospects and market trends. What else can/should we focus on?

Let's deal with a premise of your statement first, that a robust market database is a productive base on which to build business. True, when we are flush with business, we often spend less time on marketing and sales activities. Thus, it seems logical that, when the press of delivering services abates, we increase our market research and/or sales efforts. There are two issues here. The first is that start and stop marketing is a road to start and stop client opportunities. If you haven't been doing continuous marketing/sales (a little ebb and flow is OK), you will be caught without a full pipeline when the market slows a bit.

The second is that there is a natural limit to the value of an all-out marketing campaign. Information saturation occurs when each additional piece of information has less and less value (economists call this "diminishing returns"). Once you have identified a market trend you think you can exploit by advising clients, each piece of information about the market potential, suppliers or consumers, regulation, competitors or substitutes, etc. has less and less value.

The result is that a massive market research effort in a slow period may be "too much, too soon" (vs. "too little, too late"). Probably more information than is useful for a given prospect and by the time it is most useful, some of it may be getting outdated. As difficult as it is to maintain a steady marketing effort, according to an explicit marketing plan, every consulting firm must do this to maximize its ability to keep its pipeline full - even in slow times.

Tip: Review your marketing plan for this year and next. Are the underlying assumptions still valid? Are you still executing against a plan whose assumptions about the demand for consulting services, the industries or types of clients most in need, or your available time to conduct market or sales activities are no longer valid. It is really easy to let your plan, which may have worked fairly well over the years, take on a life of its own and cause you to commit to more or less of what you need to succeed.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  market research  marketing  practice management  prospect  sustainability 

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