“How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg?

Four; calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.” Abraham Lincoln

I can tell you more than you want to know about the inner workings of your nose. When I graduated from college, one of my first marketing consulting assignments was to build a competitive matrix comparing the 4 major prescription steroid nasal sprays. One product had this advantage, and one product that. One was approved for children under 12, and 12 one wasn’t. Ours had the fewest side effects. “Fewer bloody noses” became quite the rallying cry urs ewer around the office. It became the product’s major selling point. Mentors told me, “See, pinpointing your unique position in the market vis-à-vis the competition, and inpointing vis vis devising messaging to highlight the differences between you and the other guy, are of utmost ighlight guy importance.” Then I started marketing professional services and I endeavored to apply the same logic. Was one arketing pply firm of PhD organizational development consultants smarter and more passionate than the others? Did passionate other this one mid-sized law firm outside of Dallas really have “a different way of doing business” and better client service than any other law firm? Did the team at this accounting firm in Boston cause fewer bloody noses than all the others? And if they did, would simple marketing messages to these effects make a difference in how many clients they all won. Something just did not compute. And it didn’t stop there. I learned that the concept of differentiation in professional servi services firms didn’t quite apply the same way as it did in the widget world. I saw firms attempt to apply the “immutable” laws of branding. They backfired. I saw major business development training initiatives fail to produce the rainmakers and revenue firm leadership hoped would materialize. Over the years I’ve seen bad advice – lies if you will – delivered with complete confidence and fanatical zeal to service firm marketers and leaders. They say, “The tail is a leg!” and set service firm lead marketing initiative barking up all the wrong trees. iative No matter your age or experience, it’s easy to look back and say, “If I only knew then what I know experience, now I might have done a few things differently.” Our aim in Truth and Lies in Professional Services Marketing is to set the record straight in some core areas – marketing strategy, lead generation, branding, differentiation, rainmaking – where misconceptions and bad advice seem particularly widespread. Perhaps you’ll save some time, dollars, and heartache by steering clear of mistakes that have tripped up so many firm leaders and marketers. lear If you have thoughts, comments, questions, or feedback, please feel free to email me at mschultz@whillsgroup.com or call 508 508-626-9991 x205. Best regards, Mike Schultz President Wellesley Hills Group
© 2008 Wellesley Hills Group 1

6 Keys to a Terrible Professional Services Marketing Strategy
There must be a secret primer out there on how to build terrible marketing strategies for professional services firms. Over the past two decades I’ve come across so many marketing strategies that have failed for similar reasons, I figure everyone must be in the know and I everyone have simply been left out of the loop. After much research to find the source, the secret codex still eludes me. So, I am compelled to seize this moment for posterity and codify the process of building terrible marketing strategies. Here goes: 1. Build the strategy from the top down Q. In a ham and eggs breakfast, what’s the difference between the pig and the chicken? A. The chicken was compliant, but the pig was committed. Nothing turns off partners, division leaders, and other leadership types more than being handed a strategy and told to, “Make it happen.” Force feed the strategies from on high and you’re likely to get compliance and not commitment. Practice leaders may take the strategy and run with it, perhaps even put a bit of effort and sweat into it, yet they can and frequently do walk away at the first sign of trouble. Without going through the process of crafting the strategies and tactics themselves themselves— brainstorming possibilities, performing “what if” analyses, researching best practices, and backtracking when suggested actions don’t seem like they’ll pan out—the team’s out dedication to implementation will be weak. Once the tactics feel burdensome to implement, or at the first sign senior management isn’t going to hold the team’s feet to the fire, implementation grinds to team’s a standstill. Nothing makes a terrible strategy more terrible than one doomed to be ignored or, at best, tolerated by the team members responsible for making it a success. 2. Don’t consult with expert tacticians Equally as devastating as a top down strategy is a strategy built without input from top-down experts familiar with the underlying marketing and business development tactics. When you identify your specific tactics even if the tactics are largely decent choices tactics—even for a successful marketing strategy without talking with people who have deep, or strategy—without relevant experience, the actual outcome will likely differ from the one you envision.

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For example, you might conduct a seminar or webinar and want to fill the room with decision makers, but in reality you generate little or no attendance. Or, you manage to generate some attendance, but then you do a poor job of delivering content that will help you connect with potential clients. (Try a hard-sell approach; most decision hard sell makers really despise that.) Then you can ruin your follow up by not doing it, doing ally follow-up it too late, or doing it poorly. Maybe you set out to support lead generation and client communication with a website, but end up with a website that no one can find, no one can use, is hard on us the eyes, provides no value, is not client focused, and generally reflects poorly on your company. You might then employ direct mail for lead generation and generate no response—with no idea why, and no way to find out what didn’t work! with Leave out the tactical expertise and the terrible marketing outcomes you can achieve are endless. 3. Look only at your own industry and competition If you want your marketing strategy to never reach beyond average, make sure you look only at your own industry and competition. Let’s say your company is an accounting firm. Make sure you look only at what other accounting firms are doing for growth. Ignore law, management consulting, technology, and consumer products companies. This is a great way to miss out on all the newest marketing trends, technologies, and possibilities. Plus, if you look only at your own industry for inspiration you’ll never be a leader. Being late to the game is a great component to a terrible marketing strategy. Make sure that when you’re studying the competition to see what they’re doing, you studying look only at your direct competitors. Following the accounting example, let’s say you’re in a 50-person accounting firm outside of New York City. Focus only on other person mid-size accounting firms. Don’t even think about considering what KPMG or PWC size even are doing, and don’t worry much about what the 200-person firm might be up to. 200 person They’re too big for you to care about, and you don’t want to get too many inspirations from companies that have grown well or are larger than you. larger 4. Don’t create an environment of fervent execution Even if you allow your leaders to craft the company and practice area growth plans and you have the tactical expertise to get things done, by fostering a culture where marketing and business development are “second fiddle” you will stay in the land of development terrible marketing.

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A great way to get started here is to set action steps and goals, and not hold people accountable to them. Professional services cultures are often great at ”making nice” and not wanting to stir things up when someone isn’t pulling their marketing and business development weight. You might think this is a tactical versus a strategic issue. It’s not. Company strategists and leadership must make sure the environmental factors are not in a place: Don’t set clear expectations or give feedback, don’t make tools and resources available, and don’t put incentives and consequences in place to guide people’s behavior. (Or, dear CIA disinformation operative in training, set incentives that will guide the wrong behaviors. See what that does.) To end up with the terrible strategy, it’s also requisite that leadership insure the people tasked with executing do not have the skills and knowledge, are not motivated to perform, and are not, indeed, the right people for the job. indeed, Execution must not be made a strategic priority by leadership—if it’s not a priority, leadership if your marketing strategy has a chance to be not only terrible, but tragic. It’s a fantastically terrible and devious marketing strategy that has everything in place that that could allow it to succeed, and then just fails because no one gets it done. Brilliant! 5. Don’t plan for behavioral or organizational change Professional services firms are products of the collective behaviors of the people within the firm. That’s a mouthful, but, in essence, it simply means we are what we thin do. Marketing strategies are most powerful when they are bold, venture into uncharted territory, are creative and new, and require lots of energy and enthusiasm to implement well. Thus, almost without exception, a marketing strategy’s success is contingent on some level of change, be it evolutionary or revolutionary. Regardless of what you set forth in your plan, if the strategists and leaders aren’t bent on making behavioral and organizational change happen, you’ll end up with the behavioral same thing you had last year and the year before. Doing nothing different than you have done in the past is sometimes, all by itself, a terrible marketing strategy. 6. Form a marketing committee, the take them to Abilene then A family in Coleman, Texas was having a nice afternoon playing dominoes outside. The father-in-law suggests, “Let’s take a trip to Abilene for dinner.” No one really law wants to go, but they don’t want to seem disagreeable so they hop in the non-airconditioned car and make the 2 hour trip to Abilene.

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Five hours later the family gets back. They’re tired, sticky, cramped from the drive, and recovering from the underwhelming cafeteria meal they had in Abilene. “Wasn’t that a great trip,” one of them dishonestly remarked. Mother-in” Mother -law then says, “Actually, I didn’t really want to go but you all seemed to. I didn’t want to spoil everyone’s fun so I didn’t say anything.” Turns out no one wanted to go, even father-in-law who suggested the trip, but they all hopped in the car and went to law trip, 1 Abilene anyway. Service firms tend to employ smart people. Most like to involve themselves and weigh in on important decisions, such as marketing strategy. Marketing committees form. When these lovely decision-making bodies get nice and big, two things decisi making happen. 1. Innovative and interesting ideas get squashed before they can gain momentum. With anything new or visionary, it’s difficult to get everyone to agree and easy for people to say no and poke holes in idea The tired, less ideas. exciting ideas remain on the table. It’s kind of like getting 20 people to agree on the same dinner to eat. So many interesting possibilities get excluded for this reason or that. Everyone ends up with macaroni and cheese and a side of iceberg lettuce posing as a salad. 2. People begin to agree with watered down and uninspiring ideas because they watered-down think other smart people agree with them so they must be OK, they’re sick of the ongoing committee discussion, and actions eventually need to be taken. They also know better ideas won’t make it very far, so they publicly swallow the pill and declare “I agree. Let’s go!” Privately they think, “This is a terrible idea, but I guess it’s where everyone wants to go.” In other words, the committee decision body decides to go to Abilene, and doesn’t decision look back, sometimes until they’ve spent a year and a half on the trip. What you’re hoping for here, if you want your terrible marketing strategy to come out in full force, is to encourage pluralistic ignorance, that lovely phenomena that ignorance, occurs when several people in a group disagree with the norm of the group, but don’t say anything because they think everyone else agrees. Since no one says anything even when they disagree, even if everyone has second thoughts, the room thought stays silent and the trips to Abilene get spot numero uno on the priority list. numero Even marketing strategies that could be good can become terrible marketing strategies if you set your mind to it. If you’re willing to do what you must to keep innovative ideas off inno the table, let other companies exploit opportunities in the market faster than you do, and structure your organization to stifle frank discussion, commitment, and execution, you’ll be able to come up with the best terrible marketing strategies on the block. strategies
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Inspired by The Abilene Paradox and other Meditations on Management by Jerry Harvey.
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© 2008 Wellesley Hills Group

On Service Branding, Differentiation, and Market Share
To maximize profit, managers have pursued the Holy Grail of becoming number one or two in their industries. Recently, however, new measures of service industries like software and banking suggest that customer loyalty is a more important determinant of profit. - James Heskett, et. al., Putting the Service Service-Profit Chain to Work, Harvard Business Review , Product companies seek to become market share leaders. To do this, they look to launch market-share and manage a portfolio of differentiated products that have specific features most appealing to a specific target audience for a reasonable (but as high as possible) price. reasonable According to the famous and widely accepted PIMS (Profit Impact of Marketing Strategies) study, profit increases with market share. So, of course, product companies (and sometimes those that are marketing professional services) seek market share as a core strategic professional objective. The jackpot situation for a product company is to: 1. Uncover an unmet market need for a product within their capability to develop and market 2. Make that product unique or as much as possible unlike products currently available in the market 3. Launch the product with a strong marketing and branding campaign, supported by market research, that shapes the 'personality' and appeal of the product so it can gain market share as quickly and aggressively as possible aggressiv 4. Develop the product to be difficult to imitate and also difficult to imitate quickly, thus keeping their hold on this profitable market for as long as possible This is the widely accepted model of product marketing taught in many business schools and advocated by many management and marketing consulting firms. Thus, when presented with a new business plan or product offering, we classically trained business businesstypes are programmed to ask questions such as:   

How large is the market? What will make your offering unique? How will you communicate your marketplace differentiation? What are the barriers to entry?

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What will prevent other firms from copying you and rendering your product a commodity, thus erasing any market differentiation you might enjoy, pressuring your m ight prices, and squeezing your profits?

Unfortunately, the business model and the questions above do not usually apply to professional service firms. Thus, what many of us know and learned from respected business thinkers about market research, launching new services, branding, and ket differentiation can become an Achilles heel if applied to our service firms. How can following such (seemingly) solid business thinking hurt us? Consider the following scenario - a business consultant trained in classical 'business and marketing strategy' tries trained to help a would-be entrepreneur to start a business that will succeed financially and grow. be Here is how their conversation might develop: Consultant: Nice to meet you. I am looking forward to disc ussing your potential new discussing business venture. What kind of business are you thinking of starting? Entrepreneur: Glad to meet you, too. I'm a lawyer (or accountant or consultant or engineer - this story applies to all) and have been for twenty years at well known law firms and want to make a go of it with a few other partners of mine. I'm going to start my own law firm in Boston. Consultant: Great. I'm going to ask you a few questions to help you evaluate the viability and potential of your new business and help you with your marketing strategy. Ready? Entrepreneur: As I'm new to professional services marketing, I'm looking forward to it. Fire away. Consultant: What's the size of the market? Entrepreneur: I have no idea, don't plan to find out, and probably won't because it's not probably really important. Suffice it to say, there's enough business for me to start a firm and grow it. Consultant: OK. Well, do you know what amount of market share you plan to grab for your firm? Entrepreneur: Not a clue, but I'm guessing it will be, for some years at least, less than 1%. guessing Consultant: Very well. Are there other companies serving this market? Entrepreneur: Yes, and for the most part, they serve it quite well. Consultant: How will the services you offer be unique and d ifferentiated? differentiated?

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Entrepreneur: They won't. I'll offer pretty much the same core professional services as other firms. I'll focus on my specialties and those of my several partners who will be starting with me: intellectual property, mergers and acquisitions, and insurance law. acquisitions, Consultant: I see. What kind of market research will you undertake so you can position your firm and professional services in the right way against the competition? Entrepreneur: No market research. We'll not be focusing outwardly on market opinions to help us determine what people are 'looking for' in a firm. If we try to be anything but ourselves, we'll come off as insincere and we don't want to do that. What we do in the daily course of working will shout louder than what we say, anyway. We'll simply be ourselves, try to communicate that in our marketing materials and brand message, and then dedicate ourselves to living up to our service promises consistently. Consultant: So you won't be using any market research to shape your brand image and br professional services branding strategy? Entrepreneur: Nobody likes a politician who surveys their constituency and then develops policies because one idea or another is popular at the time. People want sincerity and conviction from their elected officials, not vacillation. The same is true of professional ected service providers like lawyers. We may, however, survey our clients formally to make sure they're satisfied with the services they receive from us and, based on the survey results, tweak how we operate to best serve them. w Consultant: Can you undercut your competition in terms of price to steal market share? Entrepreneur: No, and we wouldn't want to. Our services are high-quality, our people are high quality, high-quality, and you get what you pay for. It's likely we'll charge high fees. quality, It's Consultant: If your business works and you generate a certain amount of market share, what will prevent other firms from offering services similar to yours and trying to steal your clients? Entrepreneur: Nothing will prevent other firms from offering such services or trying to steal prevent our clients. What we will do to keep them as clients is to retain our best employees so we do great work, manage our expenses appropriately, and strive to meet and exceed client expectations every day. Consultant: Good luck. (They'll never make it.) The consultant above probably would not feel very positive about the prospects for this new business. Every core business question she was taught to ask was not only not answered the way she expected, it was contradicted. Surely this person's new law firm can't succeed. cted,

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Yet consider the following from the prospective client's point of view:  Do you really want a lawyer that is too 'different' than all the other lawyers, or do you just want a really good one that's experienced, honest, trustworthy, and lly consistent? Do you really want to work with the lowest price (cheapest) lawyer? Do you really want to work with a law firm that changes their firm's personality and message depending upon market trend surveys? t Even if you're a good-sized business, do you need to work with the largest law firm -sized in the city, or just a team of competent lawyers at a firm that can reliably do the work you need to get done?

  

So, when you consider both your business strategy and your professional services strategy marketing strategy, consider that what you may have learned (and what your advisers learned) in business school may not always apply.

THE TRUTH: Firms that understand the special dynamics of professional services businesses, and how their businesses differ from many other types of companies, make esses, smarter overall decisions on how to grow their businesses.

© 2008 Wellesley Hills Group

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Git R Done: Executing Your Lead Generation Plan
Question: On a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being "always" and 5 being "never", how often do you stick to project schedules and keep commitments you make to clients? I'm guessing that most of you would give yourself a 1 (or a 2). Of course you make commitments and keep them. What kind of professional would you be if you didn't? (I don't professional know about you, but many a service provider has made commitments to me and not kept them. A topic for another time...) Next question: On a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being "not challenging at all" and 5 being "extremely challenging”, how challenging is it for you to implement your lead generation plans that you put in place at your own company (even when all of the stakeholders at the company agree on the plan)? Here at the Wellesley Hills Group and RainToday.com, we asked over 800 leaders at professional service businesses the same question as a part of our upcoming research report, What’s Working in Lead Generation. I was perusing the preliminary results (they're Generation not completely in yet), and 76% of the respondents said they found implementing their own lead generation plans "somewhat" to "extremely challenging" even when they agree internally on the plans. Since service providers by and large deliver on commitments they make to clients, I believe service providers can, in general, execute. Yet when it comes to sustained lead generation, as Larry the Cable Guy might say, service businesses just don't Git R Done. Service se providers keep commitments they make with clients. They just don't keep commitments they make with themselves. The question is, "Why?" ves. In Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan suggest Done, that the keys to execution at companies are based partially on a number of "Essential Behaviors" of leaders. I couldn't help but think of how these leader behaviors influence the of (in)ability of service businesses to execute on their own marketing and lead generation plans. Behavior 1: Know your peop and your business - "Leaders have to live in their business. people In companies that don't execute, the leaders are usually out of touch with the day to day ecute, realities." In most service businesses, leaders are in touch with the daily realities…of their client projects and their internal staffing. What they're often out of touch with is 1) how the competitive landscape of their own industries has changed; 2) how the buying cycle at client eir c businesses has changed; and 3) how their own marketing and lead generation activities need to change if they want to grow and stay competitive.

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A lot of service business leaders feel pressure – from their competitors, their shrinking revenue and margins, from internal staff, from increasing commoditization in their industry – to "do more marketing and lead generation." Unfortunately, they too often take the easy ways out:     Throwing money at advertising and graphic design "Redoing" their websites just for the sake of changing the look Delegating billable staff who are currently not not-so-billable to drum up some business billable A host of other "maybe if I do this the problem will go away" tactics

Those service business leaders that get in touch with what they need to do for lead generation (and, thankfully, there seem to be more and more of them) that will actually help them grow their revenue are making serious headway. Still, there are too many service headway. firms that aren't executing because they're out of touch with the reality of what they need to do for lead generation and why they need to do it. Thus the lukewarm efforts at executing their own plans. Behavior 2: Insist on realism - “Realism is the heart of execution, but many organizations ist are full of people who are trying to avoid or shade reality”. Guard 1: “What?! A swallow, carryin' a coconut?!" Arthur: “It could grip it by the husk!" Guard 1: “It's not a question of where he grips it, it's a simple question of weight ratios! A stion five-ounce bird could not carry a one ounce one-pound coconut!" As this scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail continues, the guard proceeds to tell Arthur that to maintain air speed velocit y, a swallow has to beat its wings 43 times per velocity, second. Arthur's response: “I'm not interested.” Service business leaders who are interested in realistic marketing and lead generation activities, budgets, and implementation plans get them done. When I w work with clients to help them build their plans, I'm often presented with the plan from the last year...and the year before...and the year before. The company leaders describe them as "aggressive" when, in reality, they're castles in the air. No sufficient budget. Ill conceived staffing. Unrealistic timeframes.

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Behavior 3: Set clear goals and priorities –“Leaders who execute focus on very few clear “Leaders priorities that everyone can grasp.” One of the reasons many marketing and lead generation plans are not implemented is that they have too many priorities. When plans have too many priorities, they have no priorities. In terms of goal setting, one company might plan to spend $350k to "get our name out there" in advertising (a weak goal with little ROI). Another might be, "we'll hire a big-gun Another big business developer and after they ramp up for a quarter they'll sell $2 million in new business" (sounds great...not happening...castle in the air).

Behavior 4: Follow through – –“Clear, simple goals don't mean much if nobody takes them seriously. The failure to follow through is widespread in business, and a major cause of poor execution.” "But I got billable and couldn't do that." "Well, I didn't make those calls because I got busy." (Note: this is what people will say when they don't make business development calls. It's often an excuse.) excuse "Sorry, I just didn't do that. On to other things." "Because I got caught up in all the leaders' requests for help with proposals, I didn't get the white paper project done." If you want people to take your marketing and lead generation plans seriously, there have f to be both incentives for taking action and consequences for not taking action.  People in organizations take on the behavioral traits of the leaders. If the leaders take anything, lead generation included, seriously, then the rest of the team will. ake Leaders at service companies take new thinking and new ideas seriously. They take client projects and client service seriously. They take selling deals that are in their pipelines seriously. Note to leaders: take lead generation seriously. Marketing and elines a lead generation is often the red-headed step child, pining for, but not getting, the headed attention they need. If you want people to follow plans and hit goals, put some teeth in the consequences for not delivering. When it comes time to tell people which way the bus is going, let them know that they’re either on the bus or they’re not. When team members don't deliver on their part of a client project assignment, they get unpleasant visits from unpleasa management pretty quickly. Can you say the same when it comes to following through on your lead generation commitments?

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Behavior 5: Reward the doers – “If you want people to produce specific results, you reward them accordingly” Simple as it might sound, the flipside of the previous point is rewarding people who Git R s point Done. You'll find treatise after treatise on how to reward successful and productive staff members. Find them. Read them. Reward loudly. If you do, the rewards for your business will be energy, passion, and growth. If not, well, business there's always next year.

THE TRUTH: All too often, 12 months later rolls around and the firm has barely tackled their own to do list, has experienced 3 starts and stops, and what they’ve gotten do done isn’t up to par. But the firms that execute and execute well reap the benefits.

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Generating Leads, Brand, Relationships, and Trust at the Brand, Same Time
Relationships. Trust. Delivery of superb value. These are core ingredien of a successful ingredients service firm. Talk to 100 service firm marketers and leaders, and they'll all tell you (and most of them believe it, even if they're wrong) that their firm is in the top of their industry in each of these categories. Why, then, do service firms typically do such a poor job of bringing relationships, trust, and ce value into their marketing mixes? I live in Boston and I read the Boston Business Journal. For better or worse, law firms, accounting firms, consulting firms, and professional services firms of all types are flocking to services the print media to improve their "name recognition" and get their message out. Of course, since they all believe that they're at the top of the food chain when it comes to relationships, trust, and value, they share this in their advertising copy. share The copy usually reads something like this: "For over 143 years, the firm of Flugelhorn, Ocarina, Nyckelharpa and Zither has provided innovative business advisory solutions to the Boston area entrepreneurs and business leaders. Our efficient and effective solutions stem from our deep knowledge of our areas of eaders. expertise, our customers' businesses, and our dedication to exceptional customer service. You don't need services, you need solutions! And not just any solutions, solutions that deliver value. We focus on delivering a unique level of value to our client base. You deserve the best, and we are the best. In today's competitive environment, you can trust FONZ to help you succeed." Pretty sharp copy, if you ask me. They covered core topics that make them such a great service firm and they communicate it all so well. The FONZ is cool! Right? Clearly this is bad marketing all around, but it doesn't come from a bad place. It's just weak execution of good intent. Win Friends and Influence People ends Let's assume for the moment (even though I have not conducted a friendship satisfaction and loyalty survey) that I have some good and genuine friendships – friendships that have grown over time with people I trust, that I like to interact with, and that I expect to interact with over the long-term. Hopefully, they feel the same way about me. We have good term. relationships.

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Fast forward to now. I'm at a party. Since I'm always looking to make new friends, I consider this party a good opportunity for friendship development. When I meet people, I give them my friendship elevator pitch (which is quite polished, I might add). In my pitch I let them know that I'm looking for long-term friendships built on trust, long term reliability, and mutual benefit. I note for their convenience that my friendship activities tend enefit. to focus on martial arts, fly fishing, golf, traveling, and a number of other areas they might find of interest. Strangely enough, I don't seem to get too many friends with this appr oach. approach. Do It, Don't Say It A consulting firm executive once told me that he needed to get his prospects and customers to perceive that his firm was credible and distinctive. I believe that a lot of service firm executives have this same thought, so they end up writing ads that say, “I'm credible and e nd distinctive.” Or “I'm trustworthy.” Or “I'm innovative yet solid.” If service firms want their clients and prospects to believe that they're credible and distinctive, they need to demonstrate that they are credible and distinctive. Simply credible communicating it is not only not enough, it can create the wrong impression. (When I see ads like this, I think to myself, “If they're this self centered, and this bad at marketing, how self-centered, good are they really at their core serv services?”) How can you demonstrate your value to them, you ask? 1. Understand your value. Unlike what many marketing consultants say, this value doesn't need to be unique. It just needs to be genuine, distinctive, and valuable to them. You don't need to be the only person to have innovative financial consulting the processes, yours just need to be worthwhile in specific situations to specific clients who might need them. 2. Make the value tangible. The value a client eventually realizes from you might be your efficient and effective solutions that helped them grow their revenue and ent strengthen their business. But I don't know what that means or what to do with it. Instead, communicate that your innovative approach to financial restructuring has successfully freed up over $2.2 billion dollars of capital tied up in businesses. over 3. Make the process and outcomes tangible. Along with making your value tangible, clients want to know what you are going to do, how you are going to do it, and what outcomes they can expect. It's easier to lead the prospect down the path ea sier you want them to go when you show them the path and destination itself.

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4. Don't market the relationship. If you go directly to, “Let's get married, have 8 kids, and retire to a nice condo in Boca,” you're not likely to get too many takers on likely your offer. The saying, “coming on like gangbusters” comes to mind. You have a number of hoops to jump through before you have the right to state that your firm is the firm to be trusted with a prospect's most challenging legal needs (or whatever those needs may be). 5. Create experiences with you. Instead of marketing the whole relationship, start by dating. At first, the experience might be that you make an offer to them to read your white paper. Perhaps you offer that they attend your seminar. Maybe you have attend a business meeting to discuss a particular topic of interest to them. 6. Offer value in the experiences. If you have a white paper, a seminar, a meeting with a client, or whatever offers you choose to make to clients, don't ma make them thinly veiled sales pitches. The best selling you can do is actually providing value – starting right with your marketing copy – to clients. First impressions go a long way, and if a prospective client decides to invest even five minutes in reading something you wrote, make it a worthwhile five minutes. If, after the five minutes, all you did was try to sell to them, their first impression will be “these people aren't worth my time.” And that's not the right impress to make when time with you is what you're selling. w Brand by Doing, Not by Telling Back to the beginning of our article, why don't all of these ads touting firms' “trustworthiness” offer something of direct and immediate value? Where's the white paper? Where's the seminar? Where's the webinar? Where's something, anything, that you can the offer them that might actually be worthwhile right now? From a marketing perspective, not only will these value based offers create a perception in value-based the mind of the prospect that you are a source of value; they'll create leads for you. If you value; write an ad and put it in your local business journal without a call to action, a bunch of people will see your ad and then do nothing. Add in a white paper, event, or something else of value and you get the chance to start a conversation with these people that can lead directly to new business. Much of professional service firm marketing these days is so focused on creating “brand” that they miss the point of what a brand really is - a reputation for quality and v value built one by one with clients. So instead of branding by telling people that you're trustworthy and valuable, start being trustworthy and valuable and demonstrating that to potential clients. demonstrating Do that, and building the brand you so desire will take car of itself. care And with the same money you're spending to build the brand, you can generate leads, relationships, and trust at the same time.

THE TRUTH: They work better if you put them all together.
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LAWS OF BRANDING: IMMUTABLE OR REFUTABLE? IMMUTABLE
If [a law] is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law. - Henry David Thoreau Many branding maxims tossed about in the marketing world, maxims accepted as unquestionable gospel and law, simply are not valid. At least they are not valid for everyone spel and every business. When I read a piece of business advice that confidently declares, “Always do this,” or “This is true 100% of the time,” or even “You should…,” the warning lights go off. The Grand lights Poobahs of branding are particularly prone to heading down this all-or-nothing path. So, I all thought I would throw in my two cents and add to the list of branding absolutes: 1. Always seek to understand the underlying dynamics of your own industry and company before making decisions on how to brand your business. 2. Never forget that, in the right situations, laws are meant for breaking. Consider the following commonly held branding beliefs that may be meant for breaking, especially if you work in a service or technology industry. Maxim #1: Differentiation To build a strong brand, service companies must implement their brand with hard hard-hitting positioning strategies that differ significantly from competitors. In fact, most powerful differentiation strategies are directly opposite from those of primary competitors. ntiation - Terrill and Middlebrooks, Market Leadership Strategies for Services Companies Terrill and Middlebrooks believe so strongly in this extreme differentiation theory that they refer to it as oppositioning. Think about the following types of companies: .      CPA firms Law firms Financial advisory firms IT consultants Strategy consultants

Of the companies in these fields, what are their positioning strategies? Additionally, which are directly opposite of the other? Do you really even care?

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I pride myself on knowing a thing or two about service industries. I live in Boston. To test my own assumption, I reviewed the Boston Business Journal Book of Lists top 25 accounting firms in the city. I cannot tell you the positioning strategies of any one of them. Sure, some are known to have strong practices in certain industries, for example, education, non non-profit, and biotech. However, I would hardly call having a competent industry presence a “hard hard-hitting positioning strategy that differs sig significantly from a competitor's.” And yet, as undifferentiated as they may be (though I am sure some of them would argue otherwise), they seem to be quite successful. <Note to reader: See next article for more on differentiation in professional services.> article Maxim #2: Category The most effective, most productive, most useful aspect of branding is creating a new category. In other words, narrowing the focus to nothing and starting something totally new. That's the way to become the first brand in a new category and ultimately the leading . brand in a rapidly growing new segment of the market. - Ries and Ries, “Law of the Category,” 22 Immutable Laws of Branding Imagine this conversation: IRS: Ms. Jones. This is the IRS calling. I have a question about the tax return you filed. . Ms. Jones: Yes? IRS: Well, we don't understand them. The forms you sent in are unfamiliar to us. We also do not understand what you submitted. Ms. Jones: Oh, I'm not surprised. You see, I used a new category of CPA firm this year. Do you really want a new category of:     CPA to do your business taxes Lawyer when you need to win a case IT consultant when it just needs to be done right Plumber when all you want is a promptly returned phone call

Or do you just want a reliable, consistent, high high-quality job done?

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Maxim #3: First Mover Advantage There's one critical thing to know about position: Whoever grabs a position first pretty much owns it forever. Position is in the minds of the collective market. Reality hardly counts. minds - T. Scott Gross, Microbranding Branding guru after branding guru echoes this ‘first mover advantage' maxim. I ask you, who grabbed the position first, and now owns high-quality investment advice in high quality Boston? John Hancock • Citigroup • Brown Brothers Harriman • Fidelity Investments • Charles Schwab • TD Waterhouse • TD Banknorth • Citizens Bank • RBC Dain Rauscher • Wainwright Bank • Eastern Bank • Sovereign Bank • Prudential Financial • Legg Mason • Merrill Lynch • Morgan Stanley • Paine Webber • Bank of America • Boston Private • Fiduciary Trust International • Edward Jones • A.G. Edwards • Bear Stearns • Dozens of smaller banks • Hundreds of CFPs, CPAs, and insurance firms • Hundreds of others (Once again I show my New England roots—go Sox.) roots Does it matter who was there first? Maxim #4: Word Ownership If you want to build a brand, you must focus your branding efforts on owning a word in the prospect's mind. A word that nobody else owns. - Ries and Ries, “Law of the Word,” 22 Immutable Laws of Branding d In industries where there are only a limited amount of players because of the nature of the industry (e.g. there are only so many car manufacturers) it is possible to own a word. Who owns safety? Volvo, of course. lvo, In service industries it's different. There are typically an over-abundance of providers of all over abundance sizes, and few generic words one can own: Achievement • Balance • Control • Creativity • Fame • Independence • Influence • Integrity • Loyalty • Performance • Pleasure • Power • Prestige • Respect • Recognition • Service • Solution • Tradition • Wealth • Wisdom Sometimes service firms use specific words that focus on need areas or hot buttons. Among CPA firms these words might be: Audit • Advisor • Cash Management • Compliance • Estate Planning • Forensic Accounting • Internal Controls • International Tax • Sarbanes • Small Business • Valuation

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In your area, who owns any of these terms? Can't think of any firms? Or maybe you just think of a number of CPA firms that play in these fields. Even if you could own a word in a service industry, I suggest that it should be a side benefit of winning and satisfying clients, side-benefit not a goal in and of itself. Maxim #5: Being Number 1 in Revenue or Market Share Sh At all costs you should avoid being second in your category. - Ries and Ries, 22 Immutable Laws of Branding Your company doesn't belong in any market where it cannot be the best. market - Phillip Kotler, Marketing Management What CEO heads into his board m eeting and says, “Next year our big audacious goal is to meeting become number 16 in our market!” You simply would not hear it. Being ‘number one' is a natural strategic target to set and it certainly sounds good. However, in service and technology businesses, being number one is usually neither a feasible nor a desirable goal ng to set. Revenue and market share are not necessarily the answer to greater success and higher profits. Service and technology industries, from accounting to software to consulting, should focus fo on customer loyalty if they want greater revenue and profit growth. Publication after publication (however not branding publications!) by well respected authors and academics, such as James Heskett in Putting the Service-Profit Chain to Work (Harvard B Service Business Review), and Fred Reicheld in books like Loyalty Rules! echo this mantra. However, the messages of these books are not making enough of an impact on the hearts and minds of the advertising and marketing community. The idea here is not to make the argument for customer and employee loyalty over market share or revenue leadership. I merely want to point out that not everyone agrees with the branding gurus on the “being number one” law – one of the most taken-for-granted laws of taken branding that business people blindly follow. s Differentiate…own a word...be number one…be first…create a category…the list goes on. These guiding principles are easy to remember (good job in branding, branding gurus) and easy to latch on to. Take care, however, that you act only on the guiding principles that will do the most justice act to your business and the people that comprise it. In the end, it is up to you to know which laws apply to you, and which laws are meant for breaking.

THE TRUTH: Become a contentious objector.

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The Myth of Being Different
One is the loneliest number. - Three Dog Night I got a bad grade on my final paper in Entrepreneurship class in graduate school. The professor said, "The business you're proposing to launch...it's not diff erent. Other people do different. it. While the plan seems well well-thought-out, due to the simple truth that this business has out, been largely done before, and there doesn't seem to be anything truly unique about it, I wouldn't advise launching the busin business." (So long, stellar GPA...) Being different and unique seems to be highly regarded by folks that think about, write about, and teach business. Professors Terrell and Middlebrooks of the Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, respectively, say it Graduate well: Service companies need to dare to be different. To find a leadership position in the market…and then to lead. The key strategy is to be different from competitors…They break free from “be better,” internally oriented initiatives to “be different,” externally oriented rnally strategies. Being different is grounded in providing customers with unique value that they cannot get from any other competitor.1 They then cite McKinsey as their first example of a "different" business. rent" The need for being different is so well accepted, it’s considered simplistic to even make the case for it. Why make a case for something everyone already knows? Many conversations on being different thus center more on how to be different and how radically to be different. (Terrell and Middlebrooks go as far as to say you should position yourself so far opposite competitors that they coin the nifty term oppositioning to describe it.) That we need to be different at all…accepted without further thought. f I disagree. Put some further thought in it. Most everything I’ve read and heard about being different and unique is wrong and I suspect the same is true for you. On Unique Selling Propositions Among the favorite platitudes of the high priests of business is that every business—nay, priests business every person—must have a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). A USP can be defined as doing must or saying something about yourself or company that is unlike what anyone else does or offers. In other words, unique…one of a kind.

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I deliver about 40 speeches and presentations per year. During presentations, I frequently ask the members of the audience to take a few minutes to deliver their elevator pitches: they use a minute or so to describe themselves to the CEO of the company they would like to win as a client. When they’re done, I ask folks to raise their hands if their partner delivered a fabulous elevator pitch. Many hands go up. When I ask what was so great about them I typically hear things like: they were clear about what they do, what difference they make for their clear clients, and which industries they serve. Often I hear of stories told that brought their companies to life. I then ask who has heard of the concept of a USP, and who has been told at least once in their business lives that they need to have one. Most hands go up. I then ask whose elevator pitch partner said something unique. Usually no hands go up, but here and there a bold person or two jump into the fray. In the end, good as their elevator pitch partner’s pit delivery might have been, most people back off their stance that their partner was unique. The Unique and Different Label Too often in elevator pitches, and in marketing messages in general, professional services firms ill advisedly label themselves as unique and different. A quick Google search for hemselves “unique consulting firm” (with the quotes, so it would get results that only had these words in a string), yielded close to 4,000 sites. Here’s one from the first page: [Firm Name] is a rather unique consulting firm…Our target audience is composed of those nique firms that seek quality rather than quantity and price. Our company specializes on small and mid size businesses, but we are looking for clients that are less worried about prices, than exclusive services and results that they will receive. Thus, a price conscious client is not ve really suited for our firm; our services are of high quality and slightly higher priced, but the customer service and end results are virtually almost exceeding the client’s expectation. clien (Author’s note: I tried to find more professional sounding copy including the term “unique consulting firm” but it was all pretty much like this. Can’t make this stuff up, folks.) Once a firm labels itself as unique, it begs the question from the reader: “Is it really unique [or, as in the case of the firm above, “rather unique”] while, at the same time, ‘virtually almost exceeding the client’s expectation'?” Ugh. Should the answer be no, and by and large it is, the firm loses credibilit More than credibility. anything, they sound like they’ve read in some marketing or sales textbook that they have to have a Unique Selling Proposition. Thus they use words to that effect. Many admit later just how amateurish their USPs sound, and sometimes acknowledge that acknowle they thought it sounded amateurish before they launched their uniqueunique -speak publicly. Firm leaders tend to have good common sense radar, but seem to check common sense at the door when it comes to self-designated uniqueness. designated

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Some firms seem to take the quest for being different literally, creating a spate of “we’re different” messages. Consider a top Boston law firm with the following message: firm At [Firm Name], we practice law differently. While our attorneys agree that results drive our business, building relationships with our clients and providing value-added service is the key ilding value added serv to our success. This firm might be amazingly good, and from what I know of their reputation they are. However results driving business, building relationships, and providi ng value is pretty par providing for the course from both firm goals and marketing copy standpoints. What Clients Really Want Much as they might hear otherwise, being different isn’t much of a factor in winning or keeping clients. Often times, the “we’re different” message affects them negatively. different” Consider the following scenario: your tooth hurts and your dentist is out of town. You need nsider your an oral surgeon and you need one fast, so you ask a few trusted close friends, Trip and Beverly, if they know anyone. Referral #1: Close friend Trip suggest Dr. Phlox. He says that his aunt Deanna needed oral surgery and went to Dr. Phlox. Phlox has been in the town next door for 20 years and has a very busy oral surgery practice. Word on the street is that he’s pretty solid. When aunt Deanna went in, the doctor took the time to When explain the surgery and what was going to happen, and took the time to answer all the questions that Deanna had. The surgery went fine (for all they knew) and Deanna hasn’t had any problems since. He’s a little more expensive than average, but Deanna says he’s very booked and established so it’s understandable. Referral #2: Close friend Beverly suggests Dr. McCoy. Supposedly McCoy is well known throughout the nation as a cutting edge oral surgeon, often going where no other oral surgeon has gone before. He has a unique blend of people ften at his office, process for oral surgery, and tooth technology that he has pioneered. His results, says his brochure and website, are 22% better than all other oral surgeons, which is surg how he justifies his very high prices. His uncle Pavel went to McCoy and all went well with the surgery (for all he knew), though uncle Pavel only met McCoy for about 30 seconds as he was so busy.

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At a gut level, even with uncle Pavel’s satisfaction, few people would choose referral #2. Pavel’s This is because many of the dynamics of how clients buy business to business professional services are similar to how people choose dentists:    Should failure happen, the consequences are painful. n, You don’t need the world’s greatest outcome. You just need a very good outcome. on’t Since you can’t sample a service like you might sample a piece of gum, you have to rely on reputation, experience, and expertise as proxies for expected results. Price is a factor, but you’d rather not skimp when the outcome is important. (Side , note: if I told you that Dr. McCoy’s innovations have enabled him to charge less than half of what other oral surgeons charge, would you have been more interested in buying his services, or less?)

Innovation in the sense that the doctor does something different than others, or is somehow unique, by and large won’t tip the scales of purchase preference in the favor of the innovator. So what is it that clients are, indeed, looking for? In my experience and research such as Wellesley Hills Group and RainToday.com's benchmark report, How Clients Buy, most Buy buyers want to tell service providers the following:  Reliability. Do what you say you are going to do, and be on time about it. (This is first because it's so important. If only the service providers I've worked with in my t life were better at keeping their commitments...) Accessibility. Be there when I need you. Impact. Help me buy the most helpful and impactful services from you, and help me m translate your services into success for my business in my industry. Fit. Be a good fit for the specific needs that I have. If you're not the best fit, help me find a provider that is. Don't shoehorn your service into something that, in the end, won't meet my needs as well as something else. Importance. Make me feel like we are, as a client, important to you and your tea team. Service. Deliver great service as well as great services. Prudence. Be careful and do your homework before you suggest a course o action of for me. Research. Stay on top of the developments and trends in your industry and in mine.

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  

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Listening. Understand my business, my team, and my clients so you can come up with ideas relevant to me. Teaching. Help me understand what you’re doing. I might not be an expert in your doing. area, but I’m pretty bright and I make the decisions here. Help me understand what's new in your area of expertise so I can apply that knowledge in my business. Business Management. Run an efficient operation and constantly improve so I constan don't pay for your inefficiency. Relationship Management. Be pleasant and fair, and work with me through communication or other breakdowns on your end or mine. In essence, treat me like a person.

Different situations warrant different mixes and degrees of the above. For example, with m ixes many necessary-type services like Sarbanes Oxley compliance, efficiency is important as type Sarbanes-Oxley well as expertise. On the other hand, buyers looking to hire product innovation consultants will likely be less concerned about efficiency, and more concerned about the creativity and ed innovative thinking of your team. Regardless of the mix of what’s most important to your buyers, you probably won’t see many of them inserting this into the list of client wants: Different and Unique. Be one of a kind, offering something that no one else in the market offers. So be different: stop listening to the continuous pleas from consultants, marketers, and textbooks to be different…one of a kind…a shining beacon of newness in a sea of same-old same-old. Focus instead on actually delivering the value to the market that you say you deliver (which, in and of itself, can be uncommon if not unique), and find ways to create a conversation with buyers around that message. Not only is it better marketing, it’s less better lonely than being unique.
1

Terrell and Middlebrooks, Market Leadership Strategies for Service Companies. © 2000 McGraw Hill. Pg 31.

THE TRUTH: Trying to be unique and different can do more harm than good if you’re not careful.

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PAPAYAWHIP, PEACHPUFF, OR PERU: GRAPHIC DESIGN ADVICE THAT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE
Dither n: A state of indecisive agitation: Company management was in a dither about the : new round of graphic designs. Everybody had strong opinions on what they liked and didn't opinions like. Dilatory adj: Tending to postpone or delay: The graphic design process had a dilatory effect : on our ability to do anything in marketing besides work on designs. Could this drag out any longer? Delusion n (Psychiatry): A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence, especially as a symptom of mental illness: The team seemed under the delusion that choosing between possible brochure trim colors of papaywhip, peachpuff, or peru* would make any difference in marketing results. * Three actual colors. Who knew? The Long and Winding Road When many people think of marketing, they think of ads, logos, taglines, brochures, and (nowadays) websites. It's understandable. Ads and brochures are what we see everyday, everyda and we all have opinions of what we like and don't like. So when we build new websites, brochures, and logos for our organizations, we scrutinize them with fanatical zeal. Everyone is going to see them and form an opinion about us based on them. They must look…they will look…perfect! (Even if the process of doing so kills us.) ust This intense graphic design scrutiny is especially true in service organizations. Why?  Aggressive, proactive marketing is new to many service industries. Up until a few years ago, marketing was done by answering the phone when it rang. o, Besides answering the phone, service firms have always put great sto stock in very nice brochures. Thus, much of the marketing attention was focused on them. Service businesses are run by experts in their field. They are not typically schooled or focused in the more mundane parts of marketing such as new lead generation and retention of existing revenue. The people who deliver the services tend to associate themselves personally with any ad or graphic design that depicts their service. Thus, they identify the quality of the c marketing piece as a reflection of the quality of their own work.

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Service firms are filled with smart people. They all have opinions and, indeed, would consider it a failing if they didn't add intelligent constructive criticism to everything. they Graphic design is simply an easy target.

As a result, when a service business decides it's going to “really do some marketing” everyone gets overly caught up in the graphic design process. Pathology of Design Monomania The same pathology happens over and over. It goes something like this:   Marketing initiative is kicked off with vigor and enthusiasm New design of something something—branding, brochures or website—becomes a central becomes component of the marketing effort arketing Large group of ‘stakeholders' becomes part of the design review team The process takes forever People lose energy as the process drags on Nobody focuses on the “let’s get new customers” part of marketing with the same vigor they do when choosing website trim colors en

   

The purpose of marketing—the end prize—should never be anything but the following: the prize attract and retain profitable customers. All too often we see companies getting so caught up ttract in the visible and sexy part of the marketing process (design, copy), they forget about the process important-but-mundane part (lead and revenue generation). mundane Graphic Design Advice that Could Save Your Life Here are five pieces of advice that could save your marketing initiatives from the graphic design pit of despair. 1. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize: Is it possible that you should disregard this article and pour over your designs and copy for months, all the way down to the last comma, pixel, and Pantone color? Sure—if you're about to spend tens of millions on Sure if an advertising campaign that will create hundreds of millions of impressions. n You can be sure that companies executing campaigns this large are also doing the following: extensive market research, testing each ad for customer response, researching each market, and many other steps before the launch. And they're rket, prepared to turn on a dime if they find new creative that will work better to help them win the prize: attracting and retaining profitable customers.

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2. Collaborate with Care: Most design processes have too many people involved. In the name of collaboration, companies make the design process muddled and painful. Balance the benefits of collaboration with the knowledge that too many cooks make for bad soup. 3. Apply Ockham's Razor: 12th century philosopher William of Ockham is famous for her a statement known as Ockham's Razor: Plurality should not be posited without necessity. In other words, unless proven otherwise, less is more. Apply this to your creative process by asking yourself questions like:  Do we need 8 people here when, in the end, the design will be just as good (if not better) with 3 people involved, and we will get finished two months earlier? Do we need another round of design edits in order to help us attract and retain profitable customers, or can we stop now and move on? customers Do we need more design features such as Flash on our websites and a 6 color processes for our brochures when it won't make a difference to our customers?

Applying Ockham's Razor to the design process will help you save t ime and money and time prevent a good deal of heartache. 4. Don't Rewire the Network Yourself: Let's say you are a sales person and your company is re-planning its technology infrastructure. Would you tell the planning technologists where to put the wires? Whether to use fiber optics or something else? Whether version 6.3 of one software package is more robust than version 3.2 of another? You'd be laughed out of the room. If the technologists don't do a good job of listening to your business needs and implementing technology that will help serve technology those needs, get new technology people. Don't try to fix it yourself. If you are not a designer, ask questions like “We're going to use this at a trade show. Will this help us attract attention and generate leads? How so?” instead of questions like “Don't you think a hunter green would be better?” In the end, if you don't think your designers are doing a good job, get new designers. Don't try to be one of them. 5. Stop the Insanity: If you find yourself spiraling into design process despair, stand up and say—with Susan Powter vigor “Stop the insanity!” Either that, or with vigor—“Stop appropriately but clearly engage a discussion about what matters most: getting more revenue. If the current discussion is either overkill or distracting you from that goal, go put an end to it. Do what you must to save yourself and your company from wasting time and energy on discussions that won't make a difference in results. Dither n: A state of indecisive agitation: We don't dither about design. We run the process : well, have the right people and skill sets on the team, and make decisions that help leverage graphic design to grow our revenue.

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Dilatory adj: Tending to postpone or delay: Others tried to slow us down by distracting us : from our marketing goals and focusing too much on superfluous discussions. Their dilatory too tactics won't work on us! Delusion n (Psychiatry): A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence, especially as a symptom of mental illness: I drank the punch and no longer operate under the delusion that marketing equals graphic design. Marketing equals growing our revenue. he Graphic design is a great tool in the process, but not the process itself. The definitions are the same, but you have the power to change how you use them in a sentence.

THE TRUTH: Six weeks turns into six months (or more) of an often very painful process. Unless, of course, you follow the advice below and, as they say, stop the insanity.

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Don’t Worry about Your Competition (Let Them Worry about You)
What, Me Worry? - Alfred E. Newman Who are your closest competitors? How are you going to beat your competition? What makes you better than your competition? What are the differentiating factors between you and your competition? You get asked these types of questions all the time from your prospects, your clients, and ypes your internal staff. Don't overdo trying to answer them. Reading service firm business plans and talking to service business leaders about becoming more competitive are a part of what I do every week. Invariably, I find that the people who run services firms waste a lot of time and effort worrying about, and angling against, other firms that provide similar services. Usually it's just not worth your time and focus. Below you'll find four common mistakes that service firm leaders make and five tips on how r to save time, money and heartache when thinking about the dreaded competition. Mistake #1: Beaten-to-Death Research Death Some service firm business and marketing plans list and describe pa ge after page of page information about their competition. “Over the past three months, we were able to successfully locate 77 other negotiation consulting firms. Detailed descriptions follow, along with our unique positioning against each one…” My Reaction: What a waste of three months of someone's time. Most people would laugh at an accountant who confidently stated, “I have discovered that there are 142 other accounting firms in the state and can confirm that 131 of them offer a number of services similar to ours.” Yet somehow this information shows up in service firm marketing plan after o marketing plan as if it were a necessary component. Mistake #2: Market and Service Offering Reluctance Many service firms are reluctant to offer a new service that compliments their current compliments services because a competitor already offers it. “You see, we can't launch an intellectual property law practice. At least five other firms offer that in our market, and I learned in business school that first movers have an advantage. If you're not #1 or #2 you shouldn't launch into the market.” My Reaction: Law firms, consulting firms, IT firms, financial services, and other professional : services are not Coke and Pepsi. The market dynamics just don't work like this.

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Mistake #3: Cliché Competitive Differentiation iché We at ABC Tax and Consulting Services are the number 1 provider in our market. Our biggest differentiator is our people who take a strategic look at our clients' businesses and blend people, process, and technology to create efficient and effective solutions for our create clients' most pressing strategic needs. We're more than tax services, we're strategic business advisors with the experience you need. s My Reaction: Copy like this takes a lot of space and says nothing except, "I have nothing " real to say, so I'll use some meaningless marketing speak." Mistake #4: Unique Methodology We have a unique methodology that allows us to deliver projects more efficiently and with greater ongoing success. There are 5 major steps: discovery, design, development, discov ery, implementation, and measurement. plementation, My Reaction: Sure, it's unique – there's just one process like this – but everyone uses it or : something similar. Misconceptions like these hinder service business growth and success because they limit the thinking of the people who run firms and practices. What should you do about these misguided views of your competition? Tip #1: Forget Your Marketing Textbook Your marketing textbooks will tell you to:     Be the first mover in a market. You'll have an advantage over later entrants. Be number one or two in a market. No one else can make enough profit. Have a Unique Selling Proposition that other firms can't easily duplicate. Proposition Be amazingly different from other firms in your space. Differenti Differentiation is key.

I ask you, who grabbed the position first, and now owns, high-quality investment advice in high quality Boston? John Hancock • Citigroup • Brown Brothers Harriman • Fidelity Investments • Charles Schwab • TD Waterhouse • TD Banknorth • Citizens Bank • RBC Dain Rauscher • Wainwright Bank • Eastern Bank • Sovereign Bank • Prudential Financial • Legg Mason • Merrill Lynch • Morgan Stanley • Paine Webber • Bank of America • Boston Private • Fiduciary Trust International • Edward Jones • A.G. Edwards • Bear Stearns • Dozens of smaller banks • Hundreds of CFPs, CPAs, and insurance firms • Hundreds of others

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Does it matter who was there first? Do you think people in a 6 person law firm can't make big money? They can, and they can do it in a market where there are 200 person law firms that deliver the similar services to e similar kinds of clients. Are their services really different from each other? Do you want a “different” kind of dentist fixing your teeth, or do you just want a good one? Marketing textbooks (and many business books and consultants) focus on Proctor and s Gamble, Whole Foods, U.S. Steel, and Coke vs. Pepsi. We identify with them all, and they're quite interesting. But the strategies they espouse can't usually help the 35 person consulting firm grow to 50 people. More often they get in the way. Tip #2: Don't Worry About Crowded Markets I couldn't tell you how many Italian restaurants are in New York's little Italy, or how many steak houses there are in Chicago, there are simply too many to count. But, I am pretty cou nt. confident that there is not a booming row of authentic French bistros in Peru, Maine. If you're a human resource consultant, and there are a multitude of human resource consultants that do what you do in the market where you do it, it simply means there's a it market for it. If you look for a space to “create a market” and “be the first mover” there's a good chance nobody's there because nobody's buying. In the micro-economic technical sense, the Coke vs. Pepsi market dynamic is “oligopoly”, economic Coke “oligo while service firm markets are “monopolistic competition”. In oligopoly, you have a few top ice players with all the clout, market share, and profits, and everyone else struggling to survive. This doesn't happen in monopolistic competition. There are 88 pizza restaurants in the Yellow Pages in Miami, FL. The 89th can make it, too, if the pizza's good. Enter a crowded market where there's lots of business to be had, and lots of clients with needs, and (assuming your pizza is any good) there's a good chance you can thrive. Open a i ce French bistro in Peru, Maine…good luck selling foie gras. Tip #3: Change the Question from Competition to Clients Let's say you're interviewing someone for a job at your firm. It's perfectly reasonable for them to ask you, “What differentiates you from your competition?” Same thing goes with t your clients and prospects. You may feel the need to answer comparing yourself both answer—comparing categorically to your competition and then against specific competition. And on and on about your competition. You don't want the conversation to linger on about competition. The more you talk about them, the more you validate that your client, prospect, or staff member should be comparing you to them.

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Instead, like a good sales person, take control of the questioning and you will take control of the conversation. For example, you might answer, “Well, we have a very robust research division that keeps us on the cutting edge of the ABC field and, to my knowledge, the competition doesn't. In fact, they quote our research to make their points, but in the end of our the day, we're the leaders, not them. Importantly, I don't know what they do with our research. I know what we do, however, and how it makes our clients' lives better. Here's a specific example from your industry… How might this fit with what you're doing?” Tip #4: Drop the Clichés When you do answer the question, “What makes you different?” don't answer, “our people…process and technology….efficient and effective….we're the best…we're unique…cutting edge…push the envelope…go the extra mile…client centered…etc.” ge…push mile…client-centered…etc.” If you do, you'll simply be helping people win their game of buzzword bingo. (Don't believe me, Google “buzzword bingo” and see what comes up first.) Have something real to say. Tip #5: Overcome Your Greatest Competitor – Client Indifference ome Finally, and perhaps most importantly, realize that for most product companies, the competition is another product company. For most service businesses, the stiffest competition is the indifference of your client to do anything, do more, or the desire of your your client to “just do it with in-house resources.” house In How Clients Buy: The Benchmark Report on Professional Services Marketing and Selling from the Client Perspective, 40% of 200 buyers of consulting and professional services d encountered service providers that did not understand their needs. 32% of said that the service providers did not convince them of the value they would receive from the service provider. You have to convince the buyer of the value your services will bring to the table regardless of how you stack up with some competitor. So worry less about who your competitor is, and worry more about the value you offer to the client. You'll win more deals in the process, and beat the competition without even giving them a second thought. thout

THE TRUTH: Many firms overdo it. Don’t get caught in the react react-to-everyone everyone-else trap.

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Cold Calling Works: You Just Do It Wrong
Brrrr... I've just been cold calling and boy could I use some hot chicken soup! Just those two words together – Cold Calling – put many people far away from warm and happy. Given that it's so much fun for so many people, and that I have heard a number of times recently that the last nail has been banged into the cold calling coffin, why is cold calling still even on our radar screens? Because it works. It doesn't work, you say? Well, in one sense I agree with you: there are a million ways to do it wrong and fail. Fail at something enough, and it's easy to dismiss the whole tactic. (No t he matter how many times I try, I just can't hit a Jonathan Papelbon fastball. Swinging a bat at a baseball must not work!) Before we get into how to make cold calling work, let's first establish that it does work. Of 30 possible marketing tactics for services firms, one rose to the top as the most effective in ng the research report Increasing Marketing Effectiveness at Professional Firms conducted by Expertise Marketing and LawMarketing.com in 2006. The top most effective tactic – the 2006. tactic above all other tactics – was "arranging business development appointments with ic clients and prospects." When I last checked, the best way to arrange a business development appointment was neither telegram nor skywriting. Meanwhile, case study after case study confirms that cold calling can work. For example, case I've seen cold calling work as a major part of a lead generation approach, yielding 6 clients in 6 months (a major acceleration of client additions), and increasing the pipeline by fivefold, for Deep Customer Connections, a management consulting firm in the insurance ep Connections, industry. Making Ten Million Dollars Many anti-cold-calling folks say, "There are so many powerful ways to build your client calling base, why even bother trying cold calling? You can give speeches. Publish articles and books. Work your network: it's more extensive than you probably think." To paraphrase a famous business person (Comedian Steve Martin):   Question: What's the secret to making ten million dollars? : Answer: First, start with nine million dollars. :

Well, some people don't write very well, they don't have extensive networks, and speaking isn't their bag. Some people can't wait a year for a lead to materialize out of their writing or their network! If you can employ these tactics, great. It's like starting with nine million. But tactics, regardless of whether you start with nine million or no million, cold calling still works.
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What's In It For Me (WIIFM) Let's assume you're a Chief Strategy Officer at an $800 million dollar manufacturing firm in Ohio. Someone calls you and says, "My name is John Smith and I'm a change management consultant. Do you need change? Let's meet." Even if you're headed to the vending machine, your immediate change needs probably won't include John Smith. But let's say John calls and says, "My name is John Smith. The reason I'm calling is because 's my firm, the ABC Consulting Group, has just recently conducted a major benchmark study on how manufacturing businesses – including Competitor 1 and Competitor 2 of yours – in tor the Midwest are succeeding with their labor unions in the face of global outsourcing. There are 3 practices that are working across the board and a few that fail most everyplace. If you're interested, we'd be happy to come by and take you through the results." If this topic is on your mind, you might risk a ½ hour to hear the results. Or you might have some questions right then and there. Either way, if I'm John, I've presented my cold "introduction" of myself and my firm to your company in a way that delivers value to you. Will everyone take me up on this meeting? Of course not. But if my target list is well segmented and clean, a number of prospects will. When I get in front of them, the topic of conversation will be my recent research, work, and expertise – not a "get to know you and recen sell you" meeting. A conversation about recent research is just one of many potential value propositions for the meeting. You might not want to present research because it might not be the best entry for you. But if you're worth your salt as a professional services provider, a conversation with ou're you should be able to offer something of strong value. (If you can't figure out how you can deliver value in a conversation, find a new line of work.) Regardless of the meeting premise, I have to handle the conversation well to get the best g result from this meeting, but the ball is definitely in my court as to what happens from here on out. How the Numbers Work Answer the following question: If you get 10 meetings with 10 company leaders who have com pany the right title, are in the right organization, and have the right criteria for being a good prospect for you, and you stay in touch with them fairly regularly in a meaningful way after the meeting, how many would become clients of yours in some capacity over the next year yours or two? The most common answers I get for this question are "two or three" or "eight or nine". Let's assume you're more modest, and the answer is two. Next question: What does a bread-and-butter client represent to you in terms of revenue bread over the course of a year? It could be $7k, $70k, $170k, $700k, or anything. Let's assume it's $70k.
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So, for the cost of setting up 10 meetings with prospects, whatever that cost is, the immediate return on your investment is $140k. This, of course, doesn't take into account $140k. long term ROI factors such as repeat business and increased referrals. The fallacy, in many cases, is that most service providers aren't as good at closing as they think they are, and they don't continue to stay in touch with the prospect regularly and stay meaningfully after they meet with them. But these factors don't have anything to do with cold calling. They have to do with your ongoing marketing, and the resources you devote to follow up. The cold calling part works fine for what it's supposed to do: make an introduction with a prospective client that can lead to a good relationship. How you choose to develop that relationship is a different matter. Have Someone Else Call for You or Maybe your practice is busy and you just don't have time to call. Or maybe your practice and isn't busy, and you need to invest in generating leads. Either way, you can have someone else make the calls for you. Even the busiest of professionals have time to meet with a CEO of a company who could be a great client for them. So you go on the meetings. What you don't have to do is make the actual calls. Reread the WIIFM section of this article above. In the beginning, you must work to craft the lead generation process. You must be involved in targeting the right prospects, providing the strongest value proposition, and working with your telephone business developers to represent you clearly, strongly, and fairly. Then, let them go to work. Cold calling itself is not something that you, personally, need to get good at. personally, I could make more points that demonstrate how cold calling can work for professional service businesses, and on how to make cold calling itself work better. But for some of you who doubt the process, it still wouldn't be enough, and that's fine. It's been said that people enough, make decisions with their hearts and justify them with their heads. People don't want to make cold calls, and some don't want to be associated with the method. So they figure out how to justify not employing cold calling, or why other things work better. cold If you don't want to make cold calls, don't. But cold calling does work. Most people just do it wrong.

THE TRUTH: See article title…

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Crafting a Rainmaking Firm: A Window into Sales Performance
There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza. A hole in the bucket, dear Liza, a hole. hole - Harry Belafonte The 1,000 mile journey to developing a culture of rainmaking starts with the first step. My advice to firms looking to create a culture of business development: make sure the bucket doesn't have any holes or it won't hold water. Time and again we see firms doing a certain percent of what they need to do to help the professionals in their firm develop business – but rarely 100%. If you're only doing 70% of onl what you need to do, you don't get 70% results; you get much less. Like patching a leak in the bottom of a boat, if you don't patch it 100%, it still takes on water. So if your firm is looking to create a team of rainmakers, make sure you address the gamut of management topics you need to address in order to give yourself a fighting chance of success. If you don't, you may find yourself expending 90% of the effort – almost there – but still falling short of your business development goals. Here are six areas – three controlled by the organization, three brought to the table by the individual rainmaker (but can be influenced by the firm) – you should address in order to build a rainmaking firm. Organizational Influences: 1. Expectations and Coaching oaching 2. Tools and Resources 3. Consequences and Incentives Individual Influences: 4. Skills and Knowledge 5. Fit and Assignment 6. Motivation and Preferences Window into Sales Performance

(Adapted from Binder-Riha Associates The Six Boxes™ with language used with permission) Riha
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1. Expectations and Coaching: The Gallup Organization – fond of polling – has asked thousands of people across companies to answer this question, “Do I know what is expected of me at work?” On average, 40% of those polled don't. If you think that's f high, you should see how many would be rainmakers know (or rather don't know) would-be what's expected of them by their firms regarding business development. In our experience, not many know what to do. Sometimes they might know their migh revenue goal, but not what they need to do every day to achieve it. Some know they are “expected to network”, “expected to make calls” or "expected to spend 15% of " expected their time on business development', but rarely do they know what they need to do at 9am…11am…or all day Tuesday. What happens without clear expectations and coaching? Inconsistency coaching Inconsistency. - Inconsistent business development activities across all professionals with business development responsibilities - Inconsistent business development effort levels dev - Inconsistent persistence - Inconsistent improvement (due to lack of coaching) - Inconsistent results 2. Tools and Resources: When it comes to business development, rainmakers need the right resources to be able to find and win new clients. Sometimes they need new more time to do it, sometimes an expense account. Maybe they know they're supposed to develop business, but nobody's built them a list of appropriate businesses and managers to target. It is possible they do not have the right marketing or sales collateral materials to right help them sell. One rainmaker may need to bring a technical guru along to represent a specific expertise of the firm…but that technical guru can't afford to lose the billable time. Whatever the need, rainmakers need the right level of resources in order to find and rainmakers win new clients. What happens without the right resource levels Frustration. levels? - Ready to call but don't have the names - Ready to present but don't have materials - Ready to visit the client, but don't have the budget or time to go but 3. Consequences and Incentives: It's strange; some service firm leaders rush to add incentive compensation to inspire professionals to sell while others vehemently resist compensation adjustments. Incentive compensation, built correctly, can significantly compensation, influence rainmakers to find more new clients.

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On the other hand, incentive compensation, while necessary, is not sufficient. Even those service firm leaders that do institute incentive compensation plans rarely stat state (or if they do state, act on) any negative consequences of not hitting client development goals. What happens without the right consequences and incentives Status quo incentives? - No incentive compensation…why should I sell? I need to bill anyway. - No consequences for not selling…well, I guess I'll try but what's the worst that will nces happen if I don't succeed? They are not going to do anything about it. 4. Skills and Knowledge: Have you ever been on a business development meeting with a newbie running the show and with you just sitting back along for the ride? show How does the newbie seem? Confident in her abilities? Comfortable that she'll win the new client? And how does she fare running that first meeting? Does she talk the right amount? Ask the right questions? Follow the well ons? well-worn protocols of first-time business time discussions? How's her body language…confident and relaxed? Rainmakers need skills and knowledge in order to find and win clients. With the right skills, they can walk the client through the new business development process with business savvy, ease, and confidence. With the right knowledge, they can ask the right questions and craft the right service set for the client. What happens without skills and knowledge? Anxiety. knowledge - Do I really have to pick up that phone and say something to someone I don't that know? - I'm not going in there…you can't make me go in there… - There's no way I know what to do or say to actually bring in a new client like you do. (Unfortunately, many professionals won't admit any of these feelings and so they any never deal with their anxieties and move their careers forward.) 5. Fit and Assignment: Ever see someone fail in a business development role when almost anyone (but the hiring manager) could have predicted that this person was wa not the right fit for the job? Sometimes there are different business development roles that people have to play: one person is the technical expert, one is the lead developer, and one is the big time closer. Whatever the case, you need the right big-time people in the right business development roles. For example, you may have selected someone in your firm who is going to be a great rainmaker: ready for strong relationships, ready to bring the solid new clients into the firm. But don't assign them to the cold calling: they simply shouldn't (and often calling: won't) succeed at it…it's not the right fit.

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What happens without the right fit and assignment? Chronic underachievement. assignment underachievement - How do they expect me to sell to engineers? I'm not an engineer? - 20 years in the business and now they expect me to make cold calls? I don't think siness so. - All ready for my first day in business development! What do you mean my territory is Aroostook County, Maine? 6. Motivation and Preferences: Let's say you take care of the other five influences f noted in this article. Expectations clear. Resources available. Compensation set. Skills in place. Right people – right jobs. All of this is great, and necessary, but you still need rainmakers with the fire in the belly. You need people with focus and drive to be successful in business development. If they're not motivated to build a practice, there's little a firm can do to light the fire of focus and drive. What happens without motivation and preferences? Mediocrity. hout - 9 AM already…time to start working. 5 PM already…time to go home! - Look at all the money I can make! Too bad I don't care about money. - They've trained me…they're paying me…they told me what to do. Unfortunately, I just don't want to. It's not for me. If you're looking to build a culture of rainmaking, make sure you attend to all of the factors oking that affect business development performance. Miss one of these factors for any reason: inattention, lack of time, unwillingness to invest, political difficulties, and you'l severely you'll limit your success. Fortunately for you, it's the rare services firm that does focus on the entire Window into Sales Performance. If you are the one that goes the extra mile – and does indeed plug all the holes that will eventually sink the bo – better get ready to hire more billable boat professionals. The tide's going to come in, you'll be in ship shape, and you'll need more ship-shape, people to get all the new client work done.

THE TRUTH: Developing selling skills is a common priority at professional services firms. se And it is a key to business development…one of six. Skills training by itself isn’t the answer.

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
John Doerr, President, Wellesley Hills Group John Doerr’s twenty-five year career in professional services has included twenty five senior executive management, business development and marketing, enior business process re-engineering and product development experience. He re engineering has worked in organizations ranging in size and scope from a publishing firm, to an international organization located in Europe with partners in the Middle East and North Africa. John's experience also includes a successful start-up organization, as well as a large multi-national start up multi organization with offices throughout the world. Mike Schultz, President, Wellesley Hills Group Mike Schultz is world-renowned as a consultant and expert in services world renowned marketing and rainmaking. His practice focuses on strategy for service and technology businesses in the areas of branding, marketing, lead generation, and sales performance. Along with his client practice and with management responsibilities, Mike is the Publisher of RainToday.com, the premier online source for insight, advice, and tools for growing a service business. Mike has led RainToday.com from a startup to the leading online magazine focused on marketing and selling for professional services.

Robert Croston, Vice President and Principal Consultant, Wellesley Hills Group Bob's twenty plus year career in marketing, brand management, advertising, and sales management includes diverse experience in financial services, higher education, consumer goods, and professional services. Bob is well published and particularly skilled at strategic planning and brand development; having crafted campaigns and positioning platforms for noteworthy brands such as General Motors, brands Fidelity Investments, Bank of America, Harvard Business School, BEA Systems, Nellie Mae, and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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About Wellesley Hills Group
Wellesley Hills Group is a management consulting, marketing, and lead generation firm dedicated to helping professional services companies generate leads and increase revenue, prices, and profits. Wellesley Hills Group helps client in three core areas:  Strategy and Brand Development: Service firms are often at a loss for h Development how to grow. They don’t know what strategies or tactics will work, and when they do, they often don’t know how to make them most effective. We understand the distinct challenges of growing, branding, and managing a service business. Our core strategy and brand development services include helping our clients develop strategies for and growth, craft marketing and business development plans, and research their clients and their markets. Marketing and Lead Generation: Lead generation for business to business Generation services is different than most other industries. We understand the unique dynamics ices of service businesses and know what tactics will be most effective to help you generate the leads, the revenue, the relationships, and the brand you need to grow. Our core services include helping our clients generate and nurture leads with our ices Services in Demand program craft and execute brands and core marketing program, messages, build and execute website and Internet marketing strategies, and become thought leaders through thought leadership development, marketing, and PR. leadership Sales Training and Performance Improvement Making the transition from Improvement: service provider to Rainmaker, balancing your responsibility between delivering services and selling services, and creating a culture of business development at your business service firm are all challenging tasks. We work with leaders, professionals, business developers, and marketers to help you create a business development culture while giving you and your team the sales skills and tools you need to succeed. Professional services firms turn to our Rainmaker Development ProgramSM to help their professionals develop the skills and get the coaching and support they need to become leaders in new business and client development.

Wellesley Hills Group is committed to providing the freshest insight, research, and ideas to professional services leaders, business developers and marketers through publishing articles, white papers, the Services Insider Blog and Newsletter, and research. The Wellesley Hills Group publishes RainToday.com, the premier site for marketing and sales for up professional services. To learn more about Wellesley Hills Group visit http://www.whillsgroup.com. http://www.whillsgroup.com

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