Strategic Pursuits

March 2005

Strategic Pursuits


The term, “Strategic,” seems to be used increasingly.  Always, the term is used to give emphasis of one marketing effort over another.  The benefit, in all cases: the focus of a firm’s efforts is better; and results also are better. 

However – some efforts are macro and others are micro.  So … here are some thoughts about specific steps to benefit you at both levels of thinking and of effort.

Macro Strategies

Many firms focus on markets in which they’ve been involved for years.  Their technical skills are honed to servicing those clients.  And their personal comfort is considerably higher;  they already have a breadth of relationships with clients in those markets, and they know how to respond to those clients’ expectations.  However …

When a market matures – and we can name quite a few – the competition is stiffer, as a client can readily identify scores of firms with solid technical capability.  And people in those firms also have good personal relationships with those clients.  Plus … fees are tighter and profit margins considerably lower – often only three to six percent – because the client can, in fact, “get it up the street for less.”

If one of your strategic focuses happens to be on a mature market,
what can you do to improve your results anyway?

Looking at the four strategic dimensions for culling work from markets …

  • Technical Strength

Most of what you do in a mature market can be done by other firms, as well.  The way to differentiate yourself needs to come in response to some unique need the clients have.  Questions #3 & #4 of the Mandeville “Market Interview” process …

“What are the biggest issues you see yourself wrestling with
over the next year or two?”

and …

“What kind of support would be most helpful to you
in dealing with those issues?”

… provide a foundation for developing specialty capabilities that your competition may not have.  That’s the most tangible, measurable way to differentiate yourself in a way that has special value to clients in that market.

  • Relationship Breadth

Two elements are key here.  First is more active involvement in client associations … being leaders of committees or even officers.  That keeps your network broader and fresher than your competition.  Second is application of the client feedback process all the way through every project you do.  Unless you know, for certain, that your clients all feel measurably high levels of satisfaction with your performance, clients are more open to trying another consultant, next time around.

  • Image/Name Recognition

The most powerful method:  “State-of-the-Art” technical updates on which your clients come to depend.  The updates can come in the form of monthly “technical bulletins” or annual briefings, or both.  The key:  the data has to be new, immensely useful, and repeated with frequency.  The process, “Operant Conditioning” – made famous by Ivan Pavlov, with his dogs – intensifies your clients’ dependence on you.

  • Leads

Early is essential!  In mature markets, when RFPs are out, it’s usually too late.  As part of your feedback process, Q #4 & #5, ask about future plans, two to four years out.  Using the Market Interview process, ask about longer-term trends and needs.

Micro Strategies

Firms are increasingly focusing more time and dollars on what they define as “strategic pursuits.”  The criteria that define “strategic” vary from firm to firm but, in all cases, it makes the project more important than others.  In recent years, an increasing number of marketing consultants – many of whom worked as marketing directors within firms – work with firms on those strategic pursuits.  The benefits?

  • Third party objectivity in pushing for clarity in:  understanding client concerns;  structuring responses to those concerns;  and packaging the communications to improve both proposals and presentations.
  • A more polished total effort can’t “guarantee” success each time, but seems to clearly improve the firm’s overall “strategic hit rate.”
  • The total process provides excellent training.  Prior to coming together, ensuring (by phone) that the firm has clarity in understanding client concerns.  Then structuring responses and creating proposals and presentations becomes similar to an “on-the-job training” workshop.  Fewer participants, but “real world” application of the methods, very measurable outcomes … and handsome rewards!

Upon suggestions from several firms (and reminders about what century we’re in!) “Mandeville, the DVD” is now available.   Great packaging.  Same $387 cost.  Just phone or email if you need copies;  we’ll send yours right out, with an invoice.

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