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Lasday: Street Smart Marketing

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  • | 6:00 p.m. January 8, 2009
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Lasday: Street Smart Marketing

'Insider Insight'

Seeds Organic Growth

Capitalize on your natural advantage for fast, low-cost, significant sales.

Entrepreneurial marketing folks often complain how hard it is to grow any profits organically from clients whose budgets are spent or, at least, accounted for. They worry that it's just a matter of time before their big customers sell out, close out, move out, lose out or are otherwise knocked out.

Marketers falsely assume that to maintain their volume, they need to spend vast sums to solicit new customers, find new markets, seek new acquisitions or have new cuts to staff in anticipation of a new economic slowdown.

Professors Ian Macmilla of the Wharton School-University of Pennsylvania and Larry Selden of Columbia University, writing in the Harvard Business Review, say that "market leading companies can grow simply by tapping into and exploiting their current customer information, which already includes data about pretty much every kind of customer there is. The problem is that nearly all companies focus their strategies on defending products and territories rather than on what most successful invaders actually attack; "customer segments".

Consider taking this first-tier M.B.A. strategic corporate thinking, currently being discussed on Wall Street, and see how it could benefit you on Your Street. Right here! Right now!

Think 'inside' the box

If you have senior level marketing responsibility by title, by function, or by default, you should really never be blindsided by an "invader". Locked within your own records is a huge, largely untapped asset that no attacker can hope to match. It's your "insider's insight", to your own client roster.

The source of this competitive advantage is threefold: First, you should have deeper insights into the various real needs of the clients or customers you serve than any potential invader may have. And, how to unlock their yet unnerved needs. Second, you should better understand the profitability of serving them. That puts you in a stronger position to invest resources to capture, retain, upgrade and cross-sell the best of them. Third, your knowledge of the needs and profitability of your client segments make you far less susceptible to "invader imitation" because of the unique features of your own competitive advantage.

Let's use our Gulf Coast brain power to make something good happen for your own enterprise. Start with shifting your own thinking. Look within for fast, low-cost, significant sales. Specifically, your winning "insider insight" is based upon knowing those customer segments you own, who have yet unmet needs.

Think about it! That's what that nasty invader will do when he tries to pick off underserved groups of your clients. So, why on earth would you start prospecting in uncharted hills while leaving the gold on your own territory for others to mine?

What to do

Turn Inward! Start with what you have, in a discovery driven approach. Use analyses of your existing databases from which you can extract profits quickly. Don't concern yourself with extreme accuracy at the beginning. While your financial controller will want to go back years to accurately and quantifiably give you answers and take weeks to do it, your concern is top-line macro information. That's why you're the marketing guru! In indentifying your major customer segments, aim to be "roughly right" rather than know what is "precisely wrong".

Take the top 20% of your client base. Build customer and client segments using the characteristics and behavior that you can extract from your own records. Pool the information about which products or professional services your own people are buying; where, when and at what levels. Then look at hidden costs like returns, revisions and staff time for proposals and service, including travel and meetings.

You'll naturally customize your search, based upon your own situation and your own good thinking. The point is, you'll start to see exactly who on your client roster are delivering the most to your total bottom-line real contribution. That's the internal business that you want to focus in on, develop and the profile your must duplicate.

In a law firm, it might be client estate planning, or it might be employee contracts, or it might be real estate. In banking, it might be clients of trust services or it might be mortgages, or it might be certificates of deposits. With financial planners, it might be spouses of a deceased mate; or their children; or owners of a small business: or, recent retirees here from the north; or medical groups. That information may lead to your aggressive selling and targeting your promotional funds toward servicing, replicating and penetrating those most profitable sectors.

Your best customers and clients are not always those who write the big checks. They are those who will generate the big profits and have the biggest needs; the two may not be the same. And, that's the real bottom line to "insider insight" for seeding dramatic organic growth!

Lou Lasday creates action-oriented direct response strategic marketing initiatives for Gulf Coast emerging companies. He has been a general partner of an Ad Age Top 100 marketing communications firm and regional president of the American Marketing Association. Lasday can be reached at [email protected]


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