Mastering marketing: Five keys to new business generation

Prior to starting my first business, I spent four years in an outbound sales role. Cold calling, working trade shows, emailing prospects, and closing deals was my full-time role. As an introvert, and a horrible golfer, I had my own flavor of sales. My technique was to play to my strengths — always be business-minded and possess a dogged determination.

Upon launching Design Trolley, a shopper marketing agency, the same approach served the company well. For the first five years, we worked our network and grew the business at a steady pace. Marketing wasn’t even on our radar. It worked great — until it didn’t. Rapid mergers and acquisitions took place, shrinking our addressable market. We weren’t bringing in sufficient new clients through our existing networks to offset the losses. While our top line was still growing due to going deeper at existing clients, I didn’t like the trendline.

Over the next couple of years, we refashioned the agency. I took on a partner, Jim Myers, and we rebranded to Simon/Myers and expanded our product offering. Jim breathed new life into our sales activities. He was well-connected and worked his network with great success. Additionally, our broader service offering gave us more at-bats with a wider audience. We were landing Fortune 500 clients, and punching well above our weight class. We were back to the trajectory the agency had been on previously.

Fast forward five years, and the process began to repeat itself. This time we knew we needed to respond in a different manner.

Simon/Myers is a marketing agency. Our expertise is helping large, national brands reach their audiences. So why weren’t we marketing for ourselves? We had become the old cliche’: the plumber with leaky pipes.

For the last two years, we’ve gone hard on our own marketing efforts and we are seeing quantifiable, impressive results. Below is a short playbook on what we’ve been doing. It isn’t rocket science, but it is hard work. Hopefully it will plant some seeds for your marketing efforts.

Step 1: Implement a quality CRM platform (customer relationship management), if you don’t have one already. We chose HubSpot. It tracks your leads and marketing activity all in one place, but more importantly it allows you to personalize and automate your marketing.

Step 2: Fire up the content machine. We distribute this activity across SMEs (subject matter experts) in the agency. Our team publishes several trend reports during the year. And our SMEs write opinion pieces on their practice areas. The most robust thing we do at S/M is publish a monthly newsletter on Home Improvement and Construction. Think about your space in the market and what value you can bring to your prospects.

Step 3: Leverage your content in digital marketing efforts. Once that content is created, you need to get prospects’ eyes on it. For B2B efforts, we particularly like LinkedIn, for both organic and paid social efforts. But don’t forget other avenues like email marketing, particularly if you have a quality list of prospect email addresses.

Step 4: Distribute these assets to your sales team to use for outreach. One of the hardest jobs for sales is having a reason to reach out to prospects. You can only say “just checking in” so often. Having an informed POV on an important industry issue is pure gold for a sales team. You become a resource and are viewed in a more consultative manner.

Step 5: Secure speaking engagements or get published. This is what we consider the “highest and best.” Find the conferences your prospects attend and secure a speaking engagement if you can. Walking a trade show may turn up two or three qualified leads, but speaking will give you dozens.

Let’s quantify these efforts. For a B2B marketing agency, the spend should be 7%-8% of revenue. However, the exact percentage varies depending on your industry. Take a look at where you are in your growth trajectory. Is it time to amp up your marketing efforts?

• Lou Simon is the principal/founder of Simon/Myers, a marketing agency with offices in Wheaton and Chicago.

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