Zee2A's Marketing Edge Blog

November 7, 2008

How to Ensure Your Business Can Weather These Storms

Two Processes That Will Help You
Sleep Through These Stormy Nights

Did the credit-crunch (closely followed by this recession) catch you by surprise? Many of us felt as though it came out a clear blue sky, leaving us suddenly coping with something that hadn’t been any part of our business plans. Like a yacht caught in a sudden squall some of us might be thinking that, had we known it was going to happen, we would have stayed safely in the harbour!

I heard a good story recently, which I think illustrates this event rather well. It concerns a farmer and his wife who need to hire a farmhand. As they are dependent on the farm for their livelihood, they want to make a good decision and hire the right applicant. So they are painstaking with their interview process.

One day they interview a young man who seems to be perfect for the role. They ask him: “What do you think qualifies you as the best person for the job?”

His reply is unhesitating but puzzling. “I can sleep on a stormy night.”

Mystified, the couple decide to offer him the job based on their instinct. And what a good hire he turns out to be! As the farmer rises and prepares for the day, he sees the young man already out in the fields busy with his tasks. And as the farmer and his wife sit on their patio in the evening dusk, they see him returning after a hard day’s work.

However, one night the farmer and his wife are wakened by the booming of thunder and the howl of rising winds. A storm is coming! Quickly the farmer sends his wife to rouse the farmhand from slumber while he begins to deal with the emergency.

The farmer’s wife runs to the young man’s quarters and bangs on his door, shouting his name. But there is no answer! He is fast asleep.

Meanwhile the farmer dashes to the barn to secure the cows and lock the barn door – only to find when he arrives that all is peaceful. The cows are bedded down in the barn and the door is firmly locked. Then he remembers that the tractor must be put under cover, so he runs to the yard – only to see the tractor already parked in the shed! Finally, he realises that the farm implements cannot be left out in the rain to rust, so he makes haste to collect them – only to discover that all of the implements have already been cleaned and placed in their proper places in the toolroom.

Only then do the young man’s words make sense to the farmer and his wife: “I can sleep on a stormy night.”

The lesson for us? We should not neglect activities that are essential preparation for the future of our business. Let’s look at just two of those activities and see how neglecting them in the run-up to this recession may well have left us scrambling around in our pyjamas in the middle of the night!

Lead Generation

I have yet to meet a professional services executive who does not feel competent to close a sale with a high proportion of those prospects who have approached the practice for advice. But – and it’s a very big but – I meet very few who feel competent to go out and find prospects when nobody comes knocking. Like our farmer, they can rest easy when the sun shines and the weather stays dry, but when word-of-mouth referral starts dropping off they find themselves in deep trouble.

Even as the credit-crunch bites and the recession gathers pace, I speak to professionals who say “We don’t do marketing. Our practice grows by word-of-mouth.” Sadly, many have already found the taps turned off, and others will find the flood of referrals slowing to a trickle as a record number of small businesses go to the wall.

Those who have a cost-effective lead generation process in place and are regularly reaching out to their target market inviting dialogue have also found the level of response dropping in the current market. But they are able to simply increase the volume of their efforts – relying on proven, tested lead generation processes – in order to ensure that their business is provided with sufficient good-quality leads to sustain profitable growth. Like the farmhand, they have no need to panic or rush around in all directions despite the severity of the crisis!

Establishing Trust

One significant difference between word-of-mouth referrals and prospects arising from other forms of lead generation is that there is a vastly different level of trust. Word-of-mouth referrals have often come from a referee who trusts us implicitly (to deliver on our service promises) and has communicated that to the prospect. The prospect therefore has a high level of referred trust and is ready to be ‘sold’. (Incidentally, that accounts for the confidence most execs have in converting this type of prospect to a customer – it’s generally not a huge challenge!)

Prospects who have not been referred in such a manner are a different story. They like what they’ve heard – or else they wouldn’t be prospects – but they are skeptical. Why should they trust you that you are worth your price? Why should they believe you are so different from your competitors?

Professionals who do not have a marketing and sales focus find that their conversion rates for such prospects are dismally low – and will get lower during the recession, because trust (that your services are a wise investment) becomes even more critical when times are tight and money is short.

Those who understand that trust must be established before a sales conversation can take place (and have processes in place to do this quickly and effectively with each prospect), on the other hand, will find that their conversion rates will be much higher, and will remain unaffected by the recession.

So which are you? The farmer – scrambling to secure what you can before the recession takes away your farm? Or the farmhand – secure in the knowledge that your business will remain intact whatever ‘huff and puff’ the economic conditions give rise to? More importantly, which do you want to become in future? The choice is yours.

©David Deakin and Zee2A Limited 2008. Would you like to reprint this article? You may do so as long as you include the copyright notice and the following paragraph: David Deakin, CEO of Zee2A, is a marketing mentor who works with Professional services Executives yearning to take their business to the next level. Through one-on-one and group mentoring programmes he helps them to create sustainable marketing strategies that attract more clients at profitable rates. To learn more, sign up for his e-zine, or make an enquiry please visit www.zee2a.com.

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