Just today, I had conversations with two people with different levels of seniority and in different professional sectors about a scenario I had hoped would never occur again: as a firm rakes in the revenues and profits, resistance builds to investing in tomorrow's marketplace advantage....
A marketing manager in a very prominent professional service company called me today to ask for advice about how to defend her firm's investment in relationship management technology. Some of her colleagues, she reported, are questioning the large level of effort being made to hone the firm's contacts management and relationship intelligence applications.
At what point, they ask, does the return on investment start to diminish on developing marketing technologies for all this future business development?
"Money is flowing in, aren't we being just a little too focused on all this targeting and segmenting stuff?"
Here's what I told her: Yes, it's tempting to reduce spending time and money to refine your marketing technology infrastructure. Sure, someone should keep an eye on the internal marketing "spend," and it's inevitable that questions arise when a significant effort is made. But your investments today will make it more possible to proactively manage when the next marketplace downturn occurs. Respondents to the "Increasing Marketing Effectiveness at Professional Firms" study soundly endorsed targeting, segmentation and relationship management programs as "best results" marketing initiatives (even the technological aspects of it!). Don't overengineer your marketing and business development technology, but don't forget why you decided to invest in this arena to begin with.
The president of a small but well respected professional service firm called to ask for help on defending some branding strategies that he believes will help the firm attain market leadership in the future. Unfortunately, his early trial balloons on his branding idea have met with significant resistance. The firm is in the midst of a blockbuster year, making more revenues than ever before. With all this money, his colleagues see no reason to make a change in the brand strategy at all.
Here's what I told him: You should be glad that your brand strategy decisions from several years ago have led your firm to the point that it's able to capture the marketplace gains it enjoys today. Nevertheless, any professional service firm must be prepared to evolve its brand strategy in order to grow in the future. (Isn't that the very point of developing a strategy in the first place?) Equity owners owe it to their shareholders and partners to anticipate growth, and to develop a brand architecture that fosters that growth.
If the current brand strategy shows signs of limiting that growth, it's time to re-think it! In my book Marketplace Masters, there are numerous examples of professional firms that forgot to pay attention to their journey in the marketplace. Don't be one of them.
The bottom line: Don't let the waterfall of today's money wash away your critical thinking about tomorrow's competitive advantage.
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