Does Your Marketing Collateral Spark Joy?

Newsflash: Babies come with SO MUCH STUFF. Five months into this parenting thing, and baby clothes, bibs, bottles, toys, books, swings, jumpers, utensils, and equipment have taken over every room of my house, sending my inner-minimalist reeling.

Whether it’s in your living room, your closet, or a shared folder on your network, clutter makes it difficult to function efficiently and can create MAJOR STRESS.

A quick Google search of “decluttering” is sure to lead you to Marie Kondo’s tidying method, known as KonMari.

While the KonMari method was developed to help tackle clutter in your home, several of its key principles can be applied to reducing and organizing marketing collateral clutter.

Here’s how:

1. Visualize the destination.

It’s critical to start with a clear picture of the marketing materials needed to support your doer-sellers and how you want to those materials to be organized. Describe your ideal marketing collateral library. What pieces do you have? How are they categorized? Where does the information live? How are the pieces managed? Who has access?

Having a clear vision of the goal lays the foundation for the rest of your decluttering process.

Not sure what you want the end product to look like? Check out this video for inspiration.

2. Tidy all at once.

In the KonMari method, instead of cleaning one room at a time, it is recommended to devote an entire day (or weekend/week/etc.) to going through EVERYTHING. While this sounds overwhelming, tidying all at once can prevent you from merely moving stuff from one location to another (instead of truly tidying and discarding).

For our marketing team, days are a bit slower around the holidays or right before a big audit or tax deadline. This is the perfect time for us to block out time to tackle our marketing collateral clutter.

3. Tidy by category, not location.

If you have materials scattered across shared marketing folders, your firm’s intranet, and your desktop, you’re not alone. Maybe you have some professional resume files in a shared folder on your network, while others live solely in an old proposal document.

Using the KonMari method, you would tackle all items in a single category, regardless of location. (For example, instead of tackling all of the items in my son’s closet, I should gather up all of his toys—from his closet, my car, our coffee table, etc.—and go through them at the same time.)

Likewise, instead of going through your marketing materials by location, tackle all materials in a particular category (“About the Firm” type collateral, industries summaries, tax team member resumes, and so on). This allows you to see objectively exactly how much content you have in any given category—AND if you have any gaps in your materials that need to be addressed.

Did you know POUNCE enables you to easily categorize marketing materials and resumes by industry or service area, making your collateral easy to locate and use?

4. Determine if the item “sparks joy.”

Maybe “joy” isn’t the best word to describe our feelings toward marketing collateral. (My son’s favorite footed pajamas spark my joy. A cozy sweater sparks my joy. Beautiful art sparks my joy. A buy-side due diligence summary? Meh.)

Nonetheless, it is important to carefully consider each piece of marketing collateral and ask yourself if it sparks something resembling joy. Do you feel good about your Data Analytics practice summary? Keep it. Not thrilled about the Real Estate industry one-pager you have and pretty certain no one uses it? Fix or discard it.

At the end of the day, you will be left with materials that are updated, accurate, on-brand, accessible, and directly aligned to growth areas for your firm. And that can feel pretty joyful!

The Results

Performing an intensive marketing material tidying process is no small undertaking, but can leave you with the following results:

  1. Finding materials is no longer a chore. When you are left with only high quality materials that are properly organized, finding the piece you need when you need it is effortless.
  2. You’ll identify true gaps in your information. Not only have you consolidated six slightly different versions of your “About Us” one-pager, but you’ve also realized that your Healthcare Niche’s information has never be formatted for business development efforts.
  3. You can focus on the materials that are most useful and relevant. It’s marketing math: when there are fewer materials scattered about, you can invest more time and effort in the ones that are best aligned to your growth opportunities and strategy.
  4. Managing your materials going forward is much easier. When every piece has a home, the process of conducting periodic reviews and updates of collateral is simple.

Happy tidying!

3 Sales Statistics that Matter

With the immense amount of data available at our fingertips today, our firms have access to more information than ever before to help make informed decisions regarding marketing and business development strategies.

I recently read this article on “27 Amazing Sales Statistics for 2019” and noted a few specific pieces of data that are highly relevant within the professional services industry and the doer-seller model.

These are not the only three statistics that matter, but these are a few that resonated with us:

1. Research shows that 35% to 50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first. (Source – InsideSales.com)

Why this matters: In the world of sales, speed matters! I can personally attest to the fact that our firm has won opportunities simply because we were the first ones to deliver information requested by the prospect.

As you know, we live in an age of near-instant gratification. Prospects and clients expect responsiveness. It is critical for firms to have not only a culture that values responsiveness, but also the processes and tools in place to enable doer-sellers to access information and respond to prospects in a timely AND quality manner.

If you’re not able to respond quickly to prospect questions and requests, one of your competitors will.

(Check out our related post on “The Cost of Wasted Time in the Business Development Process.”)

2. 40% of emails are opened on mobile first, and the average mobile screen can only fit four to seven words max in the subject line. (Source – ContactMonkey)

Why this matters: We already know the importance of quality content in our marketing strategy, but a beautifully branded email, well-written article, and carefully crafted call-to-action are not enough.

You need a compelling subject line to get your audience to even open the email. AND because 40% of your audience is likely viewing their inbox on their mobile device, it needs to be short.

(For C-level executives—also known as, your decision-makers—the percentage of mobile views may be even higher, as many high level executives are constantly on-the-go.)

If you are treating subject lines as an after-thought, it may be time to reconsider your content marketing strategy.

3. High-performing sales organizations are twice as likely to provide ongoing training as low-performing ones. (Source – HubSpot)

Why this matters: Business development skills can be learned, but your practice professionals need training and support in order to develop these skills.

“I went to school to be a CPA, not a salesperson.” It is unrealistic to expect someone to fulfill business development expectations if they have never been taught how. Proper training is critical to evolving your team to develop business.

With the right training, everyone has the potential to contribute to business development and growth efforts.

Look for our upcoming content on developing a business development training curriculum!

 

 

Tips for Creating a Writing Style Guide

Articles. Emails. Blog posts. Professional bios. Sales sheets. Client communications. E-books. The list goes on.

Written content—in its countless forms—is a critical way firms communicate with clients and prospects. And if your firm is like ours, you likely rely on your practice professionals to some degree to help develop content that can be shared with external audiences.

When you have content coming in from a variety of individuals, it can be a challenge to manage the varied writing styles and edit everything to ensure one consistent voice and message.

Cue the writing style guide. A writing style guide helps set guidelines that can be applied to internal and external communications. This consistent approach helps to create a standard of excellence and professionalism in all of your published content.

The writing style guide also saves times by answering frequently asked questions like, “Do we use ‘not-for-profit’ or ‘nonprofit’?” or “When should I spell out an abbreviation?”

While it is ultimately up to the marketing team to review, edit and approve content before it is published, a writing style guide can help reduce the amount of time you spend on the editing process.

Here are a few tips when creating a writing style guide:

1. Jot it Down

Before our team began to put together a formal guide, we simply jotted down tips that we wished our writers knew. When you are editing content, make a separate list of the common errors, corrections, or suggestions you make. These will help mold the writing style guide by answering those frequently asked questions. Often these different “styles” are simply just a number of small tweaks that ultimately create consistent communications that look and sound like one firm.

2. Make it Short and Sweet

This rule applies not only to your professional writing, but also to your writing style guide. Just as clients and prospects want information that is presented in a clear and digestible format, your team members need a style guide that is quick to reference and easy to understand.

3. Cover Your Bases

Go back to your jotted down notes (see #1 above) and start there. Typically, you’ll notice a pattern of tips that you’ll want to set guidelines around. Here are the things that are typically included in writing style guides, but again make sure to adapt it to your content:

  • Commonly used terms – These are commonly used niche and industry terms where you see inconsistencies. There is typically a lot of gray area with these terms, so pick one and stick with it. For example, at our firm we refer to “cybersecurity” (one word) rather than “cyber security” (two words).
  • Grammar – This one might seem obvious but include some common grammar errors that keep coming across your desk. It also helps to pick a formal style book (i.e. AP Stylebook, The Chicago Manual of Style, etc.) in case your team needs more guidelines.
  • Punctuation and symbols – Include guidelines on commas, slashes, “&” versus “and”, numbers, money, percent and time of day. These are frequently used in content and it helps to have clear rules on how to use these.
  • Company name – Include the appropriate use for your company name for both internal and external communications. Let writers know when it is ok to use company abbreviations. List out appropriate use of department/team names and include any specific communication rules regarding your brand.
  • Acronyms/jargon – Give writers examples of industry acronyms and jargon and when it may be best to spell things out.
  • Unapproved terms – Make sure to include unapproved terms that could send the State Board of CPAs or other regulatory bodies calling. For example, one of our unapproved terms is “expert” unless we are referring to expert witness testimony. Explaining where the regulations come from will go a long way and show that you have reason to prohibit these “unapproved” terms.
  • Voice and Tone – Is your firm typically more casual or buttoned up? Help writers understand your firm’s voice and tone. Think about what you want your readers to portray: formal, experienced, witty, approachable, helpful?

4. Show Examples

Show examples throughout your writing style guide. These will help solidify the guidelines and give your writers working examples of how to apply the rules.

Example:

Incorrect: P & N’s cyber security experts are familiar with FISMA, NIST, HIPAA, and more.

Correct: P&N’s cybersecurity professionals are familiar with numerous security frameworks, including the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), among others.

 

By creating a writing style guide tailored to your firm, you’ll be on the path to a unified voice and consistent communications and branding (and will hopefully save time editing along the way).

Autonomy as a Motivator in the Sales Process

If you’ve ever seen this popular TED talk by Daniel Pink on “The Puzzle of Motivation”, you know that autonomy is one of the most powerful intrinsic motivators for employees. Autonomy is our desire to have control over our work and choice in how we use our time.

Firms can support an environment of autonomy by giving people real control over various aspects of their work, including business development activities. When done correctly, firms can employ autonomy to motivate doer-sellers to participate in the business development process.

Here’s how to do autonomy the right way:

Communicate Goals & Vision

It’s not enough to tell your people to sell or teach them how to do it (although these are important); they need to know WHY their assigned tasks or individual goals have value to the firm. Make sure employees at all levels of your firm understand the vision and how their piece contributes to the big picture.

Provide Structure, Direction & Support

It’s important to find a balance between autonomy and structure. Before doer-sellers feel comfortable moving forward in the sales process on their own, they need to understand the rules of engagement. At a minimum, make sure your firm has the following in place:

  • Defined Sales Process: Give your doer-sellers a clear path to follow that outlines key steps and responsibilities. A shared understanding of key terms and processes helps to ensure everyone is speaking the same language and working from the same playbook.
  • Training: Incorporate some level of business development training into your firm. This can include tactical, skills-based training (such as how to ask for referrals or CRM training) as well as more general topics (such as understanding the firm’s target industries, service capabilities, etc.)
  • Tools & Resources: Give your doer-sellers the training and technology they’ll need to be successful in the sales process. Make sure employees know where to go when they have questions.

Let Them Fly!

If your doer-sellers have a firm understanding of why business development is important and the guidelines within which to operate, it’s time to get out of the way and let them do their thing!

Map out your current process and identify bottlenecks or unnecessary steps that can be eliminated or streamlined through the use of technology. (Remember, an autonomous environment is more focused on outcomes rather than the steps people take to get there.)

Here a few examples of areas within the BD process you may consider reworking:

  • Do you require a minimum number of hours per year/quarter/month to be spent on BD activities?
  • Do doer-sellers (specifically at the non-partner level) have to seek expense approval before taking a contact out for lunch?
  • Do you block access to social media sites?
  • Are doer-sellers dependent on the marketing team to provide a prospect with general information about the firm, its services, or its industry practice areas? (If your doer-sellers are frequently asking your marketing team for this information, it may be time to consider giving them access to the materials they need with a tool like POUNCE.)

Challenge yourself and firm leadership to find ways to reduce rules, incorporate flexibility and create decision-making opportunities.

Summary

Autonomy is a powerful motivator because it’s really about empowerment and trust. Empowered employees feel more valued and more satisfied, which increases their productivity and engagement. Trust your team to determine how to approach each sales opportunity and you’ll reap the rewards of an engaged, high-performing team.

Also remember: firms don’t have to change overnight. Start with small increases in flexibility and choice and implement changes gradually.

ICYMI: Top Posts of 2018

As we mark another year down in the books, here’s a look back at some of our most read articles from 2018:

1. Building a Business Development Culture, Summed Up with this Playlist

I was recently re-reading this article that our very own Marketing Director Rachael Higginbotham wrote on building a business development culture and decided it is a story worth re-telling in song form. Enjoy! [READ MORE]

2. Not-So-Busy Season

Accounting firms are famous for “busy season.” Although workloads have begun to even out year-round in some practice areas, late January through the end of April is still the most demanding period of time for accounting firms. Because of the high focus on audit and tax deadlines, it’s oftentimes also the slowest period for accounting marketers.

With less access to client service professionals, how can marketers use their “not-so-busy” season most productively? In a word: prepare. [READ MORE]

3. 7 Tips for a Successful Prospect Meeting

So, you’ve scheduled an initial meeting with one of your target prospects. Great! This first discussion is crucial for relationship development and ultimately winning business. Here’s how not to blow it. [READ MORE]

4. We can do WHAT?!? Educating Employees on Service Offerings

In our firm, one of the challenges we hear most often is that our professionals can’t keep track of everything we can do. They are continually being reminded to look for additional opportunities to help their existing clients, but how can you identify areas in which your firm can help if you’re not aware of all of your service offerings? OR, even if you know what services your firm can provide, how do you know who to talk to?

Team members can’t be expected to have intelligent, meaningful discussions with clients to identify new opportunities without the right tools and knowledge of the firm’s services. So how can marketers help bridge this gap? [READ MORE]

5. 3 Surprising Ways POUNCE Helps Our Team

You already know POUNCE is a professional resume and marketing material management tool that can enable your team members to easily find and distribute up-to-date collateral to prospects.

But after using POUNCE in our own firm, we’ve discovered a few other ways the system makes our lives easier. Here are three surprising ways POUNCE has helped the P&N marketing team. [READ MORE]

‘Twas the Friday Before Christmas

‘Twas the Friday before Christmas, and all down the hall

Not a CPA was stirring, all had slowed to a crawl.

No looming proposal deadlines or webinars to plan

Just a yearend pipeline report for our CEO Dan.

 

Then from my email there came a familiar ping,

I open my inbox to see that new thing.

A partner wants info on our cybersecurity services

To send to a client for business development purposes.

 

NEED THIS IMMEDIATELY the subject line read

I could send him our one-pager, but I call him instead:

“Did you know that POUNCE has all the info you need?

Marketing materials at your fingertips will help you succeed.”

 

“There are summaries on services clients can procure

Including collateral on keeping their networks secure.

There’s a mobile app too, for access on-the-go

All the things we need to help our firm grow.”

 

“What a wonderful tool!” my partner announced

“I love that our firm has access to POUNCE!”

Contact us if POUNCE could help your firm too

Happy Holidays to you and your marketing crew!

Productivity as a Competitive Advantage in Business Development

In professional services marketing, success often depends on our ability to get things done with limited resources. When a firm increases its productivity, it is able to produce more with the same amount of resources (work and time), which can lead to several important benefits.

In today’s world, productivity often depends on implementing the right technologies for your firm. In business development, this means identifying the manual aspects of your marketing and sales processes and selecting tools to help you streamline and automate those areas to increase your business development productivity.

When you implement tools that reduce administrative time, amazing things can happen. Let’s look at two scenarios:

Scenario 1: You spend less time on Task A.

Productivity - Spend Less Time

In this scenario, you are able to reduce the amount of administrative time spent on Task A which means the task gets done faster and you are able to move on to Tasks B, C, and so on.

Increasing productivity enables a firm to provide more “product” (in our world, hours) without increasing costs or other inputs. The ultimate result in this case is INCREASED PROFITABILITY.

Imagine the impact on your growth with tools in place to enable a doer-seller to deliver customized marketing collateral to 5 prospects in the same time it previously took them to send information to 1!

Scenario 2: You spend the same amount of time on Task A but with a greater focus on strategy.

Productivity - Focus on Quality

In this scenario, you are able to reduce the amount of administrative time spent on Task A, which frees up time for you be more strategic and work on the more complex (less clerical) aspects of the task.

You may spend the same amount of total time on Task A, but because more of this time is spent focused on strategy, the end result is INCREASED QUALITY (i.e., a better product). And in the world of professional services, this means better client experiences (which I dare say will ultimately also lead to increased profitability).

Imagine if your firm had tools in place to enable a doer-seller to take the same amount of time previously wasted searching for marketing collateral and use that time to focus on high-value relationship-building activities for a prospect!

Summary

Productivity and time management are ALWAYS topics of discussion within our firms, especially as it relates to business development. Finding ways to reduce administrative time in our marketing and sales processes helps to increase the productivity of both your doer-sellers and your marketing teams and gives your firm an advantage in the competitive professional services marketplace.

Check out these related articles:

Article Round-Up: New Ideas to Pounce On

Looking for inspiration and ideas for firm growth? Here’s a roundup of some of the best pieces of content we’ve come across recently.

1. Your #1 Competitive Differentiator

https://jbarrows.com/blog/your-1-competitive-differentiator/

There are a TON of articles out there on uncovering and promoting your organization’s differentiator, but this article offers an interesting take that really resonated with me.

According to John Barrows, “there is one thing [your competitors] can’t say they have, which is ultimately the #1 competitive differentiator for all of us. It’s our customers and the results we drive for them.”

Our differentiator is not our resources, thought-leadership or service quality (which are all top-notch, of course); it’s our clients and the value we bring to them. This makes me think about how our marketing can do a better job of sharing our clients’ stories in an impactful way.

2. 5 Articles on How to Ask Better Questions

https://threesixtyeight.com/insights/how-to-ask-better-questions/

Yes, I’m including an article round-up within my own article round-up—it’s like article round-up Inception. In all seriousness, asking the right questions in the right way is critical to success within our teams, with our clients, and within the sales process. Kenny Nguyen, CEO and co-founder of ThreeSixtyEight, shares a few of his favorite articles on how to ask better questions.

3. 11 More Audience Engagement Tools You Need to Know

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/blog/audience-engagement-tools-2016-ds00/

At P&N, in-person events are a significant and critical piece of our marketing strategy. Our goal with these events is not just to draw attendance but to meaningfully engage with clients and prospects.

From voting and polling to presentation-sharing and feedback-gathering, there are low- or no-cost apps available to help take our events to the next level of audience engagement.

Confessions of a Client: How to Get Me

We know how important it is for our doer-sellers to truly understand our clients. When people understand those they serve, they solve problems more creatively, provide better service and build stronger relationships.

To develop an in-depth understanding of our clients and prospects, it’s important for our doer-sellers to not only spend time with them but to actually put themselves in their clients’ and prospects’ shoes.

With this in mind, we developed a training session for our doer-sellers called “Confessions of a Client: How to Get Me.” In this presentation, our marketing team shared our story and personal observations about being on the prospect’s side of the sales process. We discussed how we selected a firm to assist with our brand refresh and website overhaul, covering everything from how we determined which firms would be invited to participate in the bid process to how we ultimately selected our vendor.

My guess is most of you have a similar story to tell, and this can be very powerful in showing the sales process from prospect’s perspective.

Looking back at how we selected a partner, we believe these were their keys to success:

  1. They identified us as a target. They made it known that we were a firm they wanted to work with.
  2. They made contact. They used their network to identify in-roads and set up meetings. They paid attention to what information was being published by us and about us. They used this information and their network to build a relationship with us.
  3. They helped us for no other reason than to help us. When they first reached out to us, we were NOT ready to build a new website, and we let them know very directly. They helped us anyway—by passing along helpful information, calling us when they spotted interesting opportunities in the market, offering introductions to others, etc.
  4. They practiced patience. They checked in with us regularly and made sure we knew they were waiting in the wings for the opportunity, but never assumed they were our only option.
  5. They made mistakes. BUT they did a great job recovering from those mistakes.
  6. They were on our team. We knew they were the right pick for us because it felt like they were already on our team, well before we officially selected them. They guided us throughout the process, from getting budget and buy-in from leadership to establishing a baseline price range.
  7. They compensated for their perceived weaknesses. They played to their strengths, and found ways to make sure we knew it. They also asked what their weaknesses were and addressed how they would overcome them.
  8. They asked for the work and were prepared to close the deal. At every stage in the process, they made sure that we knew how much they wanted to work with us. They also knew that the decision might not be unanimous among our various decision-makers, but they had prepared for this by identifying their champion within our firm and making sure that champion would go to bat for them.
  9. They won the work. Enough said.
  10. They continue to win work. They regularly stay in contact with us to understand what we’re working on, what our priorities are, what challenges we’re facing, and so on. And they continue to find ways to help us with these priorities and challenges.

Summary: Share Your Story!

This is just one example of our own experience as the prospect. Consider sharing your own story with your doer-sellers to offer a different perspective on the sales process and to help them put themselves in their clients’ shoes.

Scary Side Effects of Rogue Marketing Materials

We’ve all seen it: the piece of marketing collateral created by a doer-seller on the fly. An old company logo. Complete disregard for brand colors or fonts. Pixelated images. Typos. CLIPART.

If your doer-sellers can’t easily find the marketing materials they need when they need them, they may go rogue and create their own pieces (the kind that haunt our marketing nightmares).

When this happens, it can affect your team’s efficiency, your firm’s brand, and ultimately your bottom line.

Here are three scary side effects of rogue marketing materials:

1. Lost Time (i.e., Lost $)

Based on this study, 36% of a typical work day is spent looking for and consolidating information. How much of this time could your firm get back if all of the information your team members need was neatly stored in one location?

This is obviously not limited to marketing materials; BUT if your firm lacks a system for organizing and accessing the materials that support your doer-sellers in the sales process, you may have some inefficiencies that are costing your firm time AND money.

2. Brand Inconsistency

Consistency and accuracy in your branded marketing collateral is an important factor in how clients and prospects perceive your firm. So if they receive a piece of collateral that doesn’t match the look and language they expect from your firm, it can damage your brand and reputation.

Inconsistency in the visual styles of your materials can make it difficult for your audience to see past the style elements and absorb your message.

Inconsistency in the voice of your materials could send mixed signals and make it difficult for a prospect to trust what you are saying.

3. Misalignment of Marketing and Sales Functions

When doer-sellers go rogue and create their own materials, it can create a disconnect between the roles of the marketing team and your doer sellers:

  • Your doer-seller has spent valuable time on a task that should be done (or may have already been done!) by your marketing department. Marketers are generally more adept at writing and graphic design—doer-sellers don’t need to be spending their time in those areas.
  • Marketing may have a bank of collateral that goes unused. If your doer-sellers don’t know where to look to see if a specific material already exists, the time your team invested in creating that collateral in the first place is time wasted.
  • Marketing needs input from doer-sellers to ensure effective messaging of collateral, but if doer-sellers create their own pieces that Marketing never sees, then Marketing never gets the feedback they’re looking for to make the firm’s collateral more effective. As marketers, we need the insights our doer-sellers receive from clients and prospects on a daily basis.

What’s a Marketer to Do?

Rogue marketing materials are a real problem for many marketers, but one that can be easily mitigated by using a centralized tool to organize materials. By creating a consistent, centralized system that is easy to access and use, marketers can drastically reduce the clipart that finds its way onto rogue materials (and prospects’ desks).