Goals, Strategies, Objectives, Tactics. Leaders in professional service firms are typically aware of the importance of alignment between these elements of business planning. The challenge in some firms is consensus on goals. Without this, it is difficult to task BD and marketing directors with designing go-to-market strategies with agreed objectives and tactics that partners value.
The ‘Favourability Journey’ tool can help. This assists marketing in gaining input on goals, selecting strategies and producing plans for valued activity. This has four stages, each are strategies which may be required: Recognition, Reputation, Relationships and Revenue. To bring this to life, imagine the following scenario:
Recognition. You are abroad for business in an unfamiliar country. You walk into the deserted hotel bar with another partner for a drink. You look at the bottles on the shelf. There are 40 to choose from, none are familiar. How can you select without recognition of the brands? You look closely and see ten are from a region you have heard of – you are now at the first step of the Favourability Journey: recognition. But without further information, ten is still too many to pick from.
Reputation. With no bartender in sight, you pluck up courage to wander behind the bar and take a closer look at the familiar ten. Without any data on the quality of these, how do you make your choice? On the label of some you notice an award logo, this gives you comfort that five of the bottles are good quality. You are now at the second step of the Favourability Journey: reputation. But five is still too many to choose from.
Relationships. The bartender arrives. He/she comes over and you talk about what you like to drink. The bartender understands your preferences and offers some advice – a choice of two of the five bottles you were looking at. You are now at the third step of the Favourability Journey: relationships. Two is a reasonable range to pick from, but what about price?
Revenue. You ask the bartender about the cost and he/she tells you one bottle is £75 and the other £10. You pause to reflect on which will go down best with your partner – something reassuringly expensive but possibly ostentatious, or something cheap but potentially embarrassingly so. You are at the final step of the Favourability Journey: revenue. Thinking of your expenses policy you go for the latter. Your partner can buy tomorrow night!
In a matter of minutes, you have travelled on a journey from uninformed and uncomfortable about the options, lacking recognition of the brands, to a point where with information about the reputation of the options, and advice based on a relationship, you can make an informed purchasing decision, to give one brand revenue. This Favourability Journey is likely familiar for personal buying decisions, it also hopefully resonates as the journey clients go on with professional services.
So how to implement the Favourability Journey? The starting point is clarity on business goals. Whether codified or not, I seek to detail these with an audit around each of the steps of the Favourability Journey to identify which strategies are required and later to help guide the objectives and tactics needed (to follow in future articles). Before the audit, it is essential to define the target market – current and potential clients to address at the most granular level possible. Below I outline some of the options for this, choices depend on time, budget, resources and complexity of firm:
Recognition. The first question to ask is ‘how well are we known by our defined target market’? If time and budget allow, a client survey, ideally conducted on an unprompted and unattributed basis by a third party is an effective tool. Niche publishers and branding consultants are often a speedy option. A digital audit around search engine terms and adverts can supplement this. There are many other options including client service assessments, but for purity, stick to unprompted sources.
Reputation. The second question to ask is ‘what does our target market think of us’? Similar tools to the recognition audit can be used. It is often helpful to add in third party sources e.g. directory rankings or award providers. It may also be possible to conduct a media sentiment analysis, whether using technology or a communications adviser. Such data is often criticised as incomplete but is undoubtedly valid as an input to a marketing led audit.
Relationships. The third question to ask is ‘what do our existing clients and warm targets think of us’? Input from the above can be utilised but additional sources are beneficial, starting with CRM data. Should market share or client service assessment data be on hand, this can be added. Another important source is input from your partners. It is helpful to assess breadth and depth of their relationships. This is an in-depth assessment which I won’t cover here due to space constraints.
Revenue. The fourth and final question to ask is ‘how do we perform on tangible opportunities’? Again, client service assessment data can be useful. Many firms will also have processes around the review of pitch outcomes e.g. win/loss analysis, where possible with input from the clients themselves. Internal pricing analysis is also often helpful and external consultants can be employed to provide useful context on market benchmarks.
With data now available on the defined market – both current clients and potential targets, the aim is to consolidate this into a map. I seek to plot clients, on the Favourability Journey to identify where they are currently in their association with the firm, to identify marketing objectives which will later inform the planning of tactics. The success of this approach relies on the selection of markets and the availability of data.
The Favourability Journey is from experience simple to communicate to stakeholders. The benefit of moving clients along a journey of favourability towards the firm should make sense to all. The text above outlines the initial application of the journey to planning – looking at each of Recognition, Reputation, Relationships and Revenue as strategies. In future articles, I will detail objectives and tactics for each of the four elements of the Favourability Journey.
Leor Franks is CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of Augusta.