LISTENING IS THE KEY TO PROSPECTING
Many moons ago, I had the privilege of teaching a course on strategic marketing at a well-known business school in New York City.


As part of the coursework, I emphasized the concept of the business lifecycle. Like humans, a business also moves through distinct life stages – with each phase posing unique business challenges, opportunities and threats.
For each life stage, service providers need to listen and understand which traits can trigger timely business opportunities.


Here are some samples of articles which represent our thinking.
GETTING MORE JUICE FROM YOUR MARKETING BUDGET
INCREASING THE ODDS OF PRODUCT SUCCESS
AMERICA’S ULTRAWEALTHY
FROM CMO TO CGO

Your Business Reputation Drives Success

Listening is Key to Prospecting

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: LIFECYCLE OF  AN ASSET MANAGEMENT FIRM

FINAL REPORT: LIFECYCLE OF ASSET MANAGERS--INDUSTRY INSIGHTS ON NAVIGATING IMPORTANT STAGES OF ASSET MANAGEMENT BUSINESS

YOUR BUSINESS REPUTATION DRIVES SUCCESS
Today, reputation and brand are interchangeable and more important than ever. On Facebook, Twitter, and the rest of social media, rumors and false information can spread quicker than a “New York minute!”

Reputation management is the art and science of understanding and influencing one’s individual or business reputation. It offers the ingredients necessary to keep your firm’s brand polished and progressive – with one foot in classic communications and the other in crisis.

If you do not have a team of PR professionals, writers, and other experts at your fingertips, here are five brand reputation management tips to ensure the reputations of your brand and business stay fresh, relevant, and pristine.

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1. Understand your prime stakeholders.
Familiarize yourself with your target audience:

  1. Who are the influencers they look to for advice?
  2. What metrics are considered during the prospect and decision-making process?
  3. Where do they “hang out” personally and professionally, including their online and offline communities?
  4. What are their readership habits and passion/pain points?      
  5. What conversations are taking place in the industry, including the latest trends, new market entrants, opportunities and threats?

In all likelihood, you might find yourself engaging with your audience in more than one place. It is imperative that the experience is consistent so you don’t send confusing or muddled messages about you and/or your firm’s reputation.


2. Develop a clearly defined and identifiable brand message.
Your brand message serves as a base when building your reputation. Creating and adhering to a strategic message allows you to position your business in both day-to-day communications and in times of crisis.

  1. Make sure your brand message is easy to understand, memorable and differentiated. Although this is easier said than done, take it from an experienced brand pro, there is always some thread that can be identified that weaves your capabilities together in a logic and compelling way.
  2. Use this message consistently throughout all prospect and client experiences, including "land, air and sea" (online, print, events, employees, client service, etc.)
  3. Make sure your business's value proposition has a consistent editorial tone and complementary visual identity.


3. Use storytelling to communicate your brand's expertise.
Keep these stories modern, consistent and compelling.

  1. What made you and your firm who you are today? 
  2. Is your expertise focused on a certain asset category, strategy, investor segment, or purpose?
  3. What compelled you to start your own business?


4. Be transparent.
If something happened in your past that impacted your reputation, address it and turn that negative into a positive by describing what you learned and how it ultimately shaped your future decisions.

  1. What steps did you take to ensure future success?  
  2. What changes did you make in how you do business and the way you make decisions to align with your brand values? 


5. Keep a watchful eye.
Real life Judy Smith, the inspiration for Scandal’s fictional Olivia Pope, highlights seven shared character traits that when unbalanced, will likely lead to trouble: ego, denial, fear, ambition, accommodation, patience and indulgence.  Monitor your reputation, making sure to assess all sides and measure risks and rewards.

  1. Keep track of your online presence.
  2. Regularly search your company’s name.
  3. Run site-specific and individual searches for your business and executives.
  4. Sign up for alerts from search engines such as Google Alerts that allow you to track search terms by type.

Whether the scandal is on the scale of global business or a personal matter; based on truth or rumor, it hardly matters. Today’s uber-connected world requires a command of risk and reputation management. 

Most of us grow up realizing we live and die by our personal reputations. Think back to your school-yard days – remember the “bullies” and the “trouble makers” or those popular kids who were the “jocks” or “overachievers"?


If we are so conscious of managing our own reputations, why haven’t we put as much time and effort into managing our companies’ reputations?  Warren Buffett is famous for saying, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

KEY TRAITS
First you have to identify the proper stage of growth. The main stages and key traits of the business lifecycle are:

  1. Development—idea generation, substantial investments in research and development, analysis, fund raising, value proposition, naming
  2. Introduction—slow sales growth, low/no profitability, high expenses, minimal marketing budget, education, foundation build, intense selling and awareness building
  3. Growth—rapid revenue/sales, expansion of product line and distribution, profitable, but high costs, aggressive promotion, increasing competition
  4. Maturity—slow/incremental sales growth and/or decline in profits, increasing competition from new entrants, critical inflection point-need to reposition, harvest or sell


COMPANY METAMORPHOSIS
Interestingly, there is no hard definition or average number of years for each life stage. Even within the same industry, companies may grow and mature at vastly different rates. Some companies take years to launch their first product, others take months. Conversely, I know companies that have “milked” their core products, refusing to invest in the business for years until the final harvest is sown. 


Many companies also find themselves at critical inflection points before they reach maturity and are advised to immediately address changes in their business model. With the rapid rise in technology, the globalized economy and changing consumer needs, companies must constantly pay attention to their customers and to new, non-traditional competitive entrants. I call that having “eyes in front, on the side and in the back of your head.”

LISTENING CLOSELY TO FIRM NEEDS
A company’s strategic plan will likely correspond to its present life cycle. Translating the business life stage into opportunities is also critical to new-business development professionals.


By understanding the core needs of a company and listening to what key executives say, you can adjust your corresponding pitch to offer those services that will provide the most value. For example, let’s take a mature company. 


In this situation, the industry life-cycle curve becomes noticeably flatter, reflecting slow growth. A mature company will require strategic guidance, a reinvigorated marketing program, price or quality differentiation, new product extensions, and a revamped brand. You may find the executive(s) sitting across the table with you saying things like:

  1. Our sales are stagnating.
  2. I am not sure if my organizational structure is aligned with current market needs and those of my competition.
  3. I do not know what I do not know. I need help to figure out what we should be doing now and/or to compare against best of breed companies in my market.
  4. We are considering the possibility of a private equity investment or sale so we can continue to stay competitive and relevant.
  5. We need to get back into the conversation. We are no longer top of mind with core influencer groups.
  6. We need to stress the unique features of the product or the firm to continue to differentiate our offerings from industry competitors. I do not know if we should offer a low-cost/low-price strategy, introduce a new and improved product, go international, etc.

CUSTOMIZING YOUR PROPOSAL
So, now that you have identified the life stage, understand the company’s needs and know what key questions to ask, you are ready to customize your offering. 
If we take the example above, the opportunities I would recommend are:

  1. Conduct a marketing assessment
  2. Conduct strategic research—internal and external. constituents, industry, aspirational competitors, etc.
  3. Conduct strategic review and analysis of company structure, processes, key employee roles and responsibilities, qualifications, etc.
  4. Re-brand/re-position company
  5. Re-invigorate a strategic public relations and marketing campaign(s)
  6. Introduce a new lead-generation program
  7. Assist with new product line extensions, capability analysis
  8. Evaluate exit strategies
  9. Help company prepare presentations for private equity investment and/or introduce the company to new sources of capital

Thought Leadership

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