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Sacking Clients: Brand Power Wheel
Remember in the last message we talked about your directional pipeline and how sometimes you'll be approached by prospects who just don't fit with what you want to achieve? We looked at the different types of prospect - Desperate, Curious, and Inspired.
Well, now we're going to have a think about what might happen if you realise you have some of the desperate or curious people as your clients. Oh, the shame!
One of the tools we use is called the Brand Power Wheel - not got one of these? Then you know the drill, send a blank email to: email@example.com with "Send Me The Brand Power Wheel - I'm Missing Out - Again!" in the subject line!
The Brand Power Wheel really helps you to identify what's important to you and the way you work, so you can see whether prospects (people who haven't bought yet) and clients (those who have) fit with your values and beliefs.
What we find is that for many companies, doing this at an advanced stage in their business lives, they get a bit of a shock. I know we did! You might find that some elements in your brand power wheel are probably out of line. The good news is once you've lined everything up, you'll have far more power and magnetism than your competitors and they'll struggle to ever really comprehend the reasons why.
The Brand Power Wheel consists of layers (Belief, Capability, Action & Image, Externalities)- each layer, makes up an important part of your overall brand and communication. Working from the inside out will generally have a more dramatic effect on your final Brand communication than working from the outside in. You really need to see it - send a blank email to: firstname.lastname@example.org with "Send Me The Brand Power Wheel - I'm Missing Out - Again!" in the subject line!
So, the first thing you need to do is set about lining everything up so that you can project a potent and congruent brand to your target.
I would just like to say that there is no right or wrong way to get everything in alignment. Some people may favour working on their own beliefs while others address capability with training. Some people will realise that their only blockage is in a sloppy image that doesn't reflect the quality of themselves or their customers.
However you approach the challenge, you should do it based upon your beliefs, goals, and unique challenges.
There is, however, usually a hard way and an easy way...
'Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitas' (Plurality should not be posited without necessity)
Now this sounds a little bit too pompous and academic for my liking so here's my simplification...
If you have to choose between two actions, models or plans that are both likely to create the same outcome then choose the simpler one.
If you apply this principle to your brand power and the rest of your marketing - you'll quickly discover it's effectiveness.
Applying Occam's Razor and Sacking Customers
When we were faced with a Brand Power problem a few years ago, we went through this exercise again and discovered that nearly all of our beliefs, capabilities, action and image were lined up, but somehow we just weren't getting through powerfully to our customers.
At this time we were working with and targeting large, multinational firms. We were being paid very well but:
* Our customers were happy to pay for our advice but rarely followed it through far enough to get results
* We had occasional skirmishes with middle managers in Marketing, IT and HR - so every project felt like a battle
* We became bored, tired and uninspired in our work and as a result began to feel that we weren't giving our clients our best shot.
We looked into this more fully and realised that we were actually targeting and working with the wrong types of companies for us.
We'd taken part in occasional projects with smaller, more inspired and hungry firms and had really enjoyed the sense of achievement and the celebration of their success.
Small people in big firms really didn't appreciate our approaches for a number of reasons. The biggest one being that people in large firms are battling for power within. They generally (there are bound to be exceptions) aren't as interested in the firm's success as they are in their own.
Marketing Managers wanted to spend more on marketing - not less. They wanted a bigger budget, more people around them and more things depending on them. This way they could grow their prospects, power and security.
What we were offering was in direct conflict with what they wanted and it had repercussions through all elements of management, from HR through to IT and Communications.
So who did want what we were offering?
Owners of small, inspired expert businesses did. People who were spending their own money on marketing loved what we were saying.
So looking at our current brand wheel, we could see easily what we had to do to get through. Sack our clients.
We changed our focus to small expert businesses, graciously (well almost!) sacked some of our best paying customers and set about positioning ourselves as a company that works with small expert businesses. Most of what we did, said, believed and were capable of lined up perfectly with our new target, so with an occasional tweak here and there, we began to get work with exactly the customers we wanted. And they really wanted us.
So, how did we sack our clients?
Remember Occam's Razor and do it simply and elegantly.
We had a few to get rid of. One of them was our largest client for the previous 2 years, but when we investigated the economics of keeping that client we quickly realised that they were only just profitable for us. They were an 80 person consultancy. So our first strategy was to increase our prices by 100%. Now, remember we weren't trying to get a price increase, we were trying to find a way of extricating ourselves from the relationship.
They said they'd pay. Bugger!
So, we held a very frank meeting with them (those of you who know us can guess how frank!) where we discussed what would need to happen for us to work together in the future. I must say we were blunt. The main and recurring issue with this client was that they "played" desperate ALL the time. Every requirement was urgent, every piece of marketing material was needed yesterday, they never planned ahead and they were always ungrateful! So, we suggested ways that might work in the future. They promised to try!
Now, some people may be thinking, wow - that's so arrogant. And, you might be right. But, this is our business and if we're not enjoying it why are we doing it? We knew what we wanted out of a client and we laid it on the table. They tried, but they were so ingrained in their old ways that it was impossible for them. So, we parted company!
We attempted a similar price raise with a few others we wanted to "sack" - with varying success. We tried a few other techniques, like recommending other companies who could satisfy them better than we could (we generated a few good partnerships with this model) and putting in longer timescales for projects. But by far the most successful was being upfront and telling them why we were releasing them!
I think Jim Womack - President and Founder of Lean Enterprise Institute http://www.lean.org says it most succinctly:"Customers often have no choice but to purchase the waste along with the value"
When you're working with clients who don't fit your ideal client profile, who "play" desperate, who exhaust you and are never grateful, then someone must be suffering.
We realised that not only were we suffering (emotionally and profitably) but that our ideal clients were buying the waste along with the value! Sacking clients who don't fit your ideal profile means you have a more efficient business and everyone succeeds.
'Dangerous' Debbie Jenkins
(c) Copyright 2005 www.BookShaker.com
SUMMER CAN BE SLOW FOR BUSINESS
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