Re-Engage Your Business

By Mike Philie
In May 20, 2016

How’s business? When I speak to CEO’s about their business, the focus is generally on sales, profitability and opportunities for growth. Here is some of the feedback I get when I ask the “How’s Business” question:

  • We’re up 15% over last year – thriving!
  • Flat to slightly up
  • Down 3-5% over last year – no new business, ugh!
  • Growing but with significant pressure to margins
  • Flat, but as we lost our biggest account the end of last year, we’ve replaced it with four new ones – the best new business success we’ve had in a long time

Which comment most resonates with your business? This post will focus on ideas that could add traction for your business, re-engage your legacy sales force and make a greater impact on your clients. All good things.

We’ve been hearing about the new normal since early in the 2008-2009 economic downturn. From the financial pundits to those who were hawking new normal t-shirts, we’ve heard about how things will be different and that the good old days probably won’t be coming back. Fast forward to 2016 with the economy still threatening to recover, albeit spotty and definitely on its own pace. For many, the new normal has arrived and they are fully engaged. How about you? Are you engaged, participating or watching from the sidelines?

All Customers are Good – Some are Better than Others

Your planning sessions to re-engage your business should include a strategic review of your existing clients, the new business opportunities you’ll pursue and how you’ll support the effort from your marketing strategy through to workflow automation. There are three key areas that can make an impact on your business and deserve your attention.

Re-Engaging Your Business

  1. Existing Accountswhat’s the strategy for growth and minimizing attrition?
    1. Great accounts
    2. Good accounts
    3. Inactive accounts
  2. New business opportunitieswhat’s in it for them?
    1. Ideal account attributes
    2. The conversation
    3. What else besides print
  3. Support your business like you were the client
    1. Marketing and lead generation
    2. Increase your velocity – in all you do
    3. Re-think your service commitments

Existing Business – Good and Great Clients

What’s a great account look like for your business? Is it one with the highest revenues and profits? Many companies force-rank the sales and profit numbers of their accounts and pick out the top ones as their great accounts. Perhaps they are…perhaps they’re not. What else should you consider? Do they pay on time? Are they easy to work with? Do they utilize the full range of the services that you offer? Do you have a competitive advantage over your next best competitor with this account? Are they growing and can you learn from this account? Is their industry one that is relatively sheltered from the economy? Can doing business with this account make it easier to get more business like it?

These are a few of the questions asked in Epicomm’s Strategic Customer Evaluation Process. This review process helps CEO’s, owners and managers objectively evaluate the existing client base, determine the great and good accounts and begin pointing to the strategy you’ll need to nurture and grow their business. This evaluation will also isolate accounts that you may want to recommend to your competitors! This is also a great way to re-engage your legacy sales reps as they probably know these accounts better than anyone in the company. Get them involved in the process early and allow their contributions to help lead the way to a growth strategy for these accounts.

New Opportunities – What’s in it For Them?

The strategic evaluation can be a first step in further identifying the new business that you want to go after.  By objectively defining what attributes your existing great accounts have, you can be much more effective at determining the new business expectations for your sales force. Your sales group should be directed and encouraged to target accounts that have many of the same attributes as your great and growing accounts. Whatever size or configuration your business is, you’ve built an organization that performs a service and delivers a product that your great accounts value and pay you well for. You’ve staffed and equipped the business so that you can profitably meet the needs of those accounts. Your business needs more profitable opportunities from prospects that share similar attributes with your great accounts and while it’s not easy, you will have a better chance of success if you can articulate what that great account looks like. Sometimes the hardest part is determining whom you shouldn’t do business with.

As you re-focus for new business development, you need to determine who you’ll actually be talking to and how you can make an impact on their business. Whether you’re selling print, mail or integrated campaign services, you have an opportunity, and an obligation to ask, what your clients are looking to achieve when they buy your services. This doesn’t mean that you need to become a marketing expert to engage in this conversation but it does mean you’ll need to go beyond do you have anything for me to quote on today? Many sales reps will be uncomfortable with this approach and many of them haven’t, or will not survive the transition. You are encouraged to support and lead this effort by speaking to clients and prospects about their business, their challenges and how this next project will impact their business.

Once you’ve determined what they are looking to get out of their project or campaign and how they currently are using it, you’ll be in a much better position to diagnose the situation and prescribe the approach that may either drive out unnecessary costs (value engineering) or to make the project more effective in achieving its stated goals. Your objective is to produce the work smarter and help them be more effective in their use of print, mail and integrated campaigns, thus driving out costs without necessarily resorting to strictly lowering your price. While this may seem like common sense, it is not always common practice.

What else besides print and mail are your clients and prospects using to communicate to their audience? This becomes an open door question for you to use as you are evaluating your client and prospect initiatives. As their efforts need to tie-back into their marketing and communications plan, you will be in a better position to help identify and close any gaps in the process. Even if you can’t help them with their campaign management, email marketing or social media initiatives…ask the questions so that you’ll have a better understanding of the total business opportunity in front of you. If you have a strategic alliance with a firm that can help, bring them in. If you don’t have one, consider forming one.

Support the Effort – Pretend you’re the Client

What might be one of the bigger opportunities for many companies today includes providing marketing and lead generation support for their sales team. For years the sales reps have carried the flag and were the only ones delivering your message (along with perhaps a web site, company brochure and equipment list) to prospects and clients alike. As you can imagine, that message could easily lose its focus as many reps delivered it over time.

What is your message? Why should people buy from you and how do you differentiate from your competitors? This is your value proposition and it has to go much further than talk about quality, service and great pricing! These are but a few areas that need to be addressed in a marketing plan. The size and scope of your company does not matter. If you’ve got competitors and if your clients and prospects have choices, you should have some type of a plan. This plan need not be a case bound document with a reinforced shelf to hold it. More importantly, it should be a document that lays out your go-to-market strategy and how you’ll support that message through your deliverables. Keep it simple, make it relevant to your markets and execute, execute, execute.

Does Speed Kill?

The trend with many businesses today, even those that are growing, is that they are handling many more transactions than ever before. Running these additional projects through the same project management mill is costly, slow and a road to nowhere. From estimating, order entry and pre-flight (one CEO told me recently that over 50% of the files he gets in need some type of intervention by his staff…ugh!) through to shipping and invoicing, the amount of touches each project has is out of proportion to the value of the job. It’s not only costly but slows the process in a day when client expectations include “how can I get things faster and faster.” This needs to be addressed and may be the subject of another blog post.

Changing Client Expectations

Last evening, I ordered two different products through the internet. You probably know the rest of this story…within minutes I had an email confirmation of my order and a receipt, before I went to bed I received a second email stating that my order had been shipped, along with a tracking number. Now, I know that these are static products and the order workflow was all automated. Hear me out. So now today, one of your clients will send you an order, could be for $250 or $250,000. How will you acknowledge the order, how will you keep them apprised of the schedule all the way through shipping and better yet, how long will it take for you to get the invoice out the door? I realize that what you do is custom manufacturing but I also realize that client expectations (and our own) are changing and changing fast. Lack of speed could be a problem.

Time to Press ‘GO’

It’s time to get off the sidelines and re-engage your business. There are many business opportunities available for those that have prepared for today’s new order of business. The thoughts and ideas in this post are just a few things that you can and should be working on to re-engage your business. Get your team together and evaluate whether or not these ideas can make an impact to your business. If you’ve come up with something else, I’d love to hear about it. Good luck with this and remember, doing nothing is not an option! Reach me at mphilie@epicomm.org or 201-523-6302.

Mike Philie

Mike works with printing companies that are not satisfied with their sales and business development performance, and are looking to get objective advice and strategic direction on how to improve the results of their business. His engagements can range from providing input on the overall sales strategy to building business development pipelines while training the processes of “selling” in today’s marketplace. Mike quickly establishes himself as a trusted resource and advisor to the owners and senior staff of his client companies through his personal involvement, and very quietly and effectively becomes an extension of their staff.

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