(2 min read)
For those of us who’ve been around the block a few times, you’ll have noticed that every time there is an economic shakeup, the first two budgets to go in the company belt-tightening are always Learning and Development and Marketing. We know it’s counter-intuitive. Recruitment and staff turnover are most organisations biggest cost, and when customers are thin on the ground it’s hardly the time to dial down the dialogue. But still it happens. So, what if I told you I believe that there is a clever way to cut spend whilst continuing to provide personal development and build strong relationships with existing and prospect clients? Even better, that marketing consultancies are uniquely positioned to do just that.
If there’s one positive of this current rollercoaster economy, it’s that it makes canny businesses question everything they do. Overheads, revenue streams and changing customer-needs all come under scrutiny to ensure every cog is worth its weight. To my mind, that’s exactly as it should be. Which got me thinking - what if, (instead of acting in silos), the marketing and training budgets where the same pot? What if the one budget could offer two bites of the ROI cake by uniting relevant, performance boosting training activity with building client relationships through shared experiences and meaningful dialogue? I’m going to show you how.
With a background in marketing strategy, my perspective as a training specialist is a little different - I’m hardwired to keep my eye on business goals and find creative new solutions to achieve them. Training, like marketing should always get businesses closer to achieving their objectives, and there are further parallels between these two seemingly unconnected functions too. Just like marketing, good training is about knowing your customer and changing behaviour. Both are about making connections through effective communication, and building long lasting relationships for repeat business, personal recommendation and strong reputation.
As a marketing consultancy, the universal challenge is attracting, retaining and developing a healthy client portfolio - and ditto for the high calibre staff essential to deliver outstanding results. It’s no mean feat. When it comes to prospective clients, they have similar issues: their training and marketing budgets will be clipped, but they’ll still be expected to deliver on their business strategy whilst experiencing greater challenges around staff performance, engagement, recruitment and retention. As a trusted supplier, imagine how your clients would feel if you could solve both of those problems for them? That would be some competitive edge.
Let’s reframe the situation: firstly, you focus on the pain points of your staff and your clients. Put simply, what is the information they need to make their jobs easier? Is it how to support the teams (or clients) to engage and collaborate effectively across hybrid working? Developing a culture of Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity? Is it establishing alternative international suppliers post Brexit, or understanding Cryptocurrency? Whatever it is – you need to know. This then forms the foundation of your Learning and Development (L&D) strategy.
As an agency, having your staff up to date on the issues that matter most to your clients and prospective clients is a no-brainer. However, if you are to invest in accessing training specialists and industry experts, why not open the opportunity up to selected clients too? Remember, their L&D budgets have probably been cut and you are now in an excellent position to help them. By supplying that much-needed knowledge through a structured series of shared talks and training, you are not only upskilling staff, but creating opportunities for cross-company team building, collaboration, discussion and potential business leads. With limited numbers, this approach retains an exclusive edge.
The networking group can be furthered by allowing clients to recommend key contacts from their own network – but know the value of what you are offering and be selective on who you let into the inner circle. This is a meaningful way to live shared values but also a canny sales funnel that won’t feel like one. The more intimate the group, the greater the possibility for building quality connections, and because you already know a significant pain point, opening a conversation on how you can help is a natural progression.
In a time when authenticity, innovation and collaboration are key, this is a very real opportunity for marketing consultancies to position themselves as the place to go for the very best insights and as an outstanding place to work – attracting quality clients and talent alike. In challenging times, it can be instinctive to focus internally on our own business needs, rather than finding ways to share resources. Breaking that mould, by truly listening to the needs of both your employees and clients, is a real strength and the basis for exceptional relationships and opportunities.