Making the Short List: How to Drive Top-of-Mind Awareness

The Key to Making the Short List
For most companies, there is no way to predict when a prospect will purchase their product or engage their services. Sales cycle management is particularly challenging for B2B firms, and for professional services firms in particular, where top-of-mind awareness (getting people to remember you)  is a critical part of business development.
Unless it’s a direct referral where a prospect seeks no other alternative, for most professional services firms — legal, accounting, investment advisory, technology, management consulting, recruiting or marketing — the road to new business means getting on the “short list” of firms to be called in as a candidate for selection…which is driven by top-of-mind awareness.
Firms that are most successful in consistently making the short list apply the following disciplines:
  • STRONG CRM —  Effective database management is essential for firms that are serious about communicating with clients, prospects and referral sources. Overlooking or taking shortcuts in what admittedly is a tedious task will submarine any effort to build top-of-mind awareness. Senior management must make CRM a priority.
  • PROCESS CONSISTENCY— Firms often start out with the best intentions to communicate regularly with target audiences, but lose momentum for two reasons: they’ve not assigned adequate resources, or they are not truly committed to the program. To succeed, firms must communicate with target audiences at least on a quarterly basis, and that contact should not be postponed, skipped or stopped. Consistent application is critical.
  • RELEVANT CONTENT — Some firms do a great job on CRM and contact consistency, and then hurt their brand by pushing content that’s overly self-serving or of little interest to their targets. Canned newsletters, boring white papers or news items announcing the firm’s new senior partner or service offering do not drive interest or top-of-mind awareness. Content based on intellectual capital, showcasing insight, experience and opinion, and providing helpful ideas or guidance, will be read and remembered.
  • PATIENCE — In golf, the best putters are those who envision the path of the ball to the hole, and commit to that line. They believe their putt will drop. Firms that succeed in making the short list believe that consistent, intelligent contact with target audiences will yield results. Like the best putters, they are confident in their course of action, follow through on their plan, and have the patience to wait for what sometimes can be a very long putt to drop.

Top-of-mind awareness, driven by these four disciplines, is not an esoteric marketing achievement, or a tactic that yields tangible benefits only when a prospective client assigns your firm a place on the short list. The discipline does serve as a safety net — a defensive approach that decreases the chances of losing out on having a shot at a client or project which your firm is qualified to win.

However, the discipline also serves as an effective butterfly net, allowing you to nurture leads and ultimately seek out a relationship on a proactive basis. To accomplish that goal, you’ll need to build in a qualification step into your firm’s lead nurturing process; providing  opportunities to engage target audiences on face-to-face basis, or to eliminate them from consideration as targets.

Length notwithstanding, you are also entitled to maintain a “short list” of candidates worthy to be clients of your firm.

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