You Can’t Win if No One Has Heard of You – Enter Marketing, Stage Right

You Can’t Win if No One Has Heard of You – Enter Marketing, Stage Right

By Stacey Piper and Helene Johnson

We are so excited. Tonight is our big performance, and we have been practicing for weeks. Our repertoire is polished. The sound system is finely tuned, the lighting system perfect, and all our musicians show up on time, healthy, and ready to shine. The only worry is – will we have a full house? This crazy new ticketing system does not give us a good headcount. Oh well – we know we are good, and people will want to hear us.

The time has come; the curtain lifts. As the conductor raises his arms and looks at us musicians, he notices a dejected look on their faces. He turns his head slightly to peek at the audience, and sees his wife, his kids, Uncle Joe and Aunt Shirley, and a few other small packs of families around the audience. What on earth? Apparently, word has not gotten out how amazing our show is. Whose fault is that? Didn’t we advertise?

Oh, right – we had to cut costs, so we decided to repurpose old flyers from the basement and let our marketing company go.

What a disaster!

Marketing: An Expense to the Bottom Line

Marketing – what do we need them for anyway? Oh yes, they order the tchotchkes with our logo: lanyards, pens, cups, and hats. Because we all know how important it is to give swag out to our new hires, at conferences, and to our kids to save on school supplies, not to mention to our elderly parents so they can show them to their friends and brag about us and how successful we are.

Oh…and marketing handles the display boards we use at conferences and makes sure we have slicks to hand out. They are also good for making cool logos if they have graphics people. If not, they can hire contractors to do it.

And of course, there are the cover pages for our proposals – that’s important too. And last but not least, they’re the brand police, making sure everyone uses the same templates, fonts, and colors for all things with our logo on them.

Marketing is not important. Marketing is overhead. Right? WRONG!

The Value of Marketing From a Capture Perspective

Let’s discuss marketing from a strategic capture perspective. There are many challenges during a capture and post-proposal.

  • You might want to bid something that your company does well but is not known for yet with this customer.
  • You might not know or be known by the decision-makers and have no way to get face-to-face or even virtual meetings.  
  • You might be an incumbent on a vehicle with no awarded task orders, and you want to bid on the follow-on contract.
  • You might want to unseat an incumbent you think you can outperform, but you cannot get to the client.
  • You may even need to demonstrate that you can market a big GWAC to bring task orders in through the vehicle.

All these situations have something in common. Influencers and decision-makers must know who you are, what you do, and why you are better than your competition. How you get this pre-program information to prospective customers is where marketing and capture intersect.

Capture identifies the win themes, value proposition, differentiators, and the overall sales pitch. Marketing personnel are the experts in how and where you spread the message. This includes, but is not limited to, digital marketing like geo-targeting and social media campaigns, strategic programs like account-based marketing (ABM), demonstrating thought leadership by speaking and publishing, and reputational advertising. These activities are vital to positioning to win new business. If you say it in your proposal but have not pre- and/or post-marketed your story, you are pushing a rock uphill.

Think about it. If you were going to buy a toothpaste that is well known for calming sensitive gums, would you choose Sensodyne toothpaste, or would you buy No-Ouch toothpaste? If you are like most consumers, you’d most likely buy the toothpaste with the name and brand promise that is familiar to you. It is the same when you sell your company’s solutions.

You need name recognition and brand familiarity if you want the decision-makers to ultimately say, “I’ve heard of that company, and they have a great reputation!”

Expanding Your Orchestra

Now that you are convinced you need marketing, let’s discuss how and when to engage them. Essentially, when marketing has a seat at the table, they bring a new perspective to the capture team. They can help by asking questions from a client-influencing perspective and contribute creativity regarding messaging and themes.

A great time to invite marketing into the orchestra is at the first-gate review when deciding to capture an opportunity. The longer marketing is involved with the capture effort, the greater its impact on your probability of winning.

One of the first formal activities in a capture is performing a competitive analysis (also known as a blackhat). Marketing can help the capture team understand how the competition is leveraging social media, marketing content, and branding. They can even identify win themes and potential solutions being socialized for the bid.

From a post-proposal perspective, marketing can develop and implement a campaign to expand the win themes and discriminators directly targeting the agency and decision-makers. Marketing can also help with proposal validation campaigns.

The end goal is that marketing and business development are all playing from the same sheet of music with regard to positioning with the target agency and gaining capability recognition.

Fine-Tuning Your Orchestra

The bottom line is that marketing’s role is to sell. They are an extension of the business development team and can provide great value to competitive positioning for capture. Without marketing at the table, your company must rely heavily on your proposal alone.

Remember that poorly attended concert performance in the beginning of our article? A well-thought-out and executed marketing program plan would have surely gone a long way to filling the house. Isn’t that the main goal? Think of the old saying, “You have to spend money to make money.” You are already spending a lot on the B&P effort, so make sure that your time and effort are amplified with proper marketing to hit the end goal of winning the deal.

This blog post was originally published in March 2021 on Bid2Win Consulting.

Marketing to Win | The Orchestra Podcast

Podcast recorded by Helene Johnson and aired May 2021 on Bid2Win Consulting.

Schedule a consult to talk about designing a pre-program marketing campaign today!

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