What comes First?

Amar Pandit , CFA , CFP

Amar Pandit

A respected entrepreneur with 25+ years of Experience, Amar Pandit is the Founder of several companies that are making a Happy difference in the lives of people. He is currently the Founder of Happyness Factory, a world-class online investment & goal-based financial planning platform through which he aims to help every Indian family save and invest wisely. He is very passionate about spreading financial literacy and is the author of 4 bestselling books (+ 2 more to release in 2020), 8 Sketch Books, Board Game and 700 + columns.

I know you have come across the phrase “Catch-22“. Webster gives a wonderful example of the “Show-Business catch-22” through a quote of Mary Murphy – “no work unless you have an agent, no agent unless you have worked. I see a Catch-33 (I made this up) in our industry especially when it comes to growth. I might sound a little vague here but there is some value in continuing to read this post.

When we think of growth, the first thing that comes to mind is marketing, even though some might not call it marketing.

A lot of people in our industry obsess with Marketing tactics and techniques. By this I mean, these questions: 

  • Which platform should I use, LinkedIn or Facebook?
  • What type of campaign should I run? 
  • What type of video or content should I create? 
  • How do I generate referrals?
  • Which CRM should I use?

We believe that marketing is the key to growth, and it is, but there is a Catch-22 that I hope to bring to your notice.

If I ask you what comes first “Marketing or Sales”, what will you answer? 

Respond to this question by thinking about your business. What will come first for you?

Ashish Nagpal, a distributor in Pune, thought that Marketing comes first for his firm. He has been in the business for 12 + years and has a six-member team. While Ashish is pretty savvy and has built a decent business, his biggest issue like many distributors is organic growth. In short, new client acquisition seemed to be the problem. This is a common problem faced by most of the distributors and advisors in the country. Like most firms, Ashish thought that Marketing (Tactics) would solve his problem of not getting enough leads.

Thus, he began looking for marketing help and tried doing multiple things. He was on Facebook and LinkedIn. He initiated a referral campaign. He also went after Chartered Accountants and tried his hand at Email Marketing. Finally, he was overwhelmed by doing too many things and felt nothing was really working for him. 

The fact was that he was unable to devote real time to any of these initiatives and he stopped when some of them were not working after a few months. Even if he had devoted time to these initiatives, would some of them have worked? I doubt so because his real problem lies somewhere else and that is precisely what I call as the Catch-22 or Catch-33 for most firms (and their teams).

I went over his situation and found out the following.

Although Ashish was generating some leads through his initiatives, he was the only one who would do meetings in his team. His limitation was that besides handling existing clients, he could only devote limited time for new meetings. Some of the new meetings were done by 2 of his colleagues. 

His 2 colleagues were not as skilled as him and their client acquisition/close ratio (signing up clients/number of unique client meetings) was way lower than him. In fact, Ashish’s close ratio himself was very low and needed to be improved.

Think for a minute.

Marketing Tactics have generated meetings for you, but you haven’t been able to close them. 

Is this the problem with Marketing or with Sales?

Marketing might have given you non ideal leads but let us assume that they have given you 30-50% ideal leads, what is the real problem then?

The problem then is with Sales or your ability to sign up a new client. Investing in Marketing will not help if you do not have the Sales Capability to close. This is where the Catch-22 comes from. What do you fix first? Clearly Sales needs to be fixed first as you need to improve your client acquisition ratio first. This means having the kind of people who have the capability to acquire clients. Suddenly this might seem like an organizational design and recruitment problem. 

Imaging meeting 10 prospects and acquiring 1 client versus acquiring 4 clients.

While “Sales” seems like the correct answer above, a step along with fixing sales is to fix the Client Experience.

A wow Client Experience leads to Referrals and as we all know that Referrals are one of the most important Marketing Tactics in a distribution and advisory firm.

Client Experience = More Referrals/Ideal Client Lead Generation

Sales = Client Acquisition/Closure of these Leads

Marketing = Lead Generation

It is not for a reason that I believe that Client Experience is one of your most important Marketing Tactics (or rather Strategy).

While most firms start with Marketing and then go to Sales and hardly pay attention to Client Experience, you will find immense value in leading with Client Experience first, and at the same time building enough capability and capacity for acquiring clients (Sales). Once you have fixed Client Experience and Sales, only then should you look at Marketing Tactics. 

This is indeed a Catch-22 that we might all be able to solve.