Venture Builders, Inc





Working on strategic issues, such as the unique values that a professional practice delivers to its market, often has immediate practical results.  The professional who spends time on strategy, knows, for example, what the firm’s brochure or web site needs to look like and what it needs to say.  Over time, professionals can charge more for their services, because the prospective clients want access to values that are not available anywhere else.

 
How a Sales Problem was Solved with Strategy

The Issue

Like many professionals who have gone into business for themselves, Marcia Southwell, President of South-Land Creative Design, Inc., (www.southlandcreativedesign.com) is an expert in her specialty of residential interior design, but faces challenges on the business side of her practice. When I first began working with her firm, revenues had plateaued and Marcia was looking for a way to increase her client base.

A quick analysis of the business revealed that although the company was being invited by homeowners to submit a proposal, fewer than 15% of them resulted in a new client.  It would have been easy, but mistaken, to conclude that the problem could be solved by improving the owner’s closing skills.  It would have been a mistake, because the fundamental issue was not anything to do with tactics.  The issue was that the company was not clearly differentiated from the competition.

First Steps: Strategy

So our first task was to work on developing competitive advantages for the company.  To do this, we used Venture Builder’s proprietary MarketEdger™ Model to answer three questions: 1) Who is the company?; 2) What is its target market?; and 3) What is the connection between the company and its target market?  These strategic questions are difficult to answer, but methodologies in the Model make the task easier.

The first question, starting with Who?, is an identity question that goes far beyond the services that a professional provides.  The second requires us to “get inside the skin” of the target market to understand their pains, hopes, and fears.  And the third question is about the unique values that the company can deliver to its target market.  As we will see, a number of practical results come from getting answers to these questions.

By working through the Model, we discovered that, apart from cost, there are three main issues of concern to homeowners when they are considering a remodel or ground-up construction.  One is that they fear having the designer impose her own tastes and vision on them.  The second concern is that it is not always clear who is coordinating the project.  Many times this is the responsibility of the general contractor, who often does not share the homeowner’s perspective.  The last concern is that the designer may in fact be no more than a decorator, with no understanding of drawings and layouts.

Implementation: Tactics

These findings were put to work right away, first in the development of a Mission Statement for South-Land Creative Design and then in the text for the company’s web site, which was completely re-done.  The main points were that Marcia creates interiors that homeowners feel are true reflections, not of her personality, but of theirs; that she gets involved early on in the life of a project and works closely with the architect and general contractor; and that she can be relied upon to ensure that the homeowner is always fully apprised of the progress of the project.

We then developed and documented a four-step sales process, which replaced her previous informal approach.  For each step, we developed the script and any associated marketing materials, including the proposal packet that was left with the homeowner in Step #3 of her process.  We also identified the desired outcome for each step and what would be done in the event that it was not achieved.

All of the language used in South-Land Creative Design’s printed or electronic material and in Marcia’s discussions with prospects, clients, referral partners, and other business associates is heavily influenced by the strategic work that we did on her identity and distinctive competence, the chief characteristics of her target market, and the unique values that she delivers to it.

Results

Armed with all of these resources—new marketing materials, a new sales process, a new way of talking and writing about her company, and, above all, a new-found confidence—Marcia got her company off the plateau and on track for growth.  Whereas she previously was signing fewer than 15% of homeowners who had received a proposal from her, she now is signing more than 80%.  Marcia’s success comes down to having strategy-driven tactics and near-flawless execution.  Here, in her own words, is what she has to say about our work together.

“After struggling with my Interior Design business for six years, I was ready to hang up my entrepreneurial hat.  Then I met John Rodolff of Venture Builder, Inc. and everything changed.  In our first meeting, John brought to my attention that I was only getting 1 signed contract out of 7 proposals.  The first thing he did was help me develop my Mission Statement.  From that, we developed my web site, marketing materials, and the sales process I now use for prospective clients.  After working with John for only four months, I have had 4 signed contracts out of 5 proposals.  I can’t thank him enough for all that he has done for my business.”

 

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