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How to increase profit by identifying your marketing profit leaks

Author's avatar By Bryony Thomas 12 Feb, 2014
Essential Essential topic

A checklist of the 13 most common touchpoint leaks

Over nearly two decades in marketing, and across well over 200 businesses – from as large as Microsoft and as micro as the back bedroom – I have yet to find a single one that isn’t leaking potential profit somewhere in their marketing operation. And, even those that have it pretty tight can usually notch it up with a few judicious tweaks.

Categorising marketing profit leaks

In pulling all this together, I found that profit leaks fall into two clear categories. The first, and most obvious, are those that relate to how you interact with the outside world. That is, the touchpoints with customers, potential customers, or anyone else who might encounter your business. Of these, I have defined thirteen typical ways that most businesses lose money in their marketing.

The second category is what I call the Foundation Leaks, and they are far more to do with the business leader’s commitment and attitude to marketing. These are a little harder to define. But, if your business is suffering from one or more of these, the fixes you make to the touchpoints rarely hold fast.

The Thirteen Touchpoint Leaks

In my article last month, I mapped the consumer buying decision against the sales funnel. Today, I want you turn your thinking about the sales funnel on its head. I want you, for the moment, to stop thinking about how to pour more into the top and look instead from the bottom up. This way, when you do come to spend time, money and energy telling the world about what you do, you’ll get more back.

Thirteen Touchpoint Leaks

The Thirteen Touchpoint Leaks

In fact, by addressing the Thirteen Touchpoint Leaks from the bottom up you won’t need to pour as much in the top to get the same, or better, results.

So, starting at the bottom, here are the most common ways that people lose customers and profit, from their marketing operation:

  • Leak One – Forgotten Customers:

This is when you’ve forgotten about them, so they forget about you. This either manifests in limited contact after you’ve taken their cash, perhaps only getting back in touch when the next invoice is due. The best marketing operations have effective customer communications that maintain and strengthens the relationship over time.

The other way this shows up is that your contact changes in tone… you start to take them for granted in a way you never would with a prospect. I had a prime example of this in January. Back at my desk for the first time in 2014 on 2nd January, I received an email from a professional services supplier. There was nothing personalised in the email. No – ‘Happy New Year’ or ‘How was Christmas?’ – just the signature block and an attached four-figure invoice.

Wow, I felt special!

  • Leak Two – Poor on-boarding:

There’s a key period between when someone decides to buy from you, and when they consider themselves a customer. I call this the Welcome Window. Many businesses make the mistake of thinking that the act of handing over cash makes someone a customer. And, whilst this might be true on paper, it certainly isn’t psychologically. At least not a satisfied or loyal, or indeed profitable, customer.

What they’ve bought has to deliver on the promises you made during the sales process before they will know whether their need has been satisfied. Great marketing maps out the first few steps from purchase decision through to effective use of what they’ve bought. Then seamlessly delivers effective tools and communication to make those steps easy and enjoyable. If you can do this, you’re much more likely to keep that customer. And, their profit.

  • Leak Three – No Emotional Connection:

There’s a little voice that chirps up just before you hand over your money, particularly if it’s a lot of money or an ongoing financial commitment. It asks – ‘are you sure?’ It’s a bit like an internal risk alarm. And, it’s emotional… you’re asking yourself: ‘Does this feel right?’ or ‘Do I trust them?’

The very best marketing set-ups overcome this by making an emotional connection with their buyers. They have that human touch, that’s friendly and approachable. And, their visual and written style is completely consistent, never sowing any seed of doubt by changing style or looking messy.

Making sure your business looks and sounds right, consistently, is one of the best ways to overcome this pre-purchase hurdle.

  • Leak Four – No Gateway:

How easy is it for people to buy from you? Many businesses make the mistake of giving people too much choice over what and how to buy from them. Particularly, but not only, consultants or knowledge businesses. This is like a restaurant that gives you no menu at all, instead asking you to choose your meal from a blank sheet of paper.

Designing a set or packages, bundles or example services, particularly as part of a product ladder, helps buyers to understand and visualise how they might work with you. It whets their appetite. Again, like a restaurant, having a bit of a set menu as well as your a-la-carte, can help people choose something quickly. And, if you get it right, come back for more.

  • Leak Five – No Critical Approval:

Somewhere around here in a typical buying decision, particularly a high-risk one, a key third party will be consulted. In a consumer setting this might be a friend, or a partner. In a business context, it’s often a colleague or boss. If that person says no, there is no sale. If your buyers are subject to veto by a third party, then your marketing operation needs to include something that gets that third party on side.

  • Leak Six – No Proof:

Somewhere along the way you are going to promise something. You are going to say that by choosing product x, your buyer will enjoy certain benefits. If, when you do this, there’s no proof to back up your claim, you’ll definitely lose a few potential buyers at this point.

The best marketing operations are systematic about signposting proof against every promise that they make.

  • Leak Seven – Information Overload:

In the early stages of a buying decision, most people will be considering more than one option. Or, they may not actually have decided to buy anything, they’re just curious. If you wade in at this point with heavy sales information, you’ll almost always put people off.

Instead, try to provide a steady stream of invitation information – the kind of thing that they can read on their Smartphone on the journey to work, that piques their interest and draws them into actively wanting to find out more.

  • Leak Eight – Not represented for how they’re looking:

This is about the format of that information. If a CEO has asked for a pack of info on a given subject to read on a plane or train, you can be pretty sure it will get printed out on paper. So, a video would be no good. But, if your researcher is the type to pop in their headphones and browse YouTube in their lunch break, not having a video is a missed opportunity. You need to research not only what people want from you, but also how they want it.

Having the right information, in the wrong format, is a complete waste of money.

  • Leak Nine – Not showing up where they’re looking:

This is about channel selection. What media do your buyers consume? What social platforms do they use? What events do they attend? By carefully researching this from your buyers’ perspective, you can make great decisions about where you put your best stuff.

  • Leak Ten – Not showing up when they’re looking:

Let’s imagine you have great invitation information, in exactly the right format put out on the right channels, but it just doesn’t come to hand at the right time. Yep, another potential leak.

Do some research on how your buyers structure a typical week and their day. Marry this with a good understanding of the seasonality in your market, and you can plan a marketing activity plan that means you show up when they are most likely to be looking.

  • Leak Eleven – Not mentioned by who they ask:

When you’re thinking of buying something, do you ask your friends or colleagues? I certainly do. And, in a socially-connected world, those ‘friends’ might be hundreds of miles away, only pictured as an Avatar. By mapping the people your buyers turn to at the early stages of their research, you know where you could be working to generate that all-important word of mouth.

  • Leak Twelve – Not known for what you do:

This is possibly the most galling of all the leaks. It’s when people know you and your business, but they have you filed wrong in their minds. They don’t really know what you do, or they have you pegged for something you used to do years ago.

You can usually track this sort of mis-filing to what you talk loudly about. If you’re constantly moaning about the work you don’t want to be doing, rather then talking up the stuff you want more of, what do you think people are going to have in their minds about you? The best marketing set-ups make sure that a good 80% of the noise out there about their company is at least broadly on-message. Leaving a bit of room for the kind of banter that oils personal relationships.

  • Leak Thirteen – Not Emotional Impact:

Here, at the top of the process, it’s about impact. If something is dull, you won’t notice it. If something makes you feel something, you can’t help but notice it. Your products and services might logically be the best in the world. But, if you present yourself in a boring or lifeless way, you can be sure that a good few potentially profitable customers will not have noticed.

Create a Traffic Light report for your business

The best way to use this list to step up your marketing is to do a Touchpoint Leaks Traffic Light Audit. This is often best used as a three-year, or three-phase action plan.

Three year improvement plan

Use your audit to create a three year action plan

Go through the list setting a Red, Amber, Green flag for your business against each leak. Then, go to the bottom and address each Red item in turn up the funnel. Then, go back to the bottom and address each Amber leak in turn. Then, back to the bottom to review and tweak anything on Green – because, nothing is perfect!

Oh, and those Foundation Leaks? I’ll be exploring those right here in a few months’ time.

Watertight MarketingThanks to Bryony Thomas for sharing her thoughts and opinions in this blog post. She is Author and Founder of Watertight Marketing, and a no-nonsense marketer and business speaker, specialising in helping ambitious small businesses set things up. Her blog post is adapted from her 5-star book, Watertight Marketing, described as an entrepreneur’s step-by-step guide to putting a marketing operation in place that delivers long-term sales results. You can download a free sample chapter or connect with her on
LinkedInTwitterGoogle+ or Facebook.

Author's avatar

By Bryony Thomas

Bryony Thomas is our Expert commentator on the fundamentals of marketing which are still so important to get right. She is Author and Founder of Watertight Marketing, and a no-nonsense marketer and business speaker, specialising in helping ambitious small businesses set things up. Her blog post is adapated from her book, an entrepreneur's step-by-step guide to putting a marketing operation in place that delivers long-term sales results. You can connect with her on LinkedInTwitterGoogle+ or Facebook.

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