Editor’s note: Steve Henke is president of Harpeth Marketing, a Franklin, Tenn., marketing firm providing consulting and outsourced marketing services in the market research industry. He can be reached at 615-415-3980 or at steve@harpethmarketing.com.

Many (many) years ago, when I was an upstart corporate executive, one of my colleagues recommended a book to me on finance and accounting for non-financial managers. I liked it because it took fairly complicated concepts and processes and explained them in plain, simple English – perfect for a marketing and sales guy like me!

Coincidentally, since opening Harpeth Marketing, most of my client contacts have been non-marketing and sales professionals and I’ve looked for plain-English resources to help them better understand concepts and processes surrounding business development. And while there a lot of good resources available, I needed one that was specific to the B2B services industry.

So I looked at the MR marketing and sales activities and created a model that lays out a step-by-step process for growing revenue. We call it the Marketing & Sales Pyramid and here’s what it’s all about.

Step 1: Do your homework

Before you can decide where you want to go, you need to understand where you’ve been and where you are right now. To lay the foundation for your marketing and sales program, take some time to do a little homework – don’t assume.


  • A SWOT analysis to determine strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
  • Client surveys (not project-related). Ask “What do we do right?”, “What do we do wrong?”, “How can we improve?”, etc.
  • Ex-client surveys. Ask “What did we do right?”, “What did we do wrong?”, “Why did you leave?”, “Who do you use now and why?”, etc.
  • A review of competitor Web sites.
  • A marketing and sales audit. Take an objective look at what you’ve been doing to see where you can improve. 

Step 2: Make strategic decisions

Spend some time looking through the information gathered during Step 1. What did you learn? What trends did you see? What opportunities bubbled to the surface?

Then answer these key questions:

The answers to these questions will establish your strategy and your direction in the marketplace.

Step 3: Build awareness

Now, based on your strategic direction, decide how and where you will build awareness for your firm and services. Spend your time and money in places where your target audience can be found.

Consider Web sites, blogs, social media, advertising, e-mail, subject matter content, sales calls, networking, exhibiting at conferences, speaking/writing, etc.

Reminder: Awareness-building is not only to capture the attention of new prospects but to stay top-of-mind with existing clients as well.

Step 4: Generate leads

Building on Step 3, you need to implement activities that capture data from prospective clients (e.g., name, company, e-mail, phone number, etc.) to make new connections for later follow-up. Your awareness-building will help generate a certain number of inquiries but to go beyond that, additional action is required.

Consider making materials downloadable from your Web site (e.g., e-books, white papers, etc.), hosting a Webinar, networking, exhibiting at conferences and connecting on social media (especially LinkedIn).

Note: I would not recommend scouring industry directories and dumping the contact information into your database – that’s just spammy and may also violate the directory's user agreement.

Don’t forget existing clients. Often, your success with a big client hinges on a relationship with one person, but what if that person leaves? Make an effort to connect with new people at multiple levels inside every large client organization.

Step 5: Nurture your leads

Just because you’ve generated a new lead doesn’t mean they’re ready to buy. It will take time and you want to be top-of-mind when they’re ready.

Consider regular and consistent e-mails, sharing articles, connecting on social media and occasional phone calls or in-person visits.

Step 6: Create first-time clients

At this point, you’ve walked a prospect through the sales process and now it’s time to do some business. What can you do to help generate and close the first sale?

Consider a compelling capabilities presentation, free trial offer, effective proposals, competitive pricing, first-time client deals, etc.

Step 7: Ensure repeat clients

The key to the success of any business is to develop repeat clientele. To do that in market research, you must first do good work. (I’ll assume that’s a given for you!)

Beyond that, consider post-project surveys, thank-you notes, post-project calls and debriefings, client-specific communications, gifts, efficient and accurate billing, etc.

You might also decide to create a segment of your clients called "key accounts." This would be your largest (or potentially largest) clients – for whom you might do some extra-special things to maintain or increase loyalty. Many firms assign a key account manager to shepherd their largest clients.

Proven and systematic

The Marketing & Sales Pyramid is a proven and systematic methodology – each step building on the one before – to create a marketing and sales plan and effectively engage with clients and sales prospects.

For each step, we discussed just a few ideas. As you get into it, spend some time brainstorming about what else you can do to maximize your efforts. Once you’ve done that, put together a timeline, assign responsibility, look at the budget and measure everything!

Good luck and good marketing! 

Harpeth Marketing has released its fourth marketing and sales e-book for MR firms, titled The Top 10 Tips for the Top 10 Marketing Tactics: 100 Killer Marketing & Sales Ideas from Seven Different Experts. The e-book is available as a free download at http://bit.ly/1c9G2I5.