The Secret Sauce

Every PR and Marketing firm has their own secret sauce.  Their own special way of doing things.  I was recently told that part of our secret sauce is that we ask really good questions.  As part of the initial “getting to know you” process, we ask a lot of questions as we prepare to represent a company.  And while this list may look long, this isn’t exhaustive.

1.    Describe “your company” in a single sentence. If you had to tell someone at a cocktail party (not from your industry) what the company does, how would you describe the firm?

2.    What do you see as your core value? (Some people call this a “unique differentiator”.)

3.    Give us a prioritized list of what you perceive to be your top three strengths as a business.

4.    What about the weaknesses? (Top three)

5.    Tell us about your industry

a.    Describe it (briefly, using the industry’s term for itself)
b.    How mature is the industry?(a young or an old industry)
c.    Health of the industry (strong and growing or stagnant, etc.) How do you know this?
d.    Who are the influencers in your industry?  Are there specific analysts who cover your industry? Is there a “kingmaker” in your industry?
e.    Major “must be seen at” events

6.    Tell us about your customers

a.    Who is your typical customer? Describe them.
b.    Who is your “best” customer? Describe and name them. What makes them your best customer?
c.    Describe your most profitable customer.
d.    What kind of company is your best customer?  Describe them both by industry and “personality”.
e.    Who is the decision maker inside your best customer? What is their title?  What is their role?  Who do they report to?  Demographic information?
f.    How is the decision usually made? Group decision? Who has veto power over the final decision?

7.    Tell us about your partners and referrers

a.    Do you have formal partnerships in place? With whom?
b.    Do you have informal partnerships or receive referrals from other companies or categories of companies?

8.    Tell us about your competition

a.    Describe the competitive landscape
b.    What are your chief competitors’ strengths? Weaknesses?
c.    Do you perceive one or more companies as your market’s 800 pound gorilla? Who?
d.    Do you have a “closest competitor”?  Who looks like you in the marketplace?

9.    Why do you win in the market place?

a.    Why do people sign up with you as a client?
b.    Why do people enter into your sales funnel?

10.    Why do you lose in the market place?

a.    Why do you lose to some other company (after the clients have a proposal from you)?
b.    When do you not get “a seat at the table” and are not invited to participate in an RFP or submit a proposal?

11.    Your Business Goals?

a.    What were your top three current year business goals?  Did you or will you achieve them?
b.    What are your next year business goals?  What strategic initiatives are in place to move your company forward in the new year?
c.    What are your three year goals?  Five year? (Sell the company? Grow the company? Fund the company? Go public with the company?)

12.    Sales process

a.    Average size of sale and length of sales cycle
b.    Other sales data

13.    Sales funnel

a.    What does it look like?  (The process)
b.    Where do your leads come from?  (Lead generation programs)
c.    Are there places where your leads get stalled in the process?

14.    Current marketing programs (or recent past):

a.    Most successful
b.    Least successful
c.    How do you define/measure marketing program success?
d.    Do you use any of the following marketing tactics:

i.    PPC
ii.   Direct mail
iii.  Social media
iv.  Advertising
v.    PR/Speaking/media relations/Analyst relations

15.  Marketing process

a.    Who is currently in charge of marketing planning?
b.    Who is currently in charge of marketing implementation?
c.    How do you currently get marketing projects completed?
d.    Who signs off on marketing programs?

16.  What marketing assets do you currently have?

  1.  White papers
  2.  Webinars
  3.  Articles
  4.  Newsletters
  5.  Images or infographics
  6.  Customer case studies

17.  Marketing programs budget

a.   Total annual budget (ballpark)
b.   Sponsorships?  Commitments? Ongoing programs?

18.    What do competitors say about you?
19.    What are the most common misconceptions about your firm?
20.    Talk about the top cross-industry issues.