While many business owners and practice principals might feel like ‘it’s my business, I’m responsible’, difficult problems, like a lack of new clients, are best handled by a team.

While it might feel a bit unnerving to let your people discover that you don’t have all the answers, in the long run it will be worth it.

Firstly, your staff probably know details more about your business than you, and as such, will be well aware that new client numbers are down.

We all know that the best way to deal with a monster under the bed is to shine a bright light on it, and this is no different. In fact, your team will probably be relieved to know that a) you know there is a problem and b) you want their input and help to solve it.

Secondly, you simply can’t do it all yourself. No matter how much you want to.

Thirdly, your team are going to have different ideas and insights to you, and in this case, that’s a wonderful thing. Marketing – like any team sport – requires different types of players, so why wouldn’t you bring together your own team, with their differing ideas and views, in order to start scoring goals again.

OK, you’ve decided to bring them in. Now what?

Having a marketing process is important but don’t under estimate the first step of getting everyone involved. Here is a process I like to use is, which can really be used for any problem solving:

  • What is the situation? Here we want cold hard stats, not fluffy comments. Ie Our new client numbers have dropped from 6 per month a year ago, to 2 per month now?
  • What are the reasons. Go nuts with sticky notes and a whiteboard here. Then everyone can vote to get the top 3-5.
  • What are the reasons for the reasons? What you are looking for here are the deeper reasons. Just focusing on the top layer is unlikely to get you the results you need.
  • Back to the sticky notes, everyone writes up a bunch of ideas as to what actions to take to solve each of the ‘reasons for the reasons.’ And again, everyone votes on the top 6-10 they think will make the biggest difference to the business.
  • Divide up the tasks between everyone in the team, set deadlines, and get on with it. Your job here is to make sure all the tasks get done, not to try to do half of them yourself.
  • Revisit in a month and see how everything is going. People might only take the actions in the 3 hours before the next meeting, but at least you’ll be making inroads.

It’s worth noting that there are a few ‘gotchas’ to be aware of. The first is that you need to encourage your team to come up with ideas, and congratulate them on quantity not quality. Why? Because you don’t want people to be self-censoring themselves before they even write something on a sticky note.

Further, if no-one can come up with any ideas and they all look at their laps and try to be somewhere else, then you clearly have a bigger issue on your hands, and I’m sorry to say, probably one of your own making. If that happens, it’s time for some heart to hearts with your people to find out what’s going on.

The other one is that if the team agrees on an action or two that you aren’t that keen on, try to just go with it anyway (unless it’s going to be massively expensive or time consuming) and support your team. Even if it’s not the best idea your team will really appreciate that you trust them and valuing their input.

I’ve used this methodology in all kinds of businesses and for all kinds of problems and it’s amazing what you can achieve, just by bringing your team into the picture and asking them for help.

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