Six hidden Marketing Leaks draining Profits from your Business

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by Bryony Thomas, Author & Founder of Watertight Marketing


Over the last decade of working with ambitious, fast-growing, businesses, I’ve had literally hundreds of conversations in which the MD has told me that what they need from their marketing is more leads. 

I’ve learned to become sceptical that lead generation is truly what a step-up business needs. Over time, I’ve designed and refined a powerful diagnostic tool to assess precisely where the focus of marketing attention needs to be. Across over 1000 of these assessments, fewer than 10% indicate lead generation as the top priority. 

Three levers of sustainable sales growth

In my experience, entrepreneurial businesses need marketing to underpin sustainable sales results. By which I mean, predictability, profitability and purpose:
• Predictability: a steady and growing number of sales conversions that a business can manage.
• Profitability: pricing, and delivery set-up that can serve those customers at a healthy profit.
• Purpose: the customers attracted are those your business truly wants to work with in the long term.

Painting a new picture of the sales process

Achieving these three key levers of sustainable sales growth in an entrepreneurial organisation, often means turning marketing upside down. There are six marketing projects that need attention ahead of putting yourself out into the world. In my mission to convince growth-focussed MDs of this idea I found myself drawing the same picture time and again, before capturing it in my book - Watertight Marketing.

Where typically, an entrepreneurial MD is accustomed to seeing the sales process drawn as a Funnel or a Pipeline, I draw something very different. My picture is of a Bucket, above which I draw several higgledy Funnels, and then above that a range of spread out Taps. In placing lead generation activities in the Taps, it becomes obvious that this is a wasteful activity if you have a hole in your business Bucket.

Six hidden marketing leaks draining profits from your business

When you see the buying decision drawn in this way, the focus switches from filling the top, to fixing the bottom. What’s more, when you run the numbers this way, a tweak to a marketing leak in the bottom half of the process acts like compound interest… adding value to every drop of effort you then expend upstream.

The marketing holes in your customer service Bucket…

1. Forgotten Customers

First, look to anyone who has ever bought from you. They already know you, and have an opinion. If you can get even a small number of these to pay more, buy more, and tell a few friends about you, you will increase your profits. Taking the time to map out a clear customer, and lapsed customer. communications plan pays dividends. 

My rule of thumb on customer communications is to ensure that you’re akin to the friend who gets in touch because they actually like you, not just because they want something. This means earning the right to ask for another sale by first providing materials of service, creating a level of social connection, and making them feel special. 


2. Poor On-Boarding

Once you have your ongoing customer communications plan in place, the next project is to zoom in on how you welcome a customer when they first buy from you. In many cases, a customer will find themselves warmly welcomed with an invoice, a daunting user manual, or lengthy contract. More of slap in the face than a friendly hug.

Start by taking the time to map out what a customer needs from the point of placing an order to the point at which they would define themselves as a happy customer of yours. Then make that journey a delightful one. From a simple Thank You card in the post, a little Welcome Pack with all the key information they may need, or a sequence of how-to videos, there are pieces of communication - delivered in sequence - that can transform the level to which a customer commits to and appreciates what they’ve bought.

3. No Emotional Connection

Moving up the buying decision, there comes a time when someone is about to part with their money - when a quiet voice in their mind will ask… ‘are you sure?’ If a few things don’t come together to align with the emotional connection they’ve built with your business over the course of moving towards their decision to buy, the answer to the inner voice can be… ‘no, something doesn’t feel quite right here.’

What you’re aiming to create here is the architecture to support someone in consistently seeing and connecting with who you are. You need to be the sorts of people they want to spend time (and money) with. They need to trust you. 

The sorts of things that erode that trust are a mish-mash of visual and written styles. For example, they’ve read your website which speaks their language, but when they go to buy from you the tone switches to legalese. Or, they see you present at event with powerful slides and compelling imagery, but when they ask for a proposal it looks wholly different. 

Making an investment in clear visual and written guidelines, templates, image libraries and photography is essential to ensuring that there’s no gear change in what potential customers experience of your business, whomever they engage with.

The three leaks in the Bucket represent three marketing projects that once undertaken usually only need revisiting annually to keep fresh. They are investments that pay back day-in and day-out. 

One of our B2C clients, Audenza - an online homewares boutique - addressed just these three leaks. Lead by co-founder, Hollie Brooks, they made an investment of elbow grease and lateral thinking rather than money. By doing this, they doubled both their turnover and profit in just twelve months… without any additional focus on lead generation.

The marketing Funnels (and filters) to support your sales conversations…

If we move up from the people who’ve bought from you, to those seriously considering it, we move into the area usually most closely aligned with the sales function. Here, I firmly believe that a salesperson reaching for a blank sheet of paper is a salesperson who has been badly let down by their marketing. Again, there are three marketing projects, that after initial effort, pay you back in, um, bucketloads!

4) No Gateway

One of the things that’s often missing in growing businesses is an entry point or bridging purchase that gently guides someone into a customer relationship with you. This takes some careful crafting. 

We work with people to create a product ladder that takes a buyer through what I call the three levels of value exchange, from a) spending time with you, b) to spending time and data with you, c) to spending time, data & money with you. 

Undertaking a project to create a natural sequence of offerings that incrementally increases a person’s commitment to you will mean that even the shyest of buyers has a path to follow. It also means that a skilled salesperson has tools to invite someone into a conversation, and to follow-up on it. The marketing pieces here are the things that keep on working to support a buying decision when you are not in the room.

5) No Critical Approval

However well crafted your product ladder, you will often find that before committing to a purchase, a buyer will ask for the explicit or implicit approval of a third party. This can be the finance director, a spouse, a parent, a friend, or simply the other voice in their head.


In tweaking this marketing leak, one of the tools we’ve developed is a template for the creation of a Buyers’ Guide. This is a key piece of content that lays out the real choices a person has to fulfil the need that buying from you represents. 

We aim to be genuinely helpful in supporting someone to assess whether buying from a given organisation is right for them. This can have the effect of helping someone realise that there’s a better or cheaper alternative. This is a powerful filter, meaning that the people who buy from you are doing so in full knowledge of their options and through an active and informed choice. 

It can feel counterintuitive to walk someone through the arguments for NOT buying from you. However, in our experience, this becomes one of the most important pieces of content you create.

6) No Proof

Anyone who’s ever written an academic essay will know the importance of substantiating the claims you make. This is good practice in your marketing too. We encourage all clients to undertake a Proof Audit. 

This involves identifying the promises you make, and mapping proof to each one. Proof includes such things as reviews, testimonials, awards, research, statistics, etc. Wherever you promise that a customer will see a benefit in buying from you, evidence this with some proof that clearly demonstrates this. 

One of the key things about these three projects in particular, is that they cannot be done at arms length. They are not jobs that a marketing agency could ‘take off your plate’. The knowledge needed to create these marketing Funnels and Filters is in your business. It takes time, but if you carve out the time to focus on them, it really will be worth it. 

One of our B2B clients, Monkey Puzzle Training & Consulting, provides leadership training programmes for enterprise level organisations. Co-founders, Karen Meager and John MacLachlan focused fully on these middle three leaks. In a series of workshops with their training associates - who also perform in a sales function - they worked on creating these tools. Within six months they had landed a game-changing corporate project, and within twelve months they doubled their turnover. Again, with no additional focus on lead generation. 

Only then are you ready to turn those Taps on

These six marketing leaks form part of the Thirteen Touchpoint Leaks™ - they are the ones that businesses may not even know that they have. So much marketing literature is focussed on the Taps, that these unsung marketing projects get forgotten - silently siphoning off your profits in the background. 

Naturally, we have tools and templates for the Taps part of this picture. But, the thing is, that this is the easy bit. There are literally thousands of experts in turning the Taps on… from advertising agencies to pay-per-click specialists, shouting loudly is a well trodden path… that, typically, you pay to be the loudest voice. 

I’m yet to find a growing business struggling for ideas for how to spend more money on marketing. My mission, and the reason I wrote my book, is to give entrepreneurs the structure to assess those ideas. With a proven framework for marketing decisions, you can calmly and confidently choose where to focus, and critically, sequence your investments to underpin long-term, sustainable growth. 

Bryony Thomas, one of the UK's foremost marketing thinkers and speakers, is the multi-award-winning author and founder of Watertight Marketing. For more information about Bryony, her Masterplan programme and best-selling book please visit Watertight Marketing.