Technological and social changes have swept old methods of marketing away in every single industry and professional services marketing is no different. If you haven’t reviewed and changed your marketing strategy in the past decade, then you are getting left behind.
In this post, we look at some of the areas where professional services marketing has changed and what you can do to refocus your marketing efforts to remain competitive.
The new online generation
Clients are now savvy, short on time and keen on online tools that can make their working life easier and save them the effort. Your marketing strategy has to reflect this – old ways have changed, gone, and new approaches are the only ones with a chance of success.
There are several lessons here:
- Always look at ways you can save prospect’s and client’s time.
- Use the social channels your prospects are using to communicate – that may mean setting up new presences on What’s App, Snapchat, Instagram and the like.
- Offer software tools along with your consultancy services – software that integrates with your systems, that helps the client in their job functions, that gives them options.
- Remember to constantly review your business and marketing strategy in the light of new developments in technology.
The dangerous knowledge gap
There is now a real danger of a knowledge gap in professional services firms. Buyers are coming to you fully informed, well-prepared and knowing precisely what they want; there may be a tendency to worry less about employing salespeople with in-depth knowledge, as the buyer no longer needs educating. It may be tempting to think that anyone within your organisation can deal with this new generation of buyers – all the salesperson needs to do is just take their order. However, when the buyer does come to you, the questions they want answers to and the issues they want to discuss, are deeper and more nuanced than ever before. The knowledge that is required when the buyer does finally talk to you is, therefore, deeper and more practical; a salesperson has to be more of a consultant than ever before.
Use of automation and management programmes
The past few years have seen more and more professional services companies turn to marketing automation to help with the time-consuming, digital marketing workload. This has seen a massive increase in the data available to professional services marketers and a corresponding increase in targeted content, social media activity and email campaigns.
However, like any other tool, it is how you use them that defines your success rate. Blindly following a routine that sends out nondescript content to prospects will not gain you much – but using the automation to fulfil planned workflows as part of a well-thought through and highly-developed strategy will.
Focussed, niche marketing and unique content
One of the most important changes in marketing for professional services has been the increasing importance of a well-developed, strategic inbound approach. Some years ago, it was enough to network and target businesses – gaining most referrals by word of mouth.
Now the landscape is more competitive and less geographically oriented. Rather than competing with one or two other local firms, you may know well; you are now up against anyone in your industry with a website on the Internet.
Buyers are well-informed, they do their research online before making a decision and won’t be swayed by hype or wild claims. There will be a wealth of free content about your industry out there – in fact, many clients are talking about information overload. So, what must you do now to compete?
The first step is to develop an inbound marketing strategy based on self-awareness. Look at your resources:
- What are you capable of?
- What are you good at?
- Why have your existing customers come to you?
- What is it about your services and offering that your clients value?
Work out the niche markets you wish to target and specialise in, and develop a buyer persona for each. Using your personas and creating a targeted marketing campaign will yield more good quality leads than a scattergun approach.
Part of the reason for this is the wealth of content out there, if you can build a reputation as having authority in a particular area, it will serve to separate you from the herd.
Try and create unique content and speak to each buyer persona with highly focussed material. Maybe commission an original survey and publish the results. This can be re-created monthly/ quarterly/ annually giving you the opportunity to build authority and reputation through evergreen content.
You may consider producing a pillar page for each of your niche sectors, rich in useful content and links to further resource. Anything you can create content-wise that your competitors do not have, or cannot match is ideal and very effective.
Switch to a more visual approach
Traditionally, the professional services industry has relied on word of mouth – networking, talking to prospects, carrying on dialogue. It’s been about white papers and proposals, pitches and tenders.
But we now live in a visual age, an age where people don’t have time for long conversations or endless reading. They are more discerning about how they invest their time. Make sure your website design is mobile friendly as 65% of all digital media time is spent on them.
The quicker you can make an impact and attract their attention the better. And the faster they can get your message, the better too. Never has 'a picture paints a thousand words' been more appropriate. Visuals capture the attention and can get across an idea, concept or benefit almost instantly.
Your content should be visually attractive with images and illustrations breaking up the text. Use the immense power of infographics to catch the eye and communicate facts and figures, processes or workflows. Use animations where appropriate and where you can create the most powerful form of content – videos. Whether they be explainers, thought pieces, interviews or case studies, videos should always be part of a modern content marketing plan.
Professional Services companies are not immune to the radical shift in marketing that we’ve seen sweep other industries. By staying up to date with the developments – and perhaps more importantly – having a clear, focused strategy, will allow you to stay ahead of your competitors and build a commercial advantage that will engage prospects and convert leads.