Growing importance of marketing for professional services
The world of marketing for professional services in today’s date is changing rapidly. Finding business has become much more difficult than it used to be. A professional services business can no longer win business relying merely on its reputation. As a result, professional service businesses have intensified their marketing efforts. The major reason behind this is, of course, the rise in competition. There are too many architects, designers, consultants etc. in the market, competing to win business from the same set of customers, which means for one company to win more business, some other must lose it.
Challenges in professional services marketing
As we just mentioned, gone are the days when word of mouth or simply circulating brochures and business cards would generate business. There are several reasons that make marketing for professional services all the more difficult. Here are some of the challenges faced by marketers in professional services industry:
Lack of service differentiation:
Differentiating your product/service from the rest of the competition is generally the biggest issue that most marketers face. But this becomes much more critical while marketing professional services as the nature of services of all the firms in a particular sector is exactly the same.
It is almost impossible to distinguish one lawyer or accountant from another solely based on the nature of services they have to offer.
Perceiving marketing as sales:
There is a very common notion that marketing equals sales and it is a completely wrong approach. The main and probably only aim of marketing should be to make your brand stand out in the market, generating top of mind awareness about your brand. So that, you can increase the possibility of a potential client reaching out only to you when he/she has a specific need that can be fulfilled by the capabilities of your company.
The primary aim of marketing should be to invite hand raisers and create opportunities. Once the opportunity has been created, that’s when the customer enters the sales pipeline.
Let’s take the example of smartwatches, when leading tech giants came up with smartwatches, with the help of effective marketing, they created a demand for the product which was earlier not even heard of. There are more watches being sold today than before.
Same is the case with professional service businesses. A lot of times they have to create a market of their own while having no existing clients in that market to serve as referrals. In such a scenario, probably the only and most effective way for them to gain the trust of the potential target buyer is through thought leadership.
In most cases, professional services companies, no matter if they operate in the B2B or B2C space, have a niche target audience. It is a waste of money and effort for them to try and appeal to the masses. It is particularly difficult to direct the advertising efforts to the niche segment and as a result, the advertising reaches a lot such people that are not a member of the target audience. Such factors hamper the overall effectiveness of the marketing activities.
Tactics for improved service marketing while dodging CASL implications
People buy professional services as and when they recognize a need for it. And when that happens, most people today go online and search for companies that offer the services they are looking for.
But with rising competitiveness, businesses can no longer wait for clients to reach out to them. And with Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) ending its three-year transitioning period and coming in full effect from July 1st
this year, has posted strong barriers for businesses, especially newly established ones, to conduct outbound marketing communications.
The only way to send commercial electronic messages such as emails is if you have the recipient’s consent i.e. if they have signed up for your opt-in list. This is typically a critical issue for professional service businesses as they cater to niche markets and need to have a set list of targets to go after. We have identified some processes that will help you effectively carry out your marketing activities while duly complying to the CASL:
- A Well Laid Website– A website is your virtual business card. It should clearly reflect all things you do and your company stands for. It is a hub for all your marketing activities and plays a critical role in building and maintaining your branding. Without a website, it isn’t really possible to have a mechanism in place for inbound marketing.
- LinkedIn– Growing popularity of social media needs no introduction. It serves as a great medium to find and connect with your target audience.
With so much noise on social media, if you want to stand out and be seen by potential clients, try to add value to their time on social media. Don’t just keep posting content blindly. Join groups, hold meaningful discussions, answer to people’s questions and queries related to your industry with utmost sincerity without the intention of selling something right away. It’ll be a matter of time when your commitment towards client satisfaction gets spotted and your social media efforts become a source of leads.
Also, with most popular social media websites offering advertising functionality it is probably the most lucrative advertising platform that allows the marketers to target their promotions and messaging towards the potential buyers eventually improving measurability of results and enhanced ROI.
- Content marketing – Writing articles, blogs and white papers with content targeted at specific businesses and roles in target organizations is an effective method to drive people to your website. If the readers will perceive your content to be valuable, they are more likely to sign up to your newsletter and automatically joining your opt-in list.
- SEO– Regularly optimizing the website content is a must. Having a great website isn’t of any importance if people can’t even find it in their online search. It doesn’t matter how you think or want to portray your brand, it is about what the audience is looking for. Hence, it is critically important to keep in mind the perspective of the target audience while optimizing the website.
- Networking – While digital is the core of every marketing strategy today, it is equally pivotal to have an offline strategy in place too. Don’t spend too much time in the office trying to refine the inbound strategies. If you want to sell, go out and hustle.
Look for networking events where your ideal buyer can be found. Instead of reciting your ‘elevator pitch’ to everyone you shake hands with, strike conversations that leave the potential buyers with a valuable takeaway. Connections are made by being helpful, not by making an irresistible sale offer.
- Referrals – Your work always speaks louder than your claims and promises. Make sure to regularly reach out to the clients you believe are happy with your services to refer you to other companies that can benefit from your offerings. A recommendation from a trusted source is a great influence in the buying journey of professional services.
- Telecalling – It is often said; cold calling doesn’t work anymore. Well yes, it doesn’t. But it does if you have a ‘warm’ message to convey. Instead of sounding like a salesman right off the bat, let’s focus on creating relationships. Calling still works, and can produce unbelievable results, if you have the right messaging.
Here are some more steps that can help your professional services business to establish its exclusive standing while competing with other virtually identical organizations operating in the same market:
Exploit the power of your team
For almost all professional services organizations, their team is the biggest strength. The accountants, designers, architects etc. are the ones that can ultimately satisfy the client’s requirements. Hence, it is critically important to showcase your team whenever there is an opportunity, especially the most experienced individuals as the talent you possess is what differentiates you from your competition.
The struggle in differentiating one professional services business from another, demands you to create a unique offering your own.The best way to do that is ‘Service Packaging‘
. Bundling your services in a way that resonates with your target market’s needs the most will make you their top choice.
In fact, if you do an exceptional job at it there are chances that you might create demand for something of its own. And it goes without saying that being exclusive and having a distinct offering does make it easier to generate business in a competitive market.
As the competition in the professional services industry continues to intensify and marketing becoming a must-have for professional service businesses, we suggest beginning with investing most of your efforts in creating valuable marketing material including blogs, insight decks and the required messaging. We hope that this article helps you to design an effective marketing strategy that works in concert with both online and offline tactics.