Differentiation – that’s the challenge faced by all professional services companies. What makes you any different from the rest of them? Invariably it comes down to the same thing – your people. Which is fine if you’re in front of a potential client – they can see your people, talk to them, understand their depth and breadth of knowledge. If you’re failing repeatedly at this stage, then you need to take a serious look at the people you have doing the pitch. But what if you can’t get in front of enough clients? That’s where marketing that makes you stand out will play a part.
What does that marketing need to look like? Well, here’s a one sentence marketing strategy for professional services businesses:
“Publish timely, relevant content for your audience that provides a credible demonstration of your breadth and depth of expertise and make it easy for potential clients to find you and get in touch.”
The first thing to note is that this isn’t about interrupting people. It’s about getting noticed by them as they go about their business and providing sufficient relevancy to make them take real note and contact you at a time that suits them. Let’s break this down a little further:
- Publish: whether that’s yourself or via another channel, get your content out there, make sure there’s plenty of it
- Timely and relevant: Hook into what’s going on in the market that your client operates in, make sure you do it when they’ll be paying attention
- Content: Blog, press release, news story, video, podcast – whatever your choice of medium, let the story shine through
- Your audience: this is about them not you – talk about what matters to them, what problems you solve for them, not how great you are
- Credible: Your clients give you credibility, not your subjective opinion of yourself
- Easy to get in touch: This is the key piece: by providing relevant content, you’ll get found more; by making it easy to get in touch, your customers will find you, and you won’t have to hound them down.
None of this is rocket science, but so many people fail to see the importance of getting these basics right.
In my work helping businesses large and small with their digital marketing, our work together often ends up helping the business understand their full customer journey. For many businesses this leads to the realisation that they’re trying to serve everyone with a perfect solution, which they invariably fail to manage.
This often manifests itself in the marketing and communications material of such companies. Businesses have a product that can be used in many ways by different people to meet their differing needs. This leads to the desire to tell everyone all the features, so the core message gets lost or becomes so garbled that it appeals to no-one. It might feel counter-intuitive but targeting your message more tightly, so you’ll only appeal to a small section of your audience is the way to begin to engage them. You’ll be talking their language and solving their problems and you’ll be able to be very clear how you do it and what the benefits of your approach are.
In today’s social media, always on environment it’s even more important to remember that this approach needs to be followed. Be focused on who you want to reach out to. Be specific about what you can do for them and why you are the best option.
“We’re focused on delivering customer value”, it’s a statement uttered by many, yet I wonder whether those making such utterances do so, just because they think it’s something they should say? Sometimes we need to get out, talk to people and really get to grips with what our customers actually want and whether that’s what we’re actually delivering.
How do you do this?
Simple, ask your customers:
- Why do you choose our product / service?
- What do we get right?
- What could we do better?
- What should we stop doing?
- What would make you go to a competitor instead of us? (Do you already use a competitor?)
- What don’t you like about what we do?
And listen to their answers. Don’t just rely on what you think you heard or what you wanted to hear. Listen to it all. Take it in and ask yourself – are we really meeting their needs?
If you are, then great, keep on trucking.
If not then maybe it’s time to take a root and branch look at what you’re doing and how to improve things.
Doesn’t feel much like a marketing strategy yet? Well, it’s time for honesty – your marketing is built on your product / service quality, reputation, desirability and ultimately what your customers think of you. If those things aren’t right and understood then no amount of “marketing” is going to build a loyal and loving fanbase. So get out there – ask questions and make sure you’re on the right track.
Only then should you start thinking about how you’re going to raise awareness and increase those leads that will grow your business.