There is a lot of work that goes into creating a detailed professional services marketing strategy. If you’re a services marketer yourself, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. In comparison to the vast majority of products, the services your company offers are intangible – and in some ways, it’s more difficult to convey their full value upfront before the sale occurs. So whether you’re an entrepreneur who is just starting out or you’re marketing a well-established business that’s rolling out a new service, defining and developing a solid plan is essential to your success.
The exercise of creating your service marketing plan will help you think about what makes your business unique, stay focused, set goals for your business and determine how to get the message out to desired audiences through a variety of channels. And while there are many things to consider when crafting a professional services marketing plan, there are a number of common mistakes I have consistently seen made over the years in this industry. Watch out for these 5 marketing pitfalls as you build out your strategy:
1. Vague Definition of Your Target Audience
Sometimes even the best intentioned businesses think they should target everyone and anyone with their new product or service. This strategy is one of the fastest ways to lose money and become frustrated when your marketing doesn’t work. It’s critical to research your potential customer base, define who your ideal customer is and go after that specific demographic. Remember, you want your marketing outreach to stem from the places where your prospects are looking for information – and to leverage the keywords that they’re using to search.
As part of your research process, consider conducting interviews with some of your current customers who match up with the definition you created of your ideal buyer. It’s worth it to create target buyer personas that flesh out these prospects in writing. That way, everyone on your team has a point of reference when piecing together marketing collateral for your various campaigns. Whether you’re providing consulting services or are an Architectural or Law Firm you need to define your target audience to maximize your business success.
2. Lack of a Clear and Consistent Marketing Message
Want to cut through the clutter? Be sure to develop a clear, concise and consistent marketing message that speaks to the unique value of your service and resonates with your target audience. For optimal brand awareness, make sure the message you are producing is consistent on all channels and can be articulated by all members of your company. Why is your service valuable? What problems does it solve? Or what challenges does it help your customers overcome? Because you’re marketing intangible services, what you do needs to be made very apparent – and prospects need to understand the value you provide, as well as the expertise you have.
3. Little to No Social Media Presence
Many professional service firm marketers have difficulty understanding how social media can grow their business – and executives from this industry are sometimes concerned about its ROI, or that it can lead to reputation risk, so they simply avoiding getting in the game. However, the bigger risk is ignoring social media and the huge positive impact it can have on your lead gen and sales.
Want to drive awareness, educate prospects about important topics in your field, or even entertain and showcase some company culture? You should deliver many of your firm’s key messages through social media! That being said, keep in mind that having a social media presence is more than just signing up, creating a profile and posting messages. You have to get out there and engage, as well – and share content produced by third-party sources from time to time (think research reports, blog articles, Q&A with industry experts, etc.) to demonstrate that you are plugged into what’s happening in your niche.
4. Lack of a Content Development Strategy
No matter how many times, you’ve heard it: content is king. Publishing helpful content – blog articles, eBooks, videos, webinars, checklists, guides, you name it! – can give your brand substance, help differentiate you from competitors and elevate awareness of your business as a trusted resource. However, in an effort to “just get something out there”, many businesses create “filler” content that lacks a real value or actionable takeaway for the reader. Be sure to take the time to develop a solid content strategy that answers:
- Why are you creating the content?
- What type of content will you create?
- Who is it for?
- At what stage of the buyer’s journey is the reader?
- How often will you publish?
- How will you distribute the content to your target audience?
- And what is the benefit to the reader?
According to the B2B Content Marketing: 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends Report, over half of the most effective marketers have a documented content marketing strategy outlining these types of questions (Source: Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs). I also recommend creating a Quarterly Editorial Calendar that encompasses this information, and also provides information about who owns each piece of content’s writing and design, resources that should be referenced, any Calls-to-Action that should be mentioned within the content or at the end of the piece, and the deadline, of course!
5. Current Clients Left Out of Your Marketing Efforts
All too often, cross selling remains an untapped opportunity to grow revenue in the professional services biz! Many service firms (particularly those that may offer annual services – or do not have ongoing engagements with their clients) ignore marketing to their own customers after the sale and allow competitors (selling an additional service they could have provided) in the back door. The reality is sometimes client aren’t aware of what other offerings their service providers can perform for them. Communicate new service offerings to your current clients on a regular basis through your website, newsletters, social media and even simple emails sent with invoices. And don’t forget to keep these happy customers in the loop with any relevant company news, announcements or particularly helpful content or promotions.
Looking for more service marketing tips? I highly recommend you download PMG's complimentary eBook – Professional Services Marketing: The Art of Making Your Services Easier to Sell. The guide is broken out into chapters addressing solutions to obstacles marketers in this industry often encounter, as well as tips for "productizing" your services and building stronger relationships with prospects and customers alike. Enjoy!