Anyone who has marketed professional services in the past knows it’s a tricky undertaking because of the intangible nature of a “service.” How the heck do you promote something whose quality you can’t prove right up front? How do you market to buyers and clients without sounding insincere or presumptuous? And how do you stand out in a sea of companies trying to do the exact same thing?
The truth is professional services marketing is typically much more layered than its counterpart, product marketing. Product marketing is a lot like casual dating – it’s more about showing off, first impressions and short-term promises that work for both parties.
Services marketing, on the other hand, is meant to set the tone for a future with interested prospects. Its basis is established in trust, transparency, delivering on what you promise, growing together, and fostering an environment of understanding. And, just like in any relationship, the marketing efforts are meant to keep the magic alive. Throw a B2B twist into the mix and building strong relationships becomes that much more important to propelling prospective buyers through the sales cycle!
So how do you make your professional services marketing go from meet cute to marriage? Here are some critical do’s (and some really, really don’ts) to help you on your way.
DO have a straightforward, no-nonsense plan.
Okay, duh. But it’s here because it’s the hardest part and will make or break your relationships with both your prospects and your clients. Your marketing plan should be straightforward and, regardless of the shape, size, or scope of your plan, you should be able to boil it down to a few questions:
- The Why: What is the purpose of your marketing? Why would someone need these services?
- The Who: Who are your ideal clients? Which markets should you be focused on?
- The What: What do your buyers need? What types of content should be produced?
- The Where: Where does your audience “hang out”? What platforms and publications will help attract customers and help them find your business?
- The When: What’s your expected time frame for achieving your marketing goals?
- The How: What will be your process? How will you achieve the purpose of your marketing outlined in The Why?
Most importantly, you should be able to answer these questions in one sentence. Keep it simple so that the inevitable complexity of the plan doesn’t interfere with the process of acting it out.
DO understand the power of momentum.
Once you have your plan in place and you begin to see results, don’t just assume it’s a job well done. Part of your job is to take advantage of the aforementioned momentum you will begin to see if you have a solid, responsive plan in place. How do you make a plan responsive and harness the power of momentum?
- Create conversion pages (to promote white papers, eBooks, content offers, etc.). But do NOT forget that poorly crafted copy on a landing page will slice the chances of that page converting prospects into leads down to nothing.
- Produce high-quality content (we’ll come back to this in a second).
- Do some prospecting. You don’t have to wait until potential buyers come to you.
- Post your successes (awards, conferences attended, etc.) immediately on social media – and your website! You should consistently be active on social media. In fact, I’m going to dedicate another “do” to social media.
DO stay active on social media.
Many people in the professional services business still remain skeptical of the power of social media. It seems trivial and meaningless to write something less than 140 characters and assume that it will rope in clients. It, no doubt, makes sense for product marketing – it gets the word out on a new product, a new system, a new idea. Always one for the long game, professional services are about more long-term innovations or established relationships with customers that don’t require a tweet to legitimize. And maybe a company’s target client isn’t even in the right demographic for social media!
In the case of social media, one size truly does not fit all. That’s why it’s useful to be aware of all of the available platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, etc.) available to you so that you can operate on whichever platform your target buyer is most accustomed to using. Plus, when you see the stats, the truth is hard to ignore: 50% of buyers make a purchase based on a recommendation from a social media network. It’s not about modernization – it’s about staying connected and challenging your services to continue to stay competitive in an ever-evolving business space.
DO produce compelling content.
I know, right – what does this even mean anymore? Almost every other marketing blog will say the same thing – you must have great content. But there is never an exact definition of “great content.” But it’s on this list of Do’s because it’s necessary: content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing sources and generates about 3 times as many leads. More than likely, that’s a ton of leads!
Compelling content wears many hats. It can be positioned in the copy on your website pages, gated behind forms on your visit-to-lead conversion pages, housed in your blog, emails and newsletters, and promoted via your social media posts. The thing is, there are billions of pieces of engaging (and billions of extremely unengaging) content out there. So for each piece of content, answer these questions:
- What are you doing differently with this writing?
- Is it reflective of your company’s “voice?”
- What could you produce that would make a prospect say, “Wow, I never thought of it that way?”
Engaging and compelling content is there to service you, so if you can tailor it to be the best you can make it, then it will only help you in the long run.
DON'T assume that flawless service is enough.
Welcome to today’s business world, where customer service is only half the battle. Flawless service is not enough to keep them coming back anymore. You’re not a perfect company – you’re going to make mistakes. If all you have to rely on is the word-of-mouth about your good service, then a few missteps could actually lead to the failure of your company.
Instead, build on mistakes. Highlight them in case studies and then reveal how you fixed them. Set up a company blog to build your knowledge base and showcase your expertise. Make your website out-of-this-world fantastic. Use customer testimonials. Use email marketing. Spread your reach. Increase website traffic with guest blogging. Every little thing counts.
DON'T always assume that the client is in pain.
A lot of work with anticipatory tools like buyer personas and, to be frank, your overall marketing plans, will center around buyer pain. A lot of the time, clients are frustrated and burnt out, but sometimes they’re looking for something beyond alleviation. Do your homework. Listen to your clients. This way, you can tailor content to both prospects experiencing explicit problems that need to be addressed and prospects that simply want to pursue new opportunities or improve aspects of their experience.
DON'T be afraid to ditch best practices.
It’s okay to realize that your strategy needs a refresh. This is especially true if your marketing approach to B2B professional services marketing is nearly identical to approaches characteristic of B2C product marketing. Best practices have become best practices over time, meaning they are old and can be worn out as an approach for some companies. So go ahead, start from scratch! Not every practice should be universal.
DON'T waste your website.
Your website is one of the most valuable (if not the most valuable) marketing assets for your company. It’s where clients can go to understand who you are and what you do more in-depth. If you’re filling it with vague and empty descriptions and non-mobile-friendly pages, then you’re doing your company a disservice.
DON'T hesitate to brag.
Brag, brag, brag. Your bragging rights are your ultimate qualifier of success. They are your “product.” And proof is the product you want to sell. Get a whole page on your site dedicated to it. Highlight testimonials. Show off your exceptional customer service skills. Wow your prospects. Fluff your feathers. If you’re better than the other guy, you need to prove it!
Want more professional services marketing insights? Check out our complimentary eBook here.