Modern Professional Services Marketing Isn’t Just for Marketers – Part I

by Debra Andrews | April 7, 2014

The professional services firm marketing model was a whole lot simpler in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Envision the professional services marketer on an imaginary island pumping out collateral, ordering business papers, sending out direct mail and pulling together proposals.  Most of their work could be done relatively independently much to the delight of the billable professional. Lawyers, accountants, engineers and architects, were only too happy to remain focused on client work and attend the occasional networking event, leaving the marketing staff to do its thing.

Some professional services firms hold tight to the traditional “siloed” marketing model.  Aside from having a lonely marketing team, these firms will eventually lose out to savvy competitors that don’t put “Baby in the Corner.”  Just like that classic scene from Dirty Dancing, the modern professional services firm pulls marketing up on stage and puts it  front and center. Marketing transcends the entire organization and everyone becomes part of  the team. Professional services marketing has forever changed, presenting an intriguing challenge and amazing opportunity for accounting firms, law firms, engineering firms and management consulting firms that embrace it.

In Part I of my two part series, I will share what’s changed in the marketing world and why professional services marketing must  be an enterprise-wide endeavor.  In Part II, I will offer practical advice on how your firm can pull marketing out of the corner and truly harness its power to raise awareness, generate leads, help close engagements and delight existing customers.

The Power Shift: Clients Rule

The Internet was originally created to be an enormous repository for information.  Companies quickly surmised that they could lop their advertising and direct mail budgets in half by putting up a website.   These professional services firms’ websites were nothing more than static, egotistical online brochures that shared how terrific the firms and its people were in every way.

Thankfully, the Internet has come full-circle and truly is the information highway that helps businesses be more aware of relevant trends and topics and solves their challenges and pain. Professional services firms, however, can no longer push out self-serving messages and expect to generate awareness and leads.  You will be ignored! Buyers of professional services firms care about themselves and not your firm – or not until you’ve earned the right for them to care!

Great Content is the New Price to Play

Modern professional service firm marketing is squarely focused on being authentically helpful primarily by delivering timely and relevant content, which is a marketing method otherwise known as content marketing.  Content comes in various sizes and forms and includes: blogs, videos, e-books, webinars, podcasts and even tweets. The marketing challenge is to deliver the right content at the right place at the right time and in the right form.

Recently, I interviewed some clients of a new Marketri professional services firm client.  They shared that they loved working with my client but that competitors are constantly providing them with helpful information. One indicated that receiving insightful information from other firms definitely leaves “a crack in the door.”

To learn more about the power of content marketing, read our latest blog.

Thought Leadership = Experience

The ideas behind truly great content – the type that ignites organizational action and change – can, for the most part,  only be created from experienced providers of professional services. Your clients and prospect clients want unique insights and opinions.  There is so much online content, which is why it’s a price to play and not a differentiator anymore, that it has to be exceptional. Content marketing cannot be swept off to the siloed marketing department. Your clients and ideal prospects do not want to hear accounting, engineering or business law 101 written by your marketing team. While they can be instrumental in helping to create the content strategy, assisting with aspects of the execution, and ensuring your firm’s content is seen by as many clients, prospects and referral sources as possible through effective email marketing and social media marketing, they can’t get inside your head. You need to provide the thought leadership!

My goal in Part I was to set the tone for why marketing is not just for marketers within a professional services firm. Hopefully, you, the billable client services professional, have a better understanding as to why you need to be engaged and be an active participant in the marketing of your firm. What exact activities you will do; how much you will do them and how to get started is coming next in Part II. Stay tuned!

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