The unique dynamics of professional services organizations mean that the leaders and consultants often view the marketing team skeptically as second-tier operational functionaries. There is an almost love-hate relationship with marketing! To some, Marketing feels like fluff and they often question the tangible value or measurable revenue that it brings in.
Being a marketer in professional services is not easy.
We should know – having spent a large part of our careers at leading tech/digital consulting firms explaining the value of marketing to the rest of the organization and pulling it from the background to the forefront!
What are the challenges in Professional Services Marketing?
In Professional Services Marketing, especially in B2B Tech services, it is not sufficient to just churn out good quality content regularly, you need to deliver exceptional Thought Leadership content, consistently.
And, you still wouldn’t have any takers if people don’t see any value in it, so you need to ensure you reach the right audience through the right channels with the right, relevant messages to make them sit up and take notice. Nurturing cycles can be lengthy, and funnels can be highly complex, and generating good quality leads requires significant investment in terms of time and resources.
While senior management understands this in theory, they do get rather impatient and very often start demanding miraculous results in no time!
In professional services, unlike product organizations, the core assets are individuals who are subject-matter experts (SME) with deep technical knowledge and strong client relationships. The success of professional services organizations is built on the ability of these individuals to apply their technical knowhow and create customised services for clients.
These technical experts, SMEs and those responsible for client relationships (client partners) hold significant authority and autonomy. Those who do not share this expertise or client-facing responsibilities – or crudely put, those who do not directly generate revenue – like the marketing folk, don’t carry much weight!
But hey, who doesn’t love a challenge! With the right strategy and approach, marketing can have a significant impact on generating revenue, set the direction for growth and can prove itself to be indispensable.
We’ve created our tried & tested top 5 aspects you should focus on to kick start your marketing initiatives:
Positioning is fundamental to any organization’s business strategy. For a marketer to be successful, the focus of their efforts needs to be on the core markets they serve. Approaching positioning with a clear set of core markets, will ensure definitive target market segments, the value proposition of the organization’s offerings, and the alignment of the organization’s meaningful expertise with each market’s needs. A 3*3 approach (3 markets with 3 core services) is a good thumb rule to follow to ensure all effort stays focused.
And if you are a marketing manager, new to the organization, you have the absolute right to demand that the leadership provide clarity on the organization’s positioning before making any marketing decisions, strategic or tactical. Most organizations don’t already have this figured out, so it’s a great opportunity for a new marketer to add value right away. It could also be the best way to get to know your organization’s strengths and latent nuances that are otherwise not as evident.
Branding is a complex topic that could be addressed across multiple posts and we’d barely touch the tip of the iceberg. For the purposes of this post, let’s describe it simply as your organization’s “packaging”—how you visually present and verbally explain yourself.
Once you’ve clearly defined your expertise through positioning, you need to determine if your organization is packaged and presented in a way that appeals to your ideal prospect. Do you sound like an expert? Are you saying things about your organization that no other organization can say? Or, quite bluntly, do you look incompetent and completely unprofessional? If you can’t tell, an internal audit of your marketing & communication material can help you see how to improve. Ask a selected few of your clients for inputs. Identify a local marketing agency that could help you with this. Or, if you like, we can help out!
Your website should attract, educate, and inform your audience, be it first-time visitors or prospects in the early stages of the buying process. Your expertise, presented as thought leadership, should be reflected throughout your website. Similarly, it should showcase your experience, highlighted through past and current projects; your culture and people, hence reassuring prospects in the later stages of the buying process. Here are some high level indicators that could be potential problems with your website, if you answer them with a No :
- Is your website’s content educational?
- Does it present your organization’s projects, its people and its unique perspectives effectively?
- Does your website have unique landing pages that cater to specific persona-groups that form your ideal target audience?
- Is it primed for optimal customer journey?
- Is your website optimized for mobile experience?
Upwards of 60% of most buyers’ decision-making have already been made before your business development team ever speaks to them. By the time, a prospect actually reaches out to your organization, chances are they already have a good idea of what their needs actually are. As a collection of professional consultants, it is critical for your organization to be shaping those learnings and the preliminary research that your prospect brings to the conversation, in order to demonstrate your expertise and establish your organization as an expert before your prospect reaches out to you.
Experts write. If your aim is to make your positioning credible, you need a content-driven approach to marketing that incorporates a combination of content formats such as blogs, articles, research papers, videos, webinars and more, to engage prospects in various stages of their buying process. Your goal as a marketer should be to make your organization, and its website, the definitive source of expertise for the core audiences you defined within your positioning.
5) Go To Market Strategy
The thin line between marketing and business development in most professional services organizations is quite blurry. Ultimately, we believe marketing should be primarily focused on creating visibility for the organization in the market and shaping how potential clients perceive it long before an opportunity takes place. And, business development should be focused on identifying, pursuing and winning new projects for the organization. Having said that, marketers in most organizations are expected to wear both hats. Even if that’s not the case, your ultimate job as a marketer is to deliver new revenue to the organization. So being intimately involved in your organization’s best new business strategy is a critical part of ensuring that you’ve aligned all your marketing activities correctly.
In addition, you as a Marketing leader should facilitate developing a Go To Market strategy alongside your organization’s leadership. A GTM strategy accounts for all the major projects you’re pursuing for the next 2 years. It identifies your key decision makers, indicators that you believe drive their decision-making process, and the strategies you’ll use to pursue and win the engagement.
In the end, your organization’s positioning, branding, website and content should all align with your GTM Strategy and point you directly towards winning new business. While this is not an exhaustive checklist for marketing, it should give you a basic framework to prioritize your organization’s marketing agenda.