Professional services firms are known as the "safest" b2b marketers, only second behind that of the medical industry.

Still stuck in the dark ages, many professional services firms still believe that 'good work speaks for itself' and "you need to find the clients pain" ensuring that they keep it "safe" when embarking on marketing of any kind, rather than looking deep into customer insights to drive leads and create more sustainable client relationships.

What professional services firms are forgetting is that while they may still be on track to achieving their sales goals, being complacent and not moving with the times, will make it almost impossible to stay competitve.

It use to be that you hire the law firm that your parents used or a trusted friend recommended and that was it. No price comparison, no searching for other options and no real negotiation. 

Accountants are no different. People use to use the accountant that their family used without consideration to who else is out there and what is best suited to their individual needs. 

Now, it's a bit different and here's why:

1. There are more resources at the client's disposal that better educates them on what is on offer
2. A trusted friend may not be a relative or someone that the person physically knows. Instead, it may be someone that they interact with on Twitter or Linkedin who has a persuasive argument on why a particular professional services provider is better than another.
3. Key influencers of buyer decisions can come from anywhere - literally. 
4. Relationships come in many forms today and can be nurtured through content drive marketing, relationship based marketing and a myriad of other ways that businesses must consider.
5. The Internet and social media has overtaken relationship marketing in its traditional form.

Professional services firms have many excuses as to why they cannot 'get with the times' when it comes to marketing practices. They include:

1. There is no time for online
2. Our business is based on relationships and a referral network
3. Social media is for b2c marketers
4. Twitter is about updating what you eat for breakfast
5. Facebook is for egomaniacs and people who don't have a life
6. Too busy.

The hinderence for many professional services firms is that they need to have billable hours to make a business successful and everyone is included in achieving a profitable outcome. Hiring another "overhead" in marketing that spends their days doing 'useless' things like tweeting, just doesn't make sense, financially or otherwise.

So, what do you do? What is the best marketing solution for a professional services firm?

Professional services firms are still strangers to the entire marketing mix (at least strangers to using the entire marketing mix at the same time). By playing it "safe" they have a brochure site as their website rather than an interactive marketing tool that generates leads, relationships and key influencers. They rely on a client lunch here or there, or taking clients to the Ballet.

Consider:

1. Understanding your clients better through: 
    a) Asking them what they read, what social media they use, where they holiday, what are their favourite brands etc. Client insight will give you a more effective marketing outcome every time.
    b) Connect with your clients on social media and start talking to them, nurturing the relationship and bringing them and their friends closer to your brand

2. Use social media that fits within your time constraints and is targeted:
    a) Linkedin: 43% of the entire Linkedin users are based in the US and Linkedin is the number one b2b social media marketing platform. Set up a business page but remember, that its the individual pages belonging to people in your organization that is the most effective in one-to-one marketing. Ensure you have consistent profiles on each of your employees pages regarding your brand and feed social media through Linkedin (Twitter, Blog etc). Actively seek to connect with clients and look at who they are connected with that you may benefit from being introduced to. Select 20 people each day to 'reach out' to that is on your Linkedin account.
    b)  Twitter: 8% of the US population is on Twitter. You can share you blogs, retweet interesting articles and comments and share company updates.34% of marketers have generated leads on Twitter and 20% have clsoed deals (Mindjumpers) in a b2b market.
    c)  Blogs: Your company blog says a lot about you as a company and brand. It tells your audience if you are a thought leader or follower. It can build relationships with people who resonate with your thoughts and opinions. It is the most powerful and loyal social media platform that will engage your clients not just for one blog but for the hundreds that follow. Be authentic and share insights into your business, profession and topics that relate to your readers.
    d)  Pinterest: 83% of Pinterest users are women. If a majority of the decisions are made by women when it relates to your business, you cannot afford to ignore this social media platform.
    e)  Slideshare: It's like an online powerpoint presentation but only better. People can share it over and over again, but all you have to do is make sure it is powerful and has a great headline with lots of pictures and content that transcends what others are sharing. 
    f)  Video/YouTube: Commentary and sharing of content via video is incredibly powerful and works if it is done right. Don't put anything up for the sake of it. Think about what content you are sharing and how good your video is produced. It can mean the difference of whether or not you turn on or turn off your clients.

3.  Public Relations: Editorials are always looking quality content. By having a professionally written story or commentary piece that is industry specific, you can obtain broader exposure to a new and untapped network.

4.  Website: Your website is not a brochure. If you keep thinking that it is - you won't be here tomorrow. Simple. Make sure you website is search engine optimized and a true indication of what it is like to work with your company and brand. Content is king, so make sure it is well written and has some personality in it that connects with clients and prospects. Use imagery that brings your brand to life - not images that send your client to sleep or make them think you are just like everyone else. Think about the experience a prospect or client goes through when they land on your website and give them reasons to come back time and time again with blogs and updated information. Make sure there is a call to action on every page and that you are requesting information from the visitor to your site.

There are so many things that professionals services firm can be doing better, and this is just a start. It's part of a blog series that will be shared with Atlanta companies over the next 3 days. Stay tuned.
                       
    

Mellissah Smith is a serial entrepreneur and business leader with more than 20 years' experience in marketing.
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Mellissah Smith

Mellissah Smith is a marketing expert, author, writer, public speaker and technology innovator. Having worked with more than 300 companies across technology, medical device, professional services, manufacturing, logistics, finance and health industries, Mellissah has a well-established reputation as an experienced marketing professional with more than 20 years experience. As the founder and managing director of Marketing Eye, she has taken the company from startup to a multi-million dollar enterprise with offices in Australia and the US. Mellissah is also the Editor in Chief of Marketing Eye Magazine, a quarterly magazine that cover marketing, entrepreneurship, travel, health and wellbeing. #mellissah #marketingeye

2 comments

  • Sara
    11/11/12

    Thanks Mellissah - spot on (and not just for law firms). We recently wrote a new website for one of Sydney's major law firms, and adding a LinkedIn connection to their partner profiles was one simple way to add depth to the site and rapidly boost their referral network. Yet it was surprising how many of those partners weren't on LinkedIn until then.

    Another trap law firms often fall into is creating their content in legalese. Understanding what their expertise translates into for clients is what really matters - reassurance, risk mitigation, peace of mind, successful negotiation, business growth.

  • Sylvia Montgomery
    06/11/12

    Mellissah,

    You make a very compelling argument. You are right on target with "Client insight will give you a more effective marketing outcome every time." Professional services firms that conduct frequent external perception research (not satisfaction surveys) grow faster than firms that don't conduct such research. My colleagues and I have been looking at this phenomena for a few years now.

    It is those same professional services firms that look to external insights that are also adopting online marketing/social media as part of their marketing mix. Content marketing proving to be essential in the road to thought leadership and creating experts.

    I look forward to the upcoming articles in your series.

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