In the old days many companies offering professional services could often coast on their good reputations. They could rely on client referrals as opposed to comprehensive advertising strategies and robust marketing efforts. But a changing marketplace with more digital channels than ever before means professional services companies must invest in effective marketing strategies to cement their reputations and boost visibility among target audiences.
In other words, now more than ever it is crucial for professional services companies to differentiate themselves from the competition through marketing. Below we look at some of the most effective ways to achieve this.
Focus on the relationship as opposed to the service
The term “professional services” is a big tent that covers businesses across a wide spectrum—everything from legal services to accounting to investment companies, architecture firms, and more. And you’re competing with many other companies selling the same knowledge-based services to the same businesses.
As mentioned above, professional services companies for a long time focused on their expertise to set themselves apart. But in a highly competitive marketplace expertise is a given; if a potential client is considering your services, it’s safe to say they already assume you’re an expert. So rather than selling them on the service you offer, a better marketing strategy would be to sell them on the relationship you offer.
Do you do more than the competition to provide customers with the personalized attention and “face time” they require? Are you easy to work with? Are you patient, present, and attentive, or remote and overly technical and self-promotional. How you answer these questions will better help a customer decide whether they should for your service.
Ultimately, because you’re selling expertise rather a tangible product, you need to focus on that in your marketing. Remember that you’re selling a relationship rather than a service, and knowing that will help you to stand out.
Publishing expert content relevant to your target audience
Content marketing is paramount in this day and age, including for professional services companies. The nice thing is that you can take those core relationship principles mentioned above and incorporate them into your content marketing.
For example, publishing blog posts by industry experts, podcasts, videos, and even colleague to colleague interviews are great ways to raise awareness of not just your service but how your company does business. Take the interview format: if you create video interview with an in-house expert, you can not only share insight with your target audience, you can showcase his or her collegial yet professional personality. This will go a long way to convincing your audience that you’re an easy business to work with.
Above all else you’ll want to make this content relevant to your target audience. Case in point, back in 2017 a law marketing survey revealed that client alerts were a trending topic among law firms. Savvy marketers took this info and ran with it, creating a variety of content around this topic, such as Best Practices for Client Alerts. That’s the essence of offering your audience something timely, authoritative and relevant to their business.
Produce original content
According to CMI, content marketing yields an ROI six times higher than other marketing methods. However, to see these kinds of returns companies need to provide their audience with the specific content they crave. Just as you want to differentiate yourself from the competition through personality, you want to do the same through content. Offer your audience something they can’t get anywhere else, and that means producing original, informative content featuring survey results and research from authoritative sources.
So rather than boasting to potential customers about your expertise in the industry, show them.
You may now be thinking, however, “Ok, I’ve got all this original content that’s relevant to my audience, but how can I be sure it’s unique from the competition?” It’s a good question, and one that leads us directly to our next point.
Perform regular content audits
The effort you put into crafting great content is all for naught if your competition is producing blog posts, videos, interviews, white papers and e-books with the same info on the same topics you are. The solution is simple: perform an annual content audit.
Whether you hire a third-party team to perform these yearly (or even quarterly) audits or delegate your in-house marketing team to do it, you should adhere to a few best practices. These include
- Establishing your content goals at the outset
- Have a clear list of metrics you’re looking at to track content performance
- Separate your content into various categories (blog posts, white papers, vlogs, videos, etc.)
- Search for ways to increase organic search
- Identify any gaps in your content strategy at different stages of the sales cycle
Adhering to the above best practices will help you immensely when it comes time to see how your content stands up against that of the competition.
In this day and age of marketing, it’s no longer possible to cast a wide net and hope to pull a wide audience into the fold. The best way to help your organization stand out and corner a specific market is via segmentation. There are many great tactics to achieve proper segmentation, and these include channel marketing, appealing to the problems of your target audience, differentiating your business from others in your sector, and others.
More specifically, you should consider the main types of segmentation and develop initiatives for each one. Creating detailed client personas is one best practice. Focusing on behavioral segmentation—considering the motives of different social classes, age demos, etc.—is another.
And don’t forget to nurture leads through business development lifecycle segmentation. This will help you understand exactly how to converse with customers at each phase of the buying cycle.
These days there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy to help B2Bs, like professional services companies, stand out. But if you adhere to the five strategies listed above, you shouldn’t have a problem positioning yourself ahead of the competition.