6 Things I’ve learned about marketing a professional service

Dave Yeates

Professional services can be the worst culprits when it comes to brand and marketing. Here’s 6 helpful tips to lift your game.

When it comes to marketing products, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of packaging it all up and spruiking it like your local butcher used to do on a Saturday morning. Loudly screaming the special meats and discount cuts over the noise of the busy shopping strip. We’ve all seen it, the ads that scream at us, the constant barrage of “buy this”, “buy this”! Any good marketing or entrepreneur trainer will tell you that it’s better to speak gently and consistently to the benefits and the effect that a product has on the customer themselves. Develop those themes and unpack them across all your relevant channels.

But what about a service business?

You’re an engineer, an accountant, a contractor or developer; or maybe something else entirely. Whatever it is, you don’t sell a product, there is no “build it and they’ll come” attitude – in fact the only thing you really sell is your time. So how do you market what you do? Here are 6 lessons I’ve learned from working in and for professional services businesses.

1. Be relevant.

It seems like a throwaway line even writing it, but it’s fascinating how difficult a technical leader or ‘expert’ finds this first challenge. Come into my world, talk to me where I’m at and help me to reflect on the values you bring. Being a relevant firm or agency is about understanding the position and preferences of your clients and building preference and consideration by speaking about their world, not selling yours. It’s also significantly more interesting.

2. Be memorable

If you live in the digital marketing industry and you haven’t heard of Gary Vaynerchuck, you’ve been living under a rock. The ranting, cussing but surprisingly balanced anecdotes of an eCommerce mogul-turn-agency-CEO are generating huge traction all over the internet. When asked about how he does it, his response is: “I day-trade attention”. What are you do to be memorable and capture your customer’s attention?

3. Engage me.

Use digital marketing and automation tools. Build and nurture an audience that is yours to keep. Why? Because they’re interested in what you do. Your services. And with that interest comes opportunity. Engage with that audience and give them a reason to continually come back to you for more. Content, conferences, videos, podcasts, seminars, however, you like to work, make sure you’re giving people the tools to keep your business front-of-mind.

4. Give me value. By the truckload.

Find ways to package and distribute insights from your work, the internet and your industry into interesting content like infographics, videos and microsites. It might sound ‘involved’ but next to the cost of a CPC campaign, it’s comparable, and it might even earn you some media. I mentioned before that at the end of the day you’re selling time. Too many seasoned professionals and ‘experts’ keep their wealth of knowledge to themselves at the risk they might ‘give it away’. But you’re selling people, time, it’s about having people show up. So give me a reason to get you in the room…. prove to me you’ve got the chops.

5. Be design-led

I can just imagine an engineer reading this and laughing. But it’s a fundamental lesson I’ve learned. Working with a service-based business I once saw an 80% uplift in win-rates because they’re pursuits process became design-led. Being design led is about understanding how people like to consume experiences, information and relationships and fitting your content around that solution.

6. Know your data.

There’s always the basics. Get a CRM, get an automation platform, get a social media management tool… Make sure you’re gathering all the data you can. But even if you’re not, you have more data than you think. From your email service to your website analytics, from the traction on your social channels to the sign ups at last week’s conference, right through to the billing, fulfilment and customer feedback data you capture in bookkeeping or ERP. Map your data out, understand what your typical buyers are, where your margins swell, where your customer acquisition costs are low and where your engagement is high. [read more on this in my thesis on the digital customer: Chasing Unicorns] Use this to be more relevant, more memorable, more valuable and more understanding of your audience. A cycle that continuously learns and improves.

Moving away from a “buy this” mentality is one thing. Moving into marketing rhythm that is led by design, driven by data and hands out truckloads of value can take time.

Try not to over-analyse it. Do the work, test-and-learn, demonstrate growth and be willing to try something new. Working with services businesses is something I’ve done for over 10 years. If you need help marketing yours, get in touch for a free appraisal.

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