All of us are guilty of missing significant marketing opportunities – even those of us in the business of marketing. But the problem seems especially acute in professional services. The issue is seldom the lack of good intentions. We get busy. We feel pressure to focus on billable hours. Or amid our day-to-day responsibilities, we temporarily lose sight of the fact that marketing needs to be a sustained and nurtured process.
With that in mind, let me share with you my list of five of the most significant missed marketing opportunities among professional services providers.
1. GENERATING SPEAKING OPPORTUNITIES MUST BE PROACTIVE
I recently discovered an interesting chart that showed 26.2 percent of the leads generated for professional services firms come from speaking engagements (second only to referrals/recommendations at 26.9 percent). That’s powerful information. But invitations won’t come just by waiting for the phone to ring. My mother was fond of saying, “If wishes were horse, beggars would ride.” When it comes to speaking engagements, wishful thinking won’t drive opportunities into your stable. It takes planning and proactive outreach to generate opportunity.
2. MAKING CAUSE MARKETING COUNT
When I meet with professional service organizations, they often tell me how wonderfully community minded and generous they are in supporting worthy causes. That’s great! But what is the return on those investments? Were they strategically driven? Are you able to differentiate your firm from other participating sponsors?
I like to tell clients they should have three buckets for charitable contributions. The first is for causes that are aligned with the firm’s values. These are purely altruistic contributions with no expectation of any kind of marketing return on investment.
The second bucket is for customer goodwill, such as supporting a cause or event that is particularly important to a specific major client. The payoff here comes in the form of solidifying a client relationship.
The third bucket, however, is the true marketing opportunity. In these situations, financial or in-kind contributions are made for strategic marketing reasons. Perhaps it is to secure access to a critical audience or to reinforce a core brand message or principle. There should be a clearly-defined marketing objective behind these initiatives. And getting marketing benefits doesn’t diminish altruistic value of the contribution. It is simply doing good marketing by doing a good deed.
3. LEVERAGING EXTERNAL MARKETING THROUGH INTERNAL MARKETING
Has your firm ever launched a marketing campaign or initiative without alerting anyone else in the organization other than the marketing department or leadership team? Sadly, this is often the case. And it is a missed opportunity on multiple levels. One involves basic employee relations. Employees who are informed are much more engaged. They will take pride in being in the know – and that their employer cares enough to communicate important information and involve them in the campaign.
Another important consideration is that your employees are your strongest brand ambassadors. They are often on the front lines and/or may have a network of friends and relatives who can help carry the company flag.
The third benefit is brand messaging. When the whole team is provided with essential information about a campaign or initiative, they can all “speak with one voice,” and, as a result, greatly enhance the potential for success.
4. INFLUENCING YOUR INFLUENCERS
I recently published an article on the topic of influencer marketing that might be helpful to professional services firms. But the point I wish to make here is that, like the aforementioned comments on speaking engagements (#1 above), influencer marketing must be proactive. We may have great relationships with any number of potential referral sources, but if we are not actively reminding them of what we do and encouraging them to be our advocates, they may not realize their potential role. My experience is that good referral sources, like good friends, are ready and generous in their willingness to help.
5. SEARCH ENGINES REQUIRE REGULAR MAINTENANCE
Just as any machine requires ongoing maintenance, so do search engines when it comes to recognizing and reacting to your online presence. Algorithms change as frequently as the weather so it is essential to stay current on your organic search optimization efforts, including keeping your content up-to-date and relevant. Same goes for search engine marketing. The available tools and tactical opportunities are constantly evolving. Routine review and modifications are key to sustained success.
Thom Villing is chief executive officer of Villing and Co.