Professional services marketing: It works if you work it!

by Eddie Reeves on May 16, 2010

For most major law firms, CPAs, financial services firms, management consultants and other professional services providers, this is a time of great challenge.  Revenues are down, competition is up, clients are demanding higher service at a lower price and strong new talent is hard to find and harder to keep.

Of course, times of great challenge are by definition also times of great opportunity – but only for those perceptive enough to see it, bold enough to seize it and adept enough to exploit it.

At root, all these problems can be mitigated, if not eliminated outright, by a strong and vibrant stream of new business.  But if that stream is to materialize, it will only do so because firms finally get serious about systematically, and persistently marketing themselves – something which precious few firms have done.

Over many years of consulting for and/or coaching professional services providers, I have seen first-hand how resistant — and often outright hostile — many of them are to the very idea of marketing (or ‘business development,’ as most prefer to call it).

I have also seen first-hand how much their practices have suffered as a result.

This hostility stems from their belief in some basic myths about marketing.  Here are the biggest ones:

Myth # 1 — Marketing is for ‘lesser’ product and service providers, but not for professionals.

Truth:  Marketing is for everyone who is in business.  It was the greatest management guru in history, Peter Drucker, who said that the purpose of any business is to create a customer.

Myth # 2 — Professional services cannot really be ”marketed” or “sold”.

Truth:  Every client engagemet in history was secured from some sort of marketing.  It might have stemmed from professional or personal networks, it might have been from RFP responses or it might have been from surfing the web, it surely came from marketing.  The challenge is to get smarter about how it’s done.

Myth # 3 — Marketing is unseemly and will make us look “desperate”.

Truth:  If planned and executed strategically and professionally, marketing will actually enhance your stature with your prospective clients.  The best professional services marketing efforts are all about building relationships and seeking ways to add ever more value.  Do that right, and the only ones who will look desperate are the clients desperately trying to hire you.

There are several more myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings about the promise and process of proper marketing and selling of professional services, but these three are probably the most common and the most debilitating.  Getting rid of them will go a long way towards putting most firms on the road to greater success than they ever imagined.

Marketing works, but only if you work it.

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