The service sector accounts for a huge part of the UK’s GDP. And, with an explosion of new talent offering their professional services in everything from finance to management to technology, competition for customers can be rife.
The trouble with selling services
Indeed winning new business is a concern for many professional services firms. Contrary to selling tangible, physical products, selling services can be tricky: It can be hard to communicate what you do in a succinct and meaningful way, set pricing and generally promote what you do.
Turning a service into a product
Many professional service consultants and firms revert to bolstering their own – or their employees’ – personal profiles as a way of generating awareness of their skills.
Positioning oneself as a thought leader or expert in your field does come with its advantages.
For a start you or your business can start to command higher prices.
However, with more and more people self publishing their own content, this strategy can come with its drawbacks.
For a start, for business’s that sell time – scalability means an endless search for the right people to join your team.
Furthermore, upholding high profiles can be tiring and draining: Hours spent on social media, networking and writing talks or events can take its toll. It can be difficult to tie the time spent on publicity to the bottom line. And, if you invest in your employee’s profiles as well as your own, remember they take them with you when they leave your company for a career change.
With that in mind, taking a more product-focused view of promotion could be a more effective approach to monetising your efforts.
Here are some ideas on how:
- Sell increments of time: Including a booking option on your website is a great way of monetising your time. It helps set expectations and gives customers an easy way to reserve – and even pay – for some time with you. By offering potential customers a clear call to action and an automated booking system on your website; you may be able to cut out some of the time consuming sales admin too.
- Create service packages: Packaging up your most popular services and offering them as a bundle or subscription service means you don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel every time you meet a new prospect. It also means you can create a page on your website that explains exactly what potential clients can expect from the package so they can sign up without having to listen to your sales pitch first.
- Don’t sell services; sell outcomes. If you’re a photographer, people don’t really do business with you because they want to spend time with you in the studio. What they really want is a picture that’s going to get them a new job – or a new love. As a professional services specialist, you’re in business to solve problems or make life better for your clients. Find out what that pain point or vulnerability is and then craft your sales pitch around it.
Marketing professional services
Increasing efficiency with automation and service packages as well as focusing on outcomes rather than processes will make marketing what you do a lot easier. Yet, there are still some specific challenges that B2B, high ticket item companies and professional services firms need to overcome.
The fact that professional service businesses are built on relationships and knowledge does mean that attributing the cost of marketing is more complicated than with an e-commerce retailer, for instance.
There are likely to be many steps involved in on-boarding a new client – a process which could involve liaising with many people at different stages of the sales pipeline. With such complexity, how can you tell if the time and money you invest in marketing is time and money well spent?
Complicated path to purchase
There is no doubt that when it comes to marketing professional services, things are not always straightforward.
Take a surveying company that wants to start promoting its services to lawyers for instance. The company knows there are many lawyers in this sector and that they all need survey reports completed for their cases. They invest a little bit in PPC advertising and step up their LinkedIn activity; however no enquiries come their way and they feel as if the time and money investment has been wasted.
The reality for this company is that using marketing to stimulate demand is never going to be as straightforward as that.
Belonging to a tight knit industry; it’s likely that lawyers will buy from someone they know already, have been doing business with for a long time or that have been recommended to them. There may not be many lawyers who are actively shopping around for a surveyor at any given time. Perhaps a cometitors has a price promotion on that is draining the pool of potential clients.
Sure, a potential client may see your ad but it’s not going to carry much weight if it will be eighteen months until they are looking to form a new partnership. Or if they’ve already seen an offer that undercuts your prices.
It can may take months or even years for a surveyor to get a foot in the door with a law firms in order to become a preferred supplier and the decision making process could be long, sporadic and complex. The surveyor’s marketing campaign should cater for this fact.
Long-term drip feed
So, with this situation in mind, when it comes to B2B marketing and especially professional services – fortune will favour the patient.
Quick decisions are rarely made in business, but when the time comes for the client to make a move, you want your company to be at the front of the queue with a compelling offer they find hard to resist.
In short, your marketing and promotional strategies need to make the grade.
One way of making sure you are always in the mix when it comes to being the chosen supplier is to take a consistent, multi-media drip feed approach to your promotion – and keep an eye on your competition.
Simply aiming to get your business under the noses of your target market so they know where you are when they need you is often a solid, basic strategy for professional service firms to follow.
A logical way of approaching this strategy is to focus on exhausting the channels that you own first – social media, direct marketing and website content for instance, before turning your attention to ‘earned’ channels through PR. Finally, when you have built up a solid foundation of content that has been distributed through owned and earned channels, it may be time to consider increasing your reach via paid advertising.
We’ll leave you with some actionable tips for getting such a strategy off the ground:
Rather than using LinkedIn as your own promotional stage, use it reach out to potential clients and introduce yourself to them personally. Start engaging and commenting on their content in order to build up your relationship.
Do your potential clients have Facebook pages? If so, create your own company page and start engaging with via the platform regularly. You’ll notice many companies pages are void of comment and chat – so you’re likely to get noticed if you do.
- Social media:
Make sure anyone who comes across you on social media finds your profile filled up with useful content. Neglected accounts say a lot about the companies that own them so make sure yours are updated and kept fresh.
Climb to the top of the search engines for industry related keywords and phrases that your target market may use. It’s a long-term strategy but will mean you will avoid paying for PPC advertising in the end.
Write a monthly blog and then use the content to send out a quarterly email newsletter and track who engages with it using MailChimp or similar free email software.
- Direct mail:
For anyone you can’t reach via email or who doesn’t open the message, follow up by sending a printed version of the newsletter to the company via Royal Mail.
Make sure you take every opportunity you can to send comment or content to the editors of relevant trade press – both on and offline.
Collate advertising rates for the top publications in your clients’ field and consider advertising to spread the word. However avoid one off placements in favour of longer term campaigns – and negotiating with the media sales team is a must!
Looking for a marketing partner to put this campaign into motion for you? Contact us today!