Before we look at what makes marketing for professional services different to other sectors, let’s define who we mean by professional services: generally speaking we would include law firms, accountancy practices, financial services firms or architectural firms – in short, anybody who sells their expertise and skills, rather than a tangible product.
What are the main differences?
One of the main challenges in this sector is selling the intangible. In product marketing, potential customers have the opportunity to see, feel or taste a product prior to purchasing. It is easy to see what the customer will receive in exchange for his money. The purchasing process is clear cut and short – once the product is sold, it is yours to consume.
The process for purchasing a service is much more drawn out and less clear. When you start working with an accountant for example, it’s an ongoing service that will quite often span over numerous years. You are of course paying for their expertise and tax advice, but the relationship between you and your accountant becomes almost as important as the core service they provide. It comes down to trust, which once it’s won, will help retain clients on a long-term basis. To win it though takes a long time.
Where professional services firms have traditionally been able to rely on repeat business and word of mouth to generate new business, they now operate in a competitive market with many other companies offering similar services. Without focusing on a purely price-driven strategy, companies must define compelling USP’s to set them apart from their competitors.
Top tips for marketing a professional services firm
Find your niche and define your USP
In a crowded market you need to establish your target audience which may mean developing a specialism. Tailor your communications plan to that audience and subtly keep referring to your USP’s within those messages. Unless you want to focus on a purely price-driven strategy (which we very rarely recommend), these USP’s are likely to be centred around soft skills such as experience, a niche offering, personal approach, long-lasting relationships or involvement with the local community or a charity. If you don’t know what your USP is, ask your clients! Results from customer research through focus groups or surveys can provide incredibly valuable insights.
Focus on educating, not promoting
It’s all about demonstrating your expertise and skills. Holding seminars, speaking at industry event, writing thought-provoking articles and blog posts will all help to establish your position as experts and an ‘authority’ within your industry.
Make it easy for the customer to understand what you deliver
Case studies, FAQ’s, guides, how-to videos all help your customers understand what they can expect from working with you, and how you will be helping them. Quite often, customers don’t want to use the services of say a lawyer, but find themselves in a position that they have to – eliminate their fear of the unknown and be clear in the language you use.
Be forward thinking
Embrace new technologies where possible and invest in training to improve your staff’s sales skills. Lawyers for example are now in a position where they need to use persuasive selling skills in order to attract new clients, in addition to being experts in their field.
Don’t underestimate the power of online
A study by the Hinge Research Institute showed that between 60%-80% of research is done online before contacting a company to enquire about their services – that is huge! Treat your website and social media channels as your shop front and consider whether it reflects your brand and appeals to your target audience. Is it modern, professional, easy to use and give a flavour of what your firm is all about? It’s vital to keep changing and updating the website by providing blog posts, videos, whitepapers etc. so there’s a reason for customers to come back to your website.
We hope you have found this blog post useful. If you require any help with your marketing please contact us on 01903 530787 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further reading, you may also be interested to read these blog posts: