Many Professional Services firms don’t really “get” Marketing – it’s a drain to pour money down which could otherwise go into Partners’ pockets! IT Services firms tend to “get it” more but the spend can often be focused on things that take up lots of time and budget for little effect. So what’s the problem?
Marketing professionals talk about the “Marketing Mix”. In Services Marketing, the original 4Ps of product, price, promotion and place are expanded to 7Ps, adding in process, people and physical environment …. and some people even add an eighth, namely performance – this is a lot of Ps! If we’re running a services firm and don’t have much Marketing experience, we find all these Ps a bit difficult and uncomfortable and, hence, tend to gravitate to one end of the spectrum and do only what we feel comfortable with (e.g. buy hospitality tickets for the rugby and invite some clients and a few prospects) or the other and try to cover all the bases. Both approaches fail in most cases.
Let’s start with what we’re trying to achieve. When we boil it down, we’re looking for Marketing activity to generate sales leads. In services businesses, sales leads must lead to face-to-face sales meetings because we all know that, in this industry at least, people buy from people…so they’d better meet and get the chemistry going as soon as possible if any sale is going to be made!
Now, it’s increasingly true that there are hygiene factors to consider that don’t directly lead to sales leads or which, if handled poorly, can hold sales opportunities back. A consulting firm that I’m working with had a sales campaign put on hold recently when the potential client wouldn’t introduce the consulting Partner to his boss to get a decision until the firm’s web site was more fit for purpose…which it now is! Which hygiene factors to address and how much to spend on them is worth thinking about – I’d suggest that you do just enough to create an environment within which your target market might start to get a warm and fuzzy feeling. So you want to tweet – why? You want an article in the FT – do the people who buy your services read the FT?
It’s best to decide which specific messages you want to get to which specific audiences and then, alongside creating something of an environment around this, research how to get to these audiences – which industry journals they read, which conferences they attend etc – and then put Marketing spend and effort into delivering your messages into these places, consciously and deliberately avoiding spend in places that don’t fit with this. If this involves face-to-face contact as part of the Marketing activity then this is fantastic since it gives you a better opportunity to start building a relationship and increases the likelihood of getting that all important face-to-face sales meeting.
About five years ago, I worked with an IT services firm focused on Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing – they had reached a plateau and were getting frustrated. We took the same Marketing budget that they were spending by trying to cover all the bases and focused it onto getting specific messages into three vertical industries, and we aligned the sales team up behind these industry messages. The result? 50% growth in revenues the next year and 65% growth on top of that the following year.
Decide where you need to be and then “be there”!