At Conical we spend a great deal of time working with our professional service clients on multi-layered marketing campaigns, often supported by good thinking and positive intent. There is also some innovative thinking out there with businesses now looking to launch some new services often with a clear market segment in mind. We can then support the campaign digitally or through more conventional marketing communication typically however with a bit of both. This is all good stuff – but there can be issues with this type of campaign.
In professional services marketing the majority of new business still comes from existing clients, reputation and referral. The web of course is central to pretty much all marketing processes but it is important to understand how potential referrers and new clients use the internet. We see a great deal of web traffic looking to ‘verify’ information or ‘extend understanding’ as opposed to ‘shopping’. What this typically means is that visitors have heard of the firm or the people within it and are now seeking more information. As such the site needs to be structured in a way that reflects this. There is however another important implication in that marketing activity still needs to involve more direct personal contact with referral sources and potential clients.
It is this more direct approach that should not be forgotten in the rush to make use of the full range of marketing tools and techniques. If a business is looking to promote a new service it is worth stepping back and asking a simple question. ‘Before we embark on this multi-layered campaign do our existing clients know about this service, have we penetrated our trusted referral sources and influencers in depth to ensure they know about our service?’
Experience suggests that many firms do not have a structured approach to penetrating referral sources or indeed cross selling to existing clients. Most will be able to name referral sources but these can be a few individuals in a relatively large organisation of potential referral sources. There are no ‘relationship farming’ plans in place and activity is often left to adhoc meetings and the odd attendance at an event.
Another issue we encounter is where some individuals within professional service firms find personal marketing, networking or indeed ‘selling’ difficult or uncomfortable. In these situations the marketing team can be used as a smokescreen to give an impression of activity when in fact the start point should have been addressing the skill set of the individual and deploy some coaching and in some instances some strong and mentoring line management.
Starting with the low hanging fruit of existing clients, referral sources and influencers is extremely wise and a good way to minimise campaign costs. It does not happen by accident. It requires strong line management, a ‘marketing culture’, a structured approach to skill development and some tools and techniques. This is not an either or debate. Professional service businesses need integrated marketing communications campaigns to support their range of services but this should not be at the expense of maximising referrals or ignoring the potential of existing clients.
As such Conical has evolved its range of marketing support services to include training and coaching in core business development skills and as a matter of course explores maximising opportunities from existing contacts before embarking on more mass marketing techniques.