How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today

I've been a professional service

marketer and entrepreneur now for nearly

25 years and over the course of my

career I've worn many hats but I've

always been in the business of growing

service firms sometimes that means

growing brand awareness sometimes that

means repositioning brands sometimes

that means productizing services so they

are easier to sell sometimes that means

coaching sales and business development

teams but there is one thing that has

not changed over those 25 years I

believe the fundamental goal of

marketing is to make a firm more

valuable there are many ways to do this

many initiatives that could contribute

to the goal but the goal itself adding

value really hasn't changed what has

changed a great deal

over the past 10 years is how service

firms go to market how they build

trusted relationships with prospects and

how they acquire great new clients

there's been nothing less than an

earthquake of disruption and service

marketing it's radically different today

than when I started my career yet the

goal remains the same add value what's

the best way to do that today

how should sales and marketing leaders

build their strategy what should be in

and what should be out of your plans

what is the best way to apply your

resources to most likely realize growth

well here are my perspectives

when I look at all of the changes that

have taken place in professional service

marketing and sales over the last decade

or so I'm struck by one phenomenon while

the tactics have changed tremendously

the strategy remains relatively constant

and here it is if you want to be

successful in growing a professional

service firm you have to get in front of

the right people and tell them the right

story you have to make the right

promises and those promises need to be

compelling and meaningful for those

people then you have to deliver against

your promises without question you have

to maintain your credibility if you do

this you'll grow that's it

it's really that simple so the strategy

really hasn't changed what has changed

tremendously over the last several years

is the number of ways you can tell that

story the messaging platforms and the

ways you can get in front of the right

people the channels but the process of

telling stories and making promises

really is not all that different today

than it was when I started my career

this is where a lot of service firms are

making mistakes today and running into

some pretty significant challenges just

because you're telling your story on

Twitter today versus the direct mail

piece 20 years ago that doesn't mean the

story or the promise can be any less

meaningful this is why it my advice to

you about how to build your sales and

marketing plans starts with the

foundation of everything else

positioning in fact here are my four

areas for sales and marketing success

and professional services today one

developed the best position to deploy

content marketing 3 acquire the right

technology systems and 4 adopt a

scientific or orientation let's look at

each one of these in greater detail

positioning concerns being crystal clear

about who you want to serve and how you

impact them when your position is clear

there is no doubt about who your ID

ideal client is or what you can do for

them this is the single biggest area

where I see professional service firms

struggling today let me explain what I

mean by this if I were to ask an

accountant what do you do

they might answer I'm an accountant if I

were to ask a lawyer the same question

they might say I'm a lawyer if I ask an

engineer they might say I'm an engineer

the same is true of an architect a

financial advisor or even a professional

coach but none of these statements

actually answer the question let me

provide some alternatives that I think

make this point about position and clear

I'll ask the question and answer by

professional service provider what do

you do account I help entrepreneurs

realize their financial dreams by

optimizing cash flows and reducing taxes


I protect and enhance the value of a

company's most important assets their

intellectual property architect I

empower land developers to design and

build spaces that human beings love to

occupy financial advisor I give families

peace of mind knowing that they are on

track to accomplish the financial goals

that matter most to them coach I inspire

and guide the next generation of leaders

to break through to new heights of

personal performance and quality of life

IT consultant I accelerate my clients

toward their goals with technology

systems that improve productivity and

stakeholder delight you see the key

component of positioning is not what its

who who do you serve

what do they want to accomplish then

it's how how do you serve these people

how does you serving them propel them

toward their goals more effectively than

if you were not serving them finally

there is the what what do you do what

service do you offer but the what always

comes after the WHO and the how the

biggest mistake I see in service

marketing and selling is focused

the what and virtually ignoring the who

this is completely backwards this also

makes your story completely

indistinguishable from every other

service organization on the planet today

there are thousands of accountants

lawyers architects financial advisers

coaches and IT consultants the question

becomes why would someone pick your firm

rather than a firm down the street if

you want to win you have to position for

the WHO and the how the who is who you

serve the how is how what you do impacts

them in ways that are meaningful to them

if you get your positioning right then

everything else will follow

content marketing is the single greatest

opportunity I've ever witnessed to tell

great stories it is so important in fact

that I've developed an action guide

about this topic it's called seven steps

to a content marketing program that

consistently yields ideal clients and

it's free on our website the action

guide contains seven videos and seven

downloadable tools so what is content

marketing well I think of content

marketing as the ultimate try before you

buy opportunity for prospective clients

you see herein lies the problem with

services they're intangible I cannot

hold them in my hand or compare the

features and benefits of this service

versus that service there is no credible

buyer's guide that allows me to compare

either service offerings or service

providers this means as a service buyer

I'm taking a lot of risk I have to trust

a service provider a great deal to sign

an agreement that says in so many words

I'll give you a lot of money and you'll

give me nothing tangible in return

now that's faith what service buyers are

actually acquiring believe it or not is

the opportunity to achieve an outcome

that matters to them they're not buying

your services per se they are buying a

likelihood a probability and this

probability sounds to them something

like this by hiring you to achieve this

goal I am far more likely to reel

the outcome that I desire then if I try

to do this on my own or if I hire some

other service provider so the question

becomes what inspires them to take that

leap of faith what causes them to say

yes to your promise and my experience

there's one question that matters more

than any other as it relates to getting

a yes how are you going to accomplish

this goal from me from my business from

my family this is the single most

important question I train service sales

and business development people to

listen for this is the question that all

of our content strategies are designed

to elicit we want today's sophisticated

service buyer to self persuade using

digital resources and content and then

ask that all-important question this

question how will you do it for me is

really about approach service buyers

want to know what your approach will be

to accomplishing the goals that matter

to them

in fact I've come to believe that

approach matters just as much as

high-profile people and a respected

brand that's well recognized in your

industry when people say yes to your

service offering they're really saying

yes to your approach so the question

becomes how do they learn about that

approach and what gives them the

confidence to say yes this is

complicated by the fact that we live in

an age of deep distrust in this day and

age prospective service buyers don't

want to talk to a human being until

after they've made up their mind that

you could be their service provider in

other words they want to make 90 percent

of the decision about whether or not to

work with you without giving you a voice

and that decision process at least not a

human voice they expect you to earn

their trust without actually talking to

them a huge factor in their decision

making process will be their confidence

in your people your history of

delivering results and in the approach

that they think you'll take to achieve

their goals if they're not confident in

your people your history

outcomes or your approach they'll walk

away and you'll never even know you

missed a deal so how do they learn about

all of that or gain confidence in it if

they're not willing to talk to you this

is where content marketing has forever

changed the game if you give people

great ideas about how to accomplish

their goals long before they become your

client they get to sample your approach

they get to try before they buy and this

means you win since today's

sophisticated service buyer wants to

take their inbound journey independent

of a human being you have a challenge if

you produce content and ideas that

attract prospective service buyers how

do you know who's leaning in how do your

sales and business development people

know with whom they should be spending

time how do you demonstrate to yourself

and your stakeholders that all of your

investments in marketing are actually

producing the outcomes you want to

realize how do you know whether or not

you are producing an ROI and what size

is that ROI these questions are the

primary impetus behind a new approach to

technology for sales and marketing teams

at service firms after a decade of

experimenting I've come up with an

acronym that now guides all of our

technology recommendations and

investments just to be clear I don't

recommend something that we haven't

implemented ourselves and the acronym

goes like this

CMS + m a+ crm + sm equals success these

are the technology systems you need to

invest in to produce a high performance

sales and marketing system that

consistently impacts growth let's go

through each of these in greater detail

CMS stands for content management

systems CMS's are used to build and

manage websites and deploy content

marketing on a consistent basis here are

some guidelines to help you think about

what you need in a CMS it should produce

a mobile responsive website because you

cannot ignore today's mobile user it

should be easy to work in and intuitive

for the

who managed your site it should be

extensible and allow you to quickly add

new pages in today's content driven

world you should be updating your

website at least weekly ma stands for

marketing automation marketing

automation systems sit between your CMS

and your CRM system and convey critical

information at my firm we work in

several different marketing automation

platforms here are some guidelines to

help you think about what you need in an

MA system it should track the digital

footprint of every user in your CRM and

translate that footprint into a score

based on a taxonomy that you define the

digital footprint tracking should

include every touch point a user and

could encounter email sends opens and

clicks web page visits form views and

submits media downloads social media

likes and shares the system should

accurately track time on site and time

on page for every user because this is a

key indicator of intent it should allow

for lead grading and this is a feature

that allows you to define who is most

likely to buy based on ideal client

profile criteria such as title geography

and Industry CRM stands for customer

relationship manager today for reasons

we cannot always explain all of our

clients use Salesforce SMM stands for

social media manager there are a number

of these tools available today and they

are quickly morphing in terms of

features and benefits if you visit our

website you'll find a number of free

resources that will help you think

through the best technology systems for

your needs

all of this technology should allow you

to accomplish a goal that I believe is

incredibly important adopting a

scientific orientation to serve as sales

and marketing

I don't believe in black magic or voodoo

or the secret sauce of rainmakers I'm

okay with getting lucky now and then in

business but for the most part I want to

know that if I pull certain levers I'm

going to achieve certain results

time after time I want to understand

cause and effect relationships I don't

want to rely on luck this is where I

believe you have to commit to measuring

everything and then asking yourself what

worked and what didn't and why as a

young marketing professional these

questions scared me but as a seasoned

entrepreneur I now believe these

questions are essential this is the

approach that we now take for us and for

all of our clients put forward our best

hypotheses about what we believe will

most likely achieve the goals get all of

the best ideas on the table and vet them

until we're satisfied put forward a

scientific and measurable goal for every

major initiative make this reasonable

well at the same time having a stretch

quality to it define how the initiative

will be measured discuss not only the

metrics but also the specific tools that

you are confident will produce accurate

and reliable data build a plan to

execute the initiative using a Gantt

chart execute measure analyze the

outcomes if you take these steps you put

yourself in the best possible position

to become a learning organization those

organizations who commit to excellence

and to a scientific orientation will

learn will refine

and we'll grow