IDEAS & OUTCOMES: The Keys to Professional Service Marketing

Modern professional services marketing did not really begin until 1977.  Up to that time, “marketing” was what the male-dominated professions did on the golf course.  But when an Arizona court decision allowed lawyers to advertise in 1977, it ushered a new era, which also coincided with the rapid growth of female professionals.

Still, many PR people are mystified by services marketing.  Our firm has been involved in this space since 1979, so maybe we can eliminate some of the mystery.  Always bear in mind that professionals differentiate themselves by the quality of their thinking as well as their performance. That’s thought leadership – what we call the “marketing of ideas.”

Rules of the Road

Here are a few things to remember:

First, companies that buy a service are looking for one thing – a predictable outcome.  From a CPA firm, it’s an error-free audit; from a management consulting firm, it could be a new go-to-market strategy.  Corporations want successful trials from law firms and brilliant candidates from executive search firms.  You get the idea.

Second, there is no guarantee that the buyer gets the desired outcome.  Because services are delivered by people, they don’t offer the predictability of products.  That makes relevant experience the key to the buying decision.  Buyers want to know if a service provider has a track record of successful outcomes within a functional area, an industry, or both.

Making Experience Come Alive

How do you market experience?  Certainly, the names of a firm’s clients are its most important asset.  But those clients – and the services performed for them – are often confidential and cannot be used in B2B marketing communications.

What can be used are the insights of the firm’s people, which reflect their experience.  Intelligently applied to the trends, issues and concerns of the target market – and the media that reach it – insights become the key differentiating factor.  This is the marketing of ideas.

Getting Started

People love to talk about their work, and professionals are no exceptions to the rule.  Ask them:

  1. What were your most interesting recent engagements?
  2. What did you learn from them?
  3. How does that apply to the larger market for your services?

And, if you’re a communications professional, can’t you ask these same questions of yourself and develop your own thought leadership platforms?  Go ahead and try – and let us know how it turns out.

(photo by Kopfjäger)

To reach John:

Phone: 212.840.0444
LinkedIn:  John Bliss