Just when you feel as if you’ve successfully navigated heavy proposal season, you move right into another high velocity time period: planning. If the process of planning your marketing strategy feels like a heavy lift, here are a few tips for making it go more smoothly.
1. Start by considering what has changed since your last planning process.
This is a smart way to view needed changes in a more useful context, and also prepare your team to consider new ideas. Consider, for instance, what marketing strategies your competitors (both old and new) have put into place. Also, have you experienced changes in sales or revenue, or introduced new services? Remember: as your marketing environment changes, it’s important to make sure your marketing plan is up-to-date.
2. Focus on which problems you solve and how you provide value — not simply on the services you provide.
The reality is that prospects and teaming partners are generally not interested in your organization or its services — unless they understand the value you can provide. Because they’re buying your solutions (as opposed to your services), focus on their specific problems and how you can solve them.
3. Use research for strategic advantage.
The more insight you have about your market, clients, prospects, and competitors, the more specifically you can address them in your marketing plan. Fortunately, knowledge is power, and research reduces risk. Not all research is equally helpful, however: consumer-style research, for example, generally doesn’t provide the insights needed for marketing B2B professional services.
4. The best tool for winning new clients and attracting top talent? Expertise.
It goes without saying that potential clients want to hire the best talent their money can buy. By making your firm’s expertise both visible and compelling, you’ll make it far more likely that prospects will want to talk to you first. Likewise, the best talent wants to work at the most highly-regarded firms. If your firm is acknowledged as an expert in its field, you’ll be positioned to attract the best employees, too.
5. To convey your expertise, be more visible, and make complicated topics easier to understand.
The more widely your firm’s experts are seen and heard in social media, conferences and other venues, the more prospects will turn to them for a clear understanding of the complex topics affecting them. We call these people Visible Experts®, and the more visible and relevant they are to your prospects, the better you’ll do at attracting new business. This is not just hype: our research shows that buyers seek out Visible Experts when they need a fast solution to a specific problem or challenge.
6. Use proven marketing techniques.
Here again, it’s smart to do a little homework to learn how and where prospects like to receive their information — and then include those channels or venues in your marketing plan (while avoiding channels that they aren’t using). As a starting point, take the time to make sure your website is up-to-date and easy to navigate, and that it contains the kind of valuable content needed to attract the right target audience.
7. Once you’ve planned your marketing, make sure to implement it correctly.
Even the most thoughtful and strategic marketing plans can go awry if they are under-funded, under-resourced, or poorly implemented. Make sure you have the resources and talent needed to successfully implement your plan — and if you don’t have the ability in-house to implement your plan, partner with an external resource that does.
8. If you have to, choose fewer initiatives — and fully resource those you do select.
It’s more effective to focus on the quality of your efforts, rather than on mere quantity. If you want to add a new marketing technique, you should also select which old one you are going to cease (or at least pause). You can have far more impact by focusing on a few highly targeted techniques than taking a shotgun approach or implementing half-baked marketing initiatives.
9. Make sure you’re attracting the necessary marketing talent.
Employer brand is a crucial but often-overlooked element in any marketing effort. Professional services firms that are good at attracting and retaining the right talent enjoy a major strategic advantage when it comes to marketing.
10. Track your marketing results at every stage.
Measuring short-term impacts is only step one. You should also be tracking how your marketing plan is supporting your firm’s overall business development strategy. Of the many marketing plans we’ve seen, the ones that contain specific milestones tend to develop the best results, and also provide a long-term roadmap for the firm’s growth.
The rest is up to you!
By choosing and implementing the right marketing plan and tools, professional services firms can expand their horizons and reach prospects in distant markets. Build some flexibility into your marketing plan — and resist the temptation to discard traditional tactics that have been successful in the past simply because they are old. Instead, carefully consider every tactic’s role and value, and then use research and your best judgment to select the ones best suited for your needs.
Elizabeth Harr, Partner at Hinge, is an accomplished entrepreneur and experienced executive with a background in strategic planning, branding and growth for professional services. Elizabeth co-founded a Microsoft solutions provider company and grew it into a thriving organization that became known for its expertise in Microsoft customer relationship management. In her role as Partner at Hinge, she leads the advisory provided to technology consulting and government services firms.