Professional Services Marketing Part 1
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Professional services marketing.
How the best firms build premiere brands, thriving lead generation engines, and cultures of business development success.
Mike Schultz & John Doerr.
To my dad, Stan Schultz, the father every son wants.
To the memory of my dad, Joseph Doerr. His time was too short, but it sure was full.
We'd first like to acknowledge our col eagues at the Wel esley Hil s Group and RainToday.com who kept the train running while we took the time to write this book: Rachel Hayes, Bob Croston, Mark Fortune, Bob Van Emburgh, Patrick Cahil , Sandy O'Del , Erica Stritch, Mary Flaherty, Laurie Stafinski, Aaron Joslow, Kel y Kerr, Karina Duran, Terese Riordan, Jae-ann Rock, and Sue Brisson, al of whom work with hustle, pa.s.sion, and intensity (HPI). Thanks as wel to our extended team who worked with us on the research we've cited in the book and on the book itself: Mark Eisner, Andrea Rosal, and Scott Whipple. We'd also like to thank Michael Sheehan, Michael May, Edmond Russ, Paul Dunay, and Kevin McMurdo, who generously gave their time to lend their thoughts and experiences to the content of the book.
To our valued clients, we thank you for the privilege of working with you and accepting us as members of your team. To the contributors, members, and readers of RainToday.com, we appreciate your support, content, questions, and interactions with us through the years.
We'd like to thank leading bloggers, thinkers, and writers who, over the past several years, have influenced our thoughts about marketing, sales, and business, including the fol owing bloggers: We'd like to acknowledge the RainToday.com authors, who help us bring the best marketing and sales advice to the professional services world, including: Contributing editors: Charles H. Green*, C.J. Hayden, Jil Konrath*, Bruce W. Marcus*, Michael W. McLaughlin*, Vickie K. Sulivan, and Alan Weiss.
Authors: Tim Adams, Felipe Aguiar, Jason Alba, Ardath Albee, Dave Alexander, Paige Arnof-Fenn, Ron Baker, Elise Bauer, Robbie Baxter, Iise Benun* , Barbara Bix, Catherine Blake, Bob Bly* , Larry Bodine* , Annette Boyle, Laurie Brown, Scott Buresh, Mark Burton, Marcie Cal an, George Calys, Jim Camp, Joan Capelin, Brian Carrol *, Ken Carson, Jim Cathcart, Michelangelo Cel i, Lyn Chamberlin, Paul Cherry, Scottie Claiborne, Michel e Cla.s.s, Cynthia Coldren, Paul Col ins, Karen Compton, Charlie Cook, Mike Cook, Kimberly Cooley, Stephanie Craft, Gale Crosley, Michael Cucka, Fiona Czerniawska, Virginia Daffron, Doug Davidoff, Mark Dembo, Kevin Dervin, ArLyne Diamond, Brian Dietmeyer, Hugh Duffy, Jil Eastman, Kevin Eikenberry, Jonathan Farrington, Brad Farris, Neil Fauerbach, Keith Ferrazzi*, Erin Ferree, Col een Francis, Robert Galford, Amy Gesenhues, Scott Ginsberg, Paul Gladen, Sal y Glick, Mitchel Gooze, Rebecca Gould, Pamela Gordon, Don Gray, Jim Grigsby, Keri Hammond, Ford Harding, Cal Harrison, Todd Hendries, Elizabeth Henry, Greg Heydel, Casey Hibbard, Dr. Reed K. Holden, Sara Holtz, Bob Howard, Dianna Huff, d.i.c.k Jacques, Jay Jaffe, Dave Jakielo, Linda Jenkins, Catherine Jewel , Ron Karr, Kimberly Kayler, Ashley Kizzire, Ed Kless*, Jonathan Kranz, Sheryl Kravitz, Art Kuesel, Susan Wylie Lanfray, Terri Langhans, Brent Larlee, David A. Lax, Marsha Leest, Mel Lester, Mark Levy, Don Linder, Jay Lipe*, Ken Lizotte, Pam Lontos, Phil Lotane, Richard Lozano, Sharon Machrone, Eliot Madow, Barry Maher, David Maister, Kathy Maixner, Larry Mandelberg, Steve Markman, Bob Martel, Nancy Martinez, Harry Max, Matthew May, Paul McCord, Patrick McEvoy, Patrick McKenna, Maureen McNamara, Nilofer Merchant, Todd Miechiels, Robert Mil ard *, Nicholas Mil er, Barry Moltz, Robert Moment, Gwen Moran, Tiffany Mura, Glenn Murray, Harriet Nezer, Ernest Nicastro, Lyne Noel a, Tim Noworyta, James Oberymayer*, Julia O'Connor, Sandy O'Del , Erica Olsen, Lisa Ordel , Abhay Padgaonkar, Michel e Palmer, Roger Parker, Roger C. Parker, Chris Perrino, Barnes Dennig, Promise Phelon, Tom Pick, d.i.c.k Pirrozol o, Michael Platt, Ed Pol *, Michael Port, Elge Premeau, Janet El en Raasch, Sridhar Ramanathan, Lydia Ramsey, Carey Ransom, Lauren Rikleen, Kel ey Robertson, Andrea Rosal, Alan Rosenspan, Dan Safford, Mark Satterfield, Anne Scarlett, James Schakenbach, Ilene Schwartz, David Meerman Scott*, Jeff Scurry, Stephen Seckler*, Randy Shattuck, Alan Sharpe, E. Michael Shays, Idora Silver, Rick Sloboda, Ron Smith, Tom Snyder, Andrew Sobel, Michael Stelzner, Doug Stern, Ruth P. Stevens, Jeff Thul , Nick Usborne, Mike Van Horn, Tom Varjan*, Michel e Wacek, Steve Walmsley, Wendy Ward, Steve Waterhouse, Michael Webb, Wendy Weiss, Richard Weylman, Richard White, Ruth Winett, Eva Wisnik, Jeff Wolf, and Mark Zweig. (NOTE: Authors with an asterisk after their names are also noted previously in the list of bloggers.) We are also grateful to Matt Holt, Executive Editor at John Wiley & Sons, who shared our vision for this book from the outset. Our thanks also go to Daniel Ambrosio and Jessica Campilango, who helped us keep on target through the editing process, and to everyone else at Wiley who helped see this book to its final form.
-Mike Schultz and John Doerr.
The task of writing a book is more than just the act of writing. The true work goes on behind the scenes as you draw upon your family, friends, and col eagues to support, encourage, and often put up with you as you drive to the finish line. To Chris Mirabile, my wife, my best friend, and my guide through this journey cal ed life, thank you for always believing in me and my dreams. To my sons, John Michael and Andrew, just because you are who you are. To my mom, Gloria Doerr, who has always been my inspiration for staying young by working hard, even when you have done so for 82 years. To my siblings, Jean, Judi, Jennifer, Jodi, and Jim (and al their children and grandchildren), thank you for defining family, caring in a very special way, and selecting wonderful people to bring into our family. And, of course, to Mike, co-author and friend, who continues to energize me. I couldn't have done my part without you al .
Thank you, John, my co-author, partner, and friend. Dan Cohen, thank you for your teaching and support and for being the model of sel ing with hustle, pa.s.sion, intensity, and integrity. Steve Lisauskas and Dean Ierardi, for everything you both do and give. Tony Bettencourt for cooking everything up. Nancy Harris, for the love you give and happiness you spread. To my sister Al yson for giving me the front seat at least once or twice a year. Toby, my constant companion.
And to my wife and best friend, Erica Schultz.
One of the great things about professional services marketing, and one of the most chal enging, is that everyone has an opinion. The conflicting advice covers just about every aspect of marketing from big-picture strategy to the most detailed of tactics. Amid al the contradictory advice, al the must-do tactics, al the marketing maxims, and al the horror stories of marketing gone bad are the decisions you have to make about what to do to grow your firm. Then, after you have final y sorted through your decisions, you have to make sure you do a good job getting it al done (and avoiding the pitfal s that can trip you up) so marketing can impact the firm's growth like it should. Sorting out what's what is no easy task.
As consultants to professional services firms and researchers in the field, we've spoken with literaly thousands of professional service firm leaders over the past few decades. Different as their situations and firms might be, the chal enges are similar. We often hear comments such as: * "We argue about what we're going to do with marketing al the time . . . and then do nothing."
* "Some people believe in marketing and business development, and some people don't. This wreaks havoc on our ability to get on the same page about what we've got to do to grow."
* "It seems like everyone here is a decision maker. This hamstrings our ability to move forward on almost anything worthwhile."
* "Crafting and then establis.h.i.+ng a brand message has got to be the most painful and elusive thing we've ever tried to do. Even after al this time, people don't even agree on what a brand is, never mind what we stand for."
* "We get a lot of advice about how to build a marketing plan, but it doesn't seem to make sense for us. We spend a lot of time on fruitless activities, and then don't know what we're missing and where we have gone wrong."
* "We've put together marketing plans, and we think we've done a good job. But we don't know if they are real y good, because, while we always start with a lot of energy, implementation wanes. We just don't get them done."
* "If our senior people could just get more at bats-more cracks at new deals-we would win them; it's just so hard to get in front of the right buyers."
* "Everyone talks a good game like they're going to sel more, but then they don't."
* "We've hired marketing firms to help us, and it just never turns out as wel as we hoped it might."
* "I'd never say it publicly, but it's hard to differentiate. So many firms look just like us and can say the same things we say, even if, in reality, we are quite different."
* "When we're busy, we don't market, because we have no time. Then we come off of projects and wonder where the next project is going to come from. This revenue rol er coaster is not a fun ride."
* "We're just too smal ; we don't have the resources and budget to either generate leads or become wel -known in the market."
* "Clients view our work as a commodity and pressure us on fees al the time."
* "We've tried [select tactic]: cold cal ing, webinars, seminars, podcasts, white papers, primary research, conference exhibiting, sponsors.h.i.+ps, direct mail, speaking, referral programs, hiring big-gun business developers, marketing partners.h.i.+ps, branding, advertising, public relations, articles, books, e-mail marketing, search engine marketing, skywriting, telepathy, and so on. And none of them worked."
However, we also hear stories of how firms both large and smal have dominated their particular s.p.a.ce because of their marketing and branding efforts. They have become thought leaders, implemented lead generation campaigns that fil ed the pipeline and yielded a flood of business, and built systems and processes to ensure that their success can build on itself.
Success rarely comes easily, though. The professional services firms that succeed with marketing and seling typicaly have at least one thing in common: They've had failures, usual y some whoppers, on their way to becoming the marketing and sel ing machines that they are.
Our aim in Professional Services Marketing: How the Best Firms Build Premier Brands, Thriving Lead Generation Engines, and Cultures of Business Development Success is to help you sort out what's what in both the strategy and the tactics of marketing so you can make the best decisions on what to do and to help you avoid some of the mistakes so common to professional service firm marketing.
Good managers can be described as seeing the forest through the trees. One of our goals in writing this book is to help you manage the entire marketing process. From building marketing strategies and plans to crafting brand and marketing messages, to implementing an ongoing lead generation engine, to supporting the firm's sales efforts-good day-to-day management and decision making mean the difference between marketing success and failure.
If good managers can see the forest through the trees, good leaders are the ones who stand up and shout, "Wrong forest!" when they need to.
Firms need to make the right decisions about what to do, what to spend, and how to place key people in the right roles to harness their time and energy. Yet, despite the best of intentions, the al igators sometimes get them. Firms of al shapes and sizes fal into ruts, creating unproductive processes and unproductive internal conversations. Perhaps most important of al , what firms (and the people inside the hal owed firm wal s) did last year to make them successful isn't necessarily what they need to do this year. These are the chal enges of leaders.h.i.+p.
It's our sincere hope that Professional Services Marketing wil lend insight that can help you manage and lead your marketing and growth efforts.
Before you get started on the journey, here are a few things to keep in mind: * The first rule of services marketing-a key to revenue and profitability growth-is getting your service right. The more value you deliver, the more satisfied your clients wil be. The more satisfied they are, the more likely it is they wil stay loyal to your firm and refer other clients to you. This has been wel established in research such as The Service Profit Chain 1 and How Clients Buy. 2 It also makes obvious sense. Get your service right, because the better your firm is able to deliver value to clients, the more marketing wil make an impact. You may be saying to yourself, "We're striving al the time to serve our clients at a higher level. Yet, given how good we are right now-today-what should we do to market and sel ?" If this is you, you're reading the right book.
* Along with our client work with numerous professional services firms and our experience as services marketing pract.i.tioners, this book draws on the primary research we've conducted through our own firm, the Wel esley Hil s Group, and our publis.h.i.+ng arm, RainToday .com. Our research studies include How Clients Buy: The Benchmark Report on Professional Services Marketing and Sel ing from the Client Perspective (2009), Benchmark Report on Fees and Pricing in Professional Services (2008), What's Working in Lead Generation (2007), The Business Impact of Publis.h.i.+ng a Book (2006), and several others. For more information and background on this research, visit www.raintoday.com.
* This book is written for professional services firms of al sizes. Which concepts from the book you use and how you apply them are questions of calibration. Throughout the book we provide examples from and a.n.a.lysis of firms both large and smal . You'l find quotes, case studies, and stories throughout. Specifical y for the purposes of this book, we spoke with (and thank) a number of firm leaders, including: * Mike May, professor at Babson Col ege, former Partner and Co-Vice Chairman at KPMG and former Global Managing Partner of the strategy business at Accenture.
* Kevin McMurdo, Chief Marketing Officer, Perkins Coie.
* Paul Dunay, Global Director of Integrated Marketing, BearingPoint.
* Mike Sheehan, CEO, Hil Hol iday.
* Edmond Russ, Chief Marketing Officer, Grant Thornton.
In his book Blink,3 Malcolm Gladwel popularized the concept of "thin slicing." You can think of thin slicing as the ability to discern what's realy important about something quickly, often without a lot of information. Who can thin slice? Typical y people with years of experience, and many different experiences. Much as some might like a step-by-step primer on how to create and lead a major league marketing and sales engine, there is no subst.i.tute for experience, talent, skil , and pa.s.sion. Many of the components of professional services marketing-from strategy development to crafting marketing messages to connecting with clients and earning their trust-require the right kind of thinking and the right kind of experience.
Whether you're the firm leader, marketing leader, sales leader, or individual contributor on the team, with the right thinking plus the right experience you'l be able to make the best decisions as quickly as you should, discern the paths of success from the paths of danger, and be able to reap maximum benefits from your toil. (Whether good thinking plus experience yields the ability to thin slice or just plain competence, who is to say?) While we provide concrete, specific advice and examples throughout the book, our hope in Professional Services Marketing is that we influence your thinking. The experience (and hustle, pa.s.sion, and intensity), you'l have to provide yourself.
We al know that professional services firms used to rely solely on repeat business and referrals to fuel growth. Long as they might for the old days when al the marketing they had to do was hang out a s.h.i.+ngle and al the sel ing they had to do was answer the phone when it rang, those days are gone. The s.h.i.+p has sailed. The parade's gone by. The cheese has moved.
And with this change comes opportunity. Al you need to do is take advantage of it.
-Mike Schultz and John Doerr.
What Marketing Can Do for a Firm.
There is no doubt that if marketing were done perfectly, selling, in the actual sense of the word, would be unnecessary.
Question: How does a CEO fix his company's technology problems? Answer: He yel s louder at his information technology manager.
This is an old joke with the tech folks, now gaining popularity in marketing. When new business isn't coming in like it's supposed to, the managing partner (or president or COO) doesn't offer much insight on what to do, but turns up the volume on this one-note message: Do some marketing!
This can be funny if you aren't (1) the target of the message and the rant that typical y accompanies it, (2) desperate for revenue, and (3) frustrated because you know that, no matter how loud the yel , it won't do much to stampede new clients through the door.
Before we "do some marketing," let's explore what it can do for a professional services firm. Effective marketing at a professional services firm produces essential y four measurable outcomes:4 1. Conversations with potential buyers.
2. Better odds of winning client engagements.
3. Higher revenue per engagement and client, and higher fees for services.
4. Increased affinity with the actual and potential workforce.
Service firm marketers sometimes bel yache that they don't get the respect they deserve from firm leaders and bil able professionals. More often than you might think, it's because they don't deserve the budgets they have and don't produce the business impact that warrants esteem from company leaders.h.i.+p. Marketers: Do a better job producing these business outcomes, and you'l find respect, admiration, and robust budgets as you merrily go along. Firm leaders (or you, if you're the leader and the marketer): Demand these outcomes. Get behind initiatives that produce these outcomes. And if you are pitched a course of action that doesn't serve these masters, it's a strong candidate for the cutting-room floor.
Firm leaders and marketers make the best marketing decisions, and implement the best marketing programs, when they keep their eyes on the first three prizes. Throughout the course of this book, we wil explore in depth how firms employ marketing and sel ing to achieve these outcomes.
Before we do this, it's important to explore what marketing can do for firms.
Generate New Conversations with Potential Buyers Cal it lead generation, cal it business development, cal it the first step in sel ing, or cal it any other name; firms need to create conversations with potential clients before they can make a sale. That might sound basic-because it is. Stil , the concept of creating an external conversation, one that can produce a new client and new revenue, too often doesn't find its way into the internal marketing conversations at the firm.
Why? Because for many firms, repeat business and referrals used to be sufficient by themselves to attract new clients and grow revenue. While repeat business and referrals are stil necessary for firms and are often stil the major way service firms fil the front end of the business development pipeline, they are often no longer sufficient to sustain current revenue levels or grow the firm.
During the halcyon days of flowing referrals, less compet.i.tion, and simpler industry dynamics, many professional services firms operated less like businesses and more like country clubs. Answering the phone was pretty much al the lead generation they did. Times certainly have changed.
To examine just how much times had changed, the Welesley Hils Group and RainToday.com surveyed 231 buyers of professional services across a number of professional services categories. Together, these buyers represented over $1.7 bil ion of services purchased in the previous year.
In this survey we asked buyers questions in two princ.i.p.al areas: 1. How do you identify and engage discussions with providers of professional services?
2. During your decision-making process, what factors influence your decision to engage (or not engage) a particular provider of professional services?
The results, published in How Clients Buy: 2009 Benchmark Report on Professional Services Marketing and Selling from the Client Perspective,5 included data on the methods buyers use to find potential service providers. (See Figure 1.1.) Based on our research, we can see that referrals are stil the top methods buyers use. Regardless of changing industry dynamics, service businesses remain relations.h.i.+p businesses built on foundations of trust. Service buyers seek referrals from col eagues and other service providers, even when they know they can find providers themselves, because they want to know who their trusted friends and advisors trust. When buyers receive a name from someone they trust, the service provider is the beneficiary of transferred trust from the referrer to them.
Figure 1.1 Methods Buyers Are Very/Somewhat Likely to Use.
to Initially Identify and Learn More about Professional.
For example, let's say Jim is the president of a midsize manufacturing company and he's talking to Mary, his chief operating officer (COO).
Jim: Mary, we've got to get a handle on why we're losing market share to other domestic providers.
Mary: When I was at ManuCorp, Jim, we ran into the same problem. We used Steve Smith and his team at Arch Consulting, and it turned out we were losing share based on three factors, two of which we never even considered. Once we knew what we were dealing with and implemented the turnaround plans we conceived with Steve and his team, we shot back up to number one in 18 months. I can give him a cal and see if he can come in to talk to us about it.
a.s.suming Jim trusts Mary, Steve Smith and Arch Consulting now have a significant advantage in winning an a.n.a.lysis and strategy engagement because of the trust that Mary has transferred to Jim through the referral. Transferred trust is the power of the referral and why it's so much easier and quicker for service providers to win business from referrals than with any other method.
Ranking third in our findings-the only other method besides referrals that scored greater than 70 percent-was "personal recognition or awareness" of the provider. This has numerous implications for how firms can use marketing to generate new conversations. In the world of marketing, we have a word for recognition and awareness: brand. As a concept, brand is often misunderstood, misapplied, and argued about in professional services firms. That brand is a major factor in your ability to grow a firm is indisputable. (How to establish a brand [as wel as how one should think about brand at a professional services firm] is the subject of Chapters 8 through 14.) As we mentioned earlier, referrals and brand are not enough to satisfy most firms' growth desires. The next most popular methods buyers use to find service providers are conference and seminar presentations. This is true for a number of reasons (we cover this in some detail in Chapter 16); but for now, suffice it to say that public speaking can be a very powerful component of generating conversations in the marketplace.
When it comes to speaking engagements, perhaps the greatest chalenges are getting them and getting good ones. Who does get them?
People with a reputation (aka brand) for being great speakers, who are thought leaders in particular areas, or who are known to be an attendance draw (again, they have a brand). How can one develop said brand aside from leaving it to luck and hope? The best way is smart, focused marketing over an extended period of time.
Even as we move down the list of methods buyers use to identify potential service providers, the methods are stil used quite frequently by buyers. Five or six out of every 10 buyers are using providers' web sites and Internet searches, reading news stories both online or in print, visiting conference exhibits, meeting people at conferences, and reading case studies.
Even those methods seemingly lost in the middle or relegated to the bottom of the list, such as "telephone cal from rep of service firm" (47 percent very or somewhat likely to use), "mail" (42 percent), and "e-mail sent from provider" (41 percent), can be extremely useful for generating conversations if employed correctly.
"You can't long for the good old days."
-Mike Sheehan, CEO, Hil Hol iday.
MARKETING'S FOUR MEASURABLE OUTCOMES.
Marketing can deliver: 1. New conversations with potential buyers.
Professional Services Marketing Part 1
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