Professional Services Marketing Part 10
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In a way, establis.h.i.+ng a services brand folows a similar process. You swing the hammer (your marketing tactics, the marketing mix you employ, and the quality of your company's services), and the strength of your efforts determines whether your brand moves up the pole and makes it to the top to ring the bel .
The question is: What stages must your brand pa.s.s through in order to ring the bel?
Strip away the apparent complexity around what building a service brand is al about, and you find that the stages you have to reach with your own strongman efforts are quite straightforward: * Recognize: Your target clients must recognize you.
* Articulate: They need to be able to articulate what you do.
* Memorize: When they need your service, your company should be the first option they think of.
* Prefer: Your target clients should prefer to use your service versus al other options available to them.
While there are several interim stages in the services branding process through which you must travel, the desired end result-the golden goose of branding-is to establish strong preference for your brand over your compet.i.tors. (Can you hear the bel ringing?) Figure 12.1 Wellesley Hills Group Brand RAMPSM To help you visualize your steps to a stronger brand, fol ow the Brand RAMP. Within the RAMP framework and methodology (recognize, articulate, memorize, prefer), branding becomes approachable as a process and, at the same time, focused on a worthwhile business outcome.
Let's take a brief look at each stage of the Brand RAMP and see how it leads to establis.h.i.+ng a powerful services brand.
Recognize Question: What's the purpose of this marketing campaign?
Answer: Wel, we realy need to get our name out there. You know, establish our ident.i.ty.
We are about as impressed with this answer as we are with the salesperson who has a meeting with a prospective client and says the purpose "is to have a get-to-know-you meeting." The purpose of a sales meeting is to find sales opportunities and to advance a sale. Getting to know the client is part of what is done in that process. It's not a goal in and of itself.
In services branding, getting your name out there and establis.h.i.+ng an ident.i.ty is something that you do in the process of branding; it is not the goal. For most firms, focusing on stand-alone brand recognition leads to inefficient use of money, time, and effort in the marketing process. You work hard to get your name out there, but you do not generate actual business development activity.
WHO WAS THE AD WIZARD?.
John Wanamaker famously said, "I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I can never find out which half."
We've found both halves. They're in the Boston Business Journal (or any similar newspaper in cities throughout the United States).
Nothing against the BBJ-al it does is accept the ads that professional services firms send in. The problem is with the firms themselves; they craft such weak ads.
From just the perspective of the offers the companies make, these ads need some serious work. A quick review of 25 or so ads in a recent BBJ from accounting firms, law firms, management consulting firms, commercial real estate, investment banking, technology services, and other like firms revealed the fol owing offers: * Free cost-saving a.n.a.lysis . . .
* Cal me if you have a project . . .
* To schedule a meeting, cal . . .
* To take advantage of our expertise, cal . . .
* For more information on our services, cal . . . (Offered three times.) * Visit us at our web site . . . (Offered one time with a main home page URL and one time with a landing page URL.) No offer made occurred 16 times.
What does this tel us?
1. A whopping 16 times, there was no offer at al ! We can hear Adam Sandler now: "Who was the ad wizard who came up with that one?" Of course, companies have to make good offers for the ad to have any chance at being effective; but without any offer at al , these ads aren't doing much.
2. The "cal for more information," "visit our web site," and "schedule a meeting" offers aren't much better than no offer. One might as wel just say, "But enough about me . . . let's talk about me!" or "I couldn't think of anything to offer that you might find worthwhile, but if you want to buy something, I'm around."
3. In the "enough about me . . . let's talk about me" vein, many of the offers had announcements. Some popular ones were "we've merged," "we just hired some staff," and "we did some work that we're proud of." Me, me, me . . .
4. The "cost-saving a.n.a.lysis"-the only offer that even remotely hinted of potential value for the respondent-didn't have any detail about the a.n.a.lysis itself. This could easily have been taken care of by providing a landing page on the company's web site about the offer itself and a Web form where the visitor could sign up for the a.n.a.lysis. Plus, by providing a landing page and response form, the company could have a.n.a.lyzed the effectiveness of the ad (is it worth the money?) by tracking landing page visits and acceptances of the offer.
5. If we were to ask the people who came up with the strategies to place these ads to explain to us what they were doing and to defend their budgets, they'd probably give us the "brand building" argument. Not only could the ads be much better, but if we were most of these services firms, we probably wouldn't spend our money on ads in business journals. For most of these firms, there are better ways to generate recognition for their services.
Companies without enough outbound activity leave their business fortunes to serendipity. Worse, they never know where the next lead wil come from or how to plan for growth.
You need your prospective clients to recognize you. Without recognition you are at the whim of your referral base. As you start to generate recognition proactively, though, you need to do it in a way that serves other, higher return goals (namely the rest of the RAMP process).
Articulate Let's a.s.sume you make it past the recognition phase of the Brand RAMP. At this point, you want to avoid the fol owing: Question from your firm: So you've heard of us. Do you know what we do?
Answer from prospect: Yes, I've heard of you. What you do . . . I'm not sure.
A core goal of brand messaging is getting your prospective clients to be able to state, in clear terms, what you deliver. This serves multiple ends: * By knowing what you do, they wil know how, where, and when to apply your services.
* They wil now be able to refer you to others who can use your services.
* They are able to explain your services internal y so they can create a coalition (if it's necessary) to purchase your services.
It's so important, yet so many services firms struggle with how to articulate what they do. Regardless of your situation, whether your firm is large or smal , singularly focused or with a range of complex services, you need to get the message across.
The litmus test of whether it is getting across is asking a prospect, "Do you know what we do?" and hearing the answer you want to hear.
Memorize At some point we've al had the fol owing thought: "This is a sticky problem. . . . Oh, I remember there's a firm out there that focuses 100 percent on fixing this problem, and I've heard they're great. What was its name again? It slipped my mind. Oh, wel . On to other things."
The type of brand messaging you employ and how often you employ it wil affect how wel people remember you at the time of need. If they know who you are and they know what you do, but your marketing mix and your communications plan drop the bal in terms of creating a lasting impression, your business development efforts wil never perform to their ful est potential.
It's common sense that if buyers can't remember you when they have a need, they can't buy anything. Even if you have had aggressive marketing in the past, if you discontinue aggressive outreach or take a break if the economy or your business goes through a rough patch, you wil lose much of the business impact of your historical outreach.
Research from wel-respected consumer brand marketing company Milward Brown bears this out: The longer-term effect [of discontinuing aggressive marketing outreach] can be far more damaging. A good example comes from the U.K.
insurance market. A regular and reasonably heavy advertiser, this insurance company came off air, with only one subsequent burst two years later. Consideration levels plummeted over the next few years.31 HOW MANY IMPRESSIONS DOES IT TAKE?.
How many marketing touches does it take to affect buying preferences and to increase your brand preference? In going through some old files, we ran across an al -time favorite piece of advice. It goes like this: The first time people look at any given ad, they don't even see it.
The second time, they don't notice it.
The third time, they are aware that it is there.
The fourth time, they have a fleeting sense that they've seen it somewhere before.
The fifth time, they actual y read the ad.
The sixth time, they thumb their nose at it.
The seventh time, they start to get a little irritated with it.
The eighth time, they start to think, "Here's that confounded ad again."
The ninth time, they start to wonder that they may be missing out on something.
The tenth time, they ask their friends and neighbors if they've tried it.
The eleventh time, they wonder how this company is paying for al those ads.
The twelfth time, they start to think that it must be a good product.
The thirteenth time, they start to feel the product has value.
The fourteenth time, they start to remember wanting a product exactly like this for a long time.
The fifteenth time, they start to yearn for it because they can't afford to buy it.
The sixteenth time, they accept the fact that they wil buy it sometime in the future.
The seventeenth time, they make a note to buy the product.
The eighteenth time, they curse their poverty for not al owing them to buy this terrific product.
The nineteenth time, they count their money very careful y.
The twentieth time prospects see the ad, they buy what it is offering.
-Thomas Smith (published in 1885) As much as things change over the course of a century, many things stay the same as wel.
Prefer Prospective clients recognize you, can articulate what you do, and remember you at the elusive time of need. Stil , al of this may be for naught if they do not have a compel ing reason to want to work with you and your firm.
Brand preference is created in many ways. Your marketing activities and actual service experiences with your company are the two most common paths to building brand preference. Thus you should engage branding and marketing activities with the idea of creating preference for your services with your prospective and current clients.
Developing a brand ident.i.ty without the RAMP methodology firmly embedded in the beginning of the process often leads to graphic design and marketing campaigns in a vacuum. You don't want logos, web sites, brochures, presentations, and marketing tactics developed without the end goal in mind: creating a client's preference for your firm.
Back to the strongman game at the carnival . . .
The carnival is your market.
The sledgehammer is your brand implementation program.
The words on the pole are (from bottom to top): * Recognize * Articulate * Memorize * Prefer If you swing the hammer with the right force and hit the right spot, the prizes you win are more new clients and increased brand loyalty. And, unlike at the carnival, these prizes can be worth a great deal more than the cost of playing the game.
"There's a buying cycle. Before anyone is likely to buy, they've got to know who you are. The more aware they are of your name, the more that awareness breeds familiarity. Familiarity builds trust. Trust generates brand preference."
-Ed Russ, Chief Marketing, Grant Thornton
On Being Unique and Other Bad Marketing Advice The problem with the marketing concept is a persistent tendency toward rigidity. It gets dogmatized, interpreted into constantly narrower and inflexible prescriptions. . . . There is not, and cannot be, any rigid and lasting interpretation of what the marketing concept means in the specific ways a company should operate at any given time.
-Theodore Leavitt I got a bad grade on my final paper in entrepreneurs.h.i.+p cla.s.s in graduate school. The professor said, "The business you're proposing to launch . . .
it's not different. Other people do it. While the plan seems wel thought out and wel researched, due to the simple truth that this business has been largely done before and there doesn't seem to be anything truly unique about it, I wouldn't advise launching the business." (So long, stel ar GPA.) Being different and unique seems to be highly regarded by those who think about, write about, and teach business. Professors Terrel and Middlebrooks of the Northwestern University's Kel ogg School of Management and the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, respectively, say it wel : Service companies need to dare to be different. To find a leaders.h.i.+p position in the market . . . and then to lead. The key strategy is to be different from compet.i.tors. . . . They break free from "be better," internal y oriented initiatives to "be different," external y oriented strategies.
Being different is grounded in providing customers with unique value that they cannot get from any other compet.i.tor.32 They then cite McKinsey as their first example of a "different" business.
The need for being different is so wel accepted, it's considered simplistic to even make the case for it. Why make a case for something everyone already knows? Many conversations on being different thus center more on how to be different and how radical y to be different. (Terrel and Middlebrooks go as far as to say you should position yourself so far opposite compet.i.tors that they coin the nifty term oppositioning to describe it.) That we need to be different at al . . . is accepted without further thought.
Wel, put some further thought in it. The pursuit of being unique and different has done disservice to many a service firm.
On Unique Selling Propositions Among the favorite plat.i.tudes of marketing moguls is that every business-nay, every person-must have a unique sel ing proposition (USP).
Having a USP can be defined as doing or saying something about yourself or company that is unlike what anyone else does or offers. In other words, unique . . . one of a kind.
Between us, we deliver over 50 speeches per year. During speeches, we frequently ask the members of the audience to take a few minutes to deliver their elevator pitches: They use a minute or so to describe themselves to the CEO of the company they would like to win as a client.
When they're done, we ask people to raise their hands if their partner delivered a fabulous elevator pitch. Many hands go up. When we ask what was so great about them, we typical y hear things like: They were clear about what they do, exactly how they bring value to their clients, and which industries they serve. Often we hear of stories told that truly bring their companies to life.
We then ask who has heard of the concept of a USP and who has been told at least once in their business lives that they need to have one.
Almost al hands go up. We then ask whose elevator pitch partner said something unique. At first no hands go up, but then here and there a bold person jumps into the fray. In the end, as the brave volunteer tries to describe the uniqueness of the accountant or lawyer or consultant, they end up backing off their stance that their partner was unique-good elevator presentation, compel ing value, but rarely unique.
The "Unique and Different" Label Too often in elevator pitches, and in marketing messages in general, professional services firms il advisedly label themselves as unique and different. A quick Google search for "unique consulting firm" (with the quotes, so it would get results that only had these words in a sequence) yields close to 4,000 sites-think about that-4,000 unique consulting firms.
The copy is generaly terrible. Tempted as we are to reproduce some of it here, we decided against it. Suffice it to say that a lot of firms describe themselves as unique and different, but support those claims more with expressions of value than of difference. Cal yourself unique and fail to support the claim, and you lose credibility. Firms that label themselves "unique" don't usual y come across as unique. It just seems as if someone read in some marketing or sales textbook that they have to have a unique sel ing proposition. Voila ... there it is!
"There aren't a lot of silver bullets out there, but if you can find some that highlight at least some crack of differentiation, you should s.h.i.+ne the spotlight there."
-Paul Dunay, Global Director of Integrated Marketing, BearingPoint Many admit later how amateurish their USPs sound and sometimes acknowledge that they thought their USP sounded amateurish before they launched their unique-speak publicly. Firm leaders tend to have good common sense radar but check common sense at the door when it comes to self-designated uniqueness.
WHAT CLIENTS REALLY WANT.
Much as they might hear otherwise, being different isn't much of a factor in winning or keeping clients. Often, the "we're different" message affects them negatively. Consider the fol owing scenario: Your tooth hurts and your dentist is out of town. You need an oral surgeon and you need one fast; so you ask two trusted close friends, Trip and Beverly, if they know anyone.
REFERRAL #1: CLOSE FRIEND TRIP SUGGESTS DR. PHLOX.
Trip says that his Aunt Deanna needed oral surgery and went to Dr. Phlox, who has been in the town next door for 20 years and has a very busy oral surgery practice. Word on the street is that he's pretty solid. When Trip's Aunt Deanna went in, the doctor took the time to explain the surgery and what was going to happen and answered al the questions she had.
The surgery went fine (as far as they know), and Deanna hasn't had any problems since. Dr. Phlox is a little more expensive than average; but Deanna says he's very booked up and established, so it's understandable.
REFERRAL #2: CLOSE FRIEND BEVERLY SUGGESTS DR. MCCOY.
Supposedly Dr. McCoy is wel -known throughout the nation as a cutting-edge oral surgeon, often going where no other oral surgeon has gone before. He has a unique blend of people at his office, and a process for oral surgery and tooth technology that he has pioneered. His results, according to his brochure and web site, are 22 percent better than al other oral surgeons, which is how he justifies his very high prices.
Beverly's Uncle Pavel went to Dr. McCoy, and al went wel with the surgery (as far as they know), though Uncle Pavel met Dr. McCoy for only about 30 seconds, as he was so busy.
At a gut level, even with Uncle Pavel's satisfaction, few people would choose referral #2. And many of the dynamics of how clients buy business-to-business professional services are similar to how people choose dentists: * Should failure happen, the consequences are painful.
Professional Services Marketing Part 10
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Professional Services Marketing Part 10 summary
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