Professional Services Marketing Part 17
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To do so, you must: * Identify these buyers.
* Get them to pay attention to you.
* Seduce them with your value.
* Engage them in a meaningful and valuable discussion about how you can help them.
* Nurture them to the point where they wil actual y engage your services.
SHORT VERSUS LONG?.
By and large, our experience and research with proactively generated leads shows that: * 25 percent are short-term leads.
* 25 percent are bad fits.
* 50 percent are long-term leads.
If you're focused only on the short-term leads, you might be missing out on three-fourths of your opportunities.
Whether through lack of resources, poor strategy, insufficient energy to implement plans, or lack of wil , many professional services firms fail to make marketing and lead generation work for them. In the name of generating leads and improving brand, they spend and spend on the wrong tactics (or the right tactics implemented poorly) and get little in return. This doesn't have to be the case, if you know how to make marketing and lead generation work for professional services.
What to Expect from Lead Generation Done Well In Chapter 1 we discussed the overal concept of what marketing can do for a firm. Let's look more specifical y at what you can expect from lead generation.
CHARACTERISTICS OF A QUALIFIED LEAD.
A common acronym used to describe a qualified lead is BANT: budget, authority, need, and time frame. For professional services firms, BANT works, but you also need to add fit to the equation.
Budget, or ability to spend: Everyone understands intrinsicaly what it means to sel to an existing budget, but many professional services aren't budgeted for (e.g., do you budget for getting sued and defending yourself? Do you budget in for a consultant to help you deal with a new technology that hasn't yet even come out on the market?). Regardless of whether or not there is a budget, you need to sel to a company with the ability to spend on your services.
Authority: The person (or group) you're seling to needs to be able to (1) make the decision to work with you and (2) authorize the funds to pay for you.
Need: Buyers must have a need to work with you. You may be seling to someone with a budget, or ability to spend, and with the authority to make a decision; but they won't buy anything unless they perceive a need.
Time frame: A lead is a long-term lead if there is no set time frame for working with you or if the time frame is whatever you deem to be long (e.g., greater than 30 days, greater than 90 days, greater than one year, etc.). If a lead has a set time frame to buy in the near future, it's a short-term lead.
Fit: A lead may have BANT; but if you are not the right firm to help them, you should say so. It's not best for them, because they'd be served better elsewhere (even if you don't know where, but you know it's not you). It's not best for you because if you're not the best firm to help, it can, and often does, come back to bite you in the form of inefficiency, low margins, unsatisfied clients (and bad reputation that comes with dissatisfied clients), and bad wil with your staff.
The dol ars you spend on marketing can, and should, lead to strong and measurable return on investment (ROI) over a reasonable period of time.
From your investments specifical y in lead generation, you should get short-term leads, long-term leads, and Brand RAMP impact.
Short-Term Leads Most services firms want short-terms leads. A professional services firm leader might put it this way: "If they have a need, the funds, decision-making authority, and a short-term buying time frame and if they are the right type of company, I can close them." Your lead generation efforts should yield these short-term leads.
But beware: Short-term leads aren't always the best leads. Often, these short-term leads are already preparing to buy services from another provider. If you cal them at just the right time or if they cal you with an immediate need, you may be one of the other potential providers they bring into the process. Meanwhile, they have been working with another firm (or maybe someone's brother-in-law or an internal group) for many months on what they real y want to do.
Great professional services businesses can stil win in this situation . . . sometimes. More often than not, however, the prospect says something like, "Wow, you were real y good and made this a much tougher decision than we expected, but we've decided to go with another option." (The one they had in mind al along.) With that caveat out of the way, short-term leads are stil great. They can turn into strong, ongoing client relations.h.i.+ps, especialy if you set the right context for the lead from the start.
Long-Term Leads While many firms focus exclusively on creating leads now, the best service firms also focus on generating and nurturing long-term leads. These long-term leads often produce the best business. Most professional services firms cannot motivate a prospect to buy their services on impulse, but they can do it over time.
Many of these service business leaders also lament the fact that they have 3-, 6-, 12-, or 24-month sales cycles. Pul back the curtain, and you see a different story. The sales cycle-once the client is a ready buyer-can be a few months or less. The long sales cycle is real y the months and years that it takes for them, and for their companies, to be in the right position and time to buy.
To entice these long-term prospects (typicaly buyers with authority and need, but no budget or explicit time frame to buy) to become ready buyers, or to keep your company in consideration when the prospects become a ready buyers, is a function of sustained lead generation and lead nurturing. These functions cross the traditional line between marketing and business development (or sales). If you can work this part of the process with rigor, the long-term leads wil make the biggest difference in your service firm's growth.
Brand RAMP Impact Branding for professional services is a big trend. In pursuit of brand excel ence, many service businesses waste big money on graphic design, tagline development, brochures, and awareness-based media campaigns.
Done right, lead generation can build your brand and can build it more effectively than most traditional branding strategies.
Keys to Professional Services Lead Generation Fol ow these seven rules for professional services lead generation, and you wil be wel positioned to generate qualified leads, to convert those leads into new clients, and to grow revenue for your firm.
1. Plan for outcomes and ROI. (See Chapter 4.) 2. Offer value in marketing and sel ing that wil resonate with buyers and differentiate your firm. (See Chapters 9 and 18.) 3. Create and leverage offers and experiences like thought leaders.h.i.+p (see Chapter 15) in the form of books, white papers, seminars, speeches, and other tactics (see Chapter 16).
4. Use the right lead generation tactics for you. (See Chapter 16.) 5. Sustain lead generation and lead nurturing efforts. (See Chapter 18.) 6. Measure, test, and improve your lead generation and nurturing efforts.
7. Build brand through lead generation.
Value and Offers in Lead Generation "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."
-Don Corleone Most professional services providers seek to win clients based on delivering superior value, not on having the lowest price. (Caution: If you're the rare professional service provider who sel s to win a client on lowest price, stop reading. This chapter is not for you.) When you interact with a prospective client or send any message to a prospect, that prospective client is evaluating what it might be like to work with you and what you can do for her firm.
For this reason, you need to offer value directly in your marketing and seling efforts themselves. The goal is to help prospects to understand that working with you as your client is much the same as what it's like to work with you before they become your client-except, of course, at some point they start paying you for the privilege of your company.
A consulting firm executive once told us that he needed to get his prospects and clients to perceive that his firm was credible and distinct. A lot of professional services executives have this same thought; so they end up sending messages that say, "I'm credible and distinct," or "I'm trustworthy,"
or, "I'm innovative, yet solid." They think, "If this is what our clients value, we need to tel them that this is what we're like."
Sorry, saying it doesn't help much. If professional services firms want their clients and prospects to believe that they're credible and distinct, they need to demonstrate that they are credible and distinct. Simply stating the words "I'm credible and distinct" is not only insufficient but can even create the wrong impression. (Messaging with these self-centered messages is at the very least bad marketing and can cause buyers to ask, "If they're this bad at marketing, how good are they real y at their core services?") "If you've got a good, wel -known reputation, even if they don't know who any of your people are, they wil be predisposed to say yes when someone from your firm cal s and says, 'Hey, can I come out and see you and talk to you about this?"'
-Ed Russ, Chief Marketing, Grant Thornton Steps to Demonstrating Value To demonstrate value to prospects, you must: * Understand your value. As we describe in Chapters 9 and 13, your value doesn't need to be unique. But it does need to resonate with the market. For example, you don't need to be the only person to have innovative financial consulting processes. Yours just need to be worthwhile in specific situations, at the right times, to specific clients who might need them.
* Make the value tangible. The value a client eventual y realizes from your firm's services might wel be your efficient and effective solutions that helped them grow their revenue and strengthen their business. However, before they work with you, most buyers don't have an idea of what that means specifical y or how it applies to them. Instead of using vague language, communicate that your innovative approach to financial restructuring has successful y freed up over $2.2 bil ion that had previously been tied up in your clients' working capital due to poorly designed financial instruments.
* Explain your process and the expected outcomes. Potential clients want to know what you are going to do, how you are going to do it, and what outcomes they can expect. It's easier to lead the prospects down the path you want them to fol ow when you show them both the destination and the path.
* Don't market the relations.h.i.+p. It's tempting to offer a "trusted partner" relations.h.i.+p in your marketing. It's similar to dating. You want the life together; but if you go directly to "Let's get married, have eight kids, and retire to a nice condo in Boca," you're not likely to get too many takers. "Coming on like gangbusters" isn't a good a approach to building a long-term relations.h.i.+p (a.s.suming that's what you're looking for . . .
not everyone is.) * Create experiences with you. Instead of marketing the whole relations.h.i.+p, start simply. At first, the experience might be that you make an offer to them to read your white paper. Perhaps you offer attendance to your seminar. Maybe you meet to discuss a particular business topic of interest to them.
In the research report Evaluating the Cost of Sales Cal s in Business-to-Business Markets,56 over 90 percent of buyers stated they wanted sel ers to be more of a resource to them. Sel ers that demonstrated they understood their prospects' businesses, need, and pressures were 69 percent more likely to come away with the sale versus those who did not. However, only 39 percent of buyers said that the people marketing and sel ing to them actual y understood their needs and weren't just trying to sel , sel , sel . Professional services providers fal into this trap as often as any other sales people do.
A PREVIEW FOR THE PROSPECT.
The marketing and sales process is a preview for prospects of what it's actual y like to work with you. If you want to be seen as a valuable provider, offer value directly in your lead generation and sales efforts.
In the Wel esley Hil s Group and RainToday.com research report How Clients Buy, 57 80 percent of buyers reported that professional services providers made critical mistakes when sel ing to them. Some of the top errors the professional services firms made were "not listening," "not understanding the client's business," and "not understanding the client's needs."
It's no secret that repeat clients are the best clients and referral sources. They already know the value they get from working with you. They know that you are trustworthy and wil do what you say. Because of this, the risk of buying from you is much lower than bringing in a new provider. To generate new clients, you need to help them see you in a similarly trusting light. Your task is to be as valuable, as reliable and as energetic when communicating with them before you win them as clients as you are after.
Engaging any new professional service company is a leap of faith. Clients are never certain what they wil actualy get-whether the service provider is reputable and reliable and whether the process wil work in their culture. Your prospects consider al of these questions before they buy from you.
Marketing and Selling the Invisible Services are intangible by nature. You can't see, touch, smel , or taste them before you buy them. This intangibility often makes services difficult to depict in clear and meaningful ways. Many companies' inability to depict their services tangibly leads to conditions such as difficulty picturing processes and outcomes, difficulty conceptualizing leads, uncertainty about risks, and so on.
RESULTS OF INTANGIBILITY OF SERVICES.
How do you make the intangible tangible? Take a cue from your local ice cream shop: Let your clients and prospects have a taste. Professional services businesses can do this by creating and leveraging offers and experiences that al ow potential buyers to see, touch, and taste a bit of what you wil provide for them as clients.
With a new sense of tangibility, you can promote your services more clearly and minimize the clients' risk (both perceived and actual) of engaging your services. Your clear depictions of the service tangibles wil help your clients and prospects conceptualize, evaluate, and promote the offering internal y.
How can you tel the difference between a potential client who has tasted your services and one who does not yet have a good sense of what you can offer them?
When you sit down at the table with a prospective client for the first time, you might encounter one of two possibilities: Possibility #1: I've never heard of you. I don't know what you offer. I don't know why you're here. Now, what did you want to sel me?
Possibility #2: I've read two of your white papers, I saw you speak, and I regularly read your newsletter. I love your web site and your a.s.sessment Methodology. I've been looking forward to speaking with you for several months now.
Of course, possibility #2 is what you want to hear. You can accomplish this through your firm's lead generation activities, if you create and leverage offers and experiences in your lead generation process.
"If you don't have an engine that's going to fire up content and continue to crank out good stuff, then you've got a problem. I would implore firms to think about themselves less as a services marketing organization and more as a publisher around important themes and concepts. Just make sure those themes and concepts dovetail with your corporate strategy."
-Paul Dunay, Global Director of Integrated Marketing, BearingPoint COMMON OFFERS AND EXPERIENCES.
* Consultation * Sales cal * Entry service * Seminar * Teleseminar * Podcast * Webcast * Speech * Article * White paper * Case study * Book * Research Why to Use Offers and Experiences Offers and experiences are the best way to market actively in the lead generation process, for many reasons: * They provide a preview. Offers and experiences give your prospects a chance to sample what it might actual y be like to work with you. If you can provide value before they're your clients, they wil easily be able to imagine what it wil be like after they hire your firm.
* They're easy for people to accept. People wil accept an offer of a white paper, a seminar, or an in-person dialogue about new research results much more readily than the too-often-used "Cal us and become our client" offer.
* They generate better response. Marketing tactics using offers work better than those that don't. A recent ad in the Harvard Business Review for a major law firm touted the nature of the firm as offering "solutions" versus just "services." Many people saw that ad . . . and most likely did nothing. If the ad had focused on new research in intel ectual property protection for technology companies that could be downloaded as a white paper, the ad might have been more successful. (Of course, when you start thinking like this, strict advertising becomes a much less attractive marketing option for most firms.) * They get attention, and get prospects to consider action. Offers and experiences break through the noise and give prospects a decision to make. "New research-that sounds valuable. Do I want to take 15 minutes to hear the results?" The more valuable and interesting the offer, the more it breaks through the noise.
* They al ow you to approach prospects via thought leaders.h.i.+p. Through offers, you can introduce your valuable, genuine, and distinct points of view to prospects in nonthreatening, nonsales ways. Reading your white papers, hearing you speak, and meeting with you about a specific topic are al ways to hold a spot in the mind of the buyer while also demonstrating your expertise. If you want to gain clients and be viewed as a thought leader, creating and disseminating offers and experiences wil do a lot to help you get there.
* They can increase revenue opportunities with current and past clients. a.s.sume your firm offers a variety of services to 100 different clients. Perhaps 20 are using a particular service. If you're not actively marketing that service to the other 80 (a.s.suming they're good targets for that service), they might not even know you offer the service. Since these 80 already know and trust you, they're much more likely than others to accept an offer you might make to them in your lead generation efforts and move into your pipeline.
* Their impact improves over time. Repeated, value-based offers over the long term wil seduce clients with your value. There's no better lead than someone who has been fol owing your work for years.
* They generate contact information. Acceptance of offers al ows you to capture information that you can use appropriately for ongoing lead generation and lead nurturing.
* They create both lead generation outcomes and relations.h.i.+p outcomes. If you make an offer that truly has value for the prospect, you wil generate leads and create relations.h.i.+ps with people before you even meet them. You also strengthen the relations.h.i.+ps you already have.
Much of professional service firm marketing is so focused on creating brand that it misses the point of the goal of brand-to build a perception about your firm for quality and value one by one with clients. Instead of branding by tel ing people that you're trustworthy and valuable, your marketing must demonstrate that you are trustworthy and valuable. Do that, and building the brand you so desire wil take care of itself.
A LEAP OF FAITH.
Buying professional services is a leap of faith. You can shorten that leap of faith with the stepping stones of offers and experiences that demonstrate your value.
The Case for Sustained Lead Generation and Relations.h.i.+p Nurturing The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.
-Peter Drucker Three truths: 1. In order to avoid the revenue rol er coaster that plagues many professional services businesses, you need to generate a steady stream of leads.
2. For most professional services, prospective clients do not make impulse buys. Buying has to make it to the top of their to-do lists for any of your sales to happen.
3. As much as you (the sel er) might like to shorten the sales cycle, buying complex, important, trust-based services takes time. The initial lead wil culminate only if, when the buyer has a need that floats to the top of her to-do list (the elusive time of need), she thinks of you.
Unfortunately for service providers, it's nearly impossible to predict when this elusive time of need is going to arise for the buyer.
In the research report Evaluating the Cost of Sales Cals in Business to Business Markets,58 the researchers found that it takes an average of 5.12 sales cal s to close sales that exceed $35,000.59 More than 75 percent of the 23,000-plus companies surveyed stated that a combination of direct and indirect marketing and sales efforts was necessary to get to the sale.
To most leaders of professional services firms, this wil make immediate sense. Sales cycles are long. The compet.i.tion works hard to blanket the best prospects with their messages. Many services are becoming viewed as commodities by buyers (even if they're not); and low-priced compet.i.tors make price compet.i.tion more of a factor than ever before, which complicates prospects' buying cycles.
Why Sustained Lead Generation Is So Hard to Do, and Why It Matters Professional services businesses fal down most in implementing and sustaining consistent lead generation efforts. The reasons for this tend to be internal y driven: * "Autonomous col ective" decision making at professional services firms (i.e., everyone has to agree) makes decision making and action either go slowly or stop completely.
* Firms dig up the lead generation tree by the roots after two weeks to see if it's growing yet. (This is not a good way to grow a tree.) * Firms don't put enough energy and resources into the process; and when they don't get the outcomes they (unreasonably) expect, they pul the plug on lead generation efforts too soon.
* Firms execute lead generation campaigns poorly. Then, when the efforts don't work, the company leaders p.r.o.nounce, "We tried that, and it didn't work. It doesn't work." To us, this is like saying, "I baked a cake, and it didn't rise," and p.r.o.nouncing that cakes don't rise. Cakes do rise, if you know how to bake.
* Firms a.s.sign bil able resources to marketing and business development efforts. The people a.s.signed either don't do them, don't do them wel , do them wel and then have to stop because they get bil able, or get fired because they stop doing enough bil able work.
Despite al these reasons that lead generation efforts fail, they can succeed. But they must be sustained to make them (1) work and (2) improve over time.
Let's a.s.sume that you begin lead generation activities, and you take the folowing actions: * You offer value to your prospects, directly in your marketing and sel ing.
* You create and leverage offers and experiences.
* You use a targeted and integrated communication approach.
If you continue these actions for two months, you might get some short-term leads. But if you do it over the long term (and this is important), you'l get not only short-term leads, but also long-term leads and the brand effect you deserve.
"You talk to a lot of professional firms, and they only react once they're getting the squeeze. Then they want results quickly in a general y uncomfortable situation. If they had only done a baseline of ongoing marketing over the past five years, they wouldn't have the problems now that they're facing. You don't have to blow them away. A steady drip is far more effective than a bucket of water once every five years."
-Mike Sheehan, CEO, Hil Hol iday Consider the fol owing example of a sustained one-to-one lead generation plan: Week 1: Phone cal and fol ow-up white paper.
Week 4: Custom e-mail with new research finding.
Week 8: Targeted direct mail campaign.
Week 11: E-mail with article on client's business or on a compet.i.tor.
Professional Services Marketing Part 17
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Professional Services Marketing Part 17 summary
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