By: Amy Adams
Not everyone sells a physical product. Many business professionals, entrepreneurs and solopreneurs sell a myriad of services based on their specific knowledge, experience and skill-set. Some people find marketing professional services more daunting than selling an actual product, but it need not be. Done right, your professional services marketing can be extremely effective.
Just like an actual product, you need to market your professional services properly if you are going to expand your business and reach your goals. In order to hit your target of more clients, you need to: specifically focus on marketing, develop an effective strategic marketing plan, and then start executing that plan.
Here are four tips to help ensure maximum return on your marketing investment:
1. Know Thyself, Know Thy Service
If you were marketing a product (for example, a vacuum), you should be able to describe that vacuum in specific detail to your potential buyer. What is the vacuum capable of? How heavy is it? How does it solve a consumer’s problem? Why is it different, and more importantly, better than other vacuums on the market?
Think of your professional service offerings in the same light. You need to know what you are selling and be able to explain its value in terms your customers can understand. What does your specific service look like? Can you describe it in detail? How does your service solve a problem? Why should someone hire you over another service provider? Sitting down and answering these fundamental questions can help you begin to construct the framework of your strategic marketing plan.
Action tip: to determine the strength of your professional/business reputation or to identify the elements of your business brand (or “brand you”), poll some of your clients and colleagues. You may be surprised to hear what comes to mind when they think of you, your reputation and your business.
All this being said, be human - don’t be a machine. It’s essential to be yourself, and not to lose your individuality. Your personality is what drives your business. If you’re not authentic, people will see through you and lose trust. Failing to connect with your customer on their terms will leave a less than favorable brand impression.
2. Build and Strengthen Relationships
Your relationships can provide a sea of opportunity. We all know people who found jobs, houses, and even significant others through their network of friends, colleagues, and family. Many professional services clients can be found the same way through referrals. That makes relationships one of the most important tools to build your business. Does your family know what you do? You’d be surprised to learn that your brother-in-law may be able to connect you with someone who is looking for your precise service. If you don’t communicate what your services are to your extended network, they’ll never know. How many opportunities are you missing out on right now?
Disclaimer: I’m not recommending you go around and pass out business cards at the next family barbecue or sweet 16 party. You want to inform your network in a considerate way that captures your passion while demonstrating your expertise. Be tactful, and remember, it’s all about helping people. Many of us went into business to solve problems for our clients, and we enjoy what we do. When you are passionate about your business, you will naturally communicate that to your network.
Build upon your existing relationships and seek out networking opportunities. There are ample chances for you to connect with other professionals by becoming actively involved in professional organizations, trade associations, alumni associations and chambers of commerce. When you meet people, be sure to actively listen - what are their pain points? How might you be able to help?
3. Be Strategic and Measure, Measure, Measure
“The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” - Stephen Covey
We all have the same number of hours in the day, and must be mindful with our time. Creating a marketing plan will enable you to strategically focus your efforts and not waste precious time. Just as you would chart a map or enter the address of your destination into GPS, set your goals, and break down the steps it takes to accomplish them. Take time to brainstorm: what type of clients would you like, which audience can you best assist with your services, and what are the most effective methods for reaching them. Once you’ve formulated a plan, be sure to communicate the overarching strategy with the rest of your team, if you have one.
Once you’ve set your plan into motion, it’s imperative to measure what is working, and what is not. Often it takes time to see results. While goals aren’t always reached overnight, it is a mistake to close your eyes on your progress (or lack thereof). If something isn’t working (that new billboard, your latest Google AdWords campaign), you need to know when it’s time to pivot and adjust course.
Use online tools, spreadsheets or other methods to effectively track and measure the effectiveness of your marketing and advertising. Be sure to monitor your online properties, along with any radio, television, print or other campaigns running for your business. Determine how many leads you’ve obtained, and which have converted to sales. Paying close attention to both your marketing successes and failures will allow you the opportunity to improve and strengthen your plans.
“What gets measured gets improved.” - Peter Drucker
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Evolve
“If there's one thing that's certain in business, it's uncertainty.” - Stephen Covey
It’s crucial to have a plan, but even more critical to be adaptive. The world we live in is constantly changing, and we are all running at a breakneck pace. Technology is a driving force in a marketplace constantly in flux. It’s critical for your business to keep current with technology and industry trends and how they affect the way you meet your client’s needs.
Remember the old Blockbuster business model, and how it is nonexistent in today’s world? No one wants to go out to a store and rent a movie, when they can easily download it from the comfort of their own home. If your potential clients are expecting greater ease and comfort, then you need to meet them where they are. Understanding your ideal customer and the ever-changing nature of their expectations can set you worlds apart from your competition.
Amy J. Adams is the Managing Member of AJA Marketing LLC, a strategic marketing consulting firm assisting businesses, professionals, and nonprofits achieve greater growth, expand business development, and enhance their marketing infrastructure.
Ellevate Network is a global women’s network: the essential resource for professional women who create, inspire and lead. Together, we #InvestInWomen.