As the New Year begins, many professional services firms are busy figuring out how to prioritize their marketing goals for 2015. At the Hinge Research Institute, we found ourselves wondering the same thing. So, we conducted a study to learn just what business challenges firms are facing today and how they plan on prioritizing their professional services marketing initiatives in 2015 to address them.
The study included a survey of 530 firms over a wide range of professional services industries and first sought to uncover what their current biggest business challenges are. While there were a range of answers, the top challenge was overwhelmingly “attracting and developing new business.” With 72.1% of responses, it was more than twice as common of a response than the next most frequent answer: “finding and keeping good people.”
Business challenges facing professional services firms today
Next, we asked our respondents which professional services marketing initiatives they were most likely to focus on in the coming year. These results were less spread out, with six initiatives generating a more than 50% response rate. Though “try to generate more referrals” was the most popular response at 61.9%, “increase the brand visibility of your firm” and “updating/upgrading your website” weren’t far behind at 57.9% and 54.9%. Overall, firms reported plans to focus on an average of 5.7 different marketing initiatives next year.
Professional services firms’ planned 2015 marketing initiatives
However, in order to overcome their business challenges and successfully accomplish their marketing initiatives, professional services firms will need to have a strong understanding of the changing marketing landscape. Marketing professional services has fundamentally changed — and incorporating online tools is more important than ever. These 10 new rules will help steer the way for firms in 2015.
Recognize the impact the online world has had on the upcoming generation of professionals. For young professionals, an online-influenced workplace is all they’ve ever known. As they move into management positions, their preferences for doing business will be even more important to remember.
Everyone is busy, so efficiency and convenience is key. Business in the online world has made everyone hungry for instant gratification and improved productivity. Be mindful of your clients’ busy schedules and work to be as efficient as possible in your communication.
Information needs to be easily accessible and readily available. If a prospect can’t find certain information on your website after a quick look-through, chances are they won’t stick around to keep digging. Today, professionals expect to be able to find what they need, when they need it.
Interactions need to happen quickly and easily. Whether responding through email, social media, or your website, professional services buyers expect you to be available.
Don’t make your buyers guess about your services and don’t exaggerate your experience. Staying transparent about your firm’s specialties and what buyers can expect is the only way to build trust in the digital age. Attempting to oversell or bluff about your experience is a recipe for disaster.
Inform first and sell second. The knowledge your firm has is valuable, but information is easily accessible these days. By taking the time to freely educate buyers, you have the chance to show them what you know and earn their trust.
Be who you say you are. Your online presence puts your message out there for buyers to find it – which means you need to make sure your actions match up with your messaging.
Engage your audience on an inbound level. Rather than pitching prospects, meet your audience where they’re looking for you. Answer their questions and educate them with your expertise so they’ll view you as a trusted solution to their problem.
Cultivate an online presence. If a prospective buyer can’t find you online, they won’t take the time to reach out to you through another avenue – they’ll just find someone else who does have a strong online presence. Make your firm’s website and social media accounts easy to find.
Take a client’s preferred communication method into account. Learn their preferences and be available on whatever mode they prefer.
The New Year is the perfect time to shake up your marketing and achieve some new goals. Following the new rules is just one more way to set your firm up for success.
Lee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D., is Managing Partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Hinge is a leader in rebranding firms to help them grow faster and maximize value. Lee can be reached at LFrederiksen@hingemarketing.com or 703-391-8870.