5 ways professional services can educate and build trust

Legal, accounting or consulting services are industries that are steeped in tradition and have unique differences when it comes to marketing and gaining new customers. They are however, ones that are also perfectly positioned to grow their businesses by using inbound marketing techniques and tools.

This article has been edited since it was first published on 09 October 2015

The differences between product marketing and professional services marketing have been well documented over the last 10-15 years.  There are clear historical and delivery differences that need to be considered when developing a marketing plan in a consulting-based business. 

Some of the differences that have been documented include:

Difference

Product

Professional Service

History

Have always focused on the need to market a product

Steeped in history where referrals were the only source of new business, competition and marketing was frowned upon by industries bodies.

Need

You can build market demand.  Uncover new needs and create a product to meet the need.

It can’t sell services if the need doesn’t exist.  i.e you can’t sell business structure services to a person who does not have a business or divorce services to the happily married.

Sales

Often delivered by a faceless marketing and sales teams.

The people who deliver the service also market and sell the service.

Marketing tactics

You can compare product A to B and make claims based on proof.

 

Difficult to compare and say one consultant is better then another because of a feature. i.e. because of their education.  Success is based on the consultant experience, personal strengths and expertise.

Conversations

Outbound calling and sales tactics such as discounts or two for one offers can encourage people to trial a product.

This would be considered odd – imagine receiving a call to trial an accounting service or an 2 for one offer on divorce services.

Product

The market can be tested and product adjusted.

Selling on personality.  They buy the person – then their expertise

Relationship

A product can be consistent in its performance.

The relationship can be inconsistent – the consultant is the constant, but the clients are variable and can impact on success.

Reputation

Achieve a fairly steady reputation for the company.  If an employee does something wrong – limited affect on the company.

If a consultant does something wrong – they are the company.

In summary, Professional Services Marketing is about relationships, trust, reputation and education. 

  • While not required to be experts in marketing, everyone in the business needs to be aware and comfortable that they are part of the marketing and sales function.
  • The company needs to continually build their reputation and provide high quality content to audiences.  Building awareness and trust in the business for future opportunities
  • They need to gain an understanding of potential customers and deliver content that is relevant to their current and future needs.
  • Build the collateral and information that will bring customers to you when they have uncovered a need and positioned as the forefront of advice.

So how can professional services succeed with inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing has been most effective method for doing business online since 2016. It’s a complete reversal from old product marketing (which we have established won’t be effective for professional services anyway) such as buying ads, and email lists and praying for leads. Inbound Marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product – where they naturally want to be. 

There are five key themes that highlight how inbound marketing resonates with professional services and would assist companies to educate, build reputation, trust and the relationship:

Content Creation: You create targeted content that answers your customer's basic questions and needs, and you share that content far and wide.

What better way to be known in the industry and build your reputation to potential clients then by providing content that they are looking for in an open forum.

Lifecycle Marketing: It is important to recognise that people go through stages as they interact with your company, and that each stage requires different marketing actions. Audiences need different information at different times provided in different ways. 

Let’s look at a quick example of a lifecycle for securing bookkeeping services:

Awareness: My business is just not efficient enough.  Starts looking for generic information (Blogs or whitepapers) on what services can help him improve his financial processes. 

Consideration: It’s my bookkeeping processes that are holding me back. The business will start looking at more specific comparative information about bookkeeping services and what they can do.

Buying: Who can provide me with the service I need?  The business starts looking at supporting documentation on results, success and testimonials of potential bookkeepers and would look for a consultation.

Personalisation and context

As you learn more about your leads over time, you can better personalise your messages to their specific needs.

What better way to build your relationship then to know your customer and then personalise information you provide.

Using a multi-channel approach

Inbound marketing is multi-channel by nature because it approaches people where they are, in the channel where they want to interact with you.

Being personal means providing the information to prospect where they are and in the format they read it in.

Integration

Your publishing and analytics tools all work together like a well-oiled machine, allowing you to focus on publishing the right content in the right place at the right time.

Professional services sell on credibility.  It’s about the relationship and building trust.  Inbound marketing is the process for delivering content to prospective customers – when and how they want it and building the trust and reputation of the business with clients before they have a need.


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