The Value of Marketing for Professional Services

Written by: Cass Bailey

Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot of questions from professional services companies that are unsure about how marketing can help them grow their businesses. Often, these companies have seen most of their success come from referrals or their networks, and as a result, they’ve been primarily sales-driven organizations.  

Since I’ve had the pleasure of working with many professional services organizations, have advised others, and have run my own, I have a unique perspective in seeing how the best are able to scale and sell. Again and again, it’s clear that those organizations that invest in marketing see the fastest and most sustainable growth. They also get the best valuations when it comes time to exit.

For those who are unsure about the value of marketing, there are three clear ways that marketing can and should support professional services companies in developing new business opportunities and meetings.

  1. Soften the Ground
    • Effective marketing will produce a correlative response to outbound sales efforts. It should be easier for company leaders and business developers to get meetings because the target audience has heard of the company through marketing efforts, has some familiarity with it, and has a general feeling that the company is respected / trustworthy.
  2. Increase Word of Mouth Referrals
    • Referral partners and centers of influence make referrals based on companies they think of and can remember at the moment. Consistent marketing makes it much more likely that your company will be one of the companies referred (if not the only one) because the center of influence has seen or heard something from you or about you in the past days or weeks. Again, it is not easy to create a direct line but there is often a correlation between when certain marketing campaigns go out and when referrals are made.
  3. Produce Direct Opportunities
    • New opportunities for meetings or more information will certainly come into the company as a result of the marketing effort. Sometimes they will be easy to track, like when a new contact form completion happens. Most times, they are difficult to track because they may take the route of contacting a company leader through a LinkedIn message or someone goes to the company website and finds an email address then sends an email.

The most important thing here is that new opportunities and meetings are tracked across the company as accurately and consistently as possible. There must be a process in place to do it in order to show the effectiveness of the marketing effort and how new meetings are coming to the company.  

The other benefit of investing in marketing efforts is that new business meetings go better than they would’ve otherwise. When the prospective client in the meeting has already heard, read, or seen testimonials, case studies, perspectives, and proof points from the company, it can be easier and more efficient to get the deal done. This is once again hard for most professional services companies to measure other than a feeling they have. However, it should be acknowledged internally and with the agency when things are said like “It seems like you’ve been growing,” or “What’s been going on?  I feel like I’ve been seeing you everywhere lately,” or “Seems like you’re having a great year.”

Finally, a perception that a company is larger, more successful, and more influential than it may actually be is created by a consistent, ongoing, evolving marketing program. This is where the return on investment is realized. A large following, email contact list, and brand reputation are always considered by an acquisition partner as valuable assets. Yes, this may be the long game for some, but it’s worth playing.

I have always loved working with professional services organizations because I understand their pains, struggles, and ambitions. In most cases, I share them. I’m hopeful that in the coming years, there are fewer questions about how marketing helps them grow and more questions about what kind of marketing tactics, messages, and measurements are the right ones for them.

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