Key insights for professional services marketing
To succeed as a professional services provider, you need to understand not simply what the client “needs” at a commercial level, but what drives the key players within the client firm at a deep emotional level, which is where decisions are taken, according to Stephen Newton in his book The Professional’s Guide to Business Development: How to Win Business in the Professional Services. You need to be able to articulate the value that you, uniquely, can bring to solving the client’s problem or fulfilling the client’s dream.
Most lawyers, accountants and other professional service practitioners have a poor understanding of what effective marketing requires. Firms have marketing directors whose job it is to hound professionals until they do enough “networking”, deliver enough speeches, and, in the worst cases, conduct enough cold-call telephone conversations. The problem is that this activity tends to be focused on broadcasting what the firm can do (which tends to be the same as what every other firm can do), rather than on listening to the frustrations and hopes of potential clients.
The author provides an excellent articulation of what really causes clients to buy professional services. Clients buy only when they are ready to do so, and only from those individuals for whom they feel a basic liking and where that liking leads to inherent trust at both a personal and a professional level. They buy when they can visualise and understand specific benefits to themselves from working with you.
The book goes on to give a range of useful marketing advice, including:
- How to target clients which are particularly suitable for you, rather than aiming for everyone
- How to enable potential clients to find you when they need your services
- Ways of cementing long-term client relationships, including the importance of dealing with personalities and politics
- How to understand a client’s emotional drivers
- How to hold conversations with clients to come to agreed solutions, instead of making presentations and selling services
- How to replace sales-led business development with “strategic account leadership”
In my opinion this book contains some key insights which make it extremely useful for lawyers and other professionals. Unfortunately its generic cover and its pricing in a higher range than normal for a book of this size mean it may be overlooked by many of the people to whom it would be most useful. The last two chapters contain advice on business systems and hiring which are not the key areas of the author’s expertise, but the first six chapters in particular are in my opinion outstanding.