If you watch ESPN or any sports show, you’ll occasionally see the blooper reel. The dropped fly balls into center field, the bobbled football on the two yard line, or the basketball that was lovingly dunked (and eventually stuck) behind the rim on the backboard. Pretty entertaining stuff. We’ve watched professional service firms bobble the marketing ball over the years and have observed a few common bad plays that wound up costing them prospects and money. As you begin to craft your strategy, keep a few of these in mind.
#1 – Not Having a Marketing Strategy. If visions of three ring binders chocked full of plans gives you heartburn, you’re not alone. Most professional services firms throw money at the shiny cool thing (new website, new collateral materials, big pricy sponsorship) without thinking about how those investments connect to a strategy. A strategy doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as a one or two page document that outlines your revenue goals for the year, key markets and how you’re going to approach each one.
#2 – Not Giving Your Marketing Efforts Enough Time. We are a culture of instant gratification. That doesn’t work with marketing professional services. Marketing takes time, often you don’t see the impact to the bottom line for months or even years.
#3 – Everyone in My Firm Will Market. The theory is that EVERYONE has the ability to become a rock star marketer with just a pep talk and a brochure. Really? You didn’t go to college or graduate school to sell services; neither did your partners. Why force someone into a selling situation when they don’t want to, don’t have the skills or are not rewarded to do so (compensation is another topic). What you CAN do is find roles for professionals to help with the process. Have a partner or manager who loves to do research? Put them to work on digging up information on a prospect for a sales call. The point is that everyone can contribute.
#4 – NMJ (Not My Job). If there is a marketing partner or committee, let them do it! Right? Not so fast. As an expert, you have knowledge, connections and a passion for what you do. Put it to work for the entire firm.
#5 – Don’t Include the Junior Staff. What do they know? Well, plenty. Sure, the first two years or so they should be working on client projects behind the scenes. But don’t disregard them. Take a junior person on a sales call or out to lunch with a COI (Center of Influence). Expose them to the realities of business development. Prospects will be impressed that you think enough of your younger staff to bring them along.
#6 – Committees That Don’t Do Anything. “We should have a business development committee”, says someone at a partner meeting. Sure enough, the big rainmaker is tapped to create a committee of initially highly motivated professionals who will make plans to sell the firm’s services. First two meetings go great, the next three are not. The committee disbands. What went wrong? Your intentions were good, execution sucked. Be clear about the goal of the committee (identify prospects? Sort through great marketing ideas?). And get the managing partner buy in to give it the teeth it needs to get things done.
#7 – Are We All Living the Brand? This is a big one. Go ask three people in the firm to describe what the firm does. We guarantee you will get three different answers. Every person in your firm, from the receptionist to the managing partner, has to be consistent with explaining the firm’s brand to others outside of the firm (a.k.a. your “elevator speech”).
#8 – Not Knowing How to Network. First of all, we don’t like the word “network”. It’s simply about creating relationships. It’s not a sales job, it’s an opportunity for you to think strategically about who you need to get to know. The biggest key? Finding a way to help someone else. If you can help a client or business owner solve a problem, you’ll be viewed as an expert, and hopefully start a long relationship. We know one attorney who ends every conversation with “What can I do to help you?”
#9 – Speaking Too Much, Not Listening. True experts are awesome at listening. Your clients want to be heard. And they’re paying to be heard. Ask more questions, listen more.
#10 – Turning Down Prime Opportunities to Market. As marketing professionals, this one gives me chills. Sure, some opportunities like the last minute speaking gig or an editor’s request to write an article can bump up against client deadlines. We’ve watched professionals miss out on big time opportunities because they were “too busy” to follow through. Try to find a way to make it work. Is there someone in your firm who can draft an article? Put a Power Point deck together? At least get you started? Opportunities like these are far and few between. Don’t squander them.