Professional Services Insights
Winning strategies to consistently grow mid-size service firms
The Myth Of The Time-Starved Service Buyer
Why You Need Great Long-Form Content
I want to address a myth that is prominent in sales and marketing circles today for professional service firms. The myth is that service-buyers are time-starved and crazy busy, so you must keep things short. The myth goes like this.
Today’s service buyer has no time. They have more options than ever before in terms of service providers. They can’t tell why this service provider is better than that one. So if you want to attract their attention through content marketing, you have to produce short, pithy content.
How To Win The Complex Service Sale Consistently
Key To Accelerating Your Growth
I was talking to an entrepreneur the other day who is in the software development business. His company builds cloud applications and provides professional services to deploy the software. As we were discussing how we do business, I discovered that we shared a similar philosophy regarding RFPs: requests for proposals.
Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?
How To Take Control Of Your Growth
I’d like to debunk a myth in this blog-post. The myth is that your best new clients will come from referrals. In fact, many organizations believe that their growth potential is almost universally defined by the size of their referral network.
I think that is wrong and that this approach to growth is typically fraught with challenges. I’m not opposed to referrals. We get these and I also make referrals to my partners. But I’ve noticed a trend over the years.
How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today
Here Are My Best Ideas
I’ve been a professional service marketer and entrepreneur now for nearly 25 years. Over the course of my career I’ve worn many hats. But I’ve always been in the business of growing service firms. Sometimes that means growing brand awareness. Sometimes that means re-positioning brands. Sometimes that means productizing services so they are easier to sell. Sometimes that means coaching sales and business development teams.
How To Break The Grip Of Rainmaker Culture
This Is How You Realize Unlimited Growth Potential
Many firm leaders at mid-size service organizations have a big concern. It’s called Rainmaker culture and it goes like this. A few people at their firm have the Midas touch. They can turn to gold anything that they touch. These people make it rain. It’s a good-news bad-news scenario.
The good news is that you have some people who know how to generate and close business. Every company needs that. These people often account for a very large percentage of annual revenue – sometimes more than 80%. Rainmakers are worth their weight in gold. That’s the good news.
Why You Need A Generous Brand
Generous Brands Substantially Increase Revenue And Profits
Most service firms are run by people who are experts in their field. Many of our clients have advanced degrees, years of experience and a solid personal reputation. These are really, and I mean really, smart people.
The unique thing about service firms is that we sell the invisible. Services, after all, are intangibles. They’re not concrete or physical. You can’t hold them in your hands or feel the weight of them. There is no reliable buyer’s guide that allows you to compare the features and benefits of service A versus service B or C.
How Content Impacts The Service Sale
Good Content Marketing Shapes Client Expectations
Most marketing and sales leaders in service organizations believe that the primary reason to deploy content marketing is to generate leads. The theory goes like this. Give prospects some great ideas to prove you’re an expert and that position you as a trusted advisor.
This is definitely a value that content marketing delivers. But, in my experience, that’s not the complete picture. In fact, lead generation is not a very good reason for deploying content marketing. You might be surprised to hear me say this.
How To Know When Prospects Are Ready
Use These Guidelines
I talk to professional service firm leaders almost daily. They routinely ask me for my advice about when they should engage prospects in dialogue. This can be a real conundrum. Talk to them too early and they ignore you. Talk to them too late and you miss opportunities.
Knowing when to engage in dialogue is challenging. But there is often an even bigger challenge - knowing who to talk to. For business development and sales people, these two questions are of paramount importance: who and when?
How To Pull Prospects Into Conversations
Look At The World Through Their Eyes
I want to tell you about an experience I had recently that I bet will sound familiar to you. A friend of mine wanted to introduce me to a new friend of his named Jim. He said I would find Jim interesting. But this introduction came with a caveat.
My friend warned me that Jim knew a lot about two topics: cars and airplanes. I like cars and I’m fascinated by planes and aviation. I’ve even written blog posts about radar systems. So I thought I could learn some things from Jim and maybe even form a new friendship.
Nurture Organic Relationships Online
Through The Power Of Consistency
A lot of service professionals today have a hunch. They suspect that there are potentially thousands of people and companies out there in the digital ecosystem that they could be doing business with who are not their clients now.
They assume that at least some percentage of those people would be a perfect fit for them. But they struggle with two questions: how do I find these people and how do I build relationships with them? These are tough questions.
How To Build Relationships With Jaded Prospects
This Is How You Become A Trusted Advisor
I’ve noticed a trend and I’m wondering how this compares with your experience. Some of the best prospects in the world, the one’s you really want to connect with, are also the most jaded. Call it life experience. Call it having been around the block. Call it defense mechanisms.
Do Prospects Want To Buy Or Be Sold?
The Power Of Self-Persuasion
I want to ask you a question. Do prospects want to buy or be sold? Do great prospects, especially those in the C-suite, see themselves as being in control? Are they in the driver’s seat? Do they choose how and when to engage with a professional service provider? Are they actively looking for the right solutions to help their organization achieve their goals?
Can You Hack Service Firm Growth?
What Is The Surest Path To Trusted Advisor Status?
Lately I’ve been receiving strange messages from people who promise that they can help me hack growth for my service company. I’m not entirely sure what this means, but it sounds painful. Most of the hacks I’ve received have been from sports injuries that are still with me all these years later.
Are You Measuring Your Time Funnel?
Why You Need This To Acquire Organic Ideal Clients?
I want to talk to you about a funnel. But it’s probably not the kind of funnel you are used to hearing about. You are likely quite familiar with the shape of the traditional sales funnel. It’s very wide on the top and then gradually narrows at the the bottom. But there is another funnel that I think is even more important for acquiring organic ideal clients.
Close Deals Faster Using Proof Statements
How And When Organic Prospects View These
When I travel through airports, I often read the signs that line the walls. One sign in particular caught my attention recently. It was from a law firm and it said: “lady justice may be blind, but she sees things our way 97% of the time.” Now that is quite a claim. Essentially, they are saying that they win 97% of their cases. That’s impressive.
How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers
The Value Of A Content Marketing Runway
I want to ask you a question. How much busier are you today than you were five years ago? Does the pace of business just seem to be picking up? Does it seem as if you have more tasks to accomplish than you have hours in the day? If you are like so many busy professionals today, the answer to all of these questions is yes.
How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In
This Is How You Put An End To Meeting Postponements
I was speaking with a prospect a few days ago about the goals she wanted to accomplish. She said her big goal was to get the right people looking their way and excited about talking to them. She was tired of her consultants having to drag people through the sales funnel.
After I dug a little deeper, I discovered two significant challenges. First, her valuable consultants were spending way too much time with the wrong people. Second, when her consultants finally connected with the right people, they seemed resistant to talk. They didn’t see how spending time with her consultants would benefit them. They often reluctantly agreed to a meeting but then, about half the time, they canceled or postponed the meeting.
How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity
When The Right People Are Ready, They Move Quickly
I was having a conversation with a prospect a few weeks ago. After we spoke for a few minutes and I described how we might help his organization he said the following to me. “Randy if you get me a proposal that outlines everything we talked about for the fees you described, I’ll sign it. Let’s get going.”
Five Digital Marketing KPIs
How To Know Your Digital Marketing Is Effective
A lot of companies are investing heavily in digital marketing these days, hoping for specific kinds of returns. But what happens when those returns don’t materialize for a long time? CEOs and senior marketing executives have to make choices about what to do next, often difficult choices.
I’ve heard CEO’s lament that they can’t see the results of digital marketing. They wonder if they should keep trying, change tactics or even change marketing leadership. Marketing leaders often struggle with a new digital landscape that feels like foreign territory. The analog strategies and tactics that used to work are no longer enough. But building a successful digital marketing plan often feels like gazing up at a star field and picking points of light to see the constellation. The picture is not obvious.
Can Service Pros Over 40 Succeed In Digital?
You Don’t Need To Be A Digerati To Master Digital Marketing
I overheard a conversation the other day between two service professionals who are over 40 years of age. One said: “I don’t get why young people always have to be on their cell phones. They even walk down the street with their eyes glued to those screens. The real world is passing them by.”
The other professional, maybe a little older and a little wiser said: “They’re not missing the real world. They’re just in a different real world from you and me.” Maybe you know the feeling? The world of the digerati is a conundrum to people who didn’t grow up with all of these connected devices.
How To Achieve Digital Marketing Success
5 Key Principles For Service-Firm Leaders
I was speaking with a prospective client the other day who said to me: “Randy we’re just not generating enough qualified leads to achieve our growth goals. We’ve done everything you’re supposed to do in digital, but it isn’t working.” The frustration in his voice was all too familiar to me.
I actually hear it a lot these days. Maybe you’re feeling the same way? A lot of service firm leaders are spending money, time and energy on digital marketing strategies. But the results are just not there.
Why I Don’t Make New Years Resolutions
The Value Of SMART Goals
I know this is going to sound rather bah-humbug of me. But I don’t make new year’s resolutions. I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe in them. Why? Because in my experience, in both my personal life and my business, it is nearly impossible to accomplish anything significant in a year. It takes longer than that. Sometimes, much longer.
How To Have The Best Year Ever In 2016
Strategy, Tools, Metrics: You Need These Three
2016 is nearly upon us. We’re gearing up for our best year ever in business. Over the last few years, we’ve put several strategies in place that have begun to pay off nicely. In fact, I’ve come to see this as almost a three-part process: strategy, tools and metrics.
Strategies are a plan for acquiring and serving clients in a highly profitable way that ultimately produces delight and long-term client retention. The right strategy builds a powerful brand, if we concede that a brand, in the professional services space, is essentially a reputation.
Do Your Users Experience Content Regret?
How Content Marketers Can Deliver A Better Experience
Have you ever had content regret? This occurs when you are enticed by a promise of what a piece of content will do for you – like an e-book, or a webinar or a white paper or even a set of videos. But once you actually register, you feel duped. You feel as if the content creator was far more interested in getting your contact information than in actually fulfilling the content promise. It’s worse when the content creator starts to incessantly email and call you.
Content Registrations Are Not Enough
Why Marketing Must Stimulate Leaning-In Behavior
I was reading a blog post the other day that purported to give advice to B2B leaders about how to accomplish their goals. Like most content these days, it offered 3 simple steps. One of those steps included offering an e-book as a door opener to get registrations and start a business relationship with a prospect.
But then the post made this audacious claim. It said that the e-book does not need to be particularly well-written because most people won’t read it. I was shocked, but then again, I wasn’t. I’ve come to expect this these days.
Is Your Marketing Team Driving Revenue?
Is This A Reasonable Expectation Today?
I was speaking with a global VP of sales the other day for an international services organization. I asked him what he expected from the marketing function at his company. His answer didn’t surprise me because I’d heard it before.
He expected marketing to manage the company brand, plan events and send emails. In other words, marketing handles the company image and sales handles the clients, the actual revenue generating activity of the business. In his mind, sales and marketing were separate. Sales people made money and marketing people spent money.
Is Your Website Open For Business
What Messages Are You Sending?
Shopkeepers on main street use a simple practice to let people know they’re open for business. There’s usually a sign or some bright neon that says “come on in, we’re open.” This is how retail operators get traffic down their aisles, eyes on goods and customers at their registers.
But is there such a sign for B2B companies? In today’s digital world, our websites are open 24 hours a day. Or are they? Is an always-on website the equivalent of a main street sign? Do our websites send a message that says, in so many words, we are open for business and would like you to view our wares? Or do our websites send a different message?
How To Build A Great Digital Marketing Plan
The Strategies You Should Consider
A lot of professional service firms today are trying to figure out the best way to use digital marketing effectively. Many organizations are struggling because of the range of options that digital marketing presents. This can feel entirely overwhelming, especially since most small marketing teams at service firms simply cannot do everything.
Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2
Three Strategies To Accelerate Your Success
In my last post on this topic, I made a bold claim. I stated that if you use digital marketing effectively, you will be a more productive company with higher profit margins from the exact same set of people. This is the game-changing opportunity that digital marketing offers us today.
But this raises an important question. How can you know that you are using digital marketing effectively? Most service-based organizations today are deploying some combination of analog and digital marketing strategies. Yet very few are realizing the outcomes of greater productivity and profitability from the same staff. If anything, their expenses are going up while their profits are shrinking or holding steady. What’s the secret to better profits and productivity from digital marketing?
Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale
How It Creates Self-Persuading Prospects
Professional service clients, in the age of digital, do not want to be sold. They want to buy. They see themselves in the driver’s seat of the entire process. They choose when, where, by what channels and for how long they engage. They disengage whenever they want. They choose to enter dialogue when they are ready. They are fickle, unpredictable and impossible to control.
The Value Of An Idea Driven Website
Why They Beat Online Brochures Every Time
In today’s competitive professional services landscape, websites are more important than ever. New clients will take most of their in-bound journey on your website. You make your brand, services and value proposition distinct and clear through your website.
You differentiate from competitors, in large part, through your website. Or do you? Is this even possible? Why is it that so many professional services websites seem to be so similar that prospects can hardly tell them apart?
A New Website Won’t Bring You New Clients
Why You Must Stimulate The Digital Ecosystem
I was speaking with a prospective new client the other day and he told me this sad story. He and his marketing team had built a great looking new website. They spent months choosing the right platform, writing new copy, selecting images and building all of the webpages. They had a grand opening and sent out an email to their list. And the results were… Ho-hum.
Do You “Get” Digital Marketing? – Part 2
Hacks, Cheats And Tricks Are Not Digital Marketing
There is a great deal of confusion today about what digital marketing means. In my last post on this topic, I showed how digital marketing is a lot like analog marketing. I noted how a speaker at a conference could use certain thought processes to produce a compelling presentation for their audience. Those same thoughts processes could be applied to an online article, especially if it is published in a specific channel in LinkedIn.
Do You Get Digital Marketing?
How This Strategy Empowers Service Firm Growth
Service firms acquired clients, in the past, primarily through referrals. When a service provider did a really good job, their satisfied clients would recommend them to other people. But this wasn’t the only strategy that used to, and still does, work.
Who Benefits From Your Content?
How Insights Build Trust And Affinity
I read quite a few blog posts each week. I also attend webinars, download e-books, read white papers and research reports and watch videos. You might think I’m a content marketing junkie. You might be right. But really, I’m looking for the best of the best.
Lead Nurturing Versus Content Marketing
What’s The Difference And How Will This Benefit You?
A lot of people use the terms lead nurturing and content marketing interchangeably. I prefer not to do this and I’ll admit that my distinction is somewhat artificial. It doesn’t really matter what you call these two strategies because a rose is still a rose by any other name. What does matter, however, is that you have clearly delineated between the two strategies and that your approach to using content offers two options: a shallow swim and a deep dive. If you get these two strategies right, your sales and business development people will never try to talk to someone who isn’t ready and they’ll never miss an opportunity to talk to someone who is ready. Let’s explore how to do this.
Making The Invisible User Visible
A Major Benefit Of Marketing Automation
Most professional service firms broadcast an email newsletter to clients and prospects. If you firm is like most, you put a lot of time and effort into these newsletters. You probably track the sends, opens and clicks of the newsletter itself. But then what? What do your users do after they click through? What else do they access on your website? What pages do they visit? What other content assets do they read? Whose profiles do they look at? If you don’t know – then you have invisible users. This means you are missing huge opportunities to engage. Let’s fix that.
Your Best New Client Is Looking For You
Are You Giving Them A Reason To Find You In The Digital Ecosystem?
Many leaders of small to medium-sized professional service firms believe there are hundreds, thousands or maybe even hundreds of thousands of great new prospective clients out there. But these service firm leaders often struggle to find the prospects and pull them into dialogue.
Make Your Website A New Client Driver
How To Pull Prospects Along The In-Bound Journey
I was talking to a leader of a professional service firm the other day who said – our website is our store-front. I think there is great wisdom in this statement. In today’s digital world, people believe what they read, see and hear. Much of that reading, seeing and hearing takes place on your website. Prospects window-shop your storefront by spending time on your website.
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3
Here Is How You Build An Ideal Client Profile
In my last post on this topic, I built the business case for why you need ideal client profiles (ICP). There are so many benefits that come from attracting and serving ideal clients. But this probably raises an important question in your mind. How do you build an ideal client profile? What is the process? Well, I have some good news for you. We are going to do that, together, right now.
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2
The Benefits You Can Realize From Working With Ideal Clients
In my last post on the topic of ideal clients, I identified the seven qualities that make ideal clients ideal.
In this post, I want to highlight the benefits that come from focusing on ideal clients. When service firms have an abundance of ideal clients, amazing things happen. Let’s explore this together.
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1
Client acquisition tends to be a top goal for nearly every professional service firm. A growth orientation can sometimes cause service firms to take on clients who may not be ideal. I would argue that this is not a wise path to take. When service firms work primarily with ideal clients, a few very powerful things start to happen. Here is what I have witnessed.
How To Get The Greatest Value From Content Marketing
Align Your Content Tactics With Your Goals
What would you think of a farmer who planted and nurtured crops, but never harvested them? What would you think of a famer who never planted or nurtured crops, but showed up in the fall with pitchfork in hand, ready to harvest? You might think both of these farmers are a bit loopy. Right?
Why You Should Absolutely Give Away Your Best Ideas
Lessons Learned From Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin gave away some of his best inventions and ideas. He published them in his newsletters for free. They were distributed to most of New England. While other people were attempting to commercialize and control intellectual property through patents, Franklin openly shared his ideas with everyone.
Three Tech Tools You Need Now
This is how to accelerate success
I believe the professional services world is about people connecting with people. I often say there is only one business. There has only ever been one business. There will only ever be one business. The people business. As professional services people, we already know this.
Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel
The route to consistent and predictable growth
Many professional services firms struggle with the feast-or-famine phenomenon. They either have too many projects and not enough hours in the day or way too much time on their hands. This makes it very difficult to plan for the future and build a reliable operations plan for people, processes and technology.
What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients
Convert the digital relationship to analog
In days gone by, most professional service firms would start their new client relationships in the analog world. We used to produce conferences and events, hold seminars and shake hands at tradeshows. Even our non-in-person promotions were analog. We would print advertisements and newsletters to mail to people with a real, honest-to-goodness, U.S. Postal Service stamp. Sounds funny now, doesn’t it? Oh, the good ol’ days.
An Audience Of One
How To Connect Deeply With Decision-Makers
As marketing people we have been duped. We have come to believe in a lie that distorts all of our messages and causes us to miss the mark with the very people we want to connect with. Marketing programs at major universities and well-established principles of advertising have participated in our undoing. Frequency, recency, reach: this is the language of marketing and it is ineffective.
How to Attract New Ideal Clients
What steps should you be taking?
Client acquisition tends to be a top goal for nearly every professional service firm. In a recovering economy, you might be enticed to take on clients who are not a great fit. My advice? Don’t do it.
Instead, focus on those kinds of clients where you and your company can have the greatest impact. The payoff to you and your clients will be huge. Here is my advice about how to position for and attract new ideal clients.
Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?
The Difference Could Be In Your Bottom Line
A few years ago I was consulting with an IT enterprise architecture firm. We began by conducting qualitative and quantitative research for this company. I secured an interview with the CIO from one of the big three credit reporting agencies. Sitting down with this very sharp gentleman, I asked him what he looks for in an IT consulting firm.
Is Your Digital Strategy As Strong As Your Analog Strategy?
Key Considerations To Dramatically Improve Outcomes From Digital
Most professional service firms acquire new clients the old fashioned way – through referrals from clients, partners and strategic alliances. It’s also quite popular to use public speaking, conferences and events. Some people join associations and then network. Still others use cold-calling or lukewarm calling campaigns to set meetings.
Quality Over Quantity
Why You Don’t Need 10,000 Followers To Achieve Your Business Goals
Have you noticed how social media pundits use the term followers? They use this word to describe people who are reading their blog-posts, downloading their content and connecting with them on social sites. The big goal, according to the social media pundits, is to get thousands of followers.
But is that really a viable goal? Will it really help service firm leader achieve their business objectives? I’m not convinced of that. Here are my reasons and also my recommendations for connecting with people to achieve meaningful business value.
How Do We Align Sales And Marketing?
Why Is This The Wrong Question?
Most professional service firms want to align their sales and marketing functions because they know that this is the path to new clients, new revenue and consistent growth. But when they first embark upon this journey, they seal their fate by asking the wrong question. How do we align sales and marketing teams?
Why Every Service Firm Needs Marketing Automation
Competitive Advantage Awaits You
I have come to believe that every service firm needs marketing automation. Why do I say this? Most professional services organizations are using content marketing today to position as an expert and create engagement with prospective clients. But if you ask marketing leaders to measure the effectiveness of their content efforts, the room goes suddenly quiet.
Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner
Which Would You Bank Your Career On?
A lot of people are producing content these days. As an English Literature major, I am pleased to see that my writing colleagues have gone from under-appreciated to having a dearth of opportunities. But with so many people producing content, you have to wonder about something. Where do the ideas come from and what is the quality of these ideas?
Why Pain Points Are Not Enough
Focus On Goals To Increase Odds Of Success
Lately I’ve noticed that a lot of service organizations are focusing on pain points. This is usually evident when I visit their website. There will sometimes be buttons in primary navigation that say something like – You’re Pain Points or Challenges We Address. Now there’s nothing wrong with this approach. But I really do believe it’s incomplete.
Nurturing Is Caring
How To Acquire New Clients Today
My father used to say something that has stuck with me for many years. “Randy nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” This is wise advice from a man who did not finish high school and never spent a day in a college class-room.
The Marketing Leads Are Junk
How To Give Business Development Executives Great Leads
If you’ve been a marketing executive for any length of time, you’ve certainly heard this sort of statement from business development people. “The leads you gave me were junk. I called the first five and they were going nowhere. Please don’t waste my time with anymore of your leads.”
The Two Most Important Steps for Marketing Automation Success
How Service Firms Win With This Technology
Marketing automation software has been popular for large enterprises for many years. Now smaller companies can realize the benefits of this software and at a much lower price of entry than ever before. We have helped several medium and small sized professional service firms implement marketing automation over the last couple of years and learned many lessons along the way.
Content Marketing Without Marketing Automation
It Just Doesn't Make Sense
In the marketing world I grew up in, we pushed a lot of messages at people – messages about how great we were and why we were the trusted experts. These days, nearly everyone pulls prospects toward their brand through content marketing. Blogs, white papers, case studies, webinars, videos and a host of other content are all designed to pull prospects into the sales funnel. It’s a cool idea, right?
Quick Or Deep Content: Which Is Better For Professional Service Firms?
Is It Time To Dumb-Down Your Content?
Content marketing is an incredibly hot topic right now with virtually every company on the planet. This is especially true for B2B and professional service organizations for whom traditional mass-media, such as television, radio and newsprint formats, are out of reach either because of budgets or because of targeting.
Why I’ve Lost Faith In Quantitative Research For Competitive Benchmarking
And You Should Too
It seems pretty much every day now I see an email or post on LinkedIn that invites me to compare my marketing plan, budget or approach to “best-in-class” companies. I used to pay attention to these and even put some stock in them. In fact, I’ve built marketing plans in the past based in part by what these surveys say.
But no longer. I’ve lost faith in most quantitative research studies that provide competitive benchmarks. I think you should too. Here are my reasons.
Most Leads Are Not Ready To Engage – But They Will Be
The Power Of Embracing The 95/5 Rule
Professional service marketing leaders often become frustrated when they look at the conversion rates of leads who have accessed their content. Here is what I mean. The marketing function will produce and provision all sorts of content in a given month. This might include blog-posts, infographics, articles, webinars and videos. Smart professional service organizations are using marketing automation tools now to track what happens with people who access this content.
Well-Oiled Machine Or Grinding Gears?
Which Describes Your Sales & Marketing Relationship?
Aligning sales and marketing functions reminds me a lot of learning to drive a stick shift. Grinding gears, stall-outs and trial-and-error learning: these were all a part of my attempts to master a manual transmission. I just couldn’t get the timing right. Either my foot came off the clutch too fast or I pulled the stick before the clutch was all the way down. Either way, the car let out a huge groan. It was not pleasant to hear.