10 ways Professional Service companies can increase their profits through marketing

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1 10 ways Professional Service companies can increase their profits through marketing A Xander Marketing Guide T: E: W:

2 Introduction Traditionally many professional services organisations have chosen not to exploit marketing to generate new business. Rather they have relied on reputation and word of mouth to bring new customers through their doors. However, many are forced to rethink this approach because of the demand to keep up or the desire for growth. Increasing numbers of professional services organisations are now seeing that the way forward is to use marketing to generate new business and increase revenues from existing streams. For many in professional services that have not marketed their businesses before, marketing offers the opportunity to drive profitability and growth in a new and exciting way. For others now is the time to sharpen existing marketing activity. In this guide we give an overview of some of the key considerations and concepts of successfully marketing a professional services organisation. The Author This guide is written by Xander Marketing, a full service marketing agency that has worked with many professional services companies supporting them with their marketing.

3 You don t go on holiday without planning flights, accommodation, activities and so on. So why do that with your marketing? 1. Start with a Marketing Strategy There is a lot of tactical marketing activity you could initiate, but where do you begin? How do you know what the best approach is without thinking it through? You don t go on holiday without planning flights, accommodation, activities and so on. So why do that with your marketing? The answer is not to start with tactical activity. You need to start with strategic activity - and the first strategic activity is to develop a Marketing Strategy. The need to generate leads quickly can mean that strategy and planning is curtailed. This may be especially true in smaller organisations where the marketing function operates with limited resources. It s important to resist the temptation to rush the strategy stage, and to dive in and initiate ad-hoc tactical marketing with no real plan of structured activity. Avoid this at all costs. Do your homework - get the strategy right. Unless you have been through the process lifecycle, the wider implications of a Marketing Strategy are not completely apparent. There are a number of points to be aware of: A Marketing Strategy ensures that effective analysis is carried out that enables you to understand your business, target market, competitors and the marketplace you are in The strategy forces you to consider all the marketing tactics you could pursue ensuring your activity is spread across channels and media A strategy helps you plan your marketing month on month and creates the structure for regular organised activity that is the hallmark of effective marketing in today s business environment The process of creating the strategy is a source of inspiration for campaign ideas, a launch pad to develop content for use in your tactical activities. This means that creative thinking flourishes up front This is highly efficient because it lets you evaluate the quality of ideas quickly. Poor ideas can be discarded early in the development process and effort concentrated on good ideas The perception of the ineffective performance of the marketing function can be the result of fundamental errors (stemming from a lack of understanding of the marketplace) that arise from not having a properly prepared marketing strategy.

4 You want as many people as possible that visit your website to not leave before they ve told you who they are. 2. Your website is at the heart of your marketing activity Digital marketing continues to move forward and steal market share from traditional advertising and marketing channels. It is now an inescapable fact that your website must be at the focus of your promotional activity - everything points to it. Once, many treated websites as just a shop window. But we have to move way beyond this to engage and communicate with website visitors. Visitors have some clear expectations about what they want to see on the website. So make sure that basics like company information and contact details are easy to find and competently written. The site should position you as an expert, showcase your brand and demonstrate your accessibility. If you re difficult to get hold of to talk business, customers go elsewhere. Remember, you have before. Your website is your value vault of resources and content. Encourage people to download your thought leadership asking for their contact details in exchange. Your website needs calls to actions, it needs to generate leads. You want as many people as possible that visit your website to not leave before they ve told you who they are.

5 Your views are valuable to your target market because they help inform and start dialogues that attract new business. 3. Content is king - market your knowledge Professional services are a cornerstone of the knowledge economy. The value of your business resides in combining intellect with expertise in your field. Your views are valuable to your target market because they help inform and start dialogues that attract new business. You must create content that showcases your expertise and demonstrates how you are different. Content in this context is marketing communications or marcomms. Successful content formats that enable you to demonstrate thought leadership include white papers, guides, ebooks, blogs, newsletters, podcasts and videos. Create lively and engaging marcomms and use marketing, social media and advertising to distribute it over the web using your website as the central point of reference. Try to maximise the mileage of your concepts and ideas by repurposing your content. A blog can be used in a newsletter; a podcast can be transcribed to be read. A white paper can be used as a landing page and in an marketing campaign. Re-use it in as many ways as possible.

6 The first place people tend to look for your service is on search engines, primarily Google. 4. Be found on Google The first place people tend to look for your service is on search engines, primarily Google. You therefore have to be visible and easily found. To most search engine users, this means getting onto the first page of Google results. Search engine optimisation is the process of optimising your website so that it is ranked highly. This means your site must be relevant to the keywords used by searchers. This is likely to be your service and a location, so Marketing and Berkshire for example. To achieve optimisation you need to undertake both onsite and offsite SEO. Onsite SEO processes include: Ensuring your website is designed technically so search engines can read and navigate it Ensuring elements search engines look for are keyword rich. These include page titles, heading tags (H1, H2, H3) and image tags Having keyword rich content Having as many pages as you can on your website Constantly updating your website. Offsite SEO Offsite SEO is primarily having links back (backlinks) to your website. Think of your website as a popularity contest... the more votes (backlinks) your website has, the more popular it is in Google s eyes. To add to this not all backlinks are equal... a link from the BBC would be worth considerably more than a link from a local business directory. Google AdWords The other element to consider on Google is AdWords. This is the chief source of Google s phenomenal revenue. These are the paid for links you see on the right hand side of a page and at the top. You set the budgets and every time someone clicks on your ad it costs a little bit of money. This is known as PPC or pay per click. This is useful for when you re building up your SEO. Also SEO can t target every keyword and AdWords gives you a wider range of keywords to target.

7 Once set up these take care of regular structured activity that helps to cultivate your prospective clients. 5. Set up automated marketing systems The market for marketing systems, marketing automation and CRM is extremely buoyant. These systems can be acquired as software applications delivered over the web. They are budget-friendly, charging by monthly subscription and/or usage. Once set up these take care of regular structured activity that helps to cultivate your prospective clients. Here s an example of a typical lead generation and nurturing process that can be automated: Create a landing page in the marketing system Link it to your website, and send searchers from Google AdWords to it Ask searchers to fill in a form to download a guide - a bit like this one you re reading People download the guide and you ve captured their contact details Set up a series of automated responder s to stay in touch with prospects Pass those that show regular interest on to your sales team to open a personal dialogue.

8 A brand is a promise that encapsulates your values, positions you in the marketplace against your competitors and appeals to your target market 6. Get your brand right So you ve got a business name and probably a logo that identifies your business on letterheads, business cards and perhaps your website many give no more thought to brand matters than this. Unfortunately a brand is not just a logo. A brand is a promise that encapsulates your values, positions you in the marketplace against your competitors and appeals to your target market. It is the identity of your business, and portrays who your company really is and what it stands for. The brand is encapsulated and wrapped up in a number of elements, and the logo or brandmark is merely the central graphic component. Other elements include: Graphics, photography, typography and layout The language that you use - keywords and phrases Mission statement and/or about us website pages. Taken together these make up your brand. It is extremely important that your website is an accurate vehicle for your brand, because for many it is the first touch point with your organisation. Once created keep it consistent across everything you do design, tone of voice and so on. Ensure you and your employees live your brand. It s not just something you create for the purposes of marketing. It is what your business is all about.

9 Research suggests it sometimes takes 7 times for people to recognise a brand. Be seen in newspapers, websites and magazines 7. Don t just focus on lead generation, build your brand in your marketplace A lot of your marketing focuses on generating leads. But this is only part of the story. You need to build your business brand. There are a number of elements in the marketing mix that feed very well into brand building. What can you do to raise the profile of you and your business? How can you be seen? Research suggests it sometimes takes 7 times for people to recognise a brand. Be seen in newspapers, websites and magazines through advertising and PR activity. Be known in your community by participating in local events through sponsorship for example. Make sure you use social media to informally show your community credentials. Remember your business is built from people, so demonstrate your lighter side. The more times people see you the bigger your company will look and the more leads you will get.

10 It s highly unlikely that there is not room to do more business with your customers, so make sure you get the message out about your full range of services. 8. Sell more to your current customers An essential tactic within your marketing strategy should be to up-sell and cross-sell your services to your customers. It s highly unlikely that there is not room to do more business with your customers, so make sure you get the message out about your full range of services. There are a number of communication channels to help do this. newsletters are an especially useful format for promoting the sale of new services and demonstrating your thought leadership to existing customers. How about redesigning your letterheads or compliment slips so that they include your full service resume? Every piece of formal communication then becomes a potential sales agent for you. Why not design special offers that capture the attention and assist in converting them to take new services?

11 People buy you as well as your company. How might you raise your personal profile to sell more of yourself and your company? 9. Sell yourself and share your knowledge As a company director, owner or consultant, people buy you as well as your company. How might you raise your personal profile to sell more of yourself and your company? There s a range of activities that provide an excellent vehicle for wider exposure among your peers and potential customers. It s well worth exploring the possibilities of participating in some or all of the following activities: Networking events - attending or perhaps hosting Seminars - speaking as well as attending Online - blogs, Twitter, Facebook Expert guest writer for a media outlet such as a trade journal, newspaper or website Create a talking heads video presentation offering advice and publish it on YouTube Developing a podcast.

12 Take your own advice When you are invited to provide expert advice, you expect your client to listen and act upon it. 10. When you choose to go to a marketing expert for help, let them help There is a mix of technical and communication disciplines that sit behind a well integrated marketing function. It s highly specialised so it should surprise few that expertise is required to deliver them quickly and efficiently. Many small and mid-sized businesses choose to outsource to a marketing partner. You simply cannot do it all and it s unreasonable to expect someone whose primary role is not marketing to be able to acquire all the skills required. Get outside help when you need it. Combine best business practice with your instincts to find someone you can work with and trust. Working with a marketing partner is a two way street and your attention and input is required. You may have to reveal confidential information to tell the whole story of your business. If you are uncomfortable with the prospect of baring your business soul to new found marketing professionals, an NDA is a useful tool to ensure that your confidential business information stays just that way. To ensure that you get the best value from marketing, you need to give your marketing partner the best opportunity to provide it. It s useful to remember the following points: Once you are happy with your choice of marketing partner, let them help you and trust their advice Trust in your marketing partner s knowledge. Don t let internal differences between decision makers in your business come between you and good advice. Let the professional marketers guide you Take your own advice When you are invited to provide expert advice, you expect your client to listen and act upon it. How many times have you said or thought of your own clients: I am giving you sound professional advice. Why aren t you following it? Don t be discouraged by a few bad results. Results often don t meet expectations, especially for those that are commissioning marketing services for the first time; it s a long game that delivers over time If results are good, ask them to deliver more. If results are bad ask them to change the approach or come up with new ideas. If it s lots of excuses, deaf ears, or evasiveness, it s time to change your marketing partner

13 Next steps with your marketing Xander Marketing has worked with, looked after and performed the marketing function for a number of professional service companies. It s this experience, and experience with SMEs that makes Xander Marketing a great choice for businesses that value marketing but don t have the time, resource or know-how to do it themselves. Visit our website for more information: Get in touch: t: e: w:

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