Marketing and selling professional services is almost the complete opposite of marketing and selling a physical product and therefore should be approached very differently.
Selling a physical product in some ways is much easier. You have a product, with packaging and a clear price. People in most cases can pick up, touch and view the product. They can try it on or imagine using it and they can quickly evaluate whether the price matches the perceived value that they will gain from using that product. When it comes to marketing that product you can take photos of the product, or show famous people using the product. You can improve the packaging and generally focus on the traditional 4 x P’s of marketing – product, packaging, price and promotion. It is pretty simply stuff. You can expect that you can promote it and a percentage will buy it with little additional promotion.
Then there is professional services, and marketing becomes a little bit more complicated. Here are my top thoughts on marketing professional services.
You are the product
The product is not the services that you provide it is you! No matter what the service is that you are offering there is a lot of trust involved. If you are helping with a legal matter, selling my house, designing my house I need to trust you. We need to be aligned in our thinking and our values. We are all people, and we need to know, like and trust the people we are working with. You might be the best family lawyer in the state, but unless I trust you and feel like you understand me and ‘get’ me and my situation then I won’t use you. The flip side of that is that clients that you have good rapport with are better to deal with. It is an easier and more pleasant experience for you, and lets face it we all want to enjoy working with our clients. I have some clients that are a pure joy to work with and I really look forward to seeing them each month.
This means that you have to share a part of yourself in your marketing so that I can get a sense of who you are, what your values are and what is important to you so that I can decide if that aligns with me as your perspective client.
You also need to focus on turning a service into a product. How can you bundle up some services that work well together, that provide value to clients and call it a product that people can understand and see how they can use it. You need to make your service product as tangible as you can. So this may be creating literature or diagrams that really help a potential client see the value in the offering and understand what it is and why they need it. It can also mean that a service that you provide which clients may not understand what it is or whether they need it bundle it up so that people can see what they get and what the cost is – much like a product on a shelf that they can peruse.
Price is all about perception
As someone who provides professional services I hate the use of hourly rates. In almost all circumstances this causes frustration and resentment for both parties, and is actually really subjective. Even if you provide an hourly rate, it doesn’t really tell people how much work will be done during that time. It also means that you are clock watching rather than focusing on delivering the best possible outcome for you and the client.
Instead we need to look at value, what is the value you are adding to that person or business. For example the real estate agent that charges 1% more commission than all the other agents in their area, might actually achieve a 10% higher sale price…..I would pay them an extra 1% for that! The accountant that charges you more for advisory services might reduce your tax or increase your profits. Why would you want the cheapest accountant when another accountant that charges more can save you money or help you grow your business?
Place is often overlooked from a marketing perspective. This is where the service takes ‘place’. So you might have rented a nice office somewhere central so that your customers can come to you. You might have hedged your bets by being in the CBD district of your city so that you have greater exposure to a larger volume of people. But place in the 21st century should extend beyond a physical location. How do you reach a wider audience that don’t need a physical visit to your office? Can you offer video chat calls? Can clients login to your online portal and access their files and information? What can you do to make it easy and convenient for clients to access your services at a time and place that is most convenient for them? This is particularly important for busy multitasking entrepreneurs who are tech savvy and expect their service providers to be the same. Can clients book an appointment with you online via your website to make it easier for them than having to ring or email your office?
Often when people think of marketing they are actually thinking of promotion, such as advertising. However, very little of marketing is actually promotion. We do need to promote our service offering, but the traditional methods that we might think of such as advertising are struggling. Firstly, many people (especially millennials don’t trust advertising). They want a more meaningful and trusting connection with a brand and that doesn’t come from watching an ad. This is actually good news for small companies because they can get market share without having to compete with those brands that have the money to throw at big advertising campaigns.
Promotion in this decade is all about personalisation. The more you can personalise an offering and target it the more traction you will get. For example, I personally love email marketing, it is the best form of marketing and has a tremendous ROI for a really small outlay. But the number one thing that people get wrong with email marketing is trying to be too many things to too many people. Rather than sending a monthly or quarterly email to all their database with a range of general topics they should be sending 5 different emails to key client groups with very specific and meaningful messages that affect them. For example, if you are an accountant and you send all your clients an email about something that affects small businesses, but half of your clients are salaried employees you have alienated half the recipients. However, if you send two emails – one to small businesses with information that is specific and useful to them and another to salaried employees with something specific to them then you are making an impact. So you need to find a small group of people that are high value to you, and send them something that is targeted and specific to them that adds value. That is the sweet spot for all promotion!
If you want to review your complete marketing offering (not just your advertising) then book in a complimentary 15min chat with me!