Creating Marketing Success at Professional Services Firms Begins with Team Composition, Development January 02, 2013, by Peter Mirus in Branding, Marketing

In professional services you market yourself. Firms that understand the nature of professional service marketing also understand that each encounter with the client is a marketing event—not just a marketing opportunity (where marketing may or may not take place) but an actual event where marketing activity occurs whether or not it rises to the level of consciousness. Team members who do not or cannot understand this reality may not jeopardize your current book of business but they do limit growth opportunities.

Despite the increased role of the internet in professional services marketing, the average firm receives the majority of its leads through word of mouth or referrals. (This includes technology firms—STA’s primary client base.) Business usually moves by transfer of trust from one person to another. “I have experienced the services of this firm, and they have my trust, so I recommend them to you.” Even when your firm is identified through some other means (such as through an internet search), the best prospective clients will need to receive that transfer of trust in some way—by speaking to your other clients or by reading their statements.

In competitive professional services environments, differentiation is often achieved through experience: what it is like to work with your company on a day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to-year basis. The primary way that current clients understand your brand is through that experience. The primary opportunity to plant the seed for new business is within that experience—whether that new business comes directly from the client you already have, or from a referral to a new client.

This being the case, one of the most certain paths to growth lies in successfully building and developing your workforce—hiring team members that have well-rounded capabilities and providing marketing/communications training to all client-facing staff. The value of every client-facing team member at a professional services firm should be measured in three dimensions. First, does the team member have the expertise, experience, and discipline necessary to perform the work? Second, does the team member understand how communication is important to building and maintaining strong relationships? Third, does the team member understand how to identify and capitalize on new business opportunities?

For some firms it may seem an insurmountable obstacle to require that all client-facing team members measure high in each of these dimensions. However, in order to achieve sustained levels of growth in revenue, profit, and book value, you must acquire or build a high level of capability in these areas. Though it might not seem like marketing, this process is in fact the most fundamental marketing action that a growth-minded firm must take.

STA helps professional services firms to consider these matters in a variety of ways, including working with client executive teams to create business, brand, and marketing strategies—these create the context for evaluating team composition and development needs. We also assist in workforce skills analysis and by establishing guidelines and training for both internal and external communications.