The past three years have been good to professional service firms. In fact, in the 2006 study I conducted with Larry Bodine, "Increasing Marketing Effectiveness at Professional Firms," 75% of the respondents said their firms grew in the last three years. And nearly 40% said they grew dramatically.

It would be nice to sit back and enjoy the ride of a boom period. But periods of dramatic growth aren't just good for the bottom line. They're a good opportunity for firms to evaluate their marketing strategies and build competencies that will be highly desirable if the economy tanks again.

Unfortunately, strong economic times can tempt a firm to neglect self-evaluation. The firms that understand the nuances that make them successful can use that information to carry their success through the ups and downs of the marketplace.

Knowing Your Top Strategies Doesn't Mean They're the Right Strategies

It's safe to say that virtually every professional service firm has a list of top marketing strategies. Every year they appear on the strategic plan, they drive activities throughout the firm, and their progress is discussed at the highest levels.

But are the top strategies that firms identify really the ones that they should be pursuing? How do they know for sure? Perhaps they're prioritizing activities simply because they think they worked in the past. Or because they know that competitors are doing them (yes, the lemming principle is alive and well in professional services!).

There's only one way to know for sure whether your firm is directing its marketing efforts wisely. And that is to measure.

In our study, we asked respondents to list and then answer questions about their top initiatives. It was less important to know the measures they listed. Our true aim was to see whetherr respondents could credibly say why their top initiatives were so highly regarded.

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Suzanne Lowe is founder of Expertise Marketing, LLC and author of Marketplace Masters: How Professional Services Firms Compete to Win. She blogs at the MarketingProfs Daily Fix and her own blog, the Expertise Marketplace.