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The Problem of Defining Professional Services Marketing Expertise

by Suzanne Lowe  |  
January 16, 2007

In an early November post on my blog, I posed the question: "Do we marketers have any idea what makes one marketer more expert than the other?" It sparked some healthy debates: What is the definition of "expertise" in the role of professional services marketing? Do a firm's fee-earning practitioners have appropriate expectations for the marketing function?

The multiple opinions that followed revealed a tremendous fragmentation in the expectations of professional services marketers.

Is marketing's role to "move the sale ahead" and to "stand behind the firm's professionals, whose job it is to create value?" In this model, marketers are expected to help grow the business within the confines of the firm's current service offerings and service delivery parameters. This model also implies that marketers exist to save the practitioners' time, money, and effort, freeing them up to do critical work that they could not do otherwise.

I'd wager that the majority of professional firms, and the majority of marketers themselves, see the role in this light.

Or should marketing's role be to "create value itself" and to "find and match marketplace opportunities with the firm's value propositions?" This model implies that marketers are deeply embedded within the business, have an astute understanding of the firm's current and potential value proposition, and have the skills, judgment, and advisory talent to help the firm carve out new or expanded market opportunities. This conceptualization of the marketing role embraces the notion of innovation, creativity, and instinct.

It appears that these differing expectations, and the evolution of the role of professional services marketer, have begun to fall into two distinct camps, both of which are grounded in expertise: the efficiency specialist, and the analytical specialist/market creator.

The Efficiency Specialist

The Efficiency Specialist's job is to help make selling happen. This type of marketer has expertise in getting potential clients to take specific actions; effectively moving the marketing tactical machine; teaching and motivating practitioners to build the firm's favorable awareness; and spending marketing budgets astutely, no matter what their size.

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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.

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