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The New Normal in Professional Services Marketing (Article 1 of 3)

by Nicholas A. Kosar  |  
November 7, 2013

The world of professional services marketing is not generally known for early adoption of cutting-edge marketing techniques.

As I see it, there is one underlying reason: Professional services practitioners (notably lawyers) exist largely as a safe haven for their clients. Their role is to help their clients reduce risk and navigate uncertainty in the turbulent seas of the business world.

So it's not surprising that the culture of professional services businesses tends to approach the ever-changing world of "new" or "digital" marketing (including social media and mobile platforms) with some caution. For professions meant to provide stability to clients, tweeting, and commenting in an online mosh pit are not activities that come naturally.

Rather, marketers in the white-collar professions are far more likely to hear skepticism than excitement within their firms about adopting a new, digital services marketing strategy or tools. We've all heard variations on this theme:

  • "How many clients did you actually get out of that blog post?"
  • "Who really pays attention to LinkedIn?"
  • "I don't want anyone I don't know contacting me."
  • "I don't know what a tweeter is and I don't want to find out."

The fact is, it is counterproductive to think of digital/social/mobile marketing efforts as something newfangled and scary. Though in many cases such tools are new and cutting-edge (note the meteoric rise of the use of Pinterest), the proper approach to them is to embrace the world of change and consider this embrace as completely normal. Why? Well, for example...

  • 53% of in-house lawyers—the target market for law firms—are reading daily general business media on their smartphones. ("2013 In-House Counsel New Media Engagement Survey," Greentarget, InsideCounsel, Zeughauser Group.)
  • A practitioner's content marketing is trusted more than third-party rankings. ("2013 In-House Counsel New Media Engagement Survey," Greentarget, InsideCounsel, Zeughauser Group.)
  • Only 16% of networked users are on Twitter, which means that many Twitter content generators are the "digerati," or subject matter experts or journalists. In other words, it's good to hang with these key influencers to build your professional reputation. (Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, 2013.)
  • 91% of US mobile device users have their mobile device within reach 24/7. These users are accustomed to consuming bite-size pieces of content while on the run. (Morgan Stanley.)
  • From 2011 to 2012, LinkedIn's membership grew 45% worldwide, and 39% of members in 2012 had the title Manager, Director, Owner, Chief Officer, or Vice-President. It's a growing directory of potential clients, colleagues, and referral sources. (LinkedIn Ad Platform via Amodiovalerio Verde.)

If this is the "new normal," then it requires a change of thinking and of habit on the part of professional services marketers and their firms.

In a series of three articles on this subject, I'll share some guidelines to make sure that a professional service firm's digital marketing efforts are as effective as possible. This first installment focuses on the importance of creating marketing "campaigns."

Stop Thinking 'Blast'; Think 'Campaign'

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Nicholas Kosar manages marketing campaigns for an AmLaw 100 law firm in Washington, DC. Prior to his work in the professional services sector, he was in book, magazine, and digital publishing.

LinkedIn: Nick Kosar

Twitter: @nakosar

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  • by Peter Byre Fri Nov 8, 2013 via web

    Thanks Nicholas, some really interesting background and tips. Looking forward to seeing how you can use more relevant content snippets in your campaigns - although I am guessing that is Part 2. One additional point I'd like to get your view on is the role of personalization. You touched on it from a Personal Network standpoint, but do you think Lawyers will engage more with content on a one to one basis with their clients?

  • by Nick Kosar Fri Nov 8, 2013 via web

    Peter - thanks for your comments. The next article focuses on the need for social/digital communications to be in bite-sized pieces and, to your point, be personal. It's no longer the "Firm" that should be communicating, but the real people who will be helping clients. I think one challenge is for professionals who are in the business of reducing risk for clients to enter the "risky" world of social and real-time media; they need to feel that they won't make "mistakes" using these tools. More and more it is the individuals who participate in social who create trust and opportunities for client work. And that's a big leap for this risk-averse sector of the economy.

  • by Gracious Store Fri Nov 8, 2013 via web

    Thanks for this informative post

  • by Courtey Ramirez Thu Nov 14, 2013 via web

    Terrific post! If I'm understanding the fourth bullet correctly, do you mean repurposing existing web page topics for blog posts to be distributed?

  • by Nick Kosar Sun Nov 17, 2013 via web

    Hi Courtney - thanks. Yes, I mean repurposing content from one's regular website to blogs that are more targeted to specific market segments (which are often followed by publishers within that segment). However, it doesn't or shouldn't have to be one-way. Content should be regenerated, updated, slimmed down, or deepened, and in fact can start with blogs. The point is, people consume information in different ways, so we should be sure to repurpose in many ways to appeal to the channels that readers prefer - email, blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, published articles, and so forth. Hope this helps.

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