Q. How does a CEO fix his company's technology problems? A. He yells louder at his IT manager.

The same is true in marketing professional and consulting services. When the leads aren't coming in like they're supposed to, the Managing Partner just yells louder, “DO SOME MARKETING.”

This would be funny if 1) it was someone else doing the yelling (it is usually us); 2) we didn't need the revenue sooner rather than later; and 3) we weren't frustrated because we know that, no matter how loud we yell, no new clients are going to walk in the door as a result.

But marketing shouldn't be the target of our invective. When it comes to services marketing, we must understand the role of marketing and exercise the patience to wait for results from the marketing efforts we engage.

Before we “DO SOME MARKETING,” let's think about marketing for a minute--especially its role in developing services clients and revenue.

We begin with the premise that marketing is about broadening your reach and beginning the business development process. Marketing helps us to create better answers for the following questions for our firms:

  • How many people think of you when they need your type of service?
  • How deep into the marketplace does your brand recognition penetrate?
  • How many people know you even exist?
  • Can you actually create interest and desire for your services?

Service marketing is more than a one-step process. We focus on generating revenue through generating new leads, harvesting existing prospects, and gaining seats at meeting tables so we can develop relationships that lead to new business.

So to keep the leads flowing consistently, evade the service revenue rollercoaster, and keep the CEOs (whether they're us or someone else) yelling at the IT people instead of the marketing people, we would all do well to commit regularly to the following six actions:

  1. Speak at conferences and industry events: Speaking at conferences is one of the top marketing efforts any professional service provider can undertake. The foundation for success is to remember that while you are delivering you are marketing, not selling. The selling comes after the presentation or event. Providing value during your delivery gives your audience a good taste of what they might expect when they eventually engage your services. To ensure you convert attendees into prospects, offer your slides or a white paper on the topic for anyone who wishes to leave his business card with you.
  2. Publish articles: Learn what your potential clients read to find out how to solve their problems. Like your presentations at conferences, provide something newsworthy and valuable--again reflecting the value of your core services. Allow as many people as possible to reprint and share your publications as long as they ask for and provide attribution to you as the author and include your contact information.
  3. Deliver seminars: Are seminars good for marketing? Unequivocally, yes. Not only are good seminars good marketing, but seminars done right can be one of the few marketing tactics that can actually be profitable by themselves. As with speaking at conferences, do not sell when you deliver. Focus on delivering strong content and value. You are marketing your capabilities and benefits to the potential client by demonstrating how good you are, not by telling any one how good you are. Also, don't be afraid to charge for your seminar, too. If you provide value, people will not only pay, they will expect to pay.
  4. Create an offer they can't refuse: The biggest obstacle for marketers of consulting and professional services is getting prospects to overcome the trust barrier and engage you for “big” contracts. After all, you wouldn't spend tens of thousands of dollars on someone who you only know of from a postcard or brochure. However, you can get prospects to engage you for a four-hour analysis, an introductory consultation, or a book, white paper, or product. Be creative. Find a way for your prospects to try you out for a test drive. The business development process and big assignments come later.
  5. Measure your efforts: One of the primary reasons we spend so much time yelling about marketing is that we jump from effort to effort, and even abandon efforts that may be working, based on length the latest week's pipeline report. Marketing efforts take time to create results. By changing our tactics every month we never find out what really works for us. As a result, we waste time focusing on unproductive activities while we discard activities that will bear fruit if we give them time to do so. Measure the costs and results from all your marketing efforts.
  6. Test new tactics against measurements: Once you have good measurements on the effectiveness of your ongoing marketing campaigns, set up "scientific" tests of new campaigns. Try a new tactic, but make sure your success criteria are realistic and defined before you launch the campaign. The more you find out about what works, the more you can improve your marketing returns and overall revenue generation.

The next time you feel the urge to yell at your marketing people, surprise them. Ask them to try the actions and processes described here and allow adequate time for the tactics to work. Your marketing people will love the chance to work with a clear direction. And everyone will love the peace and quiet.

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image of John Doerr

John Doerr is principal of the Wellesley Hills Group (www.whillsgroup.com), a consulting and marketing services firm that helps service companies to grow. John can be reached at jdoerr@whillsgroup.com.