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Late last week, I promised I would write stories that wove marketing into my daily post-rotator-cuff-surgery physical therapy sessions. I had to wait several days, suffering through excruciating arm stretching, in order for inspiration to hit. Yesterday, I had three epiphanies....


Number 1: As I've encountered numerous physical therapists, I noticed that each had a different approach. One was sweet and apologetic, and brought me anatomy books to show me the various parts of my shoulder and rotator cuff. The second was vocally enthusiastic, often accompanying her manipulations with exclamations of "Look at you! Fifteen degrees further than yesterday!" But the third, whose shoulder stretches are delivered with a dry wit ("You're not doing too bad, for a girl!"), was the one that caused me to take note.
He said, "Sure, we all have slightly different methods, but the end result is the same."
"A-ha!" I thought. This means that the approach each uses is what I'm really "buying," not the results. I could have the results from any one of them!
Number 2: Last Tuesday (24 October), I received my subscription to the free newsletter from Tom Rodenhauser, editor of Inside Consulting. In his article, "Consultants Don't Think," Tom asserts that "Consultants know everything about anything."
He goes on to say: "Scratch the patina of many consultant-authored books and white papers and you'll find few 'a-h'" moments. Most state the obvious or impractical. In reality, 99 percent of what consultants spew as 'thought leadership' is pure, unadulterated drivel. The fact is, too many consultants think clients are paying them to think instead of act."
I SEE, I thought. This means there is something more than a professional service practitioner's academic or professional credentials, or years of client experience.
Number 3: Also on Tuesday (24 October) I read one of David Maister's blog posts, "What Do Consultants Know?" Maister concludes, "What counts is not our knowledge, but our interactive, human skills in helping clients .... as individuals and as organizations. Sometimes it's gentle, sometimes you need to be challenging. But it's all about helping the clients make decisions and act."
RIGHT, I thought. It's less about the the intellectual capital than it is about the approach, and the steps the professional practitioner can encourage the client to take him on his or her own.
I mostly agree, but in some ways disagree, with Rodenhauser and Maister. As a consumer of professional services -- and yes, I put physical therapy into that category, albeit on an individual, not organizational scale -- I have to have some confidence in and trust about the credentials and expertise of those from whom I'm consuming services. (And it's no accident that marketing has something to do with my sense of trust and confidence.)
But what has all of this to do with expertise, you might wonder? Most of you know that my recent blog posts and newsletter topics have been about forward-thinking leadership in the field of professional services marketing. Certainly, we should thank Rodenhauser and Maister for reminding us about the importance of the "approach," and a professional's ability to help us "achieve results."
But I would submit that the factors of thinking and acting like a LEADER have a lot to do with excelling in one's chosen craft. And for that notion, we need to go back to my first epiphany about the differences between the approaches of my physical therapists.
I couldn't help noticing that there is competition between the physical therapists. They challenge each other to help me improve from one session to the next. They smile at each other, joke with each other, call out comments to each other, stop into each other's offices to report on how marvelously far ahead I was able to get with their help today.
YES, I thought. Leadership has to be pursued with a dash of competitive -- and yet collaborative -- spirit, with an eye toward the alternative choices that are available, while always focused on the ultimate goal: helping the client achieve his or her aims.
And so I'm left to reaffirm key ingredients that all professional service marketers know they require: professionals that apply distinct approaches one from the other; solid academic, professional, and experiential credentials; a healthy dose of competitive yet collaborative teamwork; and a desire to lead toward favorable outcomes for the client.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Suzanne Lowe is founder of Expertise Marketing, LLC and author of The Integration Imperative: Erasing Marketing and Business Development Silos – Once and For All – in Professional Service Firms and Marketplace Masters: How Professional Services Firms Compete to Win. She blogs at the MarketingProfs Daily Fix and her own blog, the Expertise Marketplace.

Before founding Expertise Marketing in 1996, Ms. Lowe spent more than a decade leading the marketing programs for top-tier management consulting and business-to-business organizations. Before that, she spent more than a decade managing and implementing strategies for political candidates and organizations.

She spearheads the only widely disseminated research initiative on strategic marketing perceptions, practices and performance of professional service firms around the globe.

In addition, Suzanne Lowe has written or been quoted in nearly 100 articles on the topic of professional services marketing strategy. Her work has appeared in the a rel="nofollow" href="http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu/b01/en/hbr/hbr_home.jhtml">Harvard
Business Review, BusinessWeek.com, CMO Magazine, Harvard
Management Update
, and scores of profession-specific magazines and journals, including MarketTrends, Marketer, Marketing the Law Firm, Accounting Today, Engineering, Consultants News, Structure, Journal of Law Office Economics and Management, The Practicing CPA, Environmental Design and Construction, Massachusetts High Tech, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, and the Legal Marketing Association’s Strategy. She is a contributor to the second edition of the book Marketing
Professional Services
, by Kotler, Hayes and Bloom. She has also been instrumental in the development, writing and publication of five books and nearly 50 articles and book chapters for her consulting clients.

Suzanne speaks regularly around the world to leading trade associations, industry groups and in-house firm audiences. Her work has also been presented internationally, most recently at the American Marketing Association's annual Frontiers in Services conference. She facilitates a Roundtable of Chief Marketing Officers from some of the world's largest and most prestigious professional service firms. She has guest-lectured at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and designs and delivers customized executive education programs in marketing for professional service executives.

She advises the leaders of professional service firms, from small start-up practices to large global organizations.

Ms. Lowe received a B.A. from Duke University.