From how to cut through the content noise to navigating a complex economy, there was a lot to learn this year.
Leading a professional services firm offers a diversity of learning. This year was no different. I learned a lot from every podcast guest, prospect, client, conference speaker, partner, employee, personal advisor, and subcontractor. I hope you find some learnings of your own and are inspired to do even more in 2023 than you did this year.
3 Things I Learned (or Re-Learned) About professional services Marketing:
Too Much Noise: When I was in First Grade one of my favorite stories was a short picture book called Too Much Noise. It was about a farmer who was overwhelmed by the noise coming from all the animals on his the farm. Today, your clients are the farmer. And, they’re not just surrounded by a few voices. They’re surrounded by thousands of voices vying for their attention. This is not new. But, the breadth of the problem is staggering. In 2020 alone, over 1 billion hours of new content hit the digital landscape — that’s over 1.4M lifetimes of content. Cutting through the noise is harder than ever. To do it, bring a distinct point of view, stay focused in what you want to say, and be ruthlessly disciplined in your delivery.
All That Matters Still Starts with Google: Six years ago I called Google “the central node in the world’s information network.” At the time, I was speaking to the role that organic search plays in how clients search for ways to solve their most pressing problems. This year, we did more with paid media than before. We 5x’ed the ad spend for our thought leadership conference; tested out ad placements in industry newsletters, expanded our LinkedIn buys, and ran more campaigns for clients than years past. Through it all, Google ads still performed the best. Lower CPC, lower cost per lead, more sales. All hail Google. Developing a steady diet of high quality, self-published content continues to be critical in the long-term in getting your firm found. In the short-term, augmenting that with paid media is equally important to driving leads and revenue in the here and now.
It’s All About That [Audio/Visual]: With all that content flooding the system clients want now, more than ever, an easier path to consuming what interests them. In our latest thought leadership research, clients rated webinars, podcasts, and videos as their 3 most preferred forms of thought leadership content. One way we’re helping clients solve for this is by producing companion audio / video interviews during the article development process. Often, these videos can hit the market faster than the traditional articles themselves. If you’re not doing it already, get a plan for augmenting your traditional blog content with audio and video experiences (streamed or recorded).
3 Things I Learned about the Economy, Business and corporate Strategy:
Future Focus: Developing a future focused mindset is critical to success in more ways than one. Whether it’s developing your firm’s culture, its business strategy, or simply managing your personal retirement account the ability to think long-term is a critical yet often lacking skill. In fact, this is a critical skill in developing a high performance marketing engine. Marketing success is rarely measured in weeks and months. It’s measured in quarters and years. Be bold, be patient, and be disciplined and good things follow.
Insights are Discovered: The “insights section” of a consulting firm’s website is the heart and soul of the marketing engine. It’s where the firm articulates its unique point of view and shapes the conversation on a topic. Often, it’s the front door into the firm for potential clients. How you organize, publish and present your insights is critical to the success of your marketing. Oddly enough, this runs in stark contrast to how meaningful insights are developed. As our client, Dev Patnaik at Jump Associates, reminded me a true insight is something you discover that no one else knows that you can use to build a business no one else can. Don’t confuse your over-use of the word “insights” in firm marketing with the habit of discovering insights that make your firm remarkable.
Recessions are a Mirage. Parts of the economy are up. Other parts are down. What we call a recession is more subjective than you think. And, by the time we declare something a recession it’s already come and gone. Worrying about a recession is not a good use of your time. Sure, your firm has its own economic lifecycle based on the clients who hire you. You’d be a fool to ignore it. But, you’re a bigger fool if you obsess over it. Know where you are in the lifecycle, but don’t be defined by it. You control your own destiny. You can choose “not to participate” in a recession. You can focus on becoming more effective and efficient. Or better yet, you can do something innovative and future focused when everyone else is running scared.
3 Things I Learned About Anything in Particular:
Disney Broke Loyalty: Most businesses are focused on retaining and rewarding their most loyal customers. They’re guided by a desire to bring predictability to their revenue and go to great lengths to reward their most loyal customers. Coming out of the pandemic, demand for Disney theme park experiences was so high that the company raised its ticket prices, introduced technology to increase average spend, and increased the number of blackout dates for its annual passholders. Wait, what was that last one? Yes, Disney is actively pushing away it’s most loyal customers. With sky high demand, the company learned it can make more money focusing on customers who visit once in a lifetime than ones that visit as often as 2-3x per week — and there are plenty of them. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? What would your firm look like if the queue for services was so long that your most loyal clients were told to wait while you serviced only brand new ones? It’s a mind-bender alright.
Nuclear Fusion Could Work: For years I’ve been telling my kids if they want to change the world figure out how to achieve nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion is the process the Sun uses to create heat and light. As I understand it, fusion occurs when two atoms collide with such force that they fuse into one heavier one. The result is an energy burst thousands of times more powerful than a nuclear bomb. It comes without nuclear waste. Just yesterday, the U.S. government confirmed that scientists briefly generated “more energy from a fusion reaction than it took to set off.” It’s a major breakthrough on the path to cleaner, more sustainable energy. It will take a long time to get to something commercially viable — like 15-20 years (if ever). But, the possibility of abundant energy with no meaningful accompanying downside is a spectacular breakthrough for the entire world.
Joshua Tree National Park is Stunning: Of course, a life well-lived involves more than thought leadership, lead generation, and professional services marketing. This Spring my family and I took a West Coast trip that included a drive through the massive and beautiful Joshua Tree National Park. The starkness of rock serves as the perfect contrast to the beauty of the sky. If you’ve never been, take the time, make the trip. You won’t regret it.
Looking Ahead to 2023
As we wind down another year serving as a marketing advisor and thought leadership development partner to consulting and other professional services firms I give thanks to all our great clients who trust us with their marketing dollars. Thank you for your partnership in 2022. To our readers and listeners, thank you for sharing some of your limited attention span with us. I look forward to seeing what interesting, new stories you all have to share with the market in 2023.