Let’s face it – the process of marketing or selling any professional service is fundamentally change management. The number one reason, and maybe the only reason, any buyer seeks out a new professional services firm is due to a desire to create change. That change may take the form of organizational change or personal change, but it’s that desire for change that is critical to the buying process.
Consider an Example
Maybe yours is an engineering firm that designs and implements systems that reduce noxious gas emissions for producers of electrical power. This is a regular, top-of-mind issue for the internal engineers at a company of this type. Chances are they already have a preferred set of engineering firms they’ve worked with in the past. A decision to consider a firm like yours is rooted in a desire to change the status quo. Maybe the current firm is struggling to deliver programs on budget or on time, maybe its had some turnover in its consulting team, maybe the client sees other opportunities to reduce emissions that require expertise you might have but the current firm lacks, maybe there is simply a personality clash between the buyer and the consultant, or maybe the buyer simply wants to test the waters and see what other perspectives are out there. Regardless of the reason, the prospective client is seeking change and he’s considering your firm to create that change for him.
“Push” Marketing Doesn’t Facilitate Change
So, like it or not, you’re in the business of change management. How is your marketing approach facilitating the change your prospective client seeks? If the majority of your marketing effort is a “push” approach — attending tradeshows, sending out direct mail that relates only to the services you have to offer, and augmenting both with consistent business development outreach — it’s not helping to facilitate this change much at all. While this approach feels proactive it relies solely on the prospect to find answers to their problems elsewhere, get inspiration to solve those problems on their own, and hopefully think of your firm when the time comes to take action. This opportunity, if it arises, occurs late in the buying process and becomes difficult on which to capitalize.
So, How Can Your Marketing Facilitate Change?
“Pull” marketing relies heavily on content to pull prospects into a potential relationship with your firm at a much earlier point in the buying cycle. It’s whole purpose is to help prospects identify the change they require and build the confidence they need to create that change. By guiding your prospect down the buying cycle, you position your firm as an expert on the topic, reduce competition, and increase the likelihood of closure once the prospect is actually ready to buy. As I see it there are two things your marketing should be doing to facilitate this process:
- Educating Through Content – Expertise-oriented content should be aligned against the potential types of change your prospective client might seek. This may start in the form of a blog or newsletter and evolve over time. Regardless of the format, this content is designed to educate and inform. It does not persuade, nor does it sell. It helps the prospect put context around the problem they’ve identified.
- Painting a Picture of a Better Future – This is a second form of content, which is used largely to build the prospect’s confidence to move forward. It’s designed to help her envision a better future reality than the one she’s living in now. I believe “short form case studies” are the best way to accomplish this.
Over the course of the next week, I will write in greater detail on each of these two forms of content. In the meantime, feel free to sign up for our monthly blog digest if you’d like to receive all these posts in summary fashion once they’re published.