If your marketing isn’t working, maybe you’re just thinking about it wrong.
Most firm leaders have a clear sense of what they expect from marketing—leads and revenue. Logically, as those are the expectations for the function, they become the objectives and the KPIs for it too. As a result, a firm’s marketing goals written as a statement might look something like this, “Marketing will deliver 2,500 marketing qualified leads and 250 sales ready leads in 2021.”
This all feels entirely logical. Except that it’s entirely wrong.
Don’t Confuse marketing Objectives with Desired Outcomes
So, why do firms invest in marketing? If I asked most firm leaders, the list would include some of these:
- Generate leads (or new “logos”)
- Grow brand awareness, relevance or visibility
- Generate more RFP opportunities
- Grow referral networks
- Close more business
- Sell more projects of “XYZ” type
- Grow firm revenue
These are all great reasons to invest in marketing. And, yes, they are goals of what you hope to achieve. So, technically speaking, they are objectives. But they’re also entirely firm-centric. Clients don’t even show up on the list except as a conduit to provide something to the firm (notoriety, money, etc.)
So, yes, these are all good goals you’d like to have happen. But they’re better viewed as the desired outcomes from your marketing investments, not the objective of your marketing program itself.
The only marketing Objective is to Educate Clients
Through 20 years of marketing professional services firms and multiple research studies, we’ve found there’s only one meaningful marketing objective—educating clients on issues that matter TO THEM. Here’s the data to substantiate my claims:
- In our 1st foundational website research in 2012 the firm generating the most leads stated its central objective was educating clients; not generating leads.
- In our 2019 thought leadership research the firms generating the highest price premiums and fastest revenue growth said educating clients was the most important role of their marketing.
Like everything else in professional services, the key is to take a client-centric view to your marketing objectives. If you focus on your clients, the problems they face, and articulate better ways of solving them … leads and revenue will follow.
What Should You Do Differently?
So, this is interesting, but what should you do differently? Should you scrap all your lead, new business, and revenue targets? No, of course not. That would be ridiculous. But stop fixating on them. Also, stop pushing specific solutions, and spend a whole lot less time worrying about what your competitors are doing.
Instead, start having some different conversations in your firm that will help you get better yield from your marketing investments and become more client-centric to boot:
- Restate your marketing purpose – Step back for a moment and get all practice and firm leaders aligned around the idea that modern marketing is educating. It’s about helping clients learn about the challenges they don’t even see. Learn how to solve the biggest challenges they knowingly face. And find ways to think differently about the challenges themselves.
- Agree on your ideal client – As previously stated, it all comes back to the client. Work to get everyone in the senior leadership team in agreement on who your ideal client is. Be specific. Focus on three things. Firmographics (the organizations you want to do business with). Demographics (the people within those companies). And psychographics (what they’re thinking and feeling right now as it relates to the types of problems you solve).
- Be clear on what you want to be known for – Ask yourselves the question, what do you really want to be known for? I’d suggest it’s wise to define this beyond specific markets or solutions. Focus on business issues. Put another way, what problem must your firm completely own in the next 3 years? 5 years? 7 years?
- Identify what’s wrong with existing solutions – The fastest growing professional services firms tend to find different or better ways to solve a pervasive problem. Look at those problems you want to own. Then ask your team a few questions. Is there a better way to solve them? What are those solutions? Do we need new research to find a better way? Do we have the evidence needed to back up those contentions?
- Develop and articulate clear points-of-view (POVs) – Once you can agree on the problems, and on what’s wrong with the existing solutions, then you can develop better ones. Develop a clear statement of your better way to solve those problems (use our 5 steps to get started). Ultimately, your POV is the catalyst for everything you’ll do in marketing—from thought leadership and case study development, to developing solutions, to lead generation and promotion.
Marketing words to live by
Modern marketing is educating and modern selling is helping. Embrace both belief systems wholeheartedly. Leads and revenue will follow. They almost always do.