The headline ways you can make your services-led firm stand out

Marketing a service, instead of a product, can be a challenge.

You can't send out free samples. You can't pass your service to people and ask them to feel the very expensive weight of it. You can't even dress up your service in expensive packaging!

So whether you're an accountant or a consultant, a legal practice or a financial adviser; how do you approach marketing, increase client numbers and stand out in your field? Here are the headline approaches to take in order to do just that.

Branding - perception is everything

If money was no object, would you gravitate towards BMW or Kia? Choose Hotel Chocolat or Cadbury's? Stay in the 'boutique luxury countryside spa retreat' or the Travelodge?

This is brand. It isn't just your logo or your name. It is the collected assets of your business, which influence client perception. If your brand is perceived as a leader or occupying a premium place in the market then clients will gravitate towards you, outside of other factors which may influence their decision. 

Many service-based firms operate at a premium position. Legal fees are not perceived to be cheap. Financial advisers typically target clients with a minimum amount of funds to invest.

If you too occupy this place in the market, then your brand must contribute to the perception that your firm is worth your fees and worth a premium position in clients' minds.

Value - giving away something doesn't need to mean giving away your service

Giving away a service is not only difficult, it can influence the perception of the value of the service you provide. Something provided for free must not be worth all that much to begin with, right?

But the service you offer is not the only thing you have that's valuable. It is not the only thing you can give away.

A little knowledge goes a long way. Helping your audience to solve simple problems, with your significant expertise and knowledge, means that they look on you as just that; someone with significant expertise and knowledge. Better yet; you have that and you're willing and able to help them.

[READ MORE - Inbound marketing for professional services explained]

You're demonstrating value, providing a taster, genuinely helping your audience and putting your firm in a position of authority.

Why wouldn't your potential clients want to work with you on a more formal basis?

marketing-a-service

Proof - as close as you can get to a tangible trial

Reviews, testimonials and referrals. This is as close as a potential client can get to experiencing your service without actually experiencing your service.

Seeing, reading or hearing about someone else's experience creates empathy. Hopefully, for your services firm, that will be a positive emotion. Potential clients can empathise with the situation your client was in before they became your client. You helped them and moved them in the right direction.

Why would your potential client not want the same thing?

Providing proof that you are who you say you are and do what you say you do is one of the most powerful marketing tools available to professional services businesses. 

Expectation - sharing the process

Uncertainty breeds the ability to say no. 

The experience a client will have of your service is important to them. Will they meet you daily, weekly or only over the phone? Will you produce reports or guidance for your clients? Or just provide verbal direction and indication?

A clear roadmap for what will happen when a client engages you can make all of the difference. What's the first step? What next? How does the engagement finish?

Even if each of your clients' individual experiences is different, you can still give a general overview. Will clients work with a named individual? How long is an engagement? What will be expected from them?

Sharing a process creates certainty and allows clients to envisage a future with your firm at the centre. If they can see what working with you will be like, potential clients become more likely to jump into that future. 

People - who delivers your services?

People buy from people, the old saying goes.

But how can people buy your people if they know nothing about them?

Using people when marketing a service is nothing particularly new. All you need to do is look at the history of the stock images to get an idea of just how frequently people feature in marketing.

But using your people is something relatively new. And that doesn't just mean using their photos on your homepage. Or developing a people page.

If your advisers, consultants or lawyers are the face of your business, why aren't they the face of your marketing? Instead of writing that blog, why not get one of your team to record it, face-to-camera? Publishing a case study? Why not get your client and their adviser involved; on camera, in the writing process or to illustrate the story you're telling.

People are typically the heart of your firm. Make them the heart of your marketing too.

demonstrating roi

Differentiation - why you?

There is a reason why your client chose you.

There are plenty of people in your marketplace, but your clients did not choose them. They chose you. Why?

If you don't know the answer to that question, then that's step one of knowing your proposition and marketing your firm effectively.

Your differentiation point is your leverage point and leaning on it is the route to more clients.

It could be your pricing. It could be the fact that you work with someone people already respect. It could be your existing results.

Whatever it is, there is a way to use it in your marketing. Doing so successfully can convince more clients to choose you over your competitors.

Pricing - you get what you pay for

At a used car garage, you are offered a car for significantly below the accepted market rate. What is your first assumption?

The same can be true of services. Cheap services can connotate a lack of process, or even expertise. Expensive services can connotate the opposite, but then must deliver that same experience.

If you strive for a premium position you will often be expected to charge a premium price and deliver premium outcomes. If you occupy the middle ground in pricing, then accept that you may attract some less than ideal clients, but equally your service levels may not need to be quite as high. 

The problem occurs when you hit a mismatch. Premium pricing with an average service is a recipe for disaster. Premium service with low pricing may suit new market entrants, but it will hamper growth and sustainability if adopted for the long run.

Once you've decided on a proposition, decide on a price to match and ensure you justify it. Pricing isn't just central to business performance. It is part and parcel of your marketing.

Niche - talking your client's language

Imagine you are a doctor choosing a financial adviser.

Several local financial advisers have met with you. You meet with a new financial adviser. They are called 'The Doctor's Financial Adviser'. They have a page on their website called 'financial advice for doctors'. They show you several case studies where they've helped doctors to navigate the NHS pension scheme and address concerns common to doctors when it comes to preparing their finances.

If you were that client, who would you choose?

Defining your niche immediately makes your proposition more powerful. Instead of tring to be everything to everyone and speaking to only a few someones, you become the exact thing one group needs and that group cannot help but consult with you.

If you think you already have a niche, think again. A niche is only a niche if the people you want to talk to consider it so.

Addressing your service to 'airline employees' may not get you all of the 'pilot' clients that you want.

 

ClientsFirst work specifically with professional services firms and those who supply the professional services marketplace. We specialise in growth marketing: marketing which has a direct impact on your bottom line. You can read more about our approach to professional services marketing here.