Trust is the essential currency of professional services marketing. Think about it - are you going to have an attorney represent you that you don't trust deeply? Are you going to have a tax accountant handle your tax returns if you don't have faith in them? Of course you're not going to.
If you're not trustworthy, you won't even be considered when someone is buying professional services. Once you're trusted, then you're evaluated on other criteria like price and expertise. But if you can't be trusted, you won't even get the chance to compete.
But how can you establish trust? And if you have established trust, how can you promote it? Here are 4 ways you can establish and promote trust in your professional services marketing.
1. Deliver a stellar customer service experience
This is where trust starts with a professional services business. It should go without saying that SMB professional services can't afford not to provide a stellar customer service experience. But just what is a stellar customer service experience?
Start with the basics - return calls promptly, respond to emails and provide professional project management. Establish goals and strategies to achieve them. Use these strategies to build a game plan to achieve your objectives. Keep everyone in the loop on how the project is progressing by using project management software. We use Basecamp, but there are other project management software tools available like Trello and Podio.
Avoid surprises. Don't wait until you've missed a deadline for your customer to find out. If you run into an unforeseen delay, explain it to your customer as soon as possible and let them know how you're managing new developments.
Let your customers know what you need from them to do your job. Don't be shy about reminding the customer of their responsibilities. Most will thank you for reminding them. If you don't get what you need from the customer, guess who's going to be held responsible for a failed project? Spoiler alert - you will be help responsible.
Every thing we've talked about so far doesn't require subject matter expertise - it's just good customer service and project management. But you've been hired because you have expertise in your field that the customer doesn't. Make sure you put that expertise to use applying it to their unique situation. And don't rely on what you learned ten years ago. Just about every professional service sector changes frequently in response to the legal and business environment and new technologies come on board constantly. Make it part of your personal goals to stay on top of your field of expertise. If you don't, someone else will.
Lastly, conduct stewardship reviews to get the customer's input on the service you provided. You should be striving to constantly improve and customer feedback is an integral part of the improvement process.
The results of providing an excellent customer service experience are:
- Improved brand recognition and reputation. If you're turning your customers into evangelists, they will talk about their experiences with your firm in their circles of influence. There's only one thing that spreads faster than a good customer service experience and that's a bad one.
- Repeat business and upsells. Once you're trusted for providing great customer service, your competition diminishes significantly. There's a good chance that a happy customer will hire you for that new project without even talking to anyone else.
- Referrals. Happy customers will refer you to their colleagues because they trust you - you won't make them look bad. When you've done a good job for a customer don't be afraid to ask them for referrals.
2. Use case studies to develop trust with people who don't know you
When you've done a great job achieving measurable results for a client, develop case studies that describe the problem you solved and how you solved it. This will help establish trust and credibility with people who find you through your inbound marketing efforts.
Case studies are great because they let potential customers see how you've successfully solved the same kind of problems they're facing. The best case studies show proof of concept by illustrating numerical results - 50% increase in sales, reduce operating costs by $1,350,000 or improving reliability by 83%. Make sure you can back up the numbers.
The best case studies are developed with the customer being portrayed. It's a good idea to give credit to your customer and show how you helped them. A potential customer wants to look good to her boss or investors. If you don't give them any credit, you run the risk of making them look bad or worse, incompetent. Feature your customers in your case studies - use their photos and quote them extensively.
Case studies are excellent content pieces for lead nurturing campaigns and can be used by sales professionals to increase trust and mitigate perceived risk in doing business with you.
3. Create content to show your expertise
Content marketing is essentially a "free sample" of your professional services expertise. Every professional services firm should have a blog in which they write about problems their customers face and developments in their industry. This is a chance to demonstrate your command of your industry and to show people that read your content that you know your stuff.
One note of caution: don't use your blog to pitch your services! Remember, you're trying to establish trust and coming off as a self-interested sales person is the last thing you want to do. Here's a good place to start - write down the ten questions you hear most frequently from your customers and prospects. Answer each one of them with a blog post.
By publishing SEO-optimized blog posts, you will attract buyers who find you via search engine queries on the subjects you write about. You should also promote your content on social media channels and share it via prospecting emails. Ask you employees, vendors and customers to share your content on their social media channels. Promotion of your content is half of the battle.
By writing educational content about subjects that are of interest to your customers and prospects, you develop a trust before you even meet potential buyers.
Trust should be at the foundation of your professional services marketing strategy. Everything you do should be evaluated against the question, "Does this establish and promote trust in me and my company?" Try these three tactics to develop levels of trust that will allow you to sell more services to your existing customers and bring new ones into your book of business. There simply is no alternative to trust in professional services marketing.