You have a goal: to sell your professional services. To get to the goal, you need a professional services marketing strategy. Without a marketing strategy, you have no way of knowing which of your marketing tactics to use or whether it is working. You have no map to take you from producing for the customer to acquiring a customer.
In today's sales paradigm, prospects can respond, question, discuss, and research. Your marketing strategy must take the new reality into consideration. Interruptions, demands to be seen and heard, and complete company control of message are no longer feasible. Now you need to invite, entice, educate, and build relationships before anything is ever sold. Your marketing strategy must turn itself around. You need to use inbound marketing.
Define Your Market
Putting together an inbound marketing strategy starts with defining your market. The market definition includes differentiating yourself from your competitors. A commoditized consumer environment demands it; for anything you sell, someone else is selling it, too. What makes yours better? Why should customers buy yours instead of theirs?
You must also know who you are marketing to.
- Who is the potential buyer for your product?
- How will they use it?
- What industries are they in?
You must also ask what marketing tactics will work best for each one. The first tactic is to define your ideal customer(s) by creating either a profile or a buyer persona for each niche because one of the biggest advantages of inbound marketing and current marketing technology is the ability to narrowly target your marketing efforts to best effect. By determining who each type of customer is, you can determine the manner, substance, and timing of communication best suited to that ideal buyer.
Inbound marketing is built on two-way communication. All of your marketing tactics will involve some form of mutual response, a conversation. You will talk, yes, but you must listen as well. To quote Stephen Covey, Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
Once you have created brand awareness through both traditional and digital advertising, you must be prepared to respond to the need for further information. Listen online to what is being said both directly and indirectly about your company. Seek clarification, provide answers, and allow customers to guide the interaction using their most favored channel.
Remember, you sent out the invitation. Now you must treat those who respond as your guests. Make them comfortable and reassure them that you understand what they need and can provide it in a way that gives them confidence in their choice.
Define Your Ideal Buyer
A customer profile is what Ardath Albee[i] calls looking at your customer through a wide angle lens. It is a broad overview, a simplified characterization of the type of company that will buy your product. It may contain basic demographic information such as company size, executive titles, and the industry it is in. None of this illustrates the actual needs of your buyer. There is nothing in it to guide sales or marketing efforts.
A more definitive approach is creating a buyer persona. This persona is a more detailed picture of the member of the prospective company you will be dealing with. A complete buyer persona will closely resemble an individual that you can think about while developing your campaigns, content, and approach. It becomes a real prospect experiencing a need and clues to how this prospect moves through the buying process.
A buyer persona includes:
- Status quo: What is his professional situation? Why isnt the issue being addressed? What are the obstacles to resolving her problem? Knowing the answers to these questions helps you show you understand her situation. It is a touchstone for creating the most relevant content for each buying stage.
- Strategic business and career goals: Self-interest is a huge motivator of action. Being able to directly address the buyers own goals can be the insight that gives entrée to a sale when you can show how you advance not only the companys goals but those of the buyer as well.
- Preferences and aversions: Does he prefer a risk mitigation approach or an opportunistic approach? The buyer has in mind a particular way to address the issue and will respond best to an approach that matches her predisposition.
- Competitive considerations: Like you, the buyer wants to effectively compete in her market. Anything helping her to differentiate the company will find favor. Researching the buyers industry and determining the trends he is facing can help define this point.
- Influencers: The more complex the sale, the more people involved in the decision making process. Identify who advises the buyer, who influences his decisions, and develop answers to their potential questions as well. Influencers may include colleagues, stakeholders, peers, and industry analysts.
All of this information can be gleaned from trade papers, industry blogs, analyst reviews, forums, and on social networks. It will be instrumental in defining both a niche market for your product and the buyer persona. Each niche you identify will need an accompanying buyer persona.
By focusing your professional services marketing strategy, you will spend more time on the activities that produce revenue. By defining your market and ideal buyer, you will also know which prospects to avoid. A strategy must be constantly measured against marketplace realities and adjusted as necessary. Marketing automation software makes it easy to measure your efforts and adjust as necessary.