Most people like us, people who run businesses that rarely justify a full marketing team, find it extremely hard to market themselves.
It’s so hard to do that most marketing agencies tend to do very little marketing for themselves. Strange, isn’t it? Just like doctors who smoke (and I know a few of those).
The main issue with this problem is a legacy one. Professional services firms were mostly banned from promoting themselves in the past (and most still are locally), which made the market for marketers in the area a limited one.
But the root of the problem nowadays is a very different one, and one which very few people tackle.
Just like you would usually tend to get personal recommendations for professional services on a personal level, we do the same for professional services in a business setting.
You tend to choose professional service providers based on trust, and you can’t build trust using traditional marketing methods.
This has led to most businesses growing through two main sources of new business:
You see loads of businesses do well using the two methods above, especially with businesses where the turnover of clients is quite significant – the more happy clients you have, the more likely you are to receive a recommendation.
Some people are just naturally gifted at articulating what they do concisely and effectively, making them especially well-suited to growing their business through their personal connections, too.
But what about the rest of us? We have to work at it.
So how can we short-circuit the process to grow our business more quickly than we would if we had to only rely on satisfied customers recommending us?
For our businesses to prosper we should work on building trust at scale.
This might seem daunting at first, but if you think about it, it is just what the professional service companies have been doing year after year. If you’ve never looked up McKinsey’s content, go and take a look, you’ll be impressed.
It’s easy to look at a brand like that and give up – after all, they probably pour millions into their content and we’re small businesses here, lucky if we can afford to throw a hundred thousand at a marketing problem – let alone a million, or many of them.
But we don’t. We can build trust by making a concerted and consistent effort to share our thoughts and insights about our subject matter.
Doing so only takes three simple steps:
They sound simple, and if you look at them at face value they are. But I find that they are the kinds of tasks that we all like to procrastinate on. Once we get down to it, we realise that we were far more scared of the process of working on them then they deserve. You could outsource all of this to a B2B agency like ours, but if you have the time and patience, you can start working on it yourself, too.
If you’re good at what you do, then I’m pretty sure that you’ll never run out of ideas. There are little bits and pieces of your job that you do with a level of peculiarity that sets you apart. Deconstruct these and talk about them. There are movements in your industry that your prospects should know about. There are best practices, and the implications of not following them. I’m sure that if we put you in a room with a three year-old they’d ask you a hundred questions about your job, your work, your industry and everything around them. Answer these questions.
People find writing hard. Very hard. But it shouldn’t be. Someone once taught me a trick, and every time that I’m stuck I apply it. Start an email and imagine that you’re explaining whatever you want to write about in an email to one of your clients. Ideally someone you like. It’s much easier to write for an audience of one than it is to write for a thousand.
This is the hardest part. We tend to think of marketing when we’re not busy, but then we put it on the wayside as soon as work flows in. This inherently builds a business that works in ebbs and flows, because if we don’t have any work coming in when we’re busy, then we’re going to have to pass through a quiet period while we build an order book once again. Build processes that force you to keep an active presence no matter what.
And in the end…
I’ve purposely left out specific tactics and channels because these will vary from industry to industry. So will cadence, the kind of content you put out, where you put it out etc. What counts is that you show up, you show authority, and you do it consistently. It becomes easier. I promise.
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