INSIGHTS FROM OUR WORK
One of the evergreen questions our clients ask is: “what are the key factors that drive executive buying of high-end professional services?” The answer to this question is critical because it determines how to market, sell to and connect with these potential buyers and has become all the more important in the face of market head-winds. So here’s the good and the bad:
Active cost-cutting is all around as the global economy faces serious headwinds in the form of stubborn inflation and geo-political uncertainty. At the same time, we are hearing from our clients about tremendous pressure to grow. Squaring the circle of these competing demands isn’t as hard as many will make it and those that succeed will do things faster, better and simpler than the rest.
Not surprisingly, we are now hearing of slowing deal pace, longer decision cycles, and in some cases freezes on new contracts. So, we a ask the question again: Do you have the relationships with clients and potential clients that you’d like and that will serve you and them in the months ahead?
As is often the case in the lead-up to spring, the world begins to come back to life. We see similar signs of life as our clients begin to consider and plan for in-person gatherings. For the many who are suffering from ‘Zoom-fatigue’, the notion of meals and experiences with colleagues is more than welcome.
With the arrival of fall we are seeing the lingering and even the return of pandemic restrictions across many geographies. Given this, we take stock of the lessons from the last year to inform what have now become sound client engagement practices no matter what the coming months may bring. Here is our short list of three immediate to-do’s for marketing and sales leaders in professional services, B2B, and beyond.
The year 2021 is likely to see many remaining off of planes and still working from home. While the vaccine offers tremendous hope and promise, its deployment across the West will likely not see a return to normal before summer even in the most optimistic scenarios.
One of the more common questions we are asked is how do I stack up to my competitors? We do a tremendous amount of work helping our clients answer this question and preparing them to win in competitive situations.
Event marketing has always had elusive returns. So, we at H2A propose you drop “events” from your playbook and never look back.
To put a finer point on it, your event lift is likely killing you, taking a toll on your team, and its impact is likely negligible.
At H2A, we are not big on New Year resolutions. We are more of the “try new things all the time to improve performance” types. That said, we know many business leaders are making their lists for things to do in 2019. In that spirit, and regardless if you wear a B2B or B2C hat, here is a list we hope you find worth exploring if not a bit inspiring (spoiler alert: it has a bias toward doing less but doing it better).
There’s seldom a day when we don’t hear the mantra that “our clients come first”. Indeed, time and again we see the tremendous sacrifices and efforts made by those we serve providing great solutions, products, and services to their customers. This often means long days, late nights, long flights, and a drop-everything attitude to ensure the best possible outcomes for the clients and customers that are the life-blood of their businesses. That said, we see that many organizations miss the forest for the trees by prioritizing the wrong things — ideas, service models, add-on services — all while reciting the “clients come first’ mantra”. A fix is needed, and we provide some suggestions here.
In this edition capturing observed trends across professional service firms (PSFs), we provide an answer to a question we are getting with increased frequency: Do we need a CMO?
The discussions we find ourselves in typically start with some basic questions:
How do we develop a firm-wide marketing strategy?
Do we actually need a firm-wide marketing strategy?
Can a CMO be successful in a role where direct reports are aligned to take direction from practice and geographic leaders?
Where should decision making rights for marketing actually be held?
That trap is the assumption that clients and potential clients are seeking this dispensed wisdom at particular times and in particular ways. While that is sometimes true, we find that most high-likelihood buyers of premium professional goods and services come to the table with already well-articulated existing needs. The curse of the expert is the auto-pilot presentation and practiced responses from advisory and other professionals that while really good, often miss the mark. They miss not because they are wrong but because they are not properly informed by specific client needs. The antidote is simple and often over-looked. Whether it is a large-venue conference speech or a one-on-one pitch meeting, know before you go by asking these three questions: 1) who exactly is my audience, 2) what are the front-burner issues they are grappling with right now, 3) how can I precisely apply my expertise to those immediate challenges. It sounds simple but is the single largest missed opportunity we encounter.
Like every industry, professional services have been in the midst of a radical transformation. Increasingly sophisticated competitors with non-traditional business models have gained acceptance and forced many firms to re-think how they attract and serve clients. As major firms grow (largely thought acquisition) and client needs change, firm brand, reputation and ‘social-proof’ are no longer enough to break through the noise and secure new business. Throughout our careers, we’ve seen this evolution first hand and continue to see it in today’s rapidly changing professional services environment. Three trends have taken center stage in the 1st Half of 2017:
With some planning and forethought, these can be easily replicated. Doing so will help you move past purely lead gen activities and into more robust relationship building with your customers. These approaches will also help create a “stickiness” that solidifies these relationships over time, while creating raving fans along the way and a more direct and prominent client-facing role for the marketing function.
The strategies come in two different but related forms – creating and delivering experiential customer workshops and the use of influencer activation strategies – both designed to capture the imagination of new and existing buyers while providing you with valuable insights that will fuel sales and inform a range of important business decisions.
In this Part II follow-on, the focus is on correctives in the form of concrete approaches to making these marketing activities truly customer-centric and drawing upon examples from our work across multiple industries and company types.
We see that organizations who use these approaches are creating and delivering content in new ways, ensuring more relevant outcomes, generating more meaningful interaction, and expanding sales with their targeted customers.