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The Marcus Perspective

IT BOILS DOWN TO ONE CLIENT AT A TIME

By Bruce W. Marcus

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Hereís a little secret about professional services marketing.

It always comes down to selling the individual clients ó one by one. And it doesnít matter if your firm is the largest or the smallest.

You can talk about strategies, image, niche marketing and branding. You can talk about articles, brochures, press releases and seminars. But it always comes down to selling the individual clients ó one by one.

Well ... if youíre going to have to do that anyway, why not start with target marketing to begin with?

All those tools and strategies of marketing build a context to facilitate getting to the individual client prospect, and supplying a background to target marketing. In the highly competitive arena that now constitutes professional services, all of the mass marketing techniques build reputation and name recognition. They attract prospects, and define a firm as a foundation for moving those contacts into your arena. Then target marketing comes into play, enhanced by a kind of pre-selling.

This is why marketing efforts, prior to the face-to-face contact, are important.

What does target marketing mean? It means identifying and choosing your prospective client by name, and going after that prospect with a broad spectrum of techniques, supported by a mass-market campaign.

Letís take it step by step.

  • Define the client you want. A lot of ways to do this. Location. Size. Industry. Specialized need. Your fee range. An industry configuration that requires a specific service. Industry-related arena. Your definition, but do it in great detail.
  • Identify the company or individual that fits your prospect profile Ė the one that best defines the kind of client you want for the kind of practice you want. Identify what it is you want to sell (and assumes that youíve already determined that a market exists. Donít try to sell labor law to a community of individual entrepreneurial farmers who use machines instead of people). Then you identify the companies in your market area that you think would be great clients for you, because they fit your client profile. You find these prospects by ...
    • Scouring your own lists of existing clients and prospects. Thereís more gold there than you think. Why existing clients? Because the chances are that youíve got clients for other of your services who donít have the slightest idea that you can do this new thing for them, and that they need it.
    • Doing some simple secondary research. Go to a library or get online ó or hire a research firm ó and look up companies that you think might fit the bill. Use simple research sources, such as Dun & Bradstreet, Standard& Poorís and so forth. It only takes a hundred or so companies to start with. And how many of those companies, turned into clients, does it take to make the whole effort worthwhile?
    • Prospecting. Using the social media to do a great series of ads that include requests for your literature. If the ads are well done, and placed in the right publications, and the material youíre offering is worthwhile, you will quickly assemble a terrific list of targets. Under some circumstances, telemarketing is a good prospecting tool. Or do a mailing offering a brochure.
    • Holding a seminar, with material aimed at the kind of client you want. The attendees not only comprise a mailing list, but they become your first contact in a networking program.
  • Devise your campaign strategy.
    • If youíre playing off a specialty you have, then use that skill for a marketing campaign. But remember, that campaign is only the backdrop for target marketing. Youíre still going to have to go after each company individually.
    • Identify the key people who make buying decisions in the prospective company. This is your target.
    • Deal directly with that person to establish a relationship. Write. e-Mail. Twitter. Phone. Do a seminar and invite him or her. Set up a regimen of regular mailings and online posts ó articles, reprints, brochures, newsletters, etc. Client advisories. A newsletter. Advertising in trade journals read by the prospect. Your objective, ultimately, is to build a relationship that facilitates the prospectís getting to know you and your skills and what you have to offer.
    • Take as much effort as you can to not only learn about the target company, but about its industry as well.
  • Do it. Strategy is a wonderful word. It rolls nicely on the tongue. But to make strategy more than a buzzword, youíve got to ...
    • Have a plan thatís realistic. No wishful thinking. Know whatís doable, and whoís going to do it. Donít identify and market to 500 companies if you canít cover more than 50 in one shot.
    • Be precise in your profile of your prospective client. Start with the clients you have, as a guide to what you do for them and what you canít do.
    • Be realistic about your partnersí commitment. Everybody wants new clients. Everybody wants to be in the swing of marketing. Not everybody is willing to do it, or has the self confidence and eagerness to do it. Itís easy to say yes to a strategy, and then get busy with billable hours.
    • Be professional in your marketing tools. Writing a direct mail or e-mail letter isnít the same as writing a letter to a client. And even the newsletter you buy from a service should be looked at carefully to be sure that itís specific to your firm, your service, your market, your needs.
    • Be organized. Get it down on paper. Who does what, and by when. More good plans slip away undone for lack of drive and organization and a good manager.

Thereís a large element of networking in targeted marketing, as there is in any professional services marketing. It canít be done from a distance, in the abstract, like product marketing. Somebody has got to get out there and meet and court the prospect, in order to make it happen.

There is one more important factor in target marketing, one thatís perhaps the most important of all, especially for a growing firm.

A manufacturing company is defined by its products. A professional firm is defined by its client base, and the services the firm offers those clients.

Target marketing ó choosing your clients and then going after them with whatever it takes to win them ó defines your practice and defines your firm. If you are what you serve, and to whom you serve it, then youíre better off hand picking your clients than you are firing a load of buckshot, and eating whatever it is that you hit. Thatís why target marketing is better than mass marketing.


Bruce W. Marcus is a Connecticut-based consultant in marketing and strategic planning for professional firms, the editor of THE MARCUS LETTER ON PROFESSIONAL SERVICES MARKETING, (www.marcusletter.com), the forthcoming PROFESSIONAL SERVICES MARKETING 3.0 (Spring, 2011) and the co-author of CLIENT AT THE CORE (John Wiley & Sons, 2004). His e-mail address is marcus@marcusletter.com. © 2011 Bruce W. Marcus. All rights reserved.

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