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The Marcus Perspective


By Bruce W. Marcus

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Here’s a little secret about professional services marketing. It always comes down to selling the individual clients — one by one. And it doesn’t matter if your firm is the largest or the smallest.

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

Well … if you’re 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 fir the firm and its professionals. They attract prospects, and define a firm as a foundation for moving those contacts into your arena. Then target marketing comes into play.

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

Target marketing means identifying and choosing your prospective client by name, and going after that prospect with a broad spectrum of techniques, supported by a mass marketing campaign focused on your skills and experience in solving the prospect’s problems.

Let’s take it step by step.

  • Define the client you want. 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 — the one that best defines the kind of client you want and for the kind of practice you want — a client who has the kind of problems you are best at addressing. Then you identify the companies in your market area that you think would be great clients for you.
  • You find these prospects by …
    • Scouring your own lists of existing clients and prospects. Why existing clients? Because the chances are that you’ve got clients for other of your services who don’t have the slightest idea that you can do this new thing for them, and that they need it.
    • Doing simple secondary research. Go to a library or get online — or hire a research firm — and look up companies that you think might fit the bill. Use simple research sources, such as Google, Dun & Bradstreet, Standard & Poor’s and so forth. 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 you’re offering is worthwhile, you will quickly assemble a terrific list of targets. Telemarketing is a good prospecting tool. Or do a mailing, offering a brochure.
    • Hold 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 you’re marketing a specialty, then stress that skill in a marketing campaign.
    • Identify the key people who make buying decisions in the prospective company. They are your target.
    • Deal directly with that person to establish a relationship. Write. e-Mail. Twitter. Phone. Do a seminar and invite the prospect. Set up a regimen of regular mailings and online posts — articles, reprints, brochures, newsletters, etc. Client advisories. A newsletter. Advertising in trade journals read by the prospect. Your objective is to build a relationship that facilitates the prospect’s 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, you’ve got to …
    • Have a realistic plan. No wishful thinking. Know what’s doable, and who’s going to do it.
    • Be precise in the profile of your prospective client. Start with the clients you have as a guide to what you do for them and what you can’t do.
    • Be realistic about your partners’ commitment.
    • Be professional in your marketing tools. Be organized. Get it on paper. Who does what, and by when. More good plans slip away undone for lack of drive and organization and a good manager.

There’s a large element of networking in targeted marketing, as there is in any professional services marketing. It can’t be done from a distance, like product marketing. Somebody has got to get out there and meet and court the prospect, in order to make it happen.

Target marketing — choosing your clients and then going after them individually — defines your practice and defines your entire firm. If you are what you serve, then you’re better off hand-picking your clients than you are firing a load of buckshot, and eating whatever it is that you hit. That’s why target marketing is better than mass marketing. One client at a time.

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, (, the author of PROFESSIONAL SERVICES MARKETING 3.0 (Bay Street Group, 2011, from which this article is adapted and the co-author of CLIENT AT THE CORE (John Wiley & Sons, 2004) His e-mail address is © 2011 Bruce W. Marcus. All rights reserved.


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