Creating a community of potential clients is increasingly important in a day and age of tanking mainstream media revenues and the increasingly powerful combination of the internet, marketing automation technology, and social media.
These developments have made it fairly easy for professional services firms to create their own communities of potential clients that offer greater measurement, accuracy and responsiveness than they could get by renting access to someone else’s community (like those created by mainstream media).
But how does a professional services firm attract individuals to their own community instead of renting access from others?
Obviously it’s content, but it has to be the right content.
Try this mental experiment. Imagine writing a newsletter that focuses on the hobbies and personalities of all the lawyers in your law firm, or delivering speeches about customer service initiatives at your architecture firm, or – heaven forbid – writing blog articles about the unique corporate culture at your consulting firm.
Now sit back and in your mind watch as your potential clients wander away in disinterest, looking for someone else who is communicating about the thing they want from law firms, architecture firms, and consulting firms – expert advice.
I guarantee you that potential clients are NEVER out looking to hire a professional services firm that has hobbies similar to theirs and NO CLIENT will ever ask if they can buy some of your corporate culture.
Don’t get me wrong those things may all be important parts of your firm and valued by your staff and possibly even relevant to your potential client. But things like relevance, differentiation and competitive advantage are very dangerous things to be focused on when talking about your firm (if you want to know why email me and I will send you a complimentary copy of The Consultant with Pink Hair).
So if you’re not talking clearly about, and also demonstrating, your expert advice to a potential client, those potential clients simply assume you don’t have any expert advice to give – just hours you want to sell.
If your advice is generic in nature, if you are seen to be easily replaced by any other firm, then you are a commodity service usually purchased based on lowest hourly rate or lowest project price. You are milk, bread, and beer.
When your firm is seen to provide commodity services then those other things like personality or corporate culture can become tie-breakers, like they are for some milk, bread, and beer.
The problem in professional services is that you can never know which tie-breaker a potential client might use.
To attract people to your community of followers make sure you are sharing and demonstrating your expert advice with them. Then once they are in your community, and have stepped forward and begun speaking to you about a specific engagement find out if there are tie-breakers in play and if so which ones (here’s a hint – find out what their decision-criterion are and how they are weighted). Then and only then address those tie-breakers using traditional personal selling processes.
But never, ever position your professional services firm on anything other than the quality of your expert advice.
If you do, I guarantee you will fail to attract followers and always be a renter, and never an owner of a very valuable community of potential clients.
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"This should be required reading for consultants AND their clients - especially the part about RFPs." - Blair Enns, Win Without Pitching