Monday, April 21, 2008

Recession Marketing Discipline Number Five:

Invert your marketing spend: The most important marketing asset for a professional services firm is…its professionals, right? You and I are the walking embodiment of our firm’s brand. People buy you and me and our ability to solve their problems. So, the most important marketing tool is relationship marketing – anything that helps us get in face-to-face dialogue with a prospective client where we can demonstrate our difference in real time.

The next most important marketing tactics are initiatives that help us demonstrate our professional difference through writing, speaking, research and other thought leadership activities. Of course, these initiatives are only of full value to you if they help support relationship marketing efforts. That is, if they increase your opportunity for direct, face-to-face dialogue with prospective clients.

The last important category of marketing tools is “leveraged” or “low touch” tactics. This would include advertising, brochures, public relations, internet marketing, premiums (golf balls, hats, pens, squishy balls, etc. with your logo) and other branding activities that don’t require a professional to do anything more than show up to the office. This is expensive stuff and, while such tactics may raise your firm’s name recognition modestly, they rarely are traceable to prospect conversations no less new client engagements.

So, the most successful tactics for professional services firms are prioritized like this:
1. Relationship marketing
2. Thought leadership
3. Leveraged tactics

If you and your firm can spend time and money in all three of these areas, great. If you can only do one in tough times, hunker down and refocus on your most important relationships. Relationship marketing is the most important tool you have to grow business in good times and bad times.

So, if this prioritization of tactics is appropriate, why is it that professional service firms spend most of their marketing budget on leveraged tactics with very little support for helping their professionals get into the marketplace? The recession provides a perfect excuse to invert your marketing spending and get it right for a change.

Why not spend your money on your highest impact tactic? Now is the time to spend on rainmaking, not advertising.

Joy? Why is marketing through recession a joy? Because it forces you to reconnect with the way you should have been pursuing client development all along. And, when you go-to-market the right way, it is fun not misery. There’s nothing like a little market turmoil to motivate our best marketing efforts.

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