Marketing teams in professional services firms need to work with one inalterable condition: their companies’ offerings are intangible. Unlike a garment, a car, or a piece of furniture, you cannot physically interact with a service. Prospects and customers may have an emotional connection to service companies they know and their experience with them, but that connection does not yet exist when they are considering a service firm.
However, as soon as potential customers interact with the website, blog posts, videos, or social media content provided by a professional services company, that gap begins to close. They undergo an experience with certain qualities that they may find attractive, compelling, and rewarding—or not. More than likely, potential customers will assume that the actual service delivery experience is going to be at least similar to what it feels like to be exposed to a company’s marketing and brand communications.
Does marketing align with your professional services organization?
When marketing and service delivery operations in a professional service firm align, that perception can be quite accurate. However, that is not always the case, and discrepancies are frequent.
For example, the services and executive teams, especially in midsize and smaller companies, can comprise experts who are highly knowledgeable about their work and passionate about serving customers. The marketing department may not be as steeped in the same values, and the outcome might be that marketing communications give an unfair and incomplete representation of the company’s strengths. If prospects persist, they may be positively surprised when they find that the service team is so much more in tune with their needs and more accomplished than the marketing they encountered first.
Sometimes, we find the reverse—marketing over-promises or omits important information, and service teams find that new customer accounts are at risk even before much significant work has happened.
Marketing as a profitable business asset
At Sikich, we also see that executives in some professional services firms are reluctant to invest in marketing because they don’t trust it and don’t feel that it can do well for the company in terms of generating billable hours. Instead, they may prefer to recruit experienced sales professionals because they trust that they can build the right relationships with enough prospects and customers to meet revenue goals. But, by reducing the role of marketing, they might leave valuable, potential opportunities fallow and suffer very high costs of doing business.
We recommend that professional services firms treat marketing as the initial, extremely critical stage of customer engagement. Marketing can be the first proof point where customers personally experience a company’s excellent, unique way of delivering services. As such, it needs to be consistent with what they can expect when they interact with the sales team to receive a proposal and sign a contract and with what the service engagement will be like for them.
Going on the customer journey
As soon as marketing gains the attention of the decision-makers you want to attract, you need to help them continue on their journey as they learn more, make up their minds, enter into a relationship with your organization, and stay with you for years to come. To accomplish this, you have to understand what motivates them to take action, enable them to engage with you in their preferred manner, and treat them as individuals, not members of an anonymous crowd.
Leaders and experts in your organization already understand the concerns of prospects and customers and know how to address them. To get marketing right, you need to imbue it with that same level of insight and customer-specific approach. You could simply staff a marketing team with experienced, senior-level professionals, but that might not be scalable to the company’s goals, or it might be extremely expensive. A better solution would be to provide your experienced, savvy marketers with the insight and management tools that allow them to multiply their skills and achieve a big impact with a reasonable investment.
Technology to give marketing wings
Modern technology can make a big difference for professional services firms looking to transform marketing into a powerful business asset. One of the best solutions we know of is the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. It comes with a large arsenal of cloud-based tools that can help professional services companies elevate marketing and deliver outstanding experiences to their customers-to-be.
Marketing Cloud is a comprehensive marketing engine that is far too big and complex to describe here, but we should mention some of the most interesting capabilities:
- The Marketing Cloud allows you to engage with prospects in their preferred channel and make every moment in their journey count. The solution’s Journey Builder tool lets you create seamless, consistent experiences across email, the web, advertising, direct mail, eCommerce, and sales. You present a unified, aligned value story, but, at the same time, you can create a one-on-one, individualized relationship between each prospect or customer and your service business.
- In the Marketing Cloud Interaction Studio, you get to know prospects better, identifying individuals across digital avenues, understanding their activities, and meeting them with contextualized messages or invitations. As you run campaigns closely targeted at certain segments of prospects or customers, artificial intelligence (AI) in Interaction Studio makes it possible to adjust instantly to make the best of every interaction with next-step or service recommendations that fit the known preferences of the individuals who seek out your company.
- As relationships grow, the Salesforce Customer Data Platform (CDP) serves as your one-stop data repository for customer information—a foundation for insight-driven campaigns and individualized engagement. CDP collects all information from every customer touchpoint, automatically reconciles data, and feeds it into a profile that can fuel marketing as well as the sales and service aspects of the customer journey. Like all the capabilities you find in Salesforce, CDP is intuitive and easy to work with for business users, who can configure reports and dashboards to show the engagement scores and lifetimes values of individual customers, optimize marketing and sales efforts, and develop follow-on service engagements with customers.
- Another tool, Datorama, helps professional services companies fine-tune, target, and scale their communications and service offerings in near real time as Salesforce gathers customer engagement data from all the engagement channels. Using Datorama, you can also easily connect marketing and campaign reporting with conversions and sales outcomes to understand the real returns of your marketing programs.
- Finally, we should mention Salesforce Pardot, a powerful suite of marketing automation tools that can take many routine, everyday tasks away from your marketing team and free up their time. Pardot can handle such time-consuming functions as sending emails in response to customer interactions, displaying targeted service offerings, tracking the responses to webinars and other digital events—and much more. By enabling full visibility and reporting from an individual’s first click to that person’s organization becoming a loyal customer, Salesforce Pardot helps you identify opportunities, improve lead traffic to sales, and launch new services and campaigns in confidence.
Real results for professional services firms
By using Salesforce Marketing Cloud and the many resources it offers, professional service firms generate measurable results. Some of them cut their annual spending by hundreds of thousands of dollars because marketing is no longer broadly aimed but precisely targeted, and marketing team members spend less time on work that doesn’t connect to revenue generation.
Professional services companies also see greatly improved lead conversion rates, substantial increases in requests from prospects and customers, and higher email opening or click-through rates. And, when professional services firms work with large enterprises, Marketing Cloud often helps them make inroads and develop relationships with additional business groups.
Ultimately, customers benefit from more productive, rewarding engagements, consistent from the first encounter to the service delivery experience. In turn, happier, more loyal customers can lead to more organic growth through recommendations and referrals.
Taking the next step
Sikich can help you realize the best outcomes from bringing Salesforce into your business. As a Salesforce partner with many technical certifications, we have a successful track record of more than 15 years helping professional services firms and other organizations take advantage of Salesforce to serve customers, empower employees, and drive growth.
To connect with us or find out more: