Client loyalty and customer referrals have now hit an all-time low, and these types of new business connections are fast being replaced by having relevant expertise in a niche service category.
Even with 2020 past us, we are still living in unprecedented and chaotic times. But, most of all, these are times of profound change. At Eberly & Collard Public Relations, we believe we are on the precipice of a revolution as it pertains to how leaders at professional service firms can market themselves. Buyers need to know how to assess service providers in today’s environment. And, sellers need to understand what types of sales and marketing methods will gain the attention of buyers.
Buyers stated in a study last year conducted by the Marketing Research Institute that relevancy of services or specialization in a niche category was a key selection factor. This factor has risen 33% over the last two years and will continue to rise. Relevant expertise translates to higher client satisfaction, loyalty and referrals, all of which are at all-time lows. Because it is much easier for a buyer to do a quick web search than it is to reach out to a friend or a colleague for advice or for a referral. The loyalty suffers and is not established if the client does not see you as highly relevant to their current challenges and needs. The old methods will not work in today’s environment.
What is the best path forward? In today’s marketplace, a strategic and customized approach is paramount to success. A modern, digital-fueled content marketing approach is the right mix of ingredients. Traditional methods are not dead. It’s understanding how to balance them both appropriately in varying percentages based on your specific industry or unique needs.
Digital Marketing Dominates
Digital communications and marketing have been on the rise for more than a decade, but companies that have not evolved to include some form of digital marketing communications are being left behind. The 2020 pandemic forced many companies to convert to all types of virtualization where digital interactions are now routine. With so many gaining experience and comfort with virtual services, it will only continue to be more prevalent. Having a strong digital content marketing strategy will help aid in staying relevant. Items like Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Search Engine Optimization (SEO), a digital media kit, and a robust media relations strategy that will help secure articles and placements online will also help with high authoritative backlinks to your website. Podcasts and videos will also fall under this category, to name a few.
The Importance of Industry Specialization
Specialization is essential and considered a real competitive advantage over companies that do not do so. The benefits are obvious. Clients benefit by virtue of specialized service and added value through insights and suggestions. We decided years ago to be an industry niche-based marketing firm and have maintained our commitment to this decision. It’s been our strength in an otherwise uncertain economic environment because our target audience demands as much value out of their professional advisors as possible. We believe that specialization gives this to them. After all, by virtue of serving many organizations and individuals engaged within the same industries, we see challenges and opportunities much clearer than another firm not working in that specific industry category. This brings a lot of value to our clients in the niches we serve. We believe other professional service firms that follow in this similar model will also yield the same successes.
Niche Marketing is A Successful Strategy
Differentiation, the most common, and most difficult marketing issue for professional services firms. Competition within the professional services space is fierce, and many industries are incredibly analogous—which makes differentiation that much more difficult. Take an unbiased look at your industry. See how competition saturation, economic or political volatility, and trends and challenges affect your position.
Define your target audiences and what they want. The critical rule here: Don’t guess. Internally generated client surveys and client service programs only go so far. What your clients and prospects say and do varies greatly depending on a variety of factors. Third-party research can help. Once you know the pain points and perceptions, make sure you have a solid plan on what to do with that vital information.
Use your resources and or the resources of your specialty marketing firm to focus your efforts. This involves all of your firm’s professionals, including technical, business development and marketing focused. Is your marketing department at capacity? Is this the time to outsource? Do your business development and marketing teams have the right skills and roles in place? Once you make changes or revise your strategy, do you have individuals that can champion the efforts and see things to fruition?
Understand What is and is Not Working
This tends to be one of the most difficult questions to ask, as the answers can be very nuanced. For example, are you engaging in reactionary marketing (or is marketing more of an afterthought in your organization)? Do you have a strategic plan in place? As mentioned in the beginning of this article, content development will be crucial to help increase awareness and education among your targets. But, it takes time. A realistic timeframe is approximately 3-4 months before a measurable difference can be seen. It’s quite often in today’s world of instant gratification that expectations are not realistic. Don’t set yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations from the very beginning.
There are numerous ways to increase B2B lead generation, but the information above will help guide you along the way. Working with an agency that truly understands your specific industry is the way to achieve success and convey your value proposition. Working to ensure that your client loyalty does not suffer is a sure-fire way to remain relevant to your customer base.