The biggest marketing mistakes professional services firms make

Are you guilty of these common marketing mistakes?

Most expertise-driven businesses are being held back by bad marketing. Not only does this limit the amount of clients they can attract, but it also impacts their profitability.

In today’s tip, I break down three key mistakes to avoid.

#1 Their messaging is all about themselves

The first rule of client attraction is that it's not about you, it's about the clients you are trying to attract. It sounds obvious but you have to look at things from their perspective in order to spark interest in your offering.

It’s common for professional services firms to talk about how great they are and how long they've been in business in their marketing materials. But the problem with this is that potential clients don’t really care about your business. They care about what you can do to improve their situation.

So unless you are able to speak to the problems they face, it will be difficult to get their attention – and this is one of the first hurdles to overcome.

To put it another way – if your business is the main focus of your messaging, it’s like going to a dinner party and only talking about yourself the whole night – you're unlikely to make great company and people probably won’t find it engaging.

One easy and actionable way to change the focus of your messaging is to remove as many instances of “we” and “I” as possible. Replace these with “you” and other descriptors of your ideal clients such as their role title.

#2 They don’t have a clear target market

Once you have made the decision to bring your clients to the forefront of your messaging, you now need to pick a target market.

This is important when it comes to writing effective messaging because you should have a specific group of people in mind before you put pen to paper.

The words and phrases you use in your messaging need to be based on that group of people so you should research their common characteristics.

Now a lot of professional services firms say their target audience is ‘SMEs’ but this is not specific enough. The vast majority of businesses are in fact SMEs, so in this case the net is being cast too wide for it to work well.

When you try to be all things to all people you end up being nothing to nobody.

So the real goal is to be highly relevant to a select group of people because it instantly communicates that you are a specialist. When you are seen as a specialist you will not only be able to charge higher rates, but your marketing will also be much more effective.

Choosing your target market involves assessing where you can create the most impact while also gaining sufficient reimbursement in terms of your fee.

Your services will inherently benefit some clients more than others, so your area of expertise plays a key part in the decision about which target market to pursue.

#3 They do random acts of marketing

Although it’s important, deciding to pursue a particular target audience is really only half the battle. In order to generate leads on a consistent basis, you have to build habits around your marketing activities.

Now a lot of small firms often make mistakes here and do what I call random acts of marketing – something that happens when there is no real structure behind their marketing, which causes them to do it infrequently.

This is completely understandable of course because small professional services firms are often under-resourced. When they are in the midst of a large project, it’s very easy to solely focus on that work and prioritise it over marketing activity.

However, this is a big mistake. Maintaining a pipeline of potential clients is critical to prevent feast or famine cycles which is one of the biggest problems service providers face.

The only real solution is to routinely nurture your current relationships and start conversations with new prospects even when you are busy. It sounds counterintuitive, but your marketing activity should be a higher priority than project delivery work.

Conclusion and action point

So there we have it – the three biggest mistakes professional service providers make when it comes to marketing their businesses.

The moral of the story is that you should be intentional with your marketing and have a strategy in place to attract clients. Letting things happen passively, such as relying on word of mouth and referrals for new work, is not conducive for growing your business because it is almost entirely out of your control.

Your action point for today is to consider your current marketing strategy and review your marketing materials. Look at your website or other pieces of communication and determine whether it is optimised for attracting your ideal clients.

Put yourself in the shoes of your potential clients and imagine you are reading the content for the first time from their perspective. Is it engaging and inviting? Does it make you want to read more? Or is it too focused on your business?