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Professional Services Marketing Blog
There are many reasons why a professional services firm might consider rebranding. Most of them are firmly rooted in a need to reposition the firm in the marketplace.
It could be as simple as the merger of two firms or as complex as a major shift in target client or business strategy. But whatever the reason, a firm eventually faces the question of how to rebrand in a way that yields the desired business result.
That is what we are going to cover. What is the right strategy to rebrand your professional services firm? (For a more in-depth exploration of these issues, download our professional services rebranding kit.)
These are exciting and scary times for marketers of architecture, engineering and construction firms. In A/E/C, we have previously competing firms that are now fighting to stay alive, mid-sized firms disappearing and established firms that have plateaued and are seeking growth. What’s a marketer to do? Marketing is fluid in today’s economy. So, dream big, I say!
Many architects, engineers and construction professionals still believe that the only way to sell services is through face-to-face connections. Indeed, personal connections can be evolved into professional relationships through trust-building situations.
However, buying and selling professional services, particularly buying and selling architecture, engineering and construction services, has changed dramatically. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what buyers of A/E/C services are thinking and what is driving their buying decisions today? As A/E/C professionals, we simply must know which dynamics have changed the business development cycles.
At Hinge, we set out to find the answer to those same questions. A recent webinar on How Buyers Buy A/E/C Services presented the high-level findings of a new study of 822 Buyers and 533 Sellers. If you missed the webinar, you can find it in our Library.
The research highlights such findings as:
- A strong brand, both online and offline, is important to being considered by potential clients. Reputation, visibility and the ability to be found online really do matter when it comes to making the list of potential new firms that buyers consider.
- Reputation is the top deciding factor when it comes to a buyer’s final decision on a new firm. A reputation for broken promises and a failure to distinguish your firm are most likely to lose you a new prospect.
- Delivering on your promises is the single best predictor of client loyalty. When it comes to considering a new firm, 22% of Buyers are in the persuadable range.
Looking for an A/E/C Firm
During the webinar, we asked our attendees to predict the top criterion when buyers are looking for an A/E/C firm.
Consistent with our research, the top criterion that webinar attendees identified was reputation. For comparison, Figure 1 below represents research findings.
By Sean McVey
Building business relationships is critical in the professional services, yet for some reason this task is often neglected. Many business owners and marketers spend precious time tweaking their service offerings and pricing and touting their competitive advantages — when their real advantage lies in the strength of their relationships.
Hinge’s latest research, How Buyers Buy, describes how most buyers who are trying to select a firm rely heavily on a firm’s reputation and the buyer’s existing relationships. These factors are represented by the top two green bars in the chart below. If buyers know you and trust you, they are likely to buy from you.
Just like any personal relationship, business relationships require continual maintenance. A mutual benefit and ongoing communication are important ingredients to success. In the long run, having close and trusting contacts will give you an edge, especially when other marketing tactics aren’t working. Here are 5 keys to building and maintaining business relationships:
1. Routinely Reach Out to Important Contacts
It is impossible to have weekly or monthly conversations with all of the contacts in your CRM system. But you can focus on the valuable ones. Pinpoint your best clients, partners, and vendors and continually check up on them. Express your interest in their business and let them know that you are here to help. If you want to keep the relationship alive make this outreach routine. If you let too much time go by, your eventual contact will seem less genuine.
We all want more business for our firms. Often, attracting more business involves a discussion of increasing brand visibility. So today I'm going to explore how to do that the right way. You might also want to check out our brand building guide.
Start with your brand
I like to define a professional services brand as a combination of your firm’s reputation and visibility. By that measure, brand visibility is very critical.
Our recent research on professional services buyers shows that most firms' brand visibility is weaker than their reputation.
Figure 1. Ratings of brand visibility and reputation.
In each of the major industries studied, brand visibility was rated lower than was reputation. Clearly, this is a problem worth solving.
But this also creates a challenge. If you simply increase visibility without attending to reputation, you will end up with a hollow brand. Folks who recognize you may not know much about what you do or who you serve.
For that reason, you should focus on strategies that increase both brand visibility and reputation. Here are five of our favorite ways to do this.
Brand differentiation is perhaps one of the most poorly understood pillars of professional services marketing.
I can say this with some confidence based on several recent, very lively discussions in our LinkedIn group, the Professional Services Executive Forum. Some folks believe it is the foundation of a solid brand, while others maintain that it’s not even important for professional services firms.
Let’s get to the bottom of this confusion.
Brand Differentiation Defined
A differentiator is, quite simply, something that makes your firm different from other firms in some meaningful way. It doesn’t mean that your firm needs to be the only firm with that characteristic. You are simply trying to set your firm apart from the pack of competitors.
For example, you may specialize in working with manufacturing companies. Other firms in your industry may also specialize in working with manufactures. But as long as most do not, you have a differentiator.
You can also combine differentiators. For example, you may not only specialize in servicing manufacturers but also offer a money back guarantee on your services. The combination of these two differentiators may make your firm very special indeed.
Now what about this whole brand thing? Well, your professional services brand is the combination of your reputation and your visibility. So brand differentiation is simply making your firm’s brand different.
But there are rules that must be followed.