Whether the service is outpatient radiology, electrical installation, or lawn care, creating a comprehensive marketing plan should be an exciting and motivating process for any service-driven business.
Addressing everything from the initial brainstorming sessions to the internal launches and beyond, this ‘How-To’ piece will help you create an all-inclusive professional service marketing plan that will generate momentum and bring home the final sale!
Professional Services Marketing
In 1984, Harvard Business Review warned businesses of the declining public image of the service industries and gave advice on how to change it. While they supplied many dated but relevant points, the most noteworthy were “to enhance (the company’s) public image” and “improve client satisfaction.” Harvard’s forecast of the professional services marketing trend was more accurate than they could imagine.
While all marketing plans continue to focus on the company’s public image and their customer’s happiness, creating a marketing plan for the professional services industry differs immensely from one that focuses on selling goods and other things. With additional consumer considerations, lengthier customer interactions, and strict safety stipulations, marketing plans for service industries will be much more extensive and time consuming than their product-selling counterparts.
What Separates Professional Services Marketing from Others?
The answer has to do with what part a professional services firm sees themselves playing in their customers’ lives. A business’ attitude towards their involvement in their customers’ lives must be respected, enhanced, and upheld throughout every interaction, from the receptionist to the installers and accountants.
Marketing for the professional service industry requires a more diverse set of experiences and knowledge. The following facets of professional services marketing are what make it as wonderful, and as crazy, as it always has been!
Maintain Long-Term Customer Relationships
Service industries must view each of their customer interactions as a potential long-term relationship because that is exactly what they are. Providing customers with a professional service is much different than a ‘One-Click-Buy’ transaction. Personal interactions with professional service employees will happen from beginning to end, so it is important that professional service companies understand the amount of customer trust that comes with their profession. When inquiring customers contact a service provider they are most likely in need and/or vulnerable. A comprehensive professional services marketing plan should include training at all levels of interaction from the receptionists to the installers, accountants, managers, and anyone else involved in customer care.
Unlike a product that you can see, touch, or smell, a professional service is intangible. In the real world of the professional services industry, customers are paying for services that they have not yet been provided or had the ability to evaluate. When consumers are able to make an assessment of their potential satisfaction prior to purchase it helps lessen the perceived buying risk. For this, marketing plans must incorporate ways to instill trust in their customers before any service has been provided.
If a product is efficient and selling successfully to the consumer, the company will only need to remodel or upgrade as necessary. Professional services, on the other hand, require an ongoing process of consistently improving their customer service, their craft, and their professionalism.
Specialists of every service industry know that no two jobs are alike, and neither are the customers. The ‘products’ that the service industries ‘sell’ can and will change depending on the technician. To ensure impeccable service every time, service-driven industries should put a large emphasis on their employee’s personal growth and professional development throughout the marketing plan.
For Their Information
While websites created for product-driven companies focus on product placement and sales, websites created for professional service-driven companies put a lot of their energy into establishing credibility and thought leadership, often done through a blog. Adding a blog to any website increases site traffic and consumer trust because it allows the customer the chance to try and fix the issue themselves, without having to spend the money first.
But what happens when most people probably can do it themselves? Through the act of empowering customers with free help, companies will gain their customer’s trust. Moving forward, when they don’t want to do the work themselves, customers will most likely choose the firm with the educational and informative blog over their competitors.
Mass manufacturers like Lego and Barbie employ huge machines to pump out millions of items that all look, work and react the same. Thankfully that is not the case for professional services. Professional services are always unique, no matter the industry because, again, there are no two technicians or customers alike. Professional service companies need to showcase their expertise and what makes them different from the other substandard, bare minimum, cookie-cutter techs just next door.
If a professional service technician consistently goes above and beyond for his or her customers, that is not only a representation of themself but also a highlight for the company. Even if the difference is a small measure, like a carpet cleaning company that uses specific sprays for certain allergens or just wears boot covers, everything that is done out of care and respect for the customers needs to be addressed and publicized. Personalized touches like these are what make great service companies successful.
Start with a Professional Services Branding Strategy
A branding strategy’s main focuses are: creating the public image of a company, the branding design, and building strategic messaging to communicate it to the world. Some companies’ branding strategies have been so successful that they’ve gone from hometown favorites to globally identifiable brands. Other brands, like Coca-Cola and Xerox, created a whole new level of brand visibility as their names have become generic words for the type of product they produce or the service they provide.
Professional services branding differs from other branding strategies by putting more focus on building the consumers’ trust, educating their employees, and safeguarding their authority in the industry over other brands. Follow along as we walk you through a proven professional services branding strategy.
1. Conduct the Internal Review
To start this sometimes arduous but extremely necessary process, businesses should conduct an in-depth review of their current standings, also known as an internal review. An internal review should include the leaders of the company as well as the marketing team and all other employees involved in the marketing process. Thoroughly reviewing the current business plans and goals, along with any known shortcomings or past failures, will give the team a great foundation for establishing the company’s brand identity and planning for exponential growth.
2. Construct the Positioning Statement
Since the initial review can be seen as the inception of the branding strategy, leaders should encourage their employees to share progressive tactics and nuanced ideas for the company’s future. This type of charisma is necessary for the completion of the company’s positioning statement, which can be completed during the initial review as well. A company’s positioning statement is similar to, but not exactly like, a company’s mission or vision statements. It’s an honest and aspirational statement about the brand, identifying how they want to move throughout the industry and be seen in front of their consumers. This statement is extremely important and can be used as a reference point for all other decisions throughout the branding and marketing processes.
3. Invent the Company Identity
The next step in creating a professional service branding strategy is for companies to identify their own public identity. Creating the identity of a company is the difficult task of turning an idea or theory into a tangible item, something people can identify and experience. Companies should kick off the identity creation session with a small creative brief. Emotional things like writing style or voice, associated imagery, provoked feelings; and physical things like font, logo, name, and color palette, must be discussed. The purpose of this brief is mainly to define what moral components the leaders want to convey for their public image, what aesthetics are wanted in the brand design, what’s definitely not wanted, and how all of these things are going to be incorporated into the overall image. Once all of these are established a strong brand identity will improve reputation, increase relevance among peers and strengthen visibility with target audience, ensuring an everlasting brand identity.
4. Select the Marketing Tools
Once a company knows how they want to look and sound in front of their customers, they need to figure out how they are going to be seen and heard. This section of the branding process is similar to the marketing strategy but it’s not as in-depth. A marketing strategy is a meticulously laid out timeline of the exact content and copy included on each platform the company plans on using. This portion of the branding strategy just determines what marketing platforms and tools will be used in the future, and possibly the types of content. For the most effective use of time the marketing team should preemptively research their target audiences and find out the best ways to engage each group on each platform.
5. Choose Promising Partnerships
Speaking of non-competitive companies, budding professional services brands should identify companies that they do, and don’t, want to be associated with in the long run. New brands can view this angle as a brand building measure that ultimately cultivates beneficial partnerships and increases brand authority by proxy. It’s best to identify with well-known players that are uncompetitive and have a similar target audience. These tentative partnerships can potentially be strengthened through in-person events like seminars, sporting events, and local outreach programs.
6. Launches : Internal vs External
One important yet commonly looked over facet of the branding strategy is that there is more than one launch! There should be two brand launches: an internal launch and an external launch.
Internal – An internal launch is the introduction, or the first impression of the brand, for the rest of the staff. The internal launch meeting should be exciting and instill confidence in their future with said company. Afterall, the new branding strategy ultimately represents them as well. The hit points for the internal launch would be to illustrate the basic who, what, when, where, why and how for the company. Explanation of the brand voice, service standards, and expected culture will create a sense of homeostasis as the company grows.
External – After the employees have signed off on the branding strategy, the next introduction will be to the public. The external launch is more about concentrated attention to the customer rather than explanation to the staff. For professional service firms, once a brand strategy has been implemented, a great amount of attention must be paid to the consumers and how they receive the brand. Some brands have chosen to boost their initial visibility on multiple platforms hoping for a quick pick up of momentum and publicity. This method can be extremely beneficial for companies who have high-profile partnerships and a well-written marketing plan. On the other hand, slowly introducing a brand to the public organically may save some time before the launch but there will be a lot of marketing work to do post-launch. Publicity may be slow growing with this method of brand characterization, but companies that use this technique are usually very well-accepted by the public overtime and seen as a more well-rounded and trustworthy organization.
Post-Launch Action Plan
Whether a brand chooses to be the rabbit or the hare in the race to publicity, the process of building a strong, resilient reputation is never ending. For professional service firms, gaining the trust of potential buyers is often more difficult than that of a goods service. With products, consumers can usually tell by looking at an item if it will work for them before making any commitments. And if they happen to make a mistake, usually the item can be returned; no harm, no foul.
Professional service firms don’t have it so easy. Consumers cannot know by looking at their electrician if he or she is going to install the new light fixture correctly or not. If they do a poor job, the install might incur more costs than it was worth originally. That potential risk may be too high for some consumers to take. The best way for professional service companies to ensure their potential clients’ trust is by creating a strong professional services marketing plan that includes customer experience, employee development and visibility, and consumer knowledge.
What Makes a Great Professional Services Website Design?
Over time all industries have developed their own style of page design, and consumers like it that way. Being able to anticipate the general layout of any given web page helps consumers navigate through almost any website, even if they have never visited it before. The standardized design protocol is much more imperative and stringent for companies selling goods than it is for professional service firms.
Professional service industries have the leeway to design their websites with a bigger focus on aesthetics and customer experience. The best way for professional service firms to present themselves online is by finding a way to be real and authentic while retaining an appropriate amount of professionalism. Even though both of the following businesses are in the professional services industry, a hairstylist’s page would not resemble a plumber’s, and that’s where the freedom lies. Professional service firms should use this freedom to their advantage and create a unique and memorable digital experience. Aesthetics and animations may differ between them, but the key ingredients are still the same: grab the customer’s attention and gain the customer’s trust.
So, What Exactly Does It Include?
When there is no previous awareness of the brand name, what they do, who they are, where they are, or what their experience level is, it can be a great opportunity to create a positive first impression. A successful professional services marketing plan will put a large emphasis on the development of consumer trust by utilizing multiple platforms and types of content.
Once the web designers and business leaders have an idea about what components they want to be included and where those certain components will be placed, it’s time to decide what exactly is going to be there. Digital, educational, and experiential content has become the most sought-after content for the customers of professional service firms. In light of the demand for credibility and free education, the following list of key content components will help enhance the quality and influence of any professional service firm’s website.
Address Real Problems
Consumers searching for certain services will already have a need in mind, but it’s smart for service firms to address all relevant issues that they can fix. This may not seem relevant to every service company, but at their core, all service companies are called on when there is a need or an issue; and sometimes it just depends on perspective.
For instance, plumbing services respond to leaky faucets and food delivery services respond to empty stomachs. Pizza Hut can play on the need to satisfy a hungry spouse with an advertisement for extra wings, while the plumber can play on the need for a one-time service call and ask if there has been anything else wrong with other plumbing fixtures while they are there, like the toilets or shower heads.
Showcase Credentials and Additional Certifications
Asking customers about other extensive problems can be a slippery slope for employees with bare minimum knowledge or training. While this is a great way to instill customer trust, and maybe make a few additional sales, it is a lot easier for the customer to open up about other issues when both the company and client are aware of their level of expertise. Licensed and certified contractors should illustrate the level of education for all their employees as well as any additional certifications for specialized services.
For instance, a licensed electrical contractor may initially be called out to fix a customer’s breaker box, but with an extra certification from the well-established generator brand Generac qualifying them as one of their Certified Installers, the contractor can feel more comfortable asking about multiple other issues surrounding their customer’s home generator. Highlighting consistent safety standards and continuing education not only shows an interest in the customers satisfaction and well being, it exemplifies an interest in the well being of the company as well.
Add Real Pictures of Real People
Unlike ecommerce websites that strive to post perfectly edited product photos, the professional service industry needs a little more unpredictability and authenticity. Candid photos are among the most favorable across all platforms and industries. Professional service organizations should include images of their office staff, their on-site technicians, job site updates, warehouses, and employees. Images of employees interacting with happy customers are some of the most influential. Businesses that plan to use images of their employees should be aware that certain state statutes may require that they obtain written consent before utilizing a photo of any employee for marketing purposes.
Add Transparent Customer Testimonials
Incorporating trust signals like product and service reviews on professional service websites helps customers feel more secure in their decision to do business with them. Transparency is key for testimonials. Consumers have become aware of paid partner testimonies and are keen to the sounds of robotic or standardized praise. The best testimonials are given voluntarily, or prompted by a small reminder from the company, and sometimes after payment or completion of service. Most genuine customer testimonials do include some personal jargon. These little dedications of happiness may not always read well professionally, but as long as it conveys the appropriate message, transparency is the main goal!
Add a Portfolio Page
Portfolios are important in any career. Even if customers rant and rave about a company’s service through published testimonials, each customer has their own opinion of what ‘a good job’ really is. Whether the profession is dentistry, aluminum fabrication, plastic surgery or landscaping, industries of all kinds rely on portfolios to showcase their past accomplishments and instill confidence in their potential clients for the future. These images can help customers decide whether they can rely on these testimonies or not. With 74% of consumers preferring to see previous customers’ photos and videos, rather than professionally-shot photos, it would be in the best interest of any service company to have a section of their website dedicated to images of previous jobs and satisfied customers.
Highlight Local Involvement and Sponsorships
Professional service firms that service only local areas can benefit greatly from becoming more involved in their community. Even though people are constantly moving, the home town mindset is still very prevalent across the United States. Sponsoring local soccer and baseball teams with banners, jerseys, or equipment is a great way to increase visibility and integrity across all platforms. Companies that give back to the surrounding community see a brand that respects where they live and the people they live around.
Create Individual Team Member Bios
Professional service companies need to showcase their employees because, in the end, they are the product. Personalized biographies for each tech or installer can be a great way to gain customer trust of each individual on the team, especially if they will be inside customers’ homes. This section should be informational, but lighthearted. The best employee bio pages include a happy, professional image of the employee as well as a description of their current credentials. A small, fun fact about the individual usually helps create a sense of rapport and relatability to the tech. Sometimes this little tidbit of information may be all the customer needs to make their decision.
Add a Consistently Updated Blog
Promotional marketing content is necessary at times, but the most beneficial marketing efforts for professional service providers include publishing informative blogs, videos and graphics. Companies should think of their blog page as a library of helpful content for all potential clients and partners. To the customer, this type of content is appreciated like a ‘free gift’ without the purchase.
Blogs can also be used as a visibility trade of sorts with other non-competitive brands. By pinpointing other popular but non-competitive company blogs they may want to be associated with, a professional service firm can quickly and easily multiply their website traffic in no time.
Conspicuous Contact Information
Even as the digital age folds in on us, the need for live, verbal communication has never been higher. Accessibility expectations rise every year and even though it’s not as highly regarded as it may seem, consumers would like to be able to contact their potential service providers in more ways than one. Professional service firms must ensure that all of their possible contact information is easy to find on every page throughout the website. Customized coding can allow for quick messaging or scheduling options, as well as immediate access to social media platforms for a touch of personalization.
Set Up Landing Pages
Last but not least are landing pages. A landing page is a designated information retrieval web page with no navigational support to any of the other pages throughout the company’s website, other than possibly to the homepage. Used exclusively to collect customer information for future contacts and follow ups, landing pages can be an extremely easy way for customers to learn about new professional services and other promotional information without having to scroll through the entire Home page.
The Importance of Professional Services SEO
On top of having a visually enticing layout decorated with quality content, companies must choose the correct copy as well. Copy is most important for search engine optimization, or SEO. Search engine optimization is a digital marketing technique that uses search engine analytics to find out what verbiage is popular among the masses for a particular niche. Marketing professionals will then use this information to decide what verbiage is most advantageous for any given website and incorporate these terms into the website copy. It’s in all companies’ best interests to follow the customer-approved guidelines, especially since only 75% of average consumers still actually make it to the right page.
Choosing verbiage that coincides with what most consumers would search for is paramount for any industry, but it is especially important for the professional services industries. As one of the most powerful digital marketing techniques, SEO impacts the communication between a company and its consumers before they even click on the page. Every piece of information on the website serves as a small flag to search engines signaling to them that the information the individual just searched for is on this page.
Search engines are not only privy to identifying admissible websites through their current content, they are becoming more astute to what’s missing. Search engines are adding more strict outlines for what they deem as the efficacy of a website. Websites that include copy with relevant information about overlapping topics are deemed much more beneficial to search engines than websites that only provide information about one particular idea or topic. Addressing surrounding issues and including information about other topics will make a website capable of even more visibility and SEO power.
The initial SEO research for all the current and potentially relevant industry topics may only be a small portion in the planning phase of a website marketing plan but the outreach is ever-expanding. Buyers are willing to pay premium prices for brands they believe in, but they have to be able to find them first. A professional service company that provides an array of direct and unbiased information about themselves and their profession on their website shows potential clients that they can believe in the company’s character as well as their abilities to complete the job successfully. It also allows them to be found much higher in the search results. Experience level is one of the main differences between professional service firms so professional service providers should showcase their knowledge and skills through copy by adding helpful, straightforward blog articles, and other helpful content that sets them apart from the competition.
Do Professional Services Firms Need Social Media?
This question may seem rhetorical to some millennial entrepreneurs but there is still a lot of confusion on whether a social media account is an asset or a liability for professional service firms. The truth is that it is both for everyone, but knowing how to use it correctly lessens the risk factor.
A social media account can have a great impact on a company’s visibility and organic traffic as long as they are dedicated to publishing quality content and continuously maintaining all facets of customer service communication. Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn are all amazing platforms that offer a wide variety of content types and interactive features for potential consumers and partnerships alike. Each social media platform provides its own style of communication, or voice, for companies which allow them to become more personable where fit. The following list will help professionals utilize the available platforms in the best way possible.
Contrary to popular belief, Facebook is not just a place to keep up with Grandma and Uncle Tony. Assuming even more businesses than Instagram, Facebook has become one of the leading social media platforms for consumer product research. Successful professional service organizations take advantage of this publicity as well as the opportunity to entice future clients. Facebook is a great place to advertise new services, special offers, and exclusive member deals.
Overtime, Facebook has incorporated a community building element called ‘Facebook Groups.’ This feature allows users with similar interests to share ideas and personal experiences about products and services from all over the world. With about half of all ‘Facebook Groupers’ actively participating in five or more Facebook groups, there are almost 2 billion people posting on these pages every month.
Initially used as a quick way for friends and family to connect and share pictures, Instagram has transformed itself into an eCommerce conglomerate. Instagram is now one of the biggest social media platforms for shoppers coming in just behind Facebook with over 25 million active business accounts, one billion accounts total. Instagram has upgraded its features to include Reels, Stories, Messenger, IGTV, Live Feed video, and Point-of-Sale capabilities.
Professional service firms should take advantage of this platform by utilizing all of the aforementioned features. Images posted to the accounts main page will stay there until deleted allowing it to be used as a 24/7 Sales Rep! Posting images daily of jobsite progress allows potential clients to see the quality of work first hand. Exclusive team member bios and interactive stories with public polls and trivia allow consumers to feel as if they are interacting with an individual rather than a business.
The phrases, “Guilty by association,” and “Birds of a feather flock together,” usually have negative connotations in today’s culture but when it comes to marketing, these assumptions can be used for incredible benefit. As the premier platform for business professionals, LinkedIn allows companies to communicate across industries and share progress, ideas, and innovations. Social media platforms like these allow professional service companies to reach out and establish long lasting partnerships through the continued marketing efforts of both parties.
LinkedIn allows unknown brands an opportunity to shine while their more prominent and trusted partners brag about their qualifications and past experience. Being associated with hard-hitting, renowned professionals in a particular industry or their niche can increase a company’s overall authority in the industry just by being associated with them. Most consumers will trust a new service provider if they already trust their partners.
One of the most beneficial pieces of content to add to your website is provided by YouTube. Videos allow the professional service companies a chance to communicate with their potential customers in a way that no other content can. Providing customers with personalized videos created by employees and business leaders will give them a sense that they are meeting the professionals that will be in their home. All types of communication can be relayed through videos. These include, but are not limited to, body language, voice inflection and charisma.
In addition to a more personalized introduction, videos can offer a multitude of marketing advantages as well. Since most employees are consumers as well, companies should include their staff when brainstorming ideas for video content. In the past, successful professional service companies have provided live video tours of their facilities, team member introductions, service demonstrations, as well as tips and tricks of the trade. Again, the more free knowledge a company can provide the better.
Touching back on content placement and contact information, social media platforms are often used by consumers to reach out to their favorite brands. Realizing this, many professional service websites today offer quick links to their social media accounts for easy transition from web to app. The placement of these links or icons is just as important as the company’s main phone number. Most icons are found in the top or bottom corners of the homepages but some websites have reactive animated links that are able to stay on the screen while the consumer is scrolling through the page, ensuring the most streamlined customer experience.
Need Help From a Professional Services Marketing Firm?
While it can be frustrating, and downright unbearable at times, creating a comprehensive marketing plan that ensures the best public image for professional service providers is paramount for their success. With full capacity to enhance the visibility and reputation of any service company with proven marketing strategies and tactics, a professional services marketing firm would be an asset to any brand.
If you would like to learn more about how we can build, or revitalize, your professional services marketing strategy check out our online marketing services page! We will have you flying in no time!