Chris is the Director of Cal Partners and a Chartered Marketer. Having started his career as a Solicitor, Chris has valuable experience of professional services marketing and business development.
2020 - New Year, New Decade, New Opportunities
How are you going to grow your business in 2020?
Regardless of your politics, following the general Election and at the start of a New Year and new decade, there is a real sense of increased optimism and confidence in the business community – how are you planning to capitalise on this to grow your business?
With uncertainty around Brexit cited as the main cause, the past 3 years have been tough for many businesses. Investment in staff, equipment and premises has been affected, stunting business growth and more importantly, confidence. In turn this has led to marketing and business development activities often being the first to be cut or put on hold, deemed “non-core” and an unnecessary overhead to the day to day running costs of the business.
However, there are the very tentative signs of economic recovery, with predictions of wage rises, house price growth later in the year, and a call for ‘tangible movement’ by businesses to break what has been an economic deadlock.
How much will you invest in your business in 2020?
Like any other sector, professional services businesses need to keep moving. Many are already aware of the need to differentiate their offering from that of their competitors and are achieving great results through a combination of social media, online marketing and more traditional marketing tools such as seminars, events, thought leadership publications and networking. Others are realising that, whilst traditionally referral professions such as law, accounting, surveying, consultancy and financial planning, there is no longer any guarantee that new generations of clients will purchase services by referral alone. Today’s buyers and the process by which they pick their service providers are becoming far more complex and sophisticated, all against a backdrop of increasing competition, both direct and indirect (for example, preparing legal documents yourself online).
When times are tough, some businesses reign in their spend on marketing, events and even staff training. But these are the very things that set you apart from your competitors during challenging times and help attract new work and the best talent, the lifeblood of any professional services business. So, there is an argument to continue as normal, investing in a properly thought out marketing strategy to increase sales and drive your business forward ahead of the competition.
We have worked with several clients who have adopted this mindset. They have engaged us in affordable, consistent marketing initiatives, combining digital and traditional marketing. In turn, they have steadily strengthened their brand and businesses, whilst competitors who have cut back on their marketing have now been left behind, leaving our clients in a much stronger position to capitalise on the opportunities ahead. Effective marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.
Competition for talent
If this increased optimism and confidence pays dividends and businesses return to a growth trajectory, the challenge in professional services, in particular, is to attract the best talent for the benefit of their clients.
Again, from the privileged position of working day to day with clients keen to grow, we have seen that the impact of marketing and building a brand is not limited to the attraction, retention and recovery of clients to the business, but also is crucial in terms of attracting the best talent. Whilst having a strong website and a professional approach to HR and the recruitment process are good first steps, prospective recruits to professional services businesses have the pick of the best opportunities in the region. This means they want to see “under the skin” of the business they are looking to commit to, so will carefully scrutinise, possibly over many months or even years, that business’ social media accounts, what events they are involved with, their CSR activities, their awards and accolades. The often-overlooked value of this aspect of professional services marketing is something that we explore further in our blog “More to Social Media than Marketing”.
Not enough hours in the day?
Fired up by New Year’s resolutions and the optimism of a new decade, plus the fact that your biggest competitor has just launched a new website with lots of videos and a podcast, and their social media is going through the roof – what are you going to do about it?
We see many business owners using platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook in a professional capacity. These are often one or two partner firms, who have never had an in-house marketing function. Many of the clients we work with started out this way, but came to realise that, whilst they enjoy building their brand on social media and engaging with clients, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything. Doing the ‘day job’ is hard enough, without being Marketing Manager, Digital Marketing Manager, Events Manager, Business Development Manager and Human Resources Manager etc. Also, as a purely business decision, does it make commercial sense for a senior professional to spend time managing the firm’s on and offline marketing?
If you know you need to do something about your marketing, but don’t know where to start, or you are anxious about the cost of recruiting a marketer in-house, why not dip a toe in the water and outsource to an external agency in the same way as you would with an accountant, IT or HR support? You can have immediate access to professionals experienced in professional services marketing. We covered the advantages of this in a couple of blogs - Part 1 and Part 2.
Cal Partners is a marketing and digital marketing agency and business development consultancy for professional services firms. We have 2 CIM Chartered Marketers in a team with over 40 years’ marketing experience between them. You can keep up to date and find out more about us through the website or our social media channels.