Thursday, May 24, 2007

May Meeting Recap - Promotion That Pays Off, Marketing Professional Services

Kathy Martin of Sanders Martin Consulting presented an engaging topic on marketing professional services at last Tuesday’s Treasure Valley Consultants’ Network meeting.

This is a topic I was happy to have someone among the membership step up and present. I think marketing professional services is one of the biggest challenges we consultants and independent business professionals have in our day to day business. After all, selling consulting services is not like selling a car or an item on a store shelf. It’s intangible.

Kathy began her presentation by discussing how the traditional approach to marketing and promotion is a costly venture, both in terms time and money. She used a wonderful analogy to explain how most consultants or professional service providers market themselves by relating it to strawberry jam. If you take a certain amount of jam, spread it around and around, it becomes thin and has very little flavor when it comes time for your customer to taste it. It’s a misnomer that if you market and promote yourself in many different places you’ll eventually reach your customer.

Focus is the key to marketing and promoting your consulting business. Also, understanding the decision making process clients go through when they consider hiring you is important to know as well.

I’ve been driving this one home on the blog for quite some time. Kathy reinforced this by saying that you must always know who you are selling to. Be thinking of your target market in terms of narrow and deep, not far and wide. I was recently reading an article on marketing that stated, “If you sell to everyone, you sell to no one.” The misconception is that if you have a niche market you lessen your potential for more customers and higher profits. The thing most folks forget is that a niche market is your most likely customer. Not only are they your mostly likely customer and the easiest to sell to, they are also likely to be repeat customers if you give them ample opportunity to like, know and trust you.

The Customer’s Buying Process
Kathy then turned to what the customer is thinking when they encounter a consultant. If you did your job focusing in on your target audience, the rest should be easy. Right? Not entirely. Consultants should know that the decision making process customers go through is usually a two step process. First, they look at your credentials. Do you know your stuff and can you do the job. If you meet these criteria, you end up on a list with other consultants. Second, they verify whether or not they can trust you. If you can demonstrate your trust and your credibility that usually puts you up at the top of the list. That is essentially the process most use to select a consultant.

Keep in mind that when a customer enters into an agreement with a consultant, they are buying into a relationship more so than finding a solution to their problem. It’s really no different than the process you go through to find a good doctor or mechanic to meet your needs. You have to feel as though you can trust them before you make the commitment to have them take an active role in your life. Any misstep on their part could be costly for you in more ways than one.

In the end, Kathy reminded the audience that the number one promotional tool any consultant has is their own self. Present yourself in a dependable, professional, trustworthy manner and spend your time showing your competence, not telling.

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