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Testimonials build brand confidence

How to Make Testimonials Part of Your Marketing Strategy

Most professional service marketers have heard the old adage, “People buy with emotion and justify their decisions with logic.”  And yet, many professionals who sell an intangible service don’t know which emotions they are provoking and why anyone buys from them.  

Why do people buy from you? 

Quality service emerges as a compelling reason why professionals believe their clients buy from them. Interestingly, we have discovered that what signifies quality to a practitioner and what signifies quality to clients are often two different things. Professionals tend to focus on professional designations and internal process as measures of quality. Clients tend to focus on timeliness, impact, proactive communication and relationships.

The way to find out why your clients buy from you is to ask them. One of the first things we do with any new client is to call up some of their customers and have a good chat. We ask why they chose you, what they would say about you to a friend, if they would refer you to others, what you are best at and how you can improve. We ask them if they have worked with other firms in your field and what those experiences were like. We ask them how long they have worked with your firm and if they have ever considered switching.

Are your clients considering another service provider? Listen to our webinar to find out: Boosting Your Net Promoter Score.

At the end we have a transcript of the conversation and some juicy sound or word bites you can use on your website or in proposals. This gives you the opportunity to clearly understand your value proposition (sales-speak for what makes you unique and why people should buy from you). Your value proposition tells you how your clients feel about you. The conversation with your clients also gives you a chance to address any issues before they consider leaving.

Testimonials not only explain your unique-ness to the world in an independent voice, but they also build your confidence by taking a minute to bask in all those wonderful compliments. Every professional, and every firm, needs such affirmation to help strengthen conviction in the brand and value proposition. It makes you understand why you go to work every day, too! 

Practical Testimonial Writing

We have learned some best practices over the years, as well as a few things to avoid when undertaking a testimonial-gathering effort.

Here is our checklist for curating high-quality testimonials:

  • Consider using an outside party who is good at drawing people out. Your clients will tell you that you are “great” but “great” is hardly compelling sales copy. They will be more expressive with someone they do not know. Make sure your interviewer has done this before; it is an art to draw people out and get the language that persuades.
  • Tell your clients who will be calling them and why. A heads-up from you means they will be much more comfortable with the interviewer.
  • Always use the telephone or in-person interviews. If you ask folks to write a letter, the letter will almost always be stiff and formal. Again, that’s not compelling copy. When you interview them, you have the chance to craft the words. Clients appreciate word crafting as long as it’s still accurate to the tone of their experience. 
  • Craft a variety of testimonial quotes for use in your promotional campaigns.
  • Send each quote you might ever consider using to the client and get approval. Make sure they know it may be used on your website, media releases, proposals and for a variety of promotional uses. A testimonial template is helpful in this process for written documentation of their approval.
  • Whenever possible, use the person’s full name, title, and company. “Pat Z. in Wisconsin” sounds like a late night, diet-aid commercial. “Patrick Zuber, President, HealthCore Company, Madison, Wisconsin” is more credible.  
  • Keep a file of testimonial approvals for future reference as you develop marketing materials and campaigns. 
  • Send a copy of brochures or newsletters where the quote is used to the client. Most people like seeing their name in print.


Read This Final Referral Tip

One huge advantage of a persuasive testimonial is something called the second person referral effect. Most people choose professional service providers from personal referral — in other words, a referral from someone they know and trust. A testimonial is from someone your prospect may not know. However, this stranger does know you and is willing to brag about the intangible — how it feels to buy from you — in print. While not as powerful as a personal referral, it carries more weight than you saying the same thing.
Finally, if your brochure claims your service is wonderful, it probably sounds to readers like common advertising fluff. If a real person testifies in detail about how it feels to work with you, the resulting impact will be much more persuasive. Having a file full of testimonials will enhance the quality of all your promotional material. Of course, testimonials also help you understand just why people buy from you. Plus, these tales of loyalty will help you build confidence to go out there and tell your story.

Want more tips for powerful brand differentiation? Get your free Storytelling Guide.


Gain Recognition for your Niche

10 Ideas to Maximize Your Niche Marketing Strategy

You’ve identified your niche market, now how do you gain more exposure to that audience? Perhaps you have a few thoughts on a marketing strategy, but aren’t quite sure how to implement the plan. Here are 10 ways to become a recognized advisor in your niche market.

  1. Be Visible. Join trade associations, sponsor events and take leadership roles if possible. Learn how to effectively connect with professionals and speak to their pain, interests and desires. A little practice goes a long way.
  2. Speak. Pursue opportunities to participate in round-table discussions and speak at industry events. Proactively take part seminars and panel discussions at industry associations.
  3. Write. Submit articles to industry publications and the general media. Make sure your photo, biography, and contact information are included.
  4. Get Covered. Identify your firm as experts in your niche industry to the media and let them know that you are available for interviews and expert advice on topics within your niche.
  5. Network. Build rapport with vendors and related professionals in your niche. If you are a CPA, meet all the lawyers, bankers, insurance agents and other vendors who work in the niche.

Don’t leave your niche marketing strategy to chance. Align strategies with your brand positioning and the key messages of your firm.

  1. Train. Host training sessions or conferences for clients related to your niche services. Better yet, offer to speak or present if they are in need of your expertise.
  2. Publish. Be seen as an authority by creating niche newsletters or guides that offer tips and advice to clients.
  3. Model. Research what other firms are doing and adopt similar strategies. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but don’t overdo it. Modeling a similar strategy doesn’t mean you can’t infuse your firm’s culture and personality into it.
  4. Read. Stay up to date on industry news to understand client needs and challenges. Share your learning and impart your newfound wisdom to others in the firm through email or connect at lunch.
  5. Perform. Do a great job for current clients so they sing your praises. Take that one step further by obtaining testimonials and case studies about the difference you have made for your clients that you can share in your niche marketing materials.

Four Steps to Take to Align your Brand Across Multiple Markets

Is your firm struggling in other markets? Does your brand awareness seem to fall flat in some markets but thrive in others? Dawn Wagenaar, principal at Ingenuity Marketing Group, shares four steps to take to align your brand strategy across multiple markets. Learn brand positioning best practices for your firm, how to assess your competition and where you may have some gaps in your current positioning. Implement these steps to better align your brand across multiple markets.


Niche Marketing Strategy Must Go Deeper Than Before

How to Grow Your Niche Market 

As your firm becomes known for a niche industry or service, you rise above the competition and are hired for that knowledge and your connections. The niche becomes part of your brand.

Niches can also attract and retain talented young professionals for the partner track.

For example, one of our accounting clients has built two-thirds of the firm’s practice in government consulting, a deep niche that is attracting non-CPAs with health care backgrounds as well as accountants. Another client focuses exclusively on pharmacies, and now has a national market. Yet another client has success with a large niche in buy here pay here auto dealerships that has contributed to double-digit firm revenue growth. 

From these examples, it’s clear that niche development is going deeper than before, requiring a focused niche marketing strategy to stay visible to a narrower audience. 

How to Deepen Your Niche Market

Which clients do you already serve in an industry? Can you grow a deeper niche for which you are better known than any competitor? Can the niche expand nationally?

You have to discern if the niche is sustainable as a growth industry, the level of competition and the potential to gain a significant portion of the market without being the lowest cost provider. Market research goes a long way toward defining your true niches. 

For AEC clients, we have done market research for specific cities as well as for subspecialties that range from senior housing to urban redevelopment. Check out our range of research capabilities.

If you don’t yet have a niche or if your firm is small, you can still develop a narrower niche within an industry. One professional services firm exploring new opportunities in manufacturing started to focus just on software developers because of the number of those firms in its region and the fact that no other comparable firms served them. It had a few clients and knowledgeable staff and was able to grow the niche through referrals and strategic marketing.  

Create a Firm Within a Firm

Speaking of your niche team, select someone as the lead or spokesperson who has the respect of other partners and can facilitate niche objectives. Organize the team like a company within a company. Build in administrative and marketing support, job descriptions, a budget, and incentives for participation. 

Ideally, you want a mix of established and new staff on the team to fuel ideas and momentum. Without this organization and commitment to growth, team members can be pulled in other directions — lacking time for focused business development and niche client services expansion. 

Choose Your Messages

Work with the niche team to identify its value proposition. Why do you service the clients exceptionally well? Why is your experience important to their everyday business? Decide what sets your firm apart in this area and what values and expectations you want people to associate with your team.

Helpful hint: To support niche visibility, your online presence should look like the people and industry that you serve. Update your images and messaging to speak to their pains, interests and desires. 

One of our clients recently asked us to develop team member bios that reflect their niche-specific experience. These bios can be used on the website as well as in proposals, presentations and speaking engagements to create more niche visibility and growth.    Other firms develop partner-marketing events and send out industry briefs to inform niche clients and potential clients about their knowledge.   

Remember that niche market development is not a rapid process. It can take years to establish your expertise. Make sure when identifying a deeper niche that it has internal champions with established industry connections and knowledge, a target market with growth potential, and synergy with your firm’s vision.

See how we worked with one firm to update their online presence to reflect their niches.

What Makes You Unique

How Your Brand Positioning Affects Your Firm

After working with professionals for many years, we’ve heard a lot of the same promises. Most firms claim to provide great service, technical excellence or expertise, high quality, and so on. Words like “service,” “excellence,” and “quality” have lost their meaning. You want to stand out from the firm down the street. 

The branding process is a work in progress comprised of

  • What you say you are or aspire to
  • What your community knows about you
  • What your clients depend on
  • What your competition does not own

 

Our clients are focusing more and more on their brand positioning in the marketplace. When we create a set of themes to distinguish their firm from competitors, we start by listening to four audiences: the firm itself, clients AND prospects, the competition and the community at large. Addressing these four groups with brand research and objective interviews will lead to clarity about your firm’s competitive differentiators. The results may surprise you.

Brand Research and Client Messages

Sometimes the messages we hear from clients and from firm leadership are very different. For example, a CPA firm might focus internally on their knowledge and expertise in a niche industry, but this isn’t what their clients remember. For one firm we worked with, the firm’s most treasured niche client revealed that “I chose to work with Joe because he is always accessible, answers my calls promptly and clearly understands my financial situation. I know that, no matter how busy he is, I am his most important client.” As a result, we focused the firm’s new brand messaging not just on niche prowess, but also on responsiveness and paying attention to client details.

Client interviews should be conducted by an experienced brand consultant. This provides more objective and detailed feedback because the viewpoint is fresh. In addition, your best clients hold the key to discovering how to attract more clients of that caliber. Asking the right questions can bring out open and honest feedback, which helps you align your message with how your clients view you.

At this point you can also talk to prospects about what they’re looking for in a firm. You may know prospects who are willing to talk to you, or you can ask your brand consultant if they can locate prospects in your key industry to interview.

This phase ends with a list of all the feedback and messages about what your firm values internally, what your clients value and what prospects assume is your value in the market.

Competitor Messages

The second step in the brand positioning process is to conduct a competitive analysis. To do this, look at competitors’ websites, advertising and social media, as well as information that came up about competitors in the client/prospect interviews. You can also hire a secret shopper of your competitors to find out how they talk about themselves. Often when we’re researching competitors in an industry, we find that there are messages shared by multiple companies. For example, a recent competitive analysis found these messages flooding an industry: “agile,” “strategic,” “proactive.” Those phrases are from three different competing firms! Take these competitor messages and put them side-by-side with all the messages that came out of your firm leadership and client interviews. Eliminate any message that is already overused by competitors. This does not mean that you cannot use the phrase if there’s a value that’s strong for your firm. If you really do have exceptional customer service, come up with a new way to speak about the service you provide and how it thrills and delights your clients. Share some customer success stories to demonstrate this brand message.

Community Knowledge

Lastly, competitive differentiators show up in your community. Some firms are already known for a level of charitable participation, a landmark building, an outrageous personality or some other unique feature of their community involvement. If you’re working on your differentiation internally, you may already be aware of what your community knows about you. Is it consistent with the messages from clients and prospects and your leadership? Is there something new to add?

Using Brand Positioning

At the end of this process you should have a list of three to five elements that distinguish you from your competitors. State them as phrases that are easy to remember. The end goal isn’t to have some words that your people parrot out at networking events, but for each person to remember the core ideas that define the brand of your firm. For example, at Ingenuity one of our consultants might say, “We market people, not products,” while another might tell you, “I know that your ability to promote your knowledge directly impacts the growth of your firm.” These are two versions of the same idea – one is less personal but catchy and might be used as an introduction to a large group; the other version creates a personal connection. When you give people core ideas, they can customize these to fit the situation they’re in at the time. The same ideas can be represented on your website, in public relations and community participation and also in the ways your clients talk about you when giving referrals.

In an information-flooded world, the beauty of clearly stated key messages leads to consistent branding and client expectations. If you want to be positioned for growth, all of the people associated with your firm need those messages on the tips of their tongues.

Learn more about Ingenuity’s brand positioning services.


Rebranding? Tips for Brand Positioning and Roll-out

Is your brand muddied by years of neglect or “remodeling” by a few industrious staff? You know, the niche leader who adjusts a logo for a sponsorship ad or the administrator who doesn’t stick to the branded colors?

Aside from wrangling internal staff to present a consistent visual brand, the biggest weakness and threat for professional service firms is often the outdated look and feel of their websites. The top offenders?

  • Old font styles
  • Cluttered home pages
  • Content that is too focused on firm services rather than visitor needs
  • Not responsive on mobile devices

Does My Firm Need a New Brand?

A rebrand is in your future if your brand is five or more years old. Also, if competing firms have already invested in updated branding, you can’t lag behind on first impressions. Most cold to warm leads today are creating a short list based on your website and online impression. You can’t afford to ignore your brand when your pipeline depends on it.

Are you ready to rebrand? Check out our branding services.

Branding is more than a visual image or color.  A brand is the promise you make to clients and potential clients about what it will be like to work with you. Your brand promises a certain experience.

The promises of your brand are based on:

  • Stories you and your staff tell about the firm
  • Stories your clients tell about the firm
  • Name of the firm that is easy to pronounce and memorable
  • Strong brand positioning statement, key messages, and tagline
  • Visual image of your packaging, including logo, font type, brochures, stationery, proposals, and website
  • Your delivery of the client experience
  • Your talent brand to attract and retain professionals

If everyone is saying something different about your firm, it’s hard to distinguish your value from the crowd through marketing messages or sales communications. It’s also not competitive to say that your firm delivers “quality service” or “seeks long-term relationships.” Those messages are table stakes that everyone says. You must dig deeper to your firm’s true value.

Why is Branding Hot?

The secret of good branding is in integrating what staff, clients and the public think and expect from your firm. The best branding gains a strong and permanent place in the mind.     

A complete branding process in a professional service firm involves:   

Research

  • Leadership research – Five or more leadership interviews to seek common themes
  • Client research– “A” client phone interviews
  • Competitive research – Research on three to five top competitors
  • Community research– Current marketing materials, involvement and sponsorship/philanthropy review

Themes

  • Create a positioning statement – a summary that distinguishes your firm within a target market or markets
  • Create key messages – essentially the experience you promise to deliver in three to five themes that is different from other firms
  • Gather feedback from leadership and key employees
  • Conduct client focus group(s) to gather feedback on the themes

Tactics

  • Finalize competitive themes and positioning statement
  • Train leaders and staff on use of themes
  • Develop marketing and business development tactics surrounding themes
  • Develop or refresh of visual branding kit, including colors, logo, stationery, website, etc.

 

How Long Does It Take?

This initial branding process can be completed within one to two months, depending on the availability of clients and leaders. But its value for getting everyone to speak the same language about your firm will pay dividends in the consistency and ease of promoting your firm going forward.   

New Brand, Now What?

To the roll-out! Finalize your new brand program by scheduling a firm story/key message training and integration of the brand into everyday use. Make it fun for everyone to embrace the new brand. Change is hard, so get everyone on board early in your roll-out. Consider a small celebration internally before you announce to clients and the world through your materials, client communications and public relations.

Learn how to roll-out your new brand in this blog post.

Remember that good branding is not safe and not always pleasant! If there is controversy about the brand promises or the images used to portray them, it probably means the work is good. It often forces a culture shift. Not everyone may like it.

How Do You Know That Your New Brand is Working?

It’s working when it allows you to talk about your firm with confidence and explain how it’s different from the competitors. It’s working when people respond with affirmative nods and additional questions. Now you have an opening to share your unique story and build stronger relationships. 

See how we created an award-winning brand for Casey Peterson, Ltd.

 

 


 

Five Design Tips for SEO-Friendly Web Design

Is your new website designed for search engine optimization? Robert Wasiluk, design consultant at Ingenuity Marketing Group, shares five design tips to consider for SEO-friendly web design. Learn SEO best practices for your website including video crawling, alt text on images, responsive site design, site speed and 301 redirects. Implement these five tips and enhance your website’s SEO performance.

As mentioned in the video
Site speed test: https://gtmetrix.com/

Learn about Ingenuity’s digital marketing services.


Brand positioning
that gets noticed

Go beyond visual representation when rolling out your brand.

When most people think about their brand, they think only of the logo and the visual representation to their audience. However, in its entirety, your brand extends to the idea of your business in the minds of those you are connecting with and the promises you make regarding your brand. As Robert Wasiluk, our design consultant   said recently in this video on branding, “good brand positioning will help project you as more professional and experienced…and a good first impression of your brand will convince clients and prospects to check out your social pages and website, giving you valuable leads.”

Your brand tells your clients and prospects about your promise to them and communicates what is unique about you. If your brand promise is in line with how your clients view you, then the firm can more easily deliver on its core values and focus on growth strategies. This translates to improved brand loyalty through retention of your best clients, referrals and acquisition of new ones. It can also cultivate improved employee satisfaction and engagement.

How to roll out a new brand

We often get asked by clients how to roll out their brand once the market research and design process are complete. This is often the stage that gets missed to accurately communicate and promote your brand positioning —  not only outside the firm but also inside. Keep in mind that not everyone is involved in the branding process within your firm. The team will need to better understand the value of the new brand in order to embrace it and communicate it. Here are some tips:

  • Develop an internal rollout strategy that includes branding key theme training, sales questions tied to themes, proposal content in line with key branding themes and a fun team activity or celebration. You can also order “gifts” like t-shirts or desk accessories with the new visual brand and create posters of your key themes.
  • With your external rollout, keep your audiences in mind. You will need communications for existing clients to help them understand the value of your brand positioning. If you did client interviews or focus groups, make sure to share your new brand with those clients first and make them feel special.
  • For prospective clients, promote your new brand through social media and updates to your website. Consider adding content that outlines the new brand or specific web features and updates that visitors should pay attention to. Consider a unique marketing or ad campaign to promote your brand positioning.
  • Although this tip is tougher, don’t rule out opportunities for getting press attention for the brand positioning. This could be done through professional associations and industry associations or civic organizations in your region. Occasionally, general or business press will publish the news if your firm is a larger employer in the region. Be prepared with a release and talking points.

There are many more aspects to your brand positioning after the messaging and visual design are complete. Even if you have already created your brand, it’s not too late to put a strategy in place to reinforce it to your team internally, clients and prospects.

Not sure where to start? Get support for brand positioning and rolling out your brand.


Three Niche Marketing Hacks to Reach More Leads

A niche marketing strategy can help your professional services firm understand your target client’s pains and desires. In doing so, you will reach a targeted group of leads and bring in more business. In this video, we share three niche marketing hacks to reach more leads. Learn how research, social tools, content and partnership marketing will drive your niche marketing strategy.

How to Succeed at Partnership Marketing

Click here to learn about Ingenuity’s research capabilities.