Recognizing the talents of your team can go a long way in retaining your best employees and recruiting new talent. In addition, happy employees are the key to great client service. In this video, hear from Dawn Wagenaar, Principal at Ingenuity Marketing Group, as she shares how brand positioning can help your professional services firm retain key employees.
If you prefer to read the video transcript, you may find it below:
As a business owner, I know how important it is to recognize and promote the talents of my team. But with project management deadlines and business development, it can be easy to forget this important piece of talent retention — and recruitment.
Happy employees are the key to client service and recruitment. Here are a few ways to recognize them. These ideas will help you attract more great employees.
How about going social? Create some “meet the team” posts on your social media channels. Share a photo of an employee and talk about why this person is great. Choose employees by lottery or start by featuring your leaders.
A second idea is to include younger team members as authors or presenters. Use a ghostwriter or outsourced vendor to help them write a blog post or develop a video. They might need some initial coaching or art direction, but it’s a great way to showcase your team’s diversity and personalities.
Here’s one more idea. Nominate them for awards. Some of your team members are doing amazing things inside and outside the office. Look for ways to nominate them for industry awards, community or business awards in your region. If you need help investigating your options, you can outsource this public relations task.
A great reputation attracts more talent! Recognize your employees, and word will get around!
One word you might see a lot today regarding business culture and marketing is authenticity – defined as something or someone “entitled to acceptance as authoritative, genuine, true or correct.”
You may also hear a lot about the term personalization — defined as “to render personal rather than impersonal or purely professional, to make or alter so as to meet individual needs, inclinations or specifications.”
This is the preferred approach to service delivery. Be a professional who is authentic and who personalizes the experience for every client. Perhaps it always has been this way, which is why professionals are in a great position to deliver what today’s clients expect.
Here is the challenge: with limited time, how do you create that personal and authentic experience for every client — and, just as importantly, every potential client whom you haven’t met yet?
In reality, it’s a people challenge and a technology challenge.
Why Digital Marketing Matters
Qualified potential clients usually want to interact with your firm or organization online first. They will gather a sense of what your firm cares about and represents through your website, bios, social media profiles and your public relations. It’s not just about the messaging. It’s also about how easy they can navigate your site and find up-to-date social posts about issues they care about.
On social media, people respond much more frequently and positively to a post about someone winning an award or working a booth at a tradeshow (with a photo or video!) than they do to a news item or a link to the firm’s services.
Also, if your posts include real people, then real people will respond to it! See the difference in these two posts — one about a new employee and one linking to a blog post.
If your articles include real stories about how other clients navigated a common problem, then your key points will hit home much faster than if you simply state the problem and the solution.
For example, we were working with a client that wanted to reach out more personally to prospects, but didn’t have time to meet with each prospect in person right away. To get more responses, we suggested using the personal touch of “virtual coffee” by sending a coffee gift card by mail. The invitation to prospects — using their first name and personalizing the message — was much warmer than a generic email or postcard, and our client actually heard back from people!
In the same way, your firm’s online presence has to be deeply personal and rooted in what your firm is at its core. When prospects see consistent messages from your firm that reflect a set of values resonant through all levels of what you actually deliver, it builds trust and makes them want to work with you.
What are your values? It’s not services, quality and years of knowledge. Authenticity requires an emotional and human connection that builds trust. Have you looked at your firm’s values and brand loyalty lately? Maybe it’s time for a refresh.
Try these ideas as a way to personalize your firm’s values and experiences with clients and potential clients.
Explore your organization’s core values. As a different type of marketing exercise, come up with a list of cars, celebrities or songs that are distinctly a bad fit. Now talk about why they don’t fit your organization. In the negatives, you’ll learn a lot about who you really are and why you’re different from your competitors.
Repeat great client experiences. Use a great client as a composite profile of more clients you would like to attract. Identify why the relationship works so well. Interview them about ways that you have built trust and personalized the relationship. Practice those skills with prospects and other clients. Just asking these questions can build more trust with your clients.
Be human. Clients and prospects are looking for a way to connect. Take photos of fun times or “real” times with your team and share them. Celebrate new babies or anniversaries. Send a card if a client is sick. Stop the shop talk if you sense that your client needs someone to just listen.
This process of blending professional aspects of your business with personalization may not be easy at first. It requires being a bit vulnerable and less focused on the work sometimes. But in a service-based business, people care just as much about how you make them feel as they do about how you help them succeed.
A recent Advertising Federation meeting presented some of the big changes ahead for paid search. Google, which is the most widely used search engine worldwide, is using Quality Score criteria in its learning algorithms that will give weight to companies that integrate Search Engine Marketing (SEM) into their online visibility. Some call this “pay to play,” although Google insists that real, relevant organic content will still carry the most weight in its search results. However:
if you go beyond the basic text-based ad format and integrate responsive search, dynamic search campaigns and smart bids into your paid search strategy — and your content is relevant to the promise of your ads — the more likely that your quality score will go up (translation: using more of Google’s tools may provide better search rankings).
A good Quality Score is between 5 and 10, which is difficult to obtain due to Google’s secret recipe, but it can lead to your website showing up in a better search results position.
Integrate Outsource Marketing Services
Due to these rapid changes and many others, outsourced marketing consulting can help you identify your upcoming needs for digital marketing and analysis before you hire an in-house marketer to support them. This process can help you avoid the mistakes of hiring a digital marketer who may be great technically, but not so great at translating your data into real business decisions.
Let’s give you a couple examples:
We often hear from potential clients that they have viewed reports for their social media analytics, organic SEO or their paid search campaigns and aren’t always sure how to use them for real business decisions. Impressions and clicks need context, and every firm’s goals are different when using digital media.
We also hear that product vendors are very keen about selling the features and benefits of spending more on paid search campaigns or adopting new marketing automation software. But few vendors understand the world of b2b professional services and how these go-to-market tools can best serve your goals. Some firms are spending hundreds if not thousands on ads and tools that aren’t producing results.
Digital marketing is a special area of marketing. It is not something that every marketer wants to do or can manage in addition to other responsibilities. It requires an analytical and contextual mind — a head for numbers and a common sense communications style to translate those numbers for business decisions. In many ways, it is similar to what accountants and engineers must do for their clients today!
Given that marketing is spanning traditional in-person activities as well as online visibility and persuasion, your firm or organization can expect to need the services of a digital marketer. Here are a few tips to plan ahead for that need:
Identify opportunities for web-based lead generation. If you aren’t ready or persuaded to pursue any types of digital marketing or SEM yet, keep in mind that prospects are still looking at your capabilities and people online after a referral. Your content should be regularly updated with strong calls to action and search engine optimization.
Assess your in-house marketing team. Your team needs to translate prospect data into strong marketing initiatives. For example, your web analytics may point to frequent visits to a certain service page. Your marketing team should be able to assess whether there is a market demand, and then develop a campaign to promote that service more frequently. To assess demand, they may need to cross-reference data such as social media traffic and website search phrases alongside other known market data.
Based on your current marketing team, determine whether it makes sense to outsource your digital marketing needs for now. With this support, you can build foundational systems and results. The knowledge you gain will inform your job description for a future in-house digital marketer.
The best first step is to have a consultation on your current digital marketing activities and needs; get assistance to optimize the effectiveness of your digital marketing from day one. Ignoring the future of digital marketing is the same as ignoring new clients that are looking at you online.
Check out this video next, where we recommend three things before you invest in a lead-generating website, a fancy marketing tool or digital ad campaign. Get the guidance you need for future new business.
Design Consultant Robert Wasiluk has developed websites on various platforms for years, and the technology is always changing to match user demands as well as speed and accuracy of search results. However, websites also need marketing updates to help users find what they need, determine that your services are a good match and take action. In this video, Robert talks about a couple reasons why you may need the support of an outsourced marketing consultant to “tune up” your website’s technology for marketing purposes.
If you prefer to read the video transcript, you may find it below:
Have you looked at your website lately? I don’t mean just the content and design, but the structure, too. A lot has changed with websites in just the past two years.
You might find that your website is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act or it’s not set up to prepare for stricter marketing opt-out regulations. The problem is that search engines are downgrading sites that don’t include things like image descriptions and clear relevance to the topics being searched.
The bottom line. Your website may need a tune-up.
I know that a lot of firms and associations have internal or outsourced technology teams, but those professionals may not have the skills or knowledge to optimize your site for marketing.
For example, voice search is becoming more important for your potential clients and members to find you — literally. How your site is set up for voice search questions is another reason to keep your website marketing ready.
I do a lot of websites here at Ingenuity, so if you have any questions regarding your website, contact me at www.ingenuitymarketing.com.
Accounting firms and engineering firms often call us when they see a competitor suddenly showing up in their market space and winning bids seemingly “out of the blue.”
A closer look at the competition reveals that those firms have set up a strategy to target a certain buyer, market or industry and are now reaping the rewards of months of focused effort. They didn’t just show up. They’ve been there for a while.
When a competitor enters your market and begins to win bids, it’s time to look at your firm’s brand positioning.
What are your clients saying about you?
The first step is to look at what your clients are saying about you. We often find that what firm leaders think about why clients value the firm is different from what clients say.
You can find out what clients are saying by conducting client interviews. We recommend that these are done 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.
Who are your competitors and what are they up to?
You won’t know unless you do some research to find out who they are and what they’re up to. Invest in a competitive analysis that gives you a side-by-side comparison of key industry and niche competitors and where they’re gaining an edge — before they get the jump on you.
To do this, look at competitors’ websites, advertising and social media. You can also hire a secret shopper of your competitors to find out how they talk about themselves.
What are your firm’s differentiators?
What is it that makes your firm unique? How are you different from your competitors? 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?
Developing your Brand Message
At the end of this brand research process you should be able to come up with a list of three to five areas that distinguish you from your competitors. State them as phrases that are easy to remember. The end goal is for each individual in your firm to remember the core ideas that define the brand of your firm. 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 proposals, public relations and all your marketing messages. In an information-flooded world, the beauty of clearly stated key messages leads to consistent branding and client expectations.
Ingenuity has the tools to provide analysis and recommendations for preserving or expanding niche business and clients. Don’t be caught off-guard by a competitor creeping into your market.
Clearly defined brand positioning and training is highly critical for firms and organizations to understand how they are unique from their competition and to articulate the value they provide to their clients. In this video, hear from Communications Consultant, Christine Nelson, as she shares about the importance of brand positioning for professional service firms and organizations. Her advice includes revisiting your brand positioning often; brand training for leaders and new staff and creating target personas.
If you prefer to read the video transcript, you may find it below:
When we conduct research with clients and referral sources, we are looking for common themes about how a firm or organization is different from its competition. But we also pick up other things in these surveys and interviews. For example, we might learn that some clients only know about the services they use. There isn’t any cross servicing opportunity.
We see the same thing with our association research. Staff members aren’t always clear the difference from their competitors, so it’s hard for them to share that difference with potential members.
These are just some reasons why you should conduct brand training with newly promoted or hired leaders.
They are the face of your firm on social media, in networking conversations and with new prospect queries. Even if they have worked there a long time, a promotion puts them in a different mindset about how to promote your firm or organization. Newly hired leaders also need to know how to approach recruitment and prospecting.
So here is my advice:
Once or twice a year, revisit your brand positioning. Review your messages. Are they still accurate? Do they feel right? Has something changed?
Schedule a time to train newer leaders and staff on why your firm or organization is different and the types of prospects you are looking for. You could help them create some sales questions to qualify prospects.
If you need help creating target personas or branded messaging, you can talk to Ingenuity! Help your leaders confidently promote your firm or organization.
We conduct multiple client surveys and interviews every year to help professional service firms improve their brand loyalty.Based on our research, the top two reasons that clients leave a professional service firm is that they don’t feel valued and they don’t perceive value from the relationship.
If you find yourself in this situation at your firm: straying clients, unhappy clients, bad reviews or certain disciplines that don’t handle client service as well as others, it may be time for team training on your client service standards as well as a refresh on your brand positioning. Help everyone serve clients consistently well.
To get you started, here are four baseline behaviors that every professional who directly works with clients should exhibit with every client encounter.
We understand that some people don’t find small talk particularly easy. But your clients expect a certain level of check-in or friendliness when you communicate. Start calls or meetings by asking about their week, showing interest in them as people.
You will quickly see if clients appreciate a few minutes of settling into the meeting and also when they want to get right down to business. Keep their preferences in mind for the next time you meet.
As a professional service provider, there is no excuse for disorganization. Before a meeting, build in 15 minutes of time to prep for the agenda, understand the goals for the day or week, see who is part of the meeting and who is responsible for each item on the to-do list. If you have trouble keeping a calendar, identify an app or assistant that can remind you with notifications or alarms for the most important meetings.
Even if you are in the field, make use of mobile devices and previous notes toprepare for an efficient conversation with clients. Be the keeper of details. That way, your clients can easily move from your meeting to the next one.
Set clear deadlines.
Before you set a deadline, make sure that it makes sense for the client as well as for your team. There is nothing worse than setting an unrealistic deadline or accepting a client’s deadline when you know it won’t work. Speak up and work out a compromise.
Frequently missed deadlines won’t garner much favor with clients. Avoid setting up yourself or your team for failure. Understand the realities of time to deliver quality work in the midst of competing projects and the unexpected.
With these things in mind, organize the timeline with a mental goal of delivery BEFORE the deadline. It will help set realistic expectations with clients.
After every honest effort, if you can’t meet a deadline, speak up. In our research, we find that if clients simply hear regularly from their professional service providers on project progress, they are more accepting of delays. Communicate honestly and often about issues so they can be a partner in the process.
Determine the client’s preferred method of communication. Do they like when you pick up the phone or not? Try providing a summary of outstanding items or questions in one email. That way, they don’t have to scan through multiple emails or messages. If you use voicemail, be clear on what you need. Unless you know the client really well and they prefer it, avoid leaving a message that just says, “call me back.”
Be respectful of the client’s time and money. When it comes down to it, they are trusting you to deliver value and help them reach their goals. Show them that you value them, too! It will enhance your brand positioning.
There are three big reasons to create and use personas — and to update them. They focus your marketing, assist with prospecting and train your team on client service. All of these areas affect your brand positioning because potential clients or members need to quickly know that you understand them and can help them better than anyone.
1. Personas for Marketing
Effective marketing campaigns offer solutions for the potential buyer. Personas should include a description of your target buyer(s) that includes challenges, pains, goals and desires. These descriptions will help you focus your marketing messages on how your services bring solutions and support goals. By articulating how you best serve the buyer, you are differentiating your brand.
Whether you are writing blog posts, creating an ad campaign or writing website copy, personas will help you create content that fits the buyer. You will avoid the common problem of writing all about you instead of what buyers really want to know. Can you help them, and what should they do about their issue?
If you aren’t sure of your target buyer’s pains, interests or desires, interview your current clients or members and find out how you solve their problems and help them. It will clarify your brand positioning. You can include that feedback in your persona description!
2. Personas for Sales
When having sales conversations, one rule of thumb is to have the prospective buyer speak two-thirds of them and to actively listen to their answers. To get them talking, you need great questions. But don’t just ask any question. Ask a question related to your brand; convince them that you are the best choice.
A persona description will help you develop sales questions that relate to your target buyer to qualify them, but also to get them talking about what’s most important to them in a professional service relationship.
For example, if you solve the challenge of training, ask a sales question like, “How important is it to you that your [professional service relationship] supports a well-educated team at your company?” It’s likely that the right buyer will say that it’s very important, which gives you an opportunity to ask about types of education they seek, and then talk about your service offerings.
The persona description helps you prepare for these conversations with confidence and consistency.
3. Personas for Client Service
Once you attract a new client — or a new member in the case of associations — you can use your persona descriptions to address how to deliver great client service. The descriptions can be used to train your staff on client service expectations, how you solve problems and how you make a difference.
You can even create persona descriptions for referral sources and influencers. Help team members understand how to develop industry connections that can refer new opportunities to your firm or association. Everyone can take ownership of your brand positioning with the right knowledge. Personas are just one way to do this.
It’s coming. Voice search SEO is gaining traction because it is easier to speak to a voice search assistant than it is to type on a mobile device. If a quarter to one-third of your website traffic are mobile users, consider optimizing your site for voice search. Voice searches are conversational and often involves a question. This changes how your web content should be written, including page headlines.
2. Website ADA Compliance
Our Lead Designer and Web Developer, Robert Wasiluk, recommends making sure your website is ADA compliant. With 19 percent of the U.S. population identified as having a disability, major search engines as well as adaptive screen readers employ web crawling methods according to the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). Don’t miss out on these potential clients/referrals.
3. Leverage CRM and Marketing Automation
Few firms are using their CRMs or automation tools to their full potential. Start with the basics: fully invest in the eblast tools within your CRM of choice or an outside product like MailChimp or Constant Contact. The tool Zapier can even help connect these outside tools to your CRM. (We are not paid to suggest these tools; we just happen to use them ourselves!) Try to automate frequent communications that will save time for your team, from calendar scheduling to monthly or quarterly marketing communications.
4. Revisit Former/Inactive Contact Lists
Last month, Ingenuity sent emails to former clients, some from several years ago. The result was two new proposals! Never underestimate the value of staying in touch. If you are an association, customize a message to inactive members. Firms can tap into their database and sort by date of engagement.
5. Personalize Your Messaging
In a world of big data that tries to answer every consumer whim before you even know you want it, your messages as professionals must also add a personal touch. Write like a human and have your firm communications come from a human. Individual social profiles and automated emails from partners and executives get far better engagement and open rates.
Unified standards are crucial for creating a brand that is memorable. How your logo is used digitally and in print can affect your brand perception with clients and prospects. In this video, hear from Design Consultant Robert Wasiluk as he shares how a logo kit and style guide help create consistency for your brand.
If you prefer to read the video transcript, you may find it below:
Create a Powerful Brand Identity
Does your firm use a logo kit and style guide for visual identity consistency and recognition? These are important tools in communicating your brand effectively.
But what is a logo kit? A logo kit consists of your logo saved in a variety of file formats so your brand identity will stay consistent across different media formats. High resolution native Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop files are mainly used for print related materials. JPG, PNG and GIF files are mainly used for the web and presentations.
A style guide works in conjunction with a logo kit and is a set of standards for the design of print documents, website pages, signage and other formats that would include your visual brand identifier. The reason for a style guide is to ensure complete uniformity in style and formatting wherever your brand is used. Some of the items it covers are proper logo formats and their usages, official fonts and color palettes and other elements such as your brand voice, styles of photography and artwork that can be used.
These standards are crucial for building a memorable brand, one that is easily recognizable and brings a clear sense of reliability and security. It also helps everyone in a firm and vendors of a firm stay on the same page, and present a unified brand to the public.