In my last blog post, I outlined how marketing as education can help five different groups learn more about us and our services.

Even though this post was intended as a stand-alone piece, it also serves as another example of the productive tension of marketing.

An Aversion To Marketing

On the one hand there is the ongoing need for continuous marketing activities, this time in the form of educating strangers and contacts.

But on the other hand, there is an ongoing aversion to marketing. It’s also possible that this aversion appears even worse by the suggestion of adding educational elements to professional service marketing.

For many service professionals, there is a huge disconnect between serving clients and marketing their services (aka the productive tension of marketing).

For these people, adding education to the marketing mixture serves to increase the tension: “What! You want me to educate strangers? That’s what I do for paying clients!”

It’s Not ‘Either/Or’–It’s ‘Both/And’

The key to effectively managing the productive tension of marketing is understanding that it is not an ‘either/or’ scenario. It is not necessary to choose either marketing or client service.

It is ‘both/and‘: we can both serve clients and also market our services.

What’s even better is that education is the ideal approach to engage in both marketing and client service.

In the simplest of terms, there are two key aspects of education, which is about helping others learn.

One aspect is generating new information. The other is applying this new information to solve a problem or make a difference.

This distinction suggests the ideal ‘both/and‘ solution for applying education for both marketing and client service purposes.

Learning New Information And Applying It

For marketing purposes, we can offer new information, much like I am doing in this blog post.

What new information can you incorporate into your marketing?

When serving clients, as professionals we help them learn how they can apply new information to help them with their specific problems or make a difference in their lives.

Continuing to use this blog post as an example, I would help clients understand how to use marketing as education in such a way that both distinguishes them from the competition and helps attract new clients.

How can you help clients learn to apply the new information that was part of your marketing message?

Managing the productive tension of marketing is a fairly straightforward process. Let’s not make it more difficult than it needs to be.

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Marketing As Education

May 14, 2013

Another entry from the ‘What Is Marketing‘ Department.

In addition to attracting new clients and also your favorite definition of marketing here is another definition that you can add to the list.

Marketing is all about education. Specifically, it’s about helping five groups of people learn more about you, and how you help clients.

Helping Support Staff & Colleagues Learn

Before even thinking of telling the world about our services, make sure that everyone at home base is on the same marketing page.

Anyone and everyone who will have any client contact plays a part in our marketing. In practice, this means that it’s essential that they fully understand who we are, what we stand for and how we help clients.

As an added bonus, these people can and often do, offer helpful insights and observations that might improve the effectiveness of our marketing.

Helping Referral Sources Learn

Networking and referrals remain the major source of new clients for service professionals. This being the case, it is essential that our referral sources fully understand who we are, what we stand for and how we help clients.

It’s also essential that they understand who the kinds of clients we love to serve…our ideal clients. If they know the kinds of people we love to serve, it’s unlikely they will refer any potentially problematic clients.

Helping The Market Learn

Strange as it may appear, parts of our market remain unaware of our services and similar services of comparably qualified professionals.

This means that the starting point for marketing as education is helping the market understand not only the existence of our professionals services, but also how these services can help them make a difference in their lives.

Instead of echoing what everyone else in your industry is saying, tell your own story, which includes an introduction to your personal brand and brand promise.

Helping Potential Clients Learn

For potentially ideal clients to hire us, they must see us as likeable, competent and trustworthy.

Instead of promoting personal and professional achievements, a better approach would be to outline common problems that face people like them…and then discuss how these and similar problems were resolved. Another good place for your personal brand and brand promise.

Ideally, our marketing will help potentially ideal clients learn why we are their most logical choice as some one who can and will help them with their problems.

Helping Clients Learn

Consistently, professional services includes huge elements of helping clients learn. For the most part, this involves learning more about the technical aspects of out service.

We can also help clients learn to make the most of our help…how to get even better results from our service. Even better results will produce even more satisfied clients, which in turn will probably produce even more repeat and referral business.

For most of us, education is a critical component of our client service.

Why not also make it a key element of marketing professional services?

Last week’s blog Best Professional Service Marketing Strategies could be considered the marketing application of the ‘Less-Is-More‘ principle.

Based on a survey asking over 10,000 consultants how they marketed their services, the post identified networking and referrals as the source of most money. These strategies are just two of 13 identified marketing activities.

Consistent with the the ‘Less-Is-More‘ principle, 78% of respondents reported spending less than $6000 on marketing each year.

Focus On What Generates The Most Revenue

The lesson here is to focus resources on those strategies that generate the most revenue.

Another key finding of the survey addresses clients served and the fee average fee revenue that they generate.

Once again, consistent with the ‘Less-Is-More‘ principle 87% of respondents report working with fewer than 20 clients each year.

But these clients pay well: 93% of responding consultants report average the first time fee from new clients to be more than $500, with 61% reporting these fees to be greater than $2000.

Applying The Insights

For the sake of completeness, 68% of respondents typically charge on a monthly or project basis.

As a model for marketing all professional services, this survey offers two great insights.

In terms of marketing our services, the best approach is to narrow the focus to those strategies that work best for us…probably networking and referrals. But keep in mind that the other 11 strategies can support primary strategies.

Similarly, instead of trying to help everyone who could conceivably benefit from your assistance, focus on serving and satisfying a few ideal clients.

Ideal clients truly appreciate the value that you deliver…and are prepared to pay the higher fees that you charge and deserve.

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As service professionals, we tend to rely more on our experience and intuition than objective research. This really isn’t surprising: few of us have the resources to undertake serious research. For most of us, our research is seldom more than a quick scan of blogs and online posts.

Whenever I come across some sound research that is interesting, and even better, relevant to my work, it’s definitely worth a serious review.

Yesterday this happy circumstance popped up on my computer screen.

Marketing Trends And Strategies For Consultants

Marketing trends and strategies for consultants  surveyed the types of marketing activities on which consultants spend their time. It also compared how the time spent resulted in income. If you are serious about marketing more effectively and efficiently, this report is a must-read.

From my perspective, the most reassuring finding of the report confirms several of my experience and intuitive based beliefs.

I have always believed and continue to believe that networking and referrals are the two best marketing strategies for service professionals. The survey results indicate that 70% of the respondents report these two strategies have made the most money for their businesses.

Time & Money Spent

Given the importance of these strategies, it’s not surprising that the respondents also report spending 57% of their time on these activities. Obviously, it makes sense to spend most of your marketing time on those activities that generate the best results.

There are a couple of other interesting findings.

The report indicates that the third highest amount of respondents’ time is devoted to the marketing activity that is the third lowest money-making strategy.

In numerical terms, 10% of the respondents spend the most time on social media, which only 2% of the consultants report as having generated the most money. Not sure about you, but I’ve come to believe that social media can consume a ton of time while generating generally unsatisfactory results.

The survey also asked about money spent on marketing each year. Once again, no big surprise here.

Of the more than 10,000 consultants surveyed, 78% reported spending less than $6000 each year.

Regardless of whether or not you are a consultant, the same considerations apply to your marketing.

How can you spend your marketing time and budget to generate the most money for your business?


You know that uncomfortable feeling you experience whenever you think about marketing?

Maybe it’s just a tingling little sensation of unpleasantness…or perhaps it’s a deep down visceral ‘I HATE marketing!”

Your discomfort with marketing need not be an insurmountable obstacle to successfully attracting new clients. The disconnect between what you like to do, which would be serving clients…and what you don’t like to do—marketing—could be considered the tension of marketing.

Like stress, tension can be a positive element in our lives. As the Institute for Productive Tension tells us:

“Just as the strings on a guitar must be tightened to produce a range of notes, Productive Tension results when we find the appropriate balance between too much tension and not enough, between the extremes of stress and complacency.”

The productive tension of marketing results when we strike a balance between too much marketing-generated stress and stubbornly ignoring anything to do with marketing.

In other words, we need the stress of continuing to generate new business to serve as the pressure that prevents us from defaulting to the self-created complacency of avoiding marketing.

To effectively manage this stress…or the productive tension of marketing…it’s helpful to re-frame marketing as an extension of client service.

In order to help with this re-framing process, I have recently launched a series of blog posts outlining the connection between ‘marketing’ and client service.

I invite you to join the conversation, share your experience and help others learn how to effectively manage the productive tension of marketing.

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Yes, strange as that may appear, overabundance has been my biggest marketing challenge.

Abundance Of Opportunities

As a lifelong learner, I continue to learn new ideas and concepts. Sometimes this learning comes from watching the world unfold around me. Other times it comes from my own experience, or listening to the experiences of others. And frequently, it also comes from formal learning and training programs or courses.

Several years ago, I took a university-level course in adult education. Based on the principles of experiential learning, this six-module program outlined the connection between our experiences, what we could learn from them and applying the lessons learned.

What a breakthrough for a chronic people-watcher and observer of life and continuous learner!

After the fourth module, I was eagerly applying the lessons learned and mentally making recommendations for how family, friends and strangers alike could enjoy a better life if only they would apply the lessons from their experiences.

My most recent educational program was an online business course offered by the University of Virginia, through Coursera. (If you don’t know Coursera, check it out…it’s awesome!) On completion of the course, Grow To Greatness, I saw the opportunity to create a coaching program based on the principles of the course.

So off I went on my typical response of immediately applying what I had just learned…and started designing the program.

The Path Of Least Resistance

Why is an abundance of opportunities so problematic for me?

Along with my love of learning and applying life’s lessons, I have also been blessed with a wide range of gifts that made it reasonable and possible to pursue an equally wide range of opportunities.

When I look back at my career, it now appears that these gifts have been as much of a curse as they have been a blessing.

On far too many occasions, noticing that the grass was greener on the other side of the fence, I chose what appeared to be the path of least resistance and jumped the fence.


It’s now apparent that choosing the greener grass was selecting the wrong path of least resistance.

The right path of least resistance draws us to our personal and business goals. It’s what attracts us to where we want to be…not distract us from where we would prefer not to be.

Having identified the problematic aspect of overabundance, applying this lesson is fairly straight forward.

While recognizing and rejoicing in the overabundance of opportunities that continue to flow, the key is to stay the course. Instead of becoming distracted from a less desirable situation, it’s better to build the momentum that will lead to the ultimate achievement of to our ultimate personal and business goals.

At that time, we can revel in the overabundance of opportunities…or maybe not.

By writing about the 10 Challenges of Marketing Professional Services, my intention was two-fold.

One element was to identify some of the marketing challenges that face those of us who market our professional services. And having identified these challenges, the other element was to offer suggestions for responding effectively to these challenges.

Now, having reflected on the response to this series of blog posts, there is a very clear and undeniable conclusion that can be drawn.

Ironically, this conclusion is reflected in the title of the March 27 blog post: What To Do When You Love Serving Clients But Hate Marketing, which attracted the most visitors of the series.

For the most part, service professionals really do love serving clients. As for marketing, it’s one of those things that we all know we should be doing…but realistically few of us enjoy it, even a little bit.

Instead of trying to overcome service professionals’ general dislike of marketing, it would be more helpful to re-frame marketing as an extension of client service. As part of this process, let’s consider what marketing is…and what it is not.

Here are 12 factors that help clarify what marketing is, together with the opposite factors that clarify what it is not.

  1. client-focused …. not standardized ‘one-size-fits-all’
  2. building and maintaining relationships … not adversarial
  3. continuous … not isolated or one time only
  4. conversation…not a speech, monologue, lecture or one-way conversations
  5. marketing as education offers new information…not the same old same old message
  6. investment for future benefits … not throwing resources at a problem
  7. mutually beneficial interactions… not one-sided win-lose scenario
  8. proactive … not reactive
  9. strategic … not just problem-solving
  10. transformational … not maintaining the status quo
  11. your best stuff … not bare minimum
  12. unique ‘one-of-a-kind’ interactions.. not marketing to the masses

Following the same approach followed with 10 Challenges of Marketing Professional Services, in and of themselves, these factors will help redefine marketing as an extension of client service.

Now the task is offer suggestions for applying these factors in such a way that marketing professional services become a logical and comfortable expansion of serving clients.

Stay tuned…over the coming weeks, I will prepare weekly blog posts about just that…helping you redefine and integrate marketing as an extension of your client service.