Here’s a quick question for you. When a client asks for your help with a specific problem, what is the best response?

Obviously the nature of the response depends upon the nature of the problem.

Urgent issues require immediate attention: prevent the situation from worsening and reassure the client that you can and will help resolve the issue.

The Best Response

However, once the urgency has been resolved, what is the next best response? Thank the clients for the opportunity of helping them and send them on their way?

What about helping clients take appropriate actions to prevent the recurrence of the same or similar issues? That would be a good approach to satisfy clients even more by exceeding their expectations.

An even better approach would be to help the client resolve the problem in such a way that both addresses any urgency in the situation and also makes the best possible contribution to helping the client achieve his goals.

More Revenue And Achieve Goals

Many service professionals experience a sense of urgency in their marketing.

They need more revenue…and they want it now. So they instinctively start looking for new clients to generate the new revenue they need. Once they have rounded up enough new business to reduce the urgency of needing revenue…problem solved. Back to business as usual: serving clients.

What about taking appropriate actions to reduce if not eliminate the recurrence of recurrence of urgent cash flow issues?

Or even better, what about addressing the need for more revenue in such a way that resolves the problem in such a way that addresses the urgency of the situation and also makes the best possible contribution to achieving business goals?

Whenever we face cash flow crunches, many of us instinctively we react by starting the hunt for new clients. Lost in this knee-jerk reaction to stop the pain is the bigger picture importance of achieving our goals.

Yet another example of the productive tension of marketing professional services, a pressing need for new revenue also offers the opportunity to help us achieve our overall goals.

Just like helping clients with their issues, it’s a whole lot more than just making the problem go away.

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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?

Guess what? Spring’s here…and our winter-weary landscape is starting to refresh itself. Kind of like getting a new lease on life.

After a long winter, almost everything was starting to look tired and world-weary. Definitely time for renewal and refreshment.

Speaking of looking tired and world-weary, how is your personal brand surviving the wear and tear of the marketplace?

Is it still as fresh and exciting as it was when you developed it? Or like the out-of-kilter picnic table, has it seen better days?

If your brand is basically sound, but has lost its shine and sparkle, maybe it’s time to refresh it.

Provided your brand continues to distinguish you from the competition, you do not need a total brand makeover. Some minor tweaking to the visual elements of your brand can refresh your image, just as a new spring wardrobe helps us look, and feel better.

If you don’t have a logo, try adding an image to present a more contemporary look. Or maybe modify the look and feel of your website and marketing materials.

The purpose of refreshing your brand is not to reinvent yourself. Ideally, refreshing your brand will confirm your brand promise while boosting your profile in the marketplace.

Sometimes the simplest modifications make a huge difference.

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?