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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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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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.

What makes one client appear more important than the others?

Personally, I think all clients are important. If we have taken the time and energy to qualify and accept them as ideal clients, does that not make them important?

For most service professionals, important clients generate lots of fee revenue.

Financial issues aside, losing an ‘important’ client is not always and automatically a bad thing.

Here are 3 good things about losing an ‘important’ client.

1. It’s A Good Wake-Up Call

With a steady flow of income from an ‘important’ client, it’s easy to forget about such things as providing great service for all clients and marketing to attract more and better clients.

Great client service helps generate repeat and referral business from existing clients. And good marketing attracts the kinds of clients that you love to serve.

Nothing emphasizes the importance of focusing on serving existing clients and attracting new ones better than the loss of a high-revenue client.

2. ‘Important’ Clients Are Not Always Ideal Clients

One law firm in which I worked had a mid-sized mortgage lender as a client. This client insisted that its clients, the mortgagors, have the necessary legal work done by our firm. The steady flow of fee revenue ensured all of us that we would receive our pay checks.

But the mortgagors were among the most annoying and obnoxious clients I have ever worked with. With their over-fed sense of entitlement, they were unhappy with everything from having to deal with our law firm to our unwillingness to go to their homes on weekends to look after the legal work.

Nothing pleased them. But as long as the fee revenue continued to flow, the firm eagerly accepted each new client file.

I was happy when I left the security of the steady revenue flow in favor of choosing the clients I wanted to serve.

3. Opportunity To Revise Your Plan For Success

When a high-revenue client leaves, clearly one of our priorities is to replace lost revenue.

What better time to consider new and potentially more profitable revenue sources?

Replacing lost revenue does not mean delivering the same service that produced the lost revenue. Perhaps there are other services that could deliver but have never had the time because of your commitment to the now departed ‘important’ client.

But why stop there? Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your business plan. It’s possible that the client’s departure is a sign of things to come.

Every cloud has its silver lining.

How would you turn the loss of a high-revenue client into a positive development?

Yesterday I raised the question: is your self service as good as your client service?

Strange as both the question and the timing may have seemed, it was not a random act of weirdness right out of the blue.

Last week, I had lunch with a service professional whose main business activity is helping owners of home businesses become and remain focused on achieving their goals. Instead of lunching at one of the great restaurants in her neighborhood, she requested that we get some take-out fast food and have lunch at her nearby apartment. She explained that she was feeling broke.

Over lunch she told me about the book that she had prepared over the past few months. Turns out that the book had absolutely nothing to do with her professional service. After listening to her talk about her book, I quickly realized that it’s one and only strength was her passion for the project. There was little to suggest that the book would be marketable, let alone profitable.

To make her financial situation even more problematic, a training workshop that she was planning for a social services agency was at risk of being cancelled. Like her book, this workshop was not directly related to her professional services. Although the topic was within her area of experience, the primary purpose of the workshop was generate revenue.

As an author, I certainly understand the appeal of writing about a passion. And as a speaker and trainer, I know how hard it is to resist the allure of a paid speaking gig.

However, as a coach I recognize the importance of helping clients remain focused on achieving their business goals. And as a marketing coach, my role is to help clients attract more ideal clients.

To best serve my clients, I must walk my talk. How can I be in position to help clients, encouraging them to act focused and purposefully, when in my own business I pursue whatever interest seems more relevant at the time?

If there is any good news about my friend’s situation, it’s that she is not alone. From my experience, it seems that many service professionals also act from the position of “Do As I Say, Not As I Do”.

What a disservice to their clients …and themselves.