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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Once upon a time, professional service marketing was unnecessary.

Clients and potential clients generally knew what kind of help they needed. They also knew the people in their local community who provided this help.

As long as service professionals continued to do what they had always done, they could remain reasonably confident that clients would find them when they needed them.

But that was then…only a few decades ago…and this is now.

In today’s global marketplace, consumers face a staggering array of professional services, from traditional accounting to newer areas such as website and mobile marketing. And within each service area, there is an equally staggering array of individuals seemingly qualified to deliver the professional services that they promote.

Putting aside the question of how individuals find and choose the right service professional to help them, how can we as service professionals distinguish ourselves from the competition and stand out from the crowd?

The best, in fact the only way to distinguish ourselves and stand out from the crowd is to continue to innovate in everything that we do.

Effective innovation starts with a clear understanding of what it is…and what it isn’t.

Innovation is something that is really new and different for you and/or your business.

Innovation is not unique in the world.

From this perspective, there are six main approaches to innovate:

  1. Combine existing things in a new way.
  2. Learn something new from a different business and apply it to yours.
  3. Challenge the usual assumption of continuing to do things they way they have always been done.
  4. Learning from the competition.
  5. Collaboration with customers.
  6. Experimentation, trial and error.

Choose and apply as many of these approaches as will work for you and your business.

If however, you ignore all of them, you will probably remain lost in the crowd.

A public relations disaster in professional service marketing offers good news and bad news.

The good news is that relative to a PR disaster for a high profile multi-national corporation like Apple, service professionals’ PR disasters are largely ignored outside of our small corners of the world.

In Apple’s case, it has a very large corner of the world and when it messes up…it does it big time. Hard to ignore the fiasco of Apple banning Google Maps from iPhones in September in favor of its own error-riddled maps.


According to,

“CEO Tim Cook had to issue a public apology, conceding that the maps “fell short” before suggesting users download competitors’ products from the Apps store. Cook specifically called out Bing, MapQuest, or going to Nokia and Google’s website.

“The product manager who oversaw the maps team was fired months later.”


The bad news is that for those of us who run our own business of providing professional services, we don’t have a large organization in which we can hide until people in our market forget about our personal PR disasters. Nor do we have anyone we can blame…and fire.


Quick Escapes

In my case, my biggest PR disaster was the second worst speaking engagement of my career.

Having just completed a study of the best marketing practices of high ranking real estate sales people in the Toronto area, I was invited to share my findings in a presentation at a conference of the sales people at a very large and well-respected independent real estate company. Considering myself more of a facilitative speaker than a lecturer, my plan was to guide the group through the process of identifying the key findings. My contact person at the company liked the concept so we ran with it.

Within 10 minutes of starting, it was obvious my audience was not following my game plan.

When I gave the group a small exercise, a supportive member of the audience suggested that his colleagues had short attention spans and my best approach would have been to just tell them what my findings were so that they could get on with their days.

Switching from my prepared facilitative approach to an unplanned lecture format, the rest of the presentation was…needlessly to say…a total disaster. At the end, it was almost a race to determine who could make the fastest escape…me or the frustrated audience.

But life continues and I survived.

Lessons Learned

Looking back, there are two valuable lessons to be learned.

  1. Better Planning: Had I spent more time learning about what my audience wanted, the disaster could have been avoided. However, as often happens with those of us who provide professional services, when we are asked to share information and advice, our egos get in the way. I knew what they needed to learn and was confident in my plan to help them learn.
  2. Contingency & Risk Planning: Any business activity, such as marketing and public relations, that offers high potential benefits also carries with it the risk of major damage in the event of failure. As part of business and marketing planning, it’s a good idea to think the unthinkable. What are some of the most damaging public relations disasters that might arise?What are the most appropriate damage-controlling responses to these disasters?

The best approach to managing PR disasters to minimize the risk by proper planning.

The next best approach is having a contingency plan in place that sets out damage-controlling responses.

If you are lucky enough to escape disaster, good for you.

If however, you do experience a disaster, better for you. Your plan will minimize damaging fall-out.

For reasons that totally escape me, most human endeavors become more complicated than they really need to be.

This is true of attracting clients to our businesses, which is also known as marketing.

Attracting friends and being attractive to potential friends are both natural parts of life. Following conventional social norms, most of us connect with like-minded people whose company we enjoy. And whether we realize it or not, by leaving room for miracles to occur, many of us connect with truly amazing and wonderful people.

The same considerations apply to marketing, whether professional services of other ‘products’. However, sometimes we become so engaged in the task of marketing that our busy-ness leaves no room for miracles.

Here’s a very short course that will help position you to receive marketing miracles. It will only take about 10 minutes, but it must be completed without distraction or interruption. When you can arrange 15 minutes of undisturbed time…

Step 1: By way of preparation, read this short blog post about marketing clutter.

Step 2: Turn the marketing machine off completely and eliminate all sources of marketing messages.

Step 3: Take the following actions

  • take 3 deep breaths, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth
  • open your non-dominant hand, hold the palm up
  • with the first 2 fingers of your dominant hand tap gently on the fleshy part of your dominant hand midway between the wrist and the base of your small finger
  • continuing the tapping, repeat this statement at least 3 times out loud :

“Even though I might be confused about what I am doing, I remain open to new wisdom and insights that will help me with my marketing”

  • pause…and when you are ready, take 3 deep breaths, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth

Step 4: When you are ready, turn the marketing machine back on, setting the level no higher than ¾ capacity.

Miracles need space and time to develop and appear. If we continue the practice of going full out on marketing, we seriously limit the ability of miracles to enter our lives.

Step 5: When you experience your marketing miracle, come back to this post and tell us about it.

This helps make it real.

For best results, repeat this course whenever you feel overwhelmed by your busy-ness in any aspect of your business and life.

Even if the miracle is a well-needed break, it’s well worth the time.

Business growth is more like processes that happen in nature. This means that business growth is organic…not created, directed or otherwise controlled by the human mind.

Sometimes with proper care and attention to our professional service marketing, we can achieve some great results.

Other times, despite the best of intentions, we produce less than satisfying results.

According to Edward D. Hess of the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, there are six keys to organic growth. Hess refers to these keys as ‘secret sauce’ of long term growth.

  1. Unique talents and/or services
  2. Best talent
  3. Visionary, charismatic leaders
  4. Superior innovation
  5. Cost superiority obtained by outsourcing and off-shoring
  6. Sophisticated, diversified strategies

I like this model, intuitively it makes a lot of sense.

The secret sauce combines our personal inborn talents (items 1-3) with the actions we take to apply these resources (items 4 & 6). It also combines some elements which are related to the marketing function (1-4) with some that are more related to business management (items 5-6).

There is nothing to suggest that equal amounts of each ingredient are required. That’s where our experience comes into play. From past experience, we will know…or can figure out…how much of each element is required to achieve desired growth. Different circumstances require different amounts of individual ingredients.

Enough theory. I’m satisfied that my business planning includes these six keys to organic growth. How will they help you achieve your growth goals?


In my last post, I wrote about The 3 Keys To Successfully Marketing Professional Services.

In the simplest terms, these keys are appropriate marketing know-how, attitudes and actions.

These keys are not unique to marketing professional services. They are at the core of success in every human endeavor … including the delivery of professional services.

For practical purposes, this means that if you can satisfy clients with your professional services, you can apply the marketing equivalents of know-how, attitudes and actions to attract new clients. But that’s another post for another time.

One Clearly Identifiable Factor

Reconnecting with my legal training, I am reminded of the the principle of audi alteram partem or “hear [audi] the other side too” .

This raises the question: “If appropriate know-how, attitudes and actions are the keys to successfully marketing professional services, what blocks…or gets in the way of…successful professional service marketing?”

Based on my experience, there is one clearly identifiable factor that prevents most of from achieving the success we want. This factor has nothing to do with either marketing know-how or attitudes. It is one single action, an action that we have all taken deliberately or by default.

That action? Lack of focus.

Keep Your Eye On The Ball

Not surprisingly, the same factor also serves as an obstacle to success in non-marketing and non-business situations alike.

If you have ever played a sport involving a ball, puck, or something else to be smacked or caught, you are painfully aware of the importance of ‘keeping your eye on the ball’.

We all know what happens when we take our eyes of the ball. Sometimes the outcome is simply less than satisfactory results. Other times it is a huge disappointment. And occasionally, the outcome is nothing short of a disaster.

In marketing professional services, the ball is the results we want to achieve. Whenever we allow ourselves to be distracted by the latest technological advance instead of staying the course to achieve our goals…we are taking the eye off the ball. Similarly, whenever we jump all over a new opportunity at the cost of ignoring the pursuit of our planned goals, we have lost our focus and direction.

Successfully marketing professional services is not really all that difficult. Unfortunately, like other fairly straight-forward things in life, we make it harder for ourselves than it needs to be. Instead of keeping a tight focus on achieving our set goals, we take our eyes off the ball and achieve less than satisfying results.

Now that I have identified lack of focus as the #1 obstacle, how do you keep focused on achieving your goals?