Across the professions, the top four drivers for considering a firm are identical:
Source: Beaton Benchmarks, 2014
The common theme among these variables is that they are all – to a large extent – talent-dependent. This begs the question: ‘If these traits are so important in driving purchase decisions, how can firms better support their people to demonstrate these traits to the market during the buying process, particularly to buyers who have not done business with the firm before?’
The enduring answer to this question is through relationship building, the gold standards of which are traditional face-to-face networking and personal referral. But the digital landscape has brought many new touchpoints to bear for firms and their employees. The fact is there are now new and different ways to draw the attention and build the trust of buyers, which can amplify (not replace) the effects of your traditional efforts.
Research my Hinge Marketing also shows that most buyers will now ‘check a firm out’ online before making a formal approach. With this change in buyer behaviour comes a growing imperative to make sure your firm’s online presence makes the right first impression and repeatedly impresses buyers as they traverse the sales funnel over time.
Pre-internet, the means for demonstrating likely client-firm fit outside an established relationship were limited. Prospects had to rely much more on the attributes implied by a strong brand when making a purchasing decision. But with the internet at their disposal, service brands no longer have to rely on the strength of the corporate brand alone to increase buyers’ trust of what is essentially an invisible product.
Rather, smart firms these days are supplementing their usual marketing and BD activities with content-driven social encounters. These firms use social platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter and good websites featuring blogs (or an equivalent hub of ‘knowledge capital’) to provide potential buyers with highly credible and meaningful proxies of the real-life service encounter. By having access to useful, information-rich content that articulates and addresses key issues and challenges, prospects are better able to discern which firm truly understands their needs and has the ability to meet them. Such firms are using virtual encounters to help make the intangible tangible – and buyers appreciate the effort.
The sharing of firm knowledge (and culture) via these newer channels to market represents a different currency firms can now use to help fund growth and BD opportunities; ‘help’ being the operative word. Believe it or not, integrated marketing communications never went out of fashion – a few more channels just got added to the mix.
Viewed in context, social currency is simply part and parcel of ‘the new normal’ that professional services firms are now dealing with. Just as there are now new ways to do business, there are also new ways to take messages to market. The faster that firms accept that keyboard clicks happen more often than handshakes, the more likely they are to benefit from what these newer channels have to offer.
This post was contributed by Candice O’Sullivan, Director and Head of Strategy at Wellmark. You can follow her insights into professional services and #NewLaw marketing @wellmark_psf. You can also find Candice on Google+ at +Candice O’Sullivan or follow her tweets on brand strategy, content marketing and related topics @candicepill.
If you need a trusted advisor as your organisation makes the transition to a social business, Wellmark can provide strategic advice and practical coaching at every step along the way. See here for more information.