The vibrant life of Summer may be in full swing, but some things never change. I’ve noticed many professionals at the top of their game hold either unrealistic expectations for marketing, or see marketing as little more than smoke and mirrors, and marketing consultants as charlatans selling snake oil.

“Helping” professional services firms do marketing is all the rage. Most of the “advice” leads to selling shiny objects to non-marketer professionals searching for something that works.
If it were that easy, marketing consultants would have a better reputation. But they don’t.

Ah, the Irony

Many of these marketers I disparage can do excellent work. The trouble is they focus on tactics without a strategic context. That’s fancy consultant-speak for saying they see marketing activities as an end in themselves. I don’t know whether they are rushing to “results,” or simply can’t see the bigger picture.

This approach shortchanges the potential of marketing at two levels.

  1. All marketing activity should be tied to the firm’s strategic goals such as growing certain market segments, improving profitability, reducing client churn, etc.
  2. Even more importantly, marketing should connect what the firm does to the benefits the client’s firm experiences as a result.

A case in point. When I first met Julie, she raved about her firm’s new website and the web marketing consultant who put it together. 17 jargon-filled bullet points detailed the firm’s practice areas and expertise and highlighted the uniqueness of her background.

Julie became a client when I pointed out that nowhere among the color-balanced eye-candy describing what she does and her credentials did the site address why a potential client would hire her firm over the many other similar firms. Julie had great form, but little function.

“A Switch Flipped” in Her Thinking

A few weeks into our project, Julie excitedly announced how “a switch flipped” in her thinking. Suddenly, she saw marketing through a very different lens. The Four Hard Truths came into focus. The reason for a marketing strategy become obvious to her.

Our firm's marketing strategy is now to have better marketing, not more marketing. Click To Tweet

The goal of her firm’s marketing strategy is no longer to highlight how different they are. She now sees marketing as helping potential clients see her firm as a better choice for her target clients’ specific needs. Consequently, she now says, “Our firm’s marketing strategy is now to have better marketing, not more marketing.”

Flipping Your Switch

Your best clients DO think you’re better. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking they think you’re better for the same reasons you think you’re better. If you fall into that trap, you’ll join legions of professionals marketing to themselves.

The good news is your best clients want to help you. Even after the better part of a decade I never stop being amazed at how much my clients’ best customers want to help them succeed. When you take time to explain your secret sauce, these Fans turn into much more powerful Advocates who actually drive business to you. For more on this effect, read How to Architect Powerful Recommendations.