The landscape of professional services marketing and business development has changed from being driven almost exclusively by personal relationships to a position where human contact has taken a back seat to technology.
This change has been attributed to a variety of generational differences, technological advances, time constraints, globalisation, and the rising expectation for up-front transparency and excellence in all services solicited. However there is a case for dedicating time to non-virtual marketing and business development, which can be simple, and if done correctly will help foster loyalty, stronger relationships and generate more business.
Today’s marketplace is characterised by a new generation of buyers and influencers that utilise technology to find, vet and communicate with professional services providers almost instantaneously. At the same time technology is also reshaping industries and offering new and exciting options to clients.
The professional services world is not isolated from this shift and is changing with every advance in technology.
From the implementation of low-cost communication channels to the automation of ‘professional’ tasks, clients can now understand, communicate and link with people world-wide for services. This has led to a collapsing geography within business environments, whereby you can just as easily work with a local service provider as you can one across the globe. Of course a lot of activities still require onsite work, but these instances are shrinking with every technological advance.
Take for example Google Earth.
We can now assess a property’s size, the lie of the land, and external characteristics from our office or hand-held device, removing the need to visit a property before giving an accurate fee proposal. These factors have led to a consumer driven environment whereby transparency and excellence are demanded up-front, and buyers can find out online if a company or individual meets their expectations before making contact with an actual person.
Within the context of this changing landscape it is important to remember that human beings need human contact to create trust and loyalty. With this in mind, I have a few simple tips on how to humanise marketing and business development:
- Identify your top clients, referrers and prospects, and think about what kind of and how much contact you have had with them in the past. Create a profile highlighting what you know about them professionally and personally, and flesh out this profile over time.
- Connect with your top targets, and others, in person and via social media. LinkedIn and Facebook can be powerful business networking tools if leveraged to their full potential. Position yourself and your company as experts and thought-leaders by sharing your expertise; this actively demonstrates commitment to being the best in the industry.
- Acknowledge your clients, referrers and prospects interests by attending the same industry events and conferences as them. This type of networking promotes quality face-time, which enhances bonds and increases credibility, thereby developing more business.
- Actively seek face-to-face meetings as ‘traditional’ marketing is still alive and kicking, and in fact referrals are still the most common source of new business for those of us in professional services.
Today a combination of both traditional and online marketing techniques will significantly increase chances of success.