How to Know Whether..

Are you engaged in what we call “accidental marketing?” Think of what could be accomplished if you had a real plan of attack?

Quite often when I talk with principals or key executives of small- and mid-sized professional services firms and ask them about their marketing approach, the response is: “We really don’t do any marketing; all of our business comes from word of mouth.”

As I probe deeper, it’s not uncommon to learn the following:

  • The principals and key executives regularly attend industry events with potential new clients.
  • A few times each year, they will speak at a group function or a “lunch and learn.”
  • A few times each year, they will attend an industry trade show or conference.
  • Once per year, they have a booth at an industry trade show.
  • They will write an article, white paper or blog entry at least once per year.
  • The company has a logo, a business card, a website, a brochure and a number of one sheets communicating services of the firm. Many of these marketing communications are created in-house by a variety of different administrative staff persons.
  • The company will take out print advertising periodically during the year often when approached with a special deal or a special publication offer.
  • The company regularly submits responses to RFPs.
  • A couple of times a year, they send out an e-newsletter created in-house by a marketing intern.
  • At the end of the year, they send out a holiday message/holiday card.
  • One of the principals launched a company Facebook page and all the principals have LinkedIn accounts.

So, consider the statement, “We don’t do any marketing” and consider this list of marketing activities. What I would say is the firm is actually practicing accidental marketing. That is, employing tactics without any idea they are engaged in marketing. And these tactics are certainly not connected to an overarching strategy.

It’s easy to understand why they would think they aren’t “doing” any marketing.  They are actually letting marketing happen to them. With an accidental approach, it’s virtually impossible to communicate a clear and meaningful message to the target market. It’s virtually impossible to gain any traction and get to a place where marketing is attracting new business and increasing business from existing clients.

What’s even worse, this approach leads to the market defining who you are and who you serve rather than you defining your firm and how its viewed in the market.

My question to these principals is, “What could you accomplish if your marketing was executed on purpose?”

The reality is, the days of “we don’t do marketing” for professional services firms is over. The larger firms have set the pace. Many have highly effective CMOs leading the charge and firms run by younger and younger professionals are going to be increasingly aggressive with marketing. The old school is being replaced.

The only real question is will you get out front or will you play catch up? Fortunately, most of the industries that are identified as professional services are still in the infancy when it comes to marketing strategy and execution. This gives the forward-thinking principals the opportunity to get an advantage over the competition. And if we learned anything in 2007 to 2010, we need to be continually becoming stronger, growing market share and creating market advantages so that your firm can prosper both in good times and in economic slowdowns.

John Surge is the President of A|E|C Growth – The Professional Services Marketing Firm. He helps small and mid-sized firms and solo practitioners develop effective marketing plans and marketing tools and provides business development audits and consulting.