5 Proven Ways to Strengthen Your Marketing Plan
Conduct a Systematic, Structured Research to Get Results
How can an existing marketing plan be improved? In this article, Dr. Frederiksen outlines five steps a firm can use to strengthen an existing marketing plan.
1.Â Sharpen Your Focus on Research
Good market research is more than simply interviewing a few clients, reading trade publications, or attending industry events.Â Rather, the best results come from systematic, structured research in three areas:
- Determine exactly who within your organization has special expertise that clients value. Try to uncover areas of expertise that your competitors have not yet claimed as their own unique areas of insight.
- Look closely at competitorsâ€™ websites to get insights into where competitorsâ€™ strengths and weaknesses are, and ideas for improving your own website.
- Interviewing clients, previous clients, prospects, and other knowledgeable parties to find out about the issues and concerns that clients care aboutâ€”and also what they think of your firm.
Because this last type of research can be sensitive, one effective alternative is to have a third party conduct the interviews.Â This past summer, for example, an accounting firm hired us to help them determine whether they were overcharging for their services.Â We conducted a systematic interview process with some of their clients and prospects, and actually found that many clients felt they were undercharging.
So why go to all this trouble? Â For one thing, our own studies show firms that do this kind of research grow three to ten times faster and are up to two times more profitable.
2.Â Develop a Clear, Specific Message That Sets You Apart
Whether you call it your unique selling proposition or market positioning message, the essence is the same: a clear message that compels potential clients to choose you over competitors.Â It may sound simple to create, but this is one of the most difficult marketing challenges for many accounting and financial services firms.
For example, it is easy to say that you have great people or provide exceptional value.Â The problem is your competitors make those exact same claims as well.
Why is it so important to build messaging around such differentiators? Â Our research has found those professional services firms that grow the fastest are three times more likely than their competitors to have strong, clear, and believable differentiators.
3.Â Reorient Your Website to Generate Leads
To explore the importance of lead generation for websites, we conducted a study of how professional services firms approach online marketing.Â We found those firms that generated at least 40% of their leads online grew four times faster than firms that did not.Â They were also twice as profitable.Â Some strategies for turning a website into a lead generating marketing tool:
- Use keywords and search engine optimization (SEO)â€”Determine the terms your clients search for, and then use those terms on your website. For example, your homepage should include at least 200 words of keyword-rich copy.
- Create strategic content to engage visitorsâ€”A lead generating website offers content that prospects find increasingly relevant and valuable the further they move in the sales cycle.
- Create an area that features timely, relevant contentâ€”Dedicate a section of your site to housing educational content.
- Include targeted offersâ€”Hard offers lead visitors to direct contact with a person at your firm, while soft offers let visitors take a smaller step in the sales process, such as downloading some content.
- Keep improvingâ€”Constantly test, analyze, and adjust your site. Use customer relationship management or website analytics tools to monitor how visitors interact with your site.
4.Â Use Social Media to Build and Leverage Your Network
Join and interact in LinkedInâ€™s various industry- and issue-specific groups, then interact with your target market and share links to relevant content you have written.Â Be sure all your in-house experts update their LinkedIn profiles to highlight their expertise.
5.Â Maximize Your Referral Potential with Visible ExpertsÂ®
Referrals from firms that have actually worked with you are important.Â But the two other types of referralsâ€”those based on expertise and reputationâ€”can provide a far greater return on investment.
To succeed at this effort, you need much more than just a conference keynote or a blog post or two under your belt.Â Instead, you need to convey your messaging consistently across every possible channel, on a regular basis.Â This way, no matter where or how an individual experiences your firm, they will get the same clear message about your value proposition.
One great example of the â€˜Visible Expert effectâ€™ is the work my firm recently did with an accounting firm.Â For more than two years, the firm had tried hard to crack the private equity field marketâ€”to no avail.Â We began working with them on a strategy to develop Visible Experts within their firm around topics of interest to private equity firms.Â After some groundwork establishing their Visible Experts in the marketplace, our client was invited to speak at a key industry conference.Â At the end of our clientâ€™s keynote address, the speaker was approached by several prospects requesting follow-up meetings.
Time to Get Started
Although the marketing plan recommendations described here may seem ambitious, they are definitely achievable.Â The key is to get started nowâ€”and the Fall is a great time to be working on the next generation of your marketing plan.Â Happy planning!
Lee W. Frederiksen, PhD, is Managing Partner at Hinge, the leading branding and marketing firm for the professional services. Hinge conducts groundbreaking research into high-growth firms and offers a complete suite of services for firms that want to become more visible and grow.
Mr. Frederiksen can be contacted at (703) 391-8870 or by e-mail to LFrederiksen@hingemarketing.com.