Why are professional service based businesses struggling to stand out from the crowd?
Businesses in the service sector, for instance, HR, legal, accountancy and financial planning, often struggle to differentiate. Many service-based businesses operate in markets where there are thousands of competitors all doing the same thing and all run by experienced professionals. These businesses often fall into the trap of looking the same, sounding the same and offering the same services. They fail to demonstrate their value and expertise resulting in stunting:-
- Their opportunity for growth;
- Their ability to become an authority in their specialist field; and
- Their inability to increase their prices.
How then does a customer choose between these businesses if none stand out from the crowd other than on price; faced with a sea of similar businesses offering the same looking and sounding services, the customer will, more often than not, make their choice purely on price.
How do you make sure your business stands out from the rest and demonstrate more value than your competitors, thus increasing your chance of capturing new customers and protecting your prices?
A lack of differentiation in the market is a significant contributor to businesses floundering and not achieving their ambitions. In this blog we discuss the common challenges our clients face and what you can do to avoid them.
Lack of sales and marketing experience
Many service businesses are led by people who were previously fee earners, they are excellent at what they do, but are not experienced in sales and marketing. Being an expert HR consultant, or Accountant for example, is what your customers demand, but doesn’t necessarily make them the best people to be leading on sales and marketing strategy. If you don’t keep abreast of new ways of thinking or technologies you’ll miss out on opportunities.
Following the trend rather than standing out
One of the key challenges we see frequently is businesses who simply follow the trend. They run the risk of ‘keeping up with the competition’ by attending the same events or advertising in the same places, just because the competition does.
It’s common to see professional service businesses:
- Have similar websites, marketing messages and sales collateral;
- Use similar techniques to approach new clients;
- Create content that other people in their sector will enjoy, but not their customers, such as legislative updates or opinion pieces on the sector.
To overcome these common problems, you need to:-
- Focus hard on understanding your customer;
- Position your business around the challenges you are solving;
- Create content that speaks directly to them, that’s original and personalised.
Your role as a leader needs to be in defining your sales and marketing strategy, learning if you have the skills and experience in your team to help execute this strategy to set you apart, and foster an environment of continual performance.
Zero / Poor Strategy
A common challenge that many businesses face is that they fail to bridge the gap between sales and marketing with a defined, structured and sound strategy. Businesses:-
- Fail to define their ideal customer or truly understand their pains;
- Have no idea or have failed to calculate how customers they need to hit their sales targets;
- Struggle to generate enough leads and when they do, they waste valuable time nurturing leads who are the wrong fit;
- Don’t know where to find a continual stream of new targets;
- Haven’t worked out their prospects’ buying cycle;
- Haven’t considered the best sales strategy or produced the right collateral to help improve their chance of converting leads;
- Deploy marketing based on the wrong information such as followers, web visits etc, with no focus on quality;
- Have no tools to inspire curiosity or powerful messages to stimulate action;
- Have no processes to maintain momentum;
- Sales conversations are flat, formulaic and unengaging because the business has not considered how to engage their prospects and generate excitement from the beginning of the prospect to customer journey;
- Fail to use data in the right way to make strategic decisions.
Content marketing is fuel
Great content helps businesses truly connect with their audiences and show how they are best positioned to help, whether that be through events, presentations, newsletters, website content, blogs, newsletters, videos, podcasts or webinars.
To avoid following the crowd, however, deliver what your prospects are crying out for. Here’re some stats to guide you:
- Compared to static content, interactive content such as quizzes and interactive questionnaires generate twice as many conversions.
- 45% of buyers say personalized content portals would help accelerate purchasing decisions.
- 70% of B2B Buyers prefer interactive content over static content.
Your content and marketing strategy needs to attract, nurture and convert more of the right type of customers. It needs to be less self-indulgent, less focussed on YOU and more focussed on YOUR AUDIENCE. The only way to do that is through truly understanding what makes them tick, the challenges they face and the pains they are feeling. Here’re a few things to think about:
- Know your niche. Focus on topics you are experts in or work you do exceptionally well, don’t try and cover all bases.
- Start small and grow. Pick the content areas you feel you can excel in, distribute the content effectively and measure the results. Then use this reporting information to optimise your strategy and grow your content plan.
- Think beyond the blog. A blog is a great place to start, but think outside the box with your content creation, there are some ideas to get you started below.
- Aim high. A great way to scale your content strategy is to start off with one big piece such as a white paper or detailed guide, (this is often called long form content). This content can then be repurposed into an array of other smaller content pieces such as blogs, social posts, newsletters, and much more. This is a great way of getting more value out of your content marketing buck.
- Know your audience. Who are they? What do they do? Where do they hang out? What are their challenges? Creating a customer avatar is so valuable when developing your content strategy to ensure everything you produce is on point. Using assessment-based marketing helps you continually learn about your audience and gain valuable ideas for new content.
- Make sure you have content for each stage of the buying journey to engage your audience and help improve the chance of conversion.