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Good Content Marketing Shapes Client Expectations.
Most marketing and sales leaders in service organizations believe that the primary reason to deploy content marketing is to generate leads. The theory goes like this. Give prospects some great ideas to prove you’re an expert and that position you as a trusted advisor.
This is definitely a value that content marketing delivers. But, in my experience, that’s not the complete picture. In fact, lead generation is not a very good reason for deploying content marketing. You might be surprised to hear me say this.
I really don’t believe in lead generation, especially the way many organizations practice it. In these business models, marketing generates leads and sales closes leads. This means that the primary goal of content marketing is to get people to give up their contact information so sales people can call and close them. I think that’s bunk.
There is a much better reason for deploying content marketing. If you do this right, prospects will pull you through the sales funnel instead of you dragging them through the sales funnel. But even that doesn’t get to the heart of content marketing’s primary value.
One of the major reasons that we deploy content marketing, and the reasons our clients do this, is to shape the kind of relationship we want with clients. The real value of content marketing is not simply the onset of the relationship. The real value is creating buy-in to an approach to achieving the prospect’s goals.
If you get this right, prospects will not only give you their contact information. They’ll not only pull you through the sales funnel. They’ll also, and maybe most importantly, trust you for life and become a willing and active partner in the success you create together. Let me show you how to do this.
What It Takes To Realize Value
I can buy a can of soda pop today and get the value proposition as soon as I take my first sip. I can buy a high-end luxury automobile and get the value proposition as soon as I take a test-drive. No participation is required from any human being selling me the soda pop or the car for me to get the value. In fact, they may get in the way.
But services are different. I cannot experience the value proposition apart from a human being because humans are the product. Services are delivered by humans. I also typically cannot realize the value proposition independent of some effort on my part. Nearly every service requires the service buyer to do something, to take some specific step, to realize the outcomes the service promises.
This is why the service relationship is unique. This is why you need highly effective and highly targeted content marketing. For the service buyer to realize the outcomes that they wanted to realize from buying the service, they have to do some things, often some complicated things that might feel completely foreign or even wrong to them.
They need a level of faith in your counsel that is very, very high. If they don’t follow your counsel and do their part, they typically won’t get the outcome. They will have paid money and not realized the value proposition.
So content marketing is not primarily about getting to a signed deal. The primary role of content is to create buy-in to an approach, to the steps that collectively you have to take with the client, for them to realize their outcomes.
The primary role of content is to create buy-in to an approach, to the steps that collectively you have to take with the client, for them to realize their outcomes.
The Three Service Teams
For service firms to grow, three teams have to work together seamlessly around a promise. Here is how I think of this. The marketing function makes a promise. The sales function applies the promise. The delivery team delivers the promise. This is how you grow a service firm, create client delight and build a very profitable business. Let me explain.
In most service firms, especially small to medium-size service firms, someone plays the role of marketing leader. It’s usually this person’s job to craft promises for the market about the kinds of outcomes that clients will realize from acquiring their services. These days, most marketing leaders are responsible to articulate the promise and to create content that attracts organic ideal prospects.
The sales function, often called new business development, is at its best when it helps organic ideal prospects figure out how to apply your firm’s capabilities to their situation to achieve goals that matter to them. There is no magic formula to sales. In my experience, most great sales teams are very process driven. A great sales campaign results in a scope of services that the delivery team can readily deploy.
The delivery team, (accountants at CPA firms, lawyers at law firms, architects at architecture firms, engineers at IT consulting firms, consultants at consulting firms), puts the service plan into action. Their responsibility is to produce an outcome for the client that achieves their goals.
This is how the services business model is supposed to work: marketing makes a promise, sales applies a promise, delivery delivers a promise. But that is, unfortunately, not the case in so many firms.
How Some Service Teams Work
In some organizations, marketing, sales and delivery functions are three ships passing in the night. Let me give you a common scenario we see when engaging with new clients.
The marketing function creates content based on ideas that might not have a lot to do with what the delivery team actually delivers. The marketing function feels pressure to get content out the door, so they create blog-posts and e-books and webinars that get some level of registrations. They throw these over the wall to the sales function as leads.
The sales or new business development function often is not aware of the content that is being produced and only reads it after a prospects writes in to say – “hey I want to talk about this idea I saw on your website.” When they get into the conversation with the prospect, the sales function typically prefers to talk about pain points similar to the last 5 clients they helped rather than the current prospect.
Or, in other situations, the sales function prefers to go right to a demo or other pitch decks where they feel comfortable. Too often, they don’t practice a consultative approach that records the prospect’s full ranges of needs. This means the scope of services they produce is only marginally related to the reason that the prospect engaged them in the first place.
The delivery team has no visibility into what the client originally wanted to accomplish. They dutifully fulfill the scope of services generated by the sales team and hope for the best. They want to produce a happy client. But they only know to do what is in front of them – the scope.
The end result is that a prospect became a client based on a promise they thought they heard in the early stages of the relationship. But as time progressed, the client lost faith in the service provider and began to push back. Soon, that client is labeled as a trouble-maker and the relationship deteriorates.
Now this might be somewhat exaggerated, but it’s not that far off from what we’ve seen in more than one service organization. The good news is that it does not have to be this way. In fact, you can use content marketing as a process to unite the three teams, deliver better service to clients and realize great economic outcomes for your firm.
How To Do This
The first step to fixing this problem is to get the marketing and delivery teams talking and sharing ideas. In my humble opinion, content marketing should demonstrate thought leadership and expertise. But it should also outline an approach to accomplishing the goals that matter most to ideal clients.
No one has better insights about how to do this than delivery teams. They work with clients every day. They know the steps that clients have to take to realize their goals.
The second step is to train sales people in the consultative sale, not the pitch. We practice and train our clients in a seven-stage consultative sale for the digital age that produces very happy clients and very good scope of service documents.
The third step is to create a policy between the sales and delivery teams that requires them to agree on a scope of services before it goes to a prospect for signature. This ensures that the scope is accurate and completely deliverable. It also gives the delivery team insights into what the prospect expects as an outcome from the services they will need to deliver.
If you connect these three teams, in the way I’ve described here, you will grow.
How To Get Started
I want to help you accomplish this goal. So I have a free resource for you. It’s a video-based Action Guide called 7 Steps To A Content Marketing Program That Consistently Yields Ideal Clients. This great resource shows you how to build trust with prospects. If you want to consistently grow your service firm, I know this tool will really benefit you.
About the author
Randy Shattuck is a senior marketing executive and founder of The Shattuck Group, a full-service marketing firm that specializes in growing professional services firms.
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