Marketing for Professional Services needs a revolution

It’s Not What You Know. It’s Who You Know

I know about many great and influential people who never heard about me. Does that count as “who I know”?

Of course not. Allow me to rephrase the quote mentionedabove

It’s Not What You Know. It’s Who knows you.

But, what counts as knowing you? Isn’t it a matter of scale?

Would you consider buying a comparatively less expensive apparel from a person you just met? Yes, we do it all the time. Because the procurement of an apparel is one time transaction. But, as the price of the apparel increases, we will more inclined to buy it directly either from the official outlet of the manufacturer or comparatively well known retailer. Because we “know” the brand of the manufacturer and/or the brand of the retailer. In case of professional services, the professional is the product and the sales person herself. The procurement is not transactional but relationship based. Some may argue otherwise. An Investment Adviser may argue that she is selling investment advice. Well, not really. Professional services are not standardized like apparels or groceries. What professionals sell is the relationship.

Unfortunately, in India, relationship based marketing is less understood. What are the common methods we connect with prospects?

Cold calling and email campaigns

I think, everyone knows one secret– Cold Calls are irritating? I have not come across a single person who likes to get calls from a stranger trying to “close” a transaction. Then why is cold calling so popular? Probably simply habit. Many professionals believe that cold calling is the only option and that is the problem.

Another option used frequently now a days is email campaigns. After I registered my company, I received hundreds of emails from strangers who requested an appointment for current accounts and for various other services. The emails were mostly identical to each other. Everyone seemed to use the same format with minor changes. Nobody stood out. Many emails went directly to the spam folder.

I chose the services from institution I was already accustomed to. For example, I opened the current account with the bank I had a savings account. The offerings are same for pretty much all the banks but this is the bank I did “know” about.

Commoditisation and differentiation

Commoditisation is a process through which the perception of exclusivity (specialty) in a product and service gets eroded by competition. It is not about what is actually different or special about your service, it is about the perception in your prospect’s mind.

Professional services are exposed to the risk of commoditisation because the only scope of differentiation is the knowledge and skills of the service provider.

The problem with the traditional marketing methods described above that they cannot highlight the said knowledge and skills which are the primary source of differentiation.

Making a sale versus building credibility

What is the goal of marketing ? Yes, getting more sales is why you are doing the marketing. But, are you looking for transactions or to build a customer base who repeatedly procure from you?

Most traditional marketing methods focus on the transaction, not building the customer base.

If you ask me

The core of marketing is building credibility, sales is a by-product.

It seems counterintuitive, right?

The issue is, a marketer solely focusing on “closing” the sale will be inclined to make false claims and may not take the time to build the relationship with the prospect. The prospect may end up making a procurement but we may fail to create a customer.

What do you think about it? Please comment below.


Sam Ghosh

Founder at Wisejay, A Social Selling Platform for Financial Professionals.

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