Outside of the disciplines of advertising and public relations, professional services firms historically have struggled with marketing activities. Unless there’s a Request For Proposal out in the vertical market served by a given firm, there’s not a lot of effort to differentiate the value of a services firm to potential clients. At external professional services firms, a senior partner might have a personal book of business that they manage and that could generate opportunities for the firm. The buyer’s side of the equation is similar. Clients primarily hear about new services firms from their existing network, or indirect sources of advertising about the value and capabilities of a firm.
Marketing appears harder still at an embedded professional services organization. I’m at a product company, and though an increasing amount of our technology has been deployed to the cloud, there’s still a tangible product. A quantifiable thing that’s being sold, with defined performance capabilities and defined features and functionality. At a product company, it’s been my experience that the marketing will focus primarily on the product, which is the most rational activity.
The past couple months have been an interesting challenge for me as I’ve worked on the question of how one deliberately markets and differentiates the services of an embedded services organization. With few exceptions, we don’t have products that are sold without a warm body attached; rather, we have high quality services delivered by senior people. People with interesting stories, anecdotes, witticisms, and a broad base of experiences that they like to discuss.
The question I’ve set out to solve over the next couple months is whether or not an embedded professional services organization can have fans. We’ve launched blogs for our consultants to publish their stories to an audience, and those blogs will have minimal marketing oversight. The stories are the new marketing materials and speak to our capabilities more accurately than a data sheet.
On Tuesday September 16th at 10AM PT we’re taking the next logical step in telling our story. I’ll be hosting a live show on YouTube where one of our senior consultants will be working directly with a customer. I’m fortunate in that we have a great cameraman as a consultant, and one of my direct reports used to be a television news producer. I’ve hosted live events before, but never a live broadcast. The underlying idea is that it’s easier to show clients our capabilities rather than to tell them, and to make it lively both sides. The unknown is whether or not this will effectively build a network of fans for both the services organization and also for the individual consultants.