by Tony Vidler
The majority of advisers considering advertising are not terribly interested in creating a brand awareness campaign…they are interested in generating leads, or new client opportunities.
So how effective is advertising in generating leads for a professional services firm today?
There are several methods which are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Some because the ROI is so poor it is madness to use them, and some because they only attract the wrong sort of enquiries for most professionals.
In the category of “just damned expensive ways to get leads” you would have to include mass direct mailings, whether that is physical or digital. Equally, cold calling the phone book or a purchased list of suspects with little qualification is an increasingly appalling numbers game. Door-to-door (even where it is still legal!) is even less effective for most. My perception is that pure advertising (banners, sponsored adverts, etc) on social media networks are also very poor – though the incredibly low cost (generally speaking) might make them worth considering in the absence of any better ideas if you have high sales margins per customer.
Then there are the advertising options that work to a degree, though often with questionable ROI at the front end, which present a different problem: attracting the wrong sorts of clients. Yellow Pages advertising, or phone or online directories definitely fall into this category. They work best in a commoditized industry or service, where the “product” is fairly homogenous. As such they have a tendency to invite cost or price comparisons quickly, or sell on convenience factors. Both of these attributes undermine the real value of a professional, and almost inevitably the professional finds they are working with that most frustrating type of client: the price-sensitive, transactional, order-giver.
In a similar fashion, high pressure referral generation techniques and strategies or high pressure seminar selling tend to drive similar types of leads. Most of the leads generated from advertising or marketing this way will also be poor clients, or a poor return on investment.
Good effective advertising complements the rest of the marketing cycle, by addressing the necessary first step of simply getting attention. Having got attention – which really is the objective of the advertising itself – the rest of the marketing machine then swings into action, gradually qualifying prospective customers and moving them along the emotional buying cycle.
Great advertising today cuts through the clutter by being intriguing, or unique in style and approach, together with appealing to positive emotions: fun, interesting, entertaining, humorous, etc.
In today’s cluttered and noisy world great advertising is also dynamic: able to evolve and adapt rapidly, if not take on a life of its own. Static displays (billboards; yellow pages; print advertising; DLE brochures) are simply not dynamic enough. They are yesterdays news the day after you got them into the market.
In today’s challenging, volatile and dynamic world of professional services the effective advertising techniques are usually digitally based. More importantly they are understood to be only the first part of a longer engagement cycle. The patience and thoughtfulness that goes into creating such advertising, and then supporting it with a good engagement process, together with the high level of rapid adaptability is what makes such advertising effective for todays professional services firm.