by Tony Vidler
Digital marketing and using social media to create an audience and engage with prospective customers is essential for professional services today…BUT…
Word-of-mouth marketing is still where it’s at in professional services.
In fact, it is more important than ever before.
The more impersonal that society becomes and the more we use digital for everyday communications and “maintaining relationships”, the more powerful and influential the transfer of trust becomes. Referrals, peer recommendations, centres-of-influence….people talking to people about professionals they trust and are happy with remains the primary source of new client acquisition because of that transfer of trust. Even when digital generates attention and interest, there is an overwhelming tendency for consumers to check in with someone they trust before deciding to engage the person they found online.
In the world of selling an intangible product called “advice” nothing beats the personal recommendation from a trusted source.
Advertising, having a premium location and signage, being listed in professional directories and all the SEO in the world still only collectively produced about two-thirds of the new clients enquiries that a handful of centres of influence do for most advisory firms.
Superficial analysis might conclude therefore that “Marketing” activities are better than building COI’s or client referrals on this basis, but at what cost? If one considers the financial cost of trying to generate enquiries from strangers without that established trust element which comes with word-of-mouth marketing it would not take long to figure out which provided the best return on dollars and time spent.
There is no doubt in my mind that building excellent engagement systems matters in positioning your professional brand and creating a positive presence in your prospects mind. So social media, email marketing, content-orientated website and blogging are essential ingredients in the marketing mix as they do generate brand awareness and contribute heavily to nurturing potential clients along their own particular buying journey.
At the end of the day though most clients will choose a particular adviser because of peer recommendations, the influence of other trusted professionals or because of testimonials and endorsements.
Word of mouth is still where it is at for marketing professional services.