Old School or Bold School: 5 Signs Your Firm’s Marketing Initiatives Need a Reboot

A popular definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Banking on this definition, many professional services firms can point to various marketing initiatives and call them crazy. Not only are clients and prospects changing their purchasing habits, their expectations about value and delivery of services are also transforming. So why is your marketing program clinging to old methods? Below are five signs your firm’s marketing campaigns are not keeping up with the times as well as suggestions on how to take bold steps toward rejuvenating the existing state of affairs.


  1. Your firm has not created or is not leveraging an agreed upon sales process.
    Sales? But aren’t we talking about marketing? If your law or accounting firm has not distinguished the difference between marketing and sales (or the more widely accepted term - business development) all the marketing in the world won’t generate significant revenue. Even if your firm has done a good job of branding and communicating advantages to clients, you may not be doing enough to create value. A sales process will help your service providers produce value and differentiate the firm through account-centric methods. Account-centricity focuses on the client’s operations and imperatives, bringing the company substance through consultative selling and creative problem solving, as well as helping you gain an understanding of how the client wants services to be developed, customized, and delivered. A holistic and thoughtful sales process will increase client satisfaction, and in turn, generate more revenue for your firm. If you can’t point to any clearly defined sales process, start your reboot here.
  2. Your target lists keep getting bigger, not better.
    Say, where is that really comprehensive, fantastic, much-talked about target list your practice group created last year? You know the one - it was on an excel sheet and there were about two hundred companies your group thought would be open to hearing about your services. How far did you get in contacting those prospects? If you did contact them, did anyone follow-up? If you are conducting monthly meetings, the prospects discussed should be properly vetted through marketing and you should have relevant information about the company in front of you. This means you are probably not going to be able to have a meaningful conversation concerning more than four to six targets for each hour that you meet. Be realistic and think about the kinds of clients you want, who needs your services, and may be approachable because of some existing relationship or referral source. Don’t go on a wild goose chase then wonder why people have lost interest in conquering that huge target list. Set your group up for success by starting small.
  3. Your firm events are attended by the same people year after year.
    Events and sponsorship activities are fun, comfortable, and make it easy for the non-rainmaker introvert to participate in marketing. Regardless of the topic or venue, you’ll know the usual suspects will be in attendance and your firm’s brand will be reinforced. But are you tracking results from these events? Have you tied new business or referral activity to these sessions? Is your marketing staff so focused on planning and coordinating numerous events, all other practical tactics get pushed aside? Take a look around at your next event and ask yourself if it was worth the effort. Did you cover a topic that truly helped your clients or was interesting to your prospects? Was there a better way to disseminate this information? Would a one-on-one meeting or a simple webinar have better served you and your target? If you participated in a sponsorship program, how many competitors were there? Create a clear set of goals for each event and use your firm’s CRM to capture meaningful data about attendance, follow-up assignments, and any revenue actually generated in the twelve months following the event. At the end of the year, evaluate your participation and don’t be afraid to reduce the number of events/sponsorships or find new activities where your service providers can meet different people and present topics of interest. If you’ve spent a disproportionate amount of marketing dollars on booth personnel and event planners instead of a sophisticated sales support team, consider re-training or re-configuring your marketing staff.
  4.  Your firm's marketing and human resources departments have not agreed upon an effective social media policy.
    Most likely you can check off the boxes related to leveraging social media for branding. Your website is mobile friendly and you’ve hired a social media management firm to help you engage in, monitor, and analyze social media activity. But are your individual professionals on board? Do they understand the firm’s expectations around social media? Have you created a clear, written policy about how content is approved and how individuals should engage with the outside world? Do your professionals know how to create a strong LinkedIn identity per firm standards or how to repurpose blog posts and make the most of firm content? Are they allowed to endorse colleagues, clients, or vendors? Is your marketing department helping them increase Twitter followers? If you haven’t created a useful but careful policy regarding social media and pushed it out as part of the firm’s employee handbook, you will fall behind competitors who have created a thoughtful and comprehensive approach for engaging the firm and each of its individual brand ambassadors.
  5. Your marketing department has not developed a formal client retention program.
    Do you recall that sinking feeling that came over you when you heard one of your biggest, long-term clients issued a request for proposal to see what else was out there? Hopefully your firm was invited to propose but you must ask yourself why you were unaware that the client was unhappy with services, fees, or the relationship as a whole. Your marketing department should put a client feedback program in place so that marketing leadership and professional staff can monitor the relationship in real time. But once a client starts to stray you’ll also need a process for fixing whatever broke. You will need to co-develop an evaluation process with the client, offer to reconfigure the service team, and be prepared to talk about pricing. It is not enough to make a call and cross your fingers that your new proposal will impress them. If you have not spent time and resources crafting an effective client retention program, you should immediately consult with resources able to help you establish a beneficial process. You might even solidify some client relationships by asking customers for input and feedback on how such a program could bring them value.

The more you examine the changing environment surrounding professional services, the more your marketing initiatives and resources will benefit from an improved understanding of how to help clients. Change is never easy but a willingness to explore new methods and upgrade resources to support efforts will quicken your journey toward growth and client loyalty.

After years of watching young accountants and lawyers panic over business development expectations related to making partner, Brenda Pontiff founded Partner Track Academy. She holds a master’s degree in speech communications and has worked in the accounting and legal industries, both in-house and as a consultant, for more than 25 years. With 10 years in Big Four marketing, business development, and client retention, Brenda brings to bear a unique blend of skills perfect for engaging, training, and shifting the mindsets of professional service providers who need to embrace a successful business development process.