Professional Services Firms: Don’t Look Too Far Into The Future

Professional Services Firms: Don’t Look Too Far Into The Future

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I’m finding it very interesting to research around marketing and business development in the Australian professional services industry in advance of a panel discussion I’m sitting on next week for #APSMA in Sydney (specifically focussed on personal branding). Some of the discussions are at a very high level – broad technical innovation around support for in-house teams as a way to stay front-of-mind, the constant battle to boost client engagement and even the implications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its impact on the profession as a whole.

My own research into the current marketing activities of some of the largest firms in professional services is also proving to be very interesting, considering all of the topics mentioned above. The written word is as popular today as a method of mass-communication as it always was and the traditional ‘white paper’ leads the way. Hot topics are disseminated through the ‘tried and tested’ methods and firms in law, accounting and the wider professional services space are doing very similar things. Many are working with digital services partners to develop new websites and create inbound marketing channels to boost lead generation and overall brand awareness, plus some social media activity can be found on a few of the popular channels we all use every day.

The point I’m making here is that firms in this sector are becoming caught in the headlights. The glare of the future and all it can bring is very exciting as well as a cause of fear for many in marketing and BD. A Partner can go to an event and hear a speaker talk passionately about the ways their particular firm are thinking about using AI and then arrive back at the office asking their own team when they are going to get their own version of what technology they discovered. The reality then dawns on the BD team that this same Partner hasn’t ever written an article on LinkedIn and very rarely signs into the platform, let alone likes anyone else’s content or demonstrates their professional excellence on any online social media channel.

It is very important that professional services firms in Australia audit their own activities in marketing and BD in line with where the world is today in 2017, with questions such as the following:

  • Where are the buyers of our services spending their time, both online and offline?
  • Is the activity of potential buyers increasing online and on what channels and platforms?
  • Are we testing the performance of our activity and content to ensure we are reaching our target audience on a regular and consistent basis?
  • Do audiences at our in-person events use hashtags and communicate and engage with our related online content before and after the event?
  • Do we have a strategy to support our on- and offline activity or are we suffering from the dreaded FOMO (fear of missing out) based on competitor activities and media reports?
  • Do our marketing and BD team understand how social media plays its part in the mix of activities today?
  • Do we use custom filters on our Snapchat posts?

I’ll save for another day the long list of questions of this type that can be asked but I hope the point I’m making is clear. And this last one – it certainly isn’t appropriate in a professional services firm today (outside of a graduate recruitment team) but it could be in a very short space of time. Never say never.

There are some pockets of activity that are bridging the gap – regular podcasts are starting to appear and video is being used more widely by a number of firms in the sector. This is fabulous to see and I’m sure we will witness more and more over time, but is social media becoming a key part of any practice area’s marketing and BD strategy yet or is it something ‘we’ll try out and see if it works’ with little or no plan to support it? Is there a long term commitment in firms to adopt social media and all of the work that it takes to deliver results from it with some strategic actions and an eye on where the world will be five years from now? I really do hope so.


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