The professional services industry has long suffered from “confusion” surrounding the role of marketing professionals.

Indeed, the marketing field has evolved over the past decade. Gone are the days of the widely held perception that marketing was only capable of “making things look good.” And, more importantly, there is greater understanding and acceptance that sales and business development functions really do need marketing support to achieve their goals.

But there still exists some ambiguity engulfing organizations and marketing professionals alike: What exactly are the skills required for marketing? The honest answer is: it depends on your organization’s goals. (Side note: if you don’t have an overarching strategic plan—that’s the first place you should start. Nothing sets marketing staff up for failure quicker than the lack of defined organizational priorities.)

What are the most successful firms doing?

Our research into high growth firms revealed that the overall effort (combination of time and money) invested in marketing is just slightly less than that of no-growth firms.


The number of marketing tactics used was about the same—about 13 on average (7 traditional vs. 6 digital techniques). However, the biggest difference in high growth firms is that these firms put 23% less effort into traditional marketing techniques.

They also put a greater (13%) investment into digital marketing approaches.


And while No-Growth firms tend to focus on bottom-line metrics such as number of new clients acquired and revenue growth, High-Growth firms track a much

wider group of variables spanning the entire marketing pipeline. These include: brand awareness, website traffic, social media engagement, lead generation, and conversion rate.

You need to market smarter

Less investment does not mean that there is diminished need for skilled marketing professionals. In fact, the exact opposite may be true. Marketing professionals need an even broader skillset now more than ever to remain competitive in their fields and make an impact on their firms’ operational strategy.

Here’s a quick and dirty list of just a few core competencies that today’s marketing professionals need:

  • A deep understanding of target markets and clients (or the ability to develop the required level of understanding)
  • The ability to make data-driven decisions using everything from marketing analytics to industry- and brand-specific research
  • The willingness to experiment with marketing tactics and vary approaches appropriately to yield desired results
  • An understanding of both digital and traditional marketing techniques—and how to effectively apply the appropriate tactic(s) to any situation
  • Comfort working in the “grey areas” and an understanding that the “right” solution isn’t always obvious
  • Comfort working within a team—and across an organization to support strategic goals
  • At minimum, a high-level understanding of sales and/or business development within the relevant industry/firm

The above list is not exhaustive, nor will you necessarily find all of these traits in one individual. And frankly, with the way marketing is changing every day, the order and magnitude of the list is sure to change, too.

Educate yourself…and your team

Background and prior experience will play a major role in the presence of these core competencies. But as far as teachable skills are concerned, your firm (and your marketing professionals) has options, including Hinge University.

Hinge University is dedicated to equipping marketers and those professionals involved in business development with all the skills they need to succeed. It’s the same quality training we offer our own staff and clients. The difference is, now it is available anytime, anywhere.

  • Rooted in Research: Hinge University is rooted in our ongoing primary research of the professional services industry. We focus on what actually works, not the latest theory or fad. And when what works changes, so does the training.
  • Practical and Tactical: Hinge University focuses on practical skills appropriate for the very unique world of professional services marketing and business development. We cover both high-level strategy and tactical, roll-up-your-sleeves training to ensure you can implement that strategy.

And with multiple ways to learn, your busy marketing professionals can come up to speed on a topic in as little as 10 minutes by utilizing How-To Guides, Quick Start Kits, or accessing one of our comprehensive Courses.

And live workshops are also available when you need face-to-face instruction or want to cover a special topic. They can be conducted on location or by video link, with the content tailored to your firm’s priorities.

The nature of marketing professional services continues to evolve every day, but nothing replaces solid talent (whether learned on-the-job or experience combined with education). The challenge for today’s professional services firms is to recognize that your marketing professionals need support and continuing education, too, to help the firm—and themselves—retain a competitive advantage.

Additional Resources:

How Hinge Can Help:

Hinge has developed a comprehensive plan, The Visible Firm℠  to address these issues and more. It is the leading marketing program for delivering greater visibility, growth, and profits. This customized program will identify the most practical offline and online marketing tools your firm will need to gain new clients and reach new heights.