As Philip Kotler, the “father of marketing,” said, “Companies worry too much about doing something. They should worry about the cost of not doing it.” Decades later, this statement still rings true when it comes to marketing for professional services firms.

For some time, I’ve been reflecting on conversations with peers and clients regarding the make up of marketing departments, marketing staff and the skill sets they need. While the original skills and principles of marketing are still relevant today, they must now be augmented to address the online dimension. At any given moment, a marketing staff is dealing with an endless variety of demands and the need to decipher a myriad of communication channels. They are producing content, preparing proposals, investigating Google analytics reports and crafting marketing strategies. While there are many professional services firms not keeping up with the new necessary skill sets and methodologies, there are others firms jumping into the mix.

Professional services firms can now look to internal and external marketing resources that bring forth blended skill sets and can respond faster by relying on another concept, agile marketing.

Agile marketing is an approach to marketing inspired by the principles of agile development. Agile development allows for iterative and incremental development, while encouraging rapid and flexible response to change. Translating this framework to marketing, firms (or in-house departments) can think of agile marketing as a continuous cycle where you conceive, execute, implement, review, and adjust based on experienced, real-time results.

Here are the benefits of agile marketing:

  • Enhanced productivity
  • Transparency throughout an organization
  • Improved prioritization
  • Faster measurement
  • Adaptability to changing dynamics

In addition to the inherent benefits of agile marketing, firms are also finding that it is well suited for leveraging the tools associated with the new marketing mix. Professional services have traditionally relied on advertising, sponsorships and tradeshow participation for their core marketing. But, consider the tools preferred by high growth firms vs. average growth firms. When it comes to a firm’s marketing activities, tools such as blogs, analytics, search engine optimization and many more have altered the traditional mix and are continually changing the way we analyze the return on investment, thus creating a perfect storm for marketing.

In this new marketing formula, gone are the days where marketers developed a year-long plan and were expected to do just a few adjustments throughout the course of a year. Planning for the year was a linear process with predictable steps and finite items to consider.

The Dawn of Blended Skill Sets in Marketers

For professional services, agile marketing is suited to managing webinars, email campaigns, keyword research, social media, website analytics and many more components than ever before while maintaining a continuous cycle of: conceive, execute, implement, review, and adjust.

Executing and managing a firms’ marketing is only part of the story. Today’s marketers must possess a blended skill set that draws from both creative and analytical dimensions. It’s no longer possible for professional services firms to commit to marketing with a “part-time junior staff.” Firms now need to hire individuals that are equal parts investigator, journalist and creative. For many firms, this means relying on internal and outsourced resources to help communicate the firm’s reputation and increase visibility throughout multiple communication channels.

A Path Forward

Keep in mind that embarking on a process such as agile marketing is not the silver bullet for firms that have neglected their marketing. In this new formula for marketing, there is a greater need for a new way of thinking and it has truly created a more a multi- and interdisciplinary role within firms.

It’s easy to see why blended skill sets are needed for marketing today’s professional services firms. Marketers are pouring through data and analytics related to website traffic. They are writing engaging case stories that capture the value and benefits clients receive and probably most importantly, they are driving the creation of engaging educational content that will nurture target audiences as part of the lead generation process. It’s exhausting just thinking about all this!

Consider how content marketing has become one of the most effective methods of generating new leads for professional services firms. Content created in the form of articles, white papers, webcasts, podcasts, videos, e-books, or newsletters are like seeds planted by professional services firms. Over time, these powerful, cost-effective tools reach prospective buyers and influencers who are convinced to “raise their hands” and register to receive valuable content.

Now more than ever, marketing has taken a frenetic, non-linear pace. Professional services firms faces thousands of micro-opportunities every day – and what was a priority yesterday can take a back seat overnight.

This is even more complicated thanks to social media. When the personal and professional lives of a firms’ greatest assets blur, demands for immediate responses can shift pre-assigned priorities. Today’s marketing is a lab and marketers have to be willing to fail in order to determine what works best. There’s no time to waste – worry less about what your firm’s marketing is doing and more about what it is not doing. It’s a new day for marketing!

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