Buyers of professional services can be very particular when it comes to who they work with. Often the services they purchase are sensitive in nature — say, legal assistance or tax preparation — and the service provider may be privy to critical information that, for the client, can make the difference between profitable success and catastrophic failure.
For that kind of make-or-break professional help, most buyers want to have a recognized expert in their corner. But how do today’s buyers go about finding experts? And how do you position your firm to be discovered when buyers go looking for a service provider? Recent research holds the answers.
Why your professional services firm should have high-visibility experts
Having the authority and industry recognition of what we call a Visible Expert® on staff can bolster a firm’s brand and drive growth. Visible Experts are professionals who have attained prominence within their industry, allowing them to attract more business and charge higher fees. And with recognized expertise in the house, you’ve got a rock-solid differentiator that will help set your firm apart from all runners-up.
Expertise transcends family, friends, and low prices. Professional service buyers are willing to pay what it takes to have a recognized and respected expert on their side. In research we conducted for our study Finding Experts: Why & How Clients Seek Visible Experts® we found that expertise is the number one criterion when selecting a professional services firm, and it’s often the factor that tips the scale in favor of the selected firm.
We have found that using expertise as a differentiation strategy is the key to consistently winning new business and driving growth.
How do prospects find Visible Experts?
Once buyers realize they need professional help, they start looking for the right expert to address their problem. They search online. They read articles and other thought-leadership pieces. They ask friends and business partners for recommendations. In some cases, they are already familiar with an expert and check out their website for confirmation. After searching — usually in multiple ways — they compile a list of finalists.
Our research has shown that buyers will consult as many as five different sources (see figure) in their search for a Visible Expert.
That means your firm’s experts need to be visible across multiple channels.
Let’s take a closer look at these different channels and how professional service buyers use them:
Online — The Internet offers a number of investigational tools for buyers. Purchasers especially rely upon websites, search engines, webinars, and LinkedIn. Together, these tools account for almost 70 percent of the online methods used to search for Visible Experts. Fully 80 percent of purchasers who use online resources visit a firm’s website before making a decision. Because there are almost as many different preferences for receiving information as there are buyers, it helps to use as many of these tools as you can to spread your message. That means packing your website with a wealth of valuable, up-to-date content, as well as using blogs, videos, slide decks, webinars, e-publishing, online forums, and other tools to spread your expertise widely.
Recommendations — A good word from friends, colleagues, and partners goes a long way. Professional service buyers highly value the opinions and recommendations of someone they trust and respect. Nothing validates and confirms a Visible Expert’s expertise quite like an enthusiastic recommendation.
Publications — Creating valuable content is a key component to any differentiation strategy. An on-going campaign to distribute quality content can build your brand and expertise quickly. If you are new to content marketing, I recommend you start by blogging — on your firm’s own blog as well as on appropriate third-party blogs. Then consider writing a book. And whenever you can, contribute compelling, thoughtful articles and case studies to trade magazines and journals. The more places your firm’s name pops up in the online and offline publications that your buyers read, the better.
Trade associations/conferences — Attending events, participating in groups, and belonging to organizations that are meaningful to potential buyers are great ways to demonstrate that those things are important to your firm, too. These venues also provide opportunities to highlight your firm’s expertise through presentations, exhibits, panel discussions, and speaking engagements.
Speaking — Speaking to people in your target audience is an outstanding way to showcase your firm’s expertise and provide a glimpse into your culture and style, as well. There is a unique power to personal appearances that simply can’t be replicated in printed or electronic forms. Speaking engagements, especially keynote addresses, allow buyers to experience your expertise and even interact with your best people. Personal interaction breeds familiarity, and that’s a good thing if your firm’s Visible Experts are personable and willing to talk to the public. After all, people want to work with people they like.
Through the “halo effect,” Visible Experts project their credibility upon their firms, building value in the eyes of potential service purchasers. As visibility goes up, so does a firm’s ability to command higher fees. In a field often cluttered with me-too competitors, the professional services firms with Visible Experts are the clear winners in the battle to differentiate themselves and win the lion’s share of business.
- How does one become a Visible Expert? Download the free book, The Visible Expert, and find out.
- Check out the research behind this post: Finding Experts: Why and How Clients Seek Visible Experts. And learn what your firm can do to become more visible.
- Register for Hinge University’s course, The Visible Firm, and discover the marketing secrets of today’s high-growth firms.
How Hinge Can Help:
Hinge developed the Visible Expert® program to guide individual experts to greater prominence in their industry. This customized program is based on research into Visible Experts and buyers of their services. It provides a clear roadmap, tools and training for any individual who want to take their expertise to the highest level.