The air outside was noticeably colder this week, but each day brings new signs that the worst of the economic winter may be behind us. That's good news, but nobody is pouring champaign just yet. Many professional services firms are still struggling with the same issues that dogged them a year ago — sluggish demand, competitive price cutting and reduced budgets. You can catch whiffs of caution almost anywhere you go.

One notable exception — the federal government contracting marketplace — has remained relatively hot throughout the recession. But even that industry hasn't put away it's winter coat just yet. A recent pair of articles on the WashingtonTechnology website discuss strategies government contractors can use to make it through these difficult times. Whether or not your business prospects are warming up as the economy thaws, the articles offer solid advice for marketing any professional services firm in good times and bad. The four tips below, taken from “Marketing Tips for Today's Business Climate,” are supported by independent research Hinge has conducted into professional services firms:

  1. Spend your marketing dollars where they will have the most impact. Challenge your assumptions and discover what will actually help you win.
  2. Find out what your customer needs. Then customize your marketing — and your service offerings — to address that need.
  3. Prove you've done similar work before. Case studies and relevant references can be important credential-building tools.
  4. Make sure your proposal addresses every issue. A spot-on proposal is critical to outcompeting other firms.

There is a lot more, of course, you can do to heat up business development when the market is cool. But if your marketing plan hasn't been delivering great results lately, consider rethinking your approach. These four tips should be a great place to start.