Believe it or not, but billable professionals can make great marketers. You see, many billable employees already allocate a certain percentage of time for professional development and other non-billable training activities. With a relatively small investment of time and money — and a smart strategy — you can unlock the marketing skills of many of your billable professionals.
You may be skeptical. Chances are, you’ve tried and failed before to turn your technical experts into competent rainmakers. While not every person in your firm will have the personality and self-motivation to find and win new business, many of them have the raw materials to do just that. They just need to think about business development differently. After all, these professionals are your most direct link to clients and prospects.
There are myriad opportunities for your staff to interact with prospects. But it doesn’t have to be in a traditional sales capacity. This chart illustrates many of the most common ways they could participate in marketing:
Let’s look at three key marketing skills that help billable professionals contribute to a firm’s online and offline marketing. Skills that can help generate more referrals for your firm.
Whether presenting at a conference or at a teaming-partner “lunch and learn,” billable professionals can bring a practitioner’s perspective to sophisticated and complex topics. These individuals are in the unique position to experience clients’ challenges up close and personal and they understand what it takes to overcome them. With a bit of training and practice, your professionals can become respected — even sought after — teachers, freely sharing their expertise and advice at speaking events, in webinars and in video blog posts. In this way, they build their own thought leadership profiles while spreading your firm’s reputation to a wider audience.
Let’s be honest. Many billable professionals of the technical nature are not fond of public speaking. Many are introverts who naturally avoid the limelight. For those individuals, writing can be a powerful, low-stress platform to share their perspectives, expertise and technical knowledge. Whether contributing to a your firm’s blog, writing case studies, or developing substantive technical content, many of your billable professionals — introverts and extroverts alike — can amplify the reach of their expertise.
See also: Ten Tips for Writing a Case Study
Whether speaking or writing, make sure that your professionals choose topics that are:
- Educational. The content should teach audiences something valuable without overtly promoting your firm.
- Relevant. Address your target audiences’ real challenges and opportunities.
- Accessible. Speak your audiences’ language. Keep your voice clear and accessible while avoiding unnecessary jargon.
Producing and dispensing educational content not only builds your reputation as thought leaders, it can help drive referrals, too. In fact, our research indicates that building the reputations of individual experts in your firm will boost referrals to your firm. And most of these referrals are the direct result of experts who have shared their knowledge with the public.
Here are the most common places prospects are exposed to this kind of expertise:
- Speaking engagements
- Blog posts and articles
- Social media engagement
Often overlooked, training is a powerful opportunity to build marketing skills throughout a firm.
Developing the marketing skills of billable professionals is not about transforming individuals into something they aren’t. Rather it’s about amplifying their talents. As a result, your business development training program should look at individuals’ strengths and build on them. Identify which of your experts are strong writers and encourage them to share their expertise on your blog, in published articles, or even in a book. Ask the individuals on your team who enjoy public speaking to commit to a few events each year. If they have limited experience, get them the training they need to become confident at the craft. Make developing thought leadership skills an expected part of the job.
Now, finding appropriate speaking and outside writing opportunities can be time consuming. And that can be a deal breaker for busy professionals. So if you have marketing or admin resources on staff, train them to support your thought leaders. They can learn to locate opportunities, handle the paperwork and follow up with all the involved parties. Taking the administrative burden off of your experts can make all the difference.
Of course, if individuals are not held accountable for their commitments, they will spend their time elsewhere — usually billable work. You’ll need to institute some sort of tracking system or check-in procedure to keep your team on track. And instead of asking people to find the time to devote to thought leadership, make it an official part of their day and allocate a percent of their time toward these activities. Over time, it will become a natural part of your team’s routine.
One day, you will look around your business and realize that your team has evolved into a collection of high-profile experts. And you’ll realize just how far you’ve come.
- Develop a more robust marketing plan that considers both online and offline techniques. Download Hinge’s Marketing Planning Guide for Professional Services.
- Watch our webinar When Referrals Aren’t Enough: Building the High Growth Firm.
- Want to increase referrals for your firm? Check out our Referral Marketing Course.
How Hinge Can Help:
Ready to get started with your marketing planning? The best marketing plan helps your firm connect with its buyers, builds your reputation, and increases you marketplace visibility. Check out Hinge’s Visible Firm program to learn how to make your firm more visible, amplify its expertise and gain new business.