Talk to anyone who supervises the marketing or business development function in a professional services firm and you are likely to hear a tale of woe when it comes to finding top talent.
You’ll hear complaints about how experienced professional services marketers lack contemporary digital marketing skills. You may also hear grumbles that the digital marketing wizards are often clueless when it comes to the nuanced demands of professional services marketing and business development. Forget about finding someone who has all of the required marketing skill! You’d have better luck locating a leprechaun.
A Changing Marketplace Requires New Marketing Skills
It’s no accident that firms find themselves in this dilemma. Profound changes in the professional services marketplace are driving the need for new marketing skills.
Consider just three trends:
- It is a digital world. The world is going digital—if it is not there already. Figure 1 shows how the world is adopting digital communications. Got a business-related question? Google it. Want to check out a possible service provider? Look them up on LinkedIn. It’s fast, easy and free.
Figure 1. The number of Internet users is climbing
- Digital natives dominate. Digital literacy is the new norm. In less than 5 years the millennial generation, who grew up in a digital world, will make up 75% of the workforce. They grew up digital and easily toggle between different technologies, multitasking as they make purchasing decisions.
- Client expectations are evolving. These days clients expect transparency. You cannot fake it—prospects are sure to investigate your claims about skills and experience. Prospective clients also expect to find the “perfect firm” that matches their needs exactly. Where that firm is located is secondary, if not irrelevant. And if you think your competitors are all local generalists—well, guess again.
What marketing skills will be required to thrive in this new professional services marketplace? Whatever the answer is today, you can bet it will be different tomorrow.
Balancing Traditional and Digital Marketing Skills
If you thought the solution to the digital marketing skills divide is to hire digital savvy natives you may be disappointed. That is because the most effective marketing strategy involves a balance of both traditional and digital techniques. If you hire for digital marketing skills, you’ll lose out on the traditional side.
Also, professional services are complicated. They often involve a sophisticated interplay of trust, expertise, risk and regulations. You need a deep understanding of the challenges facing your potential clients. It would be wishful thinking to expect a junior team to understand and navigate these complexities.
And don’t forget your billable professionals. They need to understand how to navigate this ever-changing, ever-competitive environment.
Building the Right Team
No single person is likely to possess all of the marketing skills and sophistication required. It takes a team.
Figure 2. Is this your ideal marketing team?
Of course, some of these new marketing skills could reside with outside vendors. But chances are those external resources don’t specialize in professional services marketing. Besides, marketing agencies face the same skills gap you do.
Closing the Skills Gap
When trying to close the skill gap you really have two options:
Option 1: Train for the marketing skills you need. Maybe your marketing and business development professionals can learn the new marketing skills they don’t posses.
Option 2: Hire the marketing skills you need. Hire people who have some of the more contemporary digital marketing skills and train them in the emerging science of professional services marketing.
In either case, the need for training is clear.
I know of what I speak, because this is the very dilemma we faced at Hinge. We had access to great minds. Some were professional services experts, others were experts in traditional marketing strategies. And we were hiring up-and-coming professionals who had mastered emerging marketing technology. What we lacked was a cohesive whole.
As we searched for a solution, the magnitude of the problem became clear. Not only did we need to train our existing staff (on changing technology trends), we needed extensive training for new hires (on the specifics of professional services). And that training needed to be ongoing.
We also found that many of our clients required a skills update to remain competitive. Developing business within the context of a content marketing strategy is very different than the traditional marketing approaches they were accustomed to.
The training we found was falling woefully short. It was either oriented toward B2C audiences or out of step with what works for professional services today. Many of the programs we evaluated were teaching approaches we knew to be ineffective.
What to do?
We started, as we always do, with research. We conducted three studies over the last 2 years to craft the right solution to this marketing skills training dilemma. Then we tried it on ourselves to perfect our strategy. By the time we figured out the right approach, we realized we had built Hinge University.
Hinge University is Here
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 research. We focus on what actually works, not the latest theory or fad. And when what works changes, so does the training.
That means Hinge University curriculum never stands still. For example, what we know about SEO or social media today may not be true in a few months. So all the Hinge University content is regularly reviewed and updated, with new courses added each month.
Practical and Tactical
Another key aspect of Hinge University is the focus on practical skills that are appropriate for the very unique world of professional services marketing and business development. We certainly cover high-level strategy, but we also offer very tactical training to ensure you can implement that strategy.
Four Ways to Learn
We take the needs of busy professionals seriously. That’s why we have developed formats that meet multiple situations.
- How-to guides offer quick step-by-step instructions for completing those marketing tasks that need attention (For example, How to Set up Google Analytics).
- Quick start kits (QSKs) present an overview of more involved marketing topics and include all the related step-by-step implementation instructions, as well (For example, QSK: Building a High-Performance Website).
- Anytime, anywhere courses are designed for when you need to dive in and understand a topic in depth. These mobile friendly, always-on courses are broken into short learning modules so you can make progress even if you only have a few minutes a day.
- Live workshops are also available when you need face-to-face instruction or want to cover a special topic. Our live workshops can be done on location or by video link, with the content tailored to your firm’s priorities.
Continuing Education Solved
Many professionals need continuing education credits, or CEUs. We have you covered there, as well. We already offer CEUs through the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS). We design each course to comply with even the most stringent requirements, so we expect more CEUs will be available soon.
One of the best characteristics of Hinge University is it is completely scalable.
- If you are a small firm committed to a budget-conscious do-it-yourself marketing approach, we have got you covered.
- If you are tasked with upgrading marketing skills in a multiple-location mega-firm, we’ve got you covered, too.
It doesn’t matter if you are part of a firm, a member of a professional trade association, or an individual looking to grow your practice. Hinge University has a marketing skills training program that is right for you.
- Become a Hinge University member. Learn the ins and outs of marketing a professional services firm.
- Discover what today’s most successful professional services firms are doing right in the research summary 2016 High Growth Study.
- Get a copy of our Online Marketing for Professional Services book to learn techniques that will generate more leads and increase awareness of your firm.
How Hinge Can Help
We launched Hinge University to provide a convenient, online resource where marketers, professionals, owners and trainers can go to learn the best techniques and strategies to market a professional services firm. Every course we offer is informed by ongoing studies of high-growth professional services firms—research conducted by our sister organization, the Hinge Research Institute.