With an ever more crowed and competitive marketplace, many management consulting firms are racing to refine their marketing priorities to get ahead of the competition. It is a move that makes perfect business sense.
A recent study from the Hinge Research Institute, encompassing over 800 professional services firms and covering all firm sizes and types makes the point well.. Attracting and developing new clients was the top strategic priority for management consulting firms, cited by 79% of those surveyed.
Respondents were primarily owners, operation and marketing executives, and their answers helped us to determine both the overall business priorities and how they are reflected in current consulting marketing priorities. We conducted the research as part of our ongoing studies of professional services firms and how they grow. You can access the most recent study results here.
In this post we’d like to take a closer look at the implications of these findings for management consulting firms. Specifically, which consulting marketing efforts will firms prioritize going forward?
The Top 5 Marketing Priorities
Our survey respondents indicated five key priorities likely to shape ongoing marketing efforts. Let’s walk through them one-by-one.
1) Generate More Leads
It is no surprise that new business leads would come in on top, cited by seven out of ten (71%) respondents. Generating more leads is a clear reflection of the priority of attracting new clients. New business is clearly at the top of everyone’s mind.
When it comes to consulting marketing, firms often focus on existing clients and known referral sources. But this is a limited conception of how new business leads are generated and it can limit your firm’s success. Hinge’s research shows that referrals based on reputation are very important as well. Often, people you’ve never worked with directly will refer your firm on the basis of the expertise you’ve projected in the marketplace through speaking, educational content, social media, and other platforms
Online information sources like a firm’s website and social media presence are also pivotal in the management consulting world. Even if you receive a referral, it has to be easy for potential buyers to find you and check you out across all channels, or else that referral could be wasted. This brings us to the other top marketing priority.
2) Increase The Marketplace Visibility of Your Firm
Tied for the top spot at 71% is the related priority of increasing brand visibility. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Heightened brand visibility helps with referrals and makes it easier to close new business. If it’s simple for potential buyers to understand who you are and what you know, it’s easier for them to determine that your firm is a good fit.
When considering questions of brand visibility, it’s important for firms to pay attention to their reputation as well as their visibility. These are the two components of any professional services brand. Accessible, widely available content like blogs, social media, and webinars carry your expertise out into the world so your target audiences and industry influencers can better understand what you have to offer.
An effective way to strengthen your brand is through improving the visibility of experts within the firm. Often, high-visibility experts are among a firm’s most valuable assets, building the credibility of the brand through a kind of “halo” effect.
The benefits of having one or more Visible Experts on your team are huge: these professionals allow firms to charge premium rates, make sales easier to close, and generate more leads. Often, firms have top-notch experts who are perfect candidates for Visible Expert status already in-house. A focused Visible Expert program can be perfect to help individual consultants and small firms build experts’ profile.
Likewise, larger firms should consider establishing ongoing programs to help develop future experts and practice leaders. An investment in burgeoning reputations today can be transformative for a firm in the future.
3) Differentiating Your Firm From The Competition
Are you truly different from the sea of competitors? Can you prove it to a prospect? Does your differentiator matter to potential clients?
Over 67% of firms are focusing on refining their strategy so they can answer “yes” to those questions. The end product of this refinement is sometimes called your “positioning and messaging.” Build on the foundation of your brand differentiators, your positioning and messaging stake a claim for your firm’s identity, value, and place in the industry.
As the global competition for clients intensifies, it grows increasingly important to set your firm apart through effective differentiation. It’s important to remember, too, that finding the right approach to positioning and messaging isn’t a matter of instinct: it requires research on how clients and prospects see your firm.
By taking a data-driven approach to understanding your marketplace, it’s easier to get your overall message right and tune it to the needs of your target audiences.
4) Updating/Upgrading Your Website
A priority for over 40% of respondents, website upgrades are indeed highly crucial. A management consulting firm’s website is the single most important way potential clients check you out. Nearly 90% of buyers use it, and it can make the difference between a referral turning into a sale or a buyer ruling you out from the start.
The days when you could treat your website as a virtual brochure are long gone. Today, your site is the hub of your marketing efforts, a place where all of your educational content works together to drive your brand visibility and turn leads into sales.
As the way that people browse the web evolves, it’s necessary to regularly reevaluate your website and see if it’s keeping up – for example, does it employ responsive design to display smoothly on multiple screen sizes, making it easy for buyers to check you out on mobile devices?
5) Identifying Your Target Audience/Buyer Personas
Who are your best potential clients? What do they really care about? How do they select a new consulting firm? These are some of the key questions consulting marketers are increasingly focused upon. Endorsed by over a third of respondents (35%) increasing your understanding of your audience is an emerging priority.
In many ways this priority is intertwined with the differentiation dilemma reflected above. For some target markets a specific differentiator is critical. For a different buyer it may be irrelevant. As a buyer I want you to specialize in solving the problem I have.
Understanding your audience better helps you decide on the right differentiator to develop and communicate. Similarly, understanding your differentiators helps you target your “best fit” audience. Fortunately, the research process to develop your positioning and messaging, described above, helps you accomplish both.
The ability to adapt and evolve is as essential as it has ever been in management consulting. Marketing initiatives are how these priorities get translated into action for consulting firms. As client needs, buying behaviors, and expectations evolve, the need to emphasize evolving marketing efforts is great, and the priorities of today’s firms as illustrated in the research makes that clearer than ever.
Discover strategies, tips, and tools to strengthen your brand and improve your firm’s reputation with Hinge’s Brand Building Guide
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How Hinge Can Help:
The best brand building strategies help your firm connect with its buyers, builds your reputation, and increases you marketplace visibility. Check out Hinge’s Branding Program to build a brand that drives sustained growth. If you already have a well-established brand, check out Hinge’s Visible Firm program to learn how to make your firm more visible, attract new talent, and increase revenue.