Is Michael Chertoff a Professional Services Marketing Guru?

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been in the habit of thinking of Michael Chertoff, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security, as a source of sage marketing advice. But alas, I was wrong.

Mr. Chertoff spoke recently to the Association for Corporate Growth on the topic of security and the role that private-sector business plays. In his role as the first head of DHS he was perhaps one of the world’s largest purchasers of professional and technical services. The lesson he shared from that experience is relevant to anyone interested in professional services marketing.

Chertoff described how his department was inundated by firms who had wonderful “solutions” — all in search of a problem to solve. He urged professional services firms instead to take the time to understand the problems faced by their target customers (in his case it was the government security community, but the lesson is universal). Then sell them on the solution. The reception they’ll receive will be enthusiastic.

Amen. This is exactly what our own research on professional serves buyers says.  The challenge, of course, is that everyone pays lip service to this concept but few actually follow through. It's easy to fall into the familiar and routine: “This is what we do.  So you want us to do it for you?”  If you approach professional services marketing the same way as everyone else, don't be surprised if the results you get are the same as everyone else.

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