Written by: Alexis Whitehouse
Changes in the Professional Services Marketing Mix: Traditional vs. Online Marketing
More than 20 years ago, Phillip Kotler, recognized by many as the father of marketing, warned that “information middlemen providers (“metamediaries”) would emerge on the Internet, assemble and offer evaluations of different suppliers for a small charge.”
Kotler’s crystal ball predictions were not too far off.
In his book, Kotler on Marketing, Kotler describes the 4 Ps of a traditional marketing mix: Product (service), Price, Place, and Promotion. Since then, the marketing mix has changed radically and grown in complexity.
Key Trends Influencing the Mix
Digital marketing techniques continue to challenge traditional marketing techniques. For one, digital marketing can be much more targeted than traditional marketing techniques.
Consider the following:
Technology has disrupted the field. The importance of geographic proximity is becoming less and less of a concern. Consider the example of an expat living overseas. When seeking accounting services, that individual does not have to settle for a local accounting firm that has no expat expertise. By searching online, that expat has access to the accounting firm with the best reputation, located in Washington, DC.
Word of mouth marketing is being transformed. There was a day when networking at the country club, church or local chamber event could connect someone with prospects, and prospects could quickly investigate the reputation of a provider. While that may still be true, service firms now need to worry about their online reputation—with websites and social media being the new word of mouth.
You aren’t relevant if you aren’t online. There is an expectation that going online and self-educating is possible for any topic. Professional services firms that join the conversation online are building their reputations and dramatically expanding their audiences. Google and social media continue to open new frontiers.
At the end of the day, a professional services firm needs to be reputable and visible online in order to have a strong brand. Prospects will either find your firm or your competitor. Better for it to be you.
The New Marketing Mix
When you consider the digital marketing landscape, it is important to recognize that many elements make up the new marketing mix, which complicates the process of developing a strong brand. Additionally, the new marketing mix must address both human and non-human ways of prioritizing information. The days of mass marketing with broad messages are being replaced by targeted marketing with specific messages delivered to very specific audiences. The intersection of technology, word of mouth, and information consumption by humans and non-humans is making the world of marketing more complex than ever.
The way people are attracted to brands has also been transformed thanks to technology. Today, most firms understand the need to have a website, but social media remains a mystery to many. Thoughtful digital content (thought leadership) can enhance your reputation, while social media can expand the visibility of your reputation. To be relevant, you need to do both as you look to attract and nurture prospects.
The mechanisms to attract and nurture prospects have also evolved significantly. Back in the day, one could use something like direct mail or advertising (outbound marketing) to generate interest. These were expensive yet popular components of a traditional marketing mix. Now, one can use digital marketing tactics such as email or webinars (inbound marketing) to generate interest. Digital marketing is a more cost-effective alternative to traditional outbound marketing, with the average cost-per-lead substantially lower for inbound marketing. By some accounts, more than 60% less.
Good inbound marketing requires valuable content. Valuable content is the asset that attracts humans and search engines to a website. When you offer a wealth of content on your website, prospective buyers can learn from you and grow comfortable with your ideas and approach, with no additional effort required on your part. When prospects are ready to buy, your firm will rise to the top of their list. In addition, people from all over the country—and the world—are able to find your content and learn about your firm.
To promote your content, targeted emails work best in the professional services industry. So keeping your contact database clean and properly segmented is a critical first step to any successful marketing program. Also, to get the most out of your digital marketing program, be sure to use analytics—and frequent reporting—to understand what is and isn’t working.
Marketing is not about absolutes, but rather a myriad of variables that are in play at any given time. You have to interpret what is going on. It’s through educational content on your website that you’ll be able to attract more organic traffic. But it can take a good 6-9 months to see this traction begin. Until you know what is working for you, it is best to track more data rather than less.
Marketing is no longer static. Conversations are happening online and offline and through various channels, and for that reason your marketing needs to be fluid. Done well, a mix that includes both traditional and digital techniques can enhance your brand strength and increase visibility in the marketplace. Ultimately, which is better for your professional services firm: traditional or digital marketing? My answer is both.