In past posts, we’ve shared our perspective on the best strategies to drive organic growth and merger-and-acquisition-based growth. In this post, we’re going to turn our attention to your firm’s go-to-market strategy.
Go-To-Market Strategy Defined
Some people confuse a go-to-market (GTM) strategy with a business plan. While they are related, they are different. A business plan is broader in scope and considers every aspect of a business, while a go-to-market strategy is focused specifically on delivering a product or service to an end customer.
A properly developed, carefully considered GTM strategy delivers actionable answers to some tough questions, including:
- How do you connect with potential clients?
- How do you offer a compelling value proposition?
- How do you distinguish yourself from competitive firms?
- How do you deliver on what you’ve promised?
You often hear go-to-market strategies associated with manufacturers and companies targeting specific markets with a particular product or products. To be sure, GTM strategies are crucial for new product launches, but they can be linked to professional service firms, as well.
Professional Services Are Different
Just as there is a major difference between computer chips and corn chips, there can be significant differences between various disciplines within professional services. For example, corporate and divorce lawyers.
To make things even more challenging, professional services can have special considerations, such as complicated purchasing processes that can be made even messier because you’re dealing with an intangible—expertise—rather than a tangible product that can be defined and compared. This, of course, makes developing a go-to-market strategy for professional services that much more challenging.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at what it takes to develop an effective go-to-market strategy for a professional services firm.
5 Steps for Developing a Professional Services Go-To-Market Strategy
At Hinge, we’ve refined the GTM strategy development process down to five steps that fit nicely with professional services firms. Here’s a brief summary:
1. Define your target markets. If starting here seems odd it’s because most firms start with what services they want to offer. Better to start with the kind of problemsyou want to solve. Or better still, the kind of markets you want to be in.
Growth, geographic location, existing client base are all examples of important considerations that go into selecting markets. Secondary research on market size, growth and dynamics can be very helpful here.
2. Profile your target client. Within a broad market there are typically a wide range of clients. Which segment are you likely to add the most value to? Which segments are most likely to be a good fit with your firm? These are your target clients.
It’s not a matter of who can use your service. It’s quite likely that many prospects could. But that doesn’t mean you should target them all. You will likely have no advantage, just a very difficult time closing prospects.
Each of these alternatives would, of course, be very different market positioning.
For example, if you are trying to reach young, innovative firms, your positioning, and services mix should align with that focus. Young, innovative and exciting.
Low price positioning? Don’t try to tout your superior client service.
4. Define your service offerings. Most firms start here and search for the right target audience. That’s a mistake. The services you offer should flow from the target and positioning, not the other way around.
What services speak to the unique needs of the niche you have decided to focus on? How do these offerings reinforce your positioning? If you are positioning yourself as innovative, are your services truly innovative? Be honest.
If you are positioning yourself as a low-cost alternative, do you have high-value, low-cost services that are not available elsewhere within your market? Be careful not to paint yourself into a corner with a low-price GTM strategy. That could come back to bite you when you want or need to raise prices. Not to mention the potential for brutal, no-win pricing wars with competitors.
5. Develop an appropriate marketing strategy. Just as your service offerings should deliver on your brand promise, so too should your marketing approach align with your target clients’ preferences. A marketing campaign that speaks their language and specifically addresses their “pains” will be far more effective in reaching and motivating them.
That means you should be discussing the issues that are important to your target clients. Your guest articles should be in publications they read and your speaking engagements at events they attend. Your blog posts should feature keywords they are likely to search for.
But most important, your marketing plan should be built around making your firm’s expertise visible to your target audience. This is where we shamelessly plug our Visible Expert® book as a quick and easy way to learn more about developing true thought leadership within your industry and target market.
If you are new to developing a go-to-market strategy all this may seem a bit overwhelming. So where do you start? Usually, the best answer is with research, and there are two types of research that are most helpful:
- Secondary research. This is finding research information that has been published. Secondary research is most useful for sizing and evaluating markets in which to compete. It’s ideal for creating context and to help frame what you want to do and where.
- Brand research. This is research, where you (or a firm you retain) collect original data about your firm and your competitors. This is helpful for the other four steps of your GTM strategy.
Ready to Go to Market?
The five steps we’ve outlined here are a great place to start on the road to developing an efficient, effective go-to-market strategy for professional services. For any plan to be successful, though, it must be flexible and current.
As your market and industry conditions change, be ready and willing to revise your go-to-market strategy to keep pace. Nothing should be carved in stone.
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