I talk to a lot of professional services executives about recruiting the right type of talent to support their marketing strategies. Interestingly, teams don’t get as tripped up on how to build a strategy as much as on how to implement those strategies. Why is implementation so overwhelming? The answer is simple: implementing a strategy requires a wide variety of skillsets that aren’t always on leadership’s mind, and some of those skills may need to be outsourced as opposed to recruited. Even the simplest, most practical and straightforward marketing strategy can require several skills to pull it off — from writing to design to technical skills. That’s why teams often find themselves overwhelmed with:
This is a problem that has to be addressed from the top — by a firm’s leaders. But first they need to understand exactly what talents go into a successful marketing program.
The graphic below illustrates the marketing skills most firms need to carry out a modern marketing program. In smaller organizations, individuals often handle more than one function, so the number of people on your team is less important than the range of skills they bring to the table. But it’s rare that a small staff can cover the gamut. For example, research skills required for developing a brand survey are entirely different from the skills needed to apply the research findings to a marketing strategy. An entirely different set of skills are needed to turn that strategy into a new positioning statement. And so on.
To outsource or build the skills organically?
Our research on marketing priorities for professional services firms shows that almost half of professional services firms rely on a mix of internal and external marketing resources for strategy execution (see chart below). Supplementing internal marketing talent is often more affordable than hiring each of these skillsets.
The Seven Marketing Skills Every Professional Services Firm Needs
1. Research Skills
Research lays the foundation of any good marketing strategy. While research can take many different forms, let’s look at two important types that are essential to the success of your strategy:
Keyword research : Keyword research is critical to any content-based marketing program. The person conducting the research needs not only a mastery of keyword research (its tools and techniques), but an understanding of your buyers and the challenges they face. They also must keep up with the frequent — and often significant — updates to Google algorithm. This is the job for a specialist in SEO.
Target audience research : This type of research should be conducted by a professional who understands survey design and is comfortable conducting executive-level interviews with your clients and prospects. Without a strong grasp of these fundamentals, a researcher can produce deceptive or invalid results. This researcher also needs to be able to analyze and interpret the data collected during the interviews.
There are two sub skill areas that fall under target audience research:
First is an ability to extract key issues from the research findings — issues that your team can address in your content. These issues then need to be further refined and turned into titles for blog posts, webinars, speeches and other pieces of content. This skill requires an understanding of your firm’s core services (so that you can eventually turn readers into clients), an appreciation of your clients’ challenges (so that you attract the right readers) and the ability to apply keyword research to the content (so that you can be found in online search).
Second is a talent for outreach — identifying and securing guest blog posts, finding speaking opportunities and reaching out to potential partners. So this skillset requires someone with strong organization, communication and writing skills.
2. Strategy Skills
In researching your target audience, you’ll often uncover important information about your competitive landscape. Target audience research will also help inform your differentiators and how you should be positioned in the marketplace.
An ability to interpret the results of the research and turn those results into tangible marketing assets (such as differentiators and positioning) and a marketing plan requires strategy skills — the ability to not only see the big picture but really understand it. This person will have the ability to say “here’s our overarching goal at the 10,000-foot view, and here are all the tactics we need to achieve that goal.”
Your strategist should be able to use target audience research to figure out how you need to be positioned, what messages each audience needs to hear, and what issues will make up the core of your content strategy. They’ll know how to promote that content, and how to build the right types offers associated with each piece of content so that you’re continually building engagement.
3. Writing Skills
Marketing Copy: By marketing copy, I’m referring to the type of copy that has to convince a prospect that your firm is the best choice. Think promotional emails, web offers, website copy, pitch decks and proposals. Not all long-format writers are able to write succinct, persuasive marketing copy. It’s a specialized skill.
Editorial Copy: The meat of your content will be pieces that educate your audience — and are so interesting that readers are compelled to share them. Unlike marketing copy, which is about convincing and persuading, your editorial copy allows your target audience to sample your knowledge — even get a sense of what it might be like to work with you. This type of content “sells” your expertise, but in an experiential, non-promotional way. Typically, editorial content will appear in your blogs, newsletters, webinar scripts, white papers and similar educational media..
4. Promotional Skills
To promote your educational content, you need a person who loves working and communicating with other people, who can network on your firm’s behalf in social media and, possibly, at tradeshows and networking events, as well. This role requires both interpersonal and technical skills.
5. Analytics Skills
Regular tracking, monitoring, testing and reporting on each component of your marketing strategy is of paramount importance to the long-term success of your firm. This person will decide what activities and metrics to track and interpret the analytics for the rest of the team. Here, I’m talking about analytics such as website or social media traffic, email open rates and conversions, results from A/B testing, etc. He or she may also conduct A/B tests to improve performance of various elements of a campaign.
6. Design Skills
Many firms can’t afford a full time designer, so they often outsource this skill. Good graphic design can create a powerful impression on your audience, and weak design can negatively affect perceptions of your firm. So choose your designers with care. They will touch many of your marketing materials, from email templates to blog images to banners and brochures. A word of caution: outsourced design teams should understand the professional services, for they very different than consumer companies and markets.
7. Implementation Support
Putting your marketing strategy into play is the work of your implementation support team. These are the folks who manage your editorial calendar, update the company website, publish blog posts, and handle the scores of details that keep your marketing running smoothly. They may be in charge of your marketing automation and CRM tools, as well as manage your lists and contacts.
As you consider your marketing program, think about the talents, skillsets and knowledge you will need to achieve success. The seven skills I’ve described above are a great place to start. Do you have these skills in-house? Or will you need to outsource some or all of them? Find the right people and you will not only eliminate man of your team’s anxieties and frustrations, you will discover that your marketing is far more effective and powerful.