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The Dilemma of New Marketing Skills (and How to Adapt)


The Dilemma of New Marketing Skills (and How to Adapt)

Talk to anyone who supervises the marketing or business development function in a professional services firm and you are likely to hear a tale of woe when it comes to finding top talent.

You’ll hear complaints about how experienced professional services marketers lack contemporary digital marketing skills. You may also hear grumbles that the digital marketing wizards are often clueless when it comes to the nuanced demands of professional services marketing and business development.

Forget about finding someone who has all of the required marketing skill! You’d have better luck locating a leprechaun.

A Changing Marketplace Requires New Marketing Skills

It’s no accident that firms find themselves in this dilemma. Profound changes in the professional services marketplace are driving the need for new marketing skills. 

Consider just three trends:

1. It is a digital world. The world is going digital—if it is not there already. Figure 1 shows how the world is adopting digital communications. Got a business-related question? Google it. Want to check out a possible service provider? Look them up on LinkedIn. It’s fast, easy and free.

Figure 1. The number of Internet users is climbing

2. Digital natives dominate. Digital literacy is the new norm. In less than 5 years the millennial generation, who grew up in a digital world, will make up 75% of the workforce. They grew up digital and easily toggle between different technologies, multitasking as they make purchasing decisions.

3. Client expectations are evolving. These days clients expect transparency. You cannot fake it—prospects are sure to investigate your claims about skills and experience. Prospective clients also expect to find the “perfect firm” that matches their needs exactly. Where that firm is located is secondary, if not irrelevant. And if you think your competitors are all local generalists—well, guess again.

What marketing skills will be required to thrive in this new professional services marketplace? Whatever the answer is today, you can bet it will be different tomorrow.

Balancing Traditional and Digital Marketing Skills

If you thought the solution to the digital marketing skills divide is to hire digital savvy natives you may be disappointed. That is because the most effective marketing strategy involves a balance of both traditional and digital techniques. If you hire for digital marketing skills, you’ll lose out on the traditional side.

Also, professional services are complicated. They often involve a sophisticated interplay of trust, expertise, risk and regulations. You need a deep understanding of the challenges facing your potential clients. It would be wishful thinking to expect a junior team to understand and navigate these complexities.

And don’t forget your billable professionals. They need to understand how to navigate this ever-changing, ever-competitive environment.

Building the Right Team

No single person is likely to possess all of the marketing skills and sophistication required. It takes a team.

Figure 2. Is this your ideal marketing team?


Of course, some of these new marketing skills could reside with outside vendors. But chances are those external resources don’t specialize in professional services marketing. Besides, marketing agencies face the same skills gap you do.

Closing the Skills Gap

When trying to close the skill gap you really have two options:

Option 1: Train for the marketing skills you need. Maybe your marketing and business development professionals can learn the new marketing skills they don’t posses.

Option 2: Hire the marketing skills you need. Hire people who have some of the more contemporary digital marketing skills and train them in the emerging science of professional services marketing.

In either case, the need for training is clear.

I know of what I speak, because this is the very dilemma we faced at Hinge. We had access to great minds. Some were professional services experts, others were experts in traditional marketing strategies. And we were hiring up-and-coming professionals who had mastered emerging marketing technology. What we lacked was a cohesive whole.

As we searched for a solution, the magnitude of the problem became clear. Not only did we need to train our existing staff (on changing technology trends), we needed extensive training for new hires (on the specifics of professional services). And that training needed to be ongoing.

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