Written by: Kelly Holcombe
For professional services firms, the marketing landscape favors firms that can consistently build trust, transparency and engagement among their target markets. Credibility is the key to capitalizing on this trend, and businesses must now rethink how they promote their brands to thrive, or at the very least survive, under these standards.
In years past, sales-driven practices like direct mail campaigns and cold calling could adequately generate leads in a cost-effective manner. That is because those methods were how consumers were accustomed to being introduced to local or industry products and services prior to the social media and smart phone age.
Today, technology has ignited stark changes in consumer preferences and behaviors. Prospects no longer want to be sold to; they want to be engaged, educated and even entertained by a firm’s marketing. Consumers want brands to demonstrate a reputation and level of credibility worthy of their business. And they expect to be able to find information about the companies they work with online – not just on business-owned properties like a company website and social media pages.
At the core of it, customers want professional services firms to demonstrate unfiltered third-party credibility – recognition, associations and direct endorsements from respected entities outside of that organization. Check out four ways to earn third-party credibility:
1. Review Sites
According to a 2013 study, 90 percent of consumers say that their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. Having positive feedback on platforms like Yelp, Facebook, Google or Angie’s List allows you to build trust with potential consumers without even having to communicate with them directly.
2. Media Coverage
Advertisements and promotions are no longer enough to communicate your messaging with consumers. Take your efforts a step further in securing and leveraging third-party media placements. Seeing your business in an article written by an unbiased journalist asserts the validity of your services and gives consumers confidence in your brand.
3. Guest Blogging
Contributing content to print and digital publications is one of the best ways to distinguish your business from others. While maintaining a company blog is great, by publishing to third-party outlets, you can establish yourself as a thought-leader within your industry and benefit from increased exposure to a new audience of readers.
4. Awards and Honors
Much like media coverage and review sites, garnering awards and honors is seen as an endorsement from an impartial perspective. This reinforces the positive reputation you’ve built and is a fantastic beacon of legitimacy and success to customers.
Now, when it comes to marketing your practice, you can try to tell the world how great you are, and possibly even have some success with that strategy, but the most successful firms go beyond self-promotion and elevate their status by earning legitimacy through public relations.
There are plenty of ways to add credibility outside of PR. Incorporating your business, registering your trademark, building a quality website, renting professional office space, working with recognizable clients, and so forth are all ways to build legitimacy outside of public relations.
But if you want to earn legitimacy through third-party credibility, your firm will need to add PR to the mix. Media coverage, endorsements and other recognition can carry an enormous amount of clout and credibility. If strategically garnered, it will strengthen and legitimize your sales and marketing claims, driving new sales inquiries and improved conversion rates.
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