The customer is always right…
That phrase (first coined by Harry Gordon Selfridge in the early 1900s) has been associated with the retail sector forever.
But how can this phrase and the whole philosophy behind it apply to professional services marketing?
Well it’s all to do with how the relationship between business and client has changed in the digital age.
It used to be the case that businesses had all of the power over the consumers and clients. People would buy services based on referrals and local reputation alone, and there wasn’t a great need for marketing other than the odd local listing in the newspaper or a flyer.
But times have changed.
In the digital age, the roles have flipped and in fact, it’s the clients and consumers that now have the power over the businesses. With the internet, clients have access to a wide range of services and businesses for every industry. They are able to carefully research and select the exact business that fits their needs.
What does this mean for businesses and marketers? It means that now, more than ever, client needs have to come first. It means that your digital marketing strategy has to be centered around attracting and delighting your clients, rather than simply trying to directly sell to them.
So let’s take a look at how you can adopt a customer centric approach to your marketing.
Use content to put yourself in front of your audience
It’s pretty much guaranteed in this day and age that if someone needs a service or product, they will do some amount of research online first.
Whether that is searching for local businesses on Google, looking for case studies from people who have a similar need or problem, or looking for ways to solve the problem they have in the first place.
How can businesses and marketers capitalise on this?
Well, it’s all through the use of content and, more specifically, inbound content!
Using the Inbound marketing methodology, there are 3 stages that a potential buyer can be in; awareness, consideration or decision.
In taking a customer centric approach to your marketing, you want to be creating content for every stage of the journey.
This doesn’t mean just creating content about the services you offer and hoping that people will pick you. It means putting your customers’ needs and queries first and helping them to solve a problem that they may have.
It means creating a strategy for each stage.
Awareness - Here you want to create content that helps your potential customer solve a common relevant problem they may have. If you are a financial services firm, for example, it could be a blog about ‘How to save more money for retirement’ or ‘What is the pension freedoms act?’
This section is designed to help your clients and push your business in front of them.
Consideration - This is where someone knows they have a problem and knows how to solve it but are looking for the right company to help them do so. Let’s take the financial services firm as an example again. At this point, the audience knows that they need a financial planner but are researching their options. They will have options, even if you are the only financial planner they are looking at. They could, for example, do nothing, or try to manage their finances on their own. Here you might create a piece of content like ‘10 signs you need a financial planner’.
Decision - At this point, the user has more than likely created a shortlist of financial planners or approaches to take and is weighing up the best options. This is where you showcase your firm with content around your services and offering. It’s the most salesy part of the content offering.
Give something to your customer that delights them
There is no stronger content out there than the type that will provide something valuable to your audience.
But putting your audience’s needs into the heart of your content strategy is something that is easier said than done for many firms.
Companies have the tendency to base their marketing entirely around the services they offer. And while services should be a part of your marketing efforts, it shouldn’t dominate your entire content strategy.
Your audience doesn’t simply go online to hear about your ‘5 step process’ or your ‘holistic approach’… they are there because they either have a problem or query that needs solving or they want to be entertained or find something new or interesting.
So one way that you can delight your customers is by providing them with the answers that they are looking for.
Put yourself in the shoes of your audience and find out what they are searching for and what questions they are asking online.
Now create content that answers these questions and provides knowledge to your audience.
By doing this, you are not only positioning your own brand in front of your audience, you are also establishing your firm as knowledgeable industry experts, which creates trust amongst current and potential clients.
And remember, a delighted customer is much more likely to recommend or refer you.
Ask your customers to big you up!
Believe it or not, happy customers are a vital marketing resource.
Lots of firms will create a huge amount of content to get someone over the line but once someone becomes a customer, they will completely forget about them from a content perspective.
Instead, you should be continuing your marketing and content strategy throughout a client’s time with your firm.
You can ask your customers to leave an online review on Google, Facebook or one of the independent review sites. Not only will this help your online credibility, it will also help with SEO and local rankings.
You might want to think about setting up some type of referral scheme too. Professional services firms often rely heavily on referrals, so if you actively reward your current customers, you are much more likely to increase your referral rate.
You could ask clients to give you a testimonial or create a case study from a customer’s story.
People will more often than not look for testimonials before they make a purchasing decision, so having a testimonial section on your website is a must-have.
Don’t neglect your happy customers.