Marketing a Service Business

All professionals, from lawyers and dentists to accountants and therapists, have a similar marketing challenge if they are to grow their service business.  They need to expand their pool of new business beyond direct referrals.  In doing so they need to overcome several obstacles:
•    They don’t want to appear to be “selling.”
•    They typically don’t “make news.”
•    They often work with people on a personal and confidential level, making case studies and success stories difficult, if not impossible.
The good news is that you really can market a service business assuming you understand your audience, target your activities to their interests, and connect with them “where they are.”
That said, here are some time-tested ways to market a service business.  In this post I’ll discuss online activities.  Next week I’ll talk about getting the attention of the mainstream media.

Develop an effective website.

Having an up-to-date website is essential, although many service businesses don’t have good ones or don’t keep them current.  An out-of-date website tells potential clients you are disengaged and not interested in promoting your services.

Your site does not need to be fancy, but it should have informative content and interesting graphics.  Simply describe your services, tell visitors what makes you different, and describe your ideal customer.  If possible, include testimonials and case studies.  Regularly update the material.
Write with both your audience and the search engines in mind.  That means putting keywords high up on the page, and in headlines and subheads, as search engines give more weight to words in those positions.
Display your URL (www.mybusiness.com) on your business cards and marketing materials.

I can testify to the power of an up-to-date website.  Over the years, my website has been the source of a lot of business.  I have done projects for people I have never met, but who contacted me strictly because of what they saw at www.communicationsplus.net.

Develop a good LinkedIn profile.

Increasingly LinkedIn is the “go-to” site for people wanting to learn more about professionals.  In a recent Women In Consulting (WIC) survey, many consultants reported generating business directly from LinkedIn.
So put together a good profile, not just a résumé but a statement of what you do, why you’re different, and why you’re on LinkedIn.  Encourage others to link to you.  Write testimonials and endorse others.  (They’ll probably return the favor.)
Also participate in appropriate LinkedIn groups, being generous with your expertise and knowledge.  (“Paying it forward” is a great way to market and be of service.)
For more information about LinkedIn, see the article “I’ve got a Great Profile. Now What? 10 Social Media Tips for LinkedIn.”

Don’t ignore Google+, which also deserves your attention.  The service is becoming increasingly more popular, so develop a profile there as well.

Blog

Blogging is useful for communicating your opinions and ideas to potential clients.  Of course last year’s idea doesn’t always play well today, so you need to post new content and relevant ideas.
One good approach is to comment on other articles or issues.  For example, a lawyer can comment on court decisions.

Another way to reduce the workload is to invite guest bloggers, or to find other blogging content and ask for permission to post it on your website.  (Obviously, you don’t want to do this all the time, or you won’t be able to showcase your own expertise.  That is, after all, the main point of the blog.)

In any event, post regularly.  Although blogging purists would shudder at this suggestion, I think it is better to post every month than to post several times a week and then stop.
Include a way for people to comment.  Also, comment on other articles and blogs.  You can’t be promotional, but you can definitely showcase your expertise.
Finally, invite people to read your blog in the signature line of your email address.

Video

More and more companies rely on video to get their messages across.  Video is perfect for product demonstrations, how-to segments, and general overviews.  Animation can illustrate obscure and technical concepts.
Short (two- to three-minute) pieces are the most popular.  The key is to think visually; have something to say and something to show. (A talking head does not cut it.)
Put your video on YouTube and similar sites, and link to it from your website.  Promote it through LinkedIn and other online sites.

Facebook

Facebook is good for increasing visibility, giving useful tips, sharing information, starting conversations, and establishing yourself as a leader in the field.

Many companies find having a Facebook company page to be an important addition to their marketing efforts.  In some cases, it can replace the company’s website.  But, like everything else in the digital world, it needs to be kept fresh and new, with regular postings and updates.

Twitter

Many professionals report that tweeting helps build community, is a good way to get and share information, and can help drive readership of your blog.

One easy approach is to schedule your tweets using a service like HootSuite.  And you can automate a great deal of the process through services like TwitterFeed.

In my next post, I’ll discuss ways to get the attention of mainstream media.

 

About Kay Paumier

Kay Paumier works with B2B companies that are struggling to stand out in the crowd. She spreads the word about their products and services, making them better known, more credible and more profitable. Her marketing-communications services include public relations, publicity, media relations, writing, company and product launches, and presentations. Kay serves as WIC’s marketing director. Her website is www.CommunicationsPlus.net.

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