You can’t serve everyone, and you shouldn’t aim to serve just anyone. As a service business owner or leader, you’ve probably figured this out. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to reach the right people at the right time — especially when you and your prospects are enduring mounting financial pressure.
To position your business to attract the clients who are the best fit and will achieve the greatest results with your services, you should have a strategy that can help you adapt as the economy shifts. Driving demand is an ongoing challenge that requires a solid understanding of your target market, clever messaging and great relationships with existing clients.
Here are seven recommendations for addressing these and other key facets of brand positioning.
Everyone on your team is likely well-versed in the services and deliverables your business provides, but do they grasp the magnitude of the outcomes your clients experience? There’s a difference between what you do and the problems you solve. It’s much easier to market your business and retain clients when your team is aligned on the bigger story to which you contribute.
Example: Your firm consults on commercial building projects, but you don’t just help builders stay on track with permitting and legal compliance. You facilitate innovation, ultimately providing new and unique spaces that change how the locals work.
Takeaway: Instead of focusing on what, encourage your team to explore the why.
Maybe it’s been a while since you started your business, or you’ve niched down since then. It could be that other key industry players whose services you once compared to yours are no longer direct competitors. You don’t have to invest in a formal competitor analysis or apply scarce resources to this process. Improve your positioning with a casual, ongoing review of what’s happening in your space.
Example: You run a small accounting firm that used to provide solely tax services, but you’ve started to take on more business advisory clients. What do your prospective clients search for when they’re seeking more consultative services? You might find out by looking at firms in the broader financial or business consulting industries.
Takeaway: Keep an updated list of competitors and regularly research what they’re doing.
In service firms, your clients expect personal attention. If you can’t afford to change much about your business right now, you can make small but meaningful adjustments to the way you interact with clients or the frequency of communication. These investments in stronger relationships will increase your chances of getting recurring work and encourage word-of-mouth marketing.
Example: Your digital agency is doing its best to hold onto large accounts while working with a lean team. When more time is hard to dedicate, try implementing a new billing process that generates more detailed invoices or offering a client portal to provide real-time project visibility without stretching your team too thin.
Takeaway: It doesn’t have to cost a lot to pay closer attention to the little things for your clients.
Is there something you know your team can claim expertise in, but you’re not shouting about it? Sometimes, you only find out what your business does best after working with clients who point out your strengths. While there’s something to be said for staying humble, you need to acknowledge how your services are unique to successfully position your business as a critical partner in hard times.
Example: Your engineering team is too focused on staying above water to think about specializing. You could use this period of struggle as an opportunity to improve efficiency and hone in on a new in-demand service like one structural engineering firm did by expanding its renewable energy solutions after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Takeaway: The only way to draw people in is to reach out and tell them what you can do.
Are you using a tagline that doesn’t fit? Is your paid marketing tired? Do your sales emails need a refresh? Your operations, project management and other internal functions could be on point, but the way you present your firm to the world needs to match that confidence. Once you’ve reviewed who your true competitors are and determined what your business is best at, it’s time to figure out how to effectively communicate that truth.
Example: You run an IT business that you’re looking to scale to answer the rising demand for affordable remote support services, but your website and marketing materials still reflect your local connections. Instead of a full rebranding or website refresh, you could make some changes to copy or develop a different kind of ad campaign to get the word out about your new direction.
Takeaway: Small steps in the right direction are more powerful than waiting for a big move.
People listen to others like them, especially when they’re on the hunt for a product or service. In fact, 88% of consumers trust reviews to the same degree they do personal recommendations. Sometimes, the best approach to positioning is to let your work speak for itself — meaning, let your clients do it for you. Soliciting reviews from happy customers is often easier than putting together a marketing campaign that lands or training your sales reps on a new tactic.
Example: You own a web development firm that prides itself on close client relationships and gets a lot of great feedback. Yet, your team hasn’t directly requested reviews or testimonials in the past. Segmenting your clients by type of service or time elapsed since your most recent project, you might develop a new automated email workflow to gather their thoughts and share them publicly.
Takeaway: There is dormant potential in the voices of the clients you’ve already wowed.
A down economy is an opportunity to get creative, frightening or risky as it may sound. If there isn’t a lot of room to change up your services or adjust your messaging right now, there may be other ways to try something new. Your fresh take on a common problem could be just the thing your clients need to see to make them trust that your business is the one they’ve been searching for.
Example: Your HR consulting firm is struggling to close sales, yet you know a lot of businesses in your area need help with hiring, training and retention right now. Instead of continuing to try traditional or digital marketing, you decide to pivot and host a networking event with panel discussions on economic strategies. With this unique plan, you’re already solving problems for your prospects and developing a reputation for caring.
Takeaway: Novelty and authentic interest will get more eyes on your business.
Successful positioning of a professional services business using the above tips is more doable when it’s running as efficiently as possible. Accelo can take some of the mundane work off your plate so your team can redirect their energy. Start your free trial or set up a demo to learn how.