Marketing tech in professional services isn’t a 'one size fits all'

31 March 2020 6 min. read
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The sheer number of marketing technology solutions is proving especially challenging for marketing leaders in the professional services sectors – how can they choose the technology that is best suited to the challenges and uniqueness of their industry? Scott Wallingford, Vice President at LexisNexis, below relates what differentiates leading marketing technology solutions from the rest.

The business model of professional services firms – such as legal, accountancy, financial, consulting – differs from many other industries. In most industries, a salesperson reaches out to sell a product – be it new computer servers or a subscription to research reports – convincing prospects that it’s the right time to buy. Professional services, on the other hand, are ‘bought’ by clients, not “sold”.

Professional services firms provide solutions for a client’s uniquely timed need. Here, the ongoing relationship developed with potential clients is paramount if they are to be in the ‘consideration set’ when a need arises in the future. Selecting technology that supports this model in a strategic and data-driven way drives success. 

Marketing tech in professional services isn’t a 'one size fits all'

Relationship intelligence the key deliverable

Most client relationship systems today are built for sales-driven industries where the focus is on discreet sales opportunities instead of the holistic ongoing relationship with a client. In the professional services sector, where business is driven by the strength of relationships, this traditional sales-driven technology falls short. 

Professionals need technology that draws out relationship intelligence – who knows whom within the firm’s universe of contacts, what conversations the firm is having with prospects, which individuals in the firm have the strongest relationship with prospects and so on. Simultaneously, for both new business and risk management, the technology must enable the firm to actively and quantifiably monitor the health of those relationships. This is imperative to maintaining existing relationships and proactively taking remedial action where necessary. 

The technology needs to help uncover relationships and business opportunities by revealing the complex connections between people, organisations, relationships, expertise and experience – that otherwise may not be overtly obvious. 

The technology must also effortlessly support cross-functional and cross-border collaboration. Professionals require a holistic view of a client from within their workflows so that they can proactively offer guidance and services, strengthening the firm’s position as a trusted advisor as well as enhancing customer experience. 

In essence, professional services firms require technology that can help them nurture client relationships in order to be in a position to secure new business by being ‘front and center’ at clients’ point of need – i.e. when they are looking for a specific expertise. Adopting technology that embeds relationship and client intelligence into the day-to-day workings of professionals will deliver results.

Data insight fundamental

The technologies that will deliver most value to the business development efforts are those that provide the rich data-driven insights to help create targeted growth strategies and improve client engagement and business decision making. Nevertheless, a recent survey of marketing and business development leaders showed that only 9% of firms are using analytics to track business opportunities over their lifecycle. And only 40% of firms with a client relationship capability are using that data to create targeted business development strategies.

“The ability for advisors to quickly and easily access information when they need it enables them to genuinely engage with clients.”
– Scott Wallingford, Vice President at LexisNexis

Firms need to establish a data-driven culture within their organisations, starting with establishing processes and expectations about data management. Technology can then be introduced to support these processes. For example, utilising artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) techniques, to passively capture data helps ensure that the information on clients and prospects is always up to date. 

With high quality data, the firm can then use the same AI and ML techniques, to say, quantifiably determine the strength of relationships with key clients and prospects. This insight could provide direction and focus for business development efforts. A lower relationship strength score against a strategic prospect will clearly signal a need for specific action. 

With a solid data foundation, professionals can confidently build the cross-functional understanding of client and prospect journeys, experiences and business requirements. Modern technologies today, available especially via hybrid cloud models, are designed to deliver such data-driven insights that are intuitively, embedded at the ‘point of need’ within the natural workflow of professionals. 

For instance, processes can be structured to provide information on clients and prospects – everything from client-related business data through to intelligently curated news articles and activity alerts – within professionals’ native workflow, be that Microsoft Outlook, Word or any other Office application. 

Embedding this capability has the potential to completely transform professionals’ attitude to marketing and business development, making the activity routine for them. The ability to quickly access information, just when they need it and without causing disruption to their core work, will enable professionals to genuinely engage with clients, strengthen relationships and deliver exceptional services.

Data powers businesses. Having access to the right insights enables professionals to deliver higher quality service to their clients, becoming a more trusted strategic advisor. By adopting the tools and processes that are built on a deep understanding of how professional services firms work, firms will efficiently harness information, derive strategic insights and then deliver that intelligence to the key individuals who are responsible for building the business.