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Permission marketing for professional services firms

Permission marketing for professional services firms

By Tim Davies

Michael Phelps makes swimming fast look damn easy. We all understand though, this human super fish has put a lifetime into his training and body to achieve those results. For most of us, although very envious of his ability and the accolades that result, we just don’t have it in us to do the same; either in the pool or our own vocation.

Why is it that individuals and companies jump into the online space without learning and proper commitment, yet expect success to follow?

Lacking the understanding of what it really takes to succeed online.

In a previous article I graphed the emotional lifecycle of a web project ‘owner.’ When I refer to owner, I’m referring to the business owner or owner of the website.

As I touched on in the article, the seeming birth of the problem is the owner’s extreme state of hyper-optimism upon commencement; an unrealistic starting point and from here, the only way is down.

The cause of unrealistic optimism.

When you take a step back and look at the underlying issues causing this ‘hyper-optimism,’ the real genesis is the ‘relative ease of success, low cost and low barrier to entry’ mentality of what it takes to be a successful company online.

We’re bombarded with stories of companies who have had great success without the accompanying back stories. The strategies and investments behind those success stories are rarely shared, for obvious reason. Here lies the problem.

We get this ‘tip of the iceberg’ effect. We see the beautiful, exposed 10%, but never see the other 90%.

The engaged community is only the tip of the iceberg.

That latter 90% is the difference between a stable base to success and an unfocused approach to time wasting – your time and your targets time (if you have a defined target). Once you waste their time, you can forget about asking for their attention again.

The strange thing about all this is that the path to success is really no secret. There’s heaps of great guidance online on this topic.

Respecting the individual’s permission to market to them.

Personally, I love listening to the views of Chris Brogan. Not just because he’s a well-known name in the space which I want to drop… obviously he’s got there for a reason.

He engages me. He tells stories. He never violates my permission.

Importantly, he always warns me if he’s going to sell. I remember seeing a heading on a newsletter a month or so back which came from him, along the lines ‘Warning: Selly, selly, pitchy, pitchy’.  Sounds cheesy… yeah maybe.  It achieved what he probably set out to achieve. I didn’t feel my attention was being commercialised and he gave me the choice to tune out.  It was done in a manner with personality and genuine character.

He understands I’ve given him permission to communicate with me and he respects that permission. So much so, that he doesn’t try to sell to me (without warning). He gives me the opportunity to only listen to his expertise, if I choose to.

By doing this, if one day one of his followers is in a buying cycle, he’s there front of mind. His ‘tribe’ are also more likely to buy his books, tweet about him, blog about him and add value to what he’s doing in other ways.

Seth Godin, possibly the most notable of social media marketers, wrote Permission Marketing. It covers the process of cultivating your target from the point of obtaining permission to the full blown marriage. It’s a very good resource for any marketers looking to start the process or genuinely review what they’re doing.

The strategy ‘beneath the iceberg.’

Beneath the iceberg for the successful companies is a plan, a digital strategy. Yep, those words again.

  • They’ve identified exactly whose attention they want. Not a shotgun approach. A tight target group.
  • The marketer manages the permissions granted carefully and cultivates the relationship.
  • Only after a deep relationship is built, does the company advocate on their hands, someone prepared to share the story and maybe even a client.

Anything less than following a very similar process is just tinkering. No strategy and you’re likely to connect with some, genuinely engage very few and command very little to no attention – your target’s time – arguably the most valuable thing they have, which you need, to be successful.

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