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Four professional service market segments you need to be ‘aware’ of…

Four professional service market segments you need to be ‘aware’ of…

By Jim Thompson

There are many ways to dissect and segment the professional services market, but for me, there are 4 segments that sit above all of them.

It starts with two segments, those who are ready to buy and those who are not ready to buy what you have to offer. We can then divide these two into those that already know that you exist (aware) and those who don’t (unaware).

In summary, we have;

  1. Ready to buy and aware of you and the services you offer
  2. Ready to buy and unaware of you and the services you offer
  3. Not ready to buy and aware of you and the services you offer
  4. Not ready to buy and unaware of you and the services you offer

The four professional service market segments

Let’s have a look at them in a little more detail. The table below outlines each of the segments and compares what the typical volume of them is versus the marketing effort firms put toward them.

professional service market segments

Ready to Buy – Aware

These are prospective clients that are ready to buy your services and know that you exist.

This might include:

  • existing customers;
  • referrals; and
  • others who have heard of you by some other means.

Obviously, segment 1 is the easiest from a marketing perspective as they require the least effort to attract. They know you exist and want what you are selling. If you’re getting no sales enquiries from this market segment, then you have a significant problem.

Ready to Buy – Unaware

This segment is everyone else who is ready to buy a service you offer but have never seen or heard of you before.

This might include people:

  • looking for your service on Google; or
  • asking their network for a referral to a service provider that can help them.

This segment is where most professional service firms spend their time and effort because its the most obvious and in some ways the lazy but expensive pond to fish.

Google Adwords is the classic example of the type of marketing effort put toward this segment, as is building a referral network in the hope of catching prospects when they are ready to buy.

And let’s be honest, you don’t have to be Einstein to set up an Adwords campaign, you just need to have deeper pockets than everyone else playing the same game.

8 Reasons why marketing to the “Ready to Buy” sucks…

Here are 8 reasons why the ready to buy segment can be an expensive and ineffective place to market, particularly in a b2b context.

  1. They have self-diagnosed and are in total control of who they get to help them.
  2. In many cases, the referral market is a strong influencer so marketing beyond the hygiene level can be a waste of time.
  3. It’s usually 1 minute to midnight in the buying cycle and your firm is sitting back waiting for prospects to make the move.
  4. They have already done research, talked to lots of people, formed opinions and selected potential suppliers without your knowledge and influence.
  5. You will be approached very late in the buying cycle putting your firm in a weak competitive position.
  6. Choosing between the “look-alike” competitors makes the selection process difficult for the prospective client.
  7. It’s expensive to win new business from this position without a very strong referral, and selection will usually be based on subjective decisions or pitch processes.
  8. In most cases, you must hope they find you, as opposed to you finding them.

What’s the alternative? Marketing to the “Not Ready to Buy” of course…

Not Ready to Buy – Aware

This group know you exist but have either made the decision to use someone else or are not ready to buy what you are selling at the current time.

This might include:

  • existing customers who have bought your service once;
  • lost conversion/sales lead; and
  • competitor’s customers.

Marketing to segment 3 is typically in the form of newsletters, events, etc.  designed to keep you front of mind and to try and cross-sell other products or services you offer.

The key here, however, is to nurture, educate and provide meaningful content not continually try and sell or send news about yourself and how good you are.

Not Ready to Buy – Unaware

Basically, the rest of the world….

This segment typically:

  1. Don’t know you exist;
  2. Aren’t ready to buy or maybe not even thinking about it;
  3. Would never have looked for or found you;
  4. Don’t even know they have a problem; and
  5. Would never have made a connection between their pain points and your services.

For me, this segment sticks out like the proverbial because of its size and the lack of effort dedicated to it.

The lack of marketing effort to this segment is not surprising given the fact that in the pre-digital age it was almost impossible to reach this group without spending a fortune on large-scale brand awareness campaigns, that had no means of lead capture or follow up.

Digital has changed the way we market

I’ll let you in on a secret… It’s now entirely possible to reach and capture the not ready to buy and unaware segment at a fraction of the cost.

This is due to the ability to find, target and get in front of your ideal audience with very specific information to their circumstances.

To do this you need to be smarter and more patient, but in the long run, it’s a lot cheaper and far less competitive than marketing to the ready to buy.

The bonus here is that a prospective client can move from being unaware to aware and then to ready to buy while bypassing segment 2 all together and not letting the strong competition at this stage even get a look in.

The key is that you capture a prospect’s interest much earlier in the buying cycle, allowing you to guide them, via a predefined and crafted strategy slowly moving them a to the point of buying – from you!

Understanding your clients’ pain points

In order to do this well, you must understand your buyers’ journey, their world, their problems and pain points.

The best way to do this is to develop detailed customer personas that give you an in-depth understanding of the client you want to target.

Once you understand your client well enough you can find them online and dangle a carrot (in the form of downloadable content) under their nose that will peak their interest enough to get them to give you their email address and allow you to nurture them over time.

Yes, it can take time to nurture a client through their journey but not all journeys are the same length an the more you have in the pipeline the closer you are to having an endless stream of ongoing qualified marketing leads.

The time to act is yesterday before you are forced to and while there is still significant arbitrage available to you as others find it too hard or need the instant hit from segment 2.

The Steak Knives

By making yourself attractive to the not ready to buy you by default make yourself more attractive to the ready to buy at the same time.

This is because you’ve had to do the thinking and create content that captures the buyer at the early stages right through to the point of buying. You’re no longer talking about the services you offer but the problems these clients are facing and how you can help solve them.

If you want to learn more about how your firm can target the “not ready to buy” market and bypass the expensive “ready to buy” market get in touch with us for a free situation analysis today.

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