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Not another COVID-19 article. My first take on marketing professional services in the current climate

Not another COVID-19 article. My first take on marketing professional services in the current climate

By Jim Thompson

A lot of marketers and advisors jumped out early advising people what to do in light of the current crisis.

I must admit I was tempted to do the same but thought I’d sit back, watch what happened and gather my thoughts before writing anything on the subject.

One thing is certain though and that is that although anyone my vintage has been through a number of downturns, nothing compares to this. No one is an expert in what to do right now, all we can do is draw on past experience and provide our own thoughts and perspectives.

So I’ll start with my observations and then on what I think professional services firms should be doing in terms of their marketing moving forward.

Observations – the good the bad and the ugly.

The Good

People genuinely care and many are giving away valuable advice and insights via a range of mediums.`

The Bad

Those people and professional services firms that never made the effort with content in the past are now pumping out all sorts of generic, sometimes gratuitous content that quite frankly we don’t need and are drowning in.

My view is that if you never had anything insightful and interesting to say Pre CV then chances are you don’t now.

I know the only people I am listening to now are the ones I followed beforehand – why because I trust them, and that trust was established years ago. I don’t have the time or the courage to start listening to stranger’s right now.

Many of you will be paying for your sins of the past when you were too busy to produce content, be insightful, develop a perspective. Unfortunately, that horse has bolted and why most of what is being put out there is generic and same same but no different to what everyone else is saying despite the good intentions.

The Ugly

Gratuitous cashing in on the crisis when in the past you were silent. Maybe I’m a cynic but right now it’s hard to decipher what is genuine from what is opportunistic.

Posting pictures of your team working from home like it’s some sort of unique amazing event. Really is that something you think we are all interested in right now, your team or you in your kitchen or lounge room?

Guess what we are all doing it and some of us have been doing it for years, so what?

And for me perhaps the worst is what I’ll term borderline corporate virtue signalling at a time like this, we are all savvy enough to see through that.

Just do the right things you don’t have to tell us you are.

Okay, enough of the negative let’s have a look at what I think you should be doing.

I want to answer that by telling you what I do and don’t want right now from my trusted advisors and what I guess you want from yours too.

What I want

Empathy

Demonstration that you understand my industry and my situation within it. Acknowledge that its tough out there right now and that your sharing my pain but you’re here to help. Help even if it’s beyond what you would normally invoice me for.

Practical and rational advice

I want and need clear thinkers right now, people that can navigate the noise and the issues and present it to me in a way that I can understand it.

Actionable advice

Tell me things that I can or should be doing right now and not technical jargon that I have to try and interpret and apply to myself – that’s what I need you to do for me.

Maybe you have to give away more than what you normally would.

What I don’t want

Selling

I don’t want this at the best of times but right now definitely not.

Irrelevance

As above I want what’s relevant to me, my industry and my situation. It helps if you really know your audience and your database.

Technical

I don’t have the bandwidth or the desire to digest technical right now, for example, if you’re a commercial lawyer don’t go talking to me about Force Majeure and Frustration just tell me if I have to pay my rent or not!

Waffle

No explanation required.

Oh and I don’t want pictures of your team on a zoom meeting!

So, in a nutshell, I want confident, strong, empathetic shoulders to lean on as I traverse the most difficult of business environments I’ve ever encountered. I want people I’d have in the trenches with me when they blow the whistle to go over the top.

The challenge is that if you’ve been a less than a regular contributor of content it’s going to be difficult to not appear opportunistic if all of a sudden, you’re out there sprouting COVID-19 left right and centre.

I’m a regular content producer as most of you will know but this is my first foray since the sh@#it hit the fan.

Here is the actionable

  1. Quality over Quantity – one marquee piece of content that hits the nail on the head is far better than 10 that don’t.
  2. Speak in the 1st person, if you’re a lawyer come out from behind the law and be a human being, warts and all. And forget what your peers think about what you say, they’re not your clients.
  3. Address the problems you know I am facing right now and give me your best advice on what to do about them
  4. Don’t mention the “C” word if you don’t have to – we all know it’s there.
  5. If you’re quiet offer some free advice – allow a few hours a day to take calls, who knows they may turn into something billable.

Yes, this is what you should have always been doing and if you did you might be in a better place right now but what better time to start – when people need you most.

What a great time to finally find your voice and come out from behind the brand and the technical and become a trusted advisor in the true sense of the word.

Worst case scenario is that when the lights get turned back on, you’re in a better position than those that chose a different path or no path at all.

Time to shine and put yourself in the spotlight but do it the right way.

People will remember you post this crisis – how do you want to be remembered, opportunistic, vanilla, invisible, meek or strong, helpful, rational, trustworthy, reliable and understanding?

And true to my word if anyone wants to ask me anything either by message or phone hook-up I’m happy to help where I can.

I’ll do my best but if I don’t have the answer, I’ll tell you.

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