What does ‘Client Engagement Marketing’ mean for professional services?

What is Customer/Client Engagement Marketing?

Customer Engagement Marketing (CEM) is a term used in B2C marketing. Engagement has always been essential in professional services. The difference is that today engagement needs to happen online as well as offline. How can we improve online engagement and why would we want to?

“Customer engagement marketing is defined as a marketing strategy that focuses on increasing the engagement your customers have with your brand by delivering personalized messages and interacting with customers across whichever channels they prefer.”

Let’s start with why we would want to increase online engagement. We’ve known for a long time in professional services that we need to attract potential clients on quite a personal level, due to the nature of the services, and nurture them through a long sales cycle. This process of attracting and converting clients requires them to ‘buy-in’ to your brand promise. This is engagement. The difference is that we now need to engage potential clients online before we meet them in person.

Here are three ways engagement is at the centre of professional services marketing:

  1. Brand Engagement

There is strong evidence that having a strong brand (your visible reputation in the market) will make growing your firm much easier. Your brand strategy helps you position your firm, wherever you wish to be positioned, in relation to the market. Your brand needs to be strong online, as well as offline. According to Lee Frederiksen from Hinge Marketing in his article “Digital Branding for Professional Services“:

“In fact, when we looked at all the information gathering techniques employed by professional services buyers, we found a 70% probability that today’s buyers will use a digital source in the early stages of their research into business challenges.”

Your personal brand is as important, if not more important, as your firm’s brand. Your reputation as a subject matter expert in your market, your online digital brand, and your behaviour in-person, all influence your success. You need to be developing your own personal brand, online through social media and other digital channels, as well as supporting the development of your firm’s brand. To achieve positive personal branding and powerful firm branding you need to be strategic and proactive. Hinge calls it becoming a Visible Expert®.

Engaging with your target market online means developing relevant content that will resonate with that audience. It will help you ‘cut through’ and become recognised as an expert people will seek advice from. Content is designed to demonstrate your expertise. Prospects don’t usually start with a search for a service provider. It starts with a business problem and a Google search for answers. You need to be writing on the topics that your prospective clients are searching for and optimising your content to appear in their search results. This helps you develop an online reputation as an authority in your area of expertise. If your content helps executives understand and diagnose their issues, your firm will make it onto the short list when they’re looking for someone to help them with those issues.

  1. Client Engagement

Client engagement is an area that professional services firms have always excelled at. Some better than others, but, in general, looking after clients is what the business is all about. There are ways to improve client service and client engagement. In terms of digital transformation, online client listening should now be standard practice. Whether you’re asking for feedback at the end of a project, conducting annual client listening, or participating in external market surveys, knowing what your clients think of your service is crucial to making improvements.

Another business practice that should now be standard is using a CRM system to enhance relationship management. Put simply, firms that have implemented a sophisticated CRM will have better client engagement. Relationship owners have a lot of information stored in their brains or in Outlook, Excel spreadsheets and other places, but there is also a mountain of other data that needs to be collected in one central place. Others in the firm may have useful information in their dealings with the same client. Marketing will have information about the marketing activities the client is involved in. Finance will have the financial information, including what the client relationship is worth to the firm and what it may be worth in the future. CRMs are now integrated with online systems, such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator and in-bound marketing systems, such as Marketo. All this data informs future management of the client relationship.

  1. Employee Engagement

If you need your prospects and clients to be engaged with your brand, you also need your clients to connect with your people. It doesn’t matter if the connection is made in person, via social media, or through reading your content. The human element is always there.

So, if humans count, and clients want meaningful, authentic connections with the people within your firm, then you need your employees to be authentic and genuinely care about the interactions they’re having. The more engaged your employees are, the more effort they will apply to their day-to-day work (including interacting with clients). This also applies to non-client facing staff. Whatever job they have to do within the organisation will ultimately affect the service, regardless of what that is.

Employee engagement is even more crucial now. When we finally get to “Covid-normal”, we will all be working differently. From Gallup’s latest research:

“Engagement creates commitment: Location does not. Gallup knows that neither hybrid work nor remote work will cause disengagement. But we also know that the human connection between an employee and their manager drives engagement. When employees stop feeling engaged, they can disassociate from the organization and feel like they work for themselves – rather like freelancers – and not their company. And managers who aren’t equipped to coach remote workers can easily disengage their people.”

Using the right technology, you can now engage better with prospective clients, through your digital brand, engage better with your existing clients, by using a smart CRM, and engage better with employees, even if they are not always in the same room. The key will be choosing the most beneficial systems and developing an engagement strategy, to drive your marketing strategy. Think about your audiences, the best channels to reach them and the information that will be most useful to them.

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