When I work on content strategy for lawyers, financial planners and other professional service businesses, they point out that they can’t promise their clients a “win.” Lawyers can’t promise they’ll win court cases; financial planners can’t promise they’ll make you rich; and real estate agents can’t guarantee your home will sell in 30 days.
These service professionals often wonder how they can hire a copywriter. They associate copywriting with Tony Soprano’s extravagance and strong language. As a result, they end up with boring, me-too sites…so nice they could win the Miss Congeniality award.
The truth is, you can be professional and still communicate your value.
Here are 3 guidelines for effective professional services marketing when you need to combine professionalism with persuasion.
(1) Don’t ask for content that will be “memorable.”
Even on your website content, your goal is to be “sticky” rather than “memorable. The truth is, most visitors will remember your web site for about 30 seconds, if you are lucky. Your goal is to attract their attention long enough for them to sign up for your lead magnet. Once you have a list of leads, you can tailor your marketing to them.
(2) Get testimonials for service, not for outcomes.
Lawyers can put on a textbook-perfect case, only to be derailed by unexpected, even bizarre, circumstances. Planners can make wise investment decisions, only to be surprised by an environmental event or a client’s emergency that pulls significant funds from the account. You can’t promise outcomes (and your professional association will complain if you do.)
But most likely you can get testimonials from clients who appreciated your courtesy, empathy, and professionalism. Before hiring you, prospective clients want to know, “Will he return our calls? Will she show up for important dates and remember deadlines?”
Prospective clients often are terrified that you will judge them harshly. Almost everyone has made a bad decision that cost them a lot of money. Almost everyone has done something silly because they were angry, overwhelmed or surprised by a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Financial planning clients worry that you’ll look down on them because you don’t have more money. Some people feel this way even when they have portfolios that seem huge to others.
Your website copy can communicate, “I’ve heard it all.” You may even be able to say, “People make mistakes” or “Even when you’ve made a mistake, you are entitled to a strong advocate when you have your day in court.”
(3) Differentiate your professional services from the competition.
One of the biggest challenges for professional services marketing is to differentiate your service from the competition. You can’t make extravagant promises. You’re probably limited by regulation.
How can you brand yourself with professionalism?
Nearly all small business marketing models fit into one of five story archetypes, a/k/a personas. Each archetype embodies a specific promise. These archetypes include the “Role Model,” promising, “If I can do it, you can too;” the celebrity, promising, “I’ve been wildly successful so I’m qualified to help you.” These archetypes rarely will be effective for financial and legal professionals, because their clients want results, not personal histories.
Some attorneys and financial professionals adopt the Passionate Advocate archetype, which comes with the promise, “I’ll do whatever it takes to help.”
For example, one immigration lawyer has stories of tracking down clients in detention centers all over the country. He spends hours persuading officials to give him access outside normal hours to meet a hearing deadline, and anticipating what judge will ask by having people standing by on the phone. He does get paid, but many attorneys won’t do this even for pay.
Similarly, I met a bank officer whose company has branded on personal services. With VIP clients, she takes calls at all hours — even occasionally at 3 AM.
Most professionals in the financial, legal or consulting fields fit the Educator or Innovator archetype. The Educator markets with the promise, “My knowledge will deliver the results you need.” The Innovator markets with the promise, “I have a unique solution that can’t be copied. When you work with me, you’ll see results that you won’t get anywhere else.” A financial institution might have special packages for money management or might target services to underserved, specialized markets.
Once you understand your archetype, you can choose stories that will be consistent with that archetype. For instance, an Educator won’t share hard-luck stories of “how I struggled to get here.” Educators share stories that explain complex concepts or show how they worked to help clients.
Stories allow you to demonstrate your expertise without coming across as arrogant. You’ll be able to communicate your style and hold your audience’s attention by using stories in your marketing. I call this approach “story-centered marketing.” It’s particularly effective with professional services because they need to persuade effectively while projecting a professional, even authoritative tone.
To learn more, sign up for my report, 17 Surprising Ways To Use Stories To Grow Your Business.
If you’d like me to help you develop a professional marketing campaign and find your story, sign up for my Content Strategy consultation.