Professional services marketing: 3 reasons your firm can’t grow on word of mouth alone

Financial advisors, CPAs, and lawyers all agree: professional services marketing is about relationships. Clients come through the door because they know, trust, and like you. A friend or colleague has referred them, and they want to talk person-to-person so they know you’re The One.

All true. It’s a handshake-and-eye-contact world, and word of mouth is the key to growth at a small firm. But too much reliance on personal referrals will lower your ceiling faster than you think. Keep your referral sources close, but remember these that you can’t grow your practice on word of mouth alone:

1. Credibility without content is dust in the wind.

You’re at your best when referral sources tell prospects about your expertise, style, and how you’re able to help your clients meet their challenges.

What happens when they aren’t talking about you? If a brilliant advisor falls in the woods and nobody is there, does it win a client?

Getting your expertise and value proposition down on paper opens up entire new channels to reinforce your credibility. Even if those materials are circulated at a few strategic times during the year, they fill the void when your circle of friends go quiet.

2. You’re relying on someone else’s message.

If you haven’t defined your message in a way that resonates with your clients and prospects, you’re letting word of mouth define it for you. That works great when you only need to manage a few relationships, but as your network and practice grow, it will take the control of your firm’s brand away from you.

You can’t control what everyone thinks, but you can manage how your firm is presented. Think through what makes your firm unique and don’t be shy about referencing it.

3. The way your clients get information is changing.

Personal contact still rules new business, and most clients will want to make their final decision based on trust in the relationship. The ratio of prospects that gather their information solely by asking for referrals, however, is starting to shift. Millennials are no longer the new kids in town – those on the elder end of the generation are in their mid-30s.

This wave of homeowners, parents, business owners, and heirs is all about “trust but verify.” They value referrals from trusted sources as much as their parents and grandparents do, but they also do some digging to be sure the message is consistent. When you neglect your online message, you’re hurting the credibility you rely on for success.

Word of mouth will always be an important part of professional services marketing. You can’t grow, however, without diversifying how you tell your story. The challenge, of course, is getting that done with the resources you have available. How can you balance the all-important and often all-consuming client contact with the daunting case for proactive marketing?

The good news is that you can accomplish a great deal without going full throttle. Click below for our free toolkit, with steps to get your marketing going in a way that doesn’t steal time from your clients:

Download our free toolkit to make marketing part of your plan.