Book Review: Professional Services Marketing Handbook (Edited by Nigel Clark with Charles Nixon)

Posted on: October 9, 2015

You would expect a book coming from the folk at Cambridge Marketing College to be good. And it is. Unusually, it’s not a text book – there’s little theory within it. But it’s a fabulous collection of case studies, best practice and insight from a glittering array of the great and the good in professional services marketing.

Contributors come from firms such as AECOM, Allen & Overy, Atkins, Baker & McKenzie, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Kreston Reeves, MacRoberts, PwC, White & Case and leading suppliers such as Acritas, Meridian West, Nisus Consulting, Professional Services Marketing Group (PSMG), SutherlandsPugh and Thomson Reuters Elite. So there is a bit of a big firm bias and while the construction and engineering sectors are represented along with the accountants, consultants and lawyers it was a shame that there are no contributions from the property industry.

The book is arranged around five themes with three chapters in each:

  • Growth (leadership themes)
  • Understanding
  • Connecting
  • Relationships
  • Managing

What I found particularly appealing is that the voice of the practitioner dominates – albeit supplemented by some excellent suppliers and consultants. It also has international appeal – there are several examples from territories beyond the UK with insights into cross-cultural challenges (especially in the area of client research and change management).

After the three or four chapters in each theme – many of which are studded with useful statistics and solid advice – there is a helpful summary extracting the main messages. The diagrams are nice and simple too. Some of the material is really at basic beginner’s level but some insights will be appreciated by the seasoned professional.

Building on some other leading books, and acknowledging the special challenges that marketers have in the professions, it brings us bang up to date with how professional services marketing and business development has become professionalised.

It would have been good to see material on issues such as new business models, pricing, managing the client experience, marketing automation, innovation and new product/service development but maybe there is a follow up planned. Let’s hope so. What is also good is that whilst digital is integrated throughout, there is no detailed, technical material to divert from the main themes and messages.

I particularly enjoyed stories of international segmentation, international market development, strategic alignment, key account management (KAM), setting up a client listening programme and closing the commerciality gap.

Stand out chapters for me included “From communities to cohorts” by PwC, “Thought leadership: transforming insights into opportunities” by Meridian West and “Conversation is king – connecting through leadership and sales” by Asia-Pacific Professional Services Marketing Association (APSMA).

I managed to read the entire book in just over three and half hours. I’d say that it was an excellent investment as I found it reassuring and inspiring in equal measure. And while it leaves you thirsting for more detail, everyone will get something of value from it – whether a newbie or experienced professional service marketer or business developer or a lawyer, accountant or other “fee-earner”.

Some of my favourite sound bites from the book included:

  • “Client work that involved five countries or more was 30% more profitable than single-country domestic work” 
  • “This positioning lends itself very well to thought-leadership based marketing which is one of the most effective forms of marketing for any professional services firm”
  • “Marketing and business development professionals must see themselves as change agents”
  • “Do first, ask forgiveness later”
  • “Researchers in this experiment coined the term ‘the spotlight effect’ to show that everyone always thinks the spotlight is on them”
  • “It’s not how loud you shout, but how well you listen”
  • “This means not just populating your own online properties but using third-party channels”
  • “Technorati indicates that your employees can reach an audience that is up to 10 times larger than the one your brand is currently reaching and acceptance of a recommendation is on average around 70% higher through personal recommendation as opposed to unsolicited communication”
  • “Research by ITSMA (Information Technology Services Marketing Association) suggests that almost half of clients (48%) say they are more likely to consider firms that personalise content marketing to address their specific business issues (2014)”
  • “There are three basic levers of profitability in a professional services firm – cost-cutting, equity management and revenue generation”

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