BD tips and insights

By Lilla Smee

5 steps to a successful marketing strategy

August 24, 2016 | Posted in: Grow your business | Tags:

five stepsThe most profitable professional services firms understand that a successful marketing strategy is part of everything they do; it’s a coordinated process, not just a series of campaigns. Just like politicians who stay on message, the most successful firms have focus: from cultivating referral relationships to tweeting, each activity is aligned to the overall goals of the firm and guided by a plan.

By following the five steps below, you’ll be well on your way to preparing and executing a successful marketing strategy.

Planning and positioning for success

The planning phase involves understanding your ideal clients, your competition, and your firm, and positioning yourself to attract and win them over.

Step 1: Understanding your clients and prospective clients

  • What do your ideal clients look like? Consider sector/industry, geographic location, revenue.
  • Who are the decision makers or influencers?
  • What do you know about their business problems, lifestyles, professional aspirations, attitudes, priorities and perceptions?
  • What do you know about their operating problems? Consider reputation and market perception, financials, B2B relationships, affiliations with government, public and political drivers, industry pressures.


  • Network online and in-person where your clients and prospects hang out – think LinkedIn discussion groups, industry events and seminars.
  • Actively ask for introductions and referrals from people in your network.
  • Run your own event, or hold a private dinner, with something of value to offer them (for example, an informative piece on a topic of interest).

See ‘Position your firm or die!’ to learn more.

Step 2: Knowing your competition and the market

  • What is the state of play in your chosen industry/segment? Consider market maturity and saturation, industry trends affecting supply and demand, political and industry pressures.
  • Who is a credible alternative to your firm?
  • When your clients decide against your services, who do they go to instead?


Build a profile of your competitors with these research tips:

  • Conduct desktop research, including LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Consistently ask for feedback from prospective clients on why they went with your competitor.
  • Collect examples of your competitors’ advertising, brand image, printed material, editorial and similar, if feasible, to understand what you’re up against.
  • Talk to your competitors at seminars/events.

Step 3: Differentiating yourself

  • What do you offer that is better or different?
  • Can you clearly and succinctly articulate your key differentiators?
  • Why should your client choose you over the competition?


Consider differentiating your firm based on:

  • technical expertise
  • success rate
  • service quality (supported by client feedback, ratings, testimonials)
  • price (although differentiation by price is often a race to the bottom).

See ‘Standing out from the crowd’ to learn more.

Measuring success

Once you understand the clients you’re pursuing and how your firm can attract them, you can look at how to track and measure your performance. Set out your objectives and define measures to evaluate the success of your activities.

Step 4: Setting your objectives

‘Be more profitable’ might seem like a reasonable objective, but the more specific you are, the better targeted – and more successful – your marketing activities will be.

Your objective might be one or more of these:

  • create a need for your services
  • increase awareness of your firm/skills/expertise
  • influence referrers to advocate for you and your firm
  • generate enquiries, leads, and/or clients
  • educate clients about your services.

Set clear objectives for your strategy, and get buy-in from decision makers and support staff so the entire team is working towards the set goals in campaigns or activities.

Step 5: Measuring and evaluating

How will you determine the success of your marketing strategy? Think about measures (quantitative and/or qualitative) for each campaign and activity to assess its effectiveness.

Measurement does not have to be complicated or time-consuming. It can be as simple as instructing your front-line staff to ask first time callers or visitors how they heard of your firm.

For more ideas on measures, see ‘12 critical performance indicators’.

Following these five steps will help you generate interest, connect with prospective clients, and produce results. You will also better understand the benefits and returns your activities bring, so you can direct your resources to those activities that directly support your goals: more clients, more new work, more revenue.

If you could use some help getting started, see if you can answer the first nine questions from JMA’s Around your firm in 80 questions strategy session in this free PDF.

If you would like to talk to one of our consultants, please get in touch.

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