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eFAQ: Marketing Professional Services

February 2008

Professional Services or Consumer Products?
There’s a Marketing Difference.

Over the years, brandUNITY and its principals have worked extensively with rapidly growing professional services companies, including architectural, legal firms, dental care, medical, engineering and consulting businesses. We also frequently work with product-based businesses particularly to plan, extend, and manage brand families.

Whether your company is involved in marketing consumer products or professional services, there are some basic branding precepts that hold true across business categories. Staying consistent to your brand's core values, unifying your messaging across customer touchpoints, and using the language of the intended audience all apply regardless of business focus.

But, there are also some important differences in how marketing mission is accomplished in a professional services firm. In the following, we look at how marketing a professional services business varies from that of a consumer products business:


Marketing Professional Services vs Consumer Products

Here are several important characteristics differentiating the marketing approach of a professional services business versus that of a consumer products business:

  1. The marketing driver for professional services firms is expertise and customer service; the wider the public awareness of expertise and excellent professional reputation, the higher the prices a professional services firm can command.

  2. The relationship between the services firm and its key practitioners is often mutually interdependent. The brand reputation of the primary leaders is often tightly linked to the services firm itself, in the mind of the consumer. In contrast, with product-based companies, this is not usually true or important. People don’t usually buy a hamburger at McDonald’s because of the cooking experience of its founder, Ray Kroc, known more for his business acumen than his chef experience.

  3. For a firm that markets expert services, one of the major challenges in moving a client-to-be through the buying process is to establish trust and reassurance in the relationship. Great emphasis must be placed on communicating with their clients to help the client feel stability and solidarity with the service provider. The client must come to know and believe that the service provider is capable of delivering the non-tangible expertise they are seeking.

  4. Marketing tools that increase awareness about a professional service provider’s expertise, will help build the reassurance that prospective buyers need to complete their buying decision. If the purchase is made without adequate foundation, the service relationship is more likely to go awry despite initial buy-in.

  5. It often is valuable to raise the brand presence of the principals of a professional services firm, to attract and grow the company. The firm will benefit by having one or more of the major partners performing regularly as a widely visible rainmaker with a highly targeted PR program that involves speaking at conferences, writing books, publishing articles, writing key whitepapers, and submitting regular press releases.

  6. Among medical, legal, and financial service providers, there is a long-standing tradition against overt competitiveness that all other industries take in stride. Though attitudes against advertising have greatly subsided over the past ten years or so, these tendencies do still persist in these particular trades. Marketing programs in these industries often are understated, focusing wisely on publicity and expertise-awareness building rather than in-your-face advertising and chest-beating.
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