Although my firm does good work, our services range across a number of markets, making it hard to effectively advertise. Does advertising make sense for a firm like mine? Where would I get the biggest return on advertising?
A century ago, department store owner John Wanamaker said, "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half."
Selecting the right message, method and market for advertising is difficult even for companies with discrete, tangible products. It's no wonder that selling intangible, evolving products and services like consulting are even more difficult. You know to highlight benefits rather than features, to target the qualified buyers, and to make sure you are identified along with the product. However, there are probably five common elements missing in many consultant ads:
- Appeal to emotion. Consultants seem to think clients are only buying competence. They are not. Having already vetted you, clients assume you are competent and are buying confidence (their own) that you can be trusted to deliver the service effectively and on time. Make sure trust is an element of your ad. Tell a story. People identify more with a story than with a list of attributes or even a list of features. Take the reader along for a ride to share the experience of your services.
- Make it easy to buy. Many ads tell about a product or service but don't end with a call to action. Let the potential buyer know what you'd like them to do next (e.g., call you, email for a free report, go to a website, attend a seminar).
- Keep it simple. Consultants can deal in complex ideas and processes - an ad is not the place to explain all this detail. Write the story so a tenth grader can quickly grasp the concepts. And really run it by a tenth grader to confirm that it can be quickly grasped.
- Track your results. Because it is so hard to do, many advertisers simply don't bother to evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts. You should know, before you place an ad, how many impressions it will produce and an estimate of sales. If an ad isn't producing as expected, it's time to try something else.
Advertising your consulting services may not make sense but, if you do, make sure you design it as thoughtfully and manage the process as carefully as one of you engagements. © 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA