Former CEO EDISEN Group
I was doing some research for a pitch the other day, and I stumbled upon these three sentences:
We strive to create value for business, society and communities, by operating in a way that focuses on ethics, integrity and trust. When you engage us, you are tapping onto our international knowledge and experience. We bring to you not only the local insights but also a global perspective.
We deliver global solutions for Fortune 500 companies to point solutions for local businesses. Honesty, integrity, and openness have always been among our top company priorities.
We address societal issues because it’s our responsibility, and because it improves the condition of the societies in which we, our families, friends and clients live and do business.
It might come as a surprise, but these three extracts do not come from the same webpage—they belong to the three firms mentioned above. With some more research on other professional services firms, I concluded that this might be an epidemic of replicated communication.
One reason for this ever-decreasing lack of differentiation is that firms are expanding horizontally across different service areas. A quick glance at the annual report of the above mentioned PwC shows that between 2004 and 2014, the Tax and Audit services grew less than 50%, while the advisory area faced a growth of 188%. At Accenture, Communication, Media and Tech services grew by 58%, with other areas exceeding the 130% growth level, during the same period.
Communications for Growth
While it is not my place to comment on firms’ business choices, the experience I have in the communication and marketing fields justifies the following statement about the entire Professional Services industry:
Whatever your growth strategy is, your communication does not support achieving your business goals.
Let me explain; I tried to put myself in the shoes of the uninformed B2B buyer. If I need to evaluate different firms to buy services from, but I am not ready to commit enough to make contact with a potential provider, what do I do? As every human being, I google. And, as we have already established, the firms’ own descriptions are not going to bring me any step forward into my client journey. Reports and white papers are not going to do the trick. For example, I found Media Landscape reports from PwC, McKinsey and Deloitte in a 15-minute search.
My last hope lies in…video? And here they are. Two-minute videos of accelerated stock footage, dramatic music and digital buzzwords. The only way I am able to distinguish which firm has paid for the content is by looking at the little logo watermark in the upper left corner and by the payoff logo—if I make it to the end of these intense 2 minutes.
The Way Forward
I would love to sit with the marketing heads of any willing firm and understand why they are wasting their communication budgets on content that is simply not good enough to generate leads or differentiation. I would love to ask them why they are not taking advantage of the engagement window that exists before a perspective customer makes first contact with a sales person. I would love to hear their views on how will they reach future B2B buyers, those millennials we have talked about for years and who are now growing up and becoming heads and executives—those millennials that are so difficult to engage and persuade.
Firms in all industries need to employ effective digital communication to generate inbound leads and win over the competition, avoiding to distance themselves from the end client but rather creating a conversation with them. B2B buyers are people, just like B2C buyers, who want to be engaged and walked through a consistent client journey. Professional Services firms that will dare to act this way in their communications will gain a clear competitive advantage for the future.