You know the value of staying in front of your clients and prospects regularly to remind them of your expertise and availability. But where and how do you start?
Business Valuation Update had the pleasure of talking with Debby Sweeney and Mellanie Bartlett, co-owners of Sweeney & Bartlett Marketing Partners Inc. Sweeney and Bartlett work with a number of business valuation (BV) firms, as well as other professional service firms, including attorneys, CPAs, and professional associations, to help them build their corporate and individual brands. In 2018, they celebrate their 10th anniversary in business, and we asked them to share some insights on the marketing of valuation services.
Q: We sometimes hear that business valuation experts should specialize either in an industry or type of valuation engagement. Do you help position experts in this way?
A: Yes. Differentiate yourself or your firm and share your expertise.
Differentiating yourself or your firm from competitors is very important, but you don’t necessarily have to carve out a sliver from your practice to stand out. For example, one of our business valuation clients lived and worked in China for a time, and he and his firm have become known for their “international reach.” They offer a wide range of valuation engagements, but they have developed a global persona. Any positive attribute can make you memorable and can work in terms of differentiation. Specializing in an industry or certain type of valuation can certainly work, too, but there are any number of other options to help set you apart.
Our mantra is “share your expertise.” For example, write an article or make apresentation at a conference or meeting. There are many opportunities to do this, and it’s extremely valuable in building your brand. What’s important is getting in front of prospective clients, which may mean breaking away from just writing or speaking to an audience of your peers. We often place articles written by our valuation clients into local or state bar association journals where they get exposed to a huge audience of attorneys. This works very well, and our clients report that they get calls as a result. Also, these articles can be leveraged and turned into a live presentation or be cut down to use as e-mail blasts or in social media.
Q: BVR did a survey last year of BV firms, and “updating the website” was cited as one of the most successful ways to increase business. Is that consistent with what you’ve seen?
A: Yes. All BV firms need a professional website that drives traffic.
Many of our new BV clients ask us to rebuild their websites for them. A valuation firm needs to drive traffic to its website. One way is to be active on social media—Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.—with good content that can be reposted. Another way is to regularly post relevant content on your website with highly searchable terms. Plus, ongoing content creation also helps to showcase your expertise and keeps your firm name top-of-mind.
Q: In terms of social media, we imagine that some firms may not be geared toward using that strategy.
A: That’s correct, not all firms will use all forms of marketing.
We do a custom approach for each firm that depends on its particular capabilities because any program involves client participation. The first thing we do is sit down with the firm and develop a strategic marketing plan that is customized. The plan will depend on the firm’s strengths and capabilities. For example, some firms may not want to dive into social media and would rather write articles or blog posts. Others may prefer to give a live presentation, say, at the local bar association. We focus on what will work for a particular firm, and it’s an evolving process. We’ll suggest something that the firm can try, and it may love it, so we’ll build on that. Otherwise, different options will work better for them. Most of the time, we will start out recommending a relationship marketing campaign.
Q: In BVR’s survey, many respondents said they found that social media was not a very effective way to market. Any thoughts on that?
A: People sometimes want to see hard ROI numbers from their efforts, but it’s often very difficult to determine that a lead came from social media.
We find that, when surveyed, clients often don’t “connect the dots.” Even if you directly ask them, they won’t reference that they saw you on LinkedIn or Twitter—it will be another source. Social media is important in that it allows you to be “out there” and connected, but you often will not be able to measure a direct ROI because it’s just one part of an overall branding campaign.
Also, some firms have an overly complex social media strategy and lose sight of the fundamentals. For example, when using social media, it’s critical to make yourself “findable,” so you can simply focus on having a good LinkedIn profile, and that can help a great deal.
Q: For a small firm with limited resources, what is the minimum it would need from a marketing perspective?
A: The top three things a firm would need from a marketing perspective are:
- A good website with information that best represents the firm and its professionals. It should be designed so that you can easily make changes to it yourself and not be dependent on an outside service for that.
- A good email contact list. This can be used for e-blasts that share your expertise. You don’t need to do a constant stream of these; you can do them infrequently.
- Be disciplined enough to spend some time out of the day on marketing. Think a little marketing every day—even if it’s just for five minutes.
Q: If a firm is on a shoestring budget, can it use a marketing firm like yours?
A: Yes. We don’t work on a retainer, which a lot of our clients appreciate, so we can be very flexible.
We would come in and do a needs assessment and develop a plan for what needs to be done. Going forward, the firm can do as much of the marketing itself that it would like, and we can just fill in the gaps. And it can go at its own pace.
I would say, however, that there does need to be a certain level of commitment for good marketing habits, though. We often find that a firm has good intentions but then just gets stuck at some point, so we will do “accountability checks” with it. We do a weekly or monthly call to keep the firm moving forward.
Q: How can I learn more about marketing services and content for my firm?
To learn more about Sweeney & Bartlett Marketing Partners Inc. and co-owners Debby Sweeney and Mellanie Bartlett, visit their website, sweeneybartlett.com, or contact them at 1-407-902-7141.
To learn more about business valuation-related marketing content offered through BVR, please visit our Content License page, or contact us at 1-503-479-8200, ext. 2.