A marketing conversation for a service organization sounds very different from an organization that has products to sell. In my past positions, when I worked for companies that had a product to sell, I really focused on the product—how it worked, what problems it solved, and why it was better than competing products. While I can ask these same types of questions with a service organization, the focus comes back to a person. With a service organization, your customers see the person as the brand. Of course they want the company to provide a good service that saves them time and money, but their connection, and continued use of your service, lies with your relationship.
As a marketing professional, here are a few tips to help you get this relationship going. Pretty much, you can think of yourself as a “wing man” or “wing woman” and give the Partner the tools they need to create and massage those relationships.
1. Turn the Company Partners into Marketers
Partners are the people that can make the rounds in the field and having them up to speed on the ins-and-outs of marketing is crucial. Marketing professionals want a seat at the table and the only way we can ensure this is if we are providing actionable information to the people in charge. Make sure to share your marketing plans with everyone. This transparency will allow them to know who the targets are and helps them see the path you set, which helps with attaining goals. After sharing these plans, set up consistent meetings, essentially, make your own seat at the table so you can stay on top of changes and make recommendations in line with the plans.
2. Ask What Associations People Belong To—and then suggest ones they should belong to.
Once your target audiences are chosen, take a look at associations that the Partner can join that align with your goals. For instance, if your plan targets restaurants, look for a restaurant association. Basically, make sure you are setting the Partner up so they are networking with your desired targets.
If you are looking to make suggestions about which associations to join, make sure the association has a good reputation and offers a lot of bang for your buck. I like to follow associations on social media before committing to get a sense of how active they are and to see what types of content they post. Another good question is to see if the association allows you to submit content into their e-newsletters so members can get a glimpse of your area of expertise.
3. Create a List of Topics and Presenters
Another great way to promote thought leadership is to speak at different events. Whether you utilize the associations, partner with an influencer, or host your own event, having your Partner showcase their knowledge as a presenter will get people listening—and an in-person event gives people a chance to speak with your Partner live. I suggest creating a “speaker’s bureau” by having a few set topics with summaries on what your Partner can present. By having this document set, it will be easy to jump on speaking opportunities when they arise.
4. Know What Content Lives on Their Website—Or What Should Be There
I often find that people don’t even know what is housed on their company’s website. Most sites have content that showcase the knowledge of the company’s Partners or case studies to show how the company helped a client. As a marketer, you should know the website in and out and be able to make suggestions of how to use that content. For instance, if there is an article of interest to a potential client, suggest the Partner send a note and link to that article. If the company site isn’t up-to-date, make suggestions of hot topics that should be on there. There is also no harm in sending links from outside your site (as long as you don’t pass it off as your own). It just shows your prospect that you were thinking about them.
5. Utilize a Customer Relationship Management Database
Now that your Partner is going to be having all these “touch points” with clients and prospects, you need a way to track what’s going on and be able to deliver some analysis. A Customer Relationship Management database, or CRM, helps keep track of clients and prospects. This will help you, the marketer, be able to make better suggestions to the Partner. For instance, if you have the Partner’s “hot list” of contacts, you will be able to track how many times that person was contacted and with what information. This allows you to have better conversations with the Partner and make recommendations for their next touch point. The CRM can also integrate or be used in conjunction with email marketing software.
No matter where you work, make sure you have the right wing man/woman in place to help guide you in the right direction and stay on course. Remember, marketing a product is often about the features, but marketing a service is ultimately about the results.