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When a consumer buys a product, he has a number of ways to evaluate the product. He can taste it, touch it, take it for a test drive and return it if he doesnt like it. Moreover, when he buys the product, he takes control over it.

But when that same consumer buys a professional service, such as yours, he buys something invisible and intangible. He buys it from someone he may not know. He buys in a field he does not understand andworst of all, instead of taking control, as he does with any other producthe is handing over control in an area of vital interest to his life.

That means establishing a trusting relationship is the key objective in marketing professional services. Nothing will establish that trust more than credibility. And nothing will give you credibility like being an authority.

To position yourself as an “expert” and to enhance your credibility, there are a number of things you must do. Some of these items can be found in the list on this page.

Telling you how to do all these things would require a book, and there are plenty of them out there. I wont go into those techniques here.

I will tell you, however, what separates the marketing amateurs from the pros: Its the ability to leverage their public relations.

What does this mean?

Lets say you have an invitation to speak at the local Kiwanis or an investment clubor are giving your own seminar. Typically, you will give your presentation and the 25 or so people who are present will, we hope, be suitably impressed. You might get some business out of it, and a couple of them might even tell their friends about youand thats that.

But what if you took this a step further?

Heres what the marketing professional does. First, go to the yellow pages and look for a video-taping service. You often can find them under Wedding Photographers. Find out how much they will charge you to digitally record your presentation. A typical fee might be $250 to $500. (Too much? Get your brother-in-law to come with his tripod and his camcorder. Obviously, its better to have a professional, but do what you can.) Hire them.

After the presentation, take your recording to someone who does video post-production. Work with this person to edit your presentation down to about 7 minutes, highlighting the parts where you were most impressive or where your audience was most responsive (laughter, applause?). Insert title cards, transitions, maybe even some music. At the end, be sure to include information on how to contact you. This will cost you between $500 and $1,000.

Now, have the studio give you your presentation on a CD (DVDs are more expensive and will hold much more information, but this is not necessary). Take the CD to your office and download the file onto your hard drive. Now you are set to burn a copy of this 7-minute clip anytime you like. Not computer savvy? Just have the production studio make 100 copies for you. The CDs cost pennies apiece.

Next, hire a graphic designer to create the worlds most wonderful CD label for you. Do not use your brother-in-law for this one. Remember, in marketing, the package is the product. This might cost you $150 or so. The label should not be generic. It should use a strong graphic element (maybe your photo). Print the labels on your printer and apply them to your CDs. Put them in clear jewel cases.

Send this file to your Webmaster to include as streaming video on your Web site.

Next, if you regularly give seminars, have the streaming video playing on a continuous loop as people file into the room to take their seats.

Now, create a “press kit” (the CD, plus your bio, plus anything else you want to include) in an attractive folder, and send it to anyplace or anyone who might have a speaking opportunity for you.

Finally, go to your office supply store and buy a Lucite stand for about $15 and put your CDs in your office lobby.

As you can see, you have now spent $1,500 to $2,000, but you have taken a simple speaking engagement and turned it into a powerful marketing tool that has multiple uses and can be used for years to come.

Lets consider a second example. Lets say that you have managed to publish an article, either in your local newspaper or in a professional journal, or onlineanywhere.

The marketing amateur feels a rosy glow and hopes that someone will see his or her article.

The marketing pro leverages the article many times over. For example, the first thing to do is order a large quantity of reprints of the article. Send them out with all your communications (letters, invoices, newsletter, etc.). Put them on a stand in your office lobby. Post the article, or a link to it, on your Web site (obviously with the publishers permission). Frame the article and put it on the wall of your conference room or office. Include it in your press kit. Send it to other publications to generate other publishing opportunities. Send it to editors and reporters, and indicate your willingness to be quoted as an expert.

These same principles apply to any aspect of your public relations. It isnt so much the event itself, as what you do with it after that will determine how powerful the effect will be.

Heres one final reminder: The importance of this kind of effort is not so much the number of new clients it will generate, but rather the way it will reinforce your potential clients buying decision. When clients are struggling with the situation described aboveone in which they have no expertise and are being asked to buy something invisible from someone they dont knowthe credibility you have as an “expert” can make all the difference.

is president of Smart Marketing, Naples, Fla., a consulting firm that specializes in working with financial services professionals. He can be reached at Mark@smartmarketingnow.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, January 2, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.