May 9, 2017

Best advertising practices for professional service firms

If you are exploring new ways to take your professional service firm’s brand awareness, customer acquisition, or business development efforts to the next level, advertising is an essential and unavoidable piece of the marketing puzzle. That said, advertising is complex, with many options and factors at play that affect whether or not it’s a successful effort. In this post, we are going to take a look at best practices in professional services advertising today.

Defining your goals and budget

No matter what, it’s always best to begin with a clear sense of what you are hoping to accomplish. Your goals should be specific and measurable, because your advertising plan will be built around them. Here are some typical professional services business goals that advertising can support:

  • Increasing brand awareness in your local and surrounding communities
  • Gaining new clients
  • Promoting your competitive advantage to establish your positioning among competition
  • Building brand trust with current and future clients
  • Establishing your company as the expert in your field
  • Raise awareness about a particular event, product, or offer

As for setting your budget, there are different ways to determine what to invest in your advertisements for the year. The most common way to determine your budget is to use 2% to 5% of your annual revenue from the previous year. This gives you a set amount without making too much of a dent in your profits. Other companies will try to match their competition’s advertising budget or the industry standard.

  • Financial Industry Average: 1.5%-3% of annual revenue (EMI)
  • Legal Industry Average: 2.4%-2.8% of gross revenue (Law)
  • Healthcare Industry Average: >1% of hospital budget (AZ Central)

Build your advertising strategy around an ideal client profile

We recommend starting any advertising endeavor with a clear sense of who you are talking to and what their challenges are (that you are proposing you can solve). This will enable you to position your ad’s argument in the most compelling way possible. The best way to find this information is by developing an ideal client profile (learn how to build one here). Conducting an ideal client profile exercise can also help you determine where your target audience is most likely to encounter a message like yours, which can save you advertising dollars in the long-run by helping you stick to efficient, tightly run campaigns.

Identify what you are going to promote

Advertising can serve many purposes, as listed in the first set of bullet points above. You want to make sure you hone in on a particular message that is memorable, authentic, and consistent with your brand. If you are looking to just get the word out about what you do, be sure to first go through some exercises to clearly identify your differentiation factor, otherwise known as your competitive advantage, so you can be sure you are delivering a strong and truly noteworthy message.

Best practices for a clear message include one or more of the following:

  • Advertise something unique that only you can offer
  • Reveal your expertise on a particular matter
  • Include a direct call to action

Now we’ll get into the details. Advertising takes place digitally, in print, in video (displayed either digitally or on TV), or on the radio. Here are some best practices to keep in mind for each placement type.

Best practices for print

Traditional print ads are a good option for professional services that are looking to expand their brand awareness and reputation within their community, in an effort to become a top-of-mind business for their industry.

  • Choose newspapers and magazines that reach your ideal clients’ location and interests
  • Run your ad multiple times to increase recognition and impact
  • Around 13% of your advertising budget should be used in this category (eMarketer)
  • Create new customer surveys to track where they learned of your company

Best practices for digital advertising

Digital advertising is best for professional services that are looking to reach new clients, track and learn about who’s seeing their advertisements, and build a larger presence.

Today, 53% of consumers search for local businesses at least once a month instead of asking friends or family (Local Consumer Review Survey). With advertising opportunities like Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Google AdWords, and paid advertisements on social media and other websites, you are able to gain insight into the specific demographics of those who interact with your ads.

  • Target ideal clients based on demographics and interests
  • Choose websites your ideal client will visit
  • Around 38% of your advertising budget should be used in this category (eMarketer)
  • Focus on keywords that are particular to your business that your ideal client is likely to search

Best practices for television

For professional services that know the shows and stations their ideal clients prefer, television ads are a viable choice to increase brand awareness. The biggest concern with television advertising is the cost of production and running the advertisements. If your budget cannot afford a quality ad or ideal placements, it’s best to invest your money elsewhere.
  • Advertise on stations and time slots that your ideal client is watching
  • 35.8% of your advertising budget should go into television advertising (eMarketer)
  • Time social media posts along with the time your ads appear on TV
  • Make sure you can afford quality production for your advertisement
Best practices for radio
Radio advertising is ideal for call-to-action advertising, rather than just brand awareness. Since the ad relies on a listener recalling a thirty to sixty second ad, you want a clear, strong message that your ideal clients can remember and react to.
  • Advertise on radio stations that your ideal client is listening to, at a time where they are most likely commuting/driving
  • 7% of your advertising budget should go to radio advertising (eMarketer)
  • Run your ad multiple times to increase odds of listeners remember and reacting to your call to action
  • Create a straight forward and authentic message that listeners will enjoy and memorize

Creative: getting help with designing, writing, and implementing

No matter where you are displaying your ad campaign, it needs to look and sound awesome. The first rule for developing excellent creative is to make sure it is consistent. That doesn’t only mean consistent between the elements of the campaign, but consistent with the established visual identity of your brand, too. You want people who see one of your ads to recognize where it’s coming from, and link it in their minds to another encounter they had with your brand.

We recommend working with a professional designer, copywriter, or both, to bring your ads to life. The role of the creative is to capture, even if just for a moment, the audience’s attention and imagination, and create an impression. That is no easy task, and each platform requires a different approach. Overall, best practices for compelling professional service advertising creative include….

  • Staying consistent with the established visual identity of your brand
  • Using your established brand’s voice to convey a powerful new message
  • Including a clear call to action, telling the viewer what to do next

If you’re looking for a one-on-one conversation about taking the advertising strategy for your professional service brand to the next level, check out our free e-book on standing our from your competition through differentiation.



Branding, Design, Marketing