Companies looking for inspiration, insights, and best practices often look to their competitive set. But there is even greater value in adopting a “peer set” philosophy. In order to market most effectively, you need to learn not only from companies in your industry, but from companies in other industries who are also targeting your exact clients. Your peers will teach you just as much—if not more—than your competitors.
One relevant peer set in professional services forms around large corporations serviced by large B2B companies. This peer set includes law firms, financial services firms, consulting firms, technology companies, and research firms.
All of these companies can learn from each other. Below, I share four insights that law firms and legal marketers can take from their professional services peers.
Financial Services: Wilmington Trust
Big banks like Wilmington Trust serve the world’s largest companies—some even are the world’s largest companies. These are complex businesses with global clients on the institutional side. They definitely share clients with top law firms.
Many of these financial services firms have both a consumer and an institutional side, so they are much more comfortable thinking about companies as consumers. Many of their internal marketers also service both sides of the business and have a keen understanding of their clients, big and small. These marketers know that even in B2B, you are dealing with humans making decisions.
One simple, but somewhat novel approach used by Wilmington Trust is writing in second person. Second-person language is standard for consumer sectors, but somewhat rare in professional services.
When Wilmington Trust speaks about “you” and “your wealth” in their About Us statement (“whether you are an individual, family, business owner, or corporation,”) it puts them immediately into a more personal relationship with their readers. They set a very different tone compared to law firms, who mostly talk about serving “our clients,” with the implication that you, the reader, are not included in that select group.
Consulting: Boston Consulting Group
Consulting firms envision themselves as the world’s best thinkers. They are hired guns that go in at all levels, from one-on-one CEO consulting all the way to large team facilitation, all the while understanding specific consumer segments and their actions. They produce a great deal of thought leadership, across a myriad of subjects, to reinforce their position in the market.
Most consulting firms pour so much of their partners’ time into authoring these white papers, and then post them with fairly generic stock artwork. For law firms, we see a similar pattern, where entire repositories of thought leadership are presented as a text list of article titles.
One thing that stands out about our long-term client BCG’s thought leadership platform is that we invest as much care and attention into the accompanying visuals as to the writing itself. After all, it’s not only what you say, but how you say it. Presentation of thought leadership has a direct impact on engagement and using an editorial approach to visuals and layouts encourages not only engagement, but a full read of the content.
There are a few key recruiting and retention pain points we hear regularly. The most crucial one is that hiring tech talent grows more challenging every year.
Companies like IBM are no longer the obvious choice amongst younger generations, so they are finding new ways to compete effectively. This is similar to law, where the top talent was once guaranteed to land at a top firm, but now may consider other career paths.
IBM’s Careers site does an interesting thing where they pair their “Meet IBM” page with a “Meet IBMers” page, showcasing individual employees accompanied by their own POV. This is an effective demonstration of two of the most important messaging pillars in recruiting: culture and benefit. These POVs address common questions: Who will I be working with, and are they like me? Will I fit into the culture? They also inform recruits what they will get from working there, besides money.
IBM is skillfully navigating many of the questions recruits have when job hunting. They are showing the range of people that work there, and showcasing their unique viewpoints, which is a great strategy for building a solid employer brand. IBM is letting their people articulate their employer value proposition for them.
Research Company: Gartner
I always take notice of how B2B companies group and organize their service on their websites and how they help users navigate those services. The distinctive principle that Gartner uses is putting “Solutions” at the top of their website navigation menu, ahead of “What We Do.” They not only have a full list of functional areas they serve, but then each functional area is further broken down into specific roles.
Clicking on a role then brings the user to a dedicated landing page, tailored just to that industry, function, and role. Gartner is taking the very broad business of “research and advisory” and using their site UX to help visitors self-guide their way through Gartner's role-specific services. It’s a level of personalization that law firms may miss out on when they simply provide a high-level list of industries they serve.
Each of these industries—financial services, consulting, technology, research, and law—share clients. And each of the companies cited have invested time and money to understand those clients. Understanding the unique ways in which they communicate, recruit, and market themselves could provide your firm valuable insight.
Only you will know which principles apply to your business. Reach out if you’d like to better understand your distinct peer set and where you should look to further your efforts.