Service businesses are funny things sometimes. Clients tend to pigeonhole your service firm based on what service you first performed for them. They rarely actually read the literature you leave behind, especially if it’s a referral, and they usually don’t go back and search it when another type of job arises, no matter how closely related to the first. So your first impression, your first engagement and your referrals tend to shape your brand for you in the customer’s mind, unless you steer it, expand it and broaden it on an almost continual basis.
It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially for smaller firms, who may appear more limited than they are. I’m no exception to this unfortunately, although I try and avoid it if I can. I have one customer who only thinks of me in connection with trade show displays, because that was the first part of a multi-faceted strategy we recommended for them when entering into a new vertical market. Not that she doesn’t KNOW we offer a full range of marketing services, from strategic planning out to campaign execution and executive guidance, it’s just that I don’t reside in that part of her brain and I’m not connected to her other needs in a way that immediately comes to mind when they arise – I have to make a concerted effort to “remind” her that we are a full-service firm, so that we get connected in that way.
How many of your customers or internal clients only think of you when they need or have a question about a very narrow range of elements, the one you did for them last, or first? It’s something you might want to explore, and you can test it pretty easily: Call them up and ask “Do you know that we also offer . . .” and see what the response is. Call under the auspices of keeping in touch, a good thing regardless, but hunt for that specific piece of data during the conversation. You might be surprised by the result.
It may seem strange, but that’s just how the brain works – humans learned to survive by recognizing and remembering patterns, and noticing anything that breaks the pattern, like sensing movement in the brush created by a prey animal. Once a pattern is established, ala your firm performing a certain service, that pattern is retained and it’s difficult to change that perception.
Here’s the fix: broaden your marketing efforts. Don’t go against brand, in fact if you’re a multi-service firm, this will strengthen that tenet of your brand. But highlight a different angle, a different aspect or subgroup of your offerings in a series of marketing launches – it’s like baiting a fishing line with different baits at different parts of the line – you increase the odds of catching something from the same pond. Even if you think you only offer one thing, and one of your brand characteristics is that you do one thing and do it the best of anyone, there are still different angles and facets of that “one thing” that you can use to “bait the hook” with. Try it, see if you don’t get the phone ringing with new business from old clients who “Didn’t know you offered that”.
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