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Word of mouth: Marketing strategy for IT consultants?

Believe it or not, some IT consultants and firms are relying solely on word of mouth and referrals to market their services. The strategy seems to be working—saving the companies money and improving their performance.

When most people think about promotion and marketing strategies, they usually think of events, print ads, or TV commercials. However, some in the IT industry are taking a different approach in marketing their services: word of mouth. But how can you be successful just by getting “good buzz?”

Depending on referrals
Most consultants or consultant firms have an individual strategy or marketing model for their services. These models address issues such as:
  • How do we market our product or service?
  • Do we rely on referrals and word of mouth?
  • Do we have clients seek us out?
  • Do we advertise?
  • What media outlets should we use?
  • How will we reach our target market?

Despite the range of options, it seems as though word of mouth and referrals are the marketing strategy of choice for some IT consultants and firms. Black & Veatch, an Overland Park, KS-based IT services firm, relies solely on its client base for its sales and marketing force. “We have absolutely zero paid advertising,” said Dean Kothman, chief marketing development officer of BVSG.

Depending on referrals and word of mouth advertising to generate new business motivates any professional to do his or her best work, experts report. “Word of mouth has become an equal force with such traditional marketing tools as media advertising, public relations, and product presentation in the sale of all goods and services,” says the Americas Book Group. “It is the most effective, least expensive marketing tool available.” Although referrals and recommendations are free, they do not come completely without a price. Consultants must strive harder to do their best work. “Everything is based on reputation,” said Kothman. “We are very motivated to deliver here.”

Picking and choosing clients
One of the main reasons that this primitive approach works well when compared to the more elaborate ad campaigns is because, at present, there is a huge demand for IT services. Clients need to automate their business and in turn they are seeking out consultants. “The phone rings very often,” says Bob Lapides, vice president of market transformation for Razorfish, an IT solutions provider with offices in the United States and Europe. “People who have heard about us and the projects we have done are soliciting us for business.”

Consultants have to pick and choose the projects to undertake because of the tremendous amount of work available. Some consultant firms examine the long-range effects of a project and whether it will be beneficial to their reputation before they accept the project. “We need to be very selective to make sure the company is aligned with our strategies and vision,” said Lapides.

With the word-of-mouth marketing model, consultants are more apt to accept work that they anticipate will be successfully carried out. “We do not take on a project that we cannot perform,” said Kothman.

Word of mouth and branding in the IT world focus on name recognition. Consultant firms want potential clients to have already heard of their business and all the successful projects they have completed for others. “We use brand advertising that talks about the values of our company to attract clients as well as potential employees,” said Lapides.
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