The Purpose or the Passion: The Why in Professional Services Marketing

Do people buy what you sell or do they buy why you sell it? When you consider purchasing a new computer what features do you seek? Reliability? Value for the money? Brand storytelling? What about when you seek out professional services? What criteria do you set for due diligence when this need arises?

Consumer computer markets are prolific with data on this topic. Brand storytellers abound in the market place, advertising is built on emotional stories, and consumers are inundated with genesis tales of college drops out toiling in their parents’ garages.

And yet, professional services marketing, a field all to often overlooked in the marketing game, relies almost exclusively on the why. Most consumers who find themselves with a need for professional services have a difficult time finding the right place to turn (Muniz & O’Guinn, 2001). Law, architecture, or engineering services can bare huge financial costs, and significant additional losses if the professional isn’t one. Therefore, an effective strategy for professional services marketing relies heavily on the why.

According to Simon Sinek (2009) the law of diffusion of innovation shows us that a small minority of individuals will seek out new services because they believe in the story that the brand tells the world. Sinek (2009) further argues that consumers are motivated by an entrepreneur’s passion and by the story that he tells. If this is true, how can we market professional services not with the service in mind but with the story in mind? An effective first step is to look to the potential client’s need and provide an elegant, cost-effective solution. To balance the client’s need and purpose with that of the professional—a lofty task indeed.

That challenge notwithstanding, marketers in these fields should look to leverage a professional’s passion and story to ensure the needs and mission of the client meet the needs and mission of the professional (Sykes, 2011). Professional service firms’ clients are often difficult to define as they typically are made up of public and private organizations and institutions with myriad decision makers and complicated hierarchies. But one thing is certain, professional services clients seek out the professional who believes in their purpose and seek to work with a professional who is passionate about their craft. In that rare crossroad, where a client’s enterprise problem aligns with a professional’s enterprise solution, marketers should seek to not only create but also to capture new value.


 Muniz, Jr, A. M., & O’Guinn, T. C. (2001). Brand community. Journal of                 Consumer Research, 27(4), 412-432. doi: 10.1086/319618

Sinek, S. (2009, September 10). Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action. [Video file]. Retrieved from

Sykes, A., K., (2011). What is competitive intelligence? Marketer, 30(6), 18-20.

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3 Responses to The Purpose or the Passion: The Why in Professional Services Marketing

  1. Natalie says:

    When thinking about marketing I often do not think to apply the “stories” to professional services – which is odd because I’m a Realtor. I generally market myself on expertise and less about me. I also do not see other Realtors putting too much personal information in their marketing.

    As I read your post it made me think of a lawyer in Reno who is a retired boxer. He uses that in his advertisements with the slogan “fighting for you” – I think this marketing tactic is pretty memorable:

  2. Graham says:

    Yessss! I love Simon Sinek!

    It was a geniune saddness, in fact, that he was not mentioned at all in this or any of the other courses throughout this program. To your point about customers – you’re dead right! – I think that when you have the “why” down it quickly tells you the types of people you should be working with – those who believe the same “why” or share the same purpose. As Sinek points out we follow those who lead because they inspire us with a dream we also share. The hard part is figuring out what our dream or our why is, sometimes. One of my biggest criticisms of this program at the end will probably be that we learned how to talk about what we do and how we do it but there wasn’t much attention given to crafting a purpose.

    Excellent work, sir!

  3. Avril says:

    What a thoughtful post, Johnny! I’m currently exploring Google Adwords for my organization’s professional development services. Honing in on why our target audience might be looking for MLT’s support will be crucial for identifying the right keywords. I think there’s also a lot to be said in mutual belief in the mission or purpose and vision of what the organization does to generate engagement and conversions. Quite enlightening.