One of the most frequent, albeit challenging, conversations I have with new client is the one about Results. For some reason, maybe connected to the prevalence of direct-response marketing ("Operators are standing by") the model they have in their minds is that you market, and you get clients. As Seth Godin points out in a recent post, it doesn't work that way.
Instead, it's often a process of trial and error, and of the slow, gradual accretion of effect, of relationships and of awareness. Marketing professional services isn't fishing -- it's not just tossing in your line, and waiting for a bite. It's more like fish farming -- you feed and nurture your contacts, until, over time, you begin to have something.
Which means -- ready? That there are time when you are going to fail. You are not going to get the results you wanted. Things are not going to to go the way you planned. Interestingly, these are often not epic failures -- real train wrecks are pretty rare. But what will happen is ... nothing much. The earth won't shake; the sky won't split open, but you don't get what you thought you would.
And that moment, right there, is your opportunity. When something doesn't seem to work, you have two options. Option One is to just decide that it doesn't work, stop the show, and have that be that. Option Two is to put some time and thought into why it didn't work, and to try something different, or see what lessons to be learned are present. But this means, first, accepting the possibility of failure.
Now, obviously, you don't just go out and do something stupid, that you know is not going to work. But the question for marketers isn't so much "will it work" as "How can we make it work better?" This is difficult for a lot of people to understand, much less, commit to. It goes directly against the grain of cause/effect that we are all taught from childhood is how the world works.
The reason for this is that ultimately, business development for professional services is about relationships, not transactions. Relationships take thought, and time, and commitment. They just do. As usual, Seth is right on the money.