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2019 Top 10 Professional Services Marketing Trends

Marketing Tools to Invest in This Year

Another year. Another digital revolution. Ingenuity’s team gathered the top 10 professional services marketing trends for you to stand out from your competitors in 2019.    

1. Personalization – 2019 is the year of YOU. Content creators are tailoring subject lines, calls to action (CTAs), headers, and, well, everything to speak directly to their readers. Make it about them, even in the images you choose for your website. 

We recently did an A/B subject line test for an email, with subject line A broad and general, “Great Ideas You May Have Missed,” and subject line B purposefully tailored towards our audience: “How You Can Gather Really Great Testimonials.” That positive, specific and personal shift led to subject line B performing much better than A. 

2. Google Business Listing – If your firm does not have a tailored Google Business listing yet, create it right now. A listing set up (and set up correctly) for each office location helps your overall Google ranking and acts as your online and mobile Yellow Pages. 

Use your 750-character description strategically to include key words and phrases about your services. 

3. The New Paid Social and Search – Notice the shift in how company pages are shown (or not shown) in feeds on LinkedIn and Facebook? This will make ad strategies even more important in 2019. Social advertising is a powerful B2B tool with robust capabilities to precisely target your audience and deliver a higher return on your ad investment. Plus, you can manage the budget and stay visible 24/7.  

In addition, Google Ads has expanded its features and targeting options to give you more opportunities to capture attention, drive traffic to meaningful content and generate leads. The key to effective paid social and search strategies lies in effectively identifying your target market and communicating how you solve their needs through attractive CTAs and meaningful, personalized content.  

4. Reviews – They are not going away. Surveys by Google and Bright Local have shown that people trust online reviews about the same as referrals from friends and family! Let’s not debate the logic of this. It’s an emotional factor that contributes to a prospect’s (or candidate’s) overall decision to contact your firm — or not. 

Invite your best clients to share their experience with your firm on these sites. Own your review page! Reinforce your review rankings with case studies and testimonials on your website.   

5. Motion Graphics and Video – Last year marked a big shift in motion design, with a greater emphasis on social content. Motion graphics offer clients a faster way to engage with your firm. It’s self-directed, too, which they (and we) love. 

In the same way, people crave video. Whether it’s a timely partner update, a live video forum or evergreen tutorials, video quickly communicates your brand personality. Make it a priority this year.   

6. Paid Content – Some media offer “communities” of professionals while others offer firms their own paid channel. You gain visibility from their media reputation (and SEO) as well as control of content. Getting followers is key. Make the articles and blogs valuable for your reader rather than self-promotional.

Continue to seek earned media opportunities, too, with your paid content channels serving as deep niche lead nurturers and website magnets. 

7. Design Simplicity – We like clean, uncluttered design in our hectic daily lives. With an emphasis on simplicity, your firm can improve conversion rates. As an example, CTA buttons will stand out better on a clean, uncluttered website layout. Visitors will identify relevant content faster, which makes your firm appear very service oriented and uncomplicated.

8. Logos – Tied to design simplicity, high-growth firms are rebranding with vibrant and clean logos. Add secondary colors and glyphs (symbols) that tell a story. Consider a client-focused tagline that communicates innovation. 

This firm’s rebrand transformed its growth in sales and new talent.

9. Personal Brands – Related to personalization, firm and industry leaders produce much more organic engagement than general firm or business social media pages. Include key leader social profiles into your social media posting strategy. Also, promote your experts on social through custom visual posts with their photo, personal details or key industry insights. Elevate your experts’ niche expertise through speaking, ghostwritten whitepapers and PR about their industry involvement. 

10. Talent Brands – Last but certainly not least, the value of communicating your firm’s core values and total rewards (defining what flexibility and autonomy mean along with compensation and benefits) help your firm shine with candidates who have a lot of choices. Create an internal branding strategy for recruiting and retention. We can help!

A bonus tip! Search Trends. 

It’s all about key phrases. With the evolution of voice search, phrases like “near me” and “where do I find” are a product of using digital assistants for search. Think about how you talk to Siri or Alexa, and frame your SEO to match that evolving consumer approach. 

Is your website optimized for leads? This firm is starting 2019 in style.

 

Digital Marketing for Brand Awareness and Lead Generation – Part II

Developing your Digital Marketing Toolbox – Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social Media  

Click here to read Part I: Websites

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Getting on top of search results organically is a process that requires strategy and patience. There are many ways to build an SEO-friendly website to provide better rankings on Google and other search engines.
 

  • Choose keywords that are unique to your business. Brainstorm these words and phrases in your website committee and make sure they are used frequently in your site content. Consider working with an SEO specialist to find keywords and phrases to get additional possibilities and performance forecasts.
  • Try to establish external links to your website. Have your company name posted on organization websites to which you belong, contribute articles to trade sites, and allow relevant websites to link directly to yours. Just having your company name listed on another website can help boost your ranking.
  • Update your content regularly. At Google, fresh content is a key factor in search rankings.
  • Develop page titles, descriptions and meta tags with your keywords in them. Meta tags are the words that show up at the top of each web page and the title and description show your audience what that page is all about when it shows up in search engine results.

Social Media

It’s no longer a matter of IF you are on social media platforms, but how well you do it. It has virtually become a requirement for firms to engage through social media. A good social media strategy can help you retain clients, find prospects and recruit talent by increasing brand awareness and building trust. Social media can also boost your online visibility and organic search rankings.
 
To build an effective social strategy, the first step it to determine which platforms your audience is on and what content will drive engagement with them. Just because a firm down the street is having success on Twitter it doesn’t mean that you will also have the same measure of success. It’s important to do a bit of research to see where your current clients and prospects are spending their time online.
 
Next determine the type of content you will provide through your social channels. Understand the needs and goals of your clients and prospects and show them how you can help them.
 
They key is not simply to look at social media as something you must to do, but as a powerful tool to help you achieve brand awareness and firm growth.


How to use Digital Marketing for Brand Awareness and Lead Generation – A Three-Part Series

Developing your Digital Marketing Toolbox – Website 

Digital marketing has evolved very quickly and it seems as if some new tool, platform or app is popping up every day. As soon as you feel like you understand how the digital landscape works, it changes and there’s something new to figure out once again. It’s no wonder that digital marketing has become a point of confusion and frustration for many professional service firms. 

Today, more than ever, your presence online and on social platforms makes a difference in how you are perceived and in your firm’s sales effectiveness. With so many firms and individuals online, it takes strategy and agility to stand out from the crowd. In this three-part blog series, we will tell you HOW to use digital marketing for professional services. First up: your firm’s website. 

Website

Firms that are operating on outdated web platforms or with old design templates are missing some critical opportunities. When referred to a new firm, many prospects go first to the website. When seeking a new job, candidates often head to the website to learn about the culture. An old website can do more harm to your firm’s image than ever before.

If your website looks staid, boring, and “template-like,” that one chance to make a great first impression is over. The key to great websites is to think through who will use it, how they will use it and how to communicate your services and unique culture and the value you bring.

Before you write one word or design one page, consider what you want your website to do based on how the audience will use it. Do you want it to speak primarily to prospects or recruits? Is it an information service for clients? Do you want to get leads from your website?

Making it pretty is not enough. Be clear about your target market and what you want to communicate to them. When we work with clients on a website, we like to establish some key messages about the firm that can act as a guide for content. This sets a tone and ensures that the firm’s website isn’t cookie cutter.

Read our blog post: Are you getting value from your website?

Writing copy for websites is different than writing for a proposal or marketing flier. Use a professional writer who has experience with websites, as well as one who understands your industry. Have that person write the sections that matter most: your Home Page, Services, About Us and key leader and staff bios. If you are having trouble recruiting, hire a writer to add some snap to your career pages. If your firm is moving into a specialized niche, work with a writer to develop key messages and web content that helps your firm rise above your competitors.

In our next blog post, learn how Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can help your website rank higher on Google and other search engines. 

Or, if you need help now, contact our digital marketing consultants.


Gain Value From Your Website

What role does your website play in marketing a professional service? A good website costs time and money. If you get all your new business from referral sources and satisfied clients, why should you invest in your website? Let us tell you.

What a business card was in the 90s, a website is now.
At a minimum, your website establishes that you are a “real” firm with solid expertise and a good team. Without a website, or with an outdated “90s brochure on the Web,” your prospects may mistake your firm for a smaller, weaker organization that does not move with the times. Old or missing information? You give an impression of disorganization and lack of attention to detail. You might even look too busy to take on more clients if you can’t get your website updated.

Our world of multiple referrals.
When an engineer, banker, lawyer or CPA gives a referral to another professional, they are more and more likely to refer more than one individual. Guess where the prospect goes when they have more than one referral to choose from? The Internet. For most professional service firms, the website’s primary strategy is to support referrals. The person with the best website — well-written, easy to navigate, mobile functionality, bios of leadership, clear strengths and differentiators, client testimonials — gets called first.

Bios are mission critical.
Leadership and team bios are almost always the first place people look to learn more about your firm online. Prospects are either searching for a specific person or determining if they might have good rapport with you. If your bio is stiff, full of dull achievements from years ago and your photo looks like you had it taken at the county license bureau, you will not get the first call. And if your bio isn’t even on your firm’s website? You just lost the race.

Your site sets up the prospect’s expectations.
If your website clearly gives your prospect the idea that you are up-to-date, savvy, interesting and have loads of expertise in the area where they need solutions, the expectation becomes that you are the “first choice.” If your website is ugly or even just basic, it sets up the expectation that you are the “B Squad.” 

Design and bells and whistles. 
While strategy should lead design, ugly design leads people to think your firm is bad. Average design leads to average expectations. Make sure your website looks good, is easy to navigate and a pleasant experience for users – these should be the least of your brand promises – that you are good, easy to work with and pleasant. Add an interesting blog, some podcasts, videos or interactive features and suddenly you are the market leader compared to most professional service firms. Have some outside people tell you about yourself based only on your website. Does anything about your website tell them you are interesting and experienced or do you give a generic impression? 

Your website is recruiting central.
Most people looking for jobs talk to their friends and look for jobs online. They are interested in your culture and how your website portrays the brand experience of your firm. A careers page that speaks to a youthful audience beyond benefits and job openings and “we’d like to meet you,” but instead portrays your firm as dynamic and interested in developing talent — that’s your goal.

Does your website need a review or refresh? Contact us.


The Value of Testing Marketing Technology

Are you using marketing technology that is aligned with your marketing strategy? Leah Spielman, marketing consultant at Ingenuity Marketing Group, shares the importance of using the right marketing tools and technology for your firm. Learn some of the things to look for when assessing marketing technology and how you can test it out before jumping all in with a product. Your technology should fit your needs and improve your marketing success.

Learn about Ingenuity’s digital marketing services


Developing your Niche

Speaking your Way into Niche Development

If you look at the history of any firm that dominates a niche market, you will often find this domination based on one or two people who have become authorities in that industry. Everyone in the industry knows that when you have certain kinds of problems you reach out to these people first. They are frequently quoted in the press about the industry, asked to speak at industry events and maintain a high profile with the local and national associations. 

A lot of firms are known for certain niches, but very few have gained exclusive recognition —  the household name for agribusiness accounting or the predominant architect for designing public buildings. As more firms work at niche marketing, it is going to get harder to gain that exclusive “rock star” kind of recognition.

Many smart and strategic firms remain at the most basic level of recognition, which is simply to remain visible. Your people show up, meet people, write articles and offer to speak. Your firm sponsors an event and advertises in the niche market newsletter or publication. If you are personally charismatic and connect well with people, this may be enough to gain some measure of recognition and exposure. If you are not, you had better add more marketing strategy and focus to your niche development.

See this media infographic on all the ways to gain niche visibility.

One effective tool to use when expanding a niche marketing strategy is public speaking. When you have a toehold in a niche, speaking is probably the easiest way to both gain the reputation as an expert and develop personal relationships in the niche.

If You Speak It, Own It

Doing a few “pretty good” speeches or being on a panel or two is not going to cut it. The competition is tough and you just have to be better. When Ingenuity helps someone get breakthrough recognition through speaking, we start with strategy and follow up with integrated implementation toward the goals.

You need a purpose. Most of our clients speak in order to develop business for their firms. That’s pretty generic. Decide on the true reason for your speaking — which services do you want to promote and why are you convinced that people need them? The best speakers have a passion for their topic. You need to authentically convey that passion and believe that you make a difference with what you share.

You need a goal. Start with your end clearly in mind or you will be giving away a lot of valuable information for free to people who may not care and may never buy your services. We have heard many CPAs, financial advisors and attorneys give away the store in their public speeches. Because they are trained to be experts, they tend to give away all their knowledge in the PowerPoint, leaving the audience with no appetite for more. Not that you should use a hard sales approach that never works. Instead, use a thoughtful approach to your topics and track your results. The data will show what works pretty quickly.

Create a list of organizations filled with the kinds of people who can buy your services.  Find out when these organizations have conferences, what they are looking for and how their speaking decisions are made. Decide which audiences you will charge a fee to and which you will not, as well as how you will develop leads from speaking. If the organization allows, pass out an evaluation form to qualify leads.  If not, be creative and add a landing page with a survey or information that would be valuable for them to fill out a form and receive more detail.

You need packaging. A great photo, a speaker bio and a list of topics and audiences will help you sell yourself to groups of people who do not know you. You need a great package with compelling topics in order to get in front of the decision makers you want.

A speaking coach can smooth away your nervous tics, train you to take off your nametag and shorten your PowerPoint, and most importantly help you create something dynamic and unique for your audience. If your speaking style is shaky, you might need to invest six months at Toastmasters. Tape your speeches and make yourself watch them for improvement.

You need a platform. Start pitching tidbits of fresh information and ideas from the services you most want to sell and/or are passionate about. This needs to be done regularly as many organizations are staffed by volunteers who may take a while to make decisions. Your topics should touch on key areas of pain the niche audience experiences rather than creating a platform outlining the services of your firm. Address the needs of your audience, provide insight on industry trends and offer a limited sample of recommendations and solutions that tie to your services.

Platforms are the subtle art of public speaking. Your goal is new business, but your platform is about showcasing your knowledge and awareness of audience needs and potential solutions. Through your visibility and credibility as a smart and informed speaker, you’re on your way to developing your niche in a sustainable way.

Get help with your speaking and niche market development.


Testimonials build brand confidence

How to Make Testimonials Part of Your Marketing Strategy

Most professional service marketers have heard the old adage, “People buy with emotion and justify their decisions with logic.”  And yet, many professionals who sell an intangible service don’t know which emotions they are provoking and why anyone buys from them.  

Why do people buy from you? 

Quality service emerges as a compelling reason why professionals believe their clients buy from them. Interestingly, we have discovered that what signifies quality to a practitioner and what signifies quality to clients are often two different things. Professionals tend to focus on professional designations and internal process as measures of quality. Clients tend to focus on timeliness, impact, proactive communication and relationships.

The way to find out why your clients buy from you is to ask them. One of the first things we do with any new client is to call up some of their customers and have a good chat. We ask why they chose you, what they would say about you to a friend, if they would refer you to others, what you are best at and how you can improve. We ask them if they have worked with other firms in your field and what those experiences were like. We ask them how long they have worked with your firm and if they have ever considered switching.

Are your clients considering another service provider? Listen to our webinar to find out: Boosting Your Net Promoter Score.

At the end we have a transcript of the conversation and some juicy sound or word bites you can use on your website or in proposals. This gives you the opportunity to clearly understand your value proposition (sales-speak for what makes you unique and why people should buy from you). Your value proposition tells you how your clients feel about you. The conversation with your clients also gives you a chance to address any issues before they consider leaving.

Testimonials not only explain your unique-ness to the world in an independent voice, but they also build your confidence by taking a minute to bask in all those wonderful compliments. Every professional, and every firm, needs such affirmation to help strengthen conviction in the brand and value proposition. It makes you understand why you go to work every day, too! 

Practical Testimonial Writing

We have learned some best practices over the years, as well as a few things to avoid when undertaking a testimonial-gathering effort.

Here is our checklist for curating high-quality testimonials:

  • Consider using an outside party who is good at drawing people out. Your clients will tell you that you are “great” but “great” is hardly compelling sales copy. They will be more expressive with someone they do not know. Make sure your interviewer has done this before; it is an art to draw people out and get the language that persuades.
  • Tell your clients who will be calling them and why. A heads-up from you means they will be much more comfortable with the interviewer.
  • Always use the telephone or in-person interviews. If you ask folks to write a letter, the letter will almost always be stiff and formal. Again, that’s not compelling copy. When you interview them, you have the chance to craft the words. Clients appreciate word crafting as long as it’s still accurate to the tone of their experience. 
  • Craft a variety of testimonial quotes for use in your promotional campaigns.
  • Send each quote you might ever consider using to the client and get approval. Make sure they know it may be used on your website, media releases, proposals and for a variety of promotional uses. A testimonial template is helpful in this process for written documentation of their approval.
  • Whenever possible, use the person’s full name, title, and company. “Pat Z. in Wisconsin” sounds like a late night, diet-aid commercial. “Patrick Zuber, President, HealthCore Company, Madison, Wisconsin” is more credible.  
  • Keep a file of testimonial approvals for future reference as you develop marketing materials and campaigns. 
  • Send a copy of brochures or newsletters where the quote is used to the client. Most people like seeing their name in print.


Read This Final Referral Tip

One huge advantage of a persuasive testimonial is something called the second person referral effect. Most people choose professional service providers from personal referral — in other words, a referral from someone they know and trust. A testimonial is from someone your prospect may not know. However, this stranger does know you and is willing to brag about the intangible — how it feels to buy from you — in print. While not as powerful as a personal referral, it carries more weight than you saying the same thing.
Finally, if your brochure claims your service is wonderful, it probably sounds to readers like common advertising fluff. If a real person testifies in detail about how it feels to work with you, the resulting impact will be much more persuasive. Having a file full of testimonials will enhance the quality of all your promotional material. Of course, testimonials also help you understand just why people buy from you. Plus, these tales of loyalty will help you build confidence to go out there and tell your story.

Want more tips for powerful brand differentiation? Get your free Storytelling Guide.


Gain Recognition for your Niche

10 Ideas to Maximize Your Niche Marketing Strategy

You’ve identified your niche market, now how do you gain more exposure to that audience? Perhaps you have a few thoughts on a marketing strategy, but aren’t quite sure how to implement the plan. Here are 10 ways to become a recognized advisor in your niche market.

  1. Be Visible. Join trade associations, sponsor events and take leadership roles if possible. Learn how to effectively connect with professionals and speak to their pain, interests and desires. A little practice goes a long way.
  2. Speak. Pursue opportunities to participate in round-table discussions and speak at industry events. Proactively take part seminars and panel discussions at industry associations.
  3. Write. Submit articles to industry publications and the general media. Make sure your photo, biography, and contact information are included.
  4. Get Covered. Identify your firm as experts in your niche industry to the media and let them know that you are available for interviews and expert advice on topics within your niche.
  5. Network. Build rapport with vendors and related professionals in your niche. If you are a CPA, meet all the lawyers, bankers, insurance agents and other vendors who work in the niche.

Don’t leave your niche marketing strategy to chance. Align strategies with your brand positioning and the key messages of your firm.

  1. Train. Host training sessions or conferences for clients related to your niche services. Better yet, offer to speak or present if they are in need of your expertise.
  2. Publish. Be seen as an authority by creating niche newsletters or guides that offer tips and advice to clients.
  3. Model. Research what other firms are doing and adopt similar strategies. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but don’t overdo it. Modeling a similar strategy doesn’t mean you can’t infuse your firm’s culture and personality into it.
  4. Read. Stay up to date on industry news to understand client needs and challenges. Share your learning and impart your newfound wisdom to others in the firm through email or connect at lunch.
  5. Perform. Do a great job for current clients so they sing your praises. Take that one step further by obtaining testimonials and case studies about the difference you have made for your clients that you can share in your niche marketing materials.

Four Steps to Take to Align your Brand Across Multiple Markets

Is your firm struggling in other markets? Does your brand awareness seem to fall flat in some markets but thrive in others? Dawn Wagenaar, principal at Ingenuity Marketing Group, shares four steps to take to align your brand strategy across multiple markets. Learn brand positioning best practices for your firm, how to assess your competition and where you may have some gaps in your current positioning. Implement these steps to better align your brand across multiple markets.


Niche Marketing Strategy Must Go Deeper Than Before

How to Grow Your Niche Market 

As your firm becomes known for a niche industry or service, you rise above the competition and are hired for that knowledge and your connections. The niche becomes part of your brand.

Niches can also attract and retain talented young professionals for the partner track.

For example, one of our accounting clients has built two-thirds of the firm’s practice in government consulting, a deep niche that is attracting non-CPAs with health care backgrounds as well as accountants. Another client focuses exclusively on pharmacies, and now has a national market. Yet another client has success with a large niche in buy here pay here auto dealerships that has contributed to double-digit firm revenue growth. 

From these examples, it’s clear that niche development is going deeper than before, requiring a focused niche marketing strategy to stay visible to a narrower audience. 

How to Deepen Your Niche Market

Which clients do you already serve in an industry? Can you grow a deeper niche for which you are better known than any competitor? Can the niche expand nationally?

You have to discern if the niche is sustainable as a growth industry, the level of competition and the potential to gain a significant portion of the market without being the lowest cost provider. Market research goes a long way toward defining your true niches. 

For AEC clients, we have done market research for specific cities as well as for subspecialties that range from senior housing to urban redevelopment. Check out our range of research capabilities.

If you don’t yet have a niche or if your firm is small, you can still develop a narrower niche within an industry. One professional services firm exploring new opportunities in manufacturing started to focus just on software developers because of the number of those firms in its region and the fact that no other comparable firms served them. It had a few clients and knowledgeable staff and was able to grow the niche through referrals and strategic marketing.  

Create a Firm Within a Firm

Speaking of your niche team, select someone as the lead or spokesperson who has the respect of other partners and can facilitate niche objectives. Organize the team like a company within a company. Build in administrative and marketing support, job descriptions, a budget, and incentives for participation. 

Ideally, you want a mix of established and new staff on the team to fuel ideas and momentum. Without this organization and commitment to growth, team members can be pulled in other directions — lacking time for focused business development and niche client services expansion. 

Choose Your Messages

Work with the niche team to identify its value proposition. Why do you service the clients exceptionally well? Why is your experience important to their everyday business? Decide what sets your firm apart in this area and what values and expectations you want people to associate with your team.

Helpful hint: To support niche visibility, your online presence should look like the people and industry that you serve. Update your images and messaging to speak to their pains, interests and desires. 

One of our clients recently asked us to develop team member bios that reflect their niche-specific experience. These bios can be used on the website as well as in proposals, presentations and speaking engagements to create more niche visibility and growth.    Other firms develop partner-marketing events and send out industry briefs to inform niche clients and potential clients about their knowledge.   

Remember that niche market development is not a rapid process. It can take years to establish your expertise. Make sure when identifying a deeper niche that it has internal champions with established industry connections and knowledge, a target market with growth potential, and synergy with your firm’s vision.

See how we worked with one firm to update their online presence to reflect their niches.