We are often asked about how technology can be used to measure and improve marketing success for our clients. One thing to know is that there are A LOT of tools out there for whatever it is you need a technology solution for. It is important to do your research to figure out which tool meets your needs.
1. Assess your needs
A tool may offer 10 different functions but if you only need two try to find a better fitting tool so that you are only paying for what you will use. A client recently asked us which tool they should implement to support their SEO strategies. They were ready to buy a significant subscription for a program that would have given them more information than they would have been able to use. We recommended that they use the free Google SEO tools they already had in place and trained their employees on how to find the information that is important to them. This solution will truly serve their needs and in turn, save the firm money.
2. Test the free versions first
Some tools offer free and paid versions. The free version is a good way to test it out but most of the time, the paid version offers additional features that are worth the money. One area we get many questions about is social media tools. There are a lot of technology options out there for social media campaign scheduling. One specific tool, Hootsuite, has a ton of additional features in their paid version that make scheduling and managing your content much easier. One of our clients uses the paid version and we can upload the content for the month at one time in a spreadsheet, adjust the posts visually on a calendar and have an unlimited amount of content and accounts we can share to.
3. Understand your Firm’s Goals
Business development is a top-of-mind issue for many firms right now, especially with unnecessary travel suspended and in-person meetings minimized. Many professional services firms and associations are looking to optimize their email marketing strategies and employing efforts to improve their email contact lists. A robust CRM can track and rate leads and allows you to develop nurturing sequences that keep you in front of clients and prospects. Before building this out, resources need to be developed and the sequences planned. Get input from your top leaders and be sure that you test your sequence within your team before sending it out so that when you do, you are putting your best foot forward. A good CRM can help a firm or association identify potential leads that engage with content but weren’t on the radar previously.
Implementing, analyzing and optimizing technology solutions can be an overwhelming endeavor. Keeping your goals in mind will help you make the best decisions on which tools will serve you best and help you stay on track during the planning and implementation.
The last couple months have likely put your well-planned marketing strategies and social media campaign into a tailspin. Organizations are needing to adjust strategy into crisis communication mode in order to distribute relevant information to their clients and prospects and that has left little time to implement already planned content.
Even in a crisis, we recommend that our clients continue to produce blogs and videos about their core services, industries and niches. This is so they optimize their SEO strategy and do not lose ground by putting these efforts on the back burner. However, how this content gets distributed in a crisis situation is what changes significantly.
Not all your content needs to be new or original. Some real gems can be found in your older content and as a result, save you time. With a fresh update and some relevant examples, the old can be polished up and become new again. Read about this and other ways to repurpose your content.
When you are in the midst of a crisis, how you position your messaging may need to be put under a new lens, especially when it comes to your social media. The same blog post can still be used while simply changing the social media post and explaining the relevance to the situation. Here’s how we would write a social post during a crisis situation about the same blog post:
In the midst of a crisis, you’re likely scrambling to get urgent messages out to your clients, prospects and employees. You don’t have time to create new content but know that your SEO strategy still needs to be implemented. To keep moving forward, look no further than older, still relevant content to save time.
Here are some tips to keep in mind for your social media messaging and content distribution during a crisis:
Be intentional about your messaging. Always make social media posts relevant to your audience. This is even more critical during a crisis. How does the information you are providing pertain to the current situation and help them solve their problems?
Don’t promote your services, industries and niches in an obvious way. Always look for how it helps your clients and prospects and approach your social posts with a proactive message. How does what you offer help them?
Use a personal, human touch. Relate to your audience and personalize your messages so they feel like they connect to your brand. Show that you truly care about them as an individual.
Be sensitive to how your message can be perceived. Run your social media posts by a few people that you can trust to provide you with honest feedback.
It’s best to err on the side of caution, even if that means you are posting less frequently. This is not the time to move forward and ask for forgiveness later. There are plenty of examples of social media mishaps that have affected brands negatively. Coming back from a brand messaging snafu isn’t easy.
Create a plan for the next time you need to respond urgently or adjust your message. Many organizations were caught off-guard and didn’t postpone scheduled social media posts or were slow to adjust their messaging. Crisis comes in many forms so evaluate the lessons learned and prepare for how you will respond in different scenarios in the future.
You may be developing lots of content right now in order to maintain your SEO strategy and may not be able to promote it as much, or at all. Take heart, once things start to level off, you’ll have a gold mine of content to promote on social media and it will still be new to your audience.
A crisis can last for a few hours…or a few months. The effects can linger for years.
One common issue in crisis is that people have a tendency to overreact. They may run headlong into the storm or they may freeze. It’s important during these times to have people around who have the strength to step back, assess and develop an objective plan that avoids further crisis.
With that in mind, do you have a go-to ghostwriter?
We’ve all been there…figuring out how to communicate complex topics in a way that gets prospects to understand and trust and take action. We also know amazing subject matter experts who are great at their work, but admittedly not so great at explaining how their work helps clients.
Even professionals who like writing need a good ghostwriter to validate if their work is
Too technical for the average client;
Too long or short for the average blog; or
Too informational with no guidance for the reader to take action.
How about adding search engine keywords and meta descriptions so that visitors can find that great content? Well, that part takes some professional practice and skill, not to mention research to identify the ideal keywords for your firm.
You might assume that marketing specialists or managers are integral to maximizing your content. But in a crisis? An outside perspective can calm everybody’s nerves and get to the heart of your message. Meanwhile, your internal teams can focus more closely on the logistics of sharing, posting and following up on your content and crisis communications. Responding to questions in a crisis is job number one once people get the information they need.
Why Do I Need a Ghostwriter Now?
If you have never considered a ghostwriter relationship before a crisis, it may be the perfect time to build a relationship now. Here are the reasons our clients have told us that ghostwriting is central to their crisis communications planning and ongoing content marketing strategies.
• Objective third party to view their content and provide efficient editing
• Identify content opportunities that subject matter experts (SMEs) may not see
• Maximize the SME’s time through interview, drafting and editing
• Consulting on what is truly “news” to business and trade media
• Identifying content that can be used in multiple ways (blog, social, PR)
• Evergreen writing that doesn’t get stale after a month
• Seamless addition of SEO keywords into copy and descriptions of content
• Recommendations for companion eblast copy and social posts
• Knowledge of the industry to develop relevant content for your audience
• Research skills to add context and “why it’s important.”
• Calls to action for marketing purposes and relevant links
When you have the right ghostwriter relationship for your content marketing strategy, you can adapt your marketing plan faster and gain context for what is happening across the industry. Since ghostwriters work with all kinds of clients, you can leverage their knowledge to help your firm write and publish content like the pros that you are!
Have you ever gotten an email that starts with, “Hello Tish!” but that’s not your name?
It’s just one example of content marketing gone wrong. You’ve probably seen the results of inappropriate content marketing in your own inbox and social channels.
Messaging that seems too sales-oriented or untimely
Email greetings with the wrong names
Generic product pitches to anyone but you
Spammy, scammy, opportunistic noise
We know that you work hard to make content relevant to your audience. In fact, during a crisis or major shift in the market, you absolutely have to. Smart professionals like you know when to step back, turn off the automated campaigns, pause digital ads and stop pre-scheduled social calendars…and think.
What needs to change now that things have changed?
Well, Tish, let’s dish on these very real challenges:
Anticipated marketing is canceled
Staffing and budgeting are reallocated
Planning is happening in quick bursts of real time
We’re all for digital marketing automation at Ingenuity, but real time marketing requires a human to intervene on quality control and think about the other humans receiving your content…especially when those humans are living with evolving stress and maybe even decision paralysis.
Recognize the Team and Regroup
Our consultants often participate in telemeetings and video calls with other professional service providers and marketers within accounting and financial services, engineering and associations. Each industry has its own unique challenges, but the one thing these professionals all appreciate is an acknowledgement that they are doing the best they can under strange or changing circumstances.
That’s what crisis communications is about. It’s not normal. It’s rarely fun except for certain adrenaline junkies…and even they need a nap sometimes. In crisis, most people seek a place of calm.
Therefore, the healthiest thing to do in a rapidly changing market is to focus on what you can do.
Go back to the drawing board. Look at your current content assets and your helpful outsourced relationships. Look at your calendar and team. Identify your role going forward in communications and content marketing. Are you best at:
Research and analysis? Writing and editing? Strategy and logistics? Team dynamics?
Use those strengths to establish daily, then weekly, then biweekly, then monthly, then quarterly priorities until the crisis eases. But realize that an annual marketing plan may no longer fit your market or even the world. And while content marketing can be automated for efficiency, it needs surveillance and measurement monthly to stay relevant.
To help you regain a foothold, here are tips for both marketers and business developers to launch content marketing and communications activities with renewed energy and enthusiasm…in any environment or crisis.
For Content Marketing and Communications
Manage the message (go personal and empathetic, but avoid trite phrases)
Establish priorities (mobilize teams based on strengths)
Anticipate short-term and long-term (weekly triage; quarterly review of tactics)
Ideate on alternatives (external and internal communications)
Stay on top of trends (what will the future look like?)
Strengthen media relationships (media training anyone?)
Build in efficient processes (e.g. online networking tutorials)
Acknowledge and publicize early wins (to build influence and team motivation)
Share stories of client success (like, always)
For Professional Business Development
Reach out (current and past clients/prospects)
Oversee web queries (direct queries to your email)
Help your referral sources (clarify your prospects and get clarity on theirs)
Work closely with marketing (triage and quarterly planning)
Identify new sources of revenue (what is emerging for top line?)
Send handwritten notes (appreciate and connect)
Stay connected to trade groups (serve and attend calls)
Social network (increase connections; send messages; endorsements)
Professionals who do this now are the best equipped to manage a long game of change for their organizations. They will also be viewed as valuable and influential — something that every professional executive team needs to recognize now about their marketing.
Don’t stop marketing! Prepare refreshed and relevant marketing, and then act when the time is right.
And for Pete’s sake, update and segment your email lists so that Pete isn’t called Tish anymore. Respect the prospect.
A solid content marketing strategy shouldn’t simply revolve around creating a content calendar with a list of to-dos. It should align with the goals your professional services firm has identified for growth and utilize digital marketing resources that help you connect with your clients and prospects. A few things you want to consider when developing your content strategy include:
Utilize a variety of content mediums – Your audience is comprised of unique individuals who all consume content in different ways. Some prefer reading a blog post while others may prefer watching a video or reviewing an infographic. A varied content strategy will ensure that you are providing the types of content that will resonate with more than one segment of your audience.
Set goals for your content – How does your content align with your firm goals for lead generation and growth? By understanding this, you can create more effective content that resonates with your clients and prospects.
Determine what success looks like – Perhaps success is a certain number of leads coming from your website. It could be the number of views your video receives or the number of new email sign-ups you receive each month. Establish what KPIs are important for you and then measure them on a regular basis so you can determine if you are meeting your goals and how you can optimize your efforts for greater success.
Maximize your content – You can use your content more than once and in more than one way by repurposing or updating old content. You can update older content or you can convert content from one format to another.
Vary Your Content
There’s an incredible variety of content that can be created today. Blogs, video, podcasts, infographics, market and industry reports and whitepapers are just a few examples of what types of content can be used in your firm’s strategy. Because every individual consumes content differently, it’s important that your content marketing plan includes a variety while still producing what is authentic for your firm.
We have worked with some clients who find great success through video content, while others connect better with their clients and prospects through their blogs and whitepapers. Your firm should focus on creating content that resonates best with your own clients and ideal prospects and not worry about jumping on the latest trends, even if your competitors are doing it
If you find that you don’t have any individuals at your firm who want to be the subject matter expert in a video, this is an area you could outsource. Write a script and hire talent to be in front of the camera delivering your message. Or perhaps the individual would be more comfortable having a recorded conversation that is produced as a podcast. Play to the strengths of your firm leaders and employees to develop the best content that’s authentic to your firm.
Maximizing the Usefulness of Your Content
Many professional services firms fall into the thinking that they have to be constantly churning out new content. This creates an overwhelming feeling that can lead to abandoning a content marketing plan. In reality, much of your content can be used more than once and in more than one way.
Of course, some content may be considered timely if your firm is addressing recent tax law changes or legislation that affects clients in specific industries. However, there’s a lot of content that falls under what we call “evergreen.” This is the type of content that remains relevant for months and even years. It can be easily updated and republished.
Rewrite or update older content – Dig back into your content that’s two or more years old to decide what information is still largely relevant and how it can be updated and republished for your audience. You have valuable insights that don’t lose their value simply because it’s older information.
Repurpose and revise formats – Perhaps you have a video that can be repurposed into a blog or vice versa. We’ve done this often at Ingenuity. While we don’t actively promote videos of former employees, it is still great content that our audience finds valuable. We repurpose that content as a blog post. With a little editing, the subject can quickly be revised and updated. This provides us with not only new content for our audience, but it provides us with SEO on our website and three to five social media posts.
A well-devised content marketing strategy can help foster loyalty and create new opportunities for growth in your professional services firm. Start with the steps we outlined above to get started in creating a sustainable strategy. If you need assistance creating content, hiring a professional ghostwriter can free you up to serve your clients while providing you with researched and well-written content.
When you have a gap in your marketing, it simply means that you have a group of prospects who have not yet converted to becoming a client – they are not buying your services. These gaps are opportunities that can revolve around your core services or a niche that is unmet with current clients and prospects. Identifying these gaps is your first step to filling them.
Gap Marketing to Improve Firm Value for M&A
When it comes to ownership transitions, the goal is to maximize value. If your exit strategy is hinging on an acquisition, this is something you have to plan for in advance. Positioning your firm as a high value acquisition can require some brand positioning and messaging to accomplish.
We recently worked with a CPA firm on the East coast who had approached a larger firm about the possibility of being acquired. They were told that it was not a viable option at that time and were given areas to improve if they wanted this to be future possibility. While the firm worked on their internal processes, Ingenuity was tasked with rebranding the firm and creating a marketing strategy to grow their core services and niches. After a few years of dedicated effort, the firm’s value improved and they were able to be acquired. While the firm was able to improve their processes and services from within, a strong marketing strategy and rebranding campaign played a role in the success.
If you want to improve your firm’s value to be better positioned for an acquisition, here are a few areas to look at.
Specialization and Niches Help Drive Acquisition
You cannot be all things to all people. Some firms operate too broadly with the services they offer and the industries they serve. This may indicate that they don’t really know their ideal client. Identify who your best clients are and what makes them so great. Why do they do business with your firm? Once you understand what it is that brings great clients to you and why they stay, you are on the path to determining where to focus your efforts to grow your client base.
It’s also important to identify which services and industries your employees excel in. If your firm is adept at conducting audits for nonprofit entities, then create a marketing strategy to develop and grow this area. Perhaps you live in a fast growing metro area with a lot of construction firms in the market that need outsourced accounting. Whatever the service or industry, a concentrated marketing effort can grow your firm and improve its value as a high value acquisition target.
Concentrate on Processes
If your firm lacks processes and documentation, can be this quickest way to an unfulfilled acquisition. While it might be fun and hip to forego formal processes, it doesn’t provide a solid foundation for operational success. Furthermore, if your firm relies on individuals over formalized processes, your firm is vulnerable to their continued employment. This can be an immediate red flag during an acquisition. Creating documentation for your processes shows that you value your employees, your clients and that you prioritize the firm’s continued success.
Look the Part
Quality brand positioning is critical to show how what your firm is about. The firm acquiring yours may decide to keep your brand intact, especially if you are well respected within your community and specialty and niche services. Ensuring that you have all branding elements in place can help create perceived value. Is your website up-to-date and optimized for SEO? Is your marketing collateral branded consistently with messaging that conveys your firm’s capabilities and differentiates you from your competitors? Have you created a proposal format that helps you win business?
Selling a company is no small feat. It takes some planning and work to be positioned for high value. Ingenuity has the tools to provide analysis and recommendations for identifying marketing gaps around your services or niches.
We conduct multiple client surveys and interviews every year to help professional service firms improve their brand loyalty.Based on our research, the top two reasons that clients leave a professional service firm is that they don’t feel valued and they don’t perceive value from the relationship.
If you find yourself in this situation at your firm: straying clients, unhappy clients, bad reviews or certain disciplines that don’t handle client service as well as others, it may be time for team training on your client service standards as well as a refresh on your brand positioning. Help everyone serve clients consistently well.
To get you started, here are four baseline behaviors that every professional who directly works with clients should exhibit with every client encounter.
We understand that some people don’t find small talk particularly easy. But your clients expect a certain level of check-in or friendliness when you communicate. Start calls or meetings by asking about their week, showing interest in them as people.
You will quickly see if clients appreciate a few minutes of settling into the meeting and also when they want to get right down to business. Keep their preferences in mind for the next time you meet.
As a professional service provider, there is no excuse for disorganization. Before a meeting, build in 15 minutes of time to prep for the agenda, understand the goals for the day or week, see who is part of the meeting and who is responsible for each item on the to-do list. If you have trouble keeping a calendar, identify an app or assistant that can remind you with notifications or alarms for the most important meetings.
Even if you are in the field, make use of mobile devices and previous notes toprepare for an efficient conversation with clients. Be the keeper of details. That way, your clients can easily move from your meeting to the next one.
Set clear deadlines.
Before you set a deadline, make sure that it makes sense for the client as well as for your team. There is nothing worse than setting an unrealistic deadline or accepting a client’s deadline when you know it won’t work. Speak up and work out a compromise.
Frequently missed deadlines won’t garner much favor with clients. Avoid setting up yourself or your team for failure. Understand the realities of time to deliver quality work in the midst of competing projects and the unexpected.
With these things in mind, organize the timeline with a mental goal of delivery BEFORE the deadline. It will help set realistic expectations with clients.
After every honest effort, if you can’t meet a deadline, speak up. In our research, we find that if clients simply hear regularly from their professional service providers on project progress, they are more accepting of delays. Communicate honestly and often about issues so they can be a partner in the process.
Determine the client’s preferred method of communication. Do they like when you pick up the phone or not? Try providing a summary of outstanding items or questions in one email. That way, they don’t have to scan through multiple emails or messages. If you use voicemail, be clear on what you need. Unless you know the client really well and they prefer it, avoid leaving a message that just says, “call me back.”
Be respectful of the client’s time and money. When it comes down to it, they are trusting you to deliver value and help them reach their goals. Show them that you value them, too! It will enhance your brand positioning.
It’s coming. Voice search SEO is gaining traction because it is easier to speak to a voice search assistant than it is to type on a mobile device. If a quarter to one-third of your website traffic are mobile users, consider optimizing your site for voice search. Voice searches are conversational and often involves a question. This changes how your web content should be written, including page headlines.
2. Website ADA Compliance
Our Lead Designer and Web Developer, Robert Wasiluk, recommends making sure your website is ADA compliant. With 19 percent of the U.S. population identified as having a disability, major search engines as well as adaptive screen readers employ web crawling methods according to the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). Don’t miss out on these potential clients/referrals.
3. Leverage CRM and Marketing Automation
Few firms are using their CRMs or automation tools to their full potential. Start with the basics: fully invest in the eblast tools within your CRM of choice or an outside product like MailChimp or Constant Contact. The tool Zapier can even help connect these outside tools to your CRM. (We are not paid to suggest these tools; we just happen to use them ourselves!) Try to automate frequent communications that will save time for your team, from calendar scheduling to monthly or quarterly marketing communications.
4. Revisit Former/Inactive Contact Lists
Last month, Ingenuity sent emails to former clients, some from several years ago. The result was two new proposals! Never underestimate the value of staying in touch. If you are an association, customize a message to inactive members. Firms can tap into their database and sort by date of engagement.
5. Personalize Your Messaging
In a world of big data that tries to answer every consumer whim before you even know you want it, your messages as professionals must also add a personal touch. Write like a human and have your firm communications come from a human. Individual social profiles and automated emails from partners and executives get far better engagement and open rates.
Spam is getting smarter. Your firm must work harder to ensure that clients are opting into your newsletters and eblasts. But what about prospects? This video will help you ensure that emails are personal and informative — and not annoying to the people you want to reach.
In this video, Leah Spielman, marketing consultant, shares five tips for lead generation. We’ll talk about subject lines, pre-header text and great headlines as well as how often you should communicate. Watch to get five tips that can improve your email marketing.
If you prefer to read the content, the transcript is below.
It is imperative that your e-mail communications are personal and informative. Spam is getting smarter and end users are overloaded with e-mail. So, to ensure that your e-mails are engaging, I have a few tips for you.
Number one: test your audience. If your email tool allows for A/B testing, try it! Write 2 different subject lines. I like to run the test on 50% of the audience. The winning subject line is sent to the remaining 50%. We recently did an A/B test and it turns out the title of the main article as the subject line won over saying ìInGenius Review ñ June 2019î. Take what you learn and use it for future e-mails .
Number two: Utilize pre-header text! This is a great way to tell the reader what to expect when they open your email. Use it to promote another topic from your e-mail.
Number three: Talk about the recipient. Why does it matter for them? How are they impacted? Use ìYour Key Tax Considerations for 2019î as a subject line instead of ìOur important tax tips for 2019.î
Number four: Be consistent. Whatever you do, donít just do it once and except your audience to engage. Start small and be consistent ñ send a quarterly e-newsletter with a main article and then a client focus or highlight piece. When that is going well, add in monthly e-newsletters that focus on industry news and topics your audience cares about.
Number five: Use automation. Even the most basic e-mail tools have automation features including welcome series emails, follow-up emails and segmentation. Start small and set up a series of 3 e-mails to introduce new clients to your firm. An advanced e-mail marketing system like Hubspot, Infusionsoft or Marketo have more advanced automation features such as lead scoring.
E-mail marketing is a powerful tool when used correctly. It allows you direct access to your audience without a lot of algorithms getting in the way. Use these tips to bring your e-mail marketing to the next level.
This multi-part digital marketing whitepaper will tell you HOW to use digital marketing tools specifically for professional services. Read any section for ideas on your biggest concern or interest. We’ll keep adding sections, so come back and see what’s new or sign up for our newsletter to receive updates to your inbox.
Digital marketing has evolved as a way to attract — and track — online buyers by delivering specific content for their problems or interests. To be successful, you need to understand:
How potential clients are searching for your services;
How to compete for strong online search results;
What types of content will attract the most interest;
How you can get qualified visitors to take action, and;
How to nurture great leads toward actual new firm business.
Let’s be clear. More than 90 percent of visitors to your site are searching for a solution, but need convincing to contact your firm. Digital marketing content and SEO are critical to keep them interested and keep your firm top of mind.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Everyone wants to rank high on Google but sometimes your digital marketing strategies can use a little boost. Digital ad strategies, such as Google Ads or promoted posts on social media, can be a powerful tool in your online visibility and lead generation strategy.
In order to harness the immense power available through paid ads, start by clearly defining your target audience. Who are they and what do they need? The more accurately you can identify your audience and their needs, the more targeted your ads can be, providing quality leads that have a higher potential for conversion. If you are unsure how to determine who your target audience is, take a look at your current clients.
The next step is to figure out what makes you unique. Since your competitors have services similar to yours in similar industries, you need to identify what it is that makes you stand out from them. How can you inspire your audience to engage with you? Addressing your client’s needs in conjunction with your unique value to them through your ad headlines and content, can boost engagement on your ad. Finally, offer your audience some information or a resource to download that addresses their needs on some level.
Be sure to include a form fill feature to capture their information so you can follow up with them after they receive your downloadable resource.
Once you have all your digital marketing tools in place, remember to monitor the analytics and track the effectiveness of your efforts. Above all, remain agile so you can adjust what isn’t working, as well and do more of what is working.
Research and Strategy
Types of Research and Why You Need Research
According to an informal poll we conducted of professional service firm marketers, we found that they spend time researching industries, but not much time researching their competitors or prospects. Without researching your competitors, you don’t know how to differentiate your value proposition against theirs in conversations or in proposals. Thorough research can provide insights into your competitors, clients and prospects and identify opportunities for your firm.
Some of the types of research we see include:
Market Research: This can be used to identify market opportunities and threats within your industry, niches and geographic markets. It can provide you with information on the trends that shape demand for your services. It can also alert you to any threats, such as a new firm coming into the market or industries that are over represented, that may affect your firm.
Competitor Analysis: This type of research can help you determine where your competitors have an advantage in the market. You can also identify the areas in which your firm excels above your competitors so that you can continue doing what is working to attract talent to your firm, retain clients and get new leads.
Client Satisfaction: Through client research, you can identify gaps in services, industries or niches. You can find out if clients perceive your firm’s reputation and value the same way you do. Client based research can also help you identify what is working with your clients, as well as any areas of improvement. You can then take what is working and apply it to attract new clients to your firm.
There are many types of research and ways that it can be used to benefit a professional services firm. The type you choose to conduct will depend on your firm’s goals.
Why You Need Research
Understanding the challenges and opportunities for your firm, can guide your strategies for greater firm success. High quality research will help you attain the growth you desire through the development of strategies that produce results.
For example, if you don’t research your prospects, you don’t truly know what they care about or how they expect professional service advisors to solve their problems. Understanding their challenges helps you guide their decision to choose your firm rather than a competitor. It helps you begin to understand how your communication needs to change to land referrals, increase visibility and get new business.
Another way research can help is when you are determining the need to expand your services into a new niche. After researching other firms serving that niche in your market, you may find that only one of your competitors also serves that niche. You need 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. This allows you to develop a deeply focused niche marketing strategy to stay visible to your prospects. Market research goes a long way toward defining your true niches.
Regardless of whether you are looking to expand into a new market, understand why your clients remain loyal or looking to gain a competitive edge over other firms, research provides the insight that allows your firm to make decisions that drive growth and success.
How to Analyze your Research to Approach Content Correctly
There is great value in conducting research and getting objective feedback. If you find areas in which your firm is excelling with prospects, existing clients and employees, you will want to maintain and improve what you are doing and then replicate this success in other areas of your firm. Should you find that you have a disconnect between the perception others have and how you think your firm should be viewed, this enables you to identify areas of improvement to bridge that perception gap and build your reputation. It’s not enough to simply conduct surveys and interviews, the next step is to analyze the feedback and identify trends and areas of opportunity. Then it’s time to develop a content marketing strategyto improve upon what’s working and fix areas that need fixing.
Market research and surveys can include both online feedback and phone, or in-person, interviews. With a sufficient number of responses and feedback, trends will become noticeable and point to what action you can take. It can be hard to obtain honest feedback if the surveys and interviews are conducted by a member of your own firm. If you want honesty, we recommend outsourcing this to a market research companythat understands your industry and can help you translate the results into a content marketing strategy.
In the case of a client survey, you will receive insights on how your clients view your firm and can then gauge if this aligns with expectations. We recently conducted a client survey for one of our accounting firm clients. During phone interviews, we found out that while they offered a number of services that were relevant to their clients and referral sources, the firm had not been doing a good job of communicating these services. By identifying this area of opportunity, the firm can now develop content and communication strategies to inform their clients and prospects about the depth of their services.
Through an employee survey, you can determine if you are meeting the expectations of employees and find out if there are any areas of improvement to increase employee retention and attract new talent to your professional services firm. If you find out that your employees do not feel that they are well-supported in the area of training and development, this could be improved by offering training and opportunities, mentorship programs and certification incentives. It’s not enough to simply provide this, it also needs to be clearly communicated to your employees through emails and on your website.
If you are new to a specific industry or niche, in-depth market researchcan identify the pains, desires and interests of prospects. By knowing what these are, it will allow you to develop a digital marketing strategythat positions you as a knowledgeable resource.
As you develop your content, address the pains of your specific audience and provide a solution that compels them to continue reading, and eventually, contact you. When you publish an interesting blog post, create an opportunity for additional interactions through links to resources and more information. Can they download a whitepaper or read another blog post? Can you direct them to a case study, client story or video testimonial? These don’t simply tell them you can address their pains, but shows them how you have done this before.
This strategy can work for your website, email nurturing sequences and social media content. Employing a strategy that encompasses the entire spectrum of your digital marketing creates brand cohesiveness and consistent messaging to your prospects, clients and employees.
Content that Drives Brands and Leads
Using your Blog and Social Platforms for Brand Loyalty and Lead Generation
Now that you have done the research to know what your prospects want to hear from you and have created your list of keywords and phrases, you’re ready to start using those tools to drive your brand positioning and develop leads.
The first step is to determine the purpose of your blog — which services, industries and niches do you want to promote and why are you convinced that people need this information from your firm specifically? How will the information and insights you provide help solve the pains of your audience? What type of content you will publish? Whether you use written articles, videos, podcasts or any other medium you can dream up, commit to a frequency your visitors can count on for each type. Consistency is key! When people come to rely on your insights, you become an authority for those services you offer for the industries and niches you serve. This leads to referrals because of your knowledge and because you have created trust with your audience.
Try to strike a balance between providing valuable information without giving away the store. Don’t take a sales approach because that isn’t inspiring. Give them enough to whet their appetite so they are compelled to call you.
You can use your social media platforms to inform your followers about content your have published. Through the use of relevant hashtags and any posts that your followers share, you can expand your audience reach. Your social platforms should also be used to share your capabilities and services. It’s a form of communication where you can control the message. Keep in mind that you don’t have to share everything you publish across every platform. Some social media accounts are best used for certain types of brand positioning efforts. For example, one client we work with uses their Facebook company page to highlight firm culture through more casual firm news, events and job postings.
Consider developing both content and social media calendars to keep you accountable for creating content and posting on your social platforms. Calendars can also help create a focus to strategically use your keywords to boost your SEO rankings for specific services, industries and niches. Additionally, if you have multiple employees in your marketing department at your professional services firm, this allows everyone on the team to know what the objectives are for the upcoming months.
Content development for your blog and social media platforms is something that takes consistency to create strong brand positioning and begin to develop leads. Focus first on how your brand is represented and the leads will follow.
Gated Content for Lead Generation
What is Gated Content?
One of the best ways to use content marketing to attract leads is through gated content. Gated content is simply a downloadable marketing piece that shares valuable information your audience cares about. In exchange for receiving this download, the user fills out some basic information including name, organization and e-mail address. It is often times called a lead magnet, inbound marketing, lead generation, or attractor.
Since you’ve already established through research who your audience is and what they care about and developed blog content around these topics, it’s time to dive deeper and create gated content.
Examples of Gated Content for Professional Services Marketing
To use gated content for lead generation, you first have to identify what your prospect is willing to exchange their e-mail address for. For an accounting firm focused on construction accounting, it may be a 1-page guide to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts impact on the construction industry. The guide should include a few key points, and be aesthetically pleasing (read: it should be professionally designed to match your firm’s brand standards.) Once the gated content is complete, you can determine how to distribute it to your prospects. You can use paid search, organic and paid social media, e-mail marketing and/or your website. In order for any of these methods to be truly effective, a well-devised SEO strategy is recommended.
To use gated content for lead nurturing, you can create a download/attractor and distribute it to your current clients and prospects. You will then learn who is interested in the topic and can move them through the sales funnel appropriately.
For one client – call him Robert – we conducted industry research in a niche they are heavily involved in. Then, we published a report and created a landing page for the report. We pushed the report and landing page out to the firm’s contacts via e-mail, and encouraged the contact to download the full report by visiting the landing page.
The prospect then downloads the report and Robert receives a list weekly of all the prospects who have downloaded the report. We then coach Robert on follow-up steps which usually include a follow-up e-mail to everyone who downloaded it. The e-mail will say something along the lines of:
“Hi Sarah, I saw you downloaded our Very Valuable Report. Did you see, on page 9, that industry leaders are concerned about the rising costs of Widgets and Expenses? Do you have similar concerns? I wrote a blog post recently about this exact topic – check it out here. Talk to you soon. – Robert”
Sarah then reads the blog post and replies, and our client and Sarah have the opportunity to engage in conversation, and the firm stays in front of their prospect, is viewed as a thought leader and has gained more insights into their prospective client’s concerns.
When Sarah has a need, she remembers Robert knows all about this topic and she contacts him. The firm then has the chance to propose on a project.
To summarize, gated content can help you determine what resonates with your clients and prospects and can be an effective lead generation tool. It is only as effective as the effort to develop it and to nurture those leads once they have downloaded the resource you provided to them. Be sure that you build a solid strategy around your gated content in order to maximize its potential for your firm.
Driving Lead Generation through Assessments and Surveys
Previously we discussed that assessments and surveys are an important element in a firm’s marketing strategy and how they provide valuable information that can help your firm make sound decisions. But how can you use these tools to drive lead generation? Glad you asked!
There are a number of resources available to administer an assessment. These resources create interactive content that are fun and, while the specific features of each vary, the most useful of these resources aggregate the results in an easy to read format that saves you time and allows you to analyze the results quickly.
To make your surveys and assessments valuable and efficient, clearly define your goals. This allows you to develop a strategy that gets the information you are looking for from your prospects. With your strategy clearly defined, you can formulate questions that are concise and will provide you with valuable insights about your prospects. Some online assessment tools will allow you to create “if this, then that” scenarios. For example, if a prospect answers a question a certain way, they receive a follow-up question to dig a bit deeper. Remember, with any lead generation assessment, you need to be sure that you are capturing your prospect’s contact information.
Depending on your objective and the nature of your assessment, consider having an offer that can be emailed to the participant after they complete it. Even if it’s something you plan to send in your follow-up email, providing this offer up-front could help increase engagement on your assessment, resulting in more leads.
So, how does this drive lead generation?
Well-done assessments and surveys create an opportunity for a two-way conversation. Prospects share qualifying information with you, and you provide personalized follow-up that helps them solve their pains.
The most effective assessments help firms learn about prospective buyers, and customers learn about themselves and the firm’s solutions and services. Assessments can help you spot your most qualified leads and capture them when they are ready to buy.
One critical mistake we often see firms make is that once they get a prospect’s information, they follow-up with a phone call or one email thinking that is enough. They don’t have an effective strategy to convert their prospects into clients. If this sounds like you, don’t miss our next post where we discuss how automation, lead scoring and email nurturing sequences play a role in your firm’s marketing strategy.
Using Automation Tools to Measure Digital Marketing Effectiveness
Gone are the days of simply placing an ad in the newspaper or mailing out a flier while waiting weeks to see how it resonates with your audience. With today’s digital marketing automation tools, you can get vital information in front of your clients and dig into the analytics to see if they saw value in what you provided.
There are many automation tools that you can implement to automate your digital marketing and provide you with numbers that help you quantify your ROI. With a few simple tools, you can promptly and efficiently address your clients and prospects’ concerns and know if you are hitting the mark.
Social Media Automation Tools
As we stated before, it’s not a matter of IF your firm is using social media, but how well you do it. There are countless social platform tools to help automate posting through scheduled posts and evergreen content. We use a few of these tools with our clients that allow us to efficiently implement their social media strategy and measure the engagement and ROI.
Through the analytics available in social media management tools and on the individual platforms, you can determine which posts resonate with your audience with allows you to create more of those posts to further engage your audience. In addition, you can identify the content that your audience isn’t interested in so you can refocus your time.
Email Marketing and Measuring Leads
Email marketing has evolved and the tools to automate this area of your strategy are very sophisticated.
Consider setting up a new client welcome series – a series of 3 – 5 emails that showcase your team and set expectations for working together. Show off your firm’s personality. The more advanced your tool is, the more features that are available. For example, a system like Hubspot, Infusionsoft or Marketo have lead scoring available. MailChimp has lead scoring, too.
What is lead scoring?
Simply put, this is the action of applying points to leads. It allows you to rank leads in order to determine their sales-readiness. Leads are score based on their activities, such as opening an email, clicking a link, or completing a web form.
Automation tools can help you implement your marketing strategy in a more efficient way. When your content and resources can be developed and set to go out on a schedule, it frees up your team to focus on other marketing efforts for your professional services firm.Measuring the engagement of these automated efforts provides real-time information, giving you with the opportunity to adjust your strategy as needed to boost the effectiveness, build brand awareness and bring in leads to your firm. Be sure that you build a solid strategy around your automated digital marketing in order to maximize its potential for your firm.
Digital Marketing Analytics that Drive Strategy
Now that your website is optimized for search engines, content is regularly posted, and social media is humming along, it’s time to measure the efforts of your newfound digital marketing prowess.
The good news is that there is a lot of information available to analyze your marketing effectiveness and ROI. We previous discussed this when it comes to marketing automation and emails. Now let’s take a look at analyzing your social media and website traffic and engagement.
Social Media Analytics
If you are using a social media scheduling tool that also provides analytics, you can quickly get data that tells you how many followers you gain each month, what posts are resonating with your followers and how your audience is interacting with your content. Even if you do not have this all-in-one tool, you can still view this information within each social media platform through their built in analytics tools.
Find out how many followers your page has gained or lost.
See if your audience engaging with your content through likes, comments or sharing of your posts.
Identify which posts are resonating with your audience.
Determine if there additional social sharing opportunities that you can leverage based on the posts that resonate.
Certain types of content may do better on one platform versus another. We have found with some of our clients that firm culture posts and employee recognition does very well on Facebook for them, while posts about their services do not receive engagement there.
Other engagement trends could be seasonal. For example, if you provide a product or service to accounting firms, you may see your engagement drop during busy season. If this is the case, you can adjust your social media strategy to accommodate this and focus your efforts during the times when you anticipate more engagement. Another example is accounting firms that provide tax services to customers. Many people don’t think about their taxes after April, but by the end of the year, it’s back on their minds. In this case, you may want to focus your marketing efforts on other services you offer from May to October while maximizing the topic of tax during the time when it will receive the most engagement. Observing these trends allows you to maximize the effectiveness of your social media and digital marketing strategies.
Website Analysis with Google Analytics
Google Analytics can provide you with some incredibly valuable information that can help drive your marketing strategy. It can provide valuable insights about your audience and tell you how effective your digital marketing strategy is.
Find out what content is resonating with your audience, building traffic and converting leads.
See which keywords and phrases are bringing people to your website and how engaged are they once they are there.
Identify which efforts are producing results and generating leads so you can do more of them.
Determine if there marketing activities that aren’t working and need to be adjusted or eliminated.
Google Analytics can be daunting with all the data available. When we review Google Analytics for our clients, we look at a number of areas to provide them with information that validates current marketing efforts and recommendations for continued improvement. It’s important to understand how you acquire visitors to your site and their behavior once they are there. If you know how you acquire visitors, you can figure out your most effective channels so you can utilize them more and you can identify areas of improvement for less effective channels. Assessing the behavior of your audience tells you how they interact with your site once they are there. You can find out how long they spend on your site, pages that drive more engagement and pages that need updated content or stronger calls to action.
Analytics tools can help you measure the success of your digital marketing strategy and having this data is a great first step. Turning it into actionable steps for greater marketing success and lead generation is the next part of the process. Seeing what is working or what is not allows you to quickly adjust your approach to maximize effectiveness, build brand awareness, retain clients and generate leads.
Digital marketing has evolved. It is a way to attract and track online buyers by delivering specific content for their problems or interests. You can get real-time information on marketing strategies like never before, creating opportunities to capture additional leads and market share. It also provides organizations with the ability to put marketing dollars into the solutions that are producing results while quickly shutting down the efforts that aren’t providing sufficient ROI. To be successful at it, you need to understand how it works, the tools for implementation and analysis and how to apply the information for real results that lead to growth.
If you need assistance with your digital marketing strategy or in applying the tools and information available to create actionable steps that lead to results, schedule a meeting with us to find out how we can help you find marketing success.