If you’ve been doing the same marketing and content too long, here are three signs.
Your analytics are flat lining.
You yawn when reading your own copy.
In place of leads, you hear crickets.
We get it. Sometimes how you’ve always done it is easier. But if it’s no longer producing your desired results, why are you doing it?
From newsletters to blog posts to eblasts, your professional services marketing can get stale. When you notice that fewer people open your communications or click through, it’s the biggest sign that you’ve lost your marketing mojo.
Don’t be afraid to change it up. It may take you out of your comfort zone, but we guarantee that doing the same thing you’ve always done will bring you diminishing returns. Embrace creativity!
Try a new medium.
Review each way that you communicate with your audiences and assess it:
Why does it exist and what is your goal?
Is it valuable content or simply filling space?
Is the delivery vehicle right for your intended audience?
What are your actual results?
For those marketing activities that no longer bring you joy, wish them well and let them go. With your extra time and space, add a new medium such as a video blog or targeted digital ad campaign. Experiment with new forms of delivery to attract renewed interest.
Don’t forget about your website. Page analytics will tell you if certain pages just aren’t supporting your strategy. Refresh those pages with new content or new layouts to attract visitors. Promote your new pages on social media.
Play with time.
Have you noticed that LinkedIn lists the average length of time to read a blog post? It’s an invitation to spend 6 or 8 minutes and learn something new.
Seize that call to action to vary the length of your posts and presentations. Add a few 2-minute posts under 250 words. Then add a few 12-minute posts. Try a 30-minute or a 60-minute webinar. See if time makes a difference in the views you attract. Focus on ideal lengths of time, but keep it varied.
Introduce different voices.
We know it’s difficult to get more professionals in your firm or association to create content. But sometimes you focus too much on niche leaders or partners. Consider asking a younger professional to write a blog post or create a video. You may be surprised at the fresh variety that new voices add to your content on all channels.
It may require some training. Some people aren’t comfortable on camera, but they do warm up to it with practice. Others are naturals. Do some screen testing. Vary your content assignments and bylines to bring depth and interest to your marketing strategy. It’s also a great way to promote the depth of your team.
Too often, we see marketing pieces that lack a balance between copy and design. People pick up on visual elements and color faster than words on the page or screen. But you also want the content to be clear and meaningful. Think about how to make your messaging more visual. Add fresh design or color to wake up your blog, videos, collateral or presentations. Redesigns should stay true to your visual brand, of course. Add a palette of secondary colors to expand your options.
In proposals, elements such as graphs, flow charts, icons and other imagery can help your firm stand out in a competitive environment. You can maintain RFP/LOI requirements and also avoid the urge to stuff too much copy into a limited space. Color and bullet points, for example, help people notice copy and actually read your key ideas.
These are just a few ideas to get you out of a professional services marketing rut! Change your strategy as needed and maximize your results. You may also be interested in changing up your strategy through partnership and referral marketing. Read this blog post for tips.
Build your digital presence as a professional association by being a member resource as well as strategic with your marketing visibility. In this video for association marketing, Principal Dawn Wagenaar talks about four ways that professional association leaders and marketers can ramp up their outreach to existing and potential members.
It’s more important than ever to be visible to your audience online. Learn how.
Read the video transcript:
Association marketing is an exciting and challenging place to be, whether you are new to associations or a longtime leader.
The race to attract and retain members has ramped up. Many associations have also had significant leadership changes. The technology for marketing has also changed.
This presents an opportunity. And I want to introduce four ideas for you to consider in your association marketing.
The first is a digital ad campaign. You have to approach it a little bit differently compared to print ads, but digital ads can work really well for attracting members.
For example, consider a LinkedIn ad campaign where you offer a valuable article or white paper when they click your ad. You can capture emails when the downloadable content is really enticing.
The second idea is DIY toolkits. Send an email that introduces a valuable toolkit to prospective and current members. The toolkit should help them navigate a common need or issue in their industry.
Here are two other ideas that kind of link together. It’s about going virtual.
You can set up virtual coffee meetings with potential members, and send them a coffee card to sweeten the deal. Or, expand your reach from a traditional conference or tradeshow and optimize virtual events. Take questions prior to the event to ensure livelier engagement. Book virtual “rooms” for small group discussion.
These are just a few ways to get creative with your association marketing. Call me at Ingenuity if you have questions or need help.
See this related blog post about fostering brand loyalty. Don’t miss the link at the end!
If you have built up a positive brand reputation for your professional services firm, partnership marketing and referral source marketing are two tactics you should consider making a part of your overall marketing strategy. When two brands come together for their mutual benefit, the results can be quite impressive and create new opportunities to reach prospective clients or members.
Partnership marketing is simply when two brands collaborate on a marketing campaign. Some of the most common ways we are seeing this accomplished within professional service firms and associations is through co-hosted webinars, newsletter shout-outs and creating co-branded content such as whitepapers.
As you consider who to partner with, be strategic and make sure that there is a mutual benefit. Maybe you have a larger client list but the other partner has a magnetic and trusting personality that makes webinars fun. Or perhaps you have more expertise in an area and your marketing partner has a very engaged audience. Even if your partnership marketing efforts are a bit lopsided, that’s entirely okay. Sometimes it is worth it in order to forge the relationship and create loyalty.
The benefits of partnership marketing are many and include increased brand awareness through exposure beyond your primary audience, new contacts for your nurturing campaigns and lead generation. It is also an association and professional services marketing strategy that is low risk. You can dip your toes into the waters of partnership marketing to see what resonates with your target audience and quickly adjust your strategies with minimal investment or cost up front.
When we talk to our clients, we often find that they are neglecting their referral sources in their networking and marketing efforts. If you are not optimizing this source of business development, you may be missing out on some great prospective clients or members.
Whether you are just building your referral marketing strategies or need a refresher in how to implement it, here are a few tips to boost your efforts in this area.
First, identify referral sources that could send business your way. For CPA firms, this may include attorneys or financial advisors. For an association, this could be a nonprofit with a similar mission that complements yours. Make sure they understand what you do and what your ideal prospect looks like.
Next connect regularly with your referral sources. Create a schedule so that you are routinely calling or emailing them just to connect. The goal is to stay top-of-mind so they refer you when the opportunities arise.
Finally, when you receive referrals you appreciate, pick up the phone and let them know. Once you’ve done that, take it a step further and do something nice for them. You could send a referral their way, give them a recommendation or review or make another type of introduction that would be helpful to their business. Go out of your way to send the message that you appreciate their support in your success by contributing to theirs.
Implementing partnership and referral source marketing into your strategies can help you build your brand awareness and connect with new potential clients or members. Give it a try and see what works for your professional service firm or association.
In a short or prolonged crisis, it is essential to continue marketing. You just have to be sensitive to your audience and their changing priorities.
Your firm or association is a business that needs to grow, but you are also a resource. Being a resource is already in your culture. You can apply that approach to your professional services marketing in a variety of ways. Here are a few ideas to market effectively during and after a crisis — and continue to make a difference!
1. Revise your personas.
You may have written your target personas or client profiles at the beginning of the year or earlier, but a crisis has cropped up and affected what may be important to those audiences.
Revisit and revise your personas to acknowledge new challenges, new threats or new opportunities to that potential new client. That way, your messages and guidance will relate to their most urgent concerns and priorities.
2. Explore unmet or critical needs.
As you notice that potential clients are focused on new priorities, there are probably new opportunities for your firm or association to serve them. Discuss ideas that position you as a resource, a guide or a translator of complex information.
Can you open a new channel for connecting people or sharing information? Can you offer new assessments or promote a white paper that addresses their worries? Would a webinar answer their most pressing regulatory, safety or financing questions? These offerings can be timed to launch once the initial shock of the crisis is over and people are turning toward solutions. Have them ready to launch.
Also, make sure that these ideas are still aligned with your underlying niche marketing strategy. In other words, don’t chase shiny objects based solely on a crisis.
3. Choose your words carefully.
During a crisis, especially a national or global one, you will start to see the same words used over and over to describe the situation. We’ve seen words and phrases overused such as “these uncertain times,” “unprecedented” and “we’re in this together.” There is nothing wrong with them, but people stop hearing them.
When crafting your emails, client letters, proposals, articles and social media messages, be true to your own voice. During a crisis, you don’t need to follow the crowd to show sensitivity and be heard. Think about how you would encourage a friend, and your communications will resonate better than if you use phrases that people are tired of hearing.
4. Be visible.
Being visible is a human and a digital challenge. If you are often working remotely or unable to organize many in-person events, you can still stay visible through videos on your website that show real people sharing their guidance and ideas. You can host virtual events and networking meet-and-greets. If you can get out into the community, lend a hand and share it on social media or on your website’s career pages.
You also need to be visible digitally. Right now, too many firms and associations lack the knowledge or consistency to integrate search engine optimization with their professional services marketing. It’s an opportunity for you to get ahead of the crowd.
One of the biggest things we’re recommending to firm leaders who want to maintain digital presence is to conduct a web audit, keyword research and integration of SEO into all of their content — from blog posts to digital ads, video descriptions and social posts. Search engines can then recognize and rank you for certain services, guidance and advocacy.
Without this visibility, you’ve lost the opportunity to reach out and highlight services that actually help people in crisis. When people really need you, be where they are searching — through digital techniques and messaging that focuses on them.
If one email to a new business lead is good, are more emails even better? Not so fast. Here’s why your email marketing could use a makeover.
Email marketing for professional services isn’t like product marketing. People don’t change service providers very often. They also don’t choose a provider based on one or two emails. But email does help you stay in front of them until they’re ready to entertain a change.
Email marketing is still an effective brand positioning strategy for high-growth firms. However, those high-growth firms are probably using email nurturing sequences to automatically stay in touch with leads until the lead is ready — and excited — to have a conversation.
Email nurturing sequences are a conversation. You are pointing out common pains and providing informative ideas and resources by email over a short period of time to keep the lead interested.
As every good professional knows, timely nurturing of the relationship leads to more new business. Designed correctly, these nurturing sequences can be automated but still feel like a series of personal emails from someone in your firm or organization.
Try This: 5 Effective Nurturing Sequences
Here are five options to turn your email marketing into a nurturing conversation that drives lead conversion. If you have a CRM and marketing automation software, you can automate your email sequences to run 24/7 whenever a visitor is searching for your services.
1. Set up a welcome sequence. Let’s say a new lead comes on your radar by downloading an article or signing up for your newsletter. Set up a nurturing welcome sequence that introduces them to other resources through a series of automated emails and links. Make the emails friendly, short and to the point, and schedule out three or four over a few weeks.
2. Add sequences to new resources and events. Don’t miss the opportunity to keep the conversation going once people download your resources or attend a webinar. These actions can trigger a follow-up series of emails. Create these nurturing emails at the same time as your resource or event content so that they relate well and entice people to contact you.
3. Create nurturing sequences for stalled conversations. Maybe a lead went quiet or didn’t engage as you had hoped. Create an “inactive” nurturing sequence that acknowledges, “Now may not be the right time to connect, but I still value your interests and want to stay in touch.” Send them links to content they may have missed.
4. Use a nurturing sequence to optimize your list. Over time, your database may become stale with old contacts that aren’t a fit, but haven’t unsubscribed. Send a series of emails to invite people to re-engage or to let you know if they wish to be removed from your list. Sometimes that “invitation to part ways” is enough to get a new conversation going. But it also cleans up your list in a friendly way.
5. Segment your sequences. To personalize your email marketing while also automating it, create nurturing sequences that entice leads for a specific service or industry niche. Address common pains that you see among existing clients, and then show these new leads how you solved the problem. Three short emails can offer links to case studies and representative examples.
Remember, email nurturing should not involve hours of long email writing — or more than a few emails per sequence. The content can be written like a short voicemail, but you and your team don’t have to spend time leaving hundreds of them.
Besides keeping the emails short, point people to their next possible step in the conversation. And be patient.
Written correctly and timed strategically, email nurturing sequences will get the right leads interested and contacting you!
Brand loyalty is up for grabs. It’s rare these days to do business with a client for a lifetime, but there are things you can do to inspire your clients to work with you for a long time. It is not enough to do everything right or to simply not make them want to leave. You need to take your communication and connection to the next level.
It probably goes without saying but providing the highest quality customer service and making your clients feel valued is one of the best things you can do to create brand loyalty. This is a great foundational start but now you want to see that loyalty expand to create a community of raving fans for your brand who refer others. Here are a few ways to help you do that.
Provide timely updates about changes that affect your clients and prospects. If you have a robust CRM, you can segment your contacts based on their industry or niches, their role in their organization and what you know they are interested in. You wouldn’t send a manufacturing tax update to a prospect in healthcare. By segmenting your lists to provide relevant information, you show your audience that you care about what interests them. This can make the information appear personalized to them and foster their loyalty to your brand.
Create opportunities for individual connection and make it personal. If you are keeping notes about your clients and top prospects, you likely know a few personal facts about them. Perhaps you know they just took a family vacation or that one of their children graduated from high school. Asking about these events during the beginning of a call or email is a great way to get the conversation going. You can then bridge into the business at hand, but remember to always show an interest in them personally.
Thank your clients for working with you. You may be thinking that this is an obvious one and, yes, most everyone is good at thanking their clients for their business around the holidays. However, when was the last time you sent a client a thank you card at a random time of the year or a gift card to a coffee shop? Perhaps they just got through a challenging audit or completed a coveted development project. Sending a gift when one is not expected is when you will stand out and, even more importantly, it will make them feel special. We aren’t saying you should forgo the holiday gifts but sending a thank you at an unexpected time will stand out.
Fostering brand loyalty is something that begins with a prospect and continues throughout the client relationship. Once someone becomes a client, it doesn’t mean the work ends. This is when the relationship can truly grow and thrive.
Face-to-face networking and tradeshows have been quickly replaced by digital business development for professional services firms and associations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to continue building your pipeline and turning prospects into clients, it’s necessary to take a look at your approach and shift to a more virtual business development strategy.
Make Personal Contact
Picking up the phone or sending an email isn’t just a strategy of the past. It is still highly relevant today and, in many cases, can make you stand out when so many others are relying on less personal methods to develop their business pipeline. When the idea to call or personally email a prospect or client crosses your mind, be sure to do it right away because “later” can turn into a missed opportunity. Connect by asking how their weekend at the cabin was or send an article that relates to a previous conversation. It’s not about hard selling them on your firm but about connecting and staying top-of-mind to create brand loyalty.
Depending on your audience you may want to consider an email or direct mail campaign as a way to get in front of them. This could be a three-part email or mail piece series. Email is still a popular way to promote your brand and thought leadership; however, many organizations are finding this is the only way to get in front of your prospects during this time. This also means that your prospects are receiving more email than ever before.
To stand out from the email masses, you may consider sending direct mail. If your prospects are back in the office, this is a way to differentiate yourself and send something that might get noticed. Whether it’s an oversized postcard series or a unique branded card with a gift card to Starbucks to have a virtual coffee, this can set the stage to start a great conversation.
We have heard many professional services firms say their website serves as a digital brochure. They are not actively employing a strategy to use their website and social media for lead generation. For firms that saw the need to create a lead generating website before the pandemic, you are steps ahead of your competitors who didn’t have the same foresight. If you find yourself a bit behind in turning your website into a lead generating machine, don’t be dismayed. There’s still time to jump on board. A good SEO strategy incorporates all of your digital means of communication from your website content and email nurturing sequences to social media and video strategies.
Also remember to look at the back end of your website to ensure that you have quick page load times, no broken links and good imagery and design. There are so many elements that contribute to strong SEO rankings. You can be publishing innovative content but if all other SEO elements aren’t optimized, you may not be getting in front of prospects who are trying to find you right now.
LinkedIn is becoming more necessary than ever. It’s a way to expand your reach, especially when you aren’t able to meet people through tradeshows, conferences and other networking events. Through LinkedIn, you can meet new prospects, connect with clients and engage with people you otherwise may not have the opportunity to meet. Most of your connections would likely be willing to make an introduction to someone they know, if you just ask for it.
Here are a few simple tips to help you engage on LinkedIn
Have a complete profile on LinkedIn with a professional photo, a good headline and summary of what you do that uses industry keywords.
Connect with individuals who are your clients and connect with more than one person in the company.
Similar to business development you would do offline, show an interest in your prospects and clients. Comment on their updates, congratulate them on career milestones and engage the same way you would want people to do with you.
Follow businesses and engage with their updates. Be sure that you follow the business pages of all your clients and prospects. Be creative here…perhaps you proposed on some business last year and didn’t get it but you’d still like to work with the company. Follow that company, comment and show an interest in them. Then when the opportunity comes back up, you’ve remained invested and built up some report with them.
Join a few groups and take part in the discussion. Don’t push yourself or your firm. Simply answer questions and add to the conversation in a way that makes members of the group message you to find out more.
Think Outside the Box
With tradeshows and networking events cancelled, finding new and unique ways to connect with prospects is vital. This could be the time to implement a video strategy, webinars or create a few thought-leadership pieces. One of our clients has implemented a virtual town hall where they are inviting clients and prospects to take part and ask accounting questions about their particular niche. The first event is still coming up, however, this is the type of out-of-the-box thinking that is going to help fill the gaps. Not every idea will be a winner, but don’t be afraid to try new ideas.
Like any business development efforts, it takes time to develop nurture prospects and build relationships, and this is especially true in a digital medium. You may have to review your typical lead generation timeline and make some adjustments as you see virtual business development take more or less time. Keep track of what you find works so you can continually optimize your process.
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!