Professional service firm leaders who choose to outsource their marketing can fall into the seductive trap of hiring agencies that don’t know the first thing about marketing professional services — or the sophistication of your firm’s clients. What’s worse, larger agencies may assign a junior account manager who doesn’t understand proactive marketing consulting.
On the other hand, many firms that are heavily dependent on billable hours may choose to invest in marketing at the entry level. They hire someone with two to five years of experience. Without an experienced marketing professional driving the approach, your strategy and planning lose ground to urgent administrative tasks like assembling proposals or taking random pictures for social media.
We’ve also worked with firms that delegate marketing oversight to their firm administrator, operations executive or a partner/principal. These professionals are amazing at their core jobs, and they may even be interested in marketing. But they can’t prioritize marketing due to time constraints and a lack of knowledge about creative marketing strategy.
Marketing Solutions for Professionals
Here is why strategic marketing is not administration. A full-service marketing department should be able to accomplish the following things:
Senior-level consulting, design and writing, digital marketing, advertising and social skills
Effective and proactive project management with timelines, accountability and communication
Support for hiring new staff at the right time with proper job descriptions
Consulting with owners/partners regularly to develop a marketing/sales culture
Liaison with vendors to streamline and/or automate your marketing strategy
Market research to understand how your buyers buy
Industry-wide view of marketing trends to expand your options and creativity
Alignment of marketing activities with sales goals
Consistent branding on all materials and channels
Consistent lead generation and nurturing activities and monitoring
Coaching to build in-house marketing skills
Proactive consulting on next steps to maximize marketing efforts
A firm with limited in-house marketing support or an executive who is managing marketing will need to seek other solutions to deliver these full-service results. To continue with the status quo will lead to frustration, loss of visibility or scattered business efforts.
Marketing is not about the leads and new business you have now. Just like project planning and accurate financial statements, marketing planning is vital for attracting future business. Can you afford to just hope that leads and referrals appear in your competitive market? Stay visible with consistent marketing strategy and professionals who specialize in it.
More professional service firms today are investing in experienced marketing teams led by chief marketing officers (CMOs). Some of these leaders are even getting the opportunity to become shareholders while leading teams that range from designers and content specialists to digital marketing managers, proposal teams and analysts.
Even so, there are times on larger marketing teams when an outside perspective is necessary for the following three reasons:
Independent analysis and insights
Depending on the project, all three areas can come into play. For success, you need relationships with consultants who understand professional services marketing and the sophistication of the clients you serve.
#1 Time Constraints for Marketing Strategy
When your team is already busy, taking on the challenge of a new website or a niche campaign project can feel overwhelming. The firm has determined these goals for the coming year, and you already know that time is not on your side.
Another challenge that can occur is during turnover on your team. You lose a key professional, and your rhythm is thrown off until someone can be hired. This is the perfect time to draw from your connections already developed with outsourced professionals. It’s not the time to take a chance on an agency that’s untried in your industry.
#2 Independent Analysis and Recommendations
Sometimes your team is too close to your marketing strategy or branding to get a clear perspective on what’s happening with analytics, content or client perceptions. Projects such as website or SEO audits, third-party client or referral research and analysis of the data can bring broader recommendations to support your strategy.
In addition, my may outsource projects such as client surveys and niche industry research to support broader promotion and participation as well as independent analysis and recommendations that leaders can feel confident about sharing in a final report.
#3 Igniting your Creative Inspiration
This third reason is not needed as frequently as the other two, but at times visual creativity can fix wordy proposals, website copy and marketing collateral. Bringing in a fresh perspective can help you communicate your value visually and in fewer words.
Entire processes and approaches can be rendered visually as infographics. Core values can be illustrated with icons. There are many ways to go beyond bullet points and subheadings when you collaborate with a fresh design team that understands professional services marketing.
Marketing Solutions for Professionals
When you determine that your marketing team could use an outside specialist, you will need to consider:
The flexibility of your marketing budget and a reasonable fee for the level of project
Your role in the project as a marketing leader and how much to delegate to your team and to the outsourced specialist
The desired timeline for starting and finalizing the project, and any room for flexibility
How you will define success for your team and the specialist in order to measure results
The communications strategy with firm leaders on why you need a specialist for the project
An understanding of next steps with the final project and how the outside specialist can ensure effective implementation and ROI.
A firm with a large marketing team may find it harder to justify bringing on an outside marketing specialist unless you factor these considerations ahead of proposing it to the firm. Even if outsourcing is already built into your marketing budget, make sure to map out your purpose and collaboration from day one so that everyone is on the same page.
Marketing is not about the leads and new business you have now. Just like project planning and accurate financial statements, marketing planning is vital for attracting future business. Can you afford to just hope that leads and referrals appear in your competitive market? Stay visible with consistent marketing strategy and engaging professionals who specialize in it.
Do you feel like your marketing strategy needs a refresh? Maybe you notice that your firm’s marketing strategy continues to support clients you’ve worked with in the past, but the firm struggles marketing to prospective leads. The internet has changed drastically over the past few years. Firms can no longer get by with passively engaging with clients. Today, regular online interactions are vital to any business’ success. In this article we will highlight ways your firm can actively engage with current clients and generate new leads.
Spoiler Alert!To get new business you will have to brag about yourself. Here’s how to do that tactfully to attract quality leads and support business development.
Conduct Market Research
Market research is a key part of developing your marketing strategy. It’s about collecting information that provides insight into how your clients think, their buying patterns and specifics that may influence their way of doing business, like their location or job title. This research also allows you to identify and monitor market trends, and to keep a pulse on what your competition is doing.
It’s always a good idea to conduct market research once you are expanding into a new location, when you are providing new services or if you just feel like your marketing strategy is stagnant. This research will help your firm identify how you can stand out amongst your competitors and market for future work.
Build Your Firm’s Online Reputation
Have you established a consistent online presence? Here are a few ways your firm can showcase itself as a thought leader by providing firm updates, informing your followers on industry news and providing project updates.
Utilize the Power of Social Media. Social media is a great tool to provide quick updates, and also is a very powerful way to attract and retain employees. Make it a priority to maintain these channels by posting updates at least twice a week. This type of engagement will establish a strong social media presence and help your firm create a targeted following. Social media platforms include:
Showcase Your Work Through Email Campaigns. An e-newsletter is a convenient way to showcase current, future and past projects. Highlighting your work experience may persuade potential leads to become a loyal client. This form of communication also serves as a way to keep your firm top-of-mind. Your firm’s name and reputation are on display whenever you send a newsletter, and people will remember the work you’ve done after reading it.
Maintain Your Website. Is your site easy to navigate? Does the site highlight previous work to showcase your firm’s expertise? Is your site showing up in a potential client’s online search? These questions are things to monitor and routinely ask yourself when evaluating the effectiveness of your site. An updated, easy to navigate and informative website increases your reputation and will encourage potential leads to work with your firm in the future.
Online Advertisements. Google Ads or social media advertising is becoming a powerful way to reach potential leads. The online advertising tools allow you to group or segment potential clients based on certain characteristics, such as; location, job title and what services they are searching for online related to your engineering firm. Provide a resource for users who click on your ads. This take-away allows the potential lead to learn more about your firm and your thought-leadership within the industry.
Ask Clients to Write A Review. Reach out to a few of your loyal clients, asking if they wouldn’t mind writing a social media or Google review for your firm. These reviews are public, so anyone who searches for your firm can find them. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool, and these personal accolades to your services will go a long way when persuading others to work with you in the future.
Showcase Your Firm’s Expertise
It’s time to take advantage of the marketing tools available to expand your online presence. You may find that showcasing the work you’ve done, the awards your firm receives and publicly recognizing employees will not only drive business development. It may lead your firm to retain key employees, strengthen current client relationships and improve your firm’s presence within the community. Start implementing these marketing elements into your firm’s strategy to reap the benefits.
Is your website looking a little neglected? Regular maintenance to a website is critical to the functionality of your web pages, but also to your image and brand. Unfortunately, website maintenance doesn’t always happen like it should. In this video, graphic design consultant Robert Wasiluk describes four key areas of your website that should be updated regularly and how an outsourced website consultant may be able to help. Learn how!
If you prefer to read this content, the video transcript is below.
I have worked on a lot of websites, and one thing I notice is that the technical and visual aspects of websites can be neglected.
Sometimes you have an agreement with your web hosting provider to maintain the site with regular updates and back-ups.
and sometimes those updates don’t always happen like they should.
You need someone inside your firm who proactively reviews your site and makes sure that technical elements are reviewed and updated as needed.
If you don’t have someone inside the firm, then you need to schedule regular meetings with a outsourced website consultant to make sure it does happen.
Here are four areas to keep an eye on and ask about:
Number one. Core, plugins and themes. Your website has certain features that need updating or pages can start to look weird or don’t function right for visitors. You will start getting page and functionality errors, and your website can become vulnerable to malicious attacks.
Number two. Old content. Do you have pages that no one visits? Check your web analytics to see where you have high bounce rates or outdated content that no one reads. You can hide or eliminate those pages to help with easier navigation and improve site speed.
Number three. Page load time. Sometimes your website will tell you when it needs replacing. It takes forever for pages to load. There are a number of reasons for slow load times, so this needs attention or you will start to lose visitors.
And number four. Overall design and first impression. Does your site use an old color scheme or dated stock photography that make visitors think you’re not modern enough to handle their needs?
With a home page refresh, you can send the right brand signals to new and current clients. Pay attention to your website image.
It might need a makeover.
There are many other things that keep websites fresh and interesting, such as keyword and meta description updates. Let me know if you have questions about your site’s design and functionality. I’m here to help!
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.
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!
A recent Advertising Federation meeting presented some of the big changes ahead for paid search. Google, which is the most widely used search engine worldwide, is using Quality Score criteria in its learning algorithms that will give weight to companies that integrate Search Engine Marketing (SEM) into their online visibility. Some call this “pay to play,” although Google insists that real, relevant organic content will still carry the most weight in its search results. However:
If you go beyond the basic text-based ad format and integrate responsive search, dynamic search campaigns and smart bids into your paid search strategy — and your content is relevant to the promise of your ads — the more likely that your quality score will go up (translation: using more of Google’s tools may provide better search rankings).
A good Quality Score is between 5 and 10, which is difficult to obtain due to Google’s secret recipe, but it can lead to your website showing up in a better search results position.
Integrate Outsource Marketing Services
Due to these rapid changes and many others, outsourced marketing consulting can help you identify your upcoming needs for digital marketing and analysis before you hire an in-house marketer to support them. This process can help you avoid the mistakes of hiring a digital marketer who may be great technically, but not so great at translating your data into real business decisions.
Let’s give you a couple examples:
We often hear from potential clients that they have viewed reports for their social media analytics, organic SEO or their paid search campaigns and aren’t always sure how to use them for real business decisions. Impressions and clicks need context, and every firm’s goals are different when using digital media.
We also hear that product vendors are very keen about selling the features and benefits of spending more on paid search campaigns or adopting new marketing automation software. But few vendors understand the world of b2b professional services and how these go-to-market tools can best serve your goals. Some firms are spending hundreds if not thousands on ads and tools that aren’t producing results.
Digital marketing is a special area of marketing. It is not something that every marketer wants to do or can manage in addition to other responsibilities. It requires an analytical and contextual mind — a head for numbers and a common sense communications style to translate those numbers for business decisions. In many ways, it is similar to what accountants and engineers must do for their clients today!
Given that marketing is spanning traditional in-person activities as well as online visibility and persuasion, your firm or organization can expect to need the services of a digital marketer. Here are a few tips to plan ahead for that need:
Identify opportunities for web-based lead generation. If you aren’t ready or persuaded to pursue any types of digital marketing or SEM yet, keep in mind that prospects are still looking at your capabilities and people online after a referral. Your content should be regularly updated with strong calls to action and search engine optimization.
Assess your in-house marketing team. Your team needs to translate prospect data into strong marketing initiatives. For example, your web analytics may point to frequent visits to a certain service page. Your marketing team should be able to assess whether there is a market demand, and then develop a campaign to promote that service more frequently. To assess demand, they may need to cross-reference data such as social media traffic and website search phrases alongside other known market data.
Based on your current marketing team, determine whether it makes sense to outsource your digital marketing needs for now. With this support, you can build foundational systems and results. The knowledge you gain will inform your job description for a future in-house digital marketer.
The best first step is to have a consultation on your current digital marketing activities and needs; get assistance to optimize the effectiveness of your digital marketing from day one. Ignoring the future of digital marketing is the same as ignoring new clients that are looking at you online.
Check out this video next, where we recommend three things before you invest in a lead-generating website, a fancy marketing tool or digital ad campaign. Get the guidance you need for future new business.
One important quality in being a good leader is in knowing when to look beyond you and your team to fill the gaps in your firm’s marketing. Whether these gaps are time, resources or expertise, you get help where and when you need it most when you work with an outsourced marketing firm. You only have so many hours to use in a day and can only know so much about the fast-changing, best practices in marketing. How can you use e-mail to stay in front of your prospects and turn them into leads? What is the best social media strategy for your firm and within your target market? Outsourcing your marketing helps you solve these challenges and contributes to growth for your professional services firm.
Gain Skills and Expertise
An outsourced marketing firm can augment the skills of your team and fill any talent or knowledge gaps in your firm. To create good website copy, you need a digital copywriter who understands how to write compelling web copy that keeps your audience on your site. To get media exposure, you need a public relations specialist who understands journalism and how to get your press releases in front of the right person. An outsourced marketing agency can bridge this gap between what you know and what you need to know.
When it comes to launching a new brand, developing a content strategy or conducting research, it is faster and more efficient to outsource the areas your team needs the support in. In these cases, time is critical and training someone on your team for what is needed or hiring a new employee would take too much time.
Perhaps your firm is observing rapid growth in a service or niche. If your team is already operating at maximum capacity or doesn’t have the expertise in the growing industry or niche, this is when outsourcing may be the most viable and efficient option for your firm.
Outsourcing provides some creative solutions for budgeting. Moving some of your marketing expenses from a fixed cost to a variable cost, allows you some flexibility with your budget, projects and campaigns. Firms are feeling the pains of reduced marketing budgets and the expectation to produce better results with fewer resources. This is where outsourcing your marketing can provide you with a higher level of results for projects through consultants at the top of their field.
Recruiting, training and keeping employees can be costly and if they leave your firm, it can affect your marketing strategies. By outsourcing your marketing, you can receive continuity of services and peace-of-mind that your goals and objectives won’t be impacted by staffing challenges. The outsourced marketing agency takes on the burden of hiring and training staff, allowing you to focus on what needs to be done for your firm to grow.
A good outsourced marketing agency is ready to help you look like a rock star with your firm partners and leaders. Set a clear path to the next level of growth for your professional services firm with the support of Ingenuity’s growth and marketing consultants.
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.
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.
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.