Let’s geek out for a moment, and we promise that it will be a great benefit to your accounting marketing success. There are three SEO boosters for accountants that we see firms miss all the time – but you don’t have to!
Let’s talk about page titles
There seems to be a misunderstanding about the difference between “page titles” and web page headlines. Too often, the page title is just a duplication of the headline on a web page. This is a disservice to ‘bots and humans. Here’s why.
The tabs at the top of a web page show your page titles. They should tell the viewer what the page is about and should be 60 characters or less, including spaces, so that it’s easy to read the tab
Your page title also shows up in search results (the purple headlines below), and it helps the search engines determine if the content you promise matches what the visitor wants. It also helps humans quickly scan their search results and choose to click. The right page titles encourage clicking on your site.
SEO Booster Tip #1: Write a page title that is different from your content headline when creating new blog copy or web content marketing. Make sure that it “sells” your content appropriately and uses the right number of characters to convey your topic. Build the page title into the back end of the web page, so it is unique to that page.
Keywords in Web Content
Keywords aren’t just for the back end of your website. Where appropriate, you should include your top keywords in the body copy of your web content such as introductory copy, blog posts, bios and careers pages.
Don’t assume that search engines will organically find your services without some keyword bread crumbs. But also, add the keywords so they make sense when reading the copy. To prove our point, we’ve highlighted keywords in the body copy below because you wouldn’t notice them otherwise. They just blend into the story we’re telling.
Also, while you may rank for a keyword that is misspelled, don’t misspell it in your body copy. And don’t “stuff” your copy with keywords so it becomes a mess of terminology with no value to the reader.
SEO Booster Tip #2: Be clear on the keywords you want to rank for based on your web analytics and business goals. Brainstorm topics that match those keywords. Write your content, then proof it for areas where a keyword makes sense to include in the body copy. This approach is easier than trying to write around your keywords in draft 1. Give yourself SEO bonus points if you can use a keyword in your headlines, too!
Too many accounting websites entice visitors with good information, then miss the business opportunity to invite visitors to explore further. Think about the things your buyers want. How should your web pages lead them to take action?
You can use your standard CTAs:
View our services.
Sign up for our newsletter.
See our work.
Now let’s get creative. As more people use their mobile devices to “scroll” your pages, you could offer several calls to action throughout one page:
Related video to view
List of hyperlinked services
Related blog posts
How do you make the exploration easy and interesting? Emphasize page design just as much as your SEO integration. Include a mix of copy and relevant visuals that make a positive impression.
SEO Booster Tip #3: Ask your website users to get to know your firm better and get connected for a continued conversation offline. Your website can do that with the right calls to action integrated throughout your site, persuading your audience that you are the accounting firm for them!
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!
Dawn Wagenaar and Christine Nelson co-authored an article in the August 2020 issue of The Marketer for the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS). This national magazine is a premiere publication for marketers and business development professionals in the A/E/C industry and other professional services.
We are honored to contribute our knowledge to A/E/C professionals and those who serve them. Below is the article in its entirety, reprinted with permission by SMPS, which reserves their magazine for members as a benefit. Let us know if you have any questions about your website SEO and how to optimize it for visitors, clients and leads!
Creating Dynamic Websites for Secure Online Marketing
While some firms have been fairly agile in moving to an online workflow and marketing approach, even before COVID-19, others are still counting the costs and missed opportunities of a delayed response. Although dynamic online marketing and business development have been available for many years now, adoption in A/E/C has been slow or even nonexistent.
On a spectrum of digital priorities for the new decade, more than 50% of professional services firms emphasized new content creation, but less than one-third were focused on analytics or website design, according to the 2020 High Growth Study by Hinge. This begs the question: With the amount of time it takes to develop and post new content, what’s the true benefit if no one sees it?
Lead generation through content requires analytics, which in turn require dynamic digital platforms. The Hinge statistics would need to be flipped for a true revolution to an online marketing and growth platform. For firms that are serious about growth through online marketing, here are some basic upgrades in SEO and security they need to consider.
Updated Web Platform
Sometimes, an old platform just can’t continue the digital journey, particularly if platform themes weren’t updated regularly along the way. In that case, your firm may need to invest in a new platform or updated theme to make the website more secure and searchable.
To help you decide if you need a web refresh or a whole new website, conduct a site audit to identify important things like missing metadata or outdated site functionality.
Secure Web Certificate
A secure website is dependent on many things, but one easy way to see if you have a baseline secure website is to see if your URL address is “https” rather than “http.” New websites are already developed with “https,” but some need back-end work to update their certificate and avoid search engines labeling them as not secure—and advising visitors to leave immediately. You don’t want that happening, as most antivirus software won’t even allow visitors to open or use unsecure sites.
ADA Compliance and Opt-In Policy
Do the images on your website have descriptions and alt tags to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements? Are font sizes large enough? Do your videos have captions and transcriptions? If not, it’s time for an update.
Strangely, we see this common problem, even in new websites: The back-end analytics code is added twice, or it’s skipped altogether. The site’s analytics should be checked postlaunch to make sure pages are indexing properly and the analytics are collecting data on visits. If the web developer doesn’t do this, invest in a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) expert to make sure your firm isn’t losing weeks or months of visitor data.
Once your analytics are in good working order, create tutorials or training for staff on which analytics are important for your firm to track. Monthly SEO reports have no meaning unless they’re translated as part of your overall marketing and business development goals. You need to know if content campaigns are working and attracting visitors and leads in order to know which ones to repeat or maximize.
This is a huge area of digital marketing but is far too often missed in the development of content. Your firm should have a set of strong keywords and phrases that are searched for your specific services. You can create the list by seeing which bring visitors to your website now, and then add related keywords and phrases.
Keyword research is just as much an art as a science. Success can depend on whether people are searching on mobile devices, through voice assistants, or on their laptops. Balance popular or widely searched keywords with those that are more unique to your firm and geography. Use more than one keyword tool to create a strong list.
This is a huge area of digital marketing but is far too often missed in the development of content. Your firm should have a set of strong keywords and phrases that are searched for your specific services.
Once you have a solid keyword list, your content needs optimization. This means that keywords get incorporated strategically into headlines and body copy, but also that page titles and meta descriptions are built into all new content. You can make this step easier by creating a blog template that asks the writer (or ghostwriter) to add in the SEO while they are writing the content. Be mindful of character counts in page titles and the sensible use of keywords for your readers.
As part of your SEO campaigns, you may choose to focus on certain key phrases that align with the services you’re promoting each quarter for growth and leads. This will keep you focused on attracting visitors for those services, but also help your firm improve its search engine ranking for those phrases. Again, this is an art and a science because search engines continually update their algorithms and methods of ranking sites for relevant content.
Some of the rankings also consider if your firm is conducting paid digital advertising. This is, of course, how search engines make their money.
Calls to Action
Too many websites leave visitors trying to figure out where they should go next. For example, it doesn’t help to say, “Contact us for more information” at the end of a blog post with no detailed information or link.
Strategic calls to action guide visitors directly to the link of a related blog post, video, or whitepaper. Entire content campaigns take the visitor on a path from blog post to client success story to whitepaper to service area and a formal needs assessment or query. This is how qualified leads happen directly online. The visitor qualifies themself and requests a call, more information, or a demo.
In fact, during the early months of working-from-home this year, we saw a noted increase in search queries and use of website contact boxes by visitors who were desperate for information on a variety of business needs. They found it easiest to ask a question via contact box. The firms that were ready to respond quickly got the lead.
Flip the script on your website experience. Focus now on the infrastructure and right analytics that will get more eyes on your informative content. Your 24/7, secure, and optimized website will pay dividends when you can’t market in person.
Here’s a free tool to get started. Our SEO Checklist helps you determine where your website could use some updates to attract leads and persuade referrals.
Writing content for your blog and website is just one part of an effective content marketing strategy. You need a good SEO strategy for your content to be found organically online. In this video, hear from Christine Nelson, Communications Consultant at Ingenuity Marketing Group, as she shares some important considerations when it comes to your SEO strategy and how keyword research and technical elements are critical elements in this strategy.
If you prefer to read the video transcript, you may find it below:
Do you write content for your website? Then you probably know that fresh content is a great way to bring visitors to your website to learn about your services. If you are writing a blog post or two…or more a month, that’s great. Keep doing that. But I also urge you to step up your game with search engine optimization.
Due to the volume of new content produced every day on the Internet, your great content will get lost without SEO. SEO is a broad term for many things that search engines consider when sending visitors to your site. These include user experience, mobile friendliness, and a number of other technical aspects like website page speed and website security. Just to name a few.
They also look at the trustworthiness of the content and they look at how many other quality sources, also known as backlinks, are pointing to your content. You can optimize your blog posts in several ways.
First, do keyword research for the services and topics you want to write about so that you have a better chance of people organically finding your content through their online searches.
You also need to think about your reasons for writing content. Is it to inform visitors about important information? OK, but is it also tied into the services you provide? Your blog content needs a strategy that informs, but also leads visitors to a decision. Otherwise, that’s a lot of energy spent with less hope for new business.
As we’ve found with clients who request SEO help for their blog, it’s also best to optimize your content while it’s being written rather than after it’s posted. What I mean is, don’t forget about the back-end of your blog post. Elements like page titles, meta descriptions, header tags and alt text will help search engines and visitors know if a search result is a good fit for them.
In my experience as a ghostwriter, writing a blog post is the easy part. But to get more visitors viewing your content and learning about your firm, you also need SEO built right into it. Otherwise, your website might be invisible to great potential clients.
Interested in learning more? Call us at Ingenuity.
When we get asked to consult on a website or begin working with new clients, we often come across situations where they don’t have control of all their digital assets, websites are not updated regularly or outdated themes are still being used. These situations can affect website security and SEO, putting your firm or association at risk.
In this video, Robert Wasiluk, design consultant at Ingenuity Marketing Group, discusses the differences between a hosting service and web management service. He also shares some of the technical aspects of a website that firm leaders and marketers need to keep in mind. Afterall, it’s not just about the pretty colors and sleek design.
If you prefer to read the video transcript, you may find it below:
How do you know when it’s time to do technical updates on your website? Maybe it’s something you don’t think about as a firm leader or marketer because your website host should handle that, right?
Well, we’ve seen situations where sites are not optimized regularly, leading to lower visibility on search engines, page errors, and outdated themes that make it difficult to add content.
A hosting service is different from a web management service. Your site host is the company that has agreed to let your website “live” on its server. A web management service will actually work with you to update your site and make recommendations for content optimization.
Can you do site optimization in-house right now? Is your in-house IT team well versed on how content should be optimized for marketing? Or are you stuck with an unresponsive vendor that you call every time you want to do a design update or add a photo?
When we develop and optimize websites at Ingenuity, we don’t host the sites. But we do strategize on the best methods for your firm to keep your site updated and in good working order.
Actually, you work directly with me on those updates.
The danger of not updating your site with regular maintenance and SEO is that search engines like Google will stop displaying your site as a search result. That’s bad. You could have great content, and no one is seeing it!
When is it time to make sure that your site is SEO optimized and easy to perform back-end updates? Don’t wait until there are technical difficulties.
Schedule regular updates on the back end of your site that actually support your marketing efforts, and call Ingenuity if you have questions about how tech and marketing should work together.
Is your marketing list stale? Is it harder to pick up new leads through networking? Are visits to your website high, but you don’t know who is searching?
Traditional business development for professional services — including recruitment — dictates that you network at events, build relationships and get referrals. But what if you can’t do that as much as you like? After all, you’re busy with many other things.
Although referrals and networking can warm up leads and shorten the sales cycle, sometimes it’s not enough to keep your list fresh for high growth.
For years, a website was regarded as a billboard to prove that your organization exists. Now we’re at a phase of fresh content development, but who is reading it? Want to find out and capture those names and emails of potentially great new clients?
Build and enhance your own digital marketing strategy.
High-growth firms, whether that’s CPA firms or firms in the architecture, engineering and construction (A/E/C) space or financial service and legal firms, can all benefit from a digital marketing strategy. It’s a simple concept, but it takes time and commitment to execute well.
This is the simplest example of how a nurturing sequence could work. You may have part of this process happening already — with social posts linked to blog posts — but it’s the email capture and nurturing emails that really help to drive conversion. Here is another example:
In this example, you are introducing new leads to a valuable piece of content through a call to action (CTA) in each email. The content could be a whitepaper, a guide or even a webinar invite.
If recipients don’t click the first time, they get nurtured by additional emails to click through and download the content/register for something. Once they take a key action (opt-in), the digital lead nurturing doesn’t stop there. Follow-up emails continue the digital “conversation” by highlighting elements of the content they might be interested in. The ultimate goal is to get the lead to view more related content on the website, get persuaded of their timely need for help, and take an assessment or have a call with the subject matter expert or business development professional.
These emails can be created to come directly from the business development lead or niche leader, so the communications are immediately personal.
A nurturing sequence does the work of warming up leads while your professionals focus on follow-up. They can also add fresh names to your list, which is harder to do these days with data privacy regulations. Each lead’s behavior, tracked through email software and marketing automation tools and web contact forms, demonstrates when the lead is ready to have a call and learn more from your professionals. You don’t bother them. They want you to reach out.
Bonus: Nurturing sequences are working 24/7 for you — whenever a lead is searching for your solutions and services — and they can be set up by the marketing department to support your other business development activities.
Real Results Through SEO Strategy and Digital Marketing
See how one firm brings in business leads through valuable niche content, social and SEO strategies through its newly optimized website. Read their story.
You might ask yourself why it’s a good time for your firm or organization to focus more attention on digital marketing and SEO techniques that drive leads to your door.
Your firm may have partners looking to retire who want to modernize their marketing processes, which will increase growth and result in a higher valuation.
You may have struggled with traditional business development and want to diversify your options, multiplying the number of leads that come to you each month.
You may realize that leads are finding competitors online before they find your firm’s name in search engine results for similar services. You don’t get asked to the table when you should. You aren’t visible enough.
You may have an eager team ready to invest in this type of business development — through emails, content writing and social media connections — as opposed to time-consuming happy hours and tradeshows.
It all matters.
Investment in digital marketing and SEO strategy is important in an age of virtual and remote work and rapid changes in digital communications, brand positioning and options to stay visible and relevant to your audience.
Take time to explore your options, and decide if doing it yourself is the best approach or if you could use a jumpstart through an outsourced relationship like Ingenuity’s team. We look forward to nurturing you.
Here’s a free tool to get started. Our SEO Checklist helps you determine where your website could use some updates to attract leads and persuade referrals.
Design Consultant Robert Wasiluk has developed websites on various platforms for years, and the technology is always changing to match user demands as well as speed and accuracy of search results. However, websites also need marketing updates to help users find what they need, determine that your services are a good match and take action. In this video, Robert talks about a couple reasons why you may need the support of an outsourced marketing consultant to “tune up” your website’s technology for marketing purposes.
If you prefer to read the video transcript, you may find it below:
Have you looked at your website lately? I don’t mean just the content and design, but the structure, too. A lot has changed with websites in just the past two years.
You might find that your website is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act or it’s not set up to prepare for stricter marketing opt-out regulations. The problem is that search engines are downgrading sites that don’t include things like image descriptions and clear relevance to the topics being searched.
The bottom line. Your website may need a tune-up.
I know that a lot of firms and associations have internal or outsourced technology teams, but those professionals may not have the skills or knowledge to optimize your site for marketing.
For example, voice search is becoming more important for your potential clients and members to find you — literally. How your site is set up for voice search questions is another reason to keep your website marketing ready.
I do a lot of websites here at Ingenuity, so if you have any questions regarding your website, contact me at www.ingenuitymarketing.com.
It’s coming. Voice search SEO is gaining traction because it is easier to speak to a voice search assistant than it is to type on a mobile device. If a quarter to one-third of your website traffic are mobile users, consider optimizing your site for voice search. Voice searches are conversational and often involves a question. This changes how your web content should be written, including page headlines.
2. Website ADA Compliance
Our Lead Designer and Web Developer, Robert Wasiluk, recommends making sure your website is ADA compliant. With 19 percent of the U.S. population identified as having a disability, major search engines as well as adaptive screen readers employ web crawling methods according to the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). Don’t miss out on these potential clients/referrals.
3. Leverage CRM and Marketing Automation
Few firms are using their CRMs or automation tools to their full potential. Start with the basics: fully invest in the eblast tools within your CRM of choice or an outside product like MailChimp or Constant Contact. The tool Zapier can even help connect these outside tools to your CRM. (We are not paid to suggest these tools; we just happen to use them ourselves!) Try to automate frequent communications that will save time for your team, from calendar scheduling to monthly or quarterly marketing communications.
4. Revisit Former/Inactive Contact Lists
Last month, Ingenuity sent emails to former clients, some from several years ago. The result was two new proposals! Never underestimate the value of staying in touch. If you are an association, customize a message to inactive members. Firms can tap into their database and sort by date of engagement.
5. Personalize Your Messaging
In a world of big data that tries to answer every consumer whim before you even know you want it, your messages as professionals must also add a personal touch. Write like a human and have your firm communications come from a human. Individual social profiles and automated emails from partners and executives get far better engagement and open rates.
This multi-part digital marketing whitepaper will tell you HOW to use digital marketing tools specifically for professional services. Read any section for ideas on your biggest concern or interest. We’ll keep adding sections, so come back and see what’s new or sign up for our newsletter to receive updates to your inbox.
Digital marketing has evolved as a way to attract — and track — online buyers by delivering specific content for their problems or interests. To be successful, you need to understand:
How potential clients are searching for your services;
How to compete for strong online search results;
What types of content will attract the most interest;
How you can get qualified visitors to take action, and;
How to nurture great leads toward actual new firm business.
Let’s be clear. More than 90 percent of visitors to your site are searching for a solution, but need convincing to contact your firm. Digital marketing content and SEO are critical to keep them interested and keep your firm top of mind.
Firms that are operating on outdated web platforms or with old design templates are missing some critical opportunities. When referred to a new firm, many prospects go first to the website. When seeking a new job, candidates often head to the website to learn about the culture. An old website can do more harm to your firm’s image than ever before.
If your website looks staid, boring, and “template-like,” that one chance to make a great first impression is over. The key to great websites is to think through who will use it, how they will use it and how to communicate your services and unique culture and the value you bring.
Before you write one word or design one page, consider what you want your website to do based on how the audience will use it. Do you want it to speak primarily to prospects or recruits? Is it an information service for clients? Do you want to get leads from your website?
Making it pretty is not enough. Be clear about your target market and what you want to communicate to them. When we work with clients on a website, we like to establish some key messages about the firm that can act as a guide for content. This sets a tone and ensures that the firm’s website isn’t cookie cutter.
Writing copy for websites is different than writing for a proposal or marketing flier. Use a professional writer who has experience with websites, as well as one who understands your industry. Have that person write the sections that matter most: your Home Page, Services, About Us and key leader and staff bios. If you are having trouble recruiting, hire a writer to add some snap to your career pages. If your firm is moving into a specialized niche, work with a writer to develop key messages and web content that helps your firm rise above your competitors.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Getting on top of search results organically is a process that requires strategy and patience. There are many ways to build an SEO friendly website to provide better rankings on Google and other search engines.
Choose keywords that are unique to your business. Brainstorm these words and phrases in your website committee and make sure they are used frequently in your site content. Consider working with an SEO specialist to find keywords and phrases to get additional possibilities and performance forecasts.
Try to establish external links to your website. Have your company name posted on organization websites to which you belong, contribute articles to trade sites, and allow relevant websites to link directly to yours. Just having your company name listed on another website can help boost your ranking.
Update your content regularly. At Google, fresh content is a key factor in search rankings.
Develop page titles, descriptions and meta tags with your keywords in them. Meta tags are the words that show up at the top of each web page and the title and description show your audience what that page is all about when it shows up in search engine results.
It’s no longer a matter of IF you are on social media platforms, but how well you do it. It has virtually become a requirement for firms to engage through social media. A good social media strategy can help you retain clients, find prospects and recruit talent by increasing brand awareness and building trust. Social media can also boost your online visibility and organic search rankings.
To build an effective social strategy, the first step it to determine which platforms your audience is on and what content will drive engagement with them. Just because a firm down the street is having success on Twitter it doesn’t mean that you will also have the same measure of success. It’s important to do a bit of research to see where your current clients and prospects are spending their time online.
Next determine the type of content you will provide through your social channels. Understand the needs and goals of your clients and prospects and show them how you can help them.
They key is not simply to look at social media as something you must to do, but as a powerful tool to help you achieve brand awareness and firm growth.
Everyone wants to rank high on Google but sometimes your digital marketing strategies can use a little boost. Digital ad strategies, such as Google Ads or promoted posts on social media, can be a powerful tool in your online visibility and lead generation strategy.
In order to harness the immense power available through paid ads, start by clearly defining your target audience. Who are they and what do they need? The more accurately you can identify your audience and their needs, the more targeted your ads can be, providing quality leads that have a higher potential for conversion. If you are unsure how to determine who your target audience is, take a look at your current clients.
The next step is to figure out what makes you unique. Since your competitors have services similar to yours in similar industries, you need to identify what it is that makes you stand out from them. How can you inspire your audience to engage with you? Addressing your client’s needs in conjunction with your unique value to them through your ad headlines and content, can boost engagement on your ad. Finally, offer your audience some information or a resource to download that addresses their needs on some level.
Be sure to include a form fill feature to capture their information so you can follow up with them after they receive your downloadable resource.
Once you have all your digital marketing tools in place, remember to monitor the analytics and track the effectiveness of your efforts. Above all, remain agile so you can adjust what isn’t working, as well and do more of what is working.
Research and Strategy
Types of Research and Why You Need Research
According to an informal poll we conducted of professional service firm marketers, we found that they spend time researching industries, but not much time researching their competitors or prospects. Without researching your competitors, you don’t know how to differentiate your value proposition against theirs in conversations or in proposals. Thorough research can provide insights into your competitors, clients and prospects and identify opportunities for your firm.
Some of the types of research we see include:
Market Research: This can be used to identify market opportunities and threats within your industry, niches and geographic markets. It can provide you with information on the trends that shape demand for your services. It can also alert you to any threats, such as a new firm coming into the market or industries that are over represented, that may affect your firm.
Competitor Analysis: This type of research can help you determine where your competitors have an advantage in the market. You can also identify the areas in which your firm excels above your competitors so that you can continue doing what is working to attract talent to your firm, retain clients and get new leads.
Client Satisfaction: Through client research, you can identify gaps in services, industries or niches. You can find out if clients perceive your firm’s reputation and value the same way you do. Client based research can also help you identify what is working with your clients, as well as any areas of improvement. You can then take what is working and apply it to attract new clients to your firm.
There are many types of research and ways that it can be used to benefit a professional services firm. The type you choose to conduct will depend on your firm’s goals.
Why You Need Research
Understanding the challenges and opportunities for your firm, can guide your strategies for greater firm success. High quality research will help you attain the growth you desire through the development of strategies that produce results.
For example, if you don’t research your prospects, you don’t truly know what they care about or how they expect professional service advisors to solve their problems. Understanding their challenges helps you guide their decision to choose your firm rather than a competitor. It helps you begin to understand how your communication needs to change to land referrals, increase visibility and get new business.
Another way research can help is when you are determining the need to expand your services into a new niche. After researching other firms serving that niche in your market, you may find that only one of your competitors also serves that niche. You need to discern if the niche is sustainable as a growth industry, the level of competition and the potential to gain a significant portion of the market without being the lowest cost provider. This allows you to develop a deeply focused niche marketing strategy to stay visible to your prospects. Market research goes a long way toward defining your true niches.
Regardless of whether you are looking to expand into a new market, understand why your clients remain loyal or looking to gain a competitive edge over other firms, research provides the insight that allows your firm to make decisions that drive growth and success.
How to Analyze your Research to Approach Content Correctly
There is great value in conducting research and getting objective feedback. If you find areas in which your firm is excelling with prospects, existing clients and employees, you will want to maintain and improve what you are doing and then replicate this success in other areas of your firm. Should you find that you have a disconnect between the perception others have and how you think your firm should be viewed, this enables you to identify areas of improvement to bridge that perception gap and build your reputation. It’s not enough to simply conduct surveys and interviews, the next step is to analyze the feedback and identify trends and areas of opportunity. Then it’s time to develop a content marketing strategyto improve upon what’s working and fix areas that need fixing.
Market research and surveys can include both online feedback and phone, or in-person, interviews. With a sufficient number of responses and feedback, trends will become noticeable and point to what action you can take. It can be hard to obtain honest feedback if the surveys and interviews are conducted by a member of your own firm. If you want honesty, we recommend outsourcing this to a market research companythat understands your industry and can help you translate the results into a content marketing strategy.
In the case of a client survey, you will receive insights on how your clients view your firm and can then gauge if this aligns with expectations. We recently conducted a client survey for one of our accounting firm clients. During phone interviews, we found out that while they offered a number of services that were relevant to their clients and referral sources, the firm had not been doing a good job of communicating these services. By identifying this area of opportunity, the firm can now develop content and communication strategies to inform their clients and prospects about the depth of their services.
Through an employee survey, you can determine if you are meeting the expectations of employees and find out if there are any areas of improvement to increase employee retention and attract new talent to your professional services firm. If you find out that your employees do not feel that they are well-supported in the area of training and development, this could be improved by offering training and opportunities, mentorship programs and certification incentives. It’s not enough to simply provide this, it also needs to be clearly communicated to your employees through emails and on your website.
If you are new to a specific industry or niche, in-depth market researchcan identify the pains, desires and interests of prospects. By knowing what these are, it will allow you to develop a digital marketing strategythat positions you as a knowledgeable resource.
As you develop your content, address the pains of your specific audience and provide a solution that compels them to continue reading, and eventually, contact you. When you publish an interesting blog post, create an opportunity for additional interactions through links to resources and more information. Can they download a whitepaper or read another blog post? Can you direct them to a case study, client story or video testimonial? These don’t simply tell them you can address their pains, but shows them how you have done this before.
This strategy can work for your website, email nurturing sequences and social media content. Employing a strategy that encompasses the entire spectrum of your digital marketing creates brand cohesiveness and consistent messaging to your prospects, clients and employees.
Content that Drives Brands and Leads
Using your Blog and Social Platforms for Brand Loyalty and Lead Generation
Now that you have done the research to know what your prospects want to hear from you and have created your list of keywords and phrases, you’re ready to start using those tools to drive your brand positioning and develop leads.
The first step is to determine the purpose of your blog — which services, industries and niches do you want to promote and why are you convinced that people need this information from your firm specifically? How will the information and insights you provide help solve the pains of your audience? What type of content you will publish? Whether you use written articles, videos, podcasts or any other medium you can dream up, commit to a frequency your visitors can count on for each type. Consistency is key! When people come to rely on your insights, you become an authority for those services you offer for the industries and niches you serve. This leads to referrals because of your knowledge and because you have created trust with your audience.
Try to strike a balance between providing valuable information without giving away the store. Don’t take a sales approach because that isn’t inspiring. Give them enough to whet their appetite so they are compelled to call you.
You can use your social media platforms to inform your followers about content your have published. Through the use of relevant hashtags and any posts that your followers share, you can expand your audience reach. Your social platforms should also be used to share your capabilities and services. It’s a form of communication where you can control the message. Keep in mind that you don’t have to share everything you publish across every platform. Some social media accounts are best used for certain types of brand positioning efforts. For example, one client we work with uses their Facebook company page to highlight firm culture through more casual firm news, events and job postings.
Consider developing both content and social media calendars to keep you accountable for creating content and posting on your social platforms. Calendars can also help create a focus to strategically use your keywords to boost your SEO rankings for specific services, industries and niches. Additionally, if you have multiple employees in your marketing department at your professional services firm, this allows everyone on the team to know what the objectives are for the upcoming months.
Content development for your blog and social media platforms is something that takes consistency to create strong brand positioning and begin to develop leads. Focus first on how your brand is represented and the leads will follow.
Gated Content for Lead Generation
What is Gated Content?
One of the best ways to use content marketing to attract leads is through gated content. Gated content is simply a downloadable marketing piece that shares valuable information your audience cares about. In exchange for receiving this download, the user fills out some basic information including name, organization and e-mail address. It is often times called a lead magnet, inbound marketing, lead generation, or attractor.
Since you’ve already established through research who your audience is and what they care about and developed blog content around these topics, it’s time to dive deeper and create gated content.
Examples of Gated Content for Professional Services Marketing
To use gated content for lead generation, you first have to identify what your prospect is willing to exchange their e-mail address for. For an accounting firm focused on construction accounting, it may be a 1-page guide to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts impact on the construction industry. The guide should include a few key points, and be aesthetically pleasing (read: it should be professionally designed to match your firm’s brand standards.) Once the gated content is complete, you can determine how to distribute it to your prospects. You can use paid search, organic and paid social media, e-mail marketing and/or your website. In order for any of these methods to be truly effective, a well-devised SEO strategy is recommended.
To use gated content for lead nurturing, you can create a download/attractor and distribute it to your current clients and prospects. You will then learn who is interested in the topic and can move them through the sales funnel appropriately.
For one client – call him Robert – we conducted industry research in a niche they are heavily involved in. Then, we published a report and created a landing page for the report. We pushed the report and landing page out to the firm’s contacts via e-mail, and encouraged the contact to download the full report by visiting the landing page.
The prospect then downloads the report and Robert receives a list weekly of all the prospects who have downloaded the report. We then coach Robert on follow-up steps which usually include a follow-up e-mail to everyone who downloaded it. The e-mail will say something along the lines of:
“Hi Sarah, I saw you downloaded our Very Valuable Report. Did you see, on page 9, that industry leaders are concerned about the rising costs of Widgets and Expenses? Do you have similar concerns? I wrote a blog post recently about this exact topic – check it out here. Talk to you soon. – Robert”
Sarah then reads the blog post and replies, and our client and Sarah have the opportunity to engage in conversation, and the firm stays in front of their prospect, is viewed as a thought leader and has gained more insights into their prospective client’s concerns.
When Sarah has a need, she remembers Robert knows all about this topic and she contacts him. The firm then has the chance to propose on a project.
To summarize, gated content can help you determine what resonates with your clients and prospects and can be an effective lead generation tool. It is only as effective as the effort to develop it and to nurture those leads once they have downloaded the resource you provided to them. Be sure that you build a solid strategy around your gated content in order to maximize its potential for your firm.
Driving Lead Generation through Assessments and Surveys
Previously we discussed that assessments and surveys are an important element in a firm’s marketing strategy and how they provide valuable information that can help your firm make sound decisions. But how can you use these tools to drive lead generation? Glad you asked!
There are a number of resources available to administer an assessment. These resources create interactive content that are fun and, while the specific features of each vary, the most useful of these resources aggregate the results in an easy to read format that saves you time and allows you to analyze the results quickly.
To make your surveys and assessments valuable and efficient, clearly define your goals. This allows you to develop a strategy that gets the information you are looking for from your prospects. With your strategy clearly defined, you can formulate questions that are concise and will provide you with valuable insights about your prospects. Some online assessment tools will allow you to create “if this, then that” scenarios. For example, if a prospect answers a question a certain way, they receive a follow-up question to dig a bit deeper. Remember, with any lead generation assessment, you need to be sure that you are capturing your prospect’s contact information.
Depending on your objective and the nature of your assessment, consider having an offer that can be emailed to the participant after they complete it. Even if it’s something you plan to send in your follow-up email, providing this offer up-front could help increase engagement on your assessment, resulting in more leads.
So, how does this drive lead generation?
Well-done assessments and surveys create an opportunity for a two-way conversation. Prospects share qualifying information with you, and you provide personalized follow-up that helps them solve their pains.
The most effective assessments help firms learn about prospective buyers, and customers learn about themselves and the firm’s solutions and services. Assessments can help you spot your most qualified leads and capture them when they are ready to buy.
One critical mistake we often see firms make is that once they get a prospect’s information, they follow-up with a phone call or one email thinking that is enough. They don’t have an effective strategy to convert their prospects into clients. If this sounds like you, don’t miss our next post where we discuss how automation, lead scoring and email nurturing sequences play a role in your firm’s marketing strategy.
Using Automation Tools to Measure Digital Marketing Effectiveness
Gone are the days of simply placing an ad in the newspaper or mailing out a flier while waiting weeks to see how it resonates with your audience. With today’s digital marketing automation tools, you can get vital information in front of your clients and dig into the analytics to see if they saw value in what you provided.
There are many automation tools that you can implement to automate your digital marketing and provide you with numbers that help you quantify your ROI. With a few simple tools, you can promptly and efficiently address your clients and prospects’ concerns and know if you are hitting the mark.
Social Media Automation Tools
As we stated before, it’s not a matter of IF your firm is using social media, but how well you do it. There are countless social platform tools to help automate posting through scheduled posts and evergreen content. We use a few of these tools with our clients that allow us to efficiently implement their social media strategy and measure the engagement and ROI.
Through the analytics available in social media management tools and on the individual platforms, you can determine which posts resonate with your audience with allows you to create more of those posts to further engage your audience. In addition, you can identify the content that your audience isn’t interested in so you can refocus your time.
Email Marketing and Measuring Leads
Email marketing has evolved and the tools to automate this area of your strategy are very sophisticated.
Consider setting up a new client welcome series – a series of 3 – 5 emails that showcase your team and set expectations for working together. Show off your firm’s personality. The more advanced your tool is, the more features that are available. For example, a system like Hubspot, Infusionsoft or Marketo have lead scoring available. MailChimp has lead scoring, too.
What is lead scoring?
Simply put, this is the action of applying points to leads. It allows you to rank leads in order to determine their sales-readiness. Leads are score based on their activities, such as opening an email, clicking a link, or completing a web form.
Automation tools can help you implement your marketing strategy in a more efficient way. When your content and resources can be developed and set to go out on a schedule, it frees up your team to focus on other marketing efforts for your professional services firm.Measuring the engagement of these automated efforts provides real-time information, giving you with the opportunity to adjust your strategy as needed to boost the effectiveness, build brand awareness and bring in leads to your firm. Be sure that you build a solid strategy around your automated digital marketing in order to maximize its potential for your firm.
Digital Marketing Analytics that Drive Strategy
Now that your website is optimized for search engines, content is regularly posted, and social media is humming along, it’s time to measure the efforts of your newfound digital marketing prowess.
The good news is that there is a lot of information available to analyze your marketing effectiveness and ROI. We previous discussed this when it comes to marketing automation and emails. Now let’s take a look at analyzing your social media and website traffic and engagement.
Social Media Analytics
If you are using a social media scheduling tool that also provides analytics, you can quickly get data that tells you how many followers you gain each month, what posts are resonating with your followers and how your audience is interacting with your content. Even if you do not have this all-in-one tool, you can still view this information within each social media platform through their built in analytics tools.
Find out how many followers your page has gained or lost.
See if your audience engaging with your content through likes, comments or sharing of your posts.
Identify which posts are resonating with your audience.
Determine if there additional social sharing opportunities that you can leverage based on the posts that resonate.
Certain types of content may do better on one platform versus another. We have found with some of our clients that firm culture posts and employee recognition does very well on Facebook for them, while posts about their services do not receive engagement there.
Other engagement trends could be seasonal. For example, if you provide a product or service to accounting firms, you may see your engagement drop during busy season. If this is the case, you can adjust your social media strategy to accommodate this and focus your efforts during the times when you anticipate more engagement. Another example is accounting firms that provide tax services to customers. Many people don’t think about their taxes after April, but by the end of the year, it’s back on their minds. In this case, you may want to focus your marketing efforts on other services you offer from May to October while maximizing the topic of tax during the time when it will receive the most engagement. Observing these trends allows you to maximize the effectiveness of your social media and digital marketing strategies.
Website Analysis with Google Analytics
Google Analytics can provide you with some incredibly valuable information that can help drive your marketing strategy. It can provide valuable insights about your audience and tell you how effective your digital marketing strategy is.
Find out what content is resonating with your audience, building traffic and converting leads.
See which keywords and phrases are bringing people to your website and how engaged are they once they are there.
Identify which efforts are producing results and generating leads so you can do more of them.
Determine if there marketing activities that aren’t working and need to be adjusted or eliminated.
Google Analytics can be daunting with all the data available. When we review Google Analytics for our clients, we look at a number of areas to provide them with information that validates current marketing efforts and recommendations for continued improvement. It’s important to understand how you acquire visitors to your site and their behavior once they are there. If you know how you acquire visitors, you can figure out your most effective channels so you can utilize them more and you can identify areas of improvement for less effective channels. Assessing the behavior of your audience tells you how they interact with your site once they are there. You can find out how long they spend on your site, pages that drive more engagement and pages that need updated content or stronger calls to action.
Analytics tools can help you measure the success of your digital marketing strategy and having this data is a great first step. Turning it into actionable steps for greater marketing success and lead generation is the next part of the process. Seeing what is working or what is not allows you to quickly adjust your approach to maximize effectiveness, build brand awareness, retain clients and generate leads.
Digital marketing has evolved. It is a way to attract and track online buyers by delivering specific content for their problems or interests. You can get real-time information on marketing strategies like never before, creating opportunities to capture additional leads and market share. It also provides organizations with the ability to put marketing dollars into the solutions that are producing results while quickly shutting down the efforts that aren’t providing sufficient ROI. To be successful at it, you need to understand how it works, the tools for implementation and analysis and how to apply the information for real results that lead to growth.
If you need assistance with your digital marketing strategy or in applying the tools and information available to create actionable steps that lead to results, schedule a meeting with us to find out how we can help you find marketing success.
Sponsoring or promoting content on digital and social media platforms can be a powerful tool in your professional services marketinglead generation strategy. This can be done with a few critical items in place: your defined target audience, your unique value proposition, and a good tool or landing page that gets visitors to take action. In this video, Natalie Klein shares how to use digital strategies to drive leads to your firm.
If you prefer to read this content, the video transcript is below.
Sponsoring or promoting content on digital and social media platforms can be a powerful tool in your lead generation strategy. This can be done with a few critical items in place: your defined target audience, your unique value proposition, and a good tool or landing page that gets visitors to take action.
The first step in developing sponsored social ads is to get your targeting right. There is great power in targeting that is available through digital advertising and in order to harness that power, it’s important to spend some time thinking about who your audience is. The more accurately you can identify your audience, the more targeted your ads will be, providing you with quality leads that have a higher potential for conversion. If you are unsure how to position your targeting, look at your current customers to define your audience.
Next, spend some time developing your assets. You aren’t the only firm selling your services so this is where you identify what makes you unique. What sets you apart from your competitor and why should your defined target audience want to work with you? You have limited space through your headlines, descriptions and graphics to show these reasons so it’s important to have clarity yourself to convey your unique value proposition to your audience.
Finally, offer your audience some information or a resource that helps them start to solve their pains. Don’t give away the farm, but give them enough to leave them wanting more. Whether through a lead generation form that provides a downloadable resource or through a landing page with information and a compelling call to action, be sure that what they get is what they were expecting. The goal is leads for your firm so be sure that you have a way to gather their information so you can follow up with them.
Keep in mind that sometimes it takes a bit of adjustment to see how your digital and social ads are resonating with your target audience. Agility is key in developing effective lead generation through sponsored social ads. With some planning and flexibility, you can use digital strategies to drive leads to your firm.