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.
Have you ever gotten an email that starts with, “Hello Tish!” but that’s not your name?
It’s just one example of content marketing gone wrong. You’ve probably seen the results of inappropriate content marketing in your own inbox and social channels.
Messaging that seems too sales-oriented or untimely
Email greetings with the wrong names
Generic product pitches to anyone but you
Spammy, scammy, opportunistic noise
We know that you work hard to make content relevant to your audience. In fact, during a crisis or major shift in the market, you absolutely have to. Smart professionals like you know when to step back, turn off the automated campaigns, pause digital ads and stop pre-scheduled social calendars…and think.
What needs to change now that things have changed?
Well, Tish, let’s dish on these very real challenges:
Anticipated marketing is canceled
Staffing and budgeting are reallocated
Planning is happening in quick bursts of real time
We’re all for digital marketing automation at Ingenuity, but real time marketing requires a human to intervene on quality control and think about the other humans receiving your content…especially when those humans are living with evolving stress and maybe even decision paralysis.
Recognize the Team and Regroup
Our consultants often participate in telemeetings and video calls with other professional service providers and marketers within accounting and financial services, engineering and associations. Each industry has its own unique challenges, but the one thing these professionals all appreciate is an acknowledgement that they are doing the best they can under strange or changing circumstances.
That’s what crisis communications is about. It’s not normal. It’s rarely fun except for certain adrenaline junkies…and even they need a nap sometimes. In crisis, most people seek a place of calm.
Therefore, the healthiest thing to do in a rapidly changing market is to focus on what you can do.
Go back to the drawing board. Look at your current content assets and your helpful outsourced relationships. Look at your calendar and team. Identify your role going forward in communications and content marketing. Are you best at:
Research and analysis? Writing and editing? Strategy and logistics? Team dynamics?
Use those strengths to establish daily, then weekly, then biweekly, then monthly, then quarterly priorities until the crisis eases. But realize that an annual marketing plan may no longer fit your market or even the world. And while content marketing can be automated for efficiency, it needs surveillance and measurement monthly to stay relevant.
To help you regain a foothold, here are tips for both marketers and business developers to launch content marketing and communications activities with renewed energy and enthusiasm…in any environment or crisis.
For Content Marketing and Communications
Manage the message (go personal and empathetic, but avoid trite phrases)
Establish priorities (mobilize teams based on strengths)
Anticipate short-term and long-term (weekly triage; quarterly review of tactics)
Ideate on alternatives (external and internal communications)
Stay on top of trends (what will the future look like?)
Strengthen media relationships (media training anyone?)
Build in efficient processes (e.g. online networking tutorials)
Acknowledge and publicize early wins (to build influence and team motivation)
Share stories of client success (like, always)
For Professional Business Development
Reach out (current and past clients/prospects)
Oversee web queries (direct queries to your email)
Help your referral sources (clarify your prospects and get clarity on theirs)
Work closely with marketing (triage and quarterly planning)
Identify new sources of revenue (what is emerging for top line?)
Send handwritten notes (appreciate and connect)
Stay connected to trade groups (serve and attend calls)
Social network (increase connections; send messages; endorsements)
Professionals who do this now are the best equipped to manage a long game of change for their organizations. They will also be viewed as valuable and influential — something that every professional executive team needs to recognize now about their marketing.
Don’t stop marketing! Prepare refreshed and relevant marketing, and then act when the time is right.
And for Pete’s sake, update and segment your email lists so that Pete isn’t called Tish anymore. Respect the prospect.
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.
Clients are willing to share about their experience with your firm in many different ways including word-of-mouth, online reviews and testimonials. Standing out in an increasingly digital world can be challenging. In this video, Dawn Wagenaar, Principal, shares five tips to create brand loyalty and get more referrals.
If you prefer to read this content, the video transcript is below.
Clients will share their brand loyalty by word-of-mouth, but also through online reviews and testimonials. Do you want more referrals? To stand out in a more digital world, here are five tactics to improve your brand loyalty and perception
Number one: Branding messages.Teach your team to talk about your firm in a consistent way that shows how clients gain value. If you do not have consistent messaging – or your messages are outdated – it is time to do brand research and create fresh messages.
Number two: Customer service standards. – Does everyone know when email or voicemail should be returned? Is it within 24 hours, by the end of the day, within 8 hours? Should cell phones be in client meetings? Should you bring an agenda to the client meeting? What type of message should you leave on your “out of office” if you are in CPE for the day? If you have consistent standards around how you work with clients and provide timely service to them, your referrals will go up!
Number three: A welcome kit. Even after you win the engagement, you are still selling and building trust. Send new clients a welcome kit with details about their project, who will be on their team including bios with photos and contact information, a list of services you provide, social media they can follow as well as a service representative unrelated to the engagement team. Send clients this kit and welcome them to the firm.
Number four: A client service retreat and training. – Your team wants training. They want to know what great service looks like in order to perform beyond expectations. Train your staff on providing great client service, and discuss ways to improve service based on current client and team issues.
Number five: Secret shopping your digital presence. – Hire someone to act as a prospect and visit your website, look for directions, call your office, visit your firm and see what kind of follow-up happens. Does this experience reflect what you think happens during a prospect’s exploration of your firm? If it does not, you will see areas to improve your brand positioning and attract new business from referrals.
From first impressions to amazing client service, these tactics will help you create brand loyalty and a referral machine.
Creating a strategy around your tradeshow investment can help you attain quality leads that bring new business to your firm or association. In this video, Dawn Wagenaar, Principal at Ingenuity Marketing Group, shares three techniques you can apply to tradeshows you take part in. These are tried and true techniques that Dawn herself uses when Ingenuity attends tradeshows. Tradeshows can be hugely successful and should be integrated into your marketing strategy.
If you prefer to read this content, the video transcript is below.
Many of our clients attend and sponsor tradeshows. Their goal is to get new business, but few of them build a strategy around their tradeshow investment. In this video, we’ll talk about the pre-planning and communications that should take place, techniques to get people talking to you during the tradeshow, and how to follow up effectively and build your pipeline.
First – create a timeline. Work backwards from the event date and figure out everything that has to happen and schedule it out. From the pre-show communications to the social posts during the conference to even the post-event communication and follow up.
Second, create a theme or something that will interest your prospects to visit your booth. Last year at a conference in Portland we had Voodoo donuts with a tie to the story of their company and why story telling is so important. Over the years we have done everything from a photo booth, to chair massages, to a Harley Davidson to video games. Now I know we are a marketing agency so we can get away with some of that but I think you get my gist. Be interesting…what will make the prospects come and talk to you.
Third, create the communications pieces –pre, during and post. Are you going to have a website landing page, social posts, send a post card ahead of time or send emails? This is vital as it is the promotion of your booth. Don’t leave it up to the tradeshow or conference you are exhibiting at. Take matters into your own hands!
And finally, follow up. Before you leave, put time on your calendar for following up with all the leads that you had fruitful conversations with in hopes of scheduling a call or meeting. The goal is to schedule another time to chat so that you both can determine if it’s a good fit and if you want to move forward with next steps whether another meeting, an estimate or proposal.
Tradeshows can be hugely successful and these tips will ensure even more success. Good luck!
You have to do the work in business development to get results. One of the simplest, but also hardest things to do is to follow up with prospective clients. You don’t want to bother them. You don’t know what to say. You assume they will contact you when they’re ready. All of these excuses only lead to lost clients. You have to follow up! Here are five tips to make following up easier and more effective to stay in front of your leads and get business.
Is your website providing you with digital leads? Have you personalized your digital marketing strategyfor prospective clients? In this video, Christine Nelson, communications consultant, shares three ways to use your website to get digital marketing referrals and why personalization is the most important component in attracting digital leads. Your leads are looking for you! Implement these strategies so they can find you now.
Is your firm’s database or CRM a mess? Your digital marketing and business development efforts are only as good as your contacts in your database, so the New Year is a perfect opportunity to organize your lists.
In this video, Leah Spielman, marketing consultant, shares three reasons why you should clean up your database and how to do it effectively.
If you look at the history of any firm that dominates a niche market, you will often find this domination based on one or two people who have become authorities in that industry. Everyone in the industry knows that when you have certain kinds of problems you reach out to these people first. They are frequently quoted in the press about the industry, asked to speak at industry events and maintain a high profile with the local and national associations.
A lot of firms are known for certain niches, but very few have gained exclusive recognition — the household name for agribusiness accounting or the predominant architect for designing public buildings. As more firms work at niche marketing, it is going to get harder to gain that exclusive “rock star” kind of recognition.
Many smart and strategic firms remain at the most basic level of recognition, which is simply to remain visible. Your people show up, meet people, write articles and offer to speak. Your firm sponsors an event and advertises in the niche market newsletter or publication. If you are personally charismatic and connect well with people, this may be enough to gain some measure of recognition and exposure. If you are not, you had better add more marketing strategy and focus to your niche development.
One effective tool to use when expanding a niche marketing strategy is public speaking. When you have a toehold in a niche, speaking is probably the easiest way to both gain the reputation as an expert and develop personal relationships in the niche.
If You Speak It, Own It
Doing a few “pretty good” speeches or being on a panel or two is not going to cut it. The competition is tough and you just have to be better. When Ingenuity helps someone get breakthrough recognition through speaking, we start with strategy and follow up with integrated implementation toward the goals.
You need a purpose. Most of our clients speak in order to develop business for their firms. That’s pretty generic. Decide on the true reason for your speaking — which services do you want to promote and why are you convinced that people need them? The best speakers have a passion for their topic. You need to authentically convey that passion and believe that you make a difference with what you share.
You need a goal. Start with your end clearly in mind or you will be giving away a lot of valuable information for free to people who may not care and may never buy your services. We have heard many CPAs, financial advisors and attorneys give away the store in their public speeches. Because they are trained to be experts, they tend to give away all their knowledge in the PowerPoint, leaving the audience with no appetite for more. Not that you should use a hard sales approach that never works. Instead, use a thoughtful approach to your topics and track your results. The data will show what works pretty quickly.
Create a list of organizations filled with the kinds of people who can buy your services. Find out when these organizations have conferences, what they are looking for and how their speaking decisions are made. Decide which audiences you will charge a fee to and which you will not, as well as how you will develop leads from speaking. If the organization allows, pass out an evaluation form to qualify leads.If not, be creative and add a landing page with a survey or information that would be valuable for them to fill out a form and receive more detail.
You need packaging. A great photo, a speaker bio and a list of topics and audiences will help you sell yourself to groups of people who do not know you. You need a great package with compelling topics in order to get in front of the decision makers you want.
A speaking coach can smooth away your nervous tics, train you to take off your nametag and shorten your PowerPoint, and most importantly help you create something dynamic and unique for your audience. If your speaking style is shaky, you might need to invest six months at Toastmasters. Tape your speeches and make yourself watch them for improvement.
You need a platform. Start pitching tidbits of fresh information and ideas from the services you most want to sell and/or are passionate about. This needs to be done regularly as many organizations are staffed by volunteers who may take a while to make decisions. Your topics should touch on key areas of pain the niche audience experiences rather than creating a platform outlining the services of your firm. Address the needs of your audience, provide insight on industry trends and offer a limited sample of recommendations and solutions that tie to your services.
Platforms are the subtle art of public speaking. Your goal is new business, but your platform is about showcasing your knowledge and awareness of audience needs and potential solutions. Through your visibility and credibility as a smart and informed speaker, you’re on your way to developing your niche in a sustainable way.
When we are first invited to discuss marketing with most service firms, they immediately think we will be talking about advertising. Sometimes we do. But marketing is a much larger group of strategies, of which advertising is only one tactic. A working definition of marketing is anything that gets clients to buy from you, buy from you again, or refer others to you.
Marketing is a broad range of activities that include your signage and your payment terms as well as your logo and visual identity. It includes how you keep in contact with past clients, your online presence and how you and your staff talk about your organization. It includes key messages about your service, your own personal charisma and the sales techniques you use to close the deal. Marketing involves every activity affecting the way people think about your firm.
One problem in professional service marketing is that it is very difficult to sell your services unless prospects already know they have needs. You can entice a person on the home shopping network to buy a supersonic jewelry cleaner, but you can’t get them to change accounting firms if they do not have a reason why. You just have to be in front of prospects and, better yet, have relationships with them when they start to feel a change is required.
Virtually every service firm does some marketing, but with long sales cycles, it is very difficult to decide which strategies work and even harder to track a return. Most firms end up throwing marketing dollars out the window, picking an ad here and a tradeshow there, and hoping it is good enough.
How can you make wise marketing decisions? Before you say “yes” to some of the persuasive sales people who assure you they can drive clients through the door, take some time to think through your basic marketing strategies. We have developed a simple model for making marketing decisions. As you can see in this diagram, marketing tactics can be divided up into hot, warm, or cold. Each of these groups is important, whether you handle marketing in-house or work with an outsourced marketing agency. Your hot market is those who like you, trust you, and want to do business with you. This circle includes your clients and former clients, close alliances and referral sources. Return on investment marketing to this circle is rumored to run about 15:1.
Your warm circle is composed of people who have some knowledge of you or your firm. They may drive by your office signage each day. You may have met them at a chamber event. They may be in an industry you target. Your long-term return on investment for well-done warm marketing should be about 7:1.
Your cold circle is full of people who have never heard of you and who may or may not need your service. Marketing to these folks is an art. If you are very accomplished, your return may run as high as 1:1. Cold marketing is brutal, expensive and difficult.
Although the highest ROI is clearly in the hot circle, you cannot live there forever if you want to expand your business. Each year you need to implement some marketing tactics aimed at each of the three circles. You need to introduce people in the “cold” circle to your firm in some way so that they have some awareness of you. You need to support those in the warm circle for a long time, think in years, as they move toward selecting your service. You need to make some of those warm contacts move into your hot circle and get a sufficient number of hot prospects to write you a check.
It sounds simple but rarely is. We all have our preferences. Some people prefer hot marketing: they lunch with their best referral sources, fish and golf with clients, and keep in close contact with their inner circle. They send out great client gifts. They know birthdays and the names of spouses. They are excellent at mining their contacts for referrals. They cross-sell new services easily because they know their clients as people and deeply understand their businesses. Hot marketing is a talent that pays off immediately. But focusing only on hot marketing will only take you so far because, due to natural attrition, your close circle will provide fewer and fewer leads over the years.
Many of us enjoy warm marketing. We like to write articles and send out newsletters that position us as experts. We might speak or be quoted in the media. We are often in networking groups. We enjoy helping people see us as experts and get to know us and our expertise better. We frequently have many contacts and enjoy marketing to groups. However, we may have a reluctance to turn those contacts into clients.
Those who truly enjoy cold marketing are few and far between. They like the thrill of a cold call. They plan ad campaigns with relish. They want to make a first impression and consider it a fun challenge if the people they contact know nothing about them. They want to woo and they want to win. The cold marketing part of professional services is really tough. It can take years for those contacts to pay off.
Being humans, we tend to focus on the circle where we are most comfortable. In order to have a steady supply of new business, you need to move out of your comfort circle and work in all three. If you are excellent at cold marketing, you may neglect prospects once they become clients. You are also spending tons of money and time to always get new clients. You need to develop specific programs for hot and warm marketing. If you stay in the warm marketing circle, everyone knows you but few pay you. You need to do some cold marketing and plenty of hot marketing.
If you are having trouble securing a steady and reliable supply of new work, whether from current clients or new ones, it is time to list out your marketing efforts and categorize them. You may find you are focusing too much on one circle to the exclusion of the other two. As a way to help you think about this model, we have provided you with a list of activities normally associated with the three different circles.
Hot Marketing Activities
Sort your clients into ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’. ‘A’ clients are pleasant, profitable and have other characteristics that make you want ten more just like them. ‘B’ clients help pay some of the bills. They may pay well and make you suffer or they may not pay well but be pleasant to work with. ‘C’ clients have a low, if any, profit margin and are usually a pain to serve.
Write the names and phone numbers of your ‘A’ clients in a visible place. Call them. Talk to them. Take them out to lunch. Tell them you would like more clients just like them — do they know any?
Write all your ‘C’ clients a letter advising them you can no longer work with them. Use the freed-up time to work with ‘A’ clients.
Send out regular communication to current and former clients.
Have a nice party and invite the hot and warm circles.
Call your best referral sources. Give them referrals.
Have payment terms and pricing structures that reward longevity and volume buying.
Make sure your customer service is excellent.
Warm Marketing Activities
Extend the use of your database and keep track of people you meet.
Be an expert. If you write, write. If you speak, speak. If you can teach a class, then do it. Build recognition as a credible “go-to” person in your industry. When someone who sees you as an expert gets to the point of pain, you will get a call.
Join a networking group. This is one of the best things for you to do because you build trust in a network of people, you practice how to tell your firm’s story, and you meet a wide variety of other business people.
Write an article for a trade magazine. After the article is published, send it to everyone in your database.
Good use of media relationships is also a great warm tool. You prove your expertise by being quoted in the media or written about.
Send out regular communication to your warm circle.
Consistently post to your firm’s social media channels.
Cold Marketing Activities
The most important thing you can do to make sure you spend cold marketing dollars wisely is tightly define who your target is and demand that any cold marketing you do is a great way to reach those prospects.
The second most important thing you should know is that you can die of exposure. Lots of firms throw their money at various things because it is “good exposure.” Never do that again! Have a plan and stick to it.
Have great signage.
Advertising usually falls mainly into cold marketing, although it is a positive if your current clients and warm contacts see your advertising as well. Do not bother to advertise in a publication once, unless you are advertising an event. Develop a regular schedule of advertising in a publication that hits your target market.
The problem with a lot of advertising is that you have to pay to advertise to people who are never going to buy from you. Make sure the amount of money you have to spend per person you actually want to reach is clear.
SEO and online advertising are cold marketing tactics that are easy to track. However, you can throw away even more money on the Internet than out the window, so stay focused on who you want to get your information.