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Professional Services Marketing Blog
By Chris Ourand
Clients’ understanding of the problem to be solved, finding enough budget, a difficult economy, long sales cycles – all these challenges add up to a difficult business development environment for management consultants. In these circumstances, there is often pressure to close a deal by “selling” the services and talking about how good they are. This can be counterproductive. What works better is a content-based, b2b lead generation solution that provides a steady flow of interested prospects.
Just having the relationships is not enough to win business, nor are self-promotional tactics like advertising or event sponsorships. Management consultants are finding they need to stand out amidst the deluge of noise in the market in order to show their expertise.
“Why should we bother with social media?” We frequently hear professional services firms repeating some version of this question, but neglecting social media for B2B is a mistake. For B2B, social media is a professional workhorse that can play a wide variety of roles.
The 5 Roles of B2B Social Media
1) The Cocktail Party
Social media’s original intended role, as an online networking system, is still important for professional marketing firms. Treat Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook as an online cocktail party—a way to meet new people and develop important business and client relationships—but without the hangover. And, just like a cocktail party, social media is highly reciprocal. People expect replies to their tweets, comments, and questions, and there is an expectation that you will share other people’s content as well as your own.
By Sean McVey
When conducting market research for your professional services firm, there are several methods from which to choose. Which methods are right for your firm will depend on your situation and specific goals. In any case, if you want to paint the clearest picture of your marketplace and your brand, you’ll likely need to undertake both secondary and primary research as part of your market research process. Let’s take a look at what you can accomplish with these two forms of research and why each is necessary.
Understanding Your Market with Secondary Research
Secondary research is the synthesis of existing research. Instead to conducting surveys or interviews yourself, you are searching informational resources (like the Internet) and compiling the data in order to tell a story. This type of research can come in many forms, including:
- Searching Google
- Visiting your local business library and using their databases
- Reading books and articles
- Working with a research firm
Conducting market research in this fashion is hugely important for understanding your competitive landscape, market size, and target clients. It allows you to be fully aware of the market in which you are competing. Without this information, you will be making decisions in a bubble.
If there is such a thing as marketing dogma in professional services, it is that cultivating personal relationships is the best way to market. “It’s all about relationships” is the battle cry.
The influence of this belief is pervasive. Many, perhaps even most, marketing budgets are built around networking opportunities and personal contact. Golf outing, anyone?
But is it true? Is developing personal relationships the best way to market professional services?
Reputation vs. Relationship
As it turns out, there is an answer to this question. We recently conducted a major study of professional services buyers (Buyers) and the professionals who sold services to them (Sellers). The 822 Buyers were matched with 533 Sellers to allow us to look at both sides of the relationship.
As part of the study we asked both Buyers and Sellers to identify the best way to market professional services to the Buyers. The results were both clear and compelling.
Reputation Trumps Relationship
Figure 1 tells the story. By a wide margin (47% vs. 27%), professional services Buyers identified developing a reputation for producing results as the best approach and more effective than developing a personal relationship with them.
Figure 1. Best Way to Market as Identified by Buyers and Sellers
By Sean McVey
A primary characteristic that sets a lead generating website apart from a typical branded website is the type and quality of the content. Nearly all professional services websites include written content about the company—home page, about page, services pages, etc. But the lead generating website does not stop there. It attracts targeted visitors with an extensive library of educational content, as discussed in our Lead Generating Website Guide.
Content marketing is rapidly becoming a "must have" component for professional services firms. This growing acceptance is probably driven by several key considerations:
- It helps firms to better communicate their expertise
- It gives potential clients a feel for how a firm approaches problems
- It provides education and thought leadership
- It helps potential clients find a firm through search engine optimization and social media
It is a cost-effective way to generate new business leads
The net effect of these benefits is that professional services firms that generate at least 40-60% of their leads online grow up to 4X faster and are up to 2X more profitable, according to our recent study of online marketing for professional services.
While many folks are familiar with content marketing as an approach to generate and nurture new business leads, there are other roles that a well-executed content marketing strategy can play in the business development process. In this post we want to focus on how it can help you with the daunting task of qualifying leads.