What is digital marketing in professional services?

Everyone’s talking about digital marketing. Turning data and online activity into sales. Driving traffic to a website to sell a product or service. What does this mean for professional services? Is it worth spending valuable time and money on developing digital marketing capabilities? In traditional accounting, legal and engineering firms can we really turn our online activities into actual leads? The short answer is yes. It might seem illusive in the professional services world, but it can be done.

There is definitely incentive to do it. Hinge Marketing’s research shows that “firms that generate 40% or more of their leads online grow 4 times faster.” Marketing online is cheaper and can be more targeted.

In professional services, the digital marketing strategy is all about content marketing. Actually, we already do content marketing, we just call it thought leadership. We have the content; we just need to optimize it to drive traffic to the website. We need to use, and test, the best keywords for search engines like Google to find our content. There are various tools available to create and test content for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Then, once visitors are on the site, we need to meet them where they are in the buying cycle and provide more relevant content to engage them and move them further down the sales funnel.

A few things to consider when developing your digital marketing strategy:

  1. First, you need systems in place to record the online activity. The idea is to track and measure as much information as possible. You want to be recording website traffic and trends, through website analytics, as well as the interaction, activity and identifying information for every individual user who interacts with your website. There are various systems that will do this. Once you’re capturing user details, although they may be anonymous at the start, you can then work towards capturing their contact details, so you can either market further to them, or contact them directly, depending where they are in the buying cycle.
  2. You need to have a plan, which includes a content management plan, to identify the areas of service you want to be known for and found online for. These would normally correspond to your practice development areas, already identified in your overall marketing plan. You would normally have key spokespeople or ‘visible experts’ or ‘thought leaders’. These are the people generally writing or initiating the content. Your optimized keywords will be identified through this plan. Then, from the plan, you can work out which channels are going to be the most useful, including social media platforms, organic search, paid search, and other websites for referrals etc.
  3. Once you have a process in place to ‘amplify’ your content through the relevant channels, you can then start to measure the traffic being driven back to the website. Depending on activity by users, the website can deliver personalized content and send the user to particular pages and content on your website. At this point, you’ll want to capture personal information, by providing a form for the user to fill in before they can download the content. You can also provide forms for users to fill in to receive more information about your services or request someone to contact them. You can then ‘score’ your leads and decide what marketing you would like to deliver to them. If you have a marketing automation system you can begin to send relevant emails to them. Google re-marketing is also an option.

It’s important to map the visitor journey and be concise and measured about the content a visitor receives. Based on their activity on the site, you can start to map where they are in the buying cycle. In professional services, our lead times can be quite long – sometimes months or even years – so it’s crucial to nurture the lead along the way. The visitor might not be ready to talk to anyone yet, but might be happy to receive thought leadership, if it’s relevant and useful.

You can, and should, turn your social media and other online activities into real and valuable leads. There is really no point spending time and effort on social media if you’re not using it to drive traffic to your website and capturing actionable leads. Online brand building is only worthwhile if you can turn the brand engagement into billable client engagements.

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