What digital marketing strategies work for professional services?

In a relationship-driven business, like your professional service firm, it might seem like digital marketing doesn’t apply to you. Or, you may be wondering if it does apply, because it sounds like it might be helpful. The problem is you don’t know where to start or you have started and you’re not seeing results. Is it worth spending valuable time and money on developing digital marketing capabilities?

The answer is yes, it is.

These are my top five digital marketing strategies for professional services.

1. Social Selling

Whether it’s your own personal brand, as a Visible Expert®, or your firm’s brand, you need to establish trust and credibility to sell your services. By using well-positioned content, including thought leadership in your area of expertise, social media can help you ‘cut through’ and become recognised as a subject matter expert. A cleverly designed and clearly articulated content strategy, utilising social media, can focus your efforts in the most valuable areas. Social media is very cost-effective, and your content can be more direct and more authentic. It’s also a great opportunity to involve your team members to help develop the content.

Building your online network, allows you to start engaging with potential new clients and potential new referrers and influencers. Once you know who you want to be talking to, in terms of your ideal client and your ideal referrers, you can then use social media to build a list of people you want to build a relationship with. This is where social media, and particularly LinkedIn, has dramatically changed the way we begin business relationships. It is now acceptable for someone that you don’t know to start interacting with you online. LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a powerful tool for building prospect lists and following and interacting with leads.

2. Search Engine Optimisation

SEO is very different in the professional services world, compared to consumer marketing, but it is still valuable, as long as you receive the right advice. I have seen many firms taken in by SEO agencies promising the world and completely under-delivering. To drive traffic to your website, to engage with the educational content and thought leadership you have there, if it’s not through direct links on your social media channels, then it’s through search engine searches. Contrary to popular belief, people do search for information relating to your services. Depending on your services though, it’s unlikely that someone is searching for the exact service you provide. They’re more likely to be aware of an issue they have and are trying to find answers. They will still ask people they know, and they may also search for topics relating to their issue online. So, you do need to be using relevant keywords. You need to use, and test, the best keywords for search engines like Google to find your content. There are various tools available to create and test content for SEO. Then, once visitors are on your site, you need to meet them where they are in the buying cycle and provide more relevant content to engage them and move them through the sales funnel. Your website needs to be designed to do this.

3. Marketing Automation

The idea is to track and measure as much information as possible when people visit your website, for the first time and every visit after that. 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, either inside your current Content Management System (CMS), or as an add-on. An inbound digital marketing system, such as Hubspot, will capture the relevant information and make automated decisions, based on the criteria you set. It can then set in motion a number of different automated activities, to nurture the lead.

If you provide valuable gated content, such as a piece of thought leadership that is particularly relevant to a particular audience and you provide a ‘gate’ (i.e. a contact form to fill in before the prospect can download the document), your system should then capture their email address. The system can then send them relevant emails. Emails and content can be sent in a predefined sequence, keeping the prospect aware and interested in your expertise, moving them even further through the sales funnel.

This personalisation, through the use of personas (i.e. profiles of typical buyers of your services), is crucial. Most major email marketing services make it easy to segment and personalise based on this information. According to Campaign Monitor, emails with personalised subject lines (e.g. including the recipient’s first name), are 26 percent more likely to be opened.

4. Client User Interface

Thinking about how your prospects (and clients) interact with you online is also essential. It’s not enough to have a mobile friendly website, you now need to design your website to be easier to use on a mobile device than it is on a traditional desktop. The reality is that the kind of passive research the prospect is doing, to answer a question they have, is often something they will only find time for outside the usual work hours and on a mobile device. The ability for someone to contact you on the spot can also be helpful. Some firms are using Chatbots or Live Chat quite successfully.

Clients have different expectations these days and will be looking for easier ways to work with you too, including client portals and the ability to easily share information with you. Again, mobile devices need to be factored in here too.

5. Client Insight

The final digital strategy is about Client Relationship Management. Many firms don’t even have their CRM systems working for their client relationships, let alone prospects. There are a number of very good CRM systems, which are designed for professional services, that now link to your inbound marketing system. The more data you can collect about your buyers, and their buying behaviours, the better. Things like Customer Data Platforms and Predictive Analytics are all available to collect and connect the information to make it easier to make strategic decisions about your future services and marketing practices.

You can, and should, turn your online activities into real and valuable leads. There is really no point spending time and effort on social media, or any other form of digital marketing, if you’re not using it to drive traffic to your website and capture actionable leads. There are digital marketing strategies that do work for professional services and these are my top five.

Please contact me to discuss any of these ideas further.

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