Like all business sectors, professional service firms continue to face a changing operating environment and new challenges to how they market and grow their firms. Principal among these changes is the power of internet and how buyers go about selecting a professional services firm.
The personal relationship still remains a very important element in delivering services and in sustaining long-term relationships. But the traditional word of mouth referral system is no longer fit for purpose.
A recent study from the legal sector in the US showed that only 36.6% of referrals came from existing relationships - Moses and Rooth
Buyers of professional services are now going online to seek out the best partners in their markets. The same study showed that in the 18-24 year old category and people on greater than $150k p.a. salaries were also twice as likely to search on line for a professional services partner. Hence the firms with the best digital strategies will be the big winners in the future.
In 2017, professional services marketing should see a significant strategy shift to include digital. With a carefully constructed program firms can position themselves as thought leaders in their field and connect with new and existing customers.
Digital marketing offers progressive firms a superb way of presenting content potential and existing clients will find valuable. In this way they can begin connecting with a much wider audience and grow their practices.
Since 2015 Google is consciously rewarding mobile ready sites and penalising those sites that are not mobile optimised. It is critical for any business to ensure that their website is mobile ready. Research data offers compelling support - in 2016 mobile digital media time was at 65% compared to 35% for desktop devices and 95% of all smartphone users use their phone to look up information. Having a mobile friendly website and on line presence is now simply obligatory if you are going to be ranked positively in 2017.
Again following a Google algorithm adjustment, companies that receive third party reviews through business directories or other sources will be rewarded with higher rankings than those without. This is particularly relevant, when there is a geographic element to the search. Hence if people search for a solution in their district or city, these reviews play a very influential role. Better page ranking leading to more clicks. The source and perceived quality of the review is also important. Hence a Google+ review will carry more weight than another less known review platform. Apart for the ranking benefits that positive reviews bring, there is strong connection with ‘trust’ that these reviews carry. It is a clear endorsement of your business and hence has real power. Get properly reviewed in 2017!
All the recent research is pointing to content being ‘the’ key factor in determining who the winners will be in 2017 for professional services firms. Developing and publishing valuable content plays a significant role in bringing targets to your website and from there transitioning them from being a visitor to an active lead for your firm. Through great content a firm can communicate what makes it unique and position itself in a thought leadership manner with its target audiences. You need to understand what your target clients issues are and bring solutions to these issues. Good content mechanisms encompass blogs, video, webinar, ebooks, infographics etc. With a developed Inbound Marketing strategy, your content will be the roadmap to turn visitors into paying customers. We look to build website solutions with our clients that reflect these types of customer journeys. This is crucial – you must have a website that not only looks great but with an architecture that is built around conversion. For more information on this subject download our free Ebook:
For a long time, there was a significant section of the professional services industry that felt that social media was for the consumer world and had little role to play in business to business and in particular professional service business. That is no longer the case. A recent survey revealed that:
50% of PSF have won business through social media, yet less than 25% include social media as part of their marketing strategy - Forrester
The rule of thumb for any firm is that you need to be wherever your clients and potential clients consume media. The Y generation will not even think twice about looking for information on social media.
Be conscious of the different advantages of the available platforms. What will engage the best? what sort of content will engage best? (twitter content differs from instagram and facebook for example). Conduct research with your base to evaluate what channels will offer you the best opportunity of connecting with your clients.
Social media also has a role to play in keeping clients up to date on case work and hence you can move your firm towards an integrated 24/7 real time communication model. This is a challenge for the partner in todays PSFs, as they are not of this generation. But if they do not plan today for this tomorrow, they will lose out.
Marketing has finally arrived at a place where it can demonstrate marketing spend return on investment. The primary goal for your digital marketing should be to generate leads for your business through your web and other digital channels and convert these leads into customers while also convincing your existing base that they are with the right partner. So collect, analyse and report on your activities. In this way you can ensure that your marketing is constantly evolving and improvement. We call this fluid marketing.
For professional services firms that are serious about growth, they need to move to committing budget to their marketing spend. Whether that is entry level 3%-5% of gross revenue or higher, should be driven by your growth ambitions - but it must be part of your budgeting planning. You need to position your brand and look to use it as a key driver in bringing new business to the firm. This requires an ongoing investment in your brand and marketing and not an ad hoc approach.
When you have developed your strategy and began activating your campaigns, you will want to consider automating these ongoing activities. This will help ensure that there is a single place where you can co-ordinate content being pushed out and how your targets are consuming with it so that you are constantly building data and leads for your firm.
This detailed paper takes you on a step by step journey to achieve this goal.
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