Competition in the professional services marketing arena has become fierce. If you're using the same tactics you used 3 years ago, you face an uphill battle to attract the attention of qualified buyers.
Consider the fact that 27,000,000 pieces of content are shared each day! It's no longer enough to push out generic content and hope that somebody pays attention. You need to evolve your professional services marketing to match the new reality of buying behavior - like a shark, if you don't keep moving, you'll sink to the bottom and die.
With that in mind, here are 3 trends to keep in mind as you evolve your professional services marketing strategy in 2017.
Trend 1: Personalize your professional services marketing
With the sheer quantity of content available, professional services buyers are looking for the content that speaks to their unique circumstances. In the 2016 DemandGen Report B2B Buyer Behavior Survey, 93% of buyers said that the winning vendor "demonstrated a stronger knowledge of our company and its needs."
If this doesn't demonstrate the necessity of personalizing your professional services marketing, I don't know what will!
So what can you do to personalize your marketing and show buyers that you know their business and needs? Here are a few ideas.
- Focus on target market niches. Focus your marketing strategy on target market niches for which you're uniquely qualified to serve. Choose industries, geographies or company sizes where you can demonstrate expertise that your competition can't. Focus your marketing - content creation, pay-per-click advertising, social media and networking - on your target markets. Don't be a jack-of-all trades, but master of none. It's much easier to become the vendor of a choice in a small market than go after every deal that comes down the pike.
- Relentlessly qualify your leads. Now that you've narrowed your focus, qualify your leads so that you're only expending valuable resources on opportunities for which you have a high probability of winning. Use marketing automation in your lead generation process to identify leads by those factors (industry, etc.) that define your target market.
- Know how your buyers buy. Today's professional services buying process is a complex one. It's no longer enough to play golf with the CEO and ignore other buying influences. Identify all of the players in the buying process and create marketing content that addresses their unique concerns. In most cases, everyone has to be on board before the CEO signs on the dotted line.
- Drop unproductive niches. When you've decided which market segments to target, drop unproductive niches! Your time and resources are valuable and you should only use them to execute your focused strategy. Don't go down that rabbit hole!
Every professional services firm should be thinking about how they can do a better job personalizing their sales and marketing efforts.
Trend 2: Make your marketing more visual
Visual marketing not only helps your content stand out in the crowd, it uses deeply-rooted primal human instincts to catch a potential buyer's attention. Our brains are hard-wired to notice visual cues like contrast, color and movement as a survival mechanism. That dark moving shape in the green background could be a wolf and are brains still pick up on those visual cues.
So how can you make your professional services marketing more visual? Here are some ideas.
- Spice your blog up with different forms of media. Rather than limit your blog to written posts, mix in media like infographics and videos. If you're operating on a budget, you can shoot videos on your iPhone and create infographics using design packages like Canva and Visme. If you want to produce high-quality DIY videos, check out Wistia's blog - it's filled with great tips and ideas on producing great videos on a budget. If you're looking for affordable animated video production, check out our partners at Triario.
- Incorporate visual elements into your blog posts. Think about the way most people search for information on Google. They type in a search term and scan the search results to find the content that best matches their search intent. They click through and scan for answers to their questions. If they find an interesting tidbit, they may go back and read the whole blog post or web page. They may even click around the site and complete a lead generation form. But they have to find that tidbit first. Structure your blog posts to help them!
- Break your blog posts into sections with descriptive headers to create bite-size informational snacks.
- Use horizontal lines and other design cues to provide a great user experience.
- Use bulleted and numbered posts to distill key information.
- Use images in your post to attract attention and illustrate key points - charts and graphs are very helpful to readers.
- Use visual elements in your email marketing and social media posts. Remember the old adage, "a picture is worth a thousand words?" It's more relevant today than ever. No one wants to read a boring, three-page email - use short, impactful copy and use images and video to do the talking.
- Think mobile! When using visual images in your marketing, keep in mind that a large percentage of your audience will be viewing it on mobile devices. Use responsive web and email design and use smaller images in your email marketing.
Keep in mind that you don't have to be in the Fortune 500 to effectively incorporate visual marketing into your playbook.
Trend 3: Account-based marketing
One of the hottest topics in professional services marketing is the shift from lead-based marketing to account-based marketing. Account-based marketing takes personalization to a whole new level.
Rather than focusing content and other marketing assets on a target market niche, account-based marketing focuses on specific accounts that you want to win. Rather than focusing your marketing on a target niche, you are hyper-personalizing your marketing to specific businesses.
Many of us old-schoolers recognize this as how we used to target the market - pick your top 25 (or 50) accounts and work towards winning their business. Today's technology takes this approach to a whole new level, from creating smart content based on IP addresses to building micro-sites targeted to specific businesses.
I expect that we will see a lot of activity in this space in 2017 with new marketing automation players entering the field to market leaders building in account-based marketing into their platforms.
For smaller professional services businesses, I recommend starting by identifying 25 accounts you want to work with and research them thoroughly. Find out:
- Their organizational goals and challenges.
- Leverage your network to gain organizational insight and get introductions to people at your target accounts.
- Developments within their industry.
- Who their competitors are and their unique value proposition.
- Who are the people that participate in the buying decision for your solution.
Use the knowledge you gain to craft targeted email marketing outreaches that address their pain points and help them solve problems. And make it hyper-personalized!
As Bob Dylan said, "you better start swimming or sink like a stone, for the times they are a changing." It's time to adapt your professional services marketing to match how your buyers buy. Need a little help? Schedule a free consultation.