Professional services firms are increasingly relying on inbound marketing to fill their sales pipelines and grow their businesses. After all, experienced consultants and advisors have helped a lot of clients and can share their experiences via blog posts, eBooks, whitepapers, webinars and videos. Content that helps educate potential buyers and demonstrate expertise is the fuel that drives the inbound marketing engine.
Many consultants are disappointed when their inbound marketing efforts don't produce the kind of leads they expect quickly enough. In our experience, most management consultants are making some or all of the following five mistakes.
So here are five mistakes most professional services companies make with their inbound marketing.
1. They don't focus on niches
Unless you're a global Fortune 500 professional services business, you're almost invariably better off focusing on a market niche. By focusing on a niche in which you have deep subject matter expertise, you can do some marketing jiu-jitsu on your enterprise level competitors and turn their size and broad scope against them.
By focusing on niches, you can create highly personalized content that resonates with potential buyers. And buyers are looking for personalization as they decide who to buy from. An online retailer and a financial services firm have vastly different business issues and trying to be all things to all people generally doesn't satisfy anyone.
Many new or smaller businesses don't want to "limit" themselves to a market niche, thinking that they will be giving up potential opportunities. In fact the opposite is true - the more you focus on understanding what makes a niche tick and developing solutions based on their specialized needs, the more successful you will be.
2. They are not consistent with their inbound marketing
We've all faced this scenario: we have the best intentions to publish new blog posts regularly. But an issue comes up with your biggest client. Or you're busy working on a proposal for a potential client that could really help your business. Or your network goes down and you have to troubleshoot the problem so that you're employees can get back to work.
All of these problems are important. But for professional services firms looking to grow their business with inbound marketing, consistently publishing new and relevant educational content is just as important.
The idea behind inbound marketing is that people you don't know will find you when looking for answers to questions on search engines and social media. In order to generate organic traffic, you need to develop domain authority with Google by consistently publishing good content that includes keywords your buyers use to find solutions to your problems.
If you're not consistently producing content, Google is not going to serve your content up to potential buyers, no matter how well-written or helpful it is. So decide on a publishing schedule and stick to it! If you don't have the resources to consistently create new content, consider outsourcing options.
3. They don't create content for different stages of the buying process
Most professional services firms produce plenty of content for the awareness stage of the buying process. But that's just the first part of the typical buyer's journey - where a buyer is aware of a problem and begins to explore how she might be able to solve it. Most buyers also go through a consideration stage (where she evaluates all of the potential ways to solve a problem) and a decision stage (where she decides on a solution and chooses a vendor.)
Content like whitepapers, eBooks, videos and webinars most often correlates to the awareness stage of the buying process. Successful professional services firms create content that follows the buyer as she moves through her decision process (see below.)
4. They don't promote their content
Creating great content is only half of the process - you also need to promote it so that the right people see it. It takes time to develop domain authority that produces a consistent stream of organic search traffic. So what do you do in the meantime - sit around and wait?
You need to promote your content to generate the right amount and type of website traffic and leads that will fill your pipeline and grow your business. Here are the ways successful professional services businesses promote their inbound marketing content.
- Social media - while many businesses post their content on their company profiles, they don't leverage the strength of their collective networks. We recommend having your team share your content on their social media profiles (most likely LinkedIn) to maximize social media exposure. This can dramatically increase the number of "eyeballs" on your content.
- Email marketing - it's important to build an audience by making it easy to subscribe to receive new content. Email relevant content to segmented lists in the form of a newsletter. Email new blog content to subscribers. Email new premium content offers to your opt-in list.
- Targeted prospecting - while we don't recommend the spray and pray approach (emailing your content to huge lists that haven't opted in to receive your content), we do recommend sending targeted, personalized emails to target accounts that share content that will help them solve problems.
- Paid advertising - remember, it will take some time to develop enough organic traffic for your content. Paid advertising like Google Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising or LinkedIn Sponsored updates are a great way to get your content in the right eyes as you're building your organic audience.
Although we're an inbound marketing agency and are all in on inbound, we recommend an allbound marketing approach that blends inbound marketing with respectful, targeted outbound marketing.
5. They don't optimize their strategy based on data
Another mistake we see frequently is that professional services businesses don't tie their marketing efforts to financial targets and monitor performance. We recommend starting out with SMART goals for the key performance indicators that will tell you if your marketing efforts are driving revenue or not.
Ultimately all of your marketing efforts can be tied back to business performance. With SMART goals set, you can answer questions like:
Which blog posts are driving traffic to our website and generating quality leads?
Which emails have high open and click rates and help our leads move down the sales funnel?
Which landing pages are hitting our target conversion ratio? Which aren't?
Once you start understanding the what, you can dig into the why. For example, what is it about those high-performing landing pages that you think are driving conversions? Test your hypotheses by conducting experiments to optimize performance.
If you aren't hitting your targets for KPIs like website visits, leads and customers, what can you do to improve performance? You might decide to invest in PPC advertising to fill your sales pipeline.
Inbound marketing is not a "set it and forget it" proposition. Rather, it's a series of experiments with the goal of optimizing performance that drives your bottom line.
Like anything else, strategy and execution determine the success of an inbound marketing channel. If you're not getting the results you need, take a look at these five areas to see if there's room for improvement. If you'd like a little help, schedule a free consultation with us.