A consistent flow of new opportunities is the lifeblood of a growing professional services business.
Many professional services businesses have a growth pattern characterized by peaks and valleys. This is related to the nature of most professional services businesses. While some professional services businesses have dedicated sales professionals, most employ professionals who produce new business, manage projects and the business relationship, and often manage the business.
The typical scenario is that a principal produces new business and then dedicates her time to implementing and managing the new business. When the new customers are successfully implemented, she finds that her pipeline is dry. Because she dedicated most of her time and energy to onboarding those new customers, she didn't spend time generating potential new opportunities. I must confess, I have found myself in this situation before.
With inbound lead generation, these peaks and valleys can be avoided. While you are onboarding new clients, your website content can be generating potential new opportunities.
Generating leads with content
The fuel that drives the inbound lead generation process is content. Whether it be blog posts, videos, eBooks, whitepapers or webinars, marketing content that educates your buyers is what generates a consistent flow of leads into the top of your sales funnel.
The content has to add value to the buyer for them to share contact information with you and begin a relationship that may end up with them becoming a customer. Self-promotional content is of no value to a buyer - your content should help them understand how to solve problems they face and by extension, show that you may be a good partner to help them solve them.
Remember the nature of the modern buying process for professional services. It's not just and economic buyer making the decision, decision-makers rely on input from users and technical buyers. It's important to create content that addresses the concerns of each participant in the buying process. This doesn't mean lowest-common denominator content that addresses everyone's concerns. You're better off creating separate content for the key players in the buying process:
- Economic buyers are interested in content that shows how they can generate more revenue, decrease costs or be more efficient.
- User buyers are interested in content that shows how they can be more efficient in their jobs.
- Technical buyers are interested in content that shows how your solution will integrate with their processes and systems.
These are high-level descriptions, but they should help you see what kind of content you should create to appeal to your buying teams.
Qualifying inbound leads
It's important to generate leads, but it's more important to generate quality leads. Most of us would rather have 10 high-quality leads than 100 leads of unknown quality. That's why lead qualification is an integral part of your inbound lead generation process.
Inbound lead qualification starts with your content. Your content should be created with your buyers in mind and should be targeted to them. The more specific your content is the better - think auditing services for government contractors rather than auditing services as a topic. Government contractors have unique accounting requirements and aren't interested in broad accounting content. People searching for specific content are more likely to have buying intent than those searching for broad content.
Your inbound marketing software can do the first round of lead qualification for you. We use HubSpot and you will notice most of our lead generation firms ask for industry, role in company and whether a lead is a HubSpot customer (we are a HubSpot Certified Agency Partner.) This helps us define the leads to which we will devote limited resources. Once we have this first round of qualification, our professionals do more research to qualify further.
It's important for most professional services firms to do a great job qualifying leads because we have limited sales and marketing resources.
Optimizing the inbound lead generation process
You should constantly be optimizing and improving your inbound lead generation process. With the right inbound marketing software set up properly, you should be able to measure the effectiveness of your efforts. As is the case with any Lean process, you should use marketplace feedback to fine tune your approach and devote resources to those activities that generate revenue. Here are some of the things you should measure:
- How each of your content pieces is performing in drawing visitors to your website and converting them to leads.
- Which of your content promotion channels are performing effectively (social media?, paid advertising?, organic search?, etc.)
- The cost of creating and promoting content compared to the revenue it generates.
We could get much more granular than that, but those are the big-picture things you should monitor in your inbound lead generation process.
Having an effective inbound lead generation process is the key to avoiding the peaks and valleys that many professional services firms face in their revenue generation. Just think, while you're onboarding that new business you just produced, your website can be generating new opportunities for you to continue your success.