I'm writing this post from experience. I've fallen into this trap more times than I really should. If you work in the professional services industry, you can probably relate. You work hard and you land that client you've been working on for the past three months. Then you land a second new client. Things couldn't get better, right?
You spend the next three months onboarding them and making sure they're supporters who will refer you to even more clients. That's the nature of most consulting jobs; you need to spend a lot of time and resources early in the relationship to establish a good long-term customer. Things are starting to calm down a bit and you can now pass a lot of the client management responsibility to your team.
There's just one problem. You have no sales pipeline. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch. And for most professional services businesses, you can never be satisfied with what you have. Even if all of your clients love you, things happen. Companies get bought. Your buyer leaves. A bean counter comes in with a mandate to cut costs. A certain amount of client churn is part of the game.
So now you get back into sales mode. You're not too concerned, you've done this before. But it's going to take you a certain amount of time to build up your pipeline. Sales cycles are long for most professional services businesses (and getting longer!)
Wouldn't it be great if you could avoid falling into this feast or famine trap? Inbound marketing automates your lead generation process and generates leads while you're working with clients.
Content marketing sells for you 24 hours a day
One of the best elements of inbound marketing for professional services businesses is that it matches the way people buy today. According to Google, 89% of B2B buyers use the internet during their research process. It follows that if they don't find your company when they're doing research, your chances of selling to them are minimal. On the other hand, if they do find you and find your marketing content engaging, there's a good chance that you will be considered when they buy.
Another advantage of content marketing for professional services is that a good "evergreen" piece of content will produce traffic to your website and generate leads for years. At Rapidan Inbound, the most viewed page on our site in the first half of 2016 was written in April 2015. We have the same issues you do - clients pay the bills and when it comes down to our marketing or their marketing, their marketing takes precedence.
We have the same issues you do - clients pay the bills and when it comes down to our marketing or their marketing, their marketing takes precedence. We have five evergreen blog posts that produce a steady stream of website traffic and leads, but that's not enough. We produce a minimum of one blog post per week and try to produce a new piece of premium content at least once per quarter.
Make sure to configure your blog post to generate leads
One of the most common mistakes I see in professional services blogs is that they are not configured to generate leads. To illustrate this concept, here's a graphical depiction of the lead generation process from HubSpot:
When someone reads your blog post, you need to give them an opportunity to go deeper into your marketing process. The way this is done is by giving them the opportunity to exchange contact information in exchange for a premium content offer like an eBook, whitepaper, webinar, or video. Content marketing without lead generation will not produce ROI, period.
While most visitors to your website aren't ready to buy immediately, some are! Don't forget about them in your lead generation efforts. For most professional services businesses, a consultation is a good way for people who are in the midst of buying process to talk with you. Keep in mind that they're not going to want to talk to you if your content isn't addressing their pain points.
Professional services marketing is like the life of a shark - if you stop swimming, you die. A good inbound marketing program will help you keep a steady flow of leads into your sales pipeline while you are dealing with other important parts of your business. While you may have sales people on your team, most professional services businesses rely on their management team to produce business. Outsourcing inbound marketing execution to a professional services inbound marketing firm can make it easy for you to keep the wheels turning while you deal with other pressing issues.