The future is bright for the professional services industry. Increasing government regulation has made it less appealing for companies to hire staff accountants, attorneys and other advisory positions. They still need help with these functions, so where will they turn to get the job done? SMB companies will increasingly turn to professional services firms to outsource these functions. That's great news for those of us who are running professional services firms.
But how can we generate qualified leads to grow our companies the way we want and need to? The answer is both simple and complex: we need to sell and market our services the way our ideal customers purchase our services.
How buyers buy today
Here are a few facts that tell the story about how our ideal customers are purchasing services today:
Google's Zero Moment of Truth Study found that buyers are conducting more research prior to buying products and services. Between 2010 and 2011, the average number of pre-purchase research sources doubled, increasing from 5.2 to 10.4.
The Corporate Executive Board's New Decision Timeline found that the average buyer completes 57% of her buying process before ever contacting a salesperson. What is she doing in the first 60% of her buying process? She's doing the research cited in the Google study.
In the Zero Moment of Truth Study, Google asked survey respondents what types of research sources they reviewed prior to their purchase decision. Two seemingly opposing sources stood out from the pack - search engine queries (50% of respondents) and recommendations from friends and colleagues (49%.)
The bottom line is that your ideal customers are using the internet and social media to research purchase options. They're also talking to their friends and colleagues to get recommendations and suggestions for potential vendors. Professionals services firms need to embrace the new buying process and meet their prospects on their terms. This is what inbound marketing does - it's a series of processes that helps buyers find your company when they're researching purchase options and provides them with the appropriate content as they move through their buying process.
For purposes of definition, here is a graphical depiction of inbound marketing courtesy of HubSpot.
Here are a few reasons why inbound marketing is a must for your professional services firm.
Your inbound marketing content is a free sample of your knowledge and expertise
Inbound marketing is based on using educational content to attract qualified leads into your selling process. When a potential buyers searches for how to set up my company on Google, you want them to find your blog article or video that educates them on what the options are and things they should consider when choosing the appropriate option.
That blog article or video is a free sample of your knowledge and expertise. Professional services companies sell their expertise - an attorney sells legal expertise and an accountant sells financial expertise. By giving away a bite-size sample of your expertise, you encourage potential buyers to engage with you as they move towards a purchase decision.
If you're not creating samples of your expertise by creating inbound marketing content, you can bet your competitors are
Inbound marketing supports your networking and referral marketing
When you meet someone at a networking event, a good way to reconnect with that person is to send them an interesting article on something that you talked about. Why not send them a link to a blog article you've written or a video your company produced? This is a great way to educate your contact with helpful information. Just make sure it's good information and it's not an overt sales pitch. Better yet, write an article inspired by your conversation and share it with your new connection with a note that says, "Thought you'd be interested - our conversation inspired me to write this article."
If it's helpful and well-written, your new connection just might share it with a friend or colleague. This is a great way to expand your reach and your reputation as an expert in your field. Sharing your content on LinkedIn is another way to share your expertise and position yourself as a trusted advisor in your network.
As you develop a library of content, you increase your opportunity to be helpful to potential buyers and generate qualified sales leads. When done strategically, your content will be found by potential buyers who are strangers when they search for relevant keyword phrases on Google.
As it becomes more onerous for companies to add employees, SMB companies will increasingly outsource functions outside their core business function such as legal, accounting, marketing and HR expertise. This is a boon for professional service companies looking to grow. By creating content that can be used as a sample of expertise, you will develop a reputation as an expert in your field, generate qualified sales leads and grow your professional services form. If you'd like to learn how, please schedule a free consultation below.