Creating the case for digital marketing for professional services firms requires a long term commitment and discipline but relatively little cash investment.
After three years of writing and posting approximately 3,000 words per month of expert content as part of a digital marketing strategy for their B2B professional services firm, this twelve-person company is seeing several unanticipated benefits while also bringing in two significant new clients that will add hundreds of thousands of dollars in new fees to their practice over the next few years.
All this was done without marketing automation or new technology, without a significant cash investment, and without a staff marketing person.
Three years ago a colleague who owns a professional services firm, asked if I could help with a client acquisition strategy.
He told me what he hoped to gain along with the parameters for the strategy.
What he had described was a perfect fit for an inbound “findability” campaign and after some discussion he agreed to implement it as a one-year test, which he would continue if he saw any positive signs.
The number one focus for these past three years has just been on “getting the writing done”.
A total of 106,000 words have been written in three years (the equivalent of about 2.5 two-hundred-page books) representing over 150 articles and the firm quickly ranked in the top five on Google searches for five keyword phrases in both their local geographic market and in other key target locations.
At the end of year one, no new clients had been acquired but the decision was made to continue based on several benefits to the firm that were identified.
In year two the owner wrote his own industry book suitable for distribution to potential clients, published by an industry association.
In years two and three the effort began to pay off generating two significant new clients solely as a result of their increased “findability”.
Both new clients found the firm exclusively via a Google search that used search terms that Google identified as relevant to the keywords that they now rank on. Before that search, the firm had never heard of the clients, and the clients had never heard of the firm.
In both cases the Google search lead the clients to invite the firm to a short list competing for the business – and in both cases they won the account.
As well, in years two and three they received several other inquiries in the same manner but chose not to pursue them.
Of note is the fact that much of the education that both new clients received about the firm (that helped the firm to win the work) was based on the articles the firm had published on their site. The volume, quality, and relevance of the information positioned the firm as a strong leader against other competitors that did not have articles (or had only “thin” content) on their site.
Think about your web site.
Does it have a bunch of marketing spin about your employee’s hobbies, and motherhood statements about your commitment to quality and excellence – or does it have 100,000+ words of educational articles?
Which do you think attracts and impresses a potential client more?
It took a few months to start seeing search engine results but within the next two years the firm averaged one new client a year.
There were almost zero incremental costs to the firm for the campaign (staff writing time was significantly less than other forms of marketing such as responding to RFPs) yet it resulted in new clients that will yield hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of dollars in new fees over the next few years.
The firm has mastered the most difficult part of the campaign and that is the regular production of 3,000 words per month of expert content by their staff. That is a huge challenge for many firms and they should be congratulated for achieving that.
The good news is that there is still plenty that the firm can do to improve the quality of their writing and increase the rate of new client acquisition.
For example, their focus on “getting the writing done” led them to skip some of the optimization improvements they could have been making to their writing. Now that “getting the writing done” has been mastered they can focus on adding those improvements – things like optimizing headlines and sub-heads to target keywords, ensuring keywords are used sufficiently and in the right places throughout the articles, cultivating quality backlinks, optimizing their website for SEO (addressing dead pages, broken links, etc.) and republication of their articles in industry and mainstream media.
So in a nutshell here’s what your professional services firm needs to do to generate inbound leads from your website.
Although it’s substantial, the good news is that the core skill already exists within your firm and that’s the ability to generate articles about industry issues – otherwise known as expert-based content.
If your firm is building a digital marketing and social media infrastructure without a plan to create at least 3,000 words of new expert content each month along with related back-links you can expect very few benefits and plenty of disappointment.
Until you’ve found the way to forge the words it’s probably best to just forget about SEO, re-branding, PPC, Twitter, Facebook and all their social media cousins.
You will be building an engine that will never have any fuel.
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"This should be required reading for consultants AND their clients - especially the part about RFPs." - Blair Enns, Win Without Pitching