Does my professional service firm need a social media presence? Is an active social media presence even possible? And is it worth the effort? These are some of the questions that you may be grappling with as you come to terms with developing a social media strategy.
The dramatic increase in marketing of services through social media channels such as LinkedIn and Twitter has rapidly changed client expectations. They increasingly expect firms to communicate with them via these platforms. At the same time, they expect engagement to be timely and relevant and have high standards for how well professional service firms effectuate their digital strategy. As a result, marketing success and profitability in the B2B sector often demand much more. It requires a bit of science – the science of developing a solid social media strategy. This primer details the critical attributes of social media, and provides tips on how you can make the most of the social media channels that will ensure you generate more leads and drive growth in the ever-changing digital marketplace.
Introducing Social Media for Professional Service Firms
According to data from Statista, 70 percent of the U.S. population has at least one social media profile. The same study estimates that the number of worldwide social media users currently stands at 2.5 billion. If you knew that members of your target client segments spent time in a particular place, wouldn’t it make sense to post a blog, article, or advert there? That’s what social media brings to professional service firms but in a whole new and improved way. Unlike traditional marketing channels, which are usually targeted in a general way, social media creates a meaningful conversation with a particular and broad audience but in a personalized manner.
Let’s now describe an ideal plan for a professional service firm spanning the what, why, and how of a solid social media strategy.
- Create value for your clients
A solid social media strategy is all about creating a dialogue with your clients, listening to them carefully, and understanding their challenges and needs. That calls for transparency, authenticity, and honesty when communicating with both clients and prospects. Assess the impact and opportunity that social media can bring to your business model, understand how your clients and potential clients are using the various social channels and map out how you could use social media to build relationships. If your firm’s messages are not clear enough to allow an authentic conversation with your clients and you don’t create value for them, chances are you will be ignored.
The emphasis here is you shouldn’t treat social media as just another platform to post your sales messages. Instead, you should use social media to offer personalized, one-to-one interactions with your clients. Through these interactions, you can quickly tell if your services are meeting client needs or expectations and also be able to integrate customer input into your service development and delivery cycle. To make sure you provide value, adopt the following tips:
- Maintain relevancy– to achieve this you need to frequently update your social media platforms with the latest industry trends, breaking news, content offers and features (think infographics, blog posts, white papers, e-books, etc.) as this will ensure you maintain client interest and a steady supply of repeat visits. If you can, establish a social media team to manage social communications and content and make sure the team posts new messages & content frequently and answers clients’ feedback and queries in a prompt manner. Data from Twitter, for instance, indicate that B2B audiences are much more likely to engage on Twitter after repeat exposure to messaging. That is, a prospect who has seen a firm’s message four times is 335 percent more likely to click on a link in a Tweet by that firm than a prospect who has only been exposed to the message once.
- Choose your hashtags correctly– as you add hashtags to your social media content, using too many of the similar hashtags will only get you in front of the same audience. Broaden the range of topics your hashtags cover to get in front of new audiences. Add those that reference your industry, the features of the product you’re promoting, and the audience you’re trying to reach.
- Enhance sharing– to achieve this you can organize discussion forums, chats, newsletters, and Q&A sections on your clients’ social channels to make it easy for them to share their views and provide feedback about your services.
- Ensure accuracy and keep it exciting– Professional service’ buyers expect relevant and accurate information about the firm in which they are interested. Develop a social media policy that will ensure you keep the information posted about your firm’s services, activities, and promotions accurate and up-to-date. To attract clients, you also need to make your social media channels exciting. According to HubSpot, visual content is more than 40 times more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content, and that’s why a majority of B2B marketers (51%) prioritize creating visual assets as part of their content marketing strategy. Use images, videos, and live streams to provide interesting facts about your services and tips on using Leverage competitions, games, and blog posts to get potential buyers interacting with your social media platforms.
- Know when to post– Studies suggest posting at noon, so you increase your chances of catching business professionals on their lunch break. But early evening between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. is also regarded as a good time because users are winding down their workday. The worst time is between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. since this is typically the dead time in the business universe.
- Re-structure your organization and examine your internal culture
Social media works by creating conversations with clients that cut across service lines, sales, and marketing boundaries. That means professional service firms need to move beyond their functional silos. They need to embed their social media strategy across the entire organization for it to take root. On a similar note, professional service firms need to examine their internal cultures to achieve maximum impact and value from social media. Many firms are not comfortable with the level of empowerment social media gives to their workforce. If employees are communicating with your clients directly, say via Twitter, a level of trust and confidence is required that many professional service firms are not comfortable. However, this should not be the case as adopting social media presents opportunities for internal knowledge sharing, productivity growth, and collaboration.
- Leverage the best channels and optimize for each social network
You are probably using a range of social networks, which is not a wrong move. However, common mistakes professional service firms make is to replicate updates and re-share them on different social networks. That is not a good strategy as audiences on various social networks are unique, and the content they expect is exclusive too. We will discuss three social platforms- LinkedIn, Twitter, and SlideShare- that we believe will ensure maximum impact and thus bring more value. We’ve also provided tips on how you can optimize for each of the three social networks.
LinkedIn has more than 562 million users in more than 200 countries around the world and is the world’s premier B2B social network. Statistics show that an estimated 80% of all business-to-business (B2B) sales leads come from LinkedIn. Here’s how you can make the most of LinkedIn.
- LinkedIn gives you three areas to include websites, so if you have more than one site, include up to three of them in this section. If you only have one website, you can still take advantage of all three. For example, you may set one to go to your homepage, another to a service page, or perhaps to a landing page for a download you are offering. That will encourage people to visit the specific pages where you can provide more information about your business offerings.
- Know what content length performs best. According to findings from a study by Noah Kagan of OkDork.com on viral LinkedIn posts, aiming for long-form but not too long-form can prove to be a game-changer. His results showed 1900 word articles got the most shares, so aiming for between 1700 & 2100 words should give your content a boost. The findings also note that how-to posts get almost 2x as many views as question posts. So when you’re creating content with LinkedIn views in mind, you should focus on how-to posts and list style posts and steer clear of question posts.
- Having a compelling LinkedIn profile is essential, but make sure it includes a CTA that answers one question: What do you want the reader to do next? Without this one small detail, most people will leave your profile, not taking action. CTAs can come in different forms and with different purposes. You can create a CTA to invite your readers to download a free resource, subscribe to a newsletter, schedule a consultation, email, or call you, and so on. Add a CTA to your LinkedIn profile to help you get leads and facilitate further engagement between you and your potential clients. Make it easy for potential prospects to know what to do next by telling them precisely what you want them to do with your CTA.
According to data from a study by Content Marketing Institute on B2B firms, Twitter is the second most used social media platform for content marketing purposes, coming in the right behind LinkedIn. 67% of B2B marketers view Twitter as one of the three most effective social channels when it comes to helping their organizations achieve specific objectives. Here’s how to get the best from Twitter.
- When someone replies to or re-tweets your content on Twitter, take the time to send them a short and sweet thank you reply. If they comment on your content with their thoughts and opinions, continue the conversation. Use tools like TweetDeck or HootSuite to optimize the process.
- When someone re-tweets your content, you can respond using Twitter’s Lead Generation Cards to prompt them to sign up immediately. These users are already primed for your content and show interest in your writing, so they’re highly likely to want more of what you’re giving. By providing a personalized thank you and a frictionless one-click sign-up, you can drive more leads/email sign-ups for your blog.
- The love your users give you on social media is a secure form of social proof; you can take advantage of this to grow your business. You can embed Tweets from happy users on your site as a way to show new visitors why everyone loves your products. It’s an easy and effective customer testimonial that increases trust and credibility.
- Whenever someone Tweets at you, use services like TweetFull to automatically favorite their Tweets. By doing so, you’re encouraging users to Tweet about you more often, resulting in more engagement for your social media presence. Be careful to filter out any NSFW (not safe for work) Tweets.
- Leverage Calls To Action (CTAs)- Click to Tweet is a call-to-action (CTA) in which you prepopulate a box with a key quote or idea from one of your posts that users can then tweet out at the click of a button. Prompting your readers with a quick and easy way to share the main message from your post is a simple way for users to share your content and spread awareness of your brand among people who are more likely to engage with it.
- How many tweets should you send in a day, and what is the best time to tweet? According to data from Track Social, the optimum value is between 4 and 15 tweets per day for businesses that cater to multiple time zones, and about four times a day for local companies. Research shows that the most popular time to tweet is between noon and 1 p.m., while the least popular time is between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. So tweeting during the lunch hour may provide you with a broad audience.
SlideShare has 70 million unique visitors a month; in fact, the site is now among the top 100 most visited websites in the world. This social media platform allows users to upload videos, documents, infographics, and presentations in various formats. Here’s how you can get the best from SlideShare.
- Design compelling title slides that can be seen at a small size. Consider using Buzzsumo to help determine the topic of the presentation.
- Utilize CTA slides. Inserting CTA slides at the end of a SlideShare presentation will help direct the traffic you get from SlideShare. That can be particularly useful for B2B leads: “SlideShare has up to 5 times more traffic from business owners than Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and even LinkedIn!”
- Put your keywords to better use. Using your keyword as a filename can be a good move. For instance, to upload your presentation to SlideShare, you have to save it as a PDF. When you save the PDF, use your keyword as the filename. You can also include your keyword or phrase in the title and description of your presentation, as well as the tags. Make your keyword the first tag for the presentation, and then choose carefully related tags to follow.
- Anytime you post a presentation on LinkedIn, share it as a status update in both your profile and company page. You can also add your SlideShare content to your LinkedIn profile’s Summary page. Just click ´Edit´ on your profile, then click the box with a plus sign beside it and add a link to your slides. Once you add the link to your presentation, you have an attractive way to stand out from other profiles and encourage people to click through for your content. Share within your blog, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages and also make clickable buttons back to your website home page.
- Understand the power of Social Analytics
It is now possible for professional service firms to capture social “noise” and distill it into meaningful and specific client insights. By using social analytics (think Twitter Analytics, LinkedIn analytics, etc.), your firm will become more efficient and agile in today’s evolving marketplace as you will be able to design services that are predictably relevant to your clients and hence generate significant value for your business. In essence, with social analytics, you will be able to achieve the following:
- Make more informed and better decisions– Social analytics will allow you to test different advertising, pricing, and social scenarios; as a result, you will be in a position to make fact-based business decisions related to marketing campaigns, sales forecasting, and pricing-and to adjust your decisions in real-time.
- Know your clients better– If social media is a forum for professional service’ buyers to share their views, then social analytics is a way for professional service firms to listen. Prospective clients use social media channels to tell brands what services they want and how to market and sell those services to them effectively. By using social analytics, you will get a 360-degree view of your potential clients and thus understand them better.
- Ensure a positive return-on-investment (ROI)- By utilizing social analytics, your professional service firms will be able to target marketing campaigns more effectively and hence, make better use of your marketing budget. Additionally, social analytics can help you determine the real ROI for different marketing categories (think television, digital channels, and out-of-home), so you know which ones are worth the investment.
The Bottom Line
There is no arguing that social media marketing has increased, and that’s why professional service firms must reinvent their traditional marketing approaches. According to a study by Talkwalker, McKinsey, for instance, is an example of a professional service firm that is making the most of social media platforms. The firm was one of the top performers on Twitter, using insightful infographics to draw in their audience. It also placed a strong focus on gender equality in the workplace and utilized Twitter to promote their research on this subject. The result was remarkable as the firm received 78 retweets per post, the most engagement per tweet of any of the companies examined. By leveraging the above mentioned social media strategies, you will be able to extend the reach of the marketing and sales department, and, by extension, the reach of your brand and its value proposition. You will achieve greater collaboration, increased productivity, and better client engagement.
Is your social media marketing strategy not bringing in the desired return-on-investment? Let the experts at COMPANY EXPERT help you with marketing through social media.
In today’s information age and more so the B2B arena, establishing solid relationships with prospects and clients on LinkedIn and optimizing your LinkedIn Profile matters more than ever. Professional service buyers dislike irrelevant or promotional messages. Instead, they want to engage with professional service firms that focus on sharing relevant and useful content.
As a result, professional service companies are increasingly leveraging LinkedIn and using it to build solid relationships with their clients and potential prospects by providing them with informative and engaging content through the platform.
However, based on our extensive research, we’ve seen that most firms’ LinkedIn profiles are not optimized, and as a result, they are missing out on some huge potential.
Consider this- LinkedIn is the number one B2B social network online today with more than 562 million users in more than 200 countries around the world.
In fact, according to a study of more than 5,000 businesses conducted by HubSpot, the traffic from LinkedIn had a conversion rate of 2.74 percent while traffic from Twitter and Facebook had conversion rates of 0.69 percent and 0.77 percent, respectively.
In other words, the conversion rate for leads from LinkedIn is 277 percent greater than it is for leads from both Twitter and Facebook.
Not optimizing your LinkedIn profile has several implications. You will not make a good impression with potential prospects and clients, you will not be found in searches, and you will not grow your connections.
We want to provide you with tips on how you can optimize your LinkedIn profile in a way that will enable you to connect with more clients, establish a stable relationship with them, and ultimately grow your business.
Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile
Here’s a look at five secrets that you can use to optimize your LinkedIn profile.
- Choose a Standout Headline
The headline is the essential part of your profile, along with your name and profile picture. That’s why you need to use a standout headline. Choose a headline that captures your firm’s personality.
For instance, instead of using a headline such as “provider of data analytics software solution,” you can use a more inspiring headline such as “we help you figure out how to make sense of your organizational data.”
- Make the Most of the Summary Section
One of the most critical sections of your profile that is often underutilized is the summary section. This section allows you to promote your business. Make sure that it is evident at the beginning of the summary, the types of clients you work with, and the value you add.
Like any online writing, if you have a lot of text, break it up into short paragraphs or bullets. To add a bullet, go to a website like https://coolsymbol.com and copy and paste a symbol into your profile summary.
And last but not least, ensure you have a call to action (s) in your summary.
LinkedIn is the largest social media channel in terms of search queries. Most professional service buyers search for companies using LinkedIn’s Boolean or business-specific search.
For LinkedIn to generate accurate search results, it mostly relies on the keywords you’ve used in your profile. Make sure you think about the keywords that will drive traffic to your profile since they impact your visibility.
One specific area you should review is your skills section. By default, LinkedIn highlights the skills (only the top three unless a visitor wants to see more) that have received the highest number of endorsements. Make sure those are the ones you want to be highlighted in your profile. If not, you should rearrange them.
- Link to the Right Website Page/ Social Media Channels
You already know that prospective clients are coming from LinkedIn. Make sure you take advantage of this; introduce them to your firm with a unique landing page that will convert them into paying clients.
LinkedIn provides you with three areas to put in URLs, and you’ll want to maximize this feature. If you have multiple websites, add them. You can also add your social media URLs. If you want people to connect with you, show them how!
You need to utilize videos as 60% of the top 100 companies on LinkedIn actively post videos. You can place a video on your profile page, and this can ensure your prospective clients stay longer on your profile page.
LinkedIn is the world’s premier B2B social media platform that is empowering enterprises like never before.
To capitalize on these ever-evolving opportunities, professional service firms need to establish a solid strategy that can improve their ability to harness the power of LinkedIn and thus reach more professional service buyers.
The tips we have outlined above can help optimize your LinkedIn profile and as a result, win and keep more clients.
So what’s preventing your firm from reaching its full growth potential? Put your firm on a path to healthy growth. Ask for a FREE assessment today!
How to Create an Effective Online Presence for a Professional Service Firm
There are now new and improved ways of engaging with clients. Professional service firms need to accept that the business environment has dramatically changed. It’s now characterized by crowded marketplaces, eroding client trust, and increased complexity.
Modern-day professional service buyers have access to more information about products and services. They no longer depend on outbound marketing channels (think broadcast TV, prints, radio, etc.) for advertisements. They consider them intrusive.
Social technologies have also made it easier for them to showcase their own opinions of a particular brand, and as a result, their buying decisions are influenced by their peers. That has resulted in more complex client journeys.
The implication is you need to adapt to the digital age or risk a stagnating brand. You can’t deny that competition is set to come thick and fast, especially when a Professional Services Market Global Report by The Business Research Company, forecasts a 5.4% growth rate from 2016 to 2020.
So how can you maintain a competitive advantage in today’s complex business environment?
By building a meaningful business brand that screams digital. Numbers from a global study by Havas Media of over 300,000 people and 1,500 brands show that significant brands outperform others on the stock market by 206% over a ten-year period.
Through this primer, we will discuss some of the ways a professional service firm can use to create an active online presence, which will, in effect, turn it into a meaningful brand.
Creating an Effective Online Presence
An active online presence means that a professional service firm can target prospective clients with content that has greater relevance to the audience via digital platforms where they spend significant time.
Here’s a look at some of the ways you can go about achieving this.
Have the Right Logo
Did you know that it only takes professional service buyers 10 seconds to form a first impression of a brand’s logo, but it takes 5-7 impressions for them to recognize the logo?
The point here is that you need to choose your logo correctly. Let’s look at some of the qualities of an excellent professional services logo:
- Simplicity– Simple logos are memorable. The easier it is for your target audience to remember your logo, the better your brand awareness will be.
- Targeted– Your logo needs to appeal to the individuals you are trying to focus on. A creative agency, for instance, will have a much different look and feel compared to a law firm.
- Versatility– You can’t argue with the fact that the best logos look fabulous, no matter where they’re found. Regardless of its size, or if it is in print, digital, or other media, a great logo makes a strong impression.
- Appropriate– Does the logo reinforce your value proposition? Does it reflect the tone, style, and colors that you want your clients to see?
- Timeless– Is the logo timeless? Will some of the graphics be outdated a few years from now?
- Memorable and Professional– Make sure that you have a famous logo, one that is different than your competitors. Your logo should convey a clear message of your brand and your professional services.
Use the Right Color Scheme
Statistics show that the right color can improve readership by 40% by making messaging more natural to read and more visually appealing.
You need to think carefully about the color scheme you choose for your logo. Blue and green are often the most frequently used colors for professional service firms. Blue offers some additional benefits, which include:
- Pretty much everyone can see blue, while red/green color blindness is relatively standard.
- Blue is the most common favorite color for both men and women in the United States.
- Blue is psychologically associated with trust and confidence.
Make sure you use color purposefully as it accentuates your company logo and your corporate color palette. Also, make sure that the palette is consistent across all of your media, and it will appeal to the personas you are targeting.
The bottom line here is that it is safer to use colors that appeal to your professional service buyers and differentiate using your value proposition, content, and design.
Choose a Proper Website Theme
Although designers would prefer otherwise, most professional service firms do not need a custom developed website. Over 25% of the millions of sites that are online use the WordPress platform.
The benefits of using WordPress include:
- Thousands of professional service themes allow you to launch and change the design of your website quickly. There are thousands of themes available for WordPress.
- Plugins allow you to extend the functionality of your WordPress site without knowing how to program. There are over 10,000 plugins available that help you add all kinds of functionality to your sites, like social media sharing, SEO, security, and much more.
- They are easy to update. Once it is set up, you can update it anytime you want, and that is important for engagement with your clients and the search engines.
- Google loves WordPress sites. Because they are updated more frequently, and the content tends to be structured well, you can get a WordPress site ranking very quickly compared to a static website.
- A thriving, engaged community supports WordPress. You can find a WordPress designer anywhere, and if you provide them the appropriate guidance, you can save thousands of dollars.
Include Best-in-Class Design Features
Numbers from research by Econsultancy show that 95% of professional service buyers believe that positive user experience is the most crucial factor when they visit a website.
Another study by Forrester highlights that a proper design could increase your website’s conversion rate by 200 to 400%.
Although there are exceptions, we recommend that most professional service firms follow some simple best practices:
- Avoid clip art, use a lot of pictures, preferably not stock photos.
- If you have a process or system, highlight it; it helps you stand out and builds credibility.
- Make sure you use a variety of media if possible –e.g., icons, pictures, video.
- Use sub-tabs, so your menu does not look so overwhelming, try to avoid more than six main level tabs.
- Use a consistent template format for navigation, headers, text, typography, and hyperlinks.
- Make sure content flows from one block to another without overwhelming the visitor. Give users a clear and consistent structure they can follow.
- Make sure you provide enough white space throughout the design. White space not only helps reduce the cognitive load of visitors, but it also makes it much easier for users to segment and digest the information presented.
- Think through your desired visitor path and present a clear call to action to guide them along the way. Plan on these early in the development process so they can be included in the design in a cohesive and non-obstructive manner.
- Check Browser Rendering –Does your browser perform well across all major browsers and operating systems? A cross-browser check is worth the time, as many browsers do render the website differently.
Content is King!
I know you agree with the phrase- content is “king!” You also agree with the fact that it’s hard for targeted audiences to react to your content promptly, especially when you consider that prospective clients are being exposed to so many brand messages.
Professional service buyers’ attention spans have shortened. They are subject to more information than ever before; they consume so many inbound marketing messages every day, and as a result, this makes it harder to cut through.
So, how can your professional service firm stand above the rest and deliver content that outplays the hundreds of other competing messages? Here’s how:
- In inbound marketing, content is vital. Ensure that you post top-notch/high-quality industry content as it will set you apart from other professional service firms you compete with and help you to earn the trust of prospective clients.
- Ensure that your content (think blog posts, whitepapers, e-books, infographics, etc.) reinforces your value proposition and sets the right tone for the persona you have developed.
- Ensure that your website content is free of spelling errors, properly edited, and written in the author’s native language.
- Ensure that your content is simple enough, so a majority of the target audience can easily understand it and thus stay longer on your site.
- Ensure that you consistently create and publish new content, as this will keep prospects coming for more. The best way to achieve this is to set publishing goals and execute them.
- Ensure that you cover topics that are relevant to your professional service firm and your target market; to research on topic ideas you can look at industry conferences agenda or LinkedIn groups your clients are on, or share use cases on how you solve clients’ problems.
- Remember to write for your humans and not the search engines – though you cannot ignore keywords.
- As a professional service firm, you are selling the expertise of your people; therefore, make sure you have stable bios for your key staff. You can also use testimonials and case studies to demonstrate your knowledge.
- Keep in mind that professional service buyers buy based on outcomes and not processes, so if you have “proof statements” that demonstrate the value you add, use them. For instance, a marketing firm may say- “through our efforts, we were able to demonstrate 60% more qualified leads.”
Leverage Social Media
To grow and scale your business in today’s competitive business environment, you need to keep your existing and prospective clients happy and engaged.
Enter social media.
A social media strategy can enable your professional service firm to adopt a client-centric culture, an agile mindset, and also be able to respond and execute on client feedback continually.
As a result, your firm, and more so your employees, can adopt an iterative, test, and lean approach that will enhance product development and client experience based on feedback and data from your social media platforms.
To create a solid social media strategy, consider the following tips:
- Integrate social media buttons on your website- social channels allow for a more luxurious client experience; these social platforms allow professional service buyers to interact directly with businesses and brands, thus creating a dialogue with them. Make sure the icons are easily identifiable, and that they link to your social media accounts, as well as traditional sharing icons on posts so content can be quickly shared across social media networks.
- Use the right social media accounts- There are many social media platforms that you can choose from (think Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.). You need to understand the nature of each channel to be able to use it appropriately. Ask yourself where do most of your prospective clients spend their time? Well, LinkedIn leads the way as it is the largest professional social network. Consider creating a LinkedIn account.
- Once you’ve leveraged the right social media channels, ensure that you provide content regularly. You can use some of the automation tools (think Hootsuite, Buffer, etc.) available on the market to help you and your workforce automate otherwise complex social media processes, thereby driving greater efficiencies from your social channels.
- Make sure that the content you share is relevant and resonates emotionally with your client base as this will increase the likelihood of people sharing your content or talking about it with their network.
- Social activity influences organic search, so share your content regularly and encourage others to do so as well. You can also take it a notch higher and design a brand advocacy program that will promote sharing and reward brand advocates.
- And finally, remember that social media is about interaction, which means you must actively connect with your followers, share third-party content, and communicate via tweets, likes, comments, etc. Ensure that you address not only positive comments but also negative ones.
Always Include Call-to-Actions
Studies show that 90% of people who look at your website will read your CTAs, and if they are embedded in your text, your conversion rate will increase by over 120%.
Therefore, as prospective clients come to your website, ensure you have a clear call to action for each stage of the buyer’s journey.
A typical buyer’s journey takes the following format typically:
- Awareness– a professional service buyer becomes aware of your site and your expertise.
- Interaction– a professional service buyer enjoys your blog, so they sign up for your newsletter.
- Value-added giveaway– trust begins to develop, and they are willing to provide you some information about their firm in exchange for some value-added information that highlights your firm’s expertise.
- Action– you have demonstrated you are a trusted advisor to the professional service buyer.
- Client– a client buys your services.
Professional service firms need to recognize that the business landscape is fast-changing, and consequently, client expectations are continually evolving.
They need to reposition their brands as a result of these changes and understand that the true value of a professional service firm is determined by a number of factors from the quality of the service and customer service through to its online presence.
A well-developed online presence can help a professional service firm differentiate its services, create and maintain a competitive edge, and build client loyalty.
The strategies mentioned above will go a long way in helping you create an active online presence that will ensure that your services, and also client experiences deliver clear and consistent expressions of your professional service firm’s brand.
Your website is an extension of your firm. When prospects come to your site, they will begin to decide as to whether or not they want to engage you. Are you leaving them with the right impression?
Get the FREE audit of your website today so you can start gaining more clients tomorrow.
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Professional service firms need to work harder than ever to reinvent the way they reach their prospective clients through email campaigns. The marketing environment is much different and complicated in the information age than it was even a few years ago. Client expectations have rapidly changed thanks to the proliferation of new services through digital channels, which have created seismic shifts across communication mediums.
The buyers of professional services are more connected, more informed, and increasingly vocal about their brand choices and opinions. They have fingertip access to rich market data from independent sources, and thus no longer rely solely on what organizations choose to communicate to them. They initiate and dictate marketing discussions and expect one-size-fits-one attention.
Through this primer, we have defined nine key influences that professional service firms should consider when developing email campaigns and how to reach prospective clients more effectively.
Developing Effective Email Campaigns
According to numbers from a survey by Forrester, a staggering 82 percent of businesses claim that email is the most commonly used marketing channel. It tops social media and web channels, which are used significantly less often, at 69 percent and 68 percent, respectively, according to the same survey.
Another study by McKinsey found out that email is a much more effective way to acquire clients than social media- nearly 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined. Data from the study also shows that 91 percent of U.S. consumers use email daily, and the channel is far more effective than social media in terms of conversions and order value.
These stats highlight the fact that email is one of the best marketing channels, and professional service firms need to develop an effective email campaign strategy that will bring in more potential clients while delighting existing clients. Here are nine ways you can use an email marketing strategy to achieve this.
A successful email campaign is all about giving your prospective clients something that provides value to them and makes them want more. Relevant content will make them choose your business over your competitors, whether that’s educational information about your industry, operational messages about your service, or marketing messages about the products/services you offer. Here you can do the following:
- Send new leads a series of customized messages after they sign up for your newsletter to remind them that they opted in. Each message should include useful content to reward readers and serve as a guideline for what they can expect out of your newsletter. Include information on the timing of email messages, regularity, and content plans.
- Send an email or series of emails to win back prospects who haven’t purchased your services within a specific timeframe. Offer discounts, promotions, or exclusive services to draw them back to your site. Use this to increase lifetime value (LTV) by getting more clients to make repeat purchases.
- Send an email with a testimonial from one of your clients to remind them how useful your services are. You’d be surprised how little of your user-base is even aware of all of your service capabilities or use cases. These types of emails can open up a whole new world of functionality for them and therefore improve retention rates.
- Rethink your Subject Lines
After the email greeting, the subject line of each email you produce is of the utmost importance. While it may be surprising to learn, the content of the subject line takes a back seat to the length of the subject line in question. Experts now believe that the overall length of a given subject line runs in direct correlation to the odds that the email will be opened. Subject lines that are ten characters or less are opened more than 50 percent of the time, while those that are 70 characters or higher have an open rate of 120 percent less than those with suitably short subject lines.
That is, the higher the number of characters that an email subject line has, the lower the number of click-throughs the email will receive, while subject lines that are short on characters are more likely to be read. With this in mind, you will then be able to tweak the system of labeling to ensure that it naturally attracts as many different potential users as possible.
Also, research by MailChimp confirms that specific keywords in the subject line increase open email rates by 57%. The impact you’ll see in the public email rate when you use one of these words in the subject line is as follows- Positive Urgent: + 79% Thank you: + 57%. Conversely, specific keywords can have the opposite effect – Negative Cancelled: -40% Helping: -12% Last chance: -45%.
Professional service firms need to understand that in email marketing campaigns, personalization is becoming the prime source of competitive differentiation. Broad awareness email campaigns do not drive sales as they once did – these campaigns are often out of sync with the pulse of changing client needs. Too many times, these campaigns target the wrong prospective clients, creating unwelcome marketing messages that can damage a firms’ reputation.
You can achieve personalization by knowing your clients, understanding their pain points and needs, and then offering them tailored experiences. Look at the natural segments in your email list or client database. If you have taken the time to collect data on your clients, then it is time to start putting that data to use by personalizing your content for various segments of the population.
According to stats from MailChimp’s latest segmented-list user data, open rates were a robust 14.31 percent higher, and clicks were a whopping 100.95 percent higher than non-segmented campaigns. Specifically targeting segments of your target audience can convert them into loyal followers who are then much more likely to spread the words of your authority to their colleagues and friends who are also interested in finding a solution to their pain point. Here are some recommendations that you can implement to help personalize your messages:
- Personalize your email subject lines based on user data. Studies indicate that personalized subject lines result in a 22.0 percent increase in open rates compared to emails without customized subject lines. Many professional service firms choose not to collect any personal data with email addresses to keep their sign up forms as frictionless as possible. If you want to send emails with personalized subject lines while keeping your sign up types simple, you should at least collect first names with email addresses.
- Personalize referral codes and landing pages- Airbnb, for instance, created personalized referral codes and landing pages with a photo of the inviter. As a result, referrals increased bookings by over 25% in some markets.
The time of day that you choose to send out your email can have a dramatic impact on both click-through and open rates. The most productive time to send an email is during the very early hours of the day so that it will be seen during the period that most people dedicate to catching up on what has happened while they have been asleep. If you wait until a later point in the day to send out your email, then it is going to naturally have much more competition, not just with other emails your subscribers might have to deal with but also with the stressors of the day as well. That equates to roughly a 20 percent increase in open and click-through rates if done correctly. Along similar lines, the day of the week that you choose to send out your email is going to impact your metrics as well.
Studies show that emails sent on Friday evening after 8 pm, Saturday and Sunday all have a statistically higher chance of being opened, with emails sent on Saturdays after 8 pm gaining the biggest boost of an additional 25 percent chance of being opened and 30 percent in click-through rates simply because people have less to do on Sunday mornings than at any other point during the week.
Note – not everyone on your email list has the same daily routine, nor do they all live in the same time zone. You need to test for your market the ideal time to send out your newsletters and emails.
- Leverage an Email Marketing Platform and Social Channels
The best marketing platforms have tools to help you develop effective email campaigns. Some of the features to look for include:
- Easy Campaign creation and automation, including templates and workflows.
- Integration capabilities with software (such as a CRM) that you already use.
- Audience segmentation capabilities.
- In-depth analytics on email campaign performance.
Numbers from the Litmus’ State of Email Survey showed that successful email programs are 108.5% more likely to generate at least half of the company’s email marketing revenue from automated and transactional emails. There are various email marketing platforms such as Mailchimp and Zoho, which you can leverage.
Besides leveraging an email marketing platform, it is also essential to utilizing social media platforms (think Twitter and LinkedIn) to test out Subject Lines and Calls-to-Action.
Share your content on social media channels using different copy before you send your email and see which performs best in terms of clicks and shares. Identify who’s looking and how many have engaged. Are you attracting the right target audience? Are you getting the attention of those who would buy?
In the B2B industry, once you have designed and developed your email content, make sure that you use the right Calls-to-Action. Most professional service firms’ emails have an objective of driving traffic to landing pages that often offer free tools, checklists, or white papers. But to convert this traffic, you must ensure that the email content itself is relevant and useful to prospective clients. Why should prospects invest more time? What is behind the link? The point here is that consumers get multiple emails per day- why should they care about yours?
- Focus on a Multi-Tiered Approach
Outside of your first email newsletter, you are also going to want to create several generalized emails that can trigger follow on content at specific points in your relationship with each subscriber. That will ensure they feel as connected to you as possible. That should include things like a personalized welcome email when they first join and periodic follow-up emails designed to show that you care about their user experience. Remember, you don’t want to send out so many emails that they start to feel like spam, but you also don’t want to lose track of members of your target audience once you have successfully engaged them.
Professional service buyers prefer an experience that is tailored for mobile devices because it adds a wherever/whenever dimension to every aspect of their buying journey. Interesting to note is that a study by Return Path, which analysed over 27 billion email opens, found out that 55% of users opened their emails via mobile devices.
Successful professional service firms utilize device detection and pay extra attention to their header text. They use button CTAs more than link-based CTAs as buttons are more effective compared to links, especially – when a reader is scanning through a newsletter quickly. The point here is that you should add at least one in your emails. Remember to choose the right design according to your theme and use the proper size with contrasting colors.
Images and videos help engage the reader when integrated into your email content. Continually test the effectiveness of your campaign by sending two sets of emails: one email with an image/video embedded in it and another one without (just plain text) and see which one works best. Another alternative is to send text-only emails but with different formats. For instance, as the CEO, you can send a more personal email-introducing yourself to clients, and this can make a significant impact on the firm.
Data from research by HubSpot proves that emails sent by a real person are more likely to be clicked on compared to emails sent from a company name. HubSpot A/B tested emails with two different senders: one from “HubSpot” and another from “Maggie Georgieva, HubSpot.” The first generated a 0.73% CTR and the second got a 0.96% CTR.
Other types of A/B testing include:
- Use variable welcome emails. Udemy found that revenue generated in the first week correlated with an increased customer lifetime value when they ran the welcome email A/B testing: The control email welcomed new users with 50% off any course. The variable email leveraged behavioural data to serve up a direction in which the user had already expressed interest. They included that course in the email header, along with the same 50% off coupon. Results: The variable email generated +150% more revenue.
- You can also A/B test the way you communicate your value proposition for a given product to ensure the best results. For example, Airbnb ran one interesting A/B testing by communicating very different value propositions for the same product. In one email, they emphasized that you can earn $25 for inviting a friend (self-interested). In the other email, they noted that you are sharing $25 with your friend (kind). Result: The altruistic email performed better globally.
There is no sure way for a successful email campaign, and that’s why it is essential to leverage A/B testing as it allows you to try different approaches to see which work best. But remember to test small changes in a controlled manner. Don’t change too much at once, or you won’t know which change had a positive or negative effect. It is also crucial to test against what is essential – your primary campaign objective.
Last but not least, don’t forget to measure your email campaign success rates. You can leverage metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, unsubscribe rates, and spam rates to know if your email campaign is succeeding.
Professional service firms that do not adapt to the changing marketing landscape will find it hard to attract modern-day buyers. Today’s professional service buyers are increasingly self-directed when it comes to choosing a brand. Service information is now ubiquitous, mainly due to information abundance coupled with improved search and digital channels.
That means that professional service firms must understand that commercial success lies in the strength of the relationships it creates with clients. As a result, they have to reinvent their approaches in the design and execution of their email campaigns. The nine strategies outlined above can help your firm establish a differentiated approach to email campaigns and hence, maintain a competitive advantage.
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The advent of digitization and inbound marketing techniques has led professional service firms to realize the transformative power of content.
To earn the trust of both existing and prospective clients, they have recognized the need to first establish their organizations as a credible provider of exciting and relevant content.
They understand that professional service buyers increasingly want more information instantly than ever before. And they want to be engaged at all stages of the sales funnel.
However, while there is an increased appreciation of content when it comes to marketing, many professional service firms are struggling to reach a broader audience. They spend a tremendous amount of time and resources on content creation, but no one sees it because they either don’t promote it or don’t promote it in the right places.
Through this primer, we want to provide you with several tips on how to improve your content strategy and also discuss five marketing automation tools that you can use to get a tenfold increase in viewers of your content.
Creating a Solid Content Strategy
Content is critical as it allows professional service firms to promote their services, develop brand awareness, lend credibility to their expertise, and engage prospects and clients. To put this into perspective, consider the following statistics:
- Nearly 50 percent of B2B marketers expect to increase their content marketing budget in 2019.
- Professional service buyers are 131 percent more likely to buy from the business immediately after reading content from that business.
- 78% of professional service buyers found an organization “helpful,” and 64 percent found it “trustworthy” immediately after reading content from that brand- and these numbers skyrocketed by 8-9 percent one week later.
Here is a detailed look at how professional service firms can plan, create, curate, and promote their content in a more comprehensive way across services to broaden their audience and help to develop better relationships with clients and prospects throughout the buyer’s journey.
Have a Documented Strategy
Research shows that 81 percent of companies believe that the ability to align teams around common mission/goals and being able to determine which types of content to develop, are the two most significant benefits of having a documented content strategy.
Before creating content, professional service firms need to have a documented content strategy. The strategy needs to factor in the following:
- Sales and marketing channels have changed
B2B sales and marketing channels have evolved, compared to twenty years ago, where B2B companies used a direct channel (either face-to-face sales force or via phone through a call center). Multichannel touchpoints characterize today’s B2B environment.
Regardless of the segment, today’s buyers expect to engage with professional service firms using the channel of their choice throughout the different stages of the buying process.
They seek to form their own opinion of the services company’s offer. In most cases, they usually choose to use user communities and social media networks (think LinkedIn and Twitter) to gather external opinions.
- B2B Journeys are different
A recent survey of B2B marketers conducted by Content Marketing Institute (CMI) shows that blog posts/articles, white papers, and case studies are the most effective types of content for the early, middle, and late stages of the buyer’s journey, respectively.
However, before creating content, professional service firms need to dig deeper and get a full picture of what a B2B buyer’s journey looks like versus that of a B2C trip.
A B2B buyer’s journey typically has the following characteristics:
- Deeper relationships- Unlike in the B2C sector, where products are often bought on a transactional basis, in many professional service industries, relations are long-term, with recurring sales.
- Custom made products/services- Professional service firms adapt both their products/services and their processes to accommodate specific client needs.
- B2B journeys are more complicated- A typical professional service buyer’s journey is more complex, takes longer, and involves more stakeholders and decision-makers.
In the engineering sector, for instance, it’s common to see multiple engineers evaluate and later certify a product/service, often adopting a design or process. Besides, the sale would also include customer-service and logistics departments who typically don’t get involved until prices, volumes, delivery terms, and other points are negotiated.
The entire process can involve decisions by 15 to 20 stakeholders before the transaction closes.
Therefore, understanding the nature of B2B sales & marketing channels and B2B journeys will enable your professional service firm to create a solid content strategy and, thus, adequately address the pain points and needs of each buyer segment.
Promote Your Content
As earlier mentioned, professional service firms spend a lot of time and resources on content development, but no one sees it because they do not promote it.
While common in the world of B2C marketing, marketing automation is a discipline that was slow to gain traction in the B2B world. However, marketing automation is now mainstream as the technology and expertise get adapted to the B2B world. This technology is now widely available, and professional service firms must start using it to promote their content.
We’ve provided you with an outline of 5 marketing automation tools that you can use to increase the viewership of your content.
Founded in 2011, Triberr is a marketing automation suite that professional service firms can use to amplify the reach of their content, build online communities, and promote content all in one place.
Just like the name suggests, this platform is based on various “tribes” or communities of interest. By joining or creating a particular tribe, you will be able to share the content of fellow tribemates with your social media followers and vice versa.
Most of Triberr’s features are free for everyone, but if you need more capabilities, you can choose a plan that suits your needs.
In essence, this particular marketing automation tool can help a professional service firm to:
- Multiply its audience and reach organically,
- Create relationships with other content creators
- Promote content in a cost-effective manner
- Grow its social following and readership quickly
- Improve search engine optimization (SEO).
So the idea is the more tribes you join or create, the more people will see and share your content.
Just like HootSuite, Quuu Promote is a marketing tool that can help professional service firms to promote their content to influencers. As a result, this enables real people to share their content (think blogs, videos, podcasts, infographics, etc.) on social media.
With this platform, you can enter a few of your audiences’ interests, choose the frequency of posting, and decide whether you want the tool to post automatically or after manual approval.
The pricing comes with three different plans that allow you to get various categories, that is- Small ($40 per month), Medium ($70 per month), and Large ($150 per month).
Adopting this tool can help professional service firms:
- Promote their content to real people
- Engage with relevant audiences on social media, and this helps drive more traffic to your content
- Rank higher on search engine result pages (SERPs) since social signals for sites like Twitter and LinkedIn mean higher rankings in search engines
Growth Hackers is a marketing program that can help professional service firms facilitate sustainable growth using the cross-functional, value-based approach. Also, the platform can help firms rethink and reinvent their path to growth.
So what does it mean when it comes to content promotion?
Growth Hackers are based on an upvote system.
That means once you create an account, you write a short description with a link to your article and publish it on your member account.
The more upvotes you receive, the more views your article will get. So when you have about 8-10 upvotes within the first 6-12 hours of publishing, your post could trend on the front page of Growth Hackers.
That means you will be able to increase the number of viewers of your content and, thus, bring more relevant traffic to your website.
In terms of pricing, the platform offers subscriptions on a free trial basis (“Free Trial”) for a specified period.
Mix is a marketing tool that can help professional service firms curate and share their content.
Since this platform is used to discover new websites, articles, and other types of content, you can use it to promote any content.
Make sure you are providing value to readers by only adding the best possible content.
Put extra effort when crafting your headlines and include relevant keywords within your content to make it easy for users to find it in searches. Don’t forget to integrate images that can help attract more viewers.
And last but not least, be strategic when submitting content to Mix platform; and avoid self-promotional and spammy content.
Growthhub is another marketing platform that professional service firms can utilize to promote their content.
Just like Growth Hackers, Growthhub can serve as a platform that educates and enable professional service firms through curated content, personal profiles, and much more. Anyone with a Twitter account can create an account on Growthhub.
You can use the platform in three different ways:
- Share an article
- Ask a question
- Start a discussion
As long as your content provides value to fellow members, then you will be able to increase the number of viewers of your content. So the idea is to avoid promotional material.
Continuously Measure ROI
Studies show that a majority of the most successful B2B content marketers (72 percent) say their organization measures content marketing return on investment (ROI).
You need to measure and analyze the results of your content strategy by tracking a broad portfolio of metrics across a blended scorecard, as this will help you identify what’s working and where you need to improve. Some of the parameters professional service firms can use include:
- Web traffic/Visits
- Lead quantity
- Lead quality
- Social media shares
Your goals for a robust content strategy should revolve around increased brand awareness, lead generation, client acquisition, client retention, cost reduction, and qualitative measures of content success (think perception change, interaction quality, or content quality).
You can leverage various content marketing measuring tools such as Google Analytics, Buffer, Followerwonk, etc. to track and measure every piece you write and publish.
The emphasis here is you need to define and create the measurement framework that includes assessing your content marketing’s impact both on the long term client-centric goals of your programs and the short-term KPIs that are indicators of increased engagement.
No doubt about it: Content should be the foundation of your sales and marketing efforts – it drives prospective clients down the funnel towards conversion.
However, professional service buyers have access to more information than ever before. They receive and consume so many messages every day, it’s difficult for firms to reach potential prospects and clients. Professional services firms must use marketing automation to help separate themselves from the pack and drive the ROI of their marketing efforts higher.
Is your content marketing strategy not bringing in the desired return-on-investment? Let the experts at COMPANY EXPERT help you develop a solid content marketing strategy.