When it comes to generating online leads for your professional services firm, you’ve got options. Whether you’re leveraging the latest social media platform, paying for ads, or experimenting with ever-evolving search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, it’s certain there is more than one way to skin the lead gen cat.
To gain an understanding of which online marketing tactics are most effective in generating leads for professional services firms, the Hinge Research Institute conducted a research study of 500 companies. The survey asked marketing leaders at these firms to rank the effectiveness of 15 different online techniques on a scale of zero to 10.
The research team then segmented the data into high growth firms versus average growth firms (based on year-over-year revenue) to get a sense for which strategies were driving growth.
Here’s a snapshot of the results:
It’s no surprise that across the board, high growth firms rated the efficacy of the techniques higher than average growth firms did. What’s interesting, however, is which technique each segment selected as the top lead generation technique. Whereas the average growth companies claimed the company newsletter and e-mail marketing to be most effective, high growth companies rated SEO, blogging and Web analytics to be the most effective. Why are these techniques working so well for the high growth firms?
SEO: The Foundation for Online Success
Smart companies understand that the first step to generating a lead online is simply being found. If your firm is displaying in search results for important industry terms, then your opportunities for exposure are dramatically increased. Of course, this is easier said than done.
The rules of search have evolved over the years and the same SEO techniques you used a few years ago may end up hurting you more than helping you today. Here’s a quick look at a few outdated tactics that will likely work against your website:
Stuffing a variety of keywords onto one page and repeating those words many times;
Submitting to hundreds of low-quality directories or article submission websites;
Focusing your energy on ranking for just a couple of broad homepage keywords;
Relying on meta tags and other back-end technical work to produce quick results;
Looking at rankings as a primary metric for success.
Instead of spending time on these now obsolete SEO techniques, shift your energy on strategies that earn you some online respect:
Selecting one or two important keyword phrases per Web page and optimizing content by weaving the phrases in naturally (not over-stuffing);
Creating content that is useful and worth linking to. Often times this comes in the form of an educational library;
Reaching out to industry blogs and publications and actively promoting content via social media to increase inbound links;
Looking at leads from search engines as primary metric for success.
Blogging: The Never-ending Traffic Generator
It makes sense that high growth firms find blogging to be an effective lead generation tactic. Because blogging helps your firm in so many different ways, it is considered one of the most efficient methods in online marketing. Here are the primary reasons it is important for a professional services firm to maintain an educational blog:
• Link Bait —By hosting valuable content on your site (educational articles, videos, infographics and research that targets your prospects), you increase the likelihood that other websites will link to yours. More inbound links equals higher credibility with search engines and, therefore, better rankings and more traffic.
• Indexed Pages — Each time you post in your blog, it is another page that will likely be crawled and indexed by search engines. The more content you have, the more opportunities there are for searchers to find you on various topical searches.
• Social Ammunition — A steady stream of blog posts gives your team a reason to be active in social media. Instead of entering social groups with nothing valuable to say, your social media marketers will have a consistent flow of content to share and talk about. Linking to these posts on social networks is a great way to generate traffic.
• Thought Leadership — Having an exceptional blog is a way to stand out from the competition. After visitors use your blog as an educational resource over time, they will learn to trust you as an authority and be more likely to select your firm as a service provider when the time comes.
Note that your blog posts should not be promotional in nature. Focus instead on helping your prospects solve business challenges and understand the market. Keep posts short, sweet and concentrated on relevant keyword phrases for optimal results in Google.
Web Analytics: The Analysis You Cannot Ignore
It’s tough to be a successful online marketer without the right measurements for judging success. The discrepancy between ratings of high growth and average growth firms is significant in the analytics category. The high growers understand the necessity of tracking progress, making adjustments and finding ways to improve more quickly.
Web analytics tools like Google Analytics allow us free access to an extreme amount of valuable data. Often times it feels like too much to handle. If you are looking to improve your reporting then it’s important to start with some basic metrics and review them on at least a monthly basis. Here are the crucial online marketing metrics:
• Traffic by Source — Look to see where your Web traffic is coming from. Is LinkedIn sending you visitors? What is the quality of those visits in terms of time spent on the site? How much of your traffic is from Google and which keywords are sending you the best visitors?
• Conversions by Source — In professional services, a “conversion” occurs when a visitor takes action designated by your firm as being important. For example, if a Web visitor fills out your contact form, your Google Analytics could register that as a conversion. eBook downloads or newsletter subscriptions are other examples of conversions.
When looking at this metric, analyze which traffic sources are leading to conversions. You may be getting plenty of visitors from Facebook, but are they taking the actions that you want? If not, perhaps they are not the right type of visitor.
• Page Performance — It’s highly useful to know which of the pages on your site are performing well. Look to understand which pages are the most visited and how long visitors are remaining on those pages. Also take a look at the exit rate for your top pages, which is the rate at which visitors leave the website after viewing a particular page.
• Demographics — Know your Web visitors. Analytics software is incredibly in-depth these days and you should take advantage. What countries, states, and cities are your visitors from? Are they using mobile devices? Are they new visitors or returning? Demographic information will help you tailor your online marketing approach through the process.
What About Social Media?
Social media is, in fact, an important part of online lead generation for professional services firms. LinkedIn, for example, was rated as the fifth most effective technique by high growth firms. What’s key, however, is understanding the priorities of these techniques and deciding the right time to invest in social marketing.
Without a solid foundation of educational content (blogs, eBooks, etc.), it doesn’t make too much sense to dive deep into social media territory. If you do, it’s unlikely you’ll have much to say other than what’s new with your firm. If you first establish a steady flow of content, it allows your team to become involved in LinkedIn groups, Twitter, and other online hubs in a meaningful way.
About the author: Sean McVey is the director of ‘Online Marketing at Hinge’ (www.hingemarketing.com) and co-author of the book Online Marketing for Professional Services. Sean is an experienced consultant with a background in digital marketing, SEO and social media strategy. His primary role is to analyze professional service firm websites and develop strategies for improving online performance.