I want to ask you a question. How close has your firm come to achieving your growth potential? When you look at the number of clients you are doing business with today versus the number you could be doing business with, how big is that gap? What size of the pie do you own today?
If you are like most leaders of service organizations I speak with, you feel that you’ve only just begun to tap your potential. You recognize that there are far more clients out there you could and should be working with. Does this frustrate you, motivate you or both?
After working with literally dozens of service firms who feel this way, I’ve come to realize that a digital marketing strategy is a key part of realizing your potential. And a key part of the digital marketing strategy is a multi-channel approach. Let me share with you why you need a multi-channel strategy and how this will really benefit your firm.
THE PROBLEM WITH REFERRALS IS THAT YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL OF THEM.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO RELY ON REFERRALS TO GROW
Most mid-size service organizations rely on referrals to grow. This is the tried and true approach to client acquisition in the service space. You do great work for a client and they tell their friends and colleagues. Referrals are fine. But the problem with referrals is that you are not in control of them.
If you want to take control of your growth potential, digital marketing is a great strategy. I believe it should be a crucial part of the marketing and business development plan of nearly every mid-size service firm, those with 15-150 staff and several million dollars in revenue.
Firms who fit this profile usually serve a niche market and a specific type of clientele. I call these ideal clients. In my experience, most service organizations have to really sharpen their pencil when it comes to understanding what matters to their ideal clients.
One of our first tasks, when engaging with new clients, is to develop a deep-dive profile of their ideal client. We interview their top clients and ask them all sorts of questions. We develop clear statements of their ideal client’s top 5 goals, opportunities and challenges. We use these statements to build an editorial calendar, the kind that publishers use.
All of this activity leads to a focused content marketing plan where we use articles, reports, research, ebooks, webinars and other types of content to pull new prospects toward our clients. It’s a really effective strategy because the content focuses on what matters to ideal clients.
But just because you have great content, this doesn’t mean that the marketplace will sit up and take notice. Even if your content is full of great insights that will really expedite your ideal client toward their goals, this doesn’t necessarily mean your content strategy will be effective. I’ve seen this happen.
If you want to move beyond referrals as the primary means of client acquisition for your firm and if you believe that great content marketing and thought leadership is the path to do so, let me tell you what else you need. You need a multi-channel approach.
WHERE DO YOUR IDEAL CLIENTS CONGREGATE IN THE DIGITAL SPACE?
I love the movie Field Of Dreams. The classic line from that film is “if you build it, they will come.” I wish that were true of content marketing, but in our experience, it’s not. We’ve tracked content assets of all types and see a clear trend.
Those assets with great insights for ideal clients which are heavily promoted to the right channels produce great results, like registrations and sales conversations. The same type of content asset with great insights that is not heavily promoted will produce poor results, usually low registration numbers.
The truth of the matter is that you need to build it – and promote it – through the right channels, and then they will come. So that raises an important question. What are the right channels for mid-size service firms?
My answer is that this depends on several factors. A good ideal client profile includes psychographics – like goals, opportunities and challenges – and demographics. The psychographics tell you what content assets to build. The demographics tell you where to promote the content.
Demographics include factors like age, race, education, industry, title, responsibilities, geographic location, annual income and the like. So when choosing the channels to promote your insightful content assets, you can use the demographics as a barometer.
You can ask yourself one simple question. Where do our ideal clients hang out in the digital space? The goal is to connect with an ever-increasing number of prospective ideal clients through digital channels by offering them insights they cannot resist. This is how digital marketing and content marketing helps you grow much faster than referrals.
WHEREVER PROSPECTIVE IDEAL CLIENTS HANG OUT IN THE DIGITAL SPACE – THAT’S WHERE YOU SHOULD BE.
DIGITAL CHANNELS THAT SHOULD BE IN YOUR MIX
While every service organization is unique, we see seven effective digital marketing channels today that work for us and our clients. Those channels include:
- Social media
- Third-party sites
- Public speaking
- Search Engine Optimization
Your website is your most important digital channel. You are completely in control of this if you have a good content management system. This means you get to deliver the right experience to prospective ideal clients. In my opinion, all digital channels should lead back to your website. This is also where registrations typically take place and where prospects enter your sales funnel by way of your marketing automation platform.
Email marketing is still a crucial strategy for mid-size service firms. We have a few clients where email marketing constitutes more than 80% of their outbound strategy. Email marketing is more challenging now because of the increased effectiveness of spam-blocking tools. But if you do this the right way, email marketing can be your most effective digital channel.
Social media is another very important digital channel. Over the last several years, we’ve seen this channel grow in popularity and importance. I could write an entire book on what we’ve learned about social media marketing and how to be effective with this channel. I have come to believe that social media is now just as important, if not more important, than email.
Third-party websites that aggregate your ideal client and that accept submissions for publication should also be a part of your mix. I now write articles for Forbes every month. I also allow several third-party publishers to re-publish certain content pieces. Some of our clients partner with industry associations and write articles for them and then speak at industry meetings. You should consider this as an option for targeted exposure and traffic.
The press can be a real boon for certain types of content assets. One of our clients produced a report this past year that was highlighted by several industry trade publications. This produced a spike in traffic, in content registrations and in esteem in the eyes of their market.
Public speaking is typically thought of as non-digital. But our experience is that most public speaking engagements include a digital component, where the meeting and often the speaker are promoted through digital means. Even if an ideal prospect does not attend the speech, you can still get exposure through digital means and this can be valuable.
Finally, search engine optimization, or SEO, is still a consideration as a digital channel. SEO has become rather passé over the last few years. But we have a long-standing client relationship that came to use because of a long-tail search. While I would not make this a huge part of your digital marketing budget, all of your content assets should be developed with an eye toward SEO and driving traffic to your website.
IS IT WORTH IT?
A multi-channel digital strategy can be very effective for pulling ideal prospects toward your organization and queueing them up for sales conversations. You have to produce meaningful insights on topics that matter to your ideal client. You have to promote the content through numerous channels. You also need to track all of this activity to know what’s working and what is not working.
You might be wondering if this is all worth it. Let me tell you a quick story. A long-standing client of ours was recently acquired by a larger organization. Our client is very excited about this transition for many reasons. They told us that the company who is acquiring them was very impressed by their content marketing strategy. This was a driver in the acquisition decision.
I believe the payoff to your organization will be an improved market position, being perceived as a thought-leader, greater exposure for your top people and acquisition of ideal new clients who lean in over time. The other thing to bear in mind is that if you are not doing this, almost certainly you will get left behind by competitors who will do it. So is it worth it? I think it is.
You might be wondering where to go from here. I have a resource for you that can really help. I’ve developed an action guide called 7 STEPS TO A CONTENT MARKETING PROGRAM THAT CONSISTENTLY YIELDS IDEAL CLIENTS. This free tool contains 7 videos and numerous downloadable tools that you can use to build a great digital strategy. If you like the ideas I’ve presented here, you’ll love the action guide.