The challenges of professional services marketing

Content / November 2017

Libby Mayo

We have worked with a variety of firms in the professional services sector. From site migrations and technical SEO work, through to creating social media guides and creative content production, professional services marketing is a rich landscape, but one that many have traditionally viewed as slow on the digital uptake.

As customer behaviour has changed, driven by the adoption of mobile technology and social media, so has their expectation of fast, flexible and responsive services. While the B2C sector, especially firms creating technology and leisure goods, has led the way here the same pressures are mounting on professional services firms.

Our experience has been that professional services firms acknowledge the need to change but can often struggle with the steps needed to get there. Often teams work independently and workstreams are not interrelated to the overriding digital performance strategy.

 

The search question

Search performance is a vital part of professional services marketing. For some firms a significant amount of enquiries will come via search, and ensuring that your site is fit for purpose when it comes to the search engines is important otherwise you risk losing out to competitors. However for many firm in the sector search isn’t about securing business, as a lot of it comes from direct referrals, word of mouth and reputation, but simply about having their content discoverable by potential clients.

Many professional services firms create high quality content for their sector, whitepapers, reports, video and podcasts. This content is created to position the company at the forefront of their sector, and also to convince potential clients to use their services. The reality is that most potential customers view this content after initial contact and relationship warming, not because they are searching for, say, a solicitor in their area. Having this content easy to find and access helps to nudge potential clients down the funnel.

The good news for many businesses in the sector is that their sites often have strong domain authority, which means that adjustments to technical SEO, and understanding how to create content that works for search engines as well as users, can lead to results in a relatively compressed timeframe.

Understanding search priorities

A typical issue we encounter that can hamper search performance is stakeholders basing on-page content and messaging around personal priorities, or assumptions about what people will want to see on the page. In reality the content should be based around what users are searching for, and the kind of content that is going to help them.

Stakeholder engagement and using data and facts to support our recommendations plays a big part in success here and is always a priority focus for us.

 

How can professional services leverage social media?

Due to regulatory restrictions, and the individual digital and security policies of firms, professional services has historically had an uneasy relationship with social media. Social is a space that is often freewheeling, requiring an ability to react and interact quickly that can be at odds with heavily regulated industries.

In our experience professional services firms are increasingly open to social media, but sometimes struggle to bring the two worlds of social and their sector together. Part of our work in professional services marketing has been to help firms build a framework that can allow them to use social in a natural way while also ensuring they meet any regulatory requirements.

It’s also the case that social works best when brands don’t use it as a purely broadcast platform. Coming up with creative ways to land a message that don’t feel like a typical push can be tricky, but it’s something we’ve helped many brands achieve. Using creative visuals, larger campaign ideas, video and more we’ve helped professional services firms create the kind of content that people will want to engage with and share naturally.

Got to get paid

The days of viral campaigns that saturate social media solely due to extensive sharing and interactions are pretty much a thing of the past. As organic reach on all social platforms continues its downward trajectory to basically zero the need to understand and master paid social is vital for any brand.

For people to share your content you need them to see it first, and to make enough people see it you’re going to have to pay for it. There’s no two ways about that, but it’s a fact many brands are slow to acknowledge. Our approach is to use paid social in an iterative fashion, testing different posts against audiences and then increasing spend as we see positive results.

 

Getting creative with professional services marketing

While many businesses in professional services understand that digital marketing is vital to success on so many levels, one area where we see some struggle is making campaign assets, and day-to-day content, stand out from the noise.

Many firms will post on social media with pure text posts, with copy that is dry and very much ‘broadcast’ in nature. Blogs will be either very short or extremely dense, and often lack the kind of structuring that helps increase engagement online (including use of imagery and compelling headlines). There’s no reason why digital marketing for professional services firms can’t be creative and engaging.

We’ve worked with clients in law, accountancy and other professional services to create a variety of editorial illustrations, infographics, and other rich media that tells a story. The results have always been exciting and engagement and traffic sees positive increases.

If you need help with professional services marketing to further improve your online search and content performance then get in touch today to see how we can help you.

 

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