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marketing professional services

Content Tips to Help Your Professional Services Business Stand Out

Professional services cover a wide variety of industry, from law to accounting, and beyond. What makes these businesses unique is that they don’t offer tangible products to their customers, but rather, knowledge-based services instead.

People in this line of work are essentially selling relationships with a promised outcome, often making it difficult to prove their value. Additionally, these businesses are often inundated with competitors fighting for their audience’s attention.

Those in professional services know all too well how hard it can be to separate themselves from the crowd…but it can be done.

My recommendation? Start with content. Content is essentially the air of marketing these days. Without it, your business will fall behind. With that being said, here are a few ways to use it to give you a competitive advantage if you’re in this space.

Make time for marketing

First things first, you have to make time for marketing. It is not uncommon for people in professional services to want to dedicate 100% of their time to client work, but if you want a consistent flow of prospects coming in the door, you need to do your part and stay active with marketing.

This doesn’t mean you need to always have an endless supply of leads coming in, you only need enough to keep your business going, so identify that number and revise your efforts from there.

If you’re a CPA or a lawyer and don’t want, or have the time, to focus on the marketing efforts yourself, it’s OK to delegate these tasks and even outsource outside of your business. This will allow you to focus on client work and other tasks that require your attention. As long as you own the overall strategy, it’s OK to ask for help on the rest.

Be specific

Before you do anything, you must clearly define who your ideal client is, otherwise the marketing efforts you put in won’t even matter. Don’t just base your target audience on a hunch or what you believe to be true. Be sure to actually do your research, call clients, look at past client conversation via email, etc. The list goes on but it’s important to be extremely thorough with this and understand their pain points and how your business can help solve them. Once you’re aware of them, you can address them in your content (more on content later).

When talking to my clients in professional services, I often find that they find the most success by being really specific about who they’re trying to reach. This isn’t a necessity necessarily, but it can help you get really targeted with your messaging and establish a strong emotional connection with that group of people. Specializing can be a great thing, as long as you know how to reach and communicate with the people you’re going after.

Create a content strategy

One of the first things a professional services business needs to do as part of their marketing efforts is to develop a content strategy, which very few businesses actually do. However, a documented strategy can help to keep your business on track and make you more effective with your efforts. Knowing your goals, what you’ll be creating and what you’ll be measuring will help you optimize your marketing efforts moving forward and can prevent you from spinning your wheels.

Since professional services don’t sell tangible products, it is especially important that these businesses show their knowledge and expertise through content to help establish trust and credibility with their audience.

Be a thought leader

Since you’re selling services and not a product (per se), you need to establish yourself as a thought leader within your industry (and location if you’re a local business) and prove that you have a lot of experience and are more than capable to handle your client’s needs.

Often times, clients of a professional services business don’t really know what they’re getting into or fully understand the process and services. Many times, the only things they care about are that you’re reputable and know what you’re doing due to extensive experience.

Whatever expertise you have, make it known through testimonials, case studies, association badges, the works! Remember to be original and show your personality. Your prospects are likely doing their research and they don’t want to hear the same thing from every business they’re approaching. Make yourself unique and memorable through your content.

Put your website to work

The purpose of your website isn’t to sit there and look pretty. It needs to actually do work for your business. In a nutshell, in addition to it carrying your message and showcasing your personality, it can act as a lead generating machine and be the hub of your marketing efforts.

I discuss the content necessities for a professional services website in this post and highly recommend that you check it out for a deeper dive into this topic.

Focus on SEO

Many businesses don’t immediately think SEO when they think of content, however, these days, they are almost one in the same. The more valuable content you put on your site, the more Google will recognize you as a website to watch. They want their users to have an exceptional customer experience. If Google recognizes you do that for your clients and prospects, they’ll be more likely to increase your rank in search engine results pages.

If I haven’t implied this enough throughout the rest of the post, let me state here that your content must be valuable to your audience. It must be well-written and truly useful for its viewers.

Within the content, it’s important to include relevant keywords to help alert Google of what the content is about. Note, and this is a big note: Do not keyword stuff. The keywords you use should flow naturally. Google can tell when you overuse keywords and will penalize your site for it.

Include these keywords in your content, header tags, meta descriptions, page titles, alt text, and URL.

As with most areas of marketing, your SEO strategy isn’t something you should just focus on sporadically. It’s important to give it consistent attention to make sure that the tactics you’re implementing are working.

To wrap everything up, content marketing in the professional services space needs to be about truly helping your audience and establishing yourself as an expert in your field. Show each prospect and client that you truly care and that they’ve been heard. Essentially, make them feel special, both in your one-on-one conversations with them as well as in your content.

By making your content revolve around your prospect and not your business, you’ll be one step closer to turning them into a client.

Need more tips on how to grow your business? Check out our entire Guide to Marketing Professional Services.

grow professional service business

Keys to Business Growth for Professional Services

Sure, people in professional services need to be good at what they do, but their audience hopes that’s a given. Sometimes even the best of the best have a hard time growing their business because they are so focused on the services they provide, they just don’t dedicate time to the growth of their company (or simply don’t know where to start to do that).

Whether you’re in accounting, law, tech consulting, or provide any other professional service, the advice below still applies if you want to separate yourself from the competition and grow your business.

Common traits I hear from my professional service-based clients include:

  • Business to-date is primarily from referrals and word of mouth
  • They’re successful to an extent but could be more successful with the right strategy in place
  • Scaling is intimidating and it’s unclear how to do it effectively

To take control of your growth efforts, take some of my advice below.

Identify your ideal client

This notion goes above and beyond simply identifying and understanding your target audience. While that’s important, it’s equally important to understand the types of clients you want to work with. This will make both your life and your client’s life easier. Ask yourself the following:

  • Who needs the services you provide?
  • Who can you deliver the greatest value to?
  • Who do you enjoy working with?

Think about your best clients today and what makes them ideal for you so that you can apply it to attracting new clients moving forward. Take the following into consideration when developing these ideal clients:

  • What are the must-haves to be a client (this will help you narrow down your list)?
  • What attributes are you looking for in a client (not required, but preferred)?
  • What makes them ideal?
  • What behaviors signal that they are the right fit for you?

Once you can answer these questions, put the list together and keep it nearby to help qualify prospects moving forward. This will help to ensure you don’t waste time spinning your wheels on the wrong candidates.

Develop a promise

Once you have your ideal client in mind, it’s important that you create a clear promise for them that can help you articulate you understand their wants and needs and that you are the right business to help them.

What’s tough about professional services is that they’re intangible, which is what makes your promise (and that you live up to your promise) so important. The promise needs to reinforce that you can help them reach their goals.

In addition to your promise, make your distinct point of view and point of differentiation from your competitors clear. This will help to separate you from the rest of the crowd.

I have a friend that owns an SEO firm and he basically says, “All you need to know about SEO is that we make the phone ring.” He doesn’t dive into how his business works, or SEO jargon, he gets to the root of what his clients care about and how he’ll help to get them what they want. See how that works?

Focus on problems, not solutions

What I’m essentially saying here, is focus on what your ideal clients are experiencing, not your services. People don’t really care about what you sell. All they care about are that their problems are solved and that you can help them solve them.

How to figure out your client’s problems

It’s important that you solve these problems early on in the customer journey. You need to get very good at understanding your ideal client’s intent because that’s where the data is that you’re looking for. To do this:

  • Master keyword research
  • Use online tools (like Answer the Public)
  • Look at your reviews
  • Read past emails
  • Ask your team who interacts with your clients what problems they’ve picked up on through conversations

You can even reach out to current clients to get the information you’re looking for. Here’s a list of questions that may be useful to ask them:

  • What are their goals and dreams?
  • How do they gather information to solve their problems?
  • What are some things that are important to them?
  • Do you know what the biggest unmet need is in your marketplace?
  • What is the biggest pain point your customer experiences?
  • How hard have you worked to try to solve their problems in the past?
  • Why is the problem so hard for them to solve?
  • Who else is trying to solve the problem and how are they approaching it?
  • What does success look like to them?
  • What might hold them back from buying a product or service?
  • How do they come to a purchase decision?

Solving the problem

Once you have all the information mentioned above, you can actually start to solve their problems.

  • Start by refocusing your messaging and match your message to your ideal client so that it resonates with them quickly.
  • Take some time and break down every solution you sell, every benefit you attribute to what you do, and map it back to a handful of “trigger phrases.”
  • Develop an attention-grabbing headline to put on your website (think back to your promise with this one).
  • Through content, show them that you are experts in the field that will help to make their pain points go away. Providing actionable advice can go a long way.
  • Be responsive to comments, emails, and social media in an effort to build trust and establish a connection.

Provide an excellent customer experience

So many people are focused on the changes in marketing and all the new things we have to master and pay attention to.

The fact is the most significant driver of change today isn’t the way marketing is changing, it’s the way buying is changing.

With clients now in charge of their buying journey, the most important marketing element still left in our control is the customer experience.

While they are in charge of their journey, it’s your job to influence it, and in my opinion, this starts with your website.

Your website today is the jumping in point of the customer journey. Its job is to lead and guide prospects into a journey of awareness, trust, knowledge, insight, and conversion. All your ideal client wants is is a frictionless path to the information or action they’ve gone there to find. Website design should be renamed customer experience design.

Additionally, when it comes to the customer experience, the most tenuous point of the relationship is the beginning. Once a person becomes a client, you must look at their first 90 days as a trial period where your entire goal is to construct the type of experience that can only turn them into a raving fan (and great referral source down the road!).

At the end of the day, businesses that deliver the best customer experience do so because they care about helping the people they serve.

There are many other important factors that lead to a successful business, but nailing the points mentioned above is a great start. What have you found to be helpful in growing your business?

Need more tips on how to grow your business? Check out our entire Guide to Marketing Professional Services.

professional service leads

Perfecting Your Lead Generation Efforts: A Guide for Service Professionals

If you own a professional services business, odds are you’re trying to get leads in the door. What I often see is that these types of businesses develop automated lead funnels, because that’s what they’re told to do, and spend a lot of time vetting these leads, but let’s face it, they probably don’t have a ton of time to do that!

Instead of focusing on building an endless supply of leads, you should only be focusing on the amounts you actually need as well as how to balance bringing new customers in, and keeping new customers around. For example, if you’re a CPA, wouldn’t it be easier to focus on the clients you already have year after year as opposed to constantly be looking for new ones?

Here’s how I believe you should approach lead generation for your business.

Define your ideal client

Hopefully, you have a pretty good idea of who makes an ideal client for your business, but if not, you should figure that out ASAP.  To get started, it’s easiest to target the group you can help the most, the fastest because you’ll probably be able to demonstrate how you can get quick results and build raving fans.

Develop a client generation system

I have worked with a lot of service professionals, and from what I’ve seen, most of them want to work with roughly ten of the right clients at any given time. That’s it.

The typical service professional acquires new clients by attracting a lead that wants to meet and learn about how they might help them. Let’s say you have four clients now and you’d like to get six more. If one in four meetings turns into a new client (this is very low for our approach but will use this for easy math), it will take 24 meetings to get those additional clients you’re looking for.

You need to ask yourself what it takes to schedule consistent appointments and how you can increase the conversion rate of these appointments. If you can understand this and build a system around it, you’ll remove a lot of headaches that many service professionals experience in their lead generation efforts.

Set a revenue goal

Before you put any meetings on the calendar, you need to determine your annual revenue goal. This will give you insight into how many clients (and in turn, meetings and proposals) you need to obtain in order to reach that goal.

You simply need to factor how many appointments it will take to land one new client, and move forward from there.

Create a workhorse piece of content and focus on Facebook audiences

Content development may not necessarily be in your professional wheelhouse, but it’s essential for your business. You must create a valuable piece of content that will resonate with your target audience. Many find blogging to be the easiest way to format this content.

To ensure this one piece of content is the workhorse you need for your system, spend time researching the questions and problems your audience experiences the most.

Do your research. Interview past clients, conduct keyword research, and/or look at online forums to better understand what your audience experiences and common questions they have. The information found in your research may provide invaluable information as you search for hot topics for your blog post.

Once you know who you want to target, develop a list of people that you’d like to reach. If the list is properly targeted, it doesn’t have to be very large.

Use this list to build a custom Facebook audience and further create an expanded lookalike audience to increase the number of potential targeted prospects.

Add a content upgrade

In order for your promotion to work, add a “content upgrade” to the blog post you created. This is an offer for related content made inside the blog post that entices visitors to exchange an email address to receive the upgraded version of the content as well. Your content upgrade can be in the form of a checklist, ebook, or even a video. The email should then be used for follow-ups and lead nurturing efforts.

Advertise the blog post

Once your audience is in place, create Facebook ads driving people to your piece of content. To make things easier, you can even promote your blog post in a status update and “boost” your post to the custom or lookalike audience you created to get their eyes on it. The post will then show up as a sponsored post in the timelines of those you’ve targeted.

Offer value

Once a person responds to your content upgrade offer, reach out to them and offer a valuable service for no charge as a way to demonstrate how great it is to work with you and the type of service they can expect.

Set appointments

Make sure that your prospect is qualified to move forward before you propose any services to them. Remember, you want to enjoy working with them too. Even if they’re an ideal client on paper, they may not be the best match based on personality which can make it a difficult working relationship for both of you.

Provided all seems good to go, be sure to understand your lead’s objectives, goals, and potential challenges.

Then, make the appointment.

Deliver

Once the lead is qualified, over deliver on what you promised as you set the appointment. Identify the ways you can truly help them and really show them the value of working with you.

Master the close

The key here is to help your lead tell you in their words what’s wrong and what not fixing it costs them. Listen to them before you mention anything related to your services.

Once you’ve heard their story, at that point you can identify ways to help them, but just make sure they know they have been heard. Show them how they can get immediate and long-lasting results by hiring you.

A customer generating system doesn’t have to be that complex, but it does have to be based on your overall growth needs and goals, so make sure you know what those are from the beginning.

Need more tips on how to grow your business? Check out our entire Guide to Marketing Professional Services.

websites for professional services

Must-Have Website Elements for Professional Services

As a professional services provider, your website should be your most valuable marketing asset and the hub of all of your marketing efforts. Your website shouldn’t just be a pretty design that people can look at. It needs to act as an actual tool for your business and work as a lead generating machine.

Your website has many jobs these days and should help you:

  • Get found – Search engine optimization (SEO) should be a priority for your business to help you rise above the competition in search engine results pages.
  • Build trust – I write more about this below as well, but your website needs to work the way your customers need it to and expect it to. You need to instill confidence in your audience.
  • Educate and inform – Help your audience understand what their problems and challenges actually are and how to solve them.
  • Nurture and convert – This is where the whole lead generation component comes into play. It’s common for people to visit your website numerous times before deciding to work with you. To ensure you stay top of mind, put enticing forms and CTAs in place (that link to valuable resources) to get their email address and continue to create valuable content that is relevant to their stage in the customer journey. This will help to move them closer to the sale.

I’m not going to lie, after working with countless professional services businesses over the years I can say that many websites look the same. They have the exact same structure and messaging (this even applies across industries) and it can be difficult to separate one business from another.

To help you stand out from the crowd, keep the points mentioned in this post in mind.

Speak to your specific audience

Now, the core of this is that you have to have a deep understanding of who your audience is in order to speak to them directly. You want them to feel special when they land on your site and this happens best when they feel an emotional connection with your messaging.

When developing the copy to reach your audience, keep the following in mind:

  • Focus on the messaging on your audience, not your business (i.e. replace “we” with “you”). It will resonate much better with them if you take this approach (easier said than done, but it’s a must).
  • Write as if you’re talking to one specific person, not a group of people.
  • Avoid using jargon. This is especially important for professional services. It can be so easy to get caught up in your everyday lingo, but the fact of the matter is, it doesn’t always make you sound smart. It confuses your audience more often than not because they don’t understand what you’re saying.
  • Write conversationally. This makes your business less intimidating and can make your prospects feel like you’re talking to them, rather than at them.

Find your point of differentiation

As mentioned, so many professional services websites look and feel the same, so you need to find a way to stand out. To do this, take a look at your brand’s company, culture, and services, and identify what makes you unique.

A good place to start is by looking at your culture (the most relatable aspect of your business) and showcase your culture through storytelling and various aspects across your site. You will have competition that provides the same services as you, but your company’s personality can truly set you apart.

Let your audience know who you are. Create an about page, show pictures of your team, share fun facts, and so on. Provide your mission and values that people can connect with. There are so many things that you can do. Start thinking of what these are and add them to your site ASAP.

Think about visuals and design

You know the phrase, “you need to dress to impress?” Well, this saying goes for your website as well. Your website is often a potential customer’s first impression, so you need to make it a good one. Make sure the visuals assist with guiding people through the buying process and that they accurately represent your culture and target audience.

Do the best you can to avoid common stock photos. They make you appear less authentic.

Take a look at your competitors’ websites when putting the design together. While you may be able to gather a few good ideas from what they’re doing, you should also look at them as designs to stay away from.

Ensure your site is mobile optimized

Your customers are busy and are likely researching your business on the go, so you need to provide a stellar user experience for them on their handheld devices. Google is actually penalizing sites that aren’t optimizing for mobile, so to avoid frustrating potential customers and losing rank in search, optimize ASAP.

Must-have homepage elements

In addition to the thoughts above, here are actual elements you need to add to your homepage:

  • A promise and sub-promise – You need to make a clear promise that will solve your customers’ problems. A sub-promise is a trust factor that a company offers (such as “Kansas City’s most trusted”). Make sure these elements are clear.
  • A call to action (CTA) – CTAs help to guide people through the customer journey and advise them on next steps. It provides a clear path for customers to take and removes ambiguity.
  • Contact information – Make it easy for people to get ahold of you. This is especially important for local businesses since a company’s NAP (name, address, and phone number) is a local ranking factor.
  • Video – Video allows you to give people an understanding of your personality, who you are, what you stand for, and let people hear your story. Some of your clients or customers may be intimidated by the professional services you provide, so providing an element that can humanize you or establish an emotional connection is ideal. A video can do just that.
  • Trust, proof, and authority elements – As a company that provides professional services, I can almost guarantee you are being compared to others that provide the same services you do before a person makes a decision on who they want to work with. To stand out, you must do your very best to include the following elements on your homepage: testimonials, client logos, association badges, client results, case studies, media recognition, and awards.
  • Fresh content – In order to best serve your prospects and clients, you need to always be providing valuable information for them. It shows your company is active and cares about the audience’s experience with your brand.
  • Core services – One of the things many companies don’t do enough of is list out their core services on their homepage. This can be a point of differentiation but can also help boost your SEO because it provides a good user experience.

If you own or run marketing for a professional services business, what are you doing on your website to help separate you from the competition?

Need more tips on how to grow your business? Check out our entire Guide to Marketing Professional Services.