Oct 1, 2018

A Digital Marketing Strategic Blueprint for the Professional Services Sector

by Digital Marketing Institute

When it comes to creating digital marketing campaigns in certain industries, digital marketing professionals face the challenge of not only comprehending but also discovering innovative strategies that will work to change the longstanding patterns and habits of professionals in a given field.

Digital marketing is now a must for pretty much every single business around the globe. However, when it comes to building marketing strategies for specific sectors, these efforts have to be even more detailed and specially targeted.

Professional services firms are no exception to this. While these types of firms (think KPMG and Deloitte) may appear to fit into a single industry (such as finance), they actually offer a broad range of services and thus can be a little tricky to deal with when it comes to marketing.

That’s why we’ve gathered some important information to help you support such firms at a professional level, even if it’s not within your own field of expertise.   

About Digital Marketing in Professional Services

The first thing that marketers who are new to the professional services sphere need to know about the marketplace is that there is always a demand. Professional services, such as accounting and auditing, are available on a needs basis. Clients continue to seek out professionals for various services, mostly financially-related, so marketing ‘towards’ them is not really a critical activity that you need to be thinking about.

That being said, there is definitely a specific type of approach and certain kinds of marketing activities that do better in this space than others. While each firm will be different, conditions and challenges must be assessed with regard to a particular client or customer base.

More prominent firms which focus on big corporate clients will need to structure their campaigns quite differently than those directing their efforts towards personal services. The point is that the size and nature of the firm matters in the context of how marketers direct their activities.

The marketing strategies will focus on the adequate use and integration of data, as well as the strategic use of storytelling. But the other thing that marketers should know about the professional services field is that it is more about long-term relationships than immediate and direct transactions. Firms must demonstrate their capacity to offer innovative technology and services that essentially take the pain out of investing, taxes and related activities.

Developing a concrete digital strategy for a professional services firm will serve the following purposes:  

  • To offer the firm a focused and basic plan for the future
  • To acknowledge and understand current marketing patterns, and what is or isn’t working to date
  • To show precisely how to boost exposure via relatively unused channels (such as social media)
  • To develop a content library based on highly informative, value-based information for clients  

The overall purpose of all these objectives is primarily to encourage client retention, depending on what type of services a firm is thriving on, and then outline avenues for growth and acquisition.

You Need Buyer Personas

Creating a series of buyer personas may be particularly useful in this type of sector, because they can cater to a range of clients with a variety of needs. Buyer personas help marketers to identify segments, map buyer journeys, create content, prioritize digital marketing, and in the long run, boost conversion. In addition, they have the capacity to help identify target market groups that may not be obvious at the outset.

In professional services, buyer personas form a crucial part of the marketing strategy because they sometimes take the form of high-end businesses, and other times might be small businesses or even individuals. Leveraging social networks like LinkedIn can help to develop accurate buyer personas for a given sector or purpose.

The main thing here is to understand a client’s business needs, to be clear on their area of expertise, and to demonstrate the level of professionalism required.

The Importance of Relevant Content

Content marketing is the most effective type of marketing for these types of firms and in this light. Why? Because they need creative storytellers to give them more of a personable ‘face’ in some instances, while in others they will be in substantial competition with the ‘Big 4’ to land big clients.

Using content marketing for this purpose gives plenty of flexibility to share more information about the company and engage on various levels – for instance, developing a series of tweets based on a specific news story and engaging in conversation from there.  

Content marketing needs to be strategic though, and that means that it has to be about more than just a blog, some Facebook posts and a few keywords. It should contain specific directives that are expressed and linked explicitly to the marketing plan.   

Content depth and diversity are especially important, given that marketing in the professional sector will mean working in a B2B sphere, and even marketing to other large firms such as banks.

How do professional services firms find these clients? Often it is through referrals. Thus, when it comes to content marketing, it should offer information that is of definite value to clients, giving them tools and instructions on money management and the like. Content should include the usual information, but also helpful tools and guides (e.g. tax guides, calculators and videos).  

The critical point here is that content marketers need to move away from ‘boring’, long-form information and towards many small, information segments that create a series of valuable resources for the target audience. Companies will only stand out if they are a step ahead of the rest, and in this business, it means personalized, value-added material.

If you are in charge of developing a clear content strategy, the first thing to start with will be a central, pillar-style piece of content that you can use for informational purposes but also draw upon for future social posts, emails and the like. Blog posts, infographics and webinars can all be valuable at this juncture. Standout case studies may also be shared in a variety of formats, including audio, video and print.

A good guideline to go with is that any firm should be focused on creating the following:

  • At least a few blog posts per month  
  • Case studies providing content which is relevant to clients
  • Daily social posts  
  • Developing a relevant signature piece of content, which can (optionally) be used as a lead magnet
  • A few infographics each year

Following a content plan like this puts a business in a position to increase their visibility in a fairly immediate fashion. And firms that make a point of utilizing personal stories in their blog and social activities will undoubtedly find that they are able to connect with clients in a more effective way.

Utilizing Video

Video content is key when it comes to both engagement and return on investment (ROI), so any marketer in pretty much any field would be wise to at least test out this content format. One of the reasons it’s powerful is because it’s so personal – there’s nothing complicated about it, and in fact, the best videos tend to be focused on simple messages.

Live streaming on Facebook or YouTube is another excellent resource for those wishing to share information about B2B services. People in charge of creating these resources might consider including things like reviews, educational webinars, visual case studies, or even employee-focused videos where clients can ‘meet the team’.

Creating an Action Plan

Professional and financial services will be sticking around, and indeed, this is a booming field with plenty of growth potential. However, marketing here can be a challenge, particularly for marketing professionals who are not well-versed in the area.

While the specifics of marketing activities depend on a given organization, service or priority, in general marketers should:

  • Pay close attention to emerging technologies (like AI), which can drastically improve the user experience
  • Determine the firm’s key strengths and weaknesses, and understand how they fare in terms of industry challenges
  • Understand the essential services that the company wants to highlight  
  • Choose KPIs based on priority elements and services  
  • Create a buyer persona to share with the firm, so that everyone has a clear idea of who they are marketing to
  • Create a vision based on the current and potential utilization of client-based digital assets
  • Create a key content asset (such as a white paper) to drive engagement, sign-ups and SEO on the website

Creating a digital strategy in the professional sphere is not necessarily straightforward. It requires a thorough analysis of the firm’s goals and opportunities, as well as an honest assessment of spending patterns. It should, however, be focused on a consistent level of service to clients and other stakeholders.

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