While 23% of jobs have been lost in the manufacturing sector in the last 5 years, professional service jobs have increased by 35%.
Professional service industries like accounting, consulting and other service industries have traditionally relied heavily on outbound marketing tactics, it’s time for a change.
Why? Because creating content that people want is the best choice for marketing your professional service business. And it works with much less of an investment than print ads in journals or direct mailers.
In fact, on average inbound marketing costs 62% less than outbound. Now, that we’ve got your attention, let’s look at the basics of inbound and how professional services can leverage it for better leads.
Inbound Marketing: Attract and Convert
Inbound marketing is built on the very simple premise of attracting ideal buyers to your brand. The foundation of this attraction is creating relevant, interesting content in many different formats and distributing this content where your buyer is most likely to be. This content is educational and informational. It’s not a commercial for your brand. Rather it’s about solving your buyer’s problem.
Inbound marketing allows you to target the right groups as opposed to outbound that isn’t focused. It’s basically like throwing out a huge net and hoping you catch something. Even if you do catch something, it might not be the right fish for you.
Inbound marketing has changed the game and aligns with how buyers buy. In Google’s Zero Moment of Truth Study, the results found that buyers now do a lot of research, seeking up to 10 different sources. And all this research is long before a buyer actually interacts with a salesperson. Knowing this is how decision makers seek to find a solution, you’ll need to be prepared with inbound marketing strategies.
Establish Your Brand as a Thought Leader
Consider the content that you develop around topics and questions of interest to your buyers as a preview of your expertise. The more content you create that is rooted in the pain points of your buyers, the more likely they are to find it. This could be because they are searching for answers to the questions you’re responding to. It could be because they see it shared on social media from a connection they respect.
Once content is out there in some kind of distribution model, you’ll be able to establish your credibility. Having a point of view in your industry shouldn’t be thought of as risky. It makes you stand out among your competition who aren’t leveraging content.
Simply putting yourself in the position of a prospect that needs the service you offer should give you plenty of ideas for content. Think about the conversations you have with your current clients. See what’s trending in your industry. When new regulations arise, you’ll need to develop new content as a way to educate and empower buyers. And, the more informed your buyer is, and having gained that information from your content, the more likely you’ll get the call when he/she is ready to buy.
Measuring the effectiveness of your content will help you as your inbound marketing strategy evolves. It’s not impossible to determine the ROI of your content. Check out these tools and templates.
Landing Pages: Conversion Machines
Landing pages are a critical asset in inbound marketing. They are designed to convert. No matter the offer, the bottom line is to get a prospect to fill out the form. But you can’t just throw up a page with a form and call it a day. You’ll need a strategy. That strategy will depend on two main factors:
- What’s the offer: a whitepaper, a checklist or planner, an offer for a consultation
- Where are users landing from: social media, your home page, pay-per-click ads
Once you answer these questions, you have to develop pages that are conversion-centered. Every graphic, word and the overall layout have to be geared toward the conversion. Remember these important tips:
- Be clear on what the offer is
- Lead with why it’s a benefit to the user to take the offer
- Add context about your brand (especially if the person landing on the page has minimal awareness of your brand)
- Create a sense of urgency
- Keep the form simple (at this point, only ask for name and email; this is where many brands fail on conversions—asking for too much information too soon won’t get you any clicks)
- Use lots of whitespace
- Show social proof if appropriate (testimonials, grades, reviews)
By using best practices in design and content, you should see, not only an increase in leads, but in the quality as well
Do SEO Right
SEO is a critical part of inbound marketing. But don’t write for Google. Write for humans first; Google second. While you care very much about how Google ranks you, you have to remember that Google has a very inbound perspective on organic ranking.
Yes, the content needs to include the keywords, but it should do so in a natural way. Google cares a lot about trying to find the answer to the searcher’s query. If people click on your listing and spend a little time on your site, Google will reward you. Google also loves fresh content, which is why you should keep working on SEO through regular blogging, which expands the number of pages Google is indexing.
Nurture Your Leads
Another important aspect of inbound marketing is nurturing. Once you have a prospect’s email address, you have a channel to communicate with them. A nurturing email campaign takes a certain path, depending on what the user does.
For example, if someone downloads an eBook from a landing page, it makes sense to send them a follow-up email with a link to the PDF. At this point, the lead is new and not sales-ready. You need to keep it cool, no pressure.
After the follow-up email, you may send them a second email recommending some more content based on the topic of the eBook or something specific to their industry. If the user opens that email, you’ll know they are starting to engage more with your brand.
The next part of the nurture email campaign could be an invitation to a webinar with some tips and information they might enjoy. Once you know that the prospect is continuing to respond to your messaging then it may be time for sales to step in, either with a personal email to see if they have questions or would like to schedule a consultation.
Because you’ve nurtured the relationship instead of going straight to sales mode, you’ve hopefully developed a relationship built on trust.
Get Active on Social Media
Social media should be one of your most important distribution channels. You’ll want to post your original content here as well as third-party content from thought leaders and industry experts. Pick your platforms with care and base it on where your audience is. Each platform has its own pros and cons. The most important thing to be on social media is consistent.
When you post regularly and share and like other people’s content, you’re more likely to get noticed on social media. LinkedIn is a must for professional services (take a look at these great ideas on how to use LinkedIn). Twitter is also a platform where you can take advantage of trending hashtags that could be applicable to your audience.
Inbound marketing is here to stay, so embrace it and watch your leads grow.