How to leverage your firm's growth goals, marketing strategy, and marketing automation to generate qualified leads.Most professional service firms would love to have a prospect funnel filled with solid inbound leads. Why doesn’t this happen? The most common response is a lack of time. If time is the issue, then logic would dictate making marketing and new business development efforts a priority and as efficient and effective as possible. Yet, in analyzing the marketing efforts of professional service firms there is little connection between attracting prospects, firm goals, marketing tactics, and metrics. Few firms have spent ample time developing a solid strategy, clarifying an optimal client, or creating processes to achieve the greatest return on marketing investment. The application of inbound marketing strategies and technology brings efficiency, accountability, measurability, and results.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is an all-encompassing term used to describe the tools, techniques, and processes used to attract prospects. That is contrasted to traditional outbound (push) techniques that send information about a firm and its services, whether or not the prospect is interested or has a need. Inbound marketing utilizes tools that present the type of information the prospect needs based on the prospect’s behaviors.
Content as Magnets
The foundation of inbound marketing is relevant and helpful content. Marketers then utilize marketing tools and channels (blogs, social media, SEO) as “magnets” to attract prospects to the firm throughout the entire buyer’s journey. Rather than interrupt potential clients like traditional outbound techniques, inbound strategies aim to reach people when they are searching for answers to their questions or looking for solutions to their problems. The content must therefore offer solutions, answer questions, address pain points, and be integrated with data and search engine optimization (SEO) and, to create efficiency, coupled with technology. The result is a robust inbound lead generation process that not only fills the funnel with qualified leads, but also nurtures prospects throughout the entire buying cycle.
Know Your Prospect
Inbound lead generation depends upon a solid understanding of the prospect in terms of industry, revenue, private versus public, geographic location, and decisionmaker. However, that’s just the basics. A robust inbound lead generation strategy only works with knowledge of the prospects’ issues, questions, and concerns. That means firms must create content that answers prospect’s questions, addresses concerns, and offers potential solutions. This kind of content is what will attract prospects to your firm in the first place, and the strategic employment of other inbound tactics will help keep them coming back.
However, many professional service firms often fall back into the trap of using technical or internal terms in their content or focus solely on producing ‘salesy’ content. To be effective, you must reorganize the issues and concerns into question format utilizing the words and phrases that the prospect would use. For example, the term inbound lead generation may not be well known outside of the marketing industry, but for business owners that are looking to find new prospects, they may search queries such as how to fill my prospect funnel. Think in terms of “how do I, what is a, how to solve, and how to” when creating the questions.
Content should be created with the intent to address the questions, issues, and concerns of prospects. While it is tempting to talk about your firm and the in-depth knowledge you and your team possess, now is not the time. Save the experience and skills discussion for closing the business. You first must focus on gaining the prospect’s trust through your knowledge of their problem.
A great strategy for developing content is to first create an editorial calendar that outlines what kind of content you will develop and when. A good starting point is to focus on one or two long-form content pieces per month. Long-form content is defined as content (blog, article, whitepaper) that is 1,800 or more words.
Map the Content to Services
Once the issues, questions, and concerns have been identified, map the prospect’s challenges to the services you provide. In other words, if a prospect has a specific issue, what service does your firm provide that addresses or solves that issue?
Another reason why new business development processes fail is a lack of follow-up. Prospects read your material, visit your website, or express an interest, and nothing happens. The key to creating a robust inbound lead generation is to leverage technology. Marketing automation tools such as HubSpot allow the use of workflows and sequences to gather data about the prospect, keep the prospect engaged, and put the right information in front of the prospect at the right time.
Study the Data
This all may sound a bit overwhelming, but there are many tools available such as AHREFS, Google Analytics, SEMRush, SEO Minion, and others that offer insights and data into search terms, keywords, competitor rankings, and questions asked, as well as how your firm ranks. Utilize the data to understand where you stand now and to identify gaps in terms of key search terms that drive prospects toward your firm’s services.
The data can be powerful; however, knowing how to interpret the data is equally as important as the tools literally present thousands of data points that may or may not be relevant. If you find yourself stuck, consider examining what your competitors are doing and how your firm compares. Look for gaps – what is not being addressed? Then, develop your own content that better addresses the question or gives readers a more in-depth solution, further proving your firm’s knowledge and capability with regard to the prospect’s issue.
An inbound lead generation strategy is an effective and efficient way to fill your prospect funnel with qualified and more meaningful leads. A lack of time is no longer a valid excuse when the technology is capable of nurturing a prospect through the entire buyer’s journey. Inbound lead generation is the marketing strategy of now. Prospects no longer want to be inundated by outbound (push) tactics bombarding them with unnecessary or irrelevant information. Prospects want answers. Be the firm that focuses on clarity.