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Guest

Online Marketing: Where Should Your Money Go?

By: Guest | March 21, 2013 | 
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Frederikson, LeeToday’s guest post is by Lee Frederiksen.

According to the Hinge Research Institute, 66 percent of professional services firms plan to increase spending on digital marketing within the next year.

But with so many online marketing channels available today, where will that money go?

Some firms will invest heavily in their social media presence, they’ll hire new young talent or contract the job to marketing companies.

Some will stick to good old fashioned email marketing, which is a proven tactic for reaching targeted eyeballs.

Others will diversify their budgets, allocating their marketing dollars across a panoply of tactics to cover all bases.

Because there is no shortage of options for reaching prospects online, the decision-making process for marketers is complex.

The research study from Hinge dug a bit deeper in an attempt to determine which online marketing tactics were most effective for high-growth professional services firms. The study surveyed 500 firms and segmented the results into two groups: Average growth firms and high-growth firms (growth was determined by year-over-year revenue).

Here’s a look at how high-growth firms rated various marketing technique in terms of effectiveness on a 0 (worst) to 10 (best) scale:

Graphic for Search vs Social

The first thing you may notice is, across the board high growth firms seem to be getting more out of online marketing. What’s more interesting, however, is which tactics sit at the top of the list: SEO, blogging, and web analytics.

While it’s true social media marketing is an important part of online marketing for professional services, it doesn’t appear to be the most important component. So before you commit time and money to building your Twitter following, you may want to beef up your content creation and search traffic.

Decide Where to Invest Your Online Marketing Dollars

If you decide to invest in online marketing, follow these three steps.

1. Build an SEO Foundation. Even professional services buyers are looking for your services with search engines. To give your firm a chance to make it into top search results for key terms, you must dedicate resources to SEO on a continual basis.

At a high level, the process looks like this:

  • Conduct keyword research to understand what relevant terms people are searching for;
  • Create valuable content on your website that focuses on selected words and phrases; and
  • Build authority and increase rankings over time by attracting inbound links from other websites.

Many firms will ignore SEO because they don’t understand it. Well, it’s time to start understanding. Work with an SEO professional and begin attracting new leads through your website.

2. Consistently Create Niche Content. Think of your website as a magnet. Your job is to attract people and pull them into your site. A proven way to accomplish this goal is to publish high-quality, educational content for your target audience on a consistent basis. A common medium for content publication is blogging, but education can come in many formats, such as whitepapers, ebooks, research reports, videos, and infographics.

Here are just a few of the benefits of creating content that targets your niche audience:

  • If your content is keyword rich, it has a good chance of ranking well in search engines and pulling in targeted traffic. SEO and content go hand-in-hand.
  • Helpful content instills trust. By assisting your audience throughout the buying process you are gradually building a relationship.
  • Great content attracts links from other websites. These links generate both referral and search traffic (in general, the more high-quality links your site has, the more credibility Google gives it).
  • More substantial content, such as a whitepaper, can be used to generate leads. Often firms will require a visitor to supply their email address before they can download a piece.

3. Measure, Report, and React. Web analytics are easy to overlook when you’re busy. But reviewing important metrics on a weekly or monthly basis provides the insights you need to make critical decisions about your online marketing.  How else will you know which marketing tactics are working and which aren’t?

Which metrics to measure will depend on your strategy. Here are a few that will almost always be useful:

  • Traffic by Source: Understanding where your web traffic is coming from and how it is performing is key to evaluating your marketing efforts. Note which websites and keywords are sending traffic to you and how long those visitors are staying on your site.
  • Conversions by Source: A conversion action is a specific goal you want your visitors to accomplish while on the site. Examples include downloading an ebook or filling out a contact form. By analyzing where these conversions came from (Google vs. LinkedIn vs. another website) you will start to recognize your best lead sources.
  • Pageviews: By looking at the number of pageviews per visit, you will be able to identify your most popular web pages. Common best performers are the home, about, and services pages. But as you publish quality educational content on your site, expect to see the majority of your traffic coming to content pages, such as blog posts, ebooks, and articles.

In your online marketing, where do you see the most value?

Lee Frederiksen is the managing partner at Hinge, a company that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services firms. He also co-authored the Hinge ebook Online Marketing for Professional Services. 

20 comments
dbvickery
dbvickery

As I'm considering moving our corporate website to a Wordpress platform, to allow more curation/editing from me versus require one of our developers, I appreciated this post. We are B2B in a competitive IT services industry that I think is still a little slow to adopt SEO/content marketing approach. I'm hoping to have the benefits of "early adoption within the industry" based upon successes we see in other industry verticals.

T60Productions
T60Productions

Hi Lee... I've been out of town for a couple weeks, so I'm getting caught up on blog reading.  Really glad I came across your post... interesting stuff!

As a video producer, I was curious about how the study handled video?  I saw the "Online Video" and 'YouTube" categories, but I know that video is an important part of all sorts of digital marketing (email, newsletters, social media, etc).  Is that what the "Online Video" category was meant to encompass?

--Tony Gnau

AlexWeinbaum
AlexWeinbaum

I agree with Tara,

Youtube's influence (or lack there of) is surprising given that is probably the web's most efficient and easily accessible research database for visual communication. I think businesses ought to invest more heavily in Youtube because it grants both parties (i.e., consumers and businesses) a chance to explain their service directly without the use of trying to grab attention.

Thanks,

Alex 

TaraGeissinger
TaraGeissinger

I LOVE this post. Keyword research + magnetic content is very powerful, and yet so many people make the mistake of doing one and not the other. I have to admit, I'm kind of surprised at how low YouTube scored on your research. I've been kicking myself for not making more videos -- but you've made me feel a tiny bit better about it!

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Great post Lee! The biggest challenge businesses face is when they contact and agency or marketing pro they usually get steered towards 1] the expertise of that agency whether or not it best fits the client and 2] whatever makes the agency more money vs what is most cost effective for the client.

 

That is why general marketers/strategists with a great network of support often are best fit for smaller businesses. They have less overhead invested, less bias, and can easily put together what fits best for their clients vs say 'I built up a great digital team and while they really should buy google ad words...lets propose digital marketing'

lfrederiksen
lfrederiksen

 @T60Productions Yes Tony, your exactly right. We included online video to capture all the uses that did not use the You Tube platform as many professional services firms host videos in other ways. To get the best overview of video you should consider both categories of responses. Thanks for your comment...lwf

lfrederiksen
lfrederiksen

 @allenmireles Thanks so much for your comment. It is amazing the difference that having some data makes. The ebook download referred to in the post is the best place to get more research results (its free so no worries). Thanks again...lwf

lfrederiksen
lfrederiksen

 @AlexWeinbaum Yes, that was a bit of a surprise as well. We are big supporters of video. I think some of the reason it did not fair well is that it is not widely used in professional services. While you can make an excellent case why it should be used, it rarely is. Perhaps part of the reason is that professional services are very reliant on trust and credibility so low cost production values don't play well. Time will tell if it gains more traction. Thanks for your comment..lwf

lfrederiksen
lfrederiksen

 @HowieG I'm afraid you are very right about getting steered to what an agency knows or is most comfortable with. That's why I love research so much. It does help clear the air. Thanks for your comment...lwf

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