How to Use Content to Power Professional Services Sales

February 27, 2018

At my first job after college, I observed how the sales teams in professional services firms used outreach methods that had worked for decades.

They made cold calls. They relied on referrals. They shook hands with individual clients to build relationships one by one.

This happened to be at a Fortune 500 company, although it was the same everywhere.

But that was 1995 — and nostalgia just doesn’t cut it. Today’s professional services sales pros must create and manage a digital pipeline to bring in new business. Attorneys, lawyers and other professionals who generate new leads need to be online — using social selling tools to keep them in the conversation and remain relevant.

How can marketing help? Through content.

Marketing’s New Role

A firm’s content — such as blog articles, podcasts and white papers — has a significant impact on the buying decisions of 82 percent of business-to-business (B2B) buyers, according to a 2016 Harvard Business Review article citing a LinkedIn survey.

B2B buyers are five times more likely to interact with someone who provides fresh insights about their business or industry. That’s critical when 90 percent of decision-makers will no longer respond to cold outreach, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Marketing’s job is understanding its organization’s audience and translating their needs and pain points into compelling, valuable content. Content helps businesses appear on a buyer’s radar earlier in the sales process, building trust and authority over time that organically lead to conversions.

Your firm’s digital presence — including its website, social media engagement and articles — must differentiate it and communicate why it’s the best choice.

Build a Content Marketing Strategy

Professional services marketers must transform their approach to one geared toward identifying leads, building relationships with prospects, and closing deals. And they must remember that today’s successful marketing teams build brands. They create thought-leadership campaigns and develop digital footprints where prospects spend time online.

Successful firms rely on four tactics to build content marketing strategies that work.

1. Adopt a Publisher’s Mindset

Prospects want you to help them see what’s next, with insights geared toward their specific industry, business challenges, and even company size. Think like a magazine editor and determine what content speaks to your audience’s needs. The goal is to become an influencer and an expert, rather than making a sales pitch.

Customers expect you to keep them updated on regulatory or industry changes. They want your more profound insights into how those changes will affect their businesses. For a CPA firm, this means the difference between notifying readers of a change in the tax code and creating valuable content that can help a particular type of business maximize the value of specific tax credits.

2. Publish Consistently

It’s not enough to publish an occasional blog post or white paper. Consistency and quality help firms become trusted sources, which leads clients to recognize their authority and expertise — and to want to build deeper relationships with them.

Find a cadence that works for you, but aim for updating social accounts daily and publishing fresh content at least weekly.

Consistency is of utmost importance, as publishing on a regular basis ensures Google regularly crawls your site — ultimately viewing your site as a valuable, evolving resource.

3. Build a Search Strategy

Google hosts over 2 trillion searches each year. That number will only increase as millennials continue to transition into decision-making roles. To ensure your firm shows up in your audience’s search results, your business needs a comprehensive keyword strategy. Doing so will amplify the success of your content marketing.

Start by ensuring the following is baked into your digital marketing strategy:

  • Determine the keywords you want to rank for — service lines, product types and so on.
  • Create a clear keyword strategy for each industry vertical
  • Use that keyword strategy to optimize each piece of content you publish

4. Extend Your Advisory Services Through Content

Your content should be forward-looking and showcase the value of the insights you deliver. Content extends your advisory services and scales your ability to bring your expertise to the market. Prospects who come to trust and rely on your content see you as an authority and will buy from you when they need services.

Don’t limit content to your core areas of expertise. Focus on the issues swirling around your clients’ industry and help them understand the impact of changes. Produce content that offers:

  • Perspectives and fresh ideas
  • Industry insights
  • Information about what their peers are doing
  • Solutions to problems
  • Trends and outlooks

Professional Services Sales: Content Is Key

For professional services sales, one thing is clear: Content marketing is what’s next on the evolving landscape. Quality, consistent content has become a key driver of not only the purchase journey, but lead conversion as well.

By adopting a publisher’s mindset and consistently producing quality content, you will raise your visibility and forge relationships with prospective clients.

In 2018, make it a priority to ditch the status quo and turn your attention to content. Ultimately, it will be the vehicle to show customers that, while they’re focused on their business, you’re the right partner for building growth by anticipating what’s around the corner.

There’s a new sales pipeline, and there’s no room for nostalgia.

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