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As a professional service provider, there are a lot of things that you have to do to stay on top of your business. Marketing is one of those things. But the problem is that you are, ultimately, trading time for money, so you work in your business, not on it.
Marketing is often as foreign to you as your business is to your clients but there are still others things that will improve your pipeline.
So what can you do? Well, here are some low-tech basics that you probably already have connections to help you handle. This won’t cost a fortune (although they may make you one).
How can you improve your pipeline
- Research – I know, sounds weird, right? Not at all! By taking the time to understand where and who your clients are, and understand the demographics of 80% of your client base, you can figure out where you need to market. This research could be as easy as building a short survey to send them or as in-depth as a face-to-face meeting. But this is the stuff that lets you know who is your client and what they need.
- Specializing Strategy – Many of us in the professional services are trained as generalists. We go through years of school and training. We finally begin to specialize, then we branch out to build a larger client base. After all, there is only the need for so many forensic accountants in Sylvester, Georgia. This is the wrong way to think about it. You are no longer bound by geographical limitations, but to get business you have to be different. And to be different you need to specialize and become the trusted expert in your professional services field.
- Your Website has to Professional – If you have an old looking website or, is unresponsive (won’t scale on mobile devices) or one that doesn’t do anything to engage the client, then you need to invest – right now. Well-built websites have clear calls to action, engage the viewer, and seek to collect their information. In some way – offering a free download, scheduling a strategy session, or taking a survey. All this serves to build your database and segment that audience for you to keep touching them and will improve your pipeline. Research shows that the majority of people buying professional services will first come to your website before making a decision.
- SEO – Search Engine Optimization. Just like with the website above, you need to make sure that you are at the top of local search. And specific targeted points in the searches that your customers (remember that you know who they are now due to your research) are doing.
- Advertising – Yep. Here it is, and it shouldn’t be the same-old, same-old. Your advertising budget should reflect both online and off-line strategies with budgets and specific deliverables that you expect from the company/s that are handling it for you. Some of this will come organically, while you simply do what you do, but other parts are “pay to play”. Link your success to the firm that is helping you by expecting certain things are done, and certain tangible results are delivered. Don’t just randomly buy advertising.
- Social Media – This is a strange phenomenon because it should be free. But companies pay thousands of dollars a month (and make 10, 15, or 100 times that in well-built campaigns) to make sure that the right target market for their company sees their advertising. While we can’t tell you not to try the free stuff first – and a lot of it does just take time, not money – having a part-time pro to handle your professional service company’s social media image may just be money well spent.
- CRM‘s – Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is an essential application for a professional service firm. CRMs allow you to keep in touch with your client (or potential client) automatically. Packages like Clio (for the legal services business) and comparable applications for other professional services offer a low total start-up and on-boarding cost and training to get you right where you need to be – talking to customers that are looking for you.
- Referrals – this should be a surprise, but have you gone through your database of clients and thought about asking them for referrals? Don’t get so caught up that you neglect your will to improve your pipeline and how they can help you grow your firm. At the same time, there is a right time and a wrong time for asking for referrals.
- Don’t be married – to what you’re doing right now in any marketing. At the very least, experiment with fonts, times for when emails are sent, changing up the sender email, the title, anything and everything should be in flux. This is where a great CRM can help. Because you can see open rates for specific emails to drill down on what your clients want to read. You have to test or you can’t expand.
- Reports are due! The best news in all this is that you can put this all back on to a contractor to handle. Require that they report on data for open rates, click-through rates, and dozens of other pieces in this whole program. For the amount of time you can save, you can easily pick up the ideas that these folks are discussing with you. Educate yourself on what “good” really looks like for your sector.