Buyers are often looking for expertise long before a real business opportunity appears. Here's how to get in front of customers and build your pipeline.
What can make a difference in terms of real business growth? How can professional services providers—with clients to help, staff to manage, and hands to shake—assess whether their marketing approach needs a tune-up or a teardown?
The most productive business development strategy for professional services firms selling to the government requires a potent blend of expertise and communications that reach decision makers who are ready to act. That means leveraging both proven online marketing techniques – and the demonstrated expertise of business development professionals – even in the context of contract-driven revenue.
Making a Good First Impression Online
When decision makers have a problem, they go online.
Maybe they find a helpful article on an industry blog published by an unfamiliar firm. Overtime, they follow the blog, attend a free webinar, and maybe even receive useful tips in weekly emails from that same firm. If the decision maker later needs a speaker for a premium event, is looking for a contract partner, or needs to make a referral, they think of you.
How Buyers ‘Check Out’ Potential Professional Services Providers
Once, formal references would have dominated this chart. Today, a firm's website is the uncontested champion, though buyers are typically using multiple resources. From search engines to social media, buyers have a wealth of ways to learn about providers and solutions—and they’re using them.
Your accumulated experience in your industry is valuable for business growth—often, more valuable than you realize. Knowledge that you take for granted, ideas that may feel like the basics to you can provide essential insights to others. So take a step back and assess what you know.
The key to figuring out what expertise is worthy of building visibility around is to find the intersection of:
- Typical problems your target audience is trying to solve.
- What your experience has taught you about the causes of these problems.
- Services you provide that are important to your long term growth.
This information is fodder for educational, relevant, and accessible content.
Develop Great Content Around Your Expertise
The fact is your expertise can drive business long before you talk to a prospective client, partner, or even influencer. And that’s exactly what happens in the most successful content marketing campaigns.
Strong content has a couple of key attributes. It should be:
- Educational. This isn’t guerilla promotion. Your content should teach audiences something valuable, not promote your firm.
- Relevant. Your content should speak to target audiences’ real challenges and opportunities. It has to be rooted in a sophisticated understanding of their needs and marketplace.
- Accessible. Content should speak your audiences’ language. Keep it clear and accessible while avoiding unnecessary jargon.
Give It Away
I know it sounds counterintuitive, but you’ll want to give away—free of charge—all that great content. The goal is business growth, and to do that, you want to put yourself in a position to advise your target audience. This is a great way to be introduced to a prospective buyer and spur business growth. Build credibility as a problem-solver in your marketplace, as a knowledgeable advisor. If you do, potential clients may choose you over a competitor.
Educational Content and High Growth
When your firm starts assembling its marketing toolbox, it makes sense to ask, “Which tools work?” After all, if a tool or technique isn’t going to make a demonstrable contribution to the bottom line, then why bother?
For answers, we can look to our studies on the marketing strategies used by high growth businesses that deliver the most pack to the punch. The table below shows the top 5 most effective strategies – the top 3 are directly related to showcasing expertise.
Marketing Techniques With Greatest Return on Effort
Why does creating visibility around expertise work to secure new business? Not only does educational content like webinars and blog posts help boost your firm’s credibility and share your expertise, it also helps raise your visibility in search engines—so prospects are likelier to find you when they go looking for solutions.
Furthermore, long after you or your firm’s other experts have written and posted a blog, that content keeps working for you by raising your profile in searches and educating potential clients who you might not even know are out there. You can think of robust educational content that will remain relevant for years to come — often known as “evergreen content” — as a long-term investment in your brand, and ultimately in your business growth.
Moving Forward with Content
Building visibility around your expertise doesn’t happen overnight. It succeeds through sustained effort.
Once your team is committed, here are a few ways you can help shape relevant content:
- Identify your typical prospect type
- Isolate 5-6 key concerns per prospect type
- Identify areas of specialty – from a prospect’s perspective rather than a service perspective
- Identify field-facing personnel fluent in the business “language” your ideal customer speaks
With the organizational support to produce quality educational content in an ongoing way, your firm will have much of what you need to raise your visibility among potential clients, partners, and influencers and make the most of business growth opportunities.