Why it’s Time for Professional Services Firms to Embrace Online Marketing

by Lee Frederiksen

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You may not have noticed it happening, but the past few years have created a revolution in professional services marketing. What was once a referral-driven marketplace is quickly being replaced by the convenience and visibility of online marketing.

This shift in how professional service firms are doing business has grown from a change in buyer preference. Rather than spending weeks waiting for an RFP response, buyers are taking their search for services to the Internet. They’re Googling keywords and comparing content to narrow down their choices, allowing them to make an informed decision in a fraction of the time. This change in buyer behavior has permanently altered how professional services are bought and sold.

This change can be daunting, but it can also help generate growth for your firm — at least, it seemed like that was what everyone was saying. We decided to find out for ourselves just how effective online marketing is for professional services firms. We wanted to know if online marketing was a good business choice for professional services firms and, if it was, how to do it the right way.

Does Online Marketing Work for Professional Services Firms?

To answer these questions, we surveyed a total of 500 firms across five primary industry groups: A/E/C, Marketing/Communications, Management Consulting, Accounting/Finance and Technology Services. The results were extensive, but there were two main indicators of growth that emphasized the increasing advantages of online marketing.

First, firms that reported a higher percentage of leads generated online also experienced a higher percentage of growth. Over a two-year study period, firms that didn’t generate any leads online only saw a 15 percent median growth. Contrast that with firms that generated at least 40 percent of their leads online — these firms grew about four times faster. The bottom line: Online lead generation drives faster firm growth.

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Second, firms that generate more leads online also see an increase in profitability. Our results show firms that generate more than 60 percent of their leads digitally are twice as profitable as firms that generate less than 20 percent of leads online. So, embracing online marketing and generating leads online goes far in helping your firm to grow faster and be more profitable.

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While these are obviously two very compelling reasons to embrace online marketing, the motivations don’t stop there.

5 Additional Benefits of Online Marketing for Professional Services Firms

  1. Convenience: There are numerous online marketing tools designed to simplify and automate the process. The convenience of these tools allows firms to test out different options and find a system that works best for them.
  2. Versatility: Online marketing opens up several different channels through which your firm can demonstrate your expertise to potential clients. Through blogging, premium content, social media, webinars and videos, you can reach a wider audience over several different media.
  3. Visibility: With online marketing, your target audience is no longer limited by geography and time zone. Your messaging can reach substantially more people with significantly less effort.
  4. Affordability: HubSpot found that online leads cost companies 61 percent less to generate than traditional outbound leads. Online marketing doesn’t require materials to be printed and distributed or representatives to travel to events.
  5. Specificity: Your audience consists of several different varying subsets, all with their own set of concerns and needs. Online marketing allows you to target the various sectors of your audience with specific keywords that speak directly to their problems.

These five reasons, combined with the ability for online marketing to increase your firm’s rate of growth and profitability, paint a pretty persuasive argument for why it’s time to embrace online marketing. And make no mistake — if your firm doesn’t change with the times, it’s a safe bet your competition will.


leefLee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D., is Managing Partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Hinge is a leader in rebranding firms to help them grow faster and maximize value. Lee can be reached at LFrederiksen@hingemarketing.com or 703-391-8870.
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