By Elizabeth Harr, Partner, Hinge Marketing
Trade shows, networking events, and sponsorships — do these get priority in your marketing budgeting? If so, you’re most likely not seeing as robust payoff as you anticipated. And, if these are in fact your typical go to marketing practices, it may be time to consider adopting more effective marketing strategies, especially in the area of digital marketing. Improving your marketing ROI and developing more online leads is not only achievable — it’s also easier to measure.
In my firm’s latest research, we looked closely at how the fastest-growing professional services firms — including ones selling technology services — use effective marketing strategies. Our research uncovered eight key strategies that have proven most effective for firms, regardless of size.
Get IT And Marketing To Collaborate On Your Website
Your marketing team can use content management software (CMS) to easily update your website — without relying on a developer. Our research found that 75% of high-growth firms update their sites at least weekly, while only 55% of technology services firms do so as frequently. Task your marketing folks with day-to-day updates, and your IT team with the more substantial redesign and maintenance efforts.
Create Website Offers
Make sure your website offers calls to action (CTAs) to help visitors further engage with your firm. Use CTAs for content downloads (such as white papers and webinars) to attract prospects, and “Contact Us” or “Request a Proposal” forms to engage late-stage prospects.
Be Easy To Visit
More than 87% of the buyers of technology services examine vendors’ websites before making their buying decisions. So it’s crucial that when prospects visit your website, they can easily find what they’re looking for. Make sure to include clear communication about your services and expertise, straightforward and intuitive navigation, and easy to find contact information. Most importantly, make sure your website makes the case, by way of an abundance of well written, relevant thought leadership, that you really are the expert you claim to be. See #6 and #7 for more.
Get CRM On Your Side
Firms that use customer relationship management (CRM) software can easily create new web offers and forms, track leads, and segment prospects. Determine the exact functionalities your firm needs, and research which CRM product can best meet your needs.
Use The Right Words
Including the right keywords is essential to building visibility on search engines – not to mention with humans. Start by pinpointing the issues or problems your audiences are trying to solve, and which keywords they use to find solutions. Tools like Google’s Keyword Planner and Moz’s Keyword Difficulty tool can help. Then, instead of using highly competitive phrases (where your chances of reaching the top of search engine lists are slim), choose more attainable, “long-tail” keyword phrases.
Plant Your Flag As The Authority
In digital marketing, trust is everything. This means that declaring yourself an industry thought leader is only the first step. You also need to support your claim by publishing relevant educational content. Show buyers that you understand their issues and that you have the expertise needed to overcome them.
Focus Your Blogs On Generating Leads
One of the most effective marketing strategies is to create educational (not self-promotional) content with a specific target audience in mind, and share your thoughts on topics they care about. You can find inspiration for topics by tracking industry news and social media, talking with your business development and sales teams, and conducting primary research.
Share Content Generously
Consistently share interesting stories on social media — whether created by your firm or others. Doing so creates digital goodwill, and also positions your firm as a trusted resource within the industry.
How To Measure What’s Working
Many VARs face a never-ending challenge in tracking the impact of digital marketing. Fortunately, new technology is making it easier than ever to track marketing results. Keep in mind: I’m talking about much more than Google Analytics, Facebook Likes or Twitter followers. These tell only a small part of the story.
One of the keys to successful digital marketing is to monitor progress along the entire sales cycle. Every firm will track different metrics, but here are some that you may want to track weekly, if not daily:
- Website visits – Knowing this number not only lets you measure your site’s SEO impact, but also its effectiveness as the first traceable touch point for prospects who are checking out your firm.
- Conversions – Offer valuable content, like an executive guide, white paper or webinar, and ask visitors to provide contact information before they can access it.
- Leads – Most VAR firms begin tracking at this point, using a CRM. But if you haven’t first tracked visitors and conversions, you won’t know why your number of leads varies from week to week.
- Proposals – Separate leads from proposals, so that you can segment prospects into “not qualified,” “not ready,” and “poor fit” categories.
- Near close – This metric provides insight into capacity, cash flow and forecasting. At Hinge for example, we track the number of proposals that we think have an 80% likelihood of closing within the month.
- Closed deals – Every firm should track this metric, but it’s surprising how many don’t. Understanding the dollars generated by your marketing and business development efforts helps ensure a sustained commitment.
Compare your numbers week-to-week and year-over-year. Look for trends, share results, and be open to course corrections that could lead to greater impact.
Get Started Today
Digital marketing can be challenging, especially at the outset when you don’t have many subscribers. Increasing your digital marketing impact is completely do-able, however, so stick with it. And remember: you don’t need an army of marketers in order to prosper — just a smart, focused team with a good strategy.
Last but not least, if you don’t have the data you need now, start collecting it. I’m inspired by the saying, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the second best time is today.” Best wishes in your marketing efforts!
Elizabeth Harr is an accomplished entrepreneur and experienced executive with a background in strategic planning, management, communications, and alliance development. Elizabeth co-founded a Microsoft solutions provider company and grew it into a thriving organization that became known for its expertise in Microsoft customer relationship management.