A note from Janice:
Professional services for activities such as infrastructure assessments, deployment planning, and outsourced IT operations are a significant revenue stream for many technology companies. However, these services aren't often the focus of guidance for effective marketing.
In this guest post, Hinge Marketing, which specializes in professional services firms, presents interesting data about online marketing strategies that can benefit any company offering technology services.
How Services Firms Grow with Online Marketing
by Sylvia Montgomery
Our research team, Hinge Research Institute, reviewed findings from our survey on 500 CEOs, executives and marketers from professional services firms for the book Online Marketing for Professional Services.
We wondered how three groups of professionals use 15 common online marketing tools in order to discover what tools work best when marketing professional service firms. The three groups of professionals we surveyed included average growth firms, high growth firms, and a panel of experts. We were interested in answering a few key questions:
- How do average firms use these tools differently than high growth firms?
- How do average and high growth firms judge the tools’ effectiveness?
- How does a panel of experts evaluate the tools’ effectiveness?
Focus on Online Tools
We asked both average growth and high growth firms to rate the relative focus they placed on each online tool. A rating of 0 meant they didn’t use the tool at all, while 10 meant it was used significantly.
We found a significant difference in the focus between high growth and average growth firms. For example, high growth firms focus more on blogging (with a rating over 7), where average growth firms focus on blogging about half as much (with a rating about a 3). High growth firms also use email marketing and web analytics more often in their marketing.
Figure 1 – Focus Rating: High Growth vs. Average Growth Firms
Effectiveness of Online Tools
This brings us to the next section we looked at: effectiveness rating. We asked firms to rate how effective these online tools were at helping them meet their business objectives. For almost all the tools, high growth firms found them to be more effective than average firms did. Only newsletters and webinars were rated similarly. Social media tools, although used widely, did not seem to be as effective and generally tend to be overused.
Figure 2 – Effectiveness Rating: High Growth vs. Average Growth Firms
Opinions from Experts
The third step in our research was gaining insight from a panel of experts on the 15 online marketing tools. How do experts rate their effectiveness? What tools should firms be focusing on even more? We wanted to uncover any untapped potential in using these tools, beyond what high growth firms already experienced.
Figure 3 – Effectiveness Ratings: Experts vs. High Growth vs. Average Growth Firms
In most cases, the experts found the set of online marketing tools to be even more effective than high growth firms. SEO and web analytics were among the techniques experts use most and rated the most effective, with blogging and usability testing not far behind. Surprisingly, the experts found Facebook and banner ads to be less effective than the high growth firms did.
For the most part, we found that professional services firms are not realizing online marketing tools’ full potential, particularly in regards to the effectiveness of SEO, blogging, and web analytics. If firms start to determine which online marketing tools are right for them and begin to focus more on these tools, firms will begin to reap the benefits. This means increasing web traffic, building web authority, and gaining more inbound leads – goals every professional services firm should strive to achieve.
To learn more ways online marketing can help your firm, download the Hinge Marketing report Online Marketing for Professional Services.
About the Author: Sylvia Montgomery, CPSM, Senior Partner & Account Director at Hinge, brings 20 years of experience and perspective to the Hinge team. Other recent leadership positions include Director of Marketing at one of the Mid-Atlantic’s fastest-growing engineering firms, Bowman Consulting and Director of Marketing Communications at Rubbermaid Commercial Products. Sylvia holds a BA from Trinity College, an MFA from George Washington University, and an MBA from University of Maryland, University College.