Guest post by Lee Frederiksen
It may sound grandiose, but it’s true – we’re at the dawn of a new era in professional services marketing.
It’s becoming clearer and clearer that high-visibility firms enjoy tremendous advantages over their competition. And as the body of research grows, it’s now possible to identify exactly which practices set high-visibility firms apart. For anyone paying attention, this is a moment of tremendous opportunity to build visibility and grow.
How, then, can you build your firm’s visibility? And why exactly would you want to become a Visible FirmSM in the first place?
The Benefits of Being Visible
Put simply, the benefits of visibility are many, varied, and powerful. First of all, firms that use practices associated with high visibility – in this case, online lead generation – have been found to grow at a faster pace.
Figure 1. Firm Growth and Online Lead Generation
As you can see, the fastest-growing firms generate between 40% and 60% of their leads online. We’ll talk about the reasons for this breakdown shortly. For now, consider the overall trend – and how far behind firms that don’t generate leads online have fallen. A similar dynamic is at play when it comes to overall profitability.
Figure 2. Firm Profitability and Online Lead Generation
The trend here is clear. The more leads that firms generate online, the more profitable they become.
Finally, high-visibility firms are typically associated with Visible ExpertsSM – individuals with high profiles in their industries and reputations for expertise. These professionals may deliver keynote addresses, author definitive books on their fields, or publish leading content on their firms’ blogs. There are five levels of high-visibility expertise, each with increasingly wide marketplace reach and visibility, and buyers are willing to pay significantly higher rates to work with these high-visibility professionals.
Figure 3. Hourly Rates Firms Will Pay for Visible Experts by Level
Visible Firms, then, are associated with higher growth and profitability as well as the ability to command higher rates – traits any firm would love to encourage. So how can firms build visibility and achieve these advantages for themselves?
How to Build Visibility
The benefits of visibility are diverse, so it makes a certain sense that your approach must be diverse as well. An effective visibility-building strategy draws on a variety of different techniques and practices to raise your profile throughout the industry.
Remember how the fastest-growing firms generated between 40% and 60% of leads online? Our experience has taught us that the most powerful visibility-building strategies utilize both online and offline techniques in a thoughtful balance. Consider the following chart.
Some of those offline (or face-to-face) techniques like trade shows and speaking engagements will be old-hat for many firms. And they’re familiar for a reason – they make an impact. But they have to be balanced and integrated with a carefully crafted online strategy. Consider the online version of many traditional offline tools. For example, social media is the online version of networking, and email marketing is the online version of cold calls.
The right mix of marketing tools depends on your firm’s specific situation and goals. But there are five key steps you can take to create a visibility-building strategy that is aligned with your needs.
Baseline Against High-Growth Firms
To create a truly measurable and goal-oriented strategy, you need to understand where you are now and where you’re going. To this end, you will need to benchmark your firm’s marketing practices and results against high-growth firms in your marketplace.
This process will involve collecting and evaluating data on leads, web traffic, overall growth and visibility, and more, and then comparing to industry benchmarks. From this data, you’ll be able to determine where you may have some advantages and where you have some catching up to do.
Craft Your Strategy
Based on your research and benchmarking, you’ll know where you need to prioritize your efforts. Assemble a strategy that uses both online and offline techniques to raise your visibility among target audiences while sharing your expertise.
A word to the wise – one of the most powerful and consistent features of high-growth and high-visibility firms is that they focus on a niche. This is a good point to consider ways that you can specialize and emphasize your specialty.
Collect Your Tools
You’ve identified your priorities. Now collect the tools you need to address them. The right tools will depend on the job at hand, but there are a few techniques that should be part of every strategy.
A message that communicates true differentiators.
A lead-generating website.
Educational content that shares your professionals’ expertise.
Create Your Content
Speaking of expert content…
Now it’s time to put pen to paper (or keyboard to pixel) and actually create high-quality educational content that communicates your firm’s expertise. It should be genuinely educational, not promotional, offering something of value to your audience.
Some of the most common forms of content are blog posts, guides, webinars, and books. The right mix for you will depend on your firm’s resources, needs, and approach.
It’s important to keep at your content efforts – this is something that pays off slowly but powerfully, often taking a year to show significant results. Patience and persistence is key.
Measure, Measure, Measure
Patience is key, but don’t simply trust that your efforts are all working as intended. Continuously measure outcomes like web traffic and leads. Are readers responding particularly well to a given topic? It may be time to consider focusing more on that area. Metrics like web analytics allow you to evaluate what’s working and what’s not, and to adapt accordingly.
Building visibility isn’t easy, but the path is consistent, replicable, and scientific. As I said at the start, we’re entering a new era in professional services, and if you commit to growth, you can achieve it. You can learn more about building a high-visibility firm by downloading Hinge’s free book Spiraling Up: How to Create a High Growth, High Value Professional Services Firm.
About the Author
Lee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D., is Managing Partner at Hinge, the leading branding and marketing firm for the professional services. Hinge conducts groundbreaking research into high growth firms and offers a complete suite of services for firms that want to become more visible and grow. Lee can be reached at LFrederiksen@hingemarketing.com or 703-391-8870.
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