Marketing teams in professional services firms perform a multitude of tasks, but they are ultimately responsible for one thing: generating leads. In light of this urgent need, what are the most important marketing skills you should look for when building an in-house marketing team? It’s not always obvious. Fortunately, recent research into the best-performing professional services firms offers some answers.

At the highest level, digital marketing gets top priority. Recent research conducted by the Hinge Research Institute showed that high-growth firms in fact invest 13% more than their no-growth counterparts in digital marketing strategies — and much less in traditional strategies.

Traditional vs. Digital

Of course, building a team of professionals with general digital marketing skills can be both expensive and time consuming. So which skills should receive priority? The tables below show some interesting differences in marketing strategies favored by high-growth versus no-growth firms. A quick scan of the techniques favored by high growth firms suggests three essential skill areas for marketing teams: SEO, Content Promotion (specifically blogs), and — by implication — Web Analytics to measure all of those efforts.


Let’s take a look at each of these in turn.

Marketing Skill #1: SEO

High-growth firms understand that the first step to generating leads is simply being visible. From an online search perspective, if your firm is ranking prominently in search results for important industry terms, then your opportunities for exposure are dramatically increased. Of course, this is easier said than done.

The rules of search have evolved over the years, and the SEO techniques marketing professionals used a few years ago can end up hurting more than helping in today’s environment. Here’s a quick look at a few outdated tactics that can backfire:

  • Stuffing a variety of keywords onto one page and repeating those words many times
  • Submitting to hundreds of low quality directories or article submission websites
  • Focusing your energy on ranking for just a couple of broad homepage keywords
  • Relying on meta tags and other backend technical work to produce quick results
  • Looking at rankings as a primary metric for success

People who have kept up with the changes in Google’s algorithm and other SEO trends will understand that these techniques no longer work. So look for individuals with marketing skills that earn you some online respect. They should know how modern SEO works:

  • Selecting one or two important keyword phrases per web page and optimizing content by weaving in exact keywords and variations naturally — the way people speak and write in the real world
  • Creating content that people (not search engines) find useful and worth linking to. This content can take the form of a blog or even a whole library of educational content. Choose one keyword per piece of content and incorporate it into the title and body
  • Reaching out to industry blogs and publications and actively promoting content via social media to increase inbound links
  • Looking at leads from search engines as primary metric for success

Marketing Skill #2: Blogging

blogoffer-middle-marketingplanning-guideHigh-growth firms understand that blogging is an effective lead generation tactic. Because blogging helps your firm in so many different ways, it is considered one of the most efficient digital marketing strategies. In terms of a specific skill set, your digital marketing team doesn’t necessarily need to actually write the blog posts. Rather, they need to know the ingredients of a successful blog post and how to promote them.

Here are some basics of blogging that will help you identify specific skills needed to maintain and promote a good lead-generating blog:

  • Back Links – By hosting valuable content on your site (educational articles, videos, infographics and research that targets your prospects) you increase the likelihood that other websites will link to yours. More links to your content (called back links) can establish higher credibility with search engines and provide a potential boost in rankings and traffic.
  • Indexed Pages – Each time you post a keyword-optimized blog on your website, you provide a potential new avenue for people to discover your firm through search engines. And the more optimized content you have — cataloged (or “indexed”) by the search engines — the more opportunities there are for people searching online to find you.
  • Social Ammunition – Producing blog posts gives your team a reason to be active in social media. Instead of entering social groups with nothing interesting to say, your social media marketers will have a regular stream of valuable content to share and talk about. Linking to these posts on social networks is a great way to generate traffic. (Warning: you have to do it in a way that isn’t annoying or spammy.)
  • Visible Expertise – Having an exceptional blog is a way to stand out from the competition because it helps demonstrate your expertise. When visitors use your blog as an educational resource over time, they will learn to trust you as an authority and be more likely to select your firm as a service provider when the time comes – or refer you when their own peers are looking for a firm like yours

SEE ALSO: The Visible Firm Course on Hinge University.

Note that your blog posts should not be promotional in nature. This is not the place to announce a booth announcement at a trade show or a recent hire. Focus instead on helping your prospects solve business challenges and understand the market. Keep posts focused on the set of issues around which your firm has true expertise, and concentrated on relevant keyword phrases for optimal results in Google.

Marketing Skill #3: Web Analytics

It’s tough to be a successful digital marketer without a mechanism to judge your success. According to the research, high-growth firms are far more likely to measure outcomes than their average-growth peers. The high growers understand the necessity of tracking progress, making adjustments, and finding ways to improve on the fly.

Web analytics tools like Google Analytics allow free access to a lot of valuable data. To the uninitiated, it can seem like too much to handle. But firms that are just starting out need to monitor only a few basic metrics. Be sure you review them on at least a monthly basis. Here are four critical metrics:

  • Traffic by Source – Look to see where your web traffic is coming from. Is LinkedIn sending you visitors? Organic search? Other websites? What is the quality of those visits in terms of time spent on the site?
  • Conversions by Source – A “conversion” occurs when a visitor takes an action on your website that you decide is important. For example, if a web visitor fills out your contact form, your Google Analytics can be configured to register that action as a conversion. E-book downloads, webinar registrations, or newsletter subscriptions are other examples of conversions.

When looking at this metric, analyze which traffic sources are leading to conversions. You may be getting plenty of visitors from Facebook for example, but are they taking the actions that you want? If not, perhaps they are not the right type of visitor. (Note: Conversions are not set up by default in Google Analytics, but the effort is well worth it.)

  • Page Performance – It’s useful to know which of the pages on your site are performing well. Look to understand which pages are the most visited and how long visitors are remaining on those pages. Also take a look at the bounce rate for your top pages, which is the rate at which visitors leave the website after viewing a single page.
  • Demographics – Know your web visitors. What countries, states, and cities are your visitors from? Are they using mobile devices? Are they new visitors or returning? Demographic information will help you tailor your marketing approach through the process.

The nice thing about these three marketing skills is that they have broad application across your entire digital marketing strategy. Whether you’re looking to build your marketing engine internally or hire an outside team of experts, prioritizing on these three essential skill areas will prepare your firm to join the cadre of high-growth professional services firms.

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Elizabeth Harr