Professional services brands today are at risk of eroding. Over the past five years, we’ve witnessed firm reputation and visibility scores decline across the professional services. How can today’s firms overcome this challenge, and improve their brand in the marketplace? The answers aren’t the same as they used to be.

Traditional marketing techniques are giving way to strategies that are designed with modern clients in mind—and the old ways are no longer enough. So what are the top techniques for professional services firms today?

Before we consider the best marketing techniques, let’s consider what exactly we mean by the term “marketing technique.”

Defining Marketing Techniques

A marketing technique is anything you do to bring in new business or increase your firm’s visibility and reputation.

We’re not talking about strategies to close the sale on existing opportunities. Instead, marketing techniques are all about generating those opportunities in the first place. These methods include targeting promising markets, building your brand and generating and nurturing leads to drive faster growth and higher profits.

A wide range of marketing techniques are available for both online and offline. Common offline examples include trade shows, networking and in-person speaking engagements. Key online techniques include a firm’s website, search engine optimization (SEO), and webinars.

Together, online and offline marketing techniques allow you to reach clients wherever they may be. Traditional, offline networking has been an important part of the professional services industry for some time, but these days crucial relationships are forged more and more often through social media platforms like LinkedIn (by far the most popular social channel across the professional services).

For decades, experts have used speaking engagements and seminars to share their knowledge and vision. Today, the Internet can expose these ideas to a wider audience. Webinars, online courses and podcasts are used in much the same way as their offline counterparts, but they have the potential to reach many more people.

In this evolving, increasingly complex marketing world, how can professional services succeed? Which techniques are the most important for building a powerful reputation?

1) Specialization and niche targeting

Our research has repeatedly shown that the fastest-growing firms tend to specialize in carefully targeted niches—areas of expertise they understand deeply.

While not everyone recognizes specialization as a marketing technique, it is among the most powerful. Why? Specialization impacts every aspect of your business, from the audiences you target to the messages you craft. Specialization makes your marketing easier because it defines exactly what you do and distinguishes you from the sea of undifferentiated competitors.

Often, specialization is the foundation of a firm’s competitive advantage. If you understand a very particular slice of the marketplace better than anyone else, then you’re exceptionally well equipped to recognize what matters to them and speak to their needs. And buyers are more likely to be drawn to specialists and pay a premium for their expertise. Specialization is perhaps the most powerful differentiator.

2) Visible Experts®

Visible Experts are exactly what they sound like: high-visibility experts in your industry. They are leading figures who advance big ideas and attract clients through the sheer power of their names.

Our research shows that firms with in-house Visible Experts experience a variety of important benefits. These highly visible experts generate more leads, command billing rates that are up to thirteen times higher and close sales more easily.

Many firms have subject matter experts, but all too often they’re not widely visible, and there’s no focused plan to increase their prominence. Many firms simply don’t recognize the benefits of high visibility.

If they do, they don’t realize that there are proven strategies for building an expert’s profile. By giving experts platforms to educate their audiences—such as books, blogging, public speaking and webinars—firms can support an individual’s reputation and ultimately positively affect the firm’s growth as a whole.

Cultivating Visible Experts is a powerful strategy. When your firm has a clear specialization and one or more nationally-recognized Visible Experts, you’re in an excellent position to accelerate your marketing efforts and your growth.

3) Blogs and articles

There are two approaches to publishing blog posts and articles: 1) contributing content to your firm’s blog, and 2) writing for outside publications.

Writing is a great way to project your firm’s specialized expertise, way of thinking, and problem-solving acumen. According to our research into buyer behavior, more than 50% of buyers read articles or publications to learn more about a topic important to them professionally. By educating your audiences, you demonstrate your relevance and qualifications as an expert.

There is also a second key benefit to blogging. It is an excellent way to increase the drawing power of your website. Search engines like Google look for fresh content on your website. They also give preference to content that is linked to by other sites. A robust guest blogging program coupled with engaging content on your own site is a great marketing technique to deliver these twin benefits.

This is also why blog posts and articles are an important part of any initiative to cultivate Visible Experts—and a cornerstone of online marketing.

4) A lead-generating website

A website carries your identity and message to an ever-growing online audience. But it can do more. A lead-generating website is carefully crafted to be the hub of your online marketing program. Useful, easy-to-find content is served up alongside relevant offers designed to convert visitors into leads—all integrated into a comprehensive ecosystem optimized to generate and nurture leads. In fact, our latest research shows that going to a firm’s website is the second most common way buyers check out a professional services provider.

Because of its central role, a lead-generating website is a key tool for turning visitors into fans and fans into clients.

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5) Search engine optimization (SEO)

Behind any lead generating website is a thoughtful search engine optimization strategy. SEO is an umbrella term for a variety of techniques designed to make sure that your valuable content gets in front of the right audiences online.

There is no shortcut here. You must develop well-written content that is truly useful to your specific target audience. And that almost always requires the participation of a true subject matter expert.

There are also a host of important technical issues to attend to. Your website must be well structured and pages should incorporate keywords that signal to the search engine what it is about. SEO is part art and part science.

6) Speaking engagements

Public speaking is one of the most powerful visibility-building and lead-generating techniques in an expert’s toolbox—and a great way to build one’s reputation. Speaking engagements confer credibility and often put you in front of a highly-targeted audience, presenting an excellent opportunity to engage your listeners, establish trust and build a following.

This is why nearly 78% of Visible Experts rank speaking engagements as a top marketing technique. And it is why speaking engagements have long been an important part of many successful firms’ arsenal of marketing techniques.

But all speaking engagements are not created equal. You must be in front of your target client group or influencers who are in a position to recommend you to your potential clients. And, of course, you must have something valuable to say.

7) Trade Shows & Conferences

For firms in many industries, trade shows can be a great way to get in front of a high concentration of potential clients in one place. Because trade shows usually address a narrow audience, they can be a convenient way to target your prospective buyers.

At a trade show, you can share content, network with prospects and potential partners, speak, check out your competition and exhibit. By choosing (or organizing) the show strategically, you can keep your cost-per-interaction low, engaging with many qualified potential clients in a short period of time.

The keys to success are careful targeting, planning and follow-through. While trade shows and conferences can be time and labor intensive, they provide an ideal venue to meet people in person and drive multiple high-qualified sales opportunities.

8) LinkedIn

LinkedIn provides another way to network with potential buyers and partners without investing in plane tickets and hotels. As the premier social network for professional services, it is a rich resource to meet new people, share your expertise with other and build visibility.

While other social media platforms have their uses, LinkedIn is the top of the social media food chain in the world of professional services marketing. It’s not only a way to connect one-on-one, but it hosts a bevy of specialized professional services communities.

Most firms are already using LinkedIn, but you have to be active to reap its rewards. Begin by developing strong individual profiles for key team members, building a robust firm page, and actively engaging in relevant groups.

An active social media presence also works hand in hand with your blogging and SEO activities. Sharing valuable content is the currency of social media. It attracts web traffic and can encourage people to add valuable backlinks to your site from their own blogs.

9) Video

Video offers many of the benefits of face-to-face interaction without the physical demands of meeting with a large number of people one-on-one. Through video, viewers can get a taste of your team’s personality and expertise. 

Video comes in a variety of formats:

Pre-recorded video: This is what most people think of when they hear video—a scripted or unscripted piece that may include voice over narration, music, talking heads, text, animations and b-roll, to name a few possible components. Pre-recorded video is usually hosted on a dedicated service such as YouTube or Vimeo (there are many options available).

Live streaming video: Usually, presented to a small group, live streaming video can allow two-way communication and Q&A. It has the advantage of allowing you to interact with your audience and pick up on visual cues like body language. It also makes it easy to share detailed, highly visual tutorials or demonstrations. Common tools include Zoom, Google Meet and GoToWebinar, among many others.

At the heart of professional services are people, and video is an exceptional way to showcase your people and even get to know your audience. Some common uses for video include:

  • Firm and service overviews
  • Demos
  • Webinars
  • Video case studies
  • Video blogging
  • Short-form social media posts
  • Meet-the-team videos

10) Signature Content

Signature content can come in a variety of formats. But whatever form it takes, it should represent a significant investment of time and expertise. The payoff is higher credibility and the potential to attract new audiences.

Perhaps the most widely recognized and effective form of signature content is a book about your specialty. In fact, writing such a book is one of the characteristics that distinguishes the fastest-rising Visible Experts from the rest.

But a book is not the only possible approach. You might, for instance, produce a significant piece of research that is relevant to your audience and sheds light on an area that is poorly understood. Or you might write an in-depth best practices guide or produce an online course that explores a common client problem. 

The key is that it has to be truly noteworthy and not replicate work produced by a competitor. It should not only enhance your reputation, it should provide a tangible point of differentiation in the marketplace.

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These ten most effective marketing techniques are a diverse group of online and offline strategies. Each technique is even more powerful when used in concert with the others. For instance, search engine optimization can point audiences to a video of a speech delivered by one of your Visible Experts, which is featured on your lead-generating website, where a targeted offer converts web visitors into leads.

When you use a thoughtful and diverse array of marketing techniques, they build upon one another. By selecting the right techniques and delivering them at a high level, you can take your professional services marketing program to a higher level—and your firm’s potential with it.

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Karl Feldman

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Hinge is a global leader in helping professional services firms grow faster and become more profitable. Our research-based strategies are designed to be implemented. In fact, our groundbreaking Visible Firm® program combines strategy, implementation, training and more.

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