Why Your Referral Program Should Incorporate Content Marketing Strategies
The expectations of professional services buyers have changed. Today’s buyers are considering a range of options in their journey from recognition of need, to engagement of service provider, to firm advocacy and referral:
- Connections—Who do you know? Who do they know? And, any of these connections experts in the services they need?
- Conversations—No heavy sale. Does the firm offer transparent discussions around challenging issues?
- Selection—Does the firm continue to offer value and education, even after they have been hired?
Content marketing supports this client experience journey and greatly influences the willingness of buyers to become advocates. That is why content should be a major part of your professional services referral program.
In our referral marketing research, we learned that 80.8% of referrals check out a firm’s website. That makes sense considering the current Internet-centric market. But we also found that 43.6% of buyers referred ruled out a firm because they couldn’t understand how the firm could help them; and 23.5% ruled out a firm because of poor quality content. These are astonishing statistics.
Today, buyers have access to a wealth of information. And they are using it. That should be enough impetus for your firm to embrace strategic content marketing as part of its referral program.
So let’s take a closer look at the client journey, and see where content plays a role in inspiring advocacy and referrals.
The Client Experience Journey
In the professional services client experience journey, content plays a critical role in both pre-sale (marketing and business development) and post-sale activity. Why? Because content marketing builds trust. It gives prospective clients a sense of confidence that they are selecting the best service provider. It gives existing clients assurance that you are working in their best interests. And it gives current and former clients proof of your expertise that they can pass along to those they refer.
But the content you provide must be educational, useful and relevant to your target audiences if it is to help develop new business and generate new referrals.
The following are just a sampling of the benefits of such content:
- Demonstrates expertise
- Allows prospects to “sample” your thinking and approach
- Gives search engines something to find—search engines also love original content
- Helps qualify and nurture leads and build your brand
- Costs less than traditional outbound marketing
- Works around the clock and around the globe
- Lowers the acquisition cost of leads—online leads from content drive both growth and profitability
Content, Before the Win
In the pre-sale stage of the client journey, it is important to get content out to potential clients. Consider educational content as a tool for moving the buying process forward. Not only is it an opportunity to acquire new leads (at a lower acquisition cost), it also builds trust well before the initial conversation.
Buyers begin interacting with a firm online before they reach out or are ready to buy. You need to make sure those prospective clients recognize your expertise early so they are amenable to engage and later become clients.
Content, After the Win
Just because you closed the deal and have a new client, does not mean that content stops being important. The newly minted client wants to know they made the right decision and ongoing educational content can help do that.
If these clients have an informed and positive relationship with your firm, they can become strong referral sources. If they have content to point referred colleagues and peers, all the better.
Of course, content marketing also provides a vehicle for firms to go beyond traditional client referrals. This is especially important considering that, according to our research, 81.5% of professional services firms have received a referral from someone they have never worked with before.
The greater reach that online educational content provides can be highly effective in nurturing your visibility as an expert and help you build reputation-based referrals.
The Intersection of Client Need and Firm Services
With content marketing, your firm is visible at every stage of the buyers’ journey: pre-sale, sale and post-sale. But, just producing content is NOT enough.
When it comes to producing quality content, follow this simple formula:
- Consider what is important to your clients.
- Consider what services you want to promote.
- Focus on the overlap of those considerations.
The intersection of your clients’ most pressing issues and your firm’s services will inform the broader issues you cover in your blog, whitepapers, guides, or books. Remember, the issues and specific topics, you chose to cover should:
- Be relevant to both your client and the services you provide
- Have no true consensus on what is the “right” solution
- Be enduring (is not likely to go away in the short term)
- Is a point of expertise not already “owned” by another firm
- Offers a valuable perspective
- Is broad enough to cover from different angles
Research can help you select those issues and topics.
Remember the Role of Content in Your Referral Program
Today’s buyer comes with different expectations and behaviors. The client journey is self directed and content can help build trust well before the first conversation. For winning firms, content marketing is the threshold to a more sophisticated and fulfilling client experience journey and a new twist on the referral program.
- Download Hinge’s Content Marketing Guide for Professional Services Firms for tips on creating content that builds credibility and demonstrates expertise.
- Get a copy of our free Marketing Planning Guide to develop a strategy that generates more leads for your firm by building its visibility and reputation in the marketplace.
- Learn a practical strategy for building a more robust and reliable referral program in the Referral Marketing course at Hinge University
How Hinge Can Help
Hinge has developed a comprehensive plan, the Visible Firm® to address these issues and more. It is the leading marketing program for delivering greater visibility, growth, and profits. This customized program will identify the most practical offline and online marketing tools your firm will need to gain new clients and reach new heights.
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