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Content Marketing for Professional Services: How to Turbo Charge Lead Generation

Lead generation is one of the hottest topics in professional services … and always will be. All projects come to an end, and so the hunt for new business never stops. 

Boiling it down: lead generation is all about attracting prospects to your business and its services, capturing their contact details so you can start marketing to them and guide them through a buying journey, with the end goal of converting them to a client.

When lead generation is left to chance, professional services companies often find it difficult to grow in a predictable manner and frequently become dependent on a few repeat clients to make up the majority of their revenue—which is risky.

A well-oiled lead generation engine provides your company with a steady flow of high-quality, informed, ready-to-buy opportunities to follow-up on. Sounds great, right?

The truth is, it’s tricky for most businesses … and it’s even harder for professional services companies, because: 

  1. They typically don’t have strong Sales & Marketing teams
  2. The leaders have expertise in the services they deliver, but typically don’t have sales backgrounds
  3. With services, prospects can’t “try before they buy”, which makes the entire Sales & Marketing process harder than when selling a product 

All is not lost. We’ve seen many professional services companies crack lead generation. And the good news is it’s more straightforward—and less daunting—than you might think.

So, how do you get started? This is where “content marketing” comes in. Put simply, content marketing is the process of creating useful, engaging materials for your prospects and making it available on your website … in exchange for their personal details e.g. their name and email address. 

By producing insightful, helpful content that resonates with your prospects and helps them solve a problem, you position yourself as a thought leader and authority within your sector, establishing trust and credibility. 

Professional services is a crowded space and you’ll have plenty of competitors vying for your prospect's attention. High quality, informative content helps prospects cut through the noise and makes you stand out from the crowd.

Sold? Good. In the rest of this blog, we’ll step through how to create a content marketing strategy and master lead generation. 

Developing a content strategy  

Types of content 

The first question you’re probably asking is: what exactly is “content”? Content covers a wide range of materials, including:

  • Whitepapers
  • eBooks 
  • Guides
  • Blogs
  • Webinars 
  • Videos
  • Email newsletters and nurturing series 
  • Podcasts 
  • Case studies 
  • Testimonials

You’ll find different types of content will be more effective than others depending on the persona of the prospect you’re marketing to and where they’re at in the buying journey.

Just to be clear, the buying journey is the path prospects take before making a purchase. The buyer’s journey consists of 4 phases, referred to as a “funnel”:

How to Build a Killer Sales Funnel [Infographic] (2022 Update)

When creating your content, consider which stage of the funnel you’re aiming at. Blogs and whitepapers are suited to top of funnel prospects, who are just researching a problem or question; whereas case studies and testimonials are more relevant to those in the consideration phase, looking for information to help them make a purchase.

For a full lowdown of the buyer’s journey, we recommend taking a look at this fantastic blog post.

Aims, objectives and target audience 

Before you go jump in and start producing content, it’s important to ask yourself 2 questions:

  1. What are your aims and objectives?
  2. Who’s your target audience?

Given you’re reading this guide, it’s probably safe to assume your aim is to generate new leads for your business. It’s important to bear in mind, however, that content marketing is useful for a variety of goals—not just lead generation. For example, it can be used to increase the lifetime value (LTV) or average order value (AOV) of existing clients, by providing them with content that helps them get more out of the products you recommend and services you provide to them. 

Identifying your audience is vital to the success of content marketing. Without understanding who your audience is and what makes them tick, producing insightful and valuable content will be difficult. A deep and intimate knowledge of their industry, pain points and jobs to be done will allow you to produce content that helps solve their problems and answer their questions.  

The key to nailing down your target audience is through a development of buyer “personas”—profiles of the different types of prospects/clients that you want to engage with. For a detailed look at how to create buyer personas, we recommend checking out this our blog here.

Do your research and find your angle 

Before you start producing content and particularly if you’re struggling for ideas—the first steps are always the most difficult!—search Google for topics you might want to write about.

Ask questions like: “Are our competitors in the search results?” and, if so: “What’s their angle?” Is there a “People also ask …” list of suggestions provided by Google? These suggestions are gold dust, as they’re based on high-frequency searches by real people researching the topic you want to write about.

Whilst browsing your competitors’ content—c’mon, of course we’re going to look at it—make notes and consider how your point of view or angle fits in … and how you can offer something new and improved. 

There's no need to reinvent the wheel, but finding your own perspective and “tone of voice” will see your efforts skyrocket moreso than simply regurgitating someone else's points of view. 

What to Write About? 

To build trust, rapport and authority your content has to be genuinely helpful and seek to solve problems or answer questions for your prospects. Consider the following key questions when deciding topics to write about:

  1. What’s the persona of your target audience?
  2. What’s the aim of your content?
  3. What stage of the buyer’s journey are you targeting?
  4. What is the relevance of this topic to your audience and your business?
  5. What questions/problems does this content help solve?
  6. What is the call to action you want your audience to take after consuming your content? e.g. book a meeting, download a guide, click through to additional content, etc.

Remember, content marketing should be used as a strategic business tool, not an indulgent opportunity to write about topics that aren’t relevant to your target audience. Content for content’s sake isn’t worth the effort. 

We’ve spoken with multiple leaders of professional services companies who are concerned they’re going to give away their “secret sauce” and render themselves redundant. We get it. Arming your prospects with the knowhow to do your service for themselves can seem counterintuitive. But rest assured, providing prospects with theory does not remove the need for your services. Instead, what you end up with is a more informed buyer who trusts your expertise and your ability to execute. 

How to promote your content 

Right. You’ve started to produce some great content. The next nut to crack is getting your content in front of your target audience.

Knowing how to promote content is just as important as the content itself. After all, if no one ever sees it, it's all for nothing.

The number of channels you can use to promote your content grows by the day. Getting into the detail of each of them is going beyond the scope of this blog. However, a quick Google search will provide you with plenty of high-quality articles that’ll get you up and away. Top channels to consider include:

  • Paid search ads on Google and Bing
  • Paid social ads on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.
  • Organic social media 
  • Email marketing 
  • Search engine optimization—the process of optimizing your website and content to improve organic search rankings
  • Partnerships with other authorities in the industry e.g. guest posting on their blog

The key thing to remember is select the channel(s) that’s right for your business. The wrong channel drain time, effort and money. For example, for certain target personas the use of Facebook or Instagram ads would be a total non-starter, but for others it may be your most effective method.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • Where do you audience spend their time online? 
  • Do they visit specific industry publications? 
  • Are they members of particular LinkedIn groups? 
  • What’s your follower count like on organic social? Would social media accounts be the best channels to use if you only have a few followers? 
  • Are there particular search terms people Google you can place an ad for? 
  • Do you have a healthy contacts database you can send emails to? 

Summary  

Content marketing is an excellent way to turbo charge your professional services company’s lead generation engine. Great content, promoted properly, will help you attract and convert prospects, and maintain clients, in a reliable and predictable way. 

To recap, the key points to consider when getting started are:

  • What are your aims, objectives and audience(s)?
  • What are your competitors doing?
  • Do you understand the buyer’s journey (so you can guide them along)? 
  • What topics should you create content on?
  • What channels should you use to promote your content?

If you’d like to learn more about mastering lead generation for your professional services company, download our eBook, “A Blueprint for Lead Generation Mastery in Professional Services”. In this eBook, we delve into value-based marketing, list building, sales sequences—and much more!—turning your company into a slick, lead generation machine!

Download for free here