If you’re a marketing and communications agency, how confident are you that your own online marketing is top notch?
A new piece of research by Hinge Marketing shows that some marketing and communications firms are not necessarily marketing themselves as well as they could be to generate qualified leads and increase profitability.
Hinge surveyed 500 firms, of which 80 were marketing and communications agencies with on average 15 employees and an annual revenue of just under $3m.
They compared the performance of marketing and communications firms with all professional services firms.
Marketing and communications firms came out top for generating leads online, a characteristic of firms that grow faster and are more profitable.
But, surprisingly, some of the marketing and communications firms did not grow as fast as other professional services firms. And they were just below average for profitability.
A Lack of Investment in Content and SEO?
What’s the reason? Here’s what Hinge concludes:
While we don’t have enough data to provide a definitive answer, our findings do offer a few clues.
For instance, while Marketing/Communications firms use email marketing, LinkedIn and web analytics at rates similar to high growth companies, they do so without the investment in content that make those vehicles so powerful.
Marketing/Communications firms lag in writing blogs, articles and ebooks. And they invest less in search engine optimization.
These elements are the fuel that drive leads. By refocusing on the right tools, the Marketing/Communications industry may be able to raise its game and pull in more qualified, higher-value leads.
As someone who lives and breathes content, I was surprised to hear that marketing and communications agencies don’t always appreciate the need to provide a fresh stream of quality content to educate, inform and entertain.
So I asked Hinge partner Lee Frederiksen to recap on the basics of a successful online marketing strategy, based on the research the company has been doing.
The Basics of a Successful Online Marketing Strategy
Liz: What should marketing and communications firms focus on first?
Lee: Have a clear understanding of who your target client is. An online strategy that is not well targeted is not likely to succeed.
From there, the next step is building a solid online base. That involves a website that is both appealing and set up to drive conversions. For example, we want visitors to sign up for downloads of content or newsletters or videos that allow you to capture their information and begin a dialog. This will set you up for search engine optimization and web analytics which are the foundation of most successful online strategies these days.
Liz: Are there other steps in addition?
Lee: Once you have the foundation in place, the next step is generating valuable content. Valuable content is what will attract visitors to your site through search engine optimization. And when they are there, offering them additional, more in-depth content that requires registration will convert them into early stage leads. With nurturing via regular content such as webinars and newsletters, some will become opportunities.
You will have some visitors who are ready to purchase right away as they are further along in the sales cycle. So a combination of hard offers and soft offers makes sense.
Liz: If such firms have limited resources – people and budget – where do you suggest they make their effort?
Lee: Start with the basics of targeting and SEO (search engine optimization). Over time you will attract visitors if your content is valuable enough and well optimized. Social media is another starting place for firms with limited resources. The content you are publishing becomes what you share in social media that helps people understand how you can help them.
Liz: How important is blogging and updating the website frequently?
Lee: Very important. It is one of the most important tools right after SEO.
As a matter of fact, you might think of them as two parts of the same whole. The SEO helps people find your content and the content provides the fuel for search engines so they work together.
Liz: In terms of content, how can smaller agencies compete with larger ones? Is there anything left for them to educate prospects about, or has it all been said?
Lee: It’s an interesting question. In some ways a smaller agency has an advantage because they can focus on a narrow target, where a large agency is forced to compete for a lot of different target client groups. A smaller agency can specialize which gives them a competitive advantage. A specialized, niche agency can often win over a large generalized agency, providing they are competing in an area where they excel.
In terms of anything left to be said, the reality is the more information that is out there, the greater the need to have someone clarify what is really important to the target.
Liz: Comparing Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, where are resources best targeted?
Lee: For most agencies, LinkedIn is the best place for B2B business contacts. Twitter is helpful for getting reach across a broad area and makes a good complement to more in-depth networking on LinkedIn. Facebook tends to work for some specialized audiences – not-for-profits and educational institutions are two examples that come to mind. Other than that, Facebook seems to be most successful when used for recruiting and behind-the-scenes commentary. These are consistent with our research data and our experience.
Use Lee’s tips to make sure your online marketing strategy is up to scratch.
Hinge has just published a new book including case studies, Online Marketing for Professional Services.
I’ll be reviewing it soon - subscribe to my updates in the box top right so you don’t miss it.