This post provides an outline of how to attract, convert and nurture new clients to your professional services firm.
There is one fundamental truth to any new client relationship in 2017 and beyond. I don’t care what type of firm you have. I don’t care if you have 2 people or 20,000. I don’t care if you’ve been around 5 years or 50. I don’t care if you’re headquartered in Manhattan, New York or Manhattan, Kansas. Every single new client you win today and for the foreseeable future will go through your website.
I don’t care how they originally came to find you. I don’t care if they read a print ad in a trade journal, found an article from one of your practice leaders in HBR, searched for answers to a problem on Google, or were referred to you by their most trusted senior advisor. They will still go through your website. Like it or not. It’s an indisputable fact.
Now keep in mind, I’m not talking about new projects from existing clients. I’m talking about the coveted new/new of your business model — the new seed projects you’ll win with new clients this year that will comprise little more than 20% of your revenue now, but will blossom into 70-80% of your revenue 3-4 years from now. I like to call these new/news. And, there are 3 phases of marketing required to capture them:
- Attract as many of the right visitors to your website as you can.
- Convert them into leads for follow-on marketing and selling.
- Nurture them towards a conversation for your senior partners.
#1 – Attract Visitors
Your goal in the first phase of marketing is simply to consistently grow both the quantity and quality of visitors to your site. Your job is to go out into the market and bring people back in some way, shape or form. The best way to do this is to consistently publish high quality content that maps your firm’s expertise to your clients’ problems. That said, there are hundreds of ways for you to attract clients to your site. From onsite publishing and search engine optimization, to social media and offsite publishing in 3rd party journals, speaking at industry events, and buying digital or offline media. But, what works best?
Our research consistently tells us that personal referrals and publishing in leading industry journals are generally the most important ways clients find firms so they tend to be your two most effective techniques to attract new clients. That said, in most instances those two tactics will yield a minority of the visitors to your site. For the typical firm in our client set these two lead sources constitute <30% of total site traffic. So, they’re a minority of total traffic. We would go as far to suggest that while personal referrals are your best lead source they should only constitute a total of 3-5% of your total leads because they’re inconsistent and unreliable. If personal referrals represent a large percentage of your leads you clearly have a lead generation problem.
Search, by contrast represents 50-60% of total site traffic across our professional service firm clients — contrast this number to the broader Internet where collective traffic from search is ~30% and this metric becomes remarkable. If there were a Super Bowl for advertising your firm’s services, Google is it. So, if you care about bringing new clients into your practice you better care about content and search.
#2 – Convert Them Into Leads
Your goal in the second phase is to convert as much of that site traffic into leads as you can. We find it is reasonable for a professional services firm to convert 2-4% of its site traffic into leads.
In my experience a lot of firms have flawed definitions of a lead. So, let me be clear on what I mean by a lead. For some firms, a lead is a potential project. It’s not. A lead is a person. In other firms, a lead is seen very narrowly — only people who’ve contacted us to talk about our services. It’s not. It’s more broad than that. Of all the leads that enter your system in a given year, less than 1% will likely meet this strict definition.
A lead is anyone who has entered your marketing model that might be able to hire you today, tomorrow, or in the future. So, in addition to people you’ve identified as clients you’d like to work with anyone who visits your site and registers for a webinar or subscribes to your newsletter is a lead.
Ultimately, converting a visitor into a lead is usually that first point in the potential business relationship where you earn some trust. The potential client is simply giving you the right to market to them. They’re saying, what you have to say is valuable and I’d like to get more of it delivered to me in a timely, relevant fashion.
So, you need to be purposeful about how you will convert your site traffic by developing thoughtful user flows. A user flow represents what you hope to do with visitors once they arrive at your site. Applying your user flow to your site requires thoughtful design and well placed calls-to-action that guide people through their journey at each step of the way.
#3 – Nurture Them Towards Conversations
Your goal in the third phase is to qualify and nurture your leads towards a conversation with senior partners and ultimately into a business relationship with your firm. In our experience, it is reasonable to expect that 8-10% of all the leads you generate will initiate a conversation with you (either by directly asking to do so or with a little nudge from your business development folks).
The moment someone trusts you with their information they’re opening a small crack in the door and giving you the right to market to them. Your job is to slide through that door and to delicately open it wide. You do this through systematic lead nurturing. An effective lead nurturing program shapes the clients’ buying journey by delivering them an ongoing stream of useful content that’s mapped to their interests. You can gauge their interests by simply asking them (3-5% will probably tell you). And, you can identify their interests by grouping people into segments based on what they’ve read (these are called behavioral segments within your marketing automation system).
An effective nurturing program creates a bridge between thought leadership (educational content) and marketing content (services, case studies, and other practice information). If you heard me speak last year, you may also have heard me describe this as “moving people right” through your site.
As you read other content on our site, you’ll see us reference this model frequently. To start, your goal is simply to understand the three phases so you can assign marketing resources to each one and identify activities that might help you move the needle in your business. Over time, your goal is to assign metrics to each step in the model so you can become more effective at delivering clients into your practice.