How clients find your professional services firm’s website can be a useful resource for setting digital marketing strategies and tactics.
Where does your website traffic come from? Do you know? Have you ever looked? If you did, do you know what it means? Or, what you should do differently based on the data you see?
My experience is that most small and mid-sized professional services firms pay almost no attention to these questions. They don’t think about it. And, quite frankly, they don’t really care. But, your website’s traffic profile can provide you a lot of useful information about what you should be doing more (or less) of digitally.
Why You Should Care About Traffic Sources
One of the fundamental truths of modern professional services marketing is that every single new client you land today and in the foreseeable future will go through your website in one way or another.
Maybe they searched Google for insight on key challenges they’re facing and they found the answer in your thought leadership. Maybe they were referred to your firm by a colleague or a friend. Maybe they heard one of your partners speak at a leading industry event. Maybe they read an insightful article you published in HBR. It doesn’t matter. If they’re engaging with your thinking or exploring your services, eventually they’re going to do it online. More specifically, they’re going to do it directly on your website.
Understanding your traffic sources will help you understand how clients are finding you. More importantly, it will help you identify your best marketing opportunities for new client acquisition going forward.
A Look at the Typical Professional Service Firm Traffic Profile
One of the benefits, as an agency, of working almost exclusively with professional services firms is it enables pattern recognition. We have the opportunity to see similar situations regularly. Problems that feel unique to our clients appear often within our client base.
Now, of course, pattern recognition primarily emerges through experience. But, it also emerges through data. Over the last 7 years, as we’ve worked with professional services firms of many types, we’ve been aggregating the data from their web properties. We use this collective data to establish benchmarks for performance and set goals during the early stages of a new client relationship. We can look at how a website is performing individually relative to the average of all the firms we work with or have worked with. And, we can look at a site’s data relative to the collective data set.
One of the patterns that has emerged from this effort is a quite consistent traffic profile. This is a comparison of the aggregated traffic profile from across our client base and the traffic profile of the mean of all firms in our database:
Remarkably similar, huh? Finally, here is the distribution of traffic sources across the database:
- Search = 46% – 70%
- Direct = 20% – 40%
- Referral = 5% – 25%
- Social = 2% – 8%
- Email = 0% – 12%
The distribution is most interesting to us because it helps us see what is possible for any new client. We’ve used the distribution to develop our recommended traffic profile:
- Search = 60% – 70%
- Direct = 20% – 30%
- Referral = 10% – 15%
- Social = 3% – 5%
- Email = 10% – 12%
Note — if you’re not sure what these different traffic terms specifically mean, I’d suggest reading our Professional Services Digital Marketing Primer.
Setting Marketing Strategies and Tactics From Your Profile
So, imagine you’re the typical professional services firm, and your traffic profile looks something like this:
Where are your best digital marketing opportunities to attract new clients? Search? Email? Social media? If you’re like me I see the biggest opportunities in search and email marketing. There’s a 13% gap between the typical firm and the top performing firm on search. And, a 12% gap between the typical firm on email and the top performing firm on email.
So, if this was your firm and you wanted to bring clients into your funnel via search and email, here are some different tactics you might take in each domain to move the lever.
To start, make sure you’re regularly producing a variety of short-form, search-indexable content (articles of 2k words or less published in live HTML ). Depending on the size of your firm and the diversity of your practice, we generally suggest publishing between 3k – 5k words per month of new content. Obviously, very large or diverse firms would need to publish more to gain search traction across all their markets and business units.
Make sure you’re search optimizing everything you publish. To start, you can use simple intuition on how someone might search for something to optimize each post. If you want to take it up a level, invest the time to build a bank of keyword phrases related to the topics you’d like to be found for. Incorporate them into the key search elements of your pages. And, use the data available on search volume and difficulty to inform your editorial strategy. For more on all this, access our webinar on generating search traffic via SEO.
Together, regular publishing and “on-page” optimization has the potential to push your search traffic up 5-10 percentage points. If you still want more (or aren’t seeing the results you’d like) consider investing in an SEO consultant to help you unlock some of the “domain level” aspects of search engine visibility (think technical stuff), look for opportunities to publish your thinking off-site and link back to your site, or connect with industry influencers via social media in the hopes they’ll begin reading and sharing your content on their publishing channels.
One of the big missed opportunities we see in many professional services firms is email marketing. Many firms are reticent to send regular, useful insight to their clients and prospective clients via email. Partners see it as an intrusion in the inbox.
Others send the wrong content — content that’s all about the firm (news, employee hires and advancements, client wins, and project work) instead of content that’s useful to the client (new insights and research, perspective-laden thinking).
And, others simply don’t send with enough frequency. We see firms sending useful perspective-laden content, but they’re only doing it 1x per month or even 1x per quarter.
Our experience on all these fronts has been quite the opposite. Clients and most good prospective clients welcome useful content in their inbox on a regular frequency. Email marketing is one of the most critical aspects of professional services digital marketing. It lets you:
- Build early-stage relationships with new leads you’ve attracted via thought leadership before they’re ready for a conversation.
- Maintain relationships with prospects and existing clients in a helpful and low-touch way.
- Nurture clients along their buying journey (by guiding them from learning about issues in your thought leadership to vetting your firm via solution offerings and case stories).
Some of our recommended best practices for email marketing include:
- Sending useful content to your leads, prospects and clients at least weekly or bi-weekly.
- Sending with consistency (on the same day and around the same time). This enables you to set your audience’s expectation for what you will provide — there’s a reason television news shows are on at the exact same time everyday and have a set structure to their programming within that 30-60 minute broadcast window.
- Utilizing a 3:1 delivery model — for every 3 pieces of useful information you provide, you have the right to make 1 ask of your audience. An ask might include sending them a case study, inviting them to a webinar, or encouraging them to download a longer-form piece of content like an eBook or white paper.
- Leveraging a marketing automation platform so you can market to your audience based on their demonstrated interests, leverage your entire inventory of useful content (not just your latest and greatest articles), and, of course, automate the delivery to some extent.
Suggested Action Items
So, what should you do right now?
- Login to your firm’s Google Analytics account and take a look at how people arrive at your site (this is found under Acquisition in the left-side navigation). I’d suggest looking at a longer time horizon (at least 3-4 months).
- Compare your site’s traffic sources to the average firm in our data set and the recommended traffic profile shared above.
- Identify the best opportunities to deliver more potential clients to your site and 3-4 things your team could do differently in the next 60 days to progress in that area.