Marketing Best Practices for Professional Services Companies
- Marketing best practices shift unsupported ideas that lack measurable execution to prescriptive methods that achieve forecasted business outcomes. Industry research and evidence-based best practices take the guesswork out of strategic marketing objectives such as growing the sales funnel.
- Each evidence-based best practice is validated by industry research, includes a prescriptive framework, has a purpose-built measurement system (i.e., dashboards and predictive analytics) and leverages technology automation.
- Research shows that the Best-in-Class professional services companies did not achieve the top revenue growth performance results with random strategies, processes or technologies. The data reveal they excelled by orchestrating a synergistic combination of processes, technologies and analytics to achieve extraordinary results.
There's a lot to learn from the top performing service companies.
For example, best practices to grow the sales funnel. Research shows what the Best-in-Class marketers (i.e., the top 15%) did to grow the sales funnel better than their peers (i.e., the other 85%). And it shows how they did it.
Professional services marketing best practices are prescriptive recommendations that save time, increase focus, lower risk and show the most direct route to increase sales lead acquisitions, marketing sourced revenues, and return on marketing investment (ROMI).
Professional Services Best Practices to Grow the Sales Funnel
The days of sending generic messages to broad audiences are behind us.
Research published in the Marketing Transformation Report found that marketers who applied customer intelligence programs, that is they harvested Voice of the Customer (VoC) data, calculated the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), maintained a centralized 360-degree customer view and aligned offers, campaigns and other engagement pursuant to customer segments or personas, achieved 12% higher marketing campaign conversions, 9% lower cost per lead, 5% higher sales win rates and 6% lower cost per customer acquisition.
The above schema illustrates how customer intelligence can be categorized and managed in the CRM system, so the data is available for filtering and extraction for marketing and other purposes.
Less effective marketers used marketing software to cast a wide net. While techniques such as email marketing broadcasts maximize outreach and produce plenty of lead generation metrics, they also lower conversions, increase cost per lead and do little to engage clients. When clients mark generic and non-relevant marketing messages as spam the service provider is then blocked from future engagement.
The Best-in-Class service companies did several things different than their lower performing peers. Before the first campaign was launched, they acquired buyer insights, defined their sustainable competitive advantages, used these advantages to solidify their brand and unique value proposition, defined their ideal customer profile (ICP), and then applied this data to launch precision marketing campaigns.
Marketing Automation Technology
Marketing technology brings process automation, information reporting and scale to marketing operations. Technology is the primary tool to reduce manual labor and do more with less.
Research published in the Marketing Transformation Report identified the 5 most effective marketing software applications.
Marketing Automation Platforms (MAP), sometimes called Marketing Clouds, were cited as the most effective technology by the Best-in-Class leaders. These applications automate 6 essential sales lead acquisition processes:
- Digital lead tracking – measures online customer interaction with campaign offers, flights and other marketing assets. The highest performers use this feedback in near real-time to adjust campaign artifacts and improve engagement.
- Digital lead acquisition – uses a landing page or similar method to harvest prospects interested in the company's services. The top performing service firms acquire more and better sales leads by using content marketing programs that create information buyers find compelling and shift from outbound (interruption-based) marketing techniques that perform poorly and annoy prospects to inbound marketing programs that educate and engage prospects.
- Lead scoring – automatically scores leads using explicit (firmographics, demographics, technographics) and implicit (online behaviors, digital footprints, customer sentiment) criteria. Lead scoring shows if a prospect is sales-ready, not yet sales-ready or disqualified for the company's services. The top performing service organizations skew the lead scoring formula toward implicit data. That's because they recognize that explicit data only shows how interested the company is in the prospect while implicit data shows how interested the prospect is in the company.
- Nurture marketing campaigns – engage prospects that are not yet sales-ready, meaning they are in the early evaluation stage and do not yet want to speak with a salesperson. These drip campaigns allow the service firm to stay top of mind and track buy signals that will reveal when they are ready to speak to a salesperson. The top service company marketers do not forward unqualified leads to the salesforce because they know that wastes valuable sales time and creates lead leakage.
- Lead transfer to sales – occurs once the prospect's buy signals reach a lead threshold score, indicating the prospect is sales-ready. The prospect is then automatically routed to a salesperson. The digital footprints and other information will be forwarded from the marketing cloud to the salesperson's CRM system. This will enable the salesperson to view the prospect's online history and learn what the prospect is most interested in.
- Lead analytics – show which content artifacts get engagement and drive conversions and which don't. They show which campaigns convert for which target audiences and which acquire the prospects that most convert to new customers. The most effective service company marketers use multivariable propensity models to show the combination of offers, content, channels, and call to actions (CTA) with customer types or target audiences to optimize lead acquisitions, lead conversions and pipeline growth.
Marketing analytics help service companies continuously improve lead acquisition conversions and grow the sales pipeline.
However, while the Best-in-Class marketers cited analytics as their top tool for increased lead acquisition performance, their lower performing peers were more often data rich but information poor.
Here are the four components the highest growth service companies used to build their analytics.
- Data Transformation
Data is an asset. But to yield value, the data must be converted from a raw material to a finished product of information or insight. That's best done with a data transformation process.
Much of the data will reside in the MAP, but data will also come from additional sources such as the social sphere, data enrichment providers and other company systems such as the CRM software, customer data platform (CDP), professional services automation (PSA) system and ERP application. When done at scale, data transformation converts data from an unused byproduct to the company's most valuable asset.
- Marketing Dashboards
The most effective marketing dashboards deliver the right information to the right person at the right time. They focus on the most essential key performance indicators (KPI) and prioritize information based on what's most important to each user.
They show what should be done, in a sequenced order, to aid time management, create a work rhythm cadence and maximize productivity.
However, most marketing dashboards disappoint. They display what is easy instead of what is important. They display static data and entirely backward-looking information.
Marketing analytics research shows that dashboards achieve up to 30 percent utilization immediately following an implementation go-live, but within 3 weeks that utilization falls to 9 percent. Over time it falls further. The decline is due to dashboards not providing real help to marketers.
The key to analytics is to translate marketing activities into business outcomes, measure what matters, and instrument lead acquisition performance with real-time KPIs.
Analytics are most easily consumed when KPIs are prioritized into groups. For example, the research found that primary KPIs include brand expansion, lead acquisition growth, marketing sourced revenue growth and ROMI while secondary KPIs include lead conversions, lead quality, lead growth and cost per lead. Tertiary metrics focus on activity and engagement measures.
- Predictive Analytics
Marketers deliver the most valuable reporting when that information can engineer future financial outcomes. That's why predictive analytics are essential.
Without predictive analytics, the view and information for every person in your services company is entirely backward looking.
A recurring pattern among lower performing service firms is that they don't know what types of campaigns or combination of offers, content and channels will optimize lead acquisitions, lead conversions and pipeline growth. So, they pursue what they know instead of what is most effective.
A better approach is to apply data and predictive analytics to compare campaign alternatives. This allows marketers to perform pro forma modeling, compare alternatives, see the trade-offs and plot the shortest and least cost route to the most qualified sales leads.
The data that drives the calculations is sourced from campaign and sales history if its available or industry benchmarks if it's not. In working with services companies to populate predictive models, we find that most believe they don't have the needed data. But quite often they have more data than they think, it's just disorganized and decentralized in siloes.
Marketing analytics research found that predictive analytics was the technology that most separated the highest and lowest performing service companies. 84% of the Best-in-Class regularly used predictive analytics, which was 67% higher than their lower performing peers. This is a significant difference that should not go unnoticed by those seeking more and better leads for the sales pipeline.
- Data Driven Culture
Lastly, a data driven culture is needed to deliver the last mile of business intelligence. Management must promote a culture that shifts decision making from intuitive, gut-based and subjective decisions to data-driven, fact-based and objective decisions. This is often done with what many analytics experts call at DDOM (data driven operating model).
About 100 years ago, a smart man named W. Edwards Deming instructed his management team, "In God we trust, all others must bring data." That statement perfectly describes a data driven operating culture.