All posts by Kirsten Hodgson

6 Ways to Use a Buyer Persona in Professional Services Firms

Compiling buyer personas (sometimes called ideal client avatars) is common practice in many industry sectors and some professional services firms see the value in them too.

 

Yet many still haven’t created these ‘semi-fictional representations of their ideal clients based on real data and educated speculation about demographics, behaviours, motivations and goals’ (Hubspot definition) and are likely missing out on quality work from clients they want to represent as a result.

 

So, why should you create buyer personas and how should you use them?

If you want to get found and be relevant to your ideal clients then you need to put them at the centre of everything you’re doing. That means understanding them and the journeys they take from recognising they have a problem or opportunity to deciding to purchase your services. It’s key to delivering them with content that’s relevant to them at that particular moment in time.

 

Of course, if you’re only targeting a small number of clients, you can go one step further and compile detailed insights about each of them – targeting content and other efforts at individuals. But for many, that’s simply not possible, which is where buyer personas come in.

 

Buyer personas help you get in the mindset of your ideal clients in order to:

 

  • identify where they spend time online so you can be there too
  • guide service development, allowing you to create offerings to help them solve a particular problem or take advantage of an opportunity and know they’ll use them
  • help you create the right content, turning visitors into leads, leads into clients and improving the client experience
  • properly evaluate opportunities that come your firm’s way to assess whether or not they are a good fit and, better still, to be able to clearly communicate ‘why not’ to practitioners within your firm, who may have a vested interest in the opportunity (we’ve all been there!)

 

If you  haven’t created  your firm’s buyer personas, download our free “How to create buyer personas” eBook where we walk you through the process.

 

6 Ways to Use a Buyer Persona

 

1. To understand your various client segments: By identifying their habits, pain points, challenges and language you can provide them with content that meets their needs. This helps you reach more of your ideal clients, attracting the right people (rather than just anyone) to your website. It also helps to reinforce existing client perceptions that they have made the right choice in selecting your firm and helps you to demonstrate your capabilities in areas in which they may not currently be using your services.

2. To map your buyer journeys: Once you have your buyer personas, you can use these to map the path various personas take from the moment they realise they have a problem or opportunity to researching potential solutions and eventually purchasing one.  This allows you to create content that meets their needs at a particular moment in time, ensuring you have content that will attract ideal clients at each stage of their journey – after all many of your ideal clients won’t yet be ready to buy your services but you’ll still want your firm to be on their radar so that when they are ready they choose you.

3. To create content in context: Clients and prospects will be looking for different content at different times depending on where they are in their buyer journey. Understanding them, their pain points, the questions they’ll want the answers to and the information they’ll be looking for at all stages of their research process will enable you to create the right content and link to other related content, which moves them further through their decision-making process. It means you can better plan and map content to ensure it works together to help you achieve your goals.

 

4. To prioritise your digital marketing efforts: Knowing where your personas spend time online, what they search for, who they follow, the types of content they consume, and where they engage will help you to plan and target your marketing initiatives in a focused and effective way.

 

5.  To increase your conversion rates: This is important for those of you looking to attract more of your ideal clients. When you understand your ideal clients you can use this knowledge to, over time, nurture them from leads into clients by ensuring everything you do is relevant and helpful to them.

 

6. To better target your different personas: Different personas will have different needs and priorities. Rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach, you can develop a plan for each persona – ensuring content and other efforts are specifically targeted.

 

In today’s world, there’s so much content out there and so many firms vying for the same clients that it can be hard to stand out. It’s only be truly understanding the different personas you’re targeting and the active research phases they go through from realising they have a problem or opportunity to making the decision to use a particular professional services firm, that you can deliver the right content at the right time and in the right way.

A simple approach to client feedback in professional services firms

Client feedback is the lifeblood of many law, accounting and engineering firms.

 

And rightly so. It’s only by understanding what your clients value and how you’re performing that you can meet, or exceed, their needs into the future.

 

Annual client reviews are extremely valuable, allowing you to glean both qualitative and quantitative info but there’s an opportunity to bring more ‘day-to-day’ low-level feedback into your firm.

 

Imagine getting instant feedback on:

  • whether people found your latest blog post, news alert or webinar valuable,
  • if users like your website redesign,
  • how your client found working with you for the first time,
  • any new offerings or potentially problematic areas of your service.

 

The list goes on.

 

This feedback can be automated, making it easy to gather, and you can then make quick tweaks to see how these influence things.

 

Services such as https://www.temper.io/ allow you to add smiley, ambivalent and unhappy faces to specific webpages (either as a page tab or inline widget) or emails.

 

While simple, people can easily add comments – allowing you to quickly find out what’s hitting the mark and what isn’t.

 

These types of tools are widely used in consumer marketing. I, for one, would love to see them used more widely in the professional services sector.

 

What’s your view? Does your firm encourage one click feedback? If so, I’d love to hear how this has worked for you. Please leave a comment below. 

 

If you’d like to discuss more ways to delight your customers in order to increase your share of wallet simply click here to book your free consultation.

The future of digital marketing for professional services firms

Over the past couple of years I’ve seen LinkedIn and other social networks have really focused on driving users to pay for their services. While there is still a lot you can do for free, going forward, if you want to leverage these channels to generate more revenue for your firm, you’ll need to adopt an inbound approach to marketing.

 

That means using social media marketing, content marketing and SEO to draw more of your ideal clients and prospects to your services.

 

It’s not enough to publish a stand-alone post on the platform, to pop your content up on your company page and ask relevant people in your firm to share it.

 

Instead you’ll need to map out your content thinking about what is relevant to which clients and prospects at what stage of their client journey.

 

You’ll then want to connect the dots between your various pieces of content so that if your ideal clients and prospects are interested in a particular area you can draw them in by pointing them to other content they’ll value.

 

And you’ll then want to use some of LinkedIn’s (and other relevant social networks’) paid for features as one way to put the right content in front of the right person at the right time.

 

Then, of course, once you’ve got people looking at your content you’ll want to know who they are. You can use targeted marketing automation to nurture prospects into clients and delight existing customers.

 

This isn’t easy – you have to plan out entire sequences and then test and refine these based on real time results.

 

That’s why I have partnered with Justine Parsons fromYour Virtual Assistant and together, we’ve signed up as a Hubspot partner: they are clear leaders in this area and we want to learn from the best so that we can offer you the best advice and support.

 

As accredited partners we’ll be able to help you build digital campaigns designed to help you achieve your specific objective – be that to surprise and delight an existing client segment or to attract a specific demographic to your firm.

 

Inbound marketing for client retention & growth in law, accounting & engineering firms

There’s a lot of information about the benefits of inbound marketing (or digital marketing) for client attraction but, for many firms, that’s not the primary focus.

 

Instead they want to keep their existing clients and grow their share of work.

 

Well, here’s the thing: digital marketing can help with this too. Before we get into how, let’s look at what it is.

 

“Inbound marketing is an approach focused on attracting clients through content and interactions that are relevant and helpful – not interruptive. Potential [and existing] clients find you through channels like blogs, search engines and social media.” (Hubspot definition).

 

That’s pretty much what most professional services firms are trying to do – educate and empower their clients, isn’t it? Yet much of their digital marketing appears to be a side-piece, not completely integrated with their key objectives.

 

If you think that sounds unfair, consider this: many firms have good client relationship programmes in place with dedicated client teams and strong research, business development and marketing support.

 

Yet, what tends to happen when those in the client team get busy? In many cases, things fall off the radar.

 

Which is completely understandable. Yet it doesn’t have to be a fait accompli. A good inbound approach will enable your team to continue to deliver value to clients even when people are busy. It will help you get found when people within the client organisation have a question they need answering.

 

Which is exactly what we want, right?

 

So, how can you use inbound marketing with existing clients?

 

It comes down to being hyper-focussed:

  • Who are the people you most want to reach in each client organisation?
  • What are their motivations, needs and drivers in the areas in which you want to target them?

 

Once you know these things you can put a plan together for each person/group of people.

 

It’s not simply a case of emailing everyone who has signed up to your ‘corporate law updates’ your latest news alert, but about really understanding each persona (or even each individual where you’re working with a limited number of high-value clients) so that you can continually deliver value.

 

And value is going to be different for different people/groups of people within an organisation depending on their role, priorities and needs.

 

For example, an existing user of your services may value early releases of research reports or access to white-labeled content they can use within their organisation. Whereas if you’re looking to generate work in a new area from someone who uses a competitor, you’ll want to make sure they find and see your helpful content – i.e. you’ll want to deliver value to them even though they’re not currently working with you.

 

The usual principles of digital marketing will apply to existing clients – but it will be much more highly targeted. Lists may only have one or two people in them, content will be designed for a small number of people and take into account where they are in their journey (i.e. the active research phase someone goes through from recognising they have a need or opportunity to making a purchase decision). This content will link to other content these people are likely to value. Distribution channels will be based on your knowledge of these people and their preferences.

 

Much of the process can be automated and some software providers enable you to set up workflows that automatically add people if they meet criteria specified by you. Linking everything back to your CRM is key as it enables everyone in your firm to see, at a glance, the content an individual has interacted with etc. which can lead to your relationship team having much better conversations.

How social media can help increase your tender success rate

More often than not, professional services firms know when an organisation will be going out to tender, well before the tendering organisation issues the RFP or EOI.

 

 

They may have told you.

 

They are obliged to re-tender every two to three years.

 

Or, there’ve been reports they’re looking to rationalise their spend, initiate a project etc.

 

Professional services firms spend a lot of time and money evaluating whether or not to pitch for work and, if so, compiling their proposal.

 

The enlightened ones even look for ways to tip the level playing field in their favour before the tender’s been put out.

 

This is where social media can really help.

 

How can leveraging social media help professional services firms to increase their tender success rate?

Looking at who’s on social media platforms within the target organisation will help you to identify the likely decision makers, influencers, veto-holders and gatekeepers.

 

You can use this information to compile your Who knows Who matrix.

 

You can then ensure members of your team connect with as many of these people as possible – be it by inviting them to connect on LinkedIn, by joining the same groups or communities on LinkedIn or Google+, by following them on Twitter, or friending them on Facebook (if appropriate).

 

You’ll likely be thinking about the key issues and considerations for the target organisation– be it in relation to a particular project they’re putting out to tender, or more broadly in the case of a panel tender.

 

Once you have a list, you can develop content that will be both of interest, and relevant, to the target organisation.This will help to position you as ‘experts’ in your area and/or their industry sector.

 

As well as sharing this content strategically via traditional means such as a news alert, and on your website you can also share it via social networks.

 

Those connected to the decision makers, influencers, gatekeepers and veto-holders can share this content via their personal feeds such as their LinkedIn updates, their Twitter account, their Facebook page or their Google+ account.

 

In addition, you could post it in relevant group or community discussions on LinkedIn and Google+, and put it on your Company Page/Showcase Page, firm Twitter feed, Facebook page etc. In this way, you’re softly positioning your firm well before the RFP’s been issued and are ensuring that, should someone from the target organisation check you out, they’re likely to see this content.

 

When compiling your RFP response, you can point to the central repository for this content, be it your website, your blog or You Tube.

 

In some cases, firms may want to take it one step further and tailor specific professionals’ online profiles for a particular opportunity. This would involve a bit of work but, where an opportunity is of strategic importance to a firm, it may pay to ensure that profiles highlight those areas of key interest to the target client shortly before and during the pitch process. Profiles can easily be changed back afterwards.

 

Your 6-step approach to leveraging social media for RFP success

 

  • Use features such as LinkedIn’s Advanced Search to identify who, within the tendering organisation, is likely to be involved or have some input into the evaluation process.

 

  • Identify the key issues and considerations for the tendering organisation using your usual processes such as coffees/meetings with the client, strategy sessions with the client, client interviews, secondee interviews etc. and develop a content plan for the months leading up to the pitch. This can be as simple as a calendar setting out what you will be compiling when. Actively hunt out relevant third party content too, and build this into your plan.

 

  • Develop/source the appropriate content.

 

  • Share this via social networks – e.g.
  • directly with specific contacts (if and when appropriate), via a professional’s personal LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook accounts if he/she is directly connected with, or followed by, one or more of those who will be involved in the decision making process.
  • within LinkedIn groups and Google+ communities.
  • on your website, your firm’s Twitter feed, Facebook page, and LinkedIn company page.When doing so, don’t forget to ask a question to encourage discussion and debate.

 

  • Stay actively involved in any discussion threads around the content you’ve shared

 

  • Refer to your repository of content, where appropriate, in your RFP response.