Professional Services Firms Need to Embrace Digital Marketing

Professional services firms are finding digital marketing to be the key to their success, according to a new report from the Hinge Research Institute.

The research firm's 2020 study found that doubling down on digital marketing has enabled high-growth firms to grow three times faster. They were also twice as likely to be more profitable than their low-growth peers.

The professional services market experienced slower growth in 2017 but dramatically rebounded in 2018 and continued into 2019, according to Hinge. In that span, firms have changed their outlook on the industry and now market their services differently.

High-growth firms were twice as likely as their low-growth peers to prioritize marketing technology and automation and favored several digital and content marketing techniques. These digital disruptors favored every single digital and content marketing technique studied. They were three times more likely to use digital ads; twice as likely to use video and podcasts, and 50 percent more likely to use downloadable content and search engine optimization.

Adoption of digital marketing has increased across professional services, Hinge found. More than half of firms studied indicated they network on social media and market themselves through email.

Other digital assets that have caught on quickly during the past few years as professional services firms invest in inbound marketing techniques include webinars, case studies, high-value gated content, and primary research.

In the coming decade, professional services firms will not be able to ignore digital marketing strategy, according to Hinge. They will need to do more than maintain an active social media presence, publish blog posts, and push out promotional emails. Firms will also need to embrace a wider range of digital channels, such as video, podcasting, and research as content. The most successful of them will likely be among the first to test promising new technologies and techniques as well.

"Despite shifts in buyer behavior, a challenging recruiting environment, and technology advances that overwhelm marketing departments, some firms still grow and thrive," observes Lee Frederiksen, Hinge's managing partner. "These high-growth firms are getting in front of today's market changes by conducting frequent research on their target audiences, investing more in digital marketing techniques, and building the skills of their marketing teams."

Among the study's other findings were the following:

  • High-growth firms were three times more likely to conduct frequent research on their target audiences;
  • Thirty percent of high growth firms found more impact on average from conducting and publishing primary research; and
  • High-growth firms were 75 percent more likely to have a visible expert on staff.

In expertise-based businesses, having highly visible subject matter experts on staff can be a massive branding and marketing asset, Hinge concluded.

But, in general, the conclusion is fairly straightforward, according to Frederiksen: "With the right strategy in place, professional services firms can leverage new digital channels to generate more leads and accelerate growth."

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