Responding to lead inquiries is one thing. B2B lead generation is a whole other ball game, especially for professional services in which you must make an impressive first connection that builds trust quickly. You have a small window to nab the attention of qualified leads — and you need to get them into a high-converting funnel.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to generate leads for your professional services firm. Unlike in many other industries, you don’t have to be super-persuasive or sales-y. In fact, it’s better if you’re not! To help you start valuable conversations with the right leads, we’ve prepared this comprehensive guide to lead generation, comprising seven simple tips that we explain below.
Tip #1: Always Start with Buyer Personas
While there are tons of lead generation tactics available for professional services firms, avoid the “kitchen-sink” approach to lead gen. It’s essential to choose the right one, or a hybrid of a few, so your team can optimize your outreach. The tactics you choose depend on your ideal prospect, or “buyer persona.”
A buyer persona is a hypothetical construct of your ideal client, including their basic information, pain points, and preferences. Most professional services firms have several target personas, although it’s fine to have just one for a very niche market. Knowing your buyer personas allows you to craft an effective outreach strategy.
Your buyer personas guide you in crafting messaging that your prospects are most likely to respond to. For example, you can reverse-engineer their pain points to determine which solution you’ll be pitching. Knowing where they spend time and what type of information they seek helps you create content that piques their interest — and connect with them on their preferred platforms.
It may require some testing to fully figure out your buyer personas, but it’s worth the time and effort. (Read our guide to Buyer Personas to learn more.) It’s always better to eliminate techniques that you are certain won’t resonate with your ideal prospects. For example: if your ideal prospect is someone who probably already gets a ton of spam calls due to the nature of their position, choosing to cold call them should be avoided. They might be more responsive to LinkedIn messages or email.
Once you’ve determined your buyer personas and how you want to reach them, it’s time to figure out how to turn their real-world counterparts into leads.
Tip #2: Use a Content Strategy
Ideally, leads come to you because you have something valuable to offer. That’s where content marketing comes in. Imagine if your target prospects hand you their information rather than making you hunt them down? To accomplish this, you need an intelligent content strategy that is designed to give your prospects value.
This is actually one of the least expensive yet most powerful ways to give your organization an attractive online presence. When prospects’ first interaction with you is reading a blog/white paper/case study that teaches them something valuable, all of your future interactions with them will be shaped by this positive experience. They’ll be much more likely to trust your expertise, and therefore much more likely to end up doing business with you. Read our guide to B2B Content Marketing to learn more.
Tip #3: Putting Content to Work: Social Media
If you decide to go the content marketing route, it’s important that you put that content to use. It won’t do very much for you if it just sits on your site without any attention being brought to it. You need to leverage your content as a way to ternate new leads. Yes, you can always host an e-book or whitepaper behind a lead capture — but it’s a bit harder to start conversations that way.
One of the easiest ways to distribute your content is to share it on social media platforms. First, write the valuable blogs, whitepapers, and/or case studies that teach something to your prospects. Then, for each piece of content, create 3-5 social posts that highlight different angles of that content, allowing you to draw interest from your various prospects. It is much easier to create the value-add content first, then create social images/captions, rather than the other way around.
For example, if you are an email marketing agency, you might create a blog titled “The 2021 Guide to Email Marketing” that gives a ton of valuable information on the basics as well as a few tips to show your expertise. Then, create 3 social posts, each from a different angle:
- “The Basics of Email Marketing”
- “3 Things to Avoid in Email Copy”
- “The Best Software for Sending Email Blasts”
Here, you’re speaking to your various target prospects’ interests and pain points: the startup that has no idea how to do email marketing, growing businesses that want to improve their ROI from email campaigns, e-commerce brands concerned about their conversion rate, etc.
Tip #4: Putting Content to Work: Email Marketing
Distributing your content through cold emails is another option that lends itself more to conversation. You’re still creating content that your target prospects will enjoy, but you’re also directly providing value.
One of the best ways to start an email sequence is to take prospects through 1-3 conversational style emails that drive to blogs/case studies/whitepapers. Early in the sequence, use engagement CTAs such as ‘What are your thoughts on this blog?’ or ‘Is there anything you learned after reading this white paper?’
This way, instead of immediately launching into a cold pitch trying to sell your services, you are starting a conversation. This sets the tone of your relationship with the prospect off on the right foot, allowing you to transition into a pitch later — only when their interest is piqued and they trust what you have to say.
Cold email marketing must be handled correctly or else your efforts could come across as spam. Get our guide to doing email marketing right.
Tip #5: Referral Marketing
Referral marketing is perfect for B2B lead generation because it encourages business owners to refer their colleagues and friends — sending qualified leads right into your pipeline! This is a whole new level of social proof, in which happy customers of your business refer others, who are therefore primed to start their own relationship with you.
Think about car mechanics: there are tons of them in every geographic area, and pretty much all of them provide the same services. Referrals help the top performers stand out: the most successful mechanics exist because they treat their customers well, and those customers refer their friends, who have a great experience as well.
Referrals are the highest converting form of leads in B2B marketing, precisely because there is already a level of trust once the referral happens. This not only gets leads into your pipeline but also helps them overcome any objections. You can encourage referrals by providing stellar customer service and rewarding customers who refer others.
Tip #6: PPC – Digital Advertising
While PPC advertising may be one of the most expensive options on this list, it can certainly be very effective. When you’re considering PPC, it’s essential to know your target audience inside and out. Think about your prospects/ideal buyer personas, and determine what platform they are most likely to convert on. That could be LinkedIn, Facebook, or even TikTok; the point is that you don’t want to spend money targeting them on the wrong platform. After determining which platform works best, design a value-first strategy that allows you to intelligently spend your budget.
Your goal here is to generate leads: to get them to book a call, download a whitepaper, etc. This means you need to directly speak to their biggest pain points and interests. Don’t get too specific: you don’t want to run narrow campaigns that will only resonate with a tiny portion of your target audience. However, you also don’t want to cast such a wide net that a bunch of unqualified leads come in.
A good rule of thumb is to focus on providing value and enticing clicks when advertising to a wide audience. Save your more specific pitches/call-to-actions for retargeting and other smaller audiences.
Tip #7: How to Avoid Mistakes
There are several great tips above for improving your lead generation techniques, but this is the most important thing to remember: what works today might not work tomorrow, and what worked yesterday might work again. That’s because your client base naturally shifts over time, largely due to factors outside your control. This is another benefit of the value-driven, conversational approach; if something doesn’t work, you can adjust until it does. You may find that simple tweaks to your topics or outreach strategy can turn leads from “meh” to “yes, tell me more!”
A hybrid of several of these tactics will likely work best for your lead generation strategy. Every business must create their own formula. Be sure to install regular check-ups on your strategy with relevant KPI’s to track progress, ensuring that you always have enough information to make a necessary decision. AND REMEMBER: provide value to your prospects in everything you do. Professional services is all about strong relationships, which means you must lead with conversation and trust-building rather than sales pitches and generic promotion.
Lead generation for professional services firms isn’t easy, but with the right approach, you can obtain more valuable prospects and lasting relationships. Look for ways to get people to come to you. This happens when you provide high-value content, speak their language, and provide their colleagues and friends with excellent service.
Figuring out your winning lead gen formula can be very difficult and often requires a lot of testing and guessing. If your company is in need of assistance finding the right formula, reach out to Thumbstop for a free quick call. We’d love to learn more about your business and provide you our expertise on what might work best for you.
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