B2B Marketing for Professional Services: How to Attract and Convert More Leads

Whether you’re in IT/tech, healthcare, financial services or another industry altogether, professional services can be a tough sell. Literally.

Your buyers can’t see or touch the value you provide -- and unfortunately, your mere promise of exceptional service just won’t cut it when it comes to convincing them.

But rest assured: your prospective buyers are out there right now, searching for the very services you provide. With the right marketing strategies, you can lead them right to your digital doorstep.

That’s what we have here -- tried-and-true strategies to help your professional services firm attract new business, close more leads and boost your bottom line.

Before we jump in, let’s address the unique nature of professional services.

What is professional services marketing and why is it different?

Professional services marketing involves promoting a business’s specialized expertise within a given industry. From a marketing perspective, professional services firms face a unique challenge in that they don’t sell a tangible product with tangible features. That means the quality of that service is difficult for your buyers to assess upfront -- and it’s imperative that your marketing strategies are customized accordingly. Don’t miss our guide: How to Market Services - Treat Them Like a Product

1. Prioritize Organic Search As a Top Marketing Channel

How do prospective buyers find you? A recent survey from the Hinge Research Institute examined buying habits of 822 buyers searching for professional services. The study showed that “online search” was the second most popular method, behind personal referrals.

Here’s what you need to know about online search: businesses don’t just “get lucky” when they show up at the top of search engine results pages (SERP). The companies who are consistently stealing top SERP real estate have invested in organic search strategies that give them high visibility (in turn, driving more traffic to their website). Some of these strategies include:

  • Keyword-driven content strategy (blogs, pillar articles, etc.)
  • On-page SEO elements (keyword optimizing page titles, meta descriptions,
    ATL TAGS, featured snippets, etc.)
  • Paid ads
  • Link-building strategies (including backlinks)

Remember, today’s typical buyers are all about problem-solving online, with search engines being their likely starting point. It’s your job to make sure you’re meeting them where they are!

Once you’re ready to tackle keyword research, check out this helpful blog offering 8 actionable steps: How to Do Keyword Research for Content Marketing.

2. Build Trust on Your Professional Services Website

Once you implement the organic search strategies above, you’ll enjoy a nice bump in traffic to your website. But that only gets you halfway there. What experience do those visitors have once they land there?

Remember, you’re not the only stop visitors will make -- and you have mere seconds to show your value. Here’s how to make a good first impression.

  • Make it scannable. When it comes to copy, less is more! Opt for succinct headers, clean and simple navigation, graphical representations of your services (charts, icons, etc.) wherever possible, and videos (try for less than one minute) instead of large copy blocks.
  • Offer multiple engagement points -- and keep it conversational. Prospective buyers don’t want to be sold to… but they may be ready for a conversation. Make it easy for them to engage by offering chat features, lead flows, and approachable-sounding CTAs (i.e., Would you like to run your questions by an expert?) that are relevant to the page they are on.
  • Remember that reviews or testimonials are a must. Make no mistake, these are worth their weight in gold. Reviews and testimonials are arguably the next best thing to a personal referral. That’s why 85% of consumers trust them as much as personal recommendations! Be sure to prominently display them on your website.
  • Convey thought leadership. Show your buyers that you don’t just “talk the talk.” The best way to persuade visitors that your firm is a thought leader in its field is through content. Develop a library that includes blogs, checklists, research studies, buying guides and so on. If you haven’t yet produced original content, consider how you might leverage third-party content from a credible industry leader.
  • Don’t be shy about awards, accolades, extra credentials. Industry awards, certifications or honorable mentions are another great way to build trust for website visitors. Highlighting company awards or showcasing your employees' individual credentials are also a great way to show off your service specializations. Display these on your website where they can’t be missed!

3. Don’t Just Sell Services, Sell Relationships

When buyers are comparing your services side by side with your competitor, they may sound pretty darn similar. It’s the humans providing those services that differentiate your company. Find ways to make those human-to-human, or H2H, relationships shine when promoting your brand.

In your marketing materials, don’t just tell visitors how awesome you are -- show them! Your social channels are a great platform to emphasize your company culture and give prospects a peek behind the scenes.

On your website, use photography of real employees versus the same stock photos they’ll see everywhere else. Create a fun and engaging About Us page that not only highlights employees’ individual talents, but adds a little personal flair.

You’ll also want to promote testimonials that speak not only to the great services your company provided, but the meaningful partnerships that were formed.

4. Package Your Service Levels

Your buyers recognize the need for your services, but they may have little understanding about how they will consume that service and what exactly they will get out of their investment.

So make it easier for them by “productizing” those services. Package them up to show what’s included at each level, separate them into tiers, give them a name, and offer them at varying price points (or price ranges).

This strategy helps your visitors better understand your services and what services they’ll receive or NOT receive for their investment. It’s also a good starting framework for a sales conversation. Additionally, showing this information on your website will help you “pre-qualify” prospective buyers on the basis of price.

5. Ease In Prospects with Entry-Point Services

Even if you’re employing all of the right marketing strategies, buyers may inevitably have doubts about jumping in. So how can you cater to the skeptic?

Help your on-the-fence prospects overcome doubts by offering an entry-point service, whether it’s a free assessment or a small starter project. This strategy -- offering a small bite before having them commit to the full meal -- can be especially effective for high-ticket services where pricing may be a barrier.

That said, if your professional services company doesn’t typically don’t lose a deal on price alone, this strategy is still extremely viable. The real value is that it gives both sides a little time to assess the chemistry of a potential partnership. By offering a defined first step with deliverable that’s easy to understand, it allows both sides to get some first-hand insight into how the other one works -- and for your firm to show off its expertise!

Here’s an example. A financial firm wants to use a marketing agency to invest in content marketing. They are ready to invest in a keyword-driven content strategy that includes blogs, buying guides and other thought-leadership content. Knowing little about inbound marketing, how can the financial firm assess the agency’s expertise? A solution might be for the marketing agency to offer a defined first step: a keyword research analysis and content roadmap such as a 6-month editorial calendar.

6. Expand Services Offerings Through Partnerships

You can’t be the expert in everything, nor should you try to be!

After all, study after study shows that specialization is a critical component of your professional services business, and therefore a powerful competitive differentiator. In fact, for professional services companies, the fastest-growing firms tend to be within a particular niche.

A partnership gives your organization the best of both worlds. Teaming up with partners who offer tangential services (for example, a financial advisory firm partnering with a tax advisory firm) opens the door to a range of co-marketing opportunities that broaden your reach and expand your customer base.

Within the realm of inbound marketing, some of the ways to do this might include:

  • Hosting a webinar that combines your partnership’s expertise
  • Creating a co-branded landing page for a content offer -- then qualifying those leads and dividing them accordingly with your partner
  • Contributing to blogs on your partner’s site that speak to your specialized areas of expertise (and link back to your site)

For more ideas and how to execute them from start to finish, don’t miss HubSpot’s Guide to Co-Branding Marketing Campaigns.

7. Revisit Lost Opportunities: Re-engage Past or Inactive Prospects

Did you talk to a promising lead a year ago, but the timing wasn’t right? Maybe a lead was interested in a service that you didn’t offer at the time, but you do now? Or perhaps a prospect chose another service provider, but isn’t happy with that engagement?

There are a number of different scenarios here, but the idea is the same: past opportunities can be fertile ground for cultivating new business. Consider re-engaging them!

There are a number of ways to do this, and it depends on the circumstances. It could mean anything from adding select contacts to your newsletter list (assuming they didn’t unsubscribe), to sending a one-to-one email, to suggesting a phone call to talk about their business and uncover new opportunities where you may be able to help.

More ideas in B2B Win! How to Re-engage Past Customers and Prospects, which lays out a 12-step method for how to tackle re-engagement.

8. Create Referral Opportunities for Your Services

Not surprisingly, the #1 way a buyer discovers a new professional services firm is by asking another person for a referral. According to the Hinge Research report, this accounts for up to 71% of new business.

A structured referral program is critical. It’s more than just a name drop or an email intro. Think about how to custom engineer a marketing environment that makes it easy for someone to refer you.

First, identify who you would like to be referred to. Do your homework! Look at LinkedIn profiles, explore those connections, and learn the names of companies that fit your target buying profile.

Next, be sure to approach someone with a very specific ask -- Hi Karen, could you please introduce me to Greg this week? Don’t be shy about following up if you don’t hear back the first time -- such introductions serve as an implied endorsement for you, making them extremely valuable.

You also want to make your request as easy and actionable as possible. For example, if you are looking for an email introduction to a contact, supply your contact with an email script where he or she can simply fill in the blanks.

Learn more about how to structure your referral program in our guide: The 5-Step Referral Marketing Technique (That Actually Works)

9. Work With Professional Services Marketing Experts

It goes without saying that the more time and attention you put in to attracting and converting leads, the more gains you’ll see. Easier said than done, right? Devoting time and attention to marketing is a perpetual challenge for many service firms who are focused on what they’re best at; that is, providing exceptional services.

If this sounds like a familiar scenario, outsourcing to a professional services marketing agency may be a smart way to go. We’d love to have a conversation with you -- just reach out to let us know if you would like to discuss in more detail!

Inbound Marketing for Professional Services

Susan LaPlante-Dube
About the Author
Susan LaPlante-Dube

As a jack-of-all-trades in marketing, Susan loves digging deep on a topic and finding new ways to spin old ideas. While she would prefer having some high-tech voice software to record all of her blog thoughts instead of having to write them down, she loves the satisfaction of helping her readers learn something new.