Is there anyone in the professional services workforce who does NOT use a computer?  Or the web?  It is now second nature for all of us to conduct business with these tools, but using them to find new business remains a mystery for many.

Go to many online forums and you’ll see tips, tricks and “secrets” on how to grow your business using the web (note to content providers: it’s not a secret if you publish it).  This content is a disparate collection where anyone with an opinion can claim expertise, but little if any is it based on credible research, especially in the professional services arena.

Fortunately there is a growing body of research that shows the way for targeting prospects and building relationships with them in a way that drives revenue.  A case in point is a recent report released by the Hinge Research Institute, which provides the foundation for marketing best practices for professional services firms.

Consider the following findings:

Fig. 1

Firms generating 40% or more of their leads online grow 4X faster than those with no online leads.   Having a balanced approach of traditional and online marketing strategies can represent a “sweet spot” for optimal results.

Fig. 2

Firms that generate 60% or more of leads online tend to be more profitable.  A likely reason for this is that online marketing is simply more cost effective than traditional marketing.  The costs of traditional marketing don’t always decrease with volume.  A trade will cost about the same as the last trade show.  But investing in search engine optimization (SEO), for example, can yield ongoing benefits because leads continue to flow once a higher ranking is reached.

Fig. 3

Among the firms that get 40% or more leads online, Hinge reviewed what they did differently and found that these higher-growth firms do numerous online techniques, and often with a much greater focus than average-growth firms.

With a baseline of growth attributed to lead generation and a view of the online activities they perform regularly, Hinge dove more deeply and figured out other web-related tactics that supported the high-growth, high-value posture.  These firms updated their websites more frequently than average-growth firms, used online contact forms more often, and redesigned their website within the last year, perhaps because websites are so necessary for other online marketing efforts to succeed.   It’s a matter of having the right technical underpinnings, but also the content that draws in visitors, aka leads.

To be certain, the web in its first 22 years has changed human behavior.  We routinely access its information in many ways.  However, it can’t change human nature.  We all are still inclined to buy a professional service only after having an established relationship with a seller.  We all appreciate that story telling and thought leadership are pathways to those relationships.  And we all need to continually update our firms’ web capabilities and content in order to connect our stories and thought leadership with our audiences.

The referenced report is available as a softcover book for free at the Hinge Marketing Library.