Article

James Darrall
James Darrall 7 December 2017

The death of inbound marketing in professional services?

The key, is truly getting to know your clients, their interests, their challenges today/tomorrow and their preferences for content/communication channel. Get a 360 degree view of them. Don't worry about where they are in the "buyer journey". Value add, educational, problem solving content that is relevant to them and their challenges will add value regardless of their current "pipeline phase".

If you're reading this article I think it's safe to presume that you know what inbound marketing is. In case you don't, in a nutshell, it is the process attracting website visitors through blog posts and SEO before converting them into "leads" by capturing their contact details and using "marketing automation" to convert them into clients. This is often presented in a funnel as shown below:

Is inbound marketing in professional services dying? Was it ever alive?

Arguably, in professional services, inbound marketing never really did work as these firms don't often have the tools available to them to truly automate this process. But, even if they did, very rarely do people follow a standardised "buyer journey" where content is relevant to every contact at every stage of their journey. Further, the point at which you start sending content to contacts based on their stage in the journey, is that not returning back to outbound marketing anyway? This is a very transactional approach to take in relationship driven world and the output is candidly demonstrated by cartoonist Tom Fishburne in the below image:

The Solution: Relationship marketing?

There is no one size fit's all solution and I'm certainly not saying "stop creating unique, relevant and timely content or thought leadership pieces". The key, is truly getting to know your clients, their interests, their challenges today/tomorrow and their preferences for content/communication channel. Get a 360 degree view of them. Don't worry about where they are in the "buyer journey". Value add, educational, problem solving content that is relevant to them and their challenges will add value regardless of their current "pipeline phase".

Semi-decentralisation of marketing

You could even consider putting systems and processes in place to allow the decentralisation of some marketing efforts. For some content/campaigns it may be worth seeing if marketing can lock down branding but allow relationship owners to choose who to send content to and when, themselves. Passle have a great phrase that plays on this concept: ISTATOY or "I saw this and thought of you".

Many marketing tools (such as our own Concep Send) allow for this level of brand control and restricted user access that can fit into how fee earners go about their day-to-day work and activities whilst allowing engagement levels and further knowledge and insights to be gained that will further benefit business development.

Closing remarks and some further useful resources

What you should be trying to achieve is the "upside down" marketing funnel, created by Ben Chestnut, shown below. For more of an insight into the challenges of inbound marketing check out this great article by Samuel Scott of The Drum.

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