Lead nurturing for professional services firms: An introduction

“The challenge facing the professional services is to turn these leads into long-term clients who trust a firm enough to enter into a long lasting, profitable relationship. This can be achieved through a process called lead nurturing.”

A key component to professional services business development is pro-active and intentional lead generation. Other than the sales of tangible products, services involve a longer education and closing process. Professional services sales require that both expertise and trust be established before a buying decision can be made. A well-developed website, in conjunction with various other digital marketing tools can be a highly effective tool to generate enquiries and attract potential clients. The challenge facing the professional services, however, is to turn these leads into long-term clients who trust a firm enough to enter into a long lasting, profitable relationship. This can be achieved through a process called lead nurturing. Lead nurturing is about meeting a client or prospect where they are in their specific buying process.

So why should firms pay attention to lead nurturing? The simple fact is that most leads are simply not ready to buy yet. They may be at the early stages of exploring possible solutions to an issue they face. If you only focus on lead generation, the potential client might hit your website (or other digital platform) at a point where they might not be ready to buy anything immediately. You want a way to continue to nurture and develop the relationship that you have with that prospect over a period of time until they have learned enough to be in a position where they want to make contact with a partner or professional and make the buying decision.

The function of lead nurturing
There are three key functions that lead nurturing can play in your firm:

To qualify a lead: Determine if they are a good fit with your firm and the services you offer.

To educate: Inform them about what you do and how you do it to save time and effort in the closing process.

To strengthen your brand: Improve your reputation for producing results and increasing your visibility.

All three of these functions are important in that they reduce your costs (by better targeting your efforts) and increase the probability that the qualified leads will turn into new clients.

Approaches to lead nurturing
Lead nurturing has been evolving with new technology and new buyer behaviour patterns, all combined to offer better ways to harvest the potential of lead nurturing.

Here are a few approaches to lead nurturing that stand out:

Content marketing: Educational events and thought leadership have long been a part of professional services marketing, but content marketing takes these traditions to a new level. It fully leverages and integrates the power of blogging, social media and other online techniques to generate and nurture leads. The results of this approach have been very impressive in terms of driving greater engagement, firm growth and profitability.

Marketing automation is making personalised lead nurturing possible. New leads can be automatically tracked and assigned to a tailored lead nurturing sequence. For example, if a prospect downloads an e-book, the system can send a series of predetermined email follow-up pieces over a pre-determined time frame.

Webinars have become an easy-to-use method for increasing engagement and adding human interaction. Since they require a time commitment from prospects, it is a step up in engagement on their part and increases your ability to educate and nurture the relationship.

Videos are used to communicate educational content as well as convey a sense of who you are as people and what it might be like to work with your firm.

Firm newsletters that are produced on a regular (typically monthly or quarterly) basis and sent to everyone on an email list can help you to convey relevant and topical information to potential clients.

Electronic campaigns consisting of targeted mailings covering specific topics or focus areas of your services with strong call to actions.

Lead nurturing best practices
Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when deciding on your lead nurturing approach:

Focus on increasing engagement rather than closing the sale – don’t try to force the issue.

Focus on education, not promotion. A strong focus on promotion will harm your credibility.

Focus on the markets’ problems, issues and challenges – not your services.

Be consistent and patient. Connect with clients weekly and monthly. Avoid a start/stop approach.

A well-crafted lead nurturing program can produce a steady stream of new clients. They will generally be better qualified and positively inclined towards working with your firm.

For more information contact Tobie vd Merwe at tobie@succeedgroup.co.za

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein.