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It’s fairly well known today that traditional marketing and promotional techniques will only get a company so far. For many, markets are no longer restricted by ‘location’, meaning companies – via digital methods – are able to supply their services anywhere in the world.

This environment means that marketers have to continue with long term strategic plans. Professional services marketing has rarely been about creating immediate, emotional transactions – it’s about building reputation long term, demonstrating capabilities and showcasing credibility. But there has been a demographic shift. There are increasing numbers of ‘generation X & Y’s’ among target audiences – generations that have grown up using the internet, with smart phones and search and social media being the norm.

These generations expect professional services companies to use digital marketing as the norm.

The challenge

Many companies are using digital effectively – some are getting decent results from search, email and social media marketing. But many are still missing out on opportunities, or suffer from the common challenges that can plague professional service companies.

A digital strategy is essential before embarking upon any online marketing activity. A strategy helps you identify and formalise who your online target audiences are, what they want to hear from you, what you want to say to them, how you intend to say it, how you are going to measure the effectiveness of your activities, and where you go next.

Although not recommended, using digital marketing without a strategy is quite common. But no strategy means no direction – you run the risk of spending your budget without showing any return on investment.

Many professional services companies suffer the same issues:

  1. Digital marketing is often reduced to a very tactical interpretation or extension of ‘communications’.
  2. Often digital marketers within professional service companies focus on the digital technology or the platforms and not the ‘digital client behaviour’. As often consumer or client behaviours are borne out of the new technologies, it is their behaviours online that are more important.

Why a professional services company needs a digital strategist

Some may think a ‘digital strategist’ is just a fancy title for someone who ‘does digital stuff’ and ‘looks after’ LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook for a company. But it’s not. A digital strategist can help your company do several things:
1. Help create and define your company’s vision

A digital strategist can help your company create a long term vision for digital marketing, and help communicate to the company the transformation needed. A vision will help the company establish where the focus of digital marketing, its investment and placement of its resources should be.

A digital strategist can help create your vision by:

  1. Showing how digital marketing can transform your company in terms of efficiencies and profitability
  2. Showing where your company should focus your resources and efforts by linking vision to specific goals
  3. Inspiring the company’s employees by detailing the future potential of digital marketing and communicate its strategic priority within the company

A vision is important. This vision will ensure your company has a consistent approach to digital marketing which will act as a keystone, a valuable point of reference, to ensure digital marketing helps grow the company and support its audience’s needs.

2. Define high level goals

A digital strategist provides the company with focus in relation to its digital marketing activities by developing a robust digital marketing management system which helps the company set, review and control performance across all of the company’s digital marketing activities.

A digital marketing strategist will help define:

  1. How digital marketing will contribute to sales, lead generation and business development
  2. How digital marketing will enable the company to engage with and get closer to its clients
  3. How digital marketing will increase client knowledge of the company’s products and services
  4. How digital marketing can save money through a reduction in traditional marketing spend or reduction in service costs

How digital marketing adds value to the company’s brand online

3. Ensure digital goals are aligned to the company’s objectives

A digital strategist should ensure the goals for digital marketing should not only support the marketing strategies, but also the company’s overall goals and objectives.

A digital marketing strategist will be able to communicate to the management board:

  1. How digital marketing contributes to the company’s growth objectives (Growth)
  2. How digital marketing will contribute to client retention objectives (Client retention)
  3. How digital marketing will contribute to converting leads into new work (Conversion)
  4. How digital marketing will contribute to client acquisition (Client acquisition)

4. Define the key performance indicators

A digital strategist is able to define the digital measurement frameworks to ensure the company has focus. A digital strategist will:

  1. Select the right key performance indicators for your company
  2. Ensure the key performance indicators are aligned to your company’s objectives
  3. Create and utilise human resources so that the right individuals are responsible for key performance indicators
  4. Ensure the reporting mechanisms are fluid, clear and understandable by the company’s management

5. Evaluate and communicate the results

A digital strategist will ensure that objectives and measures are tracked accurately, and communicated regularly for the management board. The best way to show returns is to break down the returns into primary, secondary and user metrics:

As primary metrics:

  1. How is digital marketing driving business for us?
  2. How is digital reducing costs?
  3. How is digital retaining clients?

It’s these questions that primarily need answering.

As secondary supporting metrics:

  1. How is digital improving lead quality?
  2. How is digital increasing lead quantity?
  3. How is digital making sales cycles shorter?
  4. How is digital increasing client awareness?
  5. How is digital increasing cross-selling opportunities?
  6. How is digital driving positive client feedback?

There are also user metrics that help support the secondary indicators:

  1. How is digital increasing web traffic?
  2. How is digital increasing page views?
  3. How is digital reducing bounce rates?
  4. How is digital producing re-tweets or social shares?
  5. How is digital increasing our search engine ranking?

6. Continually optimise digital processes and performance

The final building block of a digital strategist’s success is optimisation. This is about taking action on rich data and content to deliver the highest return on marketing spend for the company and its efforts. A digital strategist will:

  1.  Try to do more with less
  2. Understand what is working and is not
  3. Identify which channels are falling short and which ones could do better
  4.  Continually reinforce and communicate digital’s contribution to the company’s success

Digital Marketing Works

The principles of a successful digital marketing strategy are to ensure value and quality is built, and to help the firm remove price as a differentiator.

Compelling digital propositions can be created to help the company build upon its reputation, its expertise, adaptability, service and create added value.

Put simply, digital marketing works. By investing in ‘digital people’ with credible experience, companies can take the leap to becoming relevant and successful in a digital age.