What do you do when the phone isn’t ringing or email box pinging with inquiries?
We know many professional firms whose lead streams remain soft. And they are worried (as they should be) because they realize thought leadership marketing is not a lead-generating spigot that can be turned on or off. Developing a compelling, research-based point of view on any topic can take many months. Marketing that POV can take many more months – i.e., securing good conference speaking opportunities, getting an article in a prestigious management journal, writing and placing shorter opinion articles in well-read publications, and the like.
So what do you do when the phone isn’t ringing or email box pinging with inquiries?
First, there is no magic bullet that will generate dozens of good leads in days or even a month. If there was, I’d be selling it and making lots of money from it. If you do see something that purports to do that, I suggest kicking the tires hard and holding tight to your wallet before deciding to purchase it, whether a telemarketing firm, a business developer with a great Rolodex, or an advertising firm.
Yet there are several things professional firms can do to jump-start the lead stream. They range from being easier to harder to do, but all can be done in three to five months if the right conditions exist.
Here’s my list, starting with the easiest:
- Sharpen your firm’s market positioning statement. Clearly explain on your website what your firm is about, what it does and for whom, the types of benefits you generate for your clients, and why you’re very good at doing what you do. If communicating this succinctly and clearly is a struggle (and it is for nearly every professional firm I have worked with) but nonetheless you have many happy clients, you have even more reason to do this: You are a firm that’s just waiting to be discovered because you are misunderstood. But only you can clear up the misunderstanding. I read lots of professional services websites (especially consulting and IT service firms) and I often have to work hard at understanding what I’m reading. Someone who comes to your website through a search engine (rather than a colleague’s recommendation) is less likely to spend time trying to figure out what you do and how you could help them. Save them the trouble.
- Create a strong white paper. Take a service or practice that has a number of recent successful client engagements and codify the expertise you are delivering in a compelling white paper. In professional services firms, I have seen the phrase “Where there’s smoke there’s fire” apply to experts who are doing great work in part because they have rare expertise and/or a superior approach to doing that work. The “smoke” you need to look for are professionals in your firm who are head’s down, very billable and getting repeat work. They don’t have time for marketing because they’re too busy delivering work. Seek them out, assign someone to ghostwrite a compelling white paper about the problem in the business world they address and how it should be addressed, then ask them if some of their clients would be open to serving as case studies in the paper. (You’ll be surprised by how many clients say yes, if they have control over what is said.)
- Market your white paper through social media and other online marketing tools. Use your white paper in an online marketing program that focuses on social media to seed the ideas.
What techniques have you used that generated quality leads quickly? What approaches have you tried but didn’t work, and why? We’d love to know.
Originally published 03/09/2010