August 26, 2009
Your prospects are using search and social media to evaluate potential vendors. Are you doing enough in those channels to demonstrate your expertise?
See how the marketing team at an accounting and consulting firm shook up their staid marketing tactics and adopted a new, online thought-leadership strategy. Besides revamping their website for SEO and lead generation, the enlisted their firm’s partners as subject matter experts to create new blogs and participate in social networking groups.
Elizabeth Hailer, VP Client Development and Marketing, Caturano and Company, says that for most of her 25-year career, clients did not choose an accounting or consulting firm by going on a website. But prospects’ habits are changing. More and more, they are using search, social media, blogs, and corporate websites and find and assess professional services firms.
The problem was, Hailer and her team were still relying on traditional marketing tactics, such as print advertising and direct mail. Those tactics were very expensive, hard to measure, and becoming less effective.
"Traditional marketing has changed, period," says Hailer. "Anyone doesn’t understand that or believe it shouldn’t be in marketing."
The team needed to shake up their marketing strategy. They realized that online outreach and a revamped website were needed to generate new leads -- and gain additional business from existing clients.
Hailer and her team focused on their website as a new hub for outbound and inbound marketing based on thought-leadership content. Then, they looked to SEO and social media as channels to reach prospects and customers, engage them in conversations, and bring them back to the firm’s site.
Here are five steps they took to raise their profile and start generating web leads:
Step #1. Redesign website to capture leads
The team needed a complete website overhaul before making a push into online marketing channels. Their existing website read like a brochure, Hailer says, and offered little customized content to appeal to specific prospects. Worse, it had no online lead capture mechanism.
- The team implemented a new content management system. Then, they developed content that demonstrated their expertise in specific accounting and consulting services and provided value to customers and prospects.
New content included:
o An article assessing the impact of a new state tax incentive program for life sciences companies
o An article outlining tips on lowering estate tax for its wealth management practice
- They also added more ways to contact the firm’s partners, adding the appropriate partner’s name, phone number and a request for information link on pages dedicated to specific services or industry focus areas.
- They added lead generation capabilities by creating online tools that required prospects to register and provide information about their needs.
For example, they added a Rapid Assessment tool for their management and IT consulting divisions, which offered prospects a high-level analysis of their current operations and suggested areas for potential improvement.
Step #2. Use SEO to attract more visitors
Prior to the redesign, the company’s website rarely landed on the first page of search engine results for their top keywords. So as the team developed new content and revamped their site architecture, they optimized those pages for roughly 25 key terms, including:
o Boston tax firms
o Boston CPA firms
o Management consulting Boston
o IT outsourcing Boston
They made sure those keywords were represented in the website’s content, page titles, metatags, and other elements.
They also increased the number of links pointing back to the firm’s website. The firm’s professional alliances provided dozens of linking opportunities:
- The team created a new "Sponsorships and Affiliations" page that linked to the websites of major partners and organizations the firm sponsored, including:
o The Association for Corporate Growth, Boston
o The Family Business Association
o The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce
o The Smaller Business Association of New England
o The Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants
o The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
- They asked each sponsored organization or partner to also put a link to the firm’s site on their own Web pages.
Step #3. Create thought-leadership blogs
The team bolstered the firm’s online presence by adding several new blogs on topics related to their key service areas. Their goal was to supplement the broad-based information about firm’s capabilities with in-depth, highly targeted content that presented firm personnel as thought-leaders in specific areas.
"Auditing, accounting, and tax are so general and broad it’s hard to blog about them" says Hailer, "So we assigned content leaders around discreet service areas."
- Jeff Korzenic, Chief Investment Officer, created the "Inefficient Frontiers" blog to discuss topics related to "less-than-efficient markets" and dealing with risk in the investment world.
- Jack Notarangelo, Director, Information Management, created an application engineering blog to discuss software development techniques related to project management, estimation, resourcing, and communication.
- Mauro Cardarelli, Director, Portals and Collaboration, created a blog focused on using Microsoft technologies for collaboration and Business Intelligence.
Each blogger was free to cover their niche content area in ways they deemed appropriate. Typical posts included:
o Industry trend and news analysis
o Links to contributed articles and other press mentions on external sites
o Opinion pieces on topics of interest to the audience
o Advice and how-to on specific tasks
o Links to relevant company white papers and webinars
Step #4. Participate in social networks
Next, the team looked for social networks where CFOs congregated. They wanted to join those online conversations and develop new channels to promote articles, webinars, white papers or other relevant content.
The firm’s existing clients were an invaluable resource for finding the right social networks to join. They asked clients where they spent time online, and looked for their clients’ profiles on social networking sites.
- LinkedIn, the business networking site, proved to be one of the most popular sites with the team’s clients and prospects. They looked for relevant discussion groups to join, including:
o The Chief Financial Officer Network
o CxO Community
They also created their own groups, such as:
o New England CFOs
- The team encouraged partners with expertise in specific practice areas to join relevant groups. The goal was to establish individuals as thought-leaders in the industry, while also demonstrating the firm’s expertise with certain industries or service areas.
o Jim Cashin, Partner, Consulting Practice, joined groups such as Worldwide Management Consultants
o Bill Krakunas, VP Technology, joined groups such as Boston's Future Leaders (Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce)
- Following best-practices in social media engagement, participants in LinkedIn Groups did not simply post information about the firm’s events and resources. Instead, they participated in online discussions as community members and provided relevant answers and opinions that weren’t self-promotional.
However, they looked for opportunities to share notices about upcoming events or company content that were relevant to ongoing discussions.
Step #5. Monitor social media conversations and Web traffic
The team began using monitoring tools to help them broadly track conversations happening in social media channels and on other websites.
- They set up a monitoring service that sent real-time alerts related to specific phrases or conversations of interest, such as:
o Key services the firm offers
o Competitors’ names
o Problems or questions about professional services providers
- Once a team member received an alert, they examined the context to see if there was a way to join the conversation, or steer the original commenter toward a content offer. For example, if the team received a Twitter conversation about how to choose an IT consulting company, they might send a link to their IT management Rapid Assessment.
The team also used their web analytics tool to assess whether their social media efforts and SEO were driving prospects back to the company website to engage with content.
- They monitored standard metrics, including:
o Unique visitors
o Page views per visit
o Referring sites
o Keyword performance
The new strategy has raised the firm’s profile and is capturing the attention of prospects using the Web to seek out professional services firms. Their once-static website that generated no leads is now generating 10-15 leads a month and already resulted in some closed sales -- especially for their consulting division.
"We have more than covered our investment," says Hailer. "More important to me, we keep cranking up that investment so everyone wins."
- Web visitors have increased 68% since adopting the new strategy.
- SEO efforts have landed the company on the first page of search results for its 25 targeted keywords
- The niche blogging strategy is paying dividends. Jeff Korzenic’s "Inefficient Frontiers" blog along drives roughly 4%- 5% of monthly traffic to the firm’s website.
Now, the team is planning to refine their strategy in 2010. They plan to adopt a more rigorous measurement methodology to analyze which points of entry to the site (LinkedIn, blogs, SEO, etc.) are driving the most visits and leads. They also plan to develop additional landing page strategies to customize the experience that visitors have depending on their referring channel.
"We want to know very specifically whether a content offer on LinkedIn generates as much response as another channel," says Hailer. "We know the overall strategy is working -- leads are coming in at a good enough rate to justify the campaign -- but we need more granular detail. We need to know more.”
Useful links related to this article:
Creative Samples from Caturano and Company’s online marketing overhaul
Using LinkedIn for Lead Generation: 6 Strategies
Generate Leads with Social Media Strategy: 6 Steps to Fill Up Sales Funnel
451 Marketing: Provided website design, SEO and social media strategy
Radian6: The team’s social media monitoring service:
Jeff Korzenic’s "Inefficient Frontiers" blog:
Caturano and Company