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Digital Demand Generation in Large Consulting Firms

Consulting firms rely on expressing expertise to engage clients.

Demand generation in consulting firms is often mistaken with lead generation.  While lead generation is a part of demand generation, consulting firms should nurture relationships and engage with clients in a more personal and meaningful way.

The client acquisition process for large consulting firms has evolved: while the tried and tested word-of-mouth marketing, professional references, and events to attract the interest of potential clients continue to be important, thought leadership marketing is transforming how consulting firms sell, or better stated – enable clients to buy in an informed way.

The new digitally-savvy client

Not only has digital marketing technology changed how clients and firm engage, but clients are now more informed and in control of how, when, and where they consume information. There is also no shortage of readily available sources to choose from:  websites, social media, white papers, blogs and other digital outlets—and users decide which format best suits them.  The digitally-savvy client quite often starts the buying process.

Are your clients engaged?

If you’d like a proof point on how well marketing is engaging clients, just check the amount of returning visitors you are getting on your website or the response to emails you send out.  The data may tell you that clients aren’t interested in what you’re giving them, they are not engaged!  This is true for many firms.

Clients are definitely utilizing online resources for information, but some firms are not effectively engaging with clients in an impactful way:

  • “One size fits all” approach:  There is a lack of targeted marketing and the “spray and pray” model is old; generic email alerts and newsletters now need to speak to specific client segments.
  • Lack of integrated marketing:  Online and offline marketing must connect.  Event marketing, for example, needs an online thought leadership component; follow through with thought leadership post-event is critical.
  • Limited relationship nurturing:  Building a relationship with prospects and clients can have a significant impact on client acquisition and firm’s revenue; firms do a poor job of nurturing clients.
  • Missing engagement measurement:  Marketing doesn’t leverage a measurement system to gain insight on customer engagement. Without it there is a lack of insight about the client in order to plan, and then react to their needs.

Strong demand generation program that nurture clients has many facets

Demand generation’s sole purpose is to engage the client, position the firm’s expertise, provide the right information at the right time in the buying journey, and enable them to make an informed decision towards the firm.

So how do consulting firms engage with clients digitally? A solid demand generation program is necessary, and involves the following elements:

  • Client nurturing strategy
  • Content marketing
  • Cross-channel focus
  • Marketing automation platform
  • Search engine optimization

Demand generation in large firms need relationship nurturing

There are three fundamental questions that clients have when considering work with a firm:

  1. Do you know my business?
  2. Have you solved similar problems [to mine]?
  3. Will we be able to effectively work together?

Client acquisition is very personal and never transactional; clients aren’t buying a service—they seek expertise and a tailored approach to marketing.

As seen in the illustration below, with Buyer and Firm engagement during the acquisition process, the client [Buyer] looks to identify, qualify and select a firm with three fundamental questions in mind. But in order for these steps to take place, firm [Seller] needs to create awareness of their services, position expertise and build relationships with clients.

Source: Bloom Group

So how do you position expertise and engage the client. This is where nurturing plays a vital role. Demand Generation is all about nurturing prospects to position a firm’s expertise.  Nurturing is a process that builds relationships and trust in a consistent and contextual manner to engage the buyer throughout their decision-making journey. The buyer normally has questions, throughout that need, to be addressed, and a good demand generation strategy positions content and expertise in order to answer these questions.

Marketing is a primary driver of demand generation. While client acquisition is ultimately handled by business development or sales, marketing leads the creation of the demand generation strategy, helps to nurture relationships, positions the firm effectively, engages prospects, and builds relationships—all of which enable the firm to prioritize their potential client list and acquire clients.

Content marketing drives client engagement

So how do you engage the client? Content marketing is the answer.  Content marketing provides perspective and thought leadership through insight on the buyer’s needs.   Leading consulting firms such as Mckinsey and Accenture have exceptional content marketing capabilities to produce, merchandise and distribute content.  A quick glance through McKinsey’s website showcases, not only their well-known ability to create engaging content, but the ability to merchandise it.  Leaders in content marketing are able to engage and nurture prospects, where content is targeted across channels for each stage in the buyer’s journey, and client engagement is measured for effectiveness in driving 1 to 1 marketing to clients.

The key to content marketing is excellent content. Content has to be authentic and positioned to the buyer’s needs.  Subject matter experts have to be involved in creating authentic content.  Marketing should provide insight to the subject matter expertise on client needs and insight, and help with the editorial process.  There is no substitute for great content to engage clients.

Different types of content drive different results. Traditional content such as whitepapers and case studies are effective, but blogs and videos are excellent social content which amplify reach.

The HALO Effect – A lifecycle of client engagement in a cross-channel, meaningful manner

While producing content is important, the distribution strategy is just as important.  Firms need to create a HALO effect around clients to engage them at every touch point in a relevant way.  As seen below, the client is at the center of all engagement, and content is highly targeted.  Firms must also ensure each tactic used by the firm is consistent {whether an event, website, webinar, or social media}, there is insight across all elements to inform the marketer of the level of client engagement and their needs, so that business development regarding the client’s interests can take place.

By creating a digital HALO around the client, the buying process of the client can start anywhere, but is more likely to include the firm engaging at each touch point.

Search Engine Optimization {SEO} creates visibility for the firm and consultants

Another way to stand out online is with SEO. Perception is a metric, and higher the SEO ranking for a firm in a particular practice area, the more perceived value; it allows the firm to appear as a leader in that specific Area of Practice (AOP) within the mind of the user.

SEO can be used by firms to:

  • Increase consultants visibility
  • Position AOP and industry focus
  • Geographically {GEO} target to increase global reach

The rapid rise of social demand generation

Social media allows marketers to have conversations with clients like never before.  Email marketing and websites have very limited engagement with clients, whereas through social media you can touch a client several times in a day.  Marketers must start by listening to social media channels to gather marketing insight on client needs, and use social media as a distribution channel for all thought leadership content.

Marketing Automation platforms improve lead generation, improve client engagement and provide efficiencies

As I mentioned above, nurturing clients and prospects is a very personal activity, and a critical part of client engagement and marketing.  A marketing automation platform ensures that content marketing creates a HALO effect, and makes the engagement with marketers personal.  Platforms like Eloqua, Silverpop and Marketo are revolutionizing how B2B marketers are able to personalize content to buyer behavior.

An excellent marketing automation platform allows marketers to:

  • Segment buyers based on their behavior and needs
  • Target personalized content to prospects, providing relevant information to the clients
  • Provide the right content at the right time, and now on the right device
  • Improve marketing resource efficiencies  by allowing marketers to do more with less
  • Measure engagement and prioritize opportunities

“Marketing Automation use has shown a 107% increase in lead generation, a 40% increase in deal size, and a 32% increase in attendance.”
Source: Eloqua

In conclusion of this blog, demand generation should improve client engagement and create growth for consulting services firms.  Demand generation practices are starting to take route in firms and will soon revolutionize how consulting services firms market to their clients.

Much more to come…

In my blog series, I will cover best practices from both inside and outside the consulting industry that can be used help consultants and firms excel at engaging prospects, nurturing, and enabling client acquisition:

  1. How buyer behavior can shape your demand generation strategy
  2. Content and thought leadership marketing in consulting firms
  3. Drive the HALO effect through integrated marketing campaign strategy
  4. Marketing Automation:  the key to successful demand generation
  5. SEO strategies for consulting firms

This is just the beginning and I look forward to your comments on my future posts.

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