Growing your professional services business with lead nurturing

By Giovanni Napoli - August 26, 2021

Look into the pipeline of any professional services business and you’re likely to see the same thing. When it comes to finding new leads, the top sources are usually: referrals, past clients, and networking events. Word of mouth is great, but relying on referrals to drive business growth is a risky strategy.

Firstly, it’s an unreliable source of leads that you have little control over. Secondly, there is no assurance that a new referral will be the right client for you. And then there are all the opportunities you’re missing out on by relying solely on a few sources of leads. What happens when these sources dry up? If you want to grow your business, you need effective strategies for generating new leads, rather than relying on referrals and repeat business.

What is lead nurturing? 

Lead nurturing is the process of commencing and maintaining relationships with potential customers (or leads) enrolled in your systems. When a new lead signs up to your marketing newsletter or makes an inquiry through your website, the activities that occur after this are all about nurturing your leads as they move through the buying cycle. 

Lead nurturing enables you to build a trusting relationship with your leads as they move from the top of the marketing funnel (when they’re not quite ready to make a decision) to the bottom (when they’re ready to engage your business). It’s not about “selling” in the traditional sense. It’s about nurturing your leads until they are ready to make that final decision. 

Think of your cold leads - someone who may have subscribed to your email newsletters and is stuck at the beginning of the sales cycle, in the awareness stage of the marketing funnel. A cold lead will typically ignore or choose not to engage with phone calls and aggressive promotional initiatives because they aren’t ready to purchase your product or services right away. 

One of the best ways to re-engage your cold leads is with lead nurturing. Lead nurturing reminds your cold leads of the services your business provides that benefit their own business. Similarly to the consideration cycle mentioned above, despite your clients not being ready to buy yet, including them in your lead nurturing works to remind them that when they are in a position to consider purchasing, they should do so from your business. In essence, it’s making sure your business is always front of mind when your leads are ready to make a purchasing decision. 

Why professional services businesses should adopt lead nurturing strategies

Some professional services businesses may be reluctant to adopt lead nurturing strategies. After all, having a pipeline of referral-based leads is evidence of the good reputation your business has worked so hard to achieve. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Well, that may be the case, but lead nurturing is actually very well suited to the existing competencies of professionals services businesses. How?

1. It aligns to the complex nature of the professional services sales cycle 

The professional services sales cycle tends to be a long one, with an extended consideration stage. When it comes to hiring a lawyer or choosing an accountant, leads are unlikely to make a decision quickly. It could take days, months, or even years, before they’re ready. 

Lead nurturing naturally aligns to the professional services’ customer journey in that it’s a longer strategy. It involves providing your leads with value at every stage of the client life-cycle, so that your business is front of mind when they’re ready to convert.    

2. You’ve already got the expertise

As a professional services firm, the knowledge of your people is your business’s key selling point. Converting any lead will require that you build trust and establish your expertise. Because of this, professional services firms are extremely well placed to develop effective lead nurturing strategies. Why? Because lead nurturing is not about “selling”, it’s about understanding what keeps your leads up and night and providing them with valuable information and education to help them solve those problems. You’ve already got the expertise. It’s simply about turning that insight into valuable information to engage your leads and build credibility. It might be a guide, a webinar or a thought-leadership article, but by providing your leads with informative and educational content, you’re building your business’s credibility and making sure you’re in their consideration set when it comes time to make a decision. 

How to engage your leads with nurturing strategies 

The process of lead nurturing usually involves sending automated campaigns to your audience with content that directly impacts their decision to buy your product or service, and converts them from a prospect to a paying customer. 

There are several ways in which you can nurture your leads, including: 

  • Personalised emails 
  • Multi-channel marketing (social media, websites, etc.)
  • Targeted content 
  • Appropriate follow-ups

Depending on the services your business is offering, your target demographic, and your marketing style, there are a number of different lead generation and nurturing strategies that you can implement in order to drive positive results. 

Use a lead magnet 

A lead magnet is the term used to describe the act of providing a service or content of some sort in exchange for contact details. Lead magnets can include: 

  • A guide or whitepaper
  • Webinars 
  • A free trial of the products/services your business offers 
  • Free consultation with your team
  • Exclusive events 
  • E-newsletters 

The purpose of lead magnets is to create qualified sales leads by creating high-value content that people are willing to exchange their contact details for. If you’ve done your job right, the content will be useful, informative and engaging, and will retain their interest in your offering enough to progress them to the consideration phase of the sales cycle. 

Personalise the emails you send

Email marketing is a highly effective lead nurturing strategy – no matter what product or service you’re selling. However, despite the overall success of email marketing, personalised email marketing can help to produce even better results. In a study conducted by Campaign Monitor, researchers found that emails with personalised subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened than emails that aren’t personalised. 

Go further than email marketing 

Thanks to technological advancements and a constantly evolving digital landscape, there are many more ways to spread brand and product awareness than sending emails. With the help of social media platforms, blogs, webinars, landing pages and CRM automation platforms , there are countless strategies and funnels you can devise to achieve your marketing goals. But don’t try to do everything at once – nail a couple of channels and then broaden your strategy from there.

Produce content that appeals to your target audience 

To successfully produce targeted content, you need to first have an understanding of who your target audience is, what their interests are, and how your services or products can help them with their pain points. Once you’ve gained a sound understanding of your target persona, you’ll be able to create content that specifically appeals to them. Then find out where they hang out online and hone in on those media channels

For example, if your target audience is 65-year-old retirees whose preferred form of communication is email, publishing your content to Instagram or TikTok won’t provide the results you’re hoping for. On the other hand, if your target audience is 18 to 22-year-olds who shop, converse and access news through social media platforms, you might have more luck posting a video on Facebook as opposed to redirecting them to a 2000-word blog post. 

Keep your brand front of mind with appropriate follow-ups 

After a customer enquires about a service you offer, or attends an event your business hosts, while it doesn’t need to be right away, it’s important to send out a follow-up email in a timely manner.

For example, let’s say your company hosted a webinar focussing on how small businesses can stay on top of their accounts receivable by utilising accounting software that your company created. If the event had 50 sign-ups and 25 of those sign-ups attended the webinar, 24 hours after the event you could send out personalised emails to the 25 individuals who did attend, and the 25 who did not. Your email might include some resources that relate to the topic of your webinar, a call to action reminding them to contact your business for further information, and a reminder of the other services your business offers (if relevant). 

A week later you might send out another email to the group of attendees with information about a special offer related to the webinar topic, or perhaps include a case study of how you’ve worked successfully with other businesses like theirs. In this email, you can again link back to other relevant services or events your company has on offer at that point in time. Through doing this, not only are you retaining interest and awareness in that particular area but you’re also cross-selling and improving their awareness and understanding of your brand. 

For higher-value conversions or important decisions, you can use this strategy to nurture a long consideration cycle and encourage them to make a decision over time by building trust.

When will I see a return?

It’s important to remember that lead nurturing is not a direct driver of ROI, at least not at the outset. It’s unlikely that leads will convert via an email or blog alone. Lead nurturing is a longer strategy, but by providing your leads with valuable content throughout your relationship with them, however long that may be, your business will likely be front of mind when they are closer to making a purchasing decision

Streamlining automation with HubSpot 

Using the right tools can aid in the successful implementation and monitoring of strong lead nurturing strategies. We partner with CRM platform HubSpot, which equips businesses with all the resources they need to develop and nurture relationships with prospects and clients.

Automation aids with the process of effective lead nurturing and creates efficiencies with respect to repetitive tasks (such as automatically sending emails to event attendees). HubSpot enables users to reach their target audiences with automated workflows and content across various platforms, such as email, social media, texts and web-based. 

Using HubSpot, you can: 

  • Track the performance of their sales and marketing efforts 
  • Nurture leads through automation and workflows 
  • Track prospect and customer life cycles and trends
  • Gain an understanding of the content customers have been engaging with (e.g. page visits, emails they’ve opened, unique clicks within emails, etc.) 

Along with simplifying your automation and CRM processes, HubSpot also provides you with the tools to help your company’s lead-to-sale conversion. HubSpot’s sales integration bridges the gap between marketing and sales and allows staff in both departments to work together. Because it’s one thing getting a digital enquiry, or nurturing your leads with content marketing, but it’s another thing to turn that lead into a paying customer. Marketing and sales need to be in alignment if you want to establish a successful growth strategy. HubSpot simplifies this process.   

Want to learn more about driving sales through lead nurturing?

 Get in touch

Topics: Marketing Optimisation, People, Business Intelligence