by Jim Thompson, Director, One Rabbit
In this post, I go over my top 10 mistakes in online marketing. Keep in mind these are not tactical mistakes, which in many ways will be typically learned in practice.These mistakes are really to help you avoid the biggest mistake of all - To treat online marketing as an extension of offline marketing and fail to embrace the new paradigm.
Get it right and you'll build a lead generation machine that leads you to a whole new source of higher value new business. Get this wrong, and you'll be underwhelmed!
Mistake 1 - Poor Positioning
What differentiates your firm from your competitors? Is it great customer service, your people, processes, strategic thinking or the way you create great client relationships?
Chances are you answered "yes" to all of them. The bad news is your competitors would probably answered "yes" too! On the surface they seem like great characteristics, but in reality they are attributes of all good firms. At best, they simply differentiate your firm from the bad ones.
So what's your point of difference? Is it really unique? Is it meaningful to the type of client you want to attract? Does it give you a competitive advantage?
Having a clear, well-articulated position relies on being clear about who your ideal clients are, creating and embracing difference in a way that attracts them and makes your firm stand out.
Mistake 2 - No Strategy or Game Plan
Can you clearly describe why your firm has a website? Without a strategy this question will be difficult to answer succinctly.
Your strategy doesn't need to be complicated. Having a strong position means it can be as simple as positioning your firm to your target market to generate quality new business leads.
How you go about achieving the position, attracting your audience, educating them to your value proposition and converting them into leads is the tactical part; this is your game plan.
Mistake 3 - Putting Form over Substance
A professional, quality and well designed website is essential, but beyond this does the rest of the world care?
Don't worry too much whether your website is better looking than your competitors as this is subjective anyway. Put the time and attention into producing quality content and developing a platform that allows you to be effective in achieving your online marketing strategy.
Mistake 4 - Porpoise Marketing
Porpoise marketing is the usual pattern of ramping up marketing activities when business gets quiet, and ramping down when it gets busy.
Your online marketing shouldn't fluctuate in reaction to how busy you are. If it becomes porpoise like, it looses momentum and your audience quickly becomes disengaged. It's a long-term commitment to be consistent at engaging and nurturing your audience.
If you think this is going to happen, it's best not to start in the first place until there is a clear commitment internally to allocate ongoing resources.
There's another good reason any professional service firm should not view marketing as a way to simply back fill capacity. A steady source of new business is an opportunity to continually improve the quality and value of the client base, not by expanding it, but replacing lower value clients with higher value ones!
Mistake 5 - Selling Services Not Expertise
Professional service firms sell knowledge and expertise. The better the quality of expertise, the better the outcomes you can deliver for your clients. When clients differentiate your firm on the basis of expertise, this translates into higher value creation and better quality clients.
Yet, most professional services firms struggle to market expertise and instead package it into services. Selling services has the effect of reinforcing the sameness between firms all offering the same set of services. Quality of expertise is not the focus and is often hidden from view.
This has to be a major problem as competition and the need to differentiate intensifies. The majority of accountant and law firm websites dedicate so much of their real estate to listing and describing standard sets of services, all identical to what's offered by their competitors.
Mistake 6 - Set and Forget
An effective lead generating online presence is not a website that you give a cosmetic makeover to every 3 to 5 years and leave them hanging in cyberspace like a glorified yellow pages ad while you get onto other things.
Your website is the home base for your extended digital footprint. An effective online presence needs to be continually fed, nurtured, refined, resourced and yes experimented with as outlined in your digital strategy and game plan.
Mistake 7 - Regarding Everyone as Your Customer
There has been more information produced in the last 30 years than in the previous 5,000. It's just so much harder to be heard through the constant electronic bombardment inflicted on us all.
A clear and loud online voice requires a laser sharp focus and message designed to hit a target audience. The more precisely you can define this audience, the sharper your message will be. The quickest way to blunt your message is to aim for broad appeal, trying to be all things to all people.
Choose a target audience; keep it as narrow as you can. Learn everything you can about what interests them, engages them, where their problems are. Let go of the temptation of regarding everyone as your customer, and therefore everyone as your competitor.
This of course has a strong tie-in back to positioning. Position the firm to attract the type of clients which represent the highest value. Be clear who you work for, why and how.
Mistake 8 - Fear of Sharing Knowledge
Heard or said this sort of thing before "ﾅ I'm not giving away free advice to people who aren't my clients ﾅ"
This is a giant hurdle for all of us who sell knowledge and expertise. Hiding it from everyone except paying clients means expertise will never be a primary differentiator or the primary reason why clients choose to engage you.
Your expertise should be clearly on display. This is where your opportunity to create highest value is, so use it to attract higher value clients.
Online marketing is all about content, and producing information that your target audience cares about and gains value from reading and following. If you work in professional services, this is your expertise!
Mistake 9 - Hiding Behind the Brand
People are experts not companies. Yes it may be uncomfortable for some but the good old days are over. Successful knowledge workers of the future need a strong personal online brand.
People want to see, hear and connect with other people not companies. The importance of creating a personal brand, backing this up with your expertise on display and building a picture in the mind of a prospective client about who you are and what they get if they work with you.
Mistake 10 - Relying on Referrals
The professional services industry runs on referrals -- so much so, that many firms can get away with very little or no marketing and relying on a steady inflow of new business from recommendations of others including existing clients and networks.
For this reason most marketing is heavily focused around brand creation and building awareness, not lead generation. Prospects come to your website already warm and aware of your firm, representing a key step in their diligence before choosing to work with you.
This type of marketing does not translate well online. The greatest opportunity in online marketing is moving beyond the referral mindset. Here you have the opportunity to reach an audience of prospective clients that have no referral connection. They need to be attracted, nurtured, warmed and converted. Your online presence should be the tool for the job!
One final note; winning new business from non-referred clients is likely to see you working with higher value clients. Remember these are clients that did their own research, differentiated your expertise from your competitors and are educated through your nurturing. And if your positioning is tight, these will be clients that line up with your ideal client profile.
About Our Guest Blogger
Jim is a founder of One Rabbit, a digital agency born in part from a personal drive to help clients maximise the new business opportunities a well thought out and executed digital strategy can deliver. He is passionate about counselling, advising, helping and educating prospective and existing clients on how to best strategically position themselves in a fast changing digital age. Prior to forming One Rabbit Jim was with DDG since 1998.