Business development is the life blood of any professional services firm, be it accounting, law, or architecture. Yet fostering new business relationships is far from easy for them. Given that, many often generate leads by positioning themselves as thought leaders. Fortunately, search can help boost these efforts.
Search can enhance your thought leadership efforts by helping you be present at every part of the buying cycle, from generating attention and interest, to capturing desire and creating action. For instance, optimized press releases and keyword rich blog postings are just two examples of how search can help you do exactly that. Ultimately, leveraging search to boost your thought leadership initiatives will help you maintain an online presence where your prospects are doing their research and regular reading, and help you remain “top of mind” with them.
Let’s look at how a law firm might benefit from using search for these purposes: after a successful litigation case, the firm issues an optimized press release. A reporter at a local business journal sees the release in the search results and writes a story about it. Shortly thereafter, the president of a mortgage brokerage reads the piece online. Given his growing fear of litigation by folks likely to foreclose on their homes, he launches a search for “unfair mortgage practices.”
Scanning the results, he finds an article on the topic that happens to be written by the law firm. Noting the firm’s name, he recalls seeing its comments in a few blogs he regularly reads. When he later queries “law firm St Louis,” the website for the practice appears at the top of the search results. Clicking through to the site, he fills out the “contact us” form and becomes a lead.
Clearly, search can boost your thought leadership efforts by helping you be present at every stage of the buying cycle. Below are five tips to get you started:
- Shift your advertising budget online. In order to be present at every stage of the buying cycle, you need to be where your audience is. Given that, marketers should shift their media buys from print to online because people are largely moving away from print mediums.
- Fully capitalize on your thought leadership articles. Developing compelling content is not enough. To increase the likelihood of your firm showing up at various stages of the buying cycle, you need to send your thought leadership articles to industry publications, promote them in optimized press releases, and post them on your website. In addition, be sure to follow SEO best practices during the writing process. For example, conduct keyword research and pick primary and secondary keywords that have significant search volume, but that are not too competitive. Ensure that these terms are included, intact, in your articles. That way, when searchers conduct queries for relevant terms, they have a greater chance of finding your articles, irrespective of where they live online.
- Become a regular. Blogging is a great tactic to enhance your thought leadership efforts. However, you don’t need to create a company blog to benefit from it. Rather, it is easier (and less expensive) to become an active member of industry blogs and groups, such as on LinkedIn. Keep a list of five important industry blogs or forums, and every morning or afternoon, see what people are saying on these sites. Whenever appropriate, provide your thoughts on the topic without sounding too “sales-y.” If you become a regular contributor to these online resources, it will reinforce your perception as a thought leader, and your comments will appear on posts that people will be reading during different phases of the buying cycle.
- Build an online tool. Building an online tool can be an effective means to enhance your thought leadership efforts as it creates additional opportunities for you to show up and engage with your prospects during the buying cycle. Whether the tool is a Facebook application, an iGoogle gadget, or a widget hosted on your site, be sure to pick something that will be viral and serve as “link bait.” The more links to your site, the higher you will appear in the search results. Finally, if the widget is hosted on your site, make sure that the page it lives on is well optimized with appropriate meta data, and that it’s not in your robots.txt file, etc.
- Leverage analytics: Once you have implemented the above search initiatives, you must use an analytics package to track the success of your efforts and optimize them. Also, by leveraging it on your site, you can see what type of services people are most interested in, and align your marketing/thought leadership efforts accordingly. For example, if an architectural firm sees that people are spending a lot of time on the Building and Zoning Representation page of their site, they might want to dedicate more paid search budget to it and highlight this topic in their thought leadership materials. Ultimately, the data revealed in your analytics will tell you where and what to focus your marketing initiatives on.
An obvious place to spend your valuable budget is on paid search campaigns. You can generate attention by creating content campaigns and create interest with enticing ad copy. To supplement this, create non branded campaigns that will capture demand during the “desire” phase of the buying cycle. Branded campaigns are also critical to ensure potential leads can find your organization. After all, at its core, paid search is a way to capture demand.
Positioning your firm as a though leader is an effective means to generate leads. However, search can help you boost these efforts and increase your likelihood of showing up at every stage of the buying cycle. Smart B2B marketers will follow the above tips to get the job done.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.