Guest Blogger: Lee Frederiksen, Ph.D., Managing Partner, Hinge
When looking for a new restaurant, you probably search differently today than you would have several years ago. While you may still ask friends and colleagues for a recommendation, there's a good chance you'll also use online tools such as Google or Yelp to discover new options and check them out.
Guess what? Today, the way corporate buyers find professional services firms isn't always so different.
At Hinge, we've spent almost 10 years researching how buyers of professional services find, vet, and choose firms. We've also researched the marketing tactics and strategies used by the most successful professional services firms. We refer to these organizations as Visible Firms® — and the vast majority of firms could benefit from emulating their approach. In this post I want to share a few key findings of our research so that you can consider whether your marketing plan addresses the way today's buyers buy.
Evolving expectations of professional services buyers: younger, more web-savvy
Two factors make the way today's buyers shop for law firms different from the past.
The first factor involves the buyers themselves. Not surprisingly, a growing percentage of buyers are “digital natives” — they grew up using the web. As a result, they are far more likely to use a variety of online resources to look for and evaluate providers. These resources include search engines, social media, professional networking sites, and others. It's worth pointing out that this is not a fleeting trend. By the year 2025, Millennials (people born between 1980 and 2000) will account for 75% of the workforce.
The second factor is how much more information users can gather from the web. Rather than rely on the opinions and advice of a limited circle of colleagues, today's buyers take matters into their own hands and conduct web searches and scrutinize prospective providers' websites. This trend is reflected in the continuing rise in total Internet searches, which now surpasses 2 trillion per year.
In addition, our research has shown that today's buyers tend to rely not only on Internet searches, but a variety of strategies and sources of information as well:
- 80.8% of professional services buyers check out a prospective firm's website
- 63.2% search for firms online
- 62.4% of buyers ask friends or colleagues if they've heard of the firm
- 59.9% of buyers check the firm on social media
- On average, buyers use at least 3 of these approaches to check out a firm before buying
We learned about these changing preferences through research we conducted over several years. In the process, we interviewed more than 1,000 buyers, as well as more than 130 Visible Experts® — individuals at firms who are well known in their markets as having exceptional expertise and reputation. Key tactics used by Visible Firms include:
- Positioning and marketing key individuals within the firm as Visible Experts. This can produce a “Halo Effect,” a natural tendency among buyers to associate their positive perception of an individual with the whole of their organization.
- Conducting focused content marketing to engage with greater numbers of qualified leads.
- Creating websites with keyword-optimized content that guide visitors to progressively more relevant content and closer engagements, such as webinars.
Today's buyers are making decisions based on the relative visibility of firms in the marketplace - a perception that is influenced by firms' reputations, as well as their savvy use of online marketing techniques to maximize their visibility to prospects who search online. By implementing a thoughtful, multi-pronged marketing strategy that takes advantage of the preferences of today's buyers, law firms can become the Visible Firms that lead their markets.