Seven Advantages of Virtual Marketing
Marketing During COVID-19 and Beyond
Over the past few months, COVID-19 has become a household word, and shelter-in-place orders have rocked the business world. Small wonder that the concept of virtual marketing and business development has jumped to center stage. Nearly overnight, thousands of professional services firms have begun scrambling to figure out how to replace the only marketing approach they have ever known: old-school, in-person networking and referrals. In this post, the author describes some lessons learned by Hinge Marketing to help readers gauge where their firm is currently. The author also describes some approaches that are already working for some of Hinge accounting and valuation firm clients.
Over the past few months, COVID-19 has become a household word, and shelter-in-place orders have rocked the business world. Small wonder that the concept of virtual marketing and business development has jumped to center stage. Nearly overnight, thousands of professional services firms have begun scrambling to figure out how to replace the only marketing approach they have ever known: old-school, in-person networking and referrals.
Although it may sound like uncharted territory, the trend toward virtual marketing has been happening for a while and includes many well-thought-out practices and strategies. For example, at my firm, we have used this marketing approach for over 10 years and have also helped hundreds of professional services firms benefit from it as well.
In this post, I will discuss some of our lessons learned, to help you gauge where your own firm is currently. I will also describe some approaches that are already working for some of our accounting and valuation firm clients. If your firm is looking for more practical plays on bouncing back from COVID-19, check out Hingeâ€™s latest playbook, Getting Back in the Game.
Virtual Marketing Allows You To â€¦
- Be more visible to your prospects. The single most powerful benefit of virtual marketing is that it focuses your firmâ€™s presence in the communication channels that your potential clients are already using when they need business insight and guidance. Not surprisingly, when confronting a new business issue, most prospects will start with the easiest and fastest solution: looking online. If they find useful content that you have posted there, they will see you as a provider that can help them.
- Market beyond your geographic limits. Having a virtual presence means that you are accessible anytime, anywhere. Suddenly, the geographical distance between you and a client is no longer an impediment to doing business. After all, many of your clients with large, geographically dispersed operations are already accustomed to doing business remotely. By the same token, a virtual presence gives you the ability to attract and hire talent from any market or location.
- Easily prove your expertise. A major difficulty with marketing your firmâ€™s expertise is that it, in and of itself, is invisible. Virtual marketing helps by making your expertise both tangible and visibleâ€”such as by writing an insightful blog post or hosting a thought-provoking webinar. In addition, unlike traditional face-to-face educational events that are seen only once by a limited audience, a virtual webinar can be seen over and over again, significantly expanding your potential audience.
- Offer high-value, specialized expertise. Succeeding as a specialized practice used to require having a large client base or spending significant time and resources traveling to meet and win over new clients. With virtual marketing, that is no longer necessary, because you are hopping on a video conference, rather than an airplane, to connect with prospects. And with access to a broader list of potential clients, you can focus your practice in a more specialized way that is highly valued by your target audience.
- Package and brand your services. Because virtual marketing gives you access to a vast number of potential clients, it becomes more practical to offer your services as branded packages. Even if your branded services package appeals to a relatively narrow slice of any given market, your virtual presence gives you access to a far wider selection of prospects. That means you can more easily shape your content and marketing to attract prospects who are a perfect fit with your offering, and who will therefore be much easier to convert into clients.
- Save time and money. In almost every case, virtual marketing is less costly and time-consuming than traditional approaches. Travel is greatly reduced or even eliminatedâ€”so instead of investing two or three hours to attend a live networking event, for example, you can invest 20 minutes connecting and sharing on social media. In fact, our recent research shows that those firms that generate more of their business virtually are also more profitable.
- Accelerate your firmâ€™s growth. For the same reason that virtual marketing delivers more profitability, it also drives greater growth. As shown in Figure 1, the greater the level of your online business generation, the faster your firm grows. We believe the reason for this is that by centering your strategy on virtual marketing and business development, you will more closely mirror how todayâ€™s buyers prefer to find solutions to their business challengesâ€”and also, how they select their professional services providers.
Figure 1: Median Annual Growth Rate by Digital Lead Generation (% of leads generated online)
While the current coronavirus pandemic makes virtual marketing an essential solution in the short term, there also are many more strategic reasons to embrace the practice, as described above. If you are interested in reading more on this topic, check out Hingeâ€™s latest playbook, Getting Back in the Game. While there is some time and effort involved in moving from the old way of marketing to a virtual approach, the virtual presence you create for your firm will continue to provide the benefits described aboveâ€”every day, every week, and year after year.
Lee W. Frederiksen, PhD, is Managing Partner at Hinge, the leading branding and marketing firm for the professional services. Hinge conducts groundbreaking research into high-growth firms and offers a complete suite of services for firms that want to become more visible and grow.Â
Dr. Frederiksen can be contacted at (703) 391-8870 or by e-mail to LFrederiksen@hingemarketing.com.