Three reasons more MQLs don’t mean more sales in professional services

Professional services has – perhaps more than any other sector – embraced thought leadership marketing. For companies without naturally newsworthy services, operating in highly sensitive industries, brand-first campaigns help fill the awareness gap at the top of the sales funnel with insight-led stories and content that demonstrates expertise.

The theory goes that generating as much attention as possible attracts new leads at scale, which turn into tangible commercial opportunities over time. The more new leads you put in the top, the more new business you get out at the bottom. Right?

The experience of the majority of professional services leaders and marketers I speak to contradicts this old B2B sales paradigm. They agree on three things:

#1 Selling high value professional services is overwhelmingly based on personal relationships – both newly created and those built over time.

#2 There is only a relatively small pool of relevant buyers for complex, often transformational professional services.

#3 The lion’s share of growth will come from winning more work with existing clients, and new work from priority prospects that have already been identified.

Based on this specific, relationship-based, high value sales play, volume leads are immaterial. Despite this – and the diminishing returns many organisations are experiencing from lead generation marketing – PS firms continue to invest significant chunks of their annual marketing budgets on awareness-focussed thought leadership content.

But when typically only 3% of MQLs convert to revenue, it’s clear that the brand-first approach is not delivering. And no PS organisation can afford to invest in campaigns that don’t generate sales.

Professional services marketing isn’t a volume game. A better measure of campaign success is whether it’s secured meetings with prospective buyers and set up conversations about specific opportunities. To paraphrase Louis Fernandes in his B2B Marketing InTech talk last year – people buy from people who can solve their problem. Embrace a targeted, relationship-led sale:

#1 Create sales-first campaigns that are specifically designed for your big bets for growth – be it a high potential service, sector, organisation or individual. Tell them something new and valuable that they haven’t spotted, which can help them make money, save costs or mitigate risk – piquing their interest to meet.

#2 Enable specific, actionable and insightful meetings using content to cue opportunities with real buyers, not clicks from the masses, to increase the likelihood of conversion – more flash card than flashy report.

Read more on how to build campaigns that help you get to sales faster in our blog.

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