Webinar transcript

The following has been edited for clarity and a better reading experience.



Hello, and welcome to this on-demand webinar from Considered Content.

In this webinar, we’ll take a deep dive look at how professional services firms can use the latest data to remove some of the guesswork from their marketing efforts.

My name is Jason Ball, and I’m the managing director at Considered Content.


The fundamentals of B2B marketing for professional services

If we’re going to bring marketing down to a set of core fundamentals, what are we looking to do?

Well, we’d argue that it’s essentially about attracting good-fit clients to your firm.

Now, there’s a whole range of other things that marketing can do. So for example, retaining clients for longer, looking at increasing loyalty, upselling, cross-selling and attracting good-fit candidates to your firm. But for the purposes of what we’re talking about here, we’re looking primarily at attracting new business to the firm and showing that it’s a good fit for you.


Three areas of focus

Now, when we get into this sort of marketing activity, it tends to split into three core buckets.

Lead generation

The first is lead generation. So when we talk about lead generation, we’re talking about clients who are in the market right now looking for a firm just like yours. They are shopping for a partner, for a solution or for a service. And they’re doing it right now.

General estimates indicate that around 5% of potential buyers are in-market in any one quarter.

Demand generation

This second bucket is demand generation. Here we’re talking about clients who are not in-market right now, but who could potentially be in the market in the near- to mid-term future – six months, 12 months. Or else we’re talking about clients who probably should be in the market because they have a need but, for one reason or another, aren’t in the market right now.

Brand building

The third broad category we’re focusing on here is brand building or reputation building. Here, we’re talking about the very long term. We’re looking to ensure that if somebody comes into the market looking for a service you deliver, your firm’s name should be one that comes easily to mind when they start to think about who might help them with this challenge they’ve got or delivering this service that they need.


Many options and choices

Within these buckets, the reality is there are many, many different options for what you can do – everything from traditional email, newsletters and case studies to the more contemporary such as podcasts, videos and all sorts of social media.

The reality is that some of these tactics will be far more effective than others.

Some of them will be more effective just because they are simply more effective tactics. Some will be more effective because they are more effective for a specific objective, or for a firm in a specific part of its growth cycle. So the details will matter at that point. But the reality is that some are just far more effective than others.


The problem with advice

Now, there’s a problem here. If any of us go on social media, on LinkedIn, read articles, buy books, we’ll find no shortage of advice on what we should be doing.

So we all hear you should be doing this. You should stop doing that. Or this tactic is dead or that tactic is now the only only game in town.

There’s so much noise that it can be very, very difficult to split out what has some form of validity and what doesn’t. It’s very easy to simply become overwhelmed with the amount of conflicting information in the market.

This is compounded by the fact that a lot of this advice is based either on simply, pure opinion:

This is dead because I think it’s dead. And besides I want to grow my personal brand on LinkedIn so I’m going to make these contrarian statements and tell people that tactic A is gone and now it’s time to put all your money into tactic B, whatever that may be.

Or else it’s advice coming from people who have something they want to sell you: Buy my course on tactic A or B. Or more often these days: Buy my software that helps you automate A or B, that type of thing.

So there’s a lot of agenda driving this advice.


So what’s the alternative?

To give you a little bit of the backstory, we faced exactly the same challenges that you are. We had clients looking to us to give them advice on what they should be doing, something we’ve been doing for the last decade or more at Considered Content.

We’d base our advice very much on our own experience of having worked with others just like them. What we’ve seen work well and not work quite so well. What we saw others doing in the market that appeared to be delivering results. And also from our own library of books on how to do all aspects of B2B marketing.

And you know, that’s all good as far as it goes. But it’s not based on the most robust data. So we decided that we would go out and look to get this data.

First we looked to see whether we could buy it somewhere. It quickly became apparent that we couldn’t buy the data that we needed anywhere. So we commissioned a significant piece of research which ended up being the B2B Effectiveness Engine.

The whole idea behind the Effectiveness Engine is that it’s focused on identifying what separates high-performing B2B marketers from everywhere else.

What are they doing differently?

What are they not doing, that everybody else is doing?

What do they have in place that others don’t?


Unparalleled B2B marketing effectiveness data

We wanted the data to be incredibly robust – because a lot of research you see, once you look at the sample sizes, is from 100 small businesses somewhere. So we ensured we had data from over 1,000 senior B2B marketers. They span professional services, technology and manufacturing.

This sample size meant we could cut and dice the data in various ways to get the information we needed.

The data falls into a number of core groupings.

First is objectives. How many objectives are these marketers looking at? What were their prime objectives? And what were others that they were focused on?

Strategy. Do they have a strategy written down? Does it flow from the business strategy? Is it signed off? Do they have the budget for it?

We looked at differentiation. How distinctive or how different are they from other firms in the market? And how do they know they are different? Is it just because they think they’re different or have they tested it in some way? And in which case how did they test it?

Measurement. There are lots and lots of different ways of measuring marketing effectiveness. We track over 30 in the research. We asked marketers about the number of different things they’re measuring and how valuable and useful is the data that they’re getting back.

And the final part of what we call the upstream elements is customer insight. It’s a general truism that the firms that are closest to their clients generally win. How are these marketers learning about their clients, customers and prospects? What kind of research are they doing that’s delivering valuable insight versus research that’s simply nice to have or maybe wasting budget?

So if that was the upstream, tactical choices are the downstream.

We ask about the tactical choices marketers are making. In fact, we asked them about just under 40 tactical choices. These are split into those buckets I spoke about earlier – lead generation, demand generation and brand building.

We ask about how many tactics they’re using and which tactics specifically. Which are delivering great results? Which are delivering not-so-great results?

This means we can look at the more effective marketers and see whether they’re doing something at a tactical level that is different from everybody else. Are they just making smarter choices for example?


The number one takeout of the B2B Effectiveness Engine data is that there are approaches, tactics, measures and objectives that are popular, and tactics, measures and objectives are effective. And quite often, they simply don’t appear on the same lists.

Those things that are most popular aren’t necessarily the things that are most effective.

The things that are most effective, aren’t the things that are most popular.

To illustrate this a little bit further, the second most popular measure in professional services, which is social engagement (LinkedIn, social media of all types) is the 29th most effective.

Now the fifth most effective which is measures of closed:won business (how much you actually converted into paying engagements) is the 25th most popular.

Looking at tactics, the third most popular lead generation tactic in professional services is the 31st most effective.

On the flip side, the #1 most effective comes in 31st for popularity.

And we see this across the data. We actually see it across sectors as well. So it’s not just professional services that has an issue.


What actually makes a difference in professional services marketing?

I’m going to look at some of the various upstream elements and then move on to look a tactical choices. Let’s start with strategy.



Having a written marketing strategy, one that flows from the firm’s core business strategy, means that you’re 83% more likely to be in the top-performing group for lead generation.

Not just that, you’re 64% more likely to be in the top-performing group for demand generation.

And if that wasn’t enough, you’re 72% more likely to be in the top performing group for brand building/reputation building as well.

Having a written marketing strategy that flows into the business strategy has powerful knock-on effects throughout everything else that you do.

Beyond this, having a signed-off budget to execute on your strategy – so it’s not that you’ve just got this strategy that’s great in PowerPoint or whatever, but you actually have the money to do something about it means that you’re 60% more likely to be in the top performing groups.

Put simply, strategy matters.



There are all sorts of things you could have as your marketing objectives. The average number that we see in professional services is four.

Although those that are leaders in lead generation, demand generation and brand building, on average, have about one more – so they typically have five, occasionally six.

When we look at those marketing objectives, the top five used in professional services are:

  1. Increased revenue
  2. Greater market awareness
  3. Generating greater demand for our services
  4. Achieving greater customer lifetime value (CLV)
  5. The number of leads into our pipeline for new name new business

Now does what you choose as an objective matter?

Well, what we see is that firms with a primary objective of delivering greater demand are 24% more likely to be top performers in lead generation. So, focusing on demand leads to a higher likelihood of being a top performer in lead generation.

On the flip side, firms with the primary objective of getting more leads (so lead generation) are 19% less likely to be in the top-performing lead generation group.

And this is one of a range of things that is potentially counterintuitive in the data. Because you would think that if I’ve got a lead generation objective, then I’m going to be better at generating leads.

It doesn’t actually work out that way.

The reason for this is that there are such a small number of potential clients in the market at any one time – 5% or maybe even less for something like a long ongoing multi-year audit relationship.

With a focus on ‘leads’ you’ll keep resetting what you’re doing because you’re always simply chasing those clients that are in-market at any one time. And by the time you know that they’re in the market, chances are they’ve probably spoken to a number of competitors and are well along the way to making a decision.

Whereas focusing on delivering greater demand puts you into a different mindset. You are more focused on the longer term. This makes it more likely that you’ll get in front of clients before they’re into that sales cycle. And you’re able to affect their decision-making, probably before there are other firms deeply in the mix.

You can see why that approach would lead to better performance in lead generation. It’s just that it won’t happen in the very near term.

Beyond this, we see that firms with the primary objective of delivering greater demand, are more likely to also be top performers in demand generation, which you would expect, and also in brand building too.

So as an objective, generating demand is one that has the greatest positive impact throughout.

Plus we also see that marketers with that demand generation focus, make consistently different tactical choices across the board.

They’re doing different things to those, for example, with a lead generation focus. And when we look across their tactical mix, they are simply making more effective, higher-performing choices than those that are scrabbling around for those in-market buyers.



There are lots of things you can measure in marketing, we asked about 32 of them in the research and there are probably many more besides but we think we’ve got the main core measures that anybody would choose.

The average number of things that professional services marketers measure, right across a database is six. Now that’s the average. If we look at the average for just the top performers in the generation, demand generation and brand building, it’s nine. Top performers measure more things than the average by some degree.

You could argue at this point that, as a result, they’ve got a better picture of what’s going on – what’s working, what’s not, leading and lagging indicators. They’ve simply got a more rounded picture of what’s going on.

In terms of what they are using, the top five most highly rated measures used by professional services firms are:

  1. Marketing return on investment (ROI or MROI as it sometimes gets called)
  2. Marketing qualified, leads (MQLs), which get much maligned, sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly
  3. Customer lifetime value (CLV)
  4. Brand equity (now, we believe that when people say they’re measuring brand equity, they’re probably talking more in terms of a broader brand strength rather than the technical balance sheet measure of brand equity)
  5. Closed:won business – how much of this marketing activity converted into a paying client


A word on MQLs

Just to return to marketing qualified leads (MQLs). Marketing qualified leads get talked down a lot across social media at the moment and partly for good reasons.

A lot of the time, for example, when marketing passes a lead through to somebody in a sales or business development role, they get the kickback that ‘this is not a lead’.

It’s because often there’s a communication breakdown. The way that marketing is qualifying that lead is different to the way that sales would qualify it. This is why you get the difference between marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales accepted leads (SALs).

Now if marketing sets the bar too low – for example, anybody who downloaded our case study is now a lead – then you can end up with a lot of poor quality, I hesitate to even call them leads, poor quality email addresses.

However, if you’ve got a highly qualified lead where there are multiple elements that show it to be a good-fit potential client, then MQLs can work really well.

So what do we see in the data?

Those who use marketing-qualified leads are actually 79% more likely to be in the top-performing lead generation group than the average.

They’re also over twice as likely to be a leader in demand generation.

And they’re 76% more likely to be a leader in brand building.

For all those who are writing off MQLs, it would appear they are still a very good measurement of effectiveness, albeit only one measurement.



Now, I fully recognise that in professional services it is very difficult to differentiate your firm.

A lot of this is down to the fact that the services you tend to offer almost have to be virtually identical to the services offered by your competitors. If I went out to market offering a new ‘creative’ way of auditing some accounts, it’s unlikely I’m going to do very well.

So it’s probably not so surprising that only a third of firms researched have a differentiated positioning that’s been both tested with clients and prospects and reviewed against competitors. And by the way, this is significantly lower than for the technology and manufacturing sectors.

However, those that do have this level of differentiation are around about two and a half times more likely to be in one of the top-performing groups for lead generation, demand generation and brand building).

But it’s important that differentiation has been well researched.

What we see is that those firms that have only tested it with clients or only reviewed against competitors are around half as likely to be in a top-performing group.

Worse, those who simply think they’re differentiated but haven’t actually tested it, are 49% less likely to be in the top group for lead generation. They’re also 80% less likely to lead in demand generation. And they’re 71% less likely to be among the top performers for brand building.

So simply thinking you’re differentiated is not enough. In fact, it’s likely to be more harmful than beneficial.

We also see that differentiated firms achieve greater effectiveness from almost every marketing tactic they use.

We ask about the use of just under 40 tactics. And there are about two where a differentiated firm doesn’t see greater value than the average. And even then it’s about at parity and largely within the margins of error for the data.

So becoming a differentiated firm has an enormous impact on pretty much everything else you do. It’s one of the things that, when I speak to professional services firms and we get into this, I say that if there’s just one thing you do, focusing on how you differentiate your firm should be it.


Customer insight

It is a truism that those companies that are closest to their customers generally win in the market, particularly in B2B.

When all else is equal – and in professional services, all else tends to be relatively equal quite often – knowing what it’s like to be your client, the issues they face and what matters to them can tip you into winning that piece of business.

So we asked about how firms research customers to gain this sort of insight.

The three most popular types of research are:

  1. Researching the broader views of clients and prospects. What are they thinking? What is it like to be them? What are they focused on in a very broad sense?
  2. Researching what the market thinks of our services. This could include Net Promoter Score (NPS) type stuff, but also client review of data as well as a broader market view of what people think about the firm’s services
  3. Researching the key outcomes clients want to achieve. So what are they actually looking to do with the kinds of services that we offer?

So what delivers value?

Doing broad research of both clients and prospects at least once per year delivers greater tactical effectiveness, pretty much no matter what tactic you use. This is similar to differentiation, though not to quite the same degree, which is why I say if you were just to do one thing, differentiation is it. But we see that in those firms that have this research, pretty much most tactics perform better.

This makes sense because, for example, if you’re creating some sort of content, being able to talk about what matters to clients and prospects is going to work better than if you’re making assumptions about what matters to them.

Researching the individuals who make up the buying committee for your services will generally lead you to be twice as likely to be in a top-performing group. Now this probably only applies to slightly larger firms where there are a greater number of decision-makers, but understanding how that buying committee is made up can deliver significant dividends.

Finally, for this area, researching buyers to create ideal customer profiles (ICP) or customer personas. Those who do this are 64% more likely to be in a top-performing group.

Now all sorts of businesses and marketers create customer personas. But all too often, they’re not backed by particularly robust data. They tend to be informed by assumptions of the market and by experiences solely with your own clients but are not particularly indicative of the rest of the market. So those who have done the hard work are at an advantage.



We ask about what marketers are using from a list of just under 40 tactics.

These include everything from different types of content, social media, account-based marketing (ABM), pay-per-click (PPC) advertising (the Google AdWords end of things), referral programmes, case studies, email, newsletters, and more.

It’s an exhaustive list. Basically, everything that we could think that somebody would look to do in their marketing. There’ll always be outliers but they’re likely to be quite niche.

The average number of tactics used by professional services firms is six for lead generation, five for demand generation, and also five for brand building.

But that’s the average number and we’re more interested in high-performing firms. So what happens when we when we cut the data that way?

The average number of tactics used by top performers goes up to nine for lead generation, eight for demand generation and seven for brand building.

So beyond everything else they’re doing, they are simply doing more. They’re selecting more tactics and using them to meet their objectives.

Now we get into the popular versus effective issue very much when it comes to tactics. Say we’ve got two lists next to each other. One’s got the 10 most popular lead generation tactics and the other has got the 10 most effective lead generation tactics. Just two tactics appear on both those lists. Just two. This is a tiny minority.

One of the things we see is that top performers simply make more effective tactical choices.

Now, we can argue why is it that they make these. Are they more experienced? Are they lucky? There’d be a range of range of options.

What it’s probably down to is that they’re getting a lot of the upstream things right. They have their strategy in place. They understand potential clients and what matters to them well. They have carved out a differentiated position in the market. And they’re applying this to their tactical choices.

That leads them to select marketing tactics that are more specific to these objectives and therefore more effective.


No one size fits all

One of the things we do see is that there is no one size fits all.

For example, the tactics that are effective for professional services aren’t typically the ones that are effective for manufacturing or for technology.

This is interesting because so much of the talk around B2B marketing effectiveness is led by technology marketers.

So when they’re saying that something’s the only way to go or something else is dead, it doesn’t always apply to other sectors.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all for objectives either. And there are all sorts of factors that would lead to a different ideal tactical mix.

It’s why it’s not possible to turn around and say, ‘These are the top five tactics for professional services no matter what’.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.


The effect of deal size

Some tactics work much harder for deals at different levels.

If you’re a small firm with a relatively small deal level, the tactics that are going to work for you are going to be quite different than if you are a mid- or large-sized business chasing large deal sizes.

To illustrate we’re going to look at one of the popular options and how it changes by deal size.

Here we’re looking at demand generation and the list of the single most effective tactics. Webinars, such as what we’re doing here, are just in the top 20 – they sit at 19th overall.

Let’s look at how this is affected by deal size.

If we look at a deal size of somewhere between £50,000 to £20,000 (£8000 to £10,000 monthly recurring revenue), we see that webinars are actually above the average position. They go up to 16th place. So still in the top 20, not in the top 10. But they’re more effective at this deal level than for the average.

If we go up a deal size, so now we’re looking at £120,000 to £250,000 and its corresponding monthly recurring, we get up to 13th place. So still not quite breaking the top 10 but it’s likely to be a reasonable candidate at that point.

Unfortunately, we’re not going to see them keep tracking up because this is where they peak.

If I go up a deal size again, we start to see webinars drop quite significantly. For a deal size of £250,000 to £500,000, suddenly we’ve dropped out of the top 20 and we’re sitting in 22nd place.

Finally, if we go up a deal size again to the really big deals, over £500,000, we see webinars dropping right down to the bottom of the table – down to 35th place.

We see this across a number of tactics. They move up and down across different deal-level categories.

This is not the case for every tactic however. Some tactics are reasonably stable and sit quite happily at any deal level while others are more volatile.

As an example, the single most effective tactic for demand generation is different at every single deal level. There is no single tactic that spans everything.

So again, one size definitely does not fit all.


What should you actually do?

Based on the data, we’d say you should work out what your marketing strategy is. It should flow from the business strategy. You should make sure you write it down. And you should agree the budget so that whatever is on your document or in your PowerPoint, you do actually have money to do something about it. This will mean you’re not endlessly having to re-approve the investment you’re going to make.

Be careful about choosing your objectives. As I said earlier, the choice of objective will often influence the choice of tactics. And some objectives simply lead to better tactical choices than others. We see that a demand generation objective seems to be more effective than most of the others.

Also, take care on measurement. Similar to objectives, what you measure will influence what you do. This means working out what success looks like and what we’re going to measure to determine if we’re succeeding or failing or somewhere in between. This is a key step and will have important knock-on effects further down the line.

Think very, very hard about how you differentiate your firm. Yes, it is incredibly difficult. Differentiation in professional services is often more about how you work or why you do it or who you do it for than what you actually do. Those firms that carve out meaningful differentiation see the benefits throughout everything else they do. If you were to ignore everything else and just focus on one thing, this, for my money, would be it.

We’ve talked about gaining useful insight into clients. Gaining a broad-based understanding of what is it like to be them, doing research with no other objective than to get inside their heads will pay dividends all the way down the line.

Be somewhat Darwinian about your tactical choices. So yes, have a core range of tactics that you use, but keep testing what you’re doing, measuring it, investing in what’s working and killing off what’s not working.

There’s always a temptation to keep doing the stuff that we’ve always been doing because we know how to do it. It’s not that difficult and besides, we’ve always done it. This is almost always a direct route to a tactical mix that will underperform.

So for example, say you are at the lower end where you’re using five different tactics. You could have four as a core and then another as something you’re just trying out to see how it works. Then if that one performs better than one of the core four, you might make it part of the core, replacing the lowest performer. You’d then test another new one and gradually work your way forward.


Test your own performance

If you’re looking for a bit more help, on our site you’ll find the B2B Effectiveness Scorecard for Professional Services.

This is a cut-down version of the questions that we use for the Effectiveness Engine. Answer the questions and you’ll receive a top-line overview of how what you’re doing compares to what high-performing firms are doing.

That’s it for this on-demand webinar. Thank you very much for your time.

If you would like to get in contact with us. There is a contact page on the website. You can also find me on LinkedIn.