Paid advertising for professional services: Is there a way to make it work?

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professional services marketing
Kim Cromwell Malseed's article on ROI for professional services marketing
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You can measure and track results from advertising in publications such as Canadian Design and Construction Report

Can you profitably implement a paid advertising strategy for professional architectural, engineering and construction services for the business-to-business or business-to-government markets? This article by Kim Cromwell Malseed suggests that it is possible, by using the rich metrics available within online and conventional media.

In the past, it was very difficult to measure ROI for paid advertising because firms couldn’t directly connect results with ads. For example, readers of a magazine may see a firm’s print ad and contact the firm. But the firm had no way of knowing for sure that it was the ad that drove the new leads, or if it was another marketing tactic or outside influence. Nowadays, advancements in the ways advertising is designed and delivered, particularly online, makes it possible to track results of advertising campaigns and measure ROI.

professional services marketing
Kim Cromwell Malseed’s article on ROI for professional services marketing

The key to measuring results, she says, is to create unique website landing pages to draw and attract your traffic — then you can capture the analytical information you need to measure the results of individual campaigns and media effectively.

2) Create Unique Landing Pages, Web Forms, and Confirmation Pages for Each Ad Campaign

This enables you to benefit from:

  • Accurate data. Gathering and measuring the visitors to these landing pages, and conversions that take place on the landing pages, is easy, particularly when marketing automation, customer relationship management (CRM), Google Analytics, or other analytics solution is used.

  • Custom/relevant messaging. Depending on where your audiences are coming from, you might have specific messaging that speaks to them.

  • Custom/relevant offers. Just as with specific messages, you might have offers for particular audiences. You can tailor offers, such as downloadable content, to each campaign, delivering specifics that are relevant to your various audiences.

You should also develop unique CRM “tags” and special phone numbers for inbound calls — and keep detailed records of everything.

This stuff is much easier to do now than it was before — and the data will, she suggests, provide you a pretty clear indication of results — you can then take things a step further and track the leads through conversion and then measure your return on investment.

The weakness in this strategy relates, in my opinion, to two of the biggest challenges with business-to-business and business-to-government marketing: The long lead development cycle and the relatively small sample size.  With consumer marketing, you can track enough leads quickly enough and see them through to completion. In the non-residential market, where projects are larger, fewer, and often subject to regulations and RFP processes, the lead tracking moves from the statistically significant to a more one-off situation. And we can add to equation that supposedly open and fair competitions have often been “wired” ahead of time from proponents with specific proposals and ideas.

Obviously, professional services can benefit from advertising — we wouldn’t have been able to maintain our specialized publishing business for 25 years unless they could. Effective measurement of ROI, however, in my opinion, remains a major challenge.

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