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Professional services firms face numerous challenges and threats to their growth, including increased competition, commoditization and a shortage of talent. That being said, Hinge Research Institute found that out of all the professional service firms that participated in its study [download page], 30% were considered high growth – and those firms are growing almost 5 times faster than those with average growth.

For the purposes of its study, Hinge defined high growth firms as ones that experienced 20% or greater compound annual growth in revenue over a 3-year period.

What are these high-growth firms doing differently than those not performing as well? If their marketing priorities are any indication, it’s that they are putting special emphasis on setting themselves apart from other professional services firms.

Differentiation From Competitors Takes Top Priority

Setting themselves apart from the pack is a struggle that businesses across most sectors struggle with. For example, the CMO Council reported that e-commerce brands are looking for ways to differentiate themselves from competitors. It’s no different for professional services firms: about 6 in 10 (59%) say that differentiation is a marketing priority, making it their top focus overall.

Almost half (46%) of professional service marketers also listed choosing the right marketing mix as a top priority. This was followed by developing a content marketing plan (44%) and modernizing or redesigning their website (36%). Rounding out the top 5 priorities was improving the performance of their website (34%).

High-growth firms also have the advantage of more investment in marketing efforts. These firms had a median marketing budget of 5% of annual revenues, compared to the 3% shared by both no-growth and average growth firms. This is consistent with last year’s findings, which showed that just over one-fifth of high-growth professional services firms had a budget of 20% or more of revenue compared to fewer than 5% of no-growth firms.

High-Growth Firms Use Both Digital and Traditional Channels

A key aspect that makes a firm high-growth is that they don’t concentrate all their marketing efforts on one particular set of channels, according to the report. Recognizing that to get their targets’ attention, they need to go where the targets are most willing to consume the message, high-growth firms are using an equal mix of digital (i.e. email, social and SEO) and traditional (i.e. events, branding and consultations) marketing channels.

On the traditional marketing side, half of the high-growth firms utilized events – either through networking at, sponsoring or speaking at target events. Aside from lead generation, events can provide valuable data for corporate databases/CRM efforts and business intelligence.

The Subject-Matter Skills Advantage

Success in channels such as events requires highly skilled subject-matter experts (SME). Another advantage high-growth professional services firms have is access to these highly skilled SMEs.

When respondents were asked to rate their SMEs on various key business development skills such as speaking, writing and networking, half of the high-growth firms gave their SMEs a skills rating of 9 or 10 (on a 10-point scale) in networking face-to-face. Only 38.2% of no-growth firms gave their SMEs a high rating in networking.

Other business development skills where high-growth firms feel their experts excel include putting together slide presentations (48%), speaking on webinars or podcasts (34%), writing short articles or blog posts (33%) and writing technical articles or white papers (27%).

To read more, download the report’s executive summary here.

About the Data: Over 1,000 professional services firms participated in the survey, however, Hinge looked at firms that generated more than $1 million annual revenue. 349 met this criteria for analysis.

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