Lee Frederiksen is an acclaimed author and Managing Partner at Hinge, a re-branding and consulting agency for professional services firms.
I had the distinct pleasure to talk with this very intelligent and successful guest and learn how he used content marketing to attract high revenue clients. Lee shared some truly brilliant marketing ideas with me; I was so impressed that I went back and re-listened to our entire interview.
With clients reaching the billion dollar mark in sales, Lee is an expert in bringing on quality leads and establishing solid relationships. Listen as we discuss lead generation techniques, finding the right firms, and creating a winning content marketing strategy.
(If you want to hear more from agency leaders on lead generation and digital marketing strategy, be sure and check out this podcast episode with Toby Jenkins.)
Listen now and you’ll hear Lee and I talk about:
- (02:30) Guest background and introduction
- (04:30) What are some of the marketing challenges faced by professional services firms?
- (06:00) What are the marketing activities professional services firms should be using?
- (13:30) Can you tell us about your content marketing strategy?
- (23:30) Can you tell us how you ensure your content is seen by your audience?
- (26:30) Please tell us how you capture leads from your site
- (28:30) How do you nurture your leads?
- (34:30) What advice do you have for new content marketers?
- (38:30) Why is niche specialization so important?
- (44:30) Why did you choose professional services opposed to a sub-niche?
- (46:30) How does paid traffic play a role?
More About This Episode
The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.
It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.
— Trent Dyrsmid (@TrentDyrsmid) February 25, 2014
Trent: Hey there, bright idea hunters. Welcome to the Bright Ideas
podcast. I am your host,
Trent Dyrsmid, and this is the podcast where we feature interviews
with entrepreneurs behind some of today’s fastest growing companies.If you’re looking for proven tactics and strategies to help you start
a new business or grow an existing one, you are in the right place.In each and every episode we do an interview with a proven expert, and
I get them to share all the nuts and bolts and the strategies and the
tactics that they have used to achieve that success. In this episode,
that is going to be exactly what you’ve got coming your way.My guest in this episode is a fellow by the name of Lee Frederickson.
He is a managing partner behind a very successful marketing firm
called Hinge.They have a roster of clients that are in the professional services
space from anywhere from about $10 million in annual sales up to over
$1 billion. The client engagements, just for example, one of the types
of engagements that we talked about in this interview is a re-branding
engagement. Those typically will sell for between $80,000 and
$120,000.The way that they have achieved their success and the way that they
attract their clients is through a very, very specific content
marketing strategy, which we dive into in great detail here in this
episode.Lee is a Ph.D., and he is an author of three books on the topic. If
you go to the “About” page of Hinge and you read his bio, you’re going
to see that he is an incredibly well educated and successful
individual.Getting to have a whole hour of his free consulting time here is going
to be incredibly valuable. We’re going to get to that in just a
second.Before we do, speaking of content marketing, if you’re new to the show
and you don’t already know, I have also written a book on content
marketing called the “Digital Marketing Handbook’.You can learn more about that at BrightIdeas.co/book. With that said,
please join me in welcoming Lee to the show.Hi, Lee. Welcome to the show.Lee: Well, hello. It’s a pleasure being here.Trent: Thank you so much for making some time to come on with me and
talk about how
professional services firms can successfully attract more clients.Now, before we get into all of the details of what I’m sure is going
to be a very interesting discussion, I’m sure that many of the folks
in my audience don’t yet know who you are, and so I’d like to give you
an opportunity in your own words to just introduce yourself, who you
are, and what you do.Lee: Okay. I am the managing partner of a firm called Hinge. We are a
marketing firm that specializes exclusively in professional services
organizations. Our clients are management consultants, marketing
firms, accountants, technology companies, architects, engineers, the
kind of people who sell their expertise.That is the only kind of firm we work for. The kinds of things we do
is we help them research their clients, position and brand their
firms, and do marketing programs to generate new leads and
opportunities and turn those into clients.Trent: Okay. So profession services firms. There’s obviously lots of
opportunity there. I know
that applies to a wide range of companies like the ones that you’ve
just listed off. In our pre-chat you had mentioned that you’ve written
three different books to help that particular tribe of individuals to
be more successful at this.Why don’t we kind of dive in right at the very top. Lee, so for
professional services firms, what do you think are some of the biggest
challenges that they face when it comes to client attraction?Lee: Well, there’s actually a lot of commonality across firms. Usually the
biggest thing is how
do I found and attract leads. I think people are sort of stuck in the
notion that the way they do that is they go out and they find people
and they try to convince them that they need to become clients of
those.While that’s certainly a traditional way of doing it, it’s not a very
effective or efficient way. I think the thing is, how do they generate
the leads that get them to the point where they can have a real
substantive conversation about it? They seem less concerned on the
whole with closing the sale than they are with generating the
opportunity in the first place.Trent: Okay. What you’re looking, if I’m understanding you correctly,
the big challenge is you
want to find people who already know that they’re looking. They
already know that they have a problem to solve, and you need to get in
their path of research so that you have an opportunity to have a
conversation with them?Lee: Yes. I think that’s exactly right. Actually, you raised a very
important point there that’s
kind of nuanced but it’s critical, and that is find a person who knows
that they have a problem. Here’s the thing with professional services.
For many problems or business issues that clients face, there’s more
than one potential solution.
For example, if you’re a firm and your margins are weak, you maybe
could have someone help you with cost cutting to improve your margins,
or someone to help you with your process, or someone to automate part
of it, or someone to bring you in new clients with higher margins.
Right away you have four or five potential solutions right off the
top, different directions. The key for professional services is how do
you get in the discussion early enough so you can help shape the
discussion of what is the appropriate solution for that potential
I think what happens is people often start too late. They’re focusing
on, “Well, let me find someone who’s ready to hire a new accounting
firm right now.” Well, there’s only a small proportion of your
potential clients who are ready at the particular moment you want it,
so you may be aiming too late at the process with your efforts.
Trent: Yes, that makes a whole lot of sense. What are some of the
things then that you, in your
books, talk about, are the activities that professional services firms
should be engaged in early on to get themselves on the radar screen of
their prospective clients before it’s too late?
Lee: That’s an excellent question. Let me back up a little bit and give
you a context for what I
think is the right answer to that.
The thing I love about Hinge is that we have an interesting kind of
situation. We decided early on that what we were going to do is we
were going to start out by researching the clients, potential clients,
as thoroughly as we could.
Then, when we found something that was going to be a good potential
solution for professional services firms, we would try it ourselves.
Once we have tried it and we have mastered it for our own, then we
would offer it to our clients. That allowed us then to go into the
situation with potential clients and say, “We’ve got experience with
this. We’ve done it ourselves. It’s based on research. We know how it
works.” That turns out to be an incredibly effective way for us to get
I think if you apply that lesson in what we learned, it’s if you can
find a group of potential clients for which you have not only a
solution that will work with them but have a very credible story to
talk about, then you’re in a position to begin the educational part of
the relationship, which transitions very nicely into actually having
them become a client.
The thing you’re trying to do is demonstrate to your potential client
that you understand the issue thoroughly, that you have a potential
solution, and that you can effectively solve their problem. I’m afraid
that’s a little bit of a roundabout answer, but I think it really gets
the essence to what you need to do.
Trent: Absolutely. Give me an example of what you’re talking about in
something that you guys
did for yourselves. You tested it, you got the research, and then you
started to use that to attract clients.
Lee: I’ll give you one simple example. When we’re doing research on
high growth professional services firms, we found out that they tended
to spend much more of their marketing budget, and their resources
focused on online marketing. We did a piece of research that really
focused in on online marketing for professional services.
We looked at over 500 firms and what they did on online marketing.
What we found was that there was a certain kind of commonality in the
kinds of techniques they used online, that when you boiled it down,
what came up was really a model for content marketing. We embraced
that model, and we started to do it ourselves.
The more we started to do it, the more we got success. The size of our
clients began to increase. The geographic range of them, the budgets,
t sophistication, it’s really been one of the primary drivers of our
growth, and that came from really what the research showed us about
what high performing professional services firms do. We followed that
path and it led to success.
Trent: Let’s dive a little deeper into that, because obviously I’m a
big fan of content marketing.
We have an agency where we do consulting, like you guys do, and all of
our leads come from content that I create very much like this podcast
and posts and so forth.
I’m definitely drinking the Kool-Aid, and I think that there’s a lot
of people here who are listening to this who would love to have more
success with content marketing.
First off I want to ask you, what types of…You’d mentioned you’ve
had success attracting larger clients. Let’s put a little bit of a
definition to what is a “larger client” in terms of annual revenue
that they would generate or annual billings for you. Either way you
want to describe it.
Lee: Well, right now our clients are primarily concentrated in the top 100
firms within their
respective industries. For example, in accounting, if you look at the
top 100 accounting firms nationally, that tends to be where our
clients come from. That’s true of also architecture, engineering,
technology, and so forth.
That’s what I mean, whereas when we started down this path our clients
were primarily local clients. They might have a firm or revenue of a
couple million dollars, five million dollars.
Now our client revenues are in the tens and hundreds of millions of
dollars and many times well above a billion dollars. It’s a much
larger group of firms, and they’re more geographically dispersed.
We’re getting clients literally from all around the world contacting
us with their particular marketing challenges.
Trent: Okay, so these sound like they’re probably pretty good clients
to have. Folks, just so we
know, I’m just setting the stage for the type of client. We are going
to dive into more of the types of content marketing activities that
Lee is doing to get these clients.
But the services that you’re delivering to them, Lee, are they for the
most part retainer type services, where they’re paying you monthly to
do something on an ongoing basis, because content marketing, it’s not
a one-time project?
I’m assuming, looking at your site, that much of the stuff that you’re
doing is in the umbrella of content marketing.
Lee: Yes. It is a balance of both content marketing, ongoing marketing
programs, and one-
time kind of projects. These one-time kind of projects, they’re often
pretty significant. The most common type of one-time project we do is
re-branding, and that will involve doing research, positioning and
messaging, doing all the website and collateral identity work, logo
design, and how that is going to be rolled out. Even though it’s a one-
time project, it can be a pretty substantial project.
Trent: Before we move on from that, if I might, there’s folks in my
audience who haven’t done
that yet, and this might be their first opportunity to think about,
“Hey, maybe I should be doing some of this kind of stuff.” Just for
their curiosity and mine, for a $10 million client, just ballpark.
What would a re-branding project be worth?
Lee: They’re roughly about, I would say $80,000 to $120,000.
Trent: Okay, and that would take you how long to deliver something
like that, from the very
start when they say, “Go ahead,” to “Okay, we’re done.”
Lee: It’s usually within the window of six months to a year.
Lee: Generally, the smaller and the more quickly they can make decisions,
the less time it
Trent: Of course. I would assume that probably the biggest roadblock
to any project being
completed is just the client not being able to respond quick enough.
Lee: Yes, yes. Exactly.
Lee: They’re all busy, almost by definition, all of the time.
Lee: Many times marketing, for the top management, marketing isn’t
something where they
have the deepest background. Sometimes things can go wrong and it can
become a stand-in for other kinds of issues that an organization is
struggling with when you’re re-branding or repositioning, but that’s
Most of them have pretty clear reasons why they need to re-brand, and
want to move along quickly.
Trent: Okay. Now let’s talk about the content that you’re using to
attract these folks. I want to
give this a bit of a framework as well. A book is what I’ll call big
content. A blog post or a video or a podcast like this is what I call
kind of middle content.
Then tweets and social sharing is what I call tiny content. First off,
you’re obviously doing a mix of all three of those, because you’ve got
three books, you’ve got a blog, and you have social profiles.
Trent: In terms of attracting this kind of client, can you just kind
of walk us through your
content marketing strategy at the high level? So the concept first,
and then I’ll ask some follow on questions to dig into some details.
Lee: Sure. Well, the concept is that you need content at all of those
levels, each of those levels.
You need to have the very small content, the mid-level, and all the
way to the deeper content to have a full bodied program. Yes, we have
content at all of those levels.
But if you step back a second and you say which are the streams of
content you have, if you look at those as sort of like individual
programs, you start with what are the types of services and solutions
that I want to offer to a client population, and what is the specific
population or target group that I want to offer it to.
Those kinds of decisions, those generally get made by some kind of a
marketing analysis, or it may already be obvious to you because of
your background as a firm or as an individual where your sweet spot
is, where you can deliver the most value. That’s kind of where you
You say, “If the endpoint is someone who needs to engage me to deliver
this kind of service, what’s the starting point? What are the earliest
symptoms that they would have where this might be the possible
That’s at the front end of your funnel. Your small content and your
blog posts, beyond that, those are the kinds of things that deal
generally with the issues at the issue level. You’re not at the
solution level yet. You’re at the issue and diagnosis.
As you go further down the funnel you deal with more about, “Of this
issue, what are the possible solutions, and what are the things that
indicate this is the right solution?” How do you think about this
problem in a way that will help you solve it? What are the
alternatives that you could consider, and when is the solution that I,
as an organization, want to offer? When is that the appropriate one,
because you don’t want to try and get the wrong people?
Content marketing is as much about qualifying leads as it is
attracting them. At the end of the process, as you get further down
into it, you’re dealing more and more with the specifics of what is
Then, eventually, the person will say, “I want to talk to you about
this. I want a proposal. I want to explore working together.” At that
point, then you get into the discussions about specifically how you do
it and how much your services cost and why you might or might not be a
good match for this person.
I think the mistake a lot of people make is they try to jump to the
end in the very beginning. They say, “Hey, we’ve got great services.
You should work with us,” which is silly. Nobody’s going to do that.
Trent: Yes, yes. It’s like walking into a cocktail party and saying,
“Here’s my card. Let’s do
Lee: I use the slightly cruder metaphor of it’s like going on your first
date and asking the
person whether they would like to marry you.
Trent: Yes, doesn’t work.
Lee: It’s jumping way too far ahead too fast.
Trent: Okay, so let’s use the accounting niche as the guinea pig
vertical for the next couple of
Trent: Folks in the audience here, they’re thinking, “Yes, okay,” I
want to go after accountants,
“What should I be blogging about so that I can start to get in the
path of their discovery?”
Trent: So what topics would you be writing about?
Lee: Well, again, I think you need to start with the services that you’re
going to offer as you’re
thinking. In the context of your question, let’s say that you wanted
to do consulting with them on IT security for example. I’ll just use
Trent: Can I interrupt? Most of…
Trent: …the people listening to this will be in the business that
you’re in. They sell marketing
services, so why don’t we just talk about what you blogged about to
get into the path for these people?
Lee: Okay. Well, in our case we were looking at branding and marketing
services. We asked
ourselves, “Okay. Who is in a position to need branding services in
accounting?” We’ll just take that to simplify the discussion.
We said, “Well, okay. These are firms that might have gone through a
merger or are considering it. These are firms that potentially want to
accelerate their growth to grow faster. Or these are firms that might
want to reposition themselves to go after a different audience.
Or these could be firms that just haven’t addressed this for a while,
and they are just out of date. Their websites and their marketing
materials are out of date.” Right away we have four or five different
topic areas that could all be appropriate reasons.
We say, “Okay. What are the types of topics that people who are going
through a merger or considering going through a merger would be
interested in?” We would write blog posts about post-merger
integration, or how is your brand impacted by a merger, or what are
the challenges of generating leads in a merged firm.
All of these things are things that someone in a position to hire us
would be interested in and would likely be thinking about and be on
their mind. We’re not dealing with how we help you re-brand. We’re
dealing with what are the issues that you’re facing when you have the
kind of problem that would lead you to consider working with us.
Trent: Yes. It’s really quite straightforward hearing you explain it.
You’re identifying who is my
target audience, and what are the problems that they have. I am going
to blog about ways to solve those problems. Boil it down, real simple,
that’s what you’ve just said.
Lee: Yes, exactly. That’s what we’ve said. It seems too simple on one
level. It’s so interesting.
I find that people just really oftentimes don’t think about it that
way, because they get so focused on their own services that they lose
sight of who the client is and what their world is really like.
They’re the same.
They’re also professional services providers, just like us. They have
the same crazy schedule. They don’t have enough time. They can’t
research something thoroughly.
They’re not going to sit down and read your wonderful website that’s
got 17 paragraphs of content about why they should work with you.
They’re not going to do that. They’re going to do what you do.
Go to a website. They’re going to skim it. They’re going to look at
- They’re going to try and get what does this person do? Can they
help me? Is this useful?
Trent: How do you ensure, because you said some very interesting
things there. They’re busy,
which means they’re probably not sitting at their desk all day just
reading other people’s blogs. Content that isn’t consumed, it might as
well not have been written in the first place.
We’ll stick with the post-merger theme here just for the next part of
this discussion. Do you combine outbound outreach of some kind with
this content that you’re creating so that the people you’re creating
it for discover that the content even exists? How do you get them
Lee: What our research showed, and again, we are pretty disciplined about
when we find
something in research, that’s the direction we go, we found that the
important keys were, number one is SEO, search engine optimization.
In other words, you have to write the content that is on the front end
of your funnel, and not so much the back end, but it’s on the front
end of your funnel, has to be written in a way so that when people are
searching for a topic, like post-merger integration or re-branding,
that they come across your blog posts or the kinds of things that
you’re doing. That’s kind of number one. That’s the must have.
The second thing that we do is we use social media. LinkedIn, Twitter,
to a lesser extent Facebook for our audience. Some of the verticals
are on Facebook, so we do some sharing on there. We share as widely as
we can in social media and discuss it in LinkedIn groups and so forth.
Then we do other kinds of outreach like speaking engagements, that
kind of thing. What we don’t do is we don’t do cold calling. We don’t
do rented lists. We don’t do very much networking other than to
maintain relationships and so forth when we have it. We don’t spend a
lot of time going out to networking and hoping to run into people.
Trent: Yes, that’s kind of a glorified cold call.
Lee: Yes, yes. Our whole goal with this is, can we get something that’s
useful and interesting
that’s going to capture your attention in front of you? Can we share
something that you would find useful?
Trent: All right. We’ll assume that you’ve got some success getting
the right eyeballs on the
right content, but you still need to move the ball forward, because if
they read it and they don’t do anything, that’s obviously not helping
them and it’s not helping you.
What are some of the ways that you ensure that a piece of content
causes, I’m going to call it a conversion, are somehow moving them
forward? Talk to me about how you do that.
Lee: Well, every piece of content should have a next step, should have,
“What should I do
next?” For content that’s at the early end of the funnel, that next
step is usually content that is somewhat more engaging. For example,
with a blog post, we might offer a guide that we have.
Our guides tend to be 25 to 35 pages long, that kind of talks about a
subject in more depth, whether that might be a subject like re-
branding or content marketing or SEO, and these are all kind of
related to services that we offer. That might be a next step.
Another next step could be a webinar or some other kind of educational
event that we’re doing, or it could be an e-book that we’re
publishing, or it could be a more extended piece of research. Any of
the things that would be more useful to a person who’s more interested
in that topic to take the next step.
Trent: Okay. Now, behind the scenes, what I call behind the screen,
when someone registers to
download one of your lead magnets, be it a webinar, an e-book or what
have you, what are some of the things…
Do you have an automated marketing funnel that’s attempting to nurture
and segment these people, or does that lead go to people in your team
who would then make a follow-up phone call? What happens?
Lee: Well, the one thing it doesn’t do, when someone downloads a piece of
content, we do not
jump on that person and make an outbound phone call or do anything to
try to convert them at that point.
We feel like that is really not what the person is asking for, because
if they’re asking to talk to us to discuss how we might help them,
they are going to reach out to us, we found out. If they’re not asking
for them, we don’t find that you talk people into re-branding or
marketing their firm or anything like that.
These are not impulse purchases, or they’re not something where you’re
going to talk them into it. These are things that people come to
through their education and understanding of what the situation is
they’re facing, and it has to be a high enough priority for them. If
it’s not, what you will end up with is a lot of leads that go nowhere,
that aren’t really opportunities.
You may have a person temporarily interested, but the next time
something comes up and distracts them, they’ll be on to something
else. You have to really deal with people who have a real business
challenge for which you are a genuine appropriate timely important
Trent: That makes perfect sense. I want to be clear. Then, when
someone downloads the report
from your site, obviously they go into your database. They get the
report via an email. Do they get any more follow-up emails or anything
after that, or is the onus simply now on them to contact you if
they’re really that interested?
Lee: They do get follow-up emails, but what the emails are isn’t an
attempt to convert them.
It’s offers for more engaging content. For example, if you downloaded
a white paper or, let’s say a guide or something, you might get an
offer for, “Here’s our latest e-book,” or “Here’s some research on a
related topic,” or “Here’s a webinar.”
We have tested some programs where we’ve been very specific about what
the person gets, but we find in general, if you expose them to a range
of other content and other opportunities, the thing that they
downloaded first may not be the thing that is their current interest
or becomes the thing they work with you on.
Sometimes it is, but sometimes it isn’t. They may have downloaded
something on how to differentiate their firm, but in the end they
really need a new website.
Trent: So you’re basically segmenting them by the activity that they
take, which is the reports
that they download, and each progressive report that they download,
does that have an influence on the next set of reports that you would
send to them?
Have you built that kind of logic into the funnel, or is it simply a
linear process that everyone goes through and they just pick whichever
report they want?
Lee: I think in general it tends to be a linear process, but that’s not
completely because it
sometimes is very dependent on what they’re done. For example, we use
the example of someone who downloaded a report.
Let’s say the next step they do is they attend a webinar on marketing
planning. At that webinar we’ll often make an offer that we’ll do a
phone consultation with you to go over your marketing plan and give
you some feedback on it.
That would not be an offer that we would necessarily make to everyone.
We’re making it to someone who has had that level of engagement.
They’ve taken that next step.
Then some proportion of people will say, “Yes, I want to do that.”
Then that gives us an opportunity to engage with them more, determine
whether they have a good fit, whether there’s a need, and some of them
It becomes somebody calls. They will say, “Well, you know what? We
wanted to talk about the marketing plan, but what I really want to
talk to you about is re-branding.”
Trent: Okay. For folks who are earlier on, and I’m going back here
because I know I have a
meaningful portion of my audience that’s going to be going, “Wow, this
sounds awesome, but it also sounds a little bit overwhelming. How am I
going to get all the time to create all this content?” Everything
starts, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
I guess, what advice would you give someone who is either not yet
started with content marketing or they’re relatively early? They’ve
just maybe started to blog. What activities do you think would be the
highest and best use of their time?
Lee: I think, and this might be counter-intuitive, but I think the most
valuable thing they could
do when they’re just getting started is research on their target
audience. The reason I say that is because that is where you get two
benefits from that.
Number one, you’re going to get a better feeling for what are the real
issues and opportunities for your kinds of services with that target
That is so important because, as human beings, we don’t know what we
don’t know. We spend so much time justifying it that we don’t need to
do things because we already know them.
What our research clearly shows is that we don’t know our potential
clients as well as we think we do. We just don’t. You have to accept
that. That’s a part of being human. You think you know them, but there
are probably gaps in your knowledge that you can fill in by doing that
The second thing it does is, by gathering that research, that gives
you something substantive to talk about, to write about. You go to,
let’s say that you want to consult on marketing with hospitals. We’ll
use that as another example.
If you go and you talk to those hospital administrators and those
marketing directors and you truly understand what they’re struggling
with, even though it may not seem like it has anything to do with
marketing or branding or any of that, it’s a rare organization that
some of their key problems are not in some way related to marketing.
It really is.
Even if those are some of the things getting in the way, your ability
to talk about those problems, those issues, and how they’re related to
what you do is one of the keys.
How do you relate the kind of services you do to the things that
they’re talking about in their organization? That is going to right
away make you more relevant and make your blog posts and the things
you’re doing as the things they’re most focused on, where their heads
are at today.
Trent: That makes an awful lot of sense. If folks don’t have this type
of research, do you simply
reach out to people, cold email or social media, and say, “Hey, we
need to gather some data. We’re producing another research report?”
What is it that you say to get a stranger to say, “Yes, okay. I’ll
spend some time helping you with answers to your questions?”
Lee: Well, I think you’ll find that people are pretty generally willing to
share their information
or to share some research related thing if they’re going to get the
results or if they feel like knowing those results will be helpful to
Even then, if you approach them kind of openly about what you’re
doing, we find that many, many people are willing to talk to you.
Plus, if you’re going after this area, you probably already have
contacts in there and you can network your way into it, and you can
begin small and build up from there.
The impediment to doing it is not that you can’t get people to
cooperate. The impediment to doing it is what’s between your ears,
where you talk yourself out of it and say, “Oh, they won’t talk to me.
They won’t do this. They won’t do that. This couldn’t happen. That
can’t happen.” That’s the thing that gets in your way; not the reality
Trent: Yes, I’m glad you pointed that out because I agree completely.
You don’t need to get to
talk to 10 strangers. You need to get to talk to one, and if you have
a nice conversation, more than likely when you say, “Who else should I
talk to?” they’re going to refer you to the next one.
Lee: Exactly, exactly.
Trent: Yes, okay. What haven’t I asked you about that you think is an
important piece to include
in this discussion? I think we’ve covered a lot of really great stuff
already, but you’ve got three books on this topic, and I don’t have
all three of them in front of me at the moment, so I’m sure there’s
Lee: Yes. There are a lot of things. I think one of the things that is the
biggest barrier for a lot
of people is the whole concept of specialization. I want to focus on
that because it’s a scary topic to people.
People, even marketing people who intellectually know that
specializing and focusing is a better way, they may know that
intellectually, but on an emotional level, they’re just afraid to give
They’re afraid that, “If I say I specialize in working with hospitals,
what if someone from a catering service calls me and they want to work
with me? What then?”
What they don’t realize is that the benefits of specializing so far
outweigh the cost with any business that you will potentially give up
that it is an even close. That’s one of the things that not only our
research shows but our experience shows, that specializing, while it
is not an emotionally easy thing to do and feels risky, is really the
safest thing you can do.
Now, someone says, “Well, what if I specialize in the wrong thing?
What if I specialize in this?” What we’ve found out is that generally,
the specialist, if you’re in the marketing area or in in general the
business development, helping them grow, it’s awfully recession
Sometimes it’s actually industries that are in trouble that are the
best clients that are looking for help more than industries that are
We saw that in the last recession, where the architecture, engineering
and construction segment just got absolutely battered in the last
recession. Turned out to be an excellent group of clients, because
those that made it through the first wave, they said, “You know, I
didn’t have to do anything before. Just show up and I would get
business. Now I have to actually figure out what I’m going to do.”
Lee: It’s not always intuitive. If you really are in tune with an
industry, you do find out where
those opportunities are, and you have a tremendous advantage over
someone who’s a generalist.
Trent: Yes, no kidding. Sorry, I’m just jotting notes here down. That
is such incredibly sage
advice, and I’m glad that you thought to bring that up.
Now, for someone who is saying, “Okay, yes. I’m sold on this
specialization thing. Give me some criteria. There’s all these
industries to choose from. Help me narrow the list down to at least a
subset so that I can start to go do some research on that subset,”
what are some of the criteria that you would suggest that people
consider when trying to go from the whole field to that slice of the
pie they’re going to maybe start to do the research on?
Lee: Well, it starts out with looking where you have a competitive
advantage. If you peel back
how people specialize, almost always what you find out is, “Oh, I used
to work in that industry. “My spouse works in that industry”. “We’ve
got several clients in that and it’s really interesting.”
It’s some kind of an advantage or an entree you have into an industry
that gives you the ability to look at it differently than a generalist
would look at it. That’s where I would focus first.
If it’s not that, then you’re just looking at very general things,
like, where is there a market, where do I think the industry is going
to be down the road. I’m constantly amazed at the niches people have
There are the environment with the range of industries, and which ones
you could focus on is so broad and so deep that there is most likely
going to be something when you even pause for a moment and look at
where you have the experience, where you have the interest and
Trent: Yes, and that makes perfect sense as well. In looking at your
homepage, there’s a number
of things that scroll through in the featured section, and one of them
is of course that we specialize in professional services, marketing,
and branding, with that cool little airplane.
Was there a reason why you didn’t go more niche and say, and maybe you
did this in the past, “We specialize in engineering firms,” because in
North America there are lots of engineering firms?
Trent: Your message would have been even more relevant to that sub-
niche of the professional
Lee: That’s a very perceptive question, and it is exactly precisely the
strategic discussion that
we have when we said, “Is professional services too broad a niche? Do
we need to go narrower?” because we observed that there were a lot of
people who were just focusing on one vertical. I think the answer to
that question about how broad or how narrow is your niche has to do
with how people see themselves.
Are they part of a broader industry or not? In other words, the
clothing store, do they see themselves as being a retailer or a
clothing retailer? Where is their primary identification? That kind of
tells you what the client will accept as being relevant to them.
It’s a battle. We took a calculated risk that we could build a brand
that cut across professional services that included multiple ones.
When we did it, we didn’t know whether it was going to work or not,
whether the psychology of our buyers would allow it.
Well, in the end it was successful for us, but we also didn’t just
rely on that, because we have verticals within the architecture,
engineering and construction or the technology area, and we have
people that are devoted just to those verticals.
We believed that the brand could handle all of professional services,
and so far it seems to have worked. But we didn’t start there. We also
built within the individual niches.
Trent: Do you have landing pages and special reports that are devoted
to the sub-niches of
professional services that I simply just can’t easily navigate my way
through to from the homepage of the blog?
Lee: Yes. We have landing pages. We have research reports. We have case
studies. We have
things that are devoted to each of the niches. That’s actually
something that we’re continuing to strengthen. Sort of every year by
year we go deeper and broader within the niches within the things we
offer, the people we partner with, and so forth.
Trent: Does paid traffic play a role at all in getting the right
eyeballs onto the right offers,
meaning those landing pages that are top of funnel for you?
Lee: It can. It can, and particularly in certain situations, where you
have keywords that you
want to be found for but you can’t get to when you have, we’ve used it
in the promotion of some of our books as they’ve been released to get
a little bit broader release of them. It’s certainly a component. It
isn’t necessarily the most efficient way.
But having said that, we have a number of clients or people that we’ve
studied who have relied very heavily on paid promotion, and it’s
worked well for them where they’ve promoted that content. Certainly
don’t rule it out, but it’s not generally where you look first.
Trent: A follow on question to that is, have you ever for yourselves
or for your clients used paid
traffic as a means of testing the viability of a keyword, a major
keyword, before embarking on a content creation strategy for that
Why I ask that question, as I’m sure you’re aware, not all keywords
have the same value. Some of them have a much higher converting value
just by the nature of the keyword. The people who are searching for
that are more likely to become a buyer of whatever it is you’re
selling versus some other keyword.
Trent: Paid traffic’s a very fast way to test it. Do you do that?
Lee: We’ve done a little of that, but generally we’ve found that we’re
focused on getting the
right kind of content. If we can’t draw the traffic with SEO, then
we’ll use that particular topic, we might use that as a guest post in
somewhere where we can draw the traffic, or as a conference speech or
an article or something.
So there’s more than one way to draw traffic. Keywords, that’s what
does the bulk of the work day in and day out, but it’s certainly not
the only way to draw attention or traffic to an idea.
Trent: Well, Lee, I think we should probably wrap up pretty quick
here. We’ve been about 46
minutes so far. Before we do that, a couple of very quick questions.
Obviously, if people want to get a hold of you, they go to
hingemarketing.com, and then there’s all sorts of ways that they can
learn more about your organization and interact with you.
The books that you offer, if anyone wants to get, what are the titles
of the three books, and then how can people get them if they want to?
Lee: Okay. They’re available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or also as
downloads from our
website. They’re free electronic versions at the website. The first
book is called “Spiraling Up”, and it deals with high growth
professional services firms. We looked at what they do differently
than average firms.
The second one is called “Online Marketing for Professional Services”.
That is based on a study of 500 professional services firms and how
they use online marketing and what the fastest growing ones do.
The third book is called “Inside the Buyer’s Brain”. That is a
combination of over 1,300 interviews of buyers of professional
services, also called clients, people who purchase services, and
sellers, and how they see the world differently and the blind spots
that the sellers have.
All three of them are available in those sources, and they’re all
really based on research, as all of our things are.
Trent: Okay, fantastic. As you’ve been talking, I’m trying to download
all these things. “Inside
the Buyer’s Brain” was very easy to find. Just so that I and the
listeners can find the other two on your site, how do I get there?
Lee: You go to the Library.
Lee: In the Library, you’ll see where it will say “Books”.
Trent: You know, I’m sometimes blind as a bat. Didn’t even see the
Library button beside the
Blog button. All right.
Lee: They’re different, and that’s why you have to be clear with your
navigation. That’s the one
thing you don’t want to be innovative about, is your navigation
Trent: Yes, I would agree. Do what everybody else is doing, because
people expect that the
doorknob’s going to be in the middle of the door; not up at the top or
Lee: That’s right.
Trent: Lee, I want to thank you very much. I learned some really good
from this interview, and so I have no doubt that my audience did as
well. I do want to thank you very much more making the time to come
and spend some time with us here on the show.
Lee: Thank you very much for having me. It was a pleasure chatting with
Trent: All right. You take care and have a wonderful day.
Lee: Okay, thank you. Bye-bye.
Trent: Okay, to get to the show notes for this episode, go to
BrightIdeas.co/93. If you really
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That’s it for this episode. I am your host, Trent Dyrsmid. Thank you
so much for tuning in. I look forward to seeing you again in the next
episode. Take care.
About Lee Frederiksen
Lee Frederiksen, Ph.D., is an award-winning marketer and renowned business strategist who helped pioneer the field of research-driven marketing. A rare combination of businessman and research scientist, Lee draws on his Ph.D. in behavioral psychology and his entrepreneurial experience as CEO of three successful firms to help clients achieve high growth and profitability. His research also forms the basis for his six highly acclaimed books on the topics of organizational growth, marketing, and business strategy.