High-growth professional services firms tend to place more emphasis on blogging, SEO, and social networking—and they generate a higher proportion of their business leads via online sources—than do their peers, according to a study by Hinge Marketing.

High-growth businesses are defined in the study as those growing at least 20% per year over two successive years.

Among the 500 professional services businesses participating in the survey, high-growth firms were found in all professional services sectors; however, some sectors had a higher proportion of high-growth firms than others.

An index was calculated to show how likely a high-growth firm would be associated with a particular industry. A value of 1.0 implies that a firm would have an average chance of finding itself in the high-growth category. Similarly, a value of 0.5 indicates that a firm in that industry would be half as likely to be a high-growth company.

High-growth firms were most likely to be in the technology (1.70), management consulting (1.41), and marketing/communications (1.19) industries:

Below, additional findings from Hinge Marketing's new report titled "Online Marketing for Professional Services Firms, Marketing Communications Edition," based on a survey of 500 professional services companies.

Key Online Tactics Among High-Growth Companies

Participating firms ranked various online marketing tactics according to how much focus their firm places on each one. (The ratings are on a scale of 0 to 10 with a rating of 0 indicating the firm does not use the tactic and a 10 indicating a heavy reliance on the tactic.)

Compared with all marketing/communications services firms, high-growth firms (from all surveyed sectors) reported somewhat heavier use of most digital marketing tactics such as blogging, SEO, and social channels, including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. A notable exception was is in the areas of email marketing and company e-newsletters.

Higher-growth firms also place more emphasis on publishing whitepapers and e-books, as well as usability testing and PPC advertising.

High-growth firms are also more likely to conduct other marketing activities, including the following:

  • Website updates: 75% of high-growth services firms update their websites as often as once a week, compared with roughly one-half of all marketing/communications companies.
  • Website redesign: More than 80% of high-growth services firms undertook website redesigns within the last year, compared with 68% of marketing/communications firms.
  • Use of online contact forms: Nearly 80% of high-growth firms use online contact forms as their primary form of contact, compared with 36% of marketing/communications firms.

Online Lead Generation

Among the businesses surveyed, 77% generate at least some new-business leads online; most (62.4%) generate 39% or less of total leads online, and 14.8% generate 40-100% of their leads via online sources.

Marketing/communications firms rank highest in online lead activity, generating 31.4% of leads online. Tech services firms rank second with 20.2%, followed by management consulting (15.9%), accounting services (11.4%), and A/E/C services (architecture, engineering, and construction) (8.3%):

Across all sectors studied, professional services firms that generated at least 40% of business leads via online sources tended to be higher-growth companies, reporting two-year median growth rates of 53% on average:

*Given the potential of very large and very small firms to skew the results, median values were selected as the most stable measure of central tendency.

About the data: Findings are from a survey of 500 professional services businesses consisting of five primary industry groups: architecture/engineering/construction; marketing/communications; management consulting; and accounting/finance. Overall, respondents hold senior-level positions, working in companies with an average of 319 employees and earning $54 million in annual revenues. In addition, the third quarter of 2012 Hinge interviewed an expert panel of 20 online marketing leaders about their views on online marketing techniques.

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Key Online Tactics of High-Growth Professional Services Firms

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