Monthly Archives: February 2011

Should you connect with people you don’t really know on LinkedIn?

LinkedIn says ‘no’: but I’ve recently been part of a group discussion on LinkedIn on this very topic and it seems people are divided. There appear to be three schools of thought:

 

  1. Those who only connect with people they know (i.e. have met in person) because they want to be able to introduce their connections to others in their network and vice versa, they see LinkedIn as a networking aid rather than a network per-se, or their objective is to keep in touch with existing contacts.
  2. Those (a minority group) who are happy to connect freely with others because they see LinkedIn as a giant search engine and the more people they are connected to the greater their reach. They see anyone as a potential referrer. I have seen this approach work amazingly well for some people – particularly if their product or service appeals to a broad target audience.
  3. Those (and this is where I fall) who sit somewhere in between. They will connect, selectively, with those they haven’t actually met based on their own criteria – such as ensuring people are in their industry sector, share valuable content, have been involved in the same discussions etc.

A recent poll of over 11,000 LinkedIn users supports these three schools of thought. It found that 50% of respondents know virtually all their connections, a further 41% know their connections or are selective about accepting those they don’t really know, while the remaining 9% are connected to people they don’t know, either in their field of expertise or more widely.

These findings show how different we all are. Ultimately, you have to do what’s right for you. And that will largely depend on your objectives for being on LinkedIn. There may be very good reasons why you would connect with people you have never met in person.

However, if you want to connect with someone you’ve never actually met, you need to tailor your invitation to connect and provide some context. Explain how you have come across the person and why you would like to connect with them (what’s in it for them?)…and make sure you read their profile first!

Our recommendations:

  • Do what’s right for you – if you are on LinkedIn simply to keep up with your current contacts and to introduce them to others in your network, then you probably won’t want to connect with others you don’t really know. However, if you want to grow your business/practice then there may be very good reasons why you might want to expand your network beyond those you have met in person.
  • Ensure your firm’s social media policy is flexible enough that it allows people within your organisation, who would benefit from connecting with those they haven’t met in person, to do so – there is no one size fits all approach and it’s very much a personal choice. However, do ensure your team members have a plan and know what is/isn’t acceptable in terms of their social media activities. Clear guidelines and training are great, but then you need to trust them.
  • Read peoples’ profiles before you invite them to connect. Tailor your invitation – let the person know how you have come across them and why you want to add them to your network. Think about the benefits to the other person rather than yourself – what’s in it for them?
  • If people you don’t know invite you to connect, look at their profile before accepting. Are they someone with whom you want to be associated? Use your own judgment and, if you subsequently realise you shouldn’t have connected with someone, remove them from your network.

What’s your view on connecting with people you haven’t met? For those who have done so, what benefits, if any, have you derived?

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Client charters – what should you include?

Client Charters, Client Agreements, Client SLA’s are often put in place between firms and important clients. These are the standards, above and beyond any regulatory obligations, that the firm agrees to meet when servicing the client. Firms are also using them as a statement of how all clients can expect to be serviced.

It is becoming more common for clients to dictate what these should be, and have their panel firms agree to abide by these standards, or face the consequences. However, having standards which you commit to servicing your clients by shouldn’t be exclusively dictated by your clients.

A client specific charter should state the nature of the relationship, what value you will provide their business, and what it is you are there to help them achieve, e.g. “grow your business to the largest in your sector”. It should also include information which is relevant to your relationship, for example:

  • Key contact points – e.g. client partners who will treat the client as a priority
  • Agreed processes – e.g. getting approval for fee estimates or new instructions
  • Value added services – details of those you have agreed and how the client can use them
  • Escalation policy – e.g. processes for complaints or disagreements
  • Billing or invoicing arrangements
  • Any other agreed or non-standard arrangements with the client e.g. regular relationship meetings or secondments

SLA’s are often a distracting factor in client charters. They should be agreed at the outset of every piece of work because different work has different requirements. Client charters are a great way to capture agreed goals and the ways in which you wish to run a relationship. Where they often stumble is when they try and be too specific or encompass every possible issue. They should be living documents which are reviewed regularly against the agreed outcomes, which means they will change from time to time. The other common pitfall is where the board, or the relationship partners negotiate the charter, but fail to inform the team who will be doing the work.

So, if you are going to develop a client specific charter:

  • State the nature of the relationship and the client goals upfront
  • Keep it relevant to the client
  • Focus on the ‘non standard’ areas
  • Focus on the client (internal firm processes are not important, outcomes are)
  • Keep it as simple as possible
  • Train your team!

We think firms should have client charters for their important clients, but SLA’s should be agreed for each individual matter.

What’s your view? Do you have client charters that are working, and what do they include?

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Why great content alone is NOT king

There have been some great blogs lately about the importance of creating and sharing good content. Late last year Great Jakes even predicted that 2011 will be the year that content marketing becomes king. And I think they’re right – particularly their prediction that websites will become publishing platforms.

However, I believe compelling content alone is NOT king.  Here’s why:

If you want to position yourself as a thought leader and to generate work as a result of sharing your compelling content, then two other components are vital:

  1. Timing
  2. Distribution

Ideally you want to be the person who brings an issue to your target audience’s attention, or who provides them with great, thought-provoking information about a topical (or upcoming) subject.

However,  I regularly interview clients of professional services firms who say:

“I received X’s newsletter/alert on the new [employment law changes]. It was really interesting but we had already engaged someone to help us with that. Had X called us to give us a heads up before the changes occured, and then followed up with some brief information about the changes and what they might mean for us when the [new legislation] came out, they would have got our work.”

I’d say a lot of professional services firms miss out on work because the content they share, while valuable, is often poorly timed or sent out via only one channel when a multitude of channels would be better. If you’ve done the work, make sure you share it with those who will benefit from it.

My recommendations?

  • Make sure you are the one to bring an important subject/trend/development to your clients’ attention and then keep them informed as and when necessary.
  • Use a variety of channels to share your content with your target audience and to engage with them – both offline and online (face to face is always the best form of contact with key clients and targets followed by phone, and then email and online).
  • Leverage issues – pick an issue and make sure you’re all over it, or know enough to ignite discussion, inform clients or ask pertinent questions.
  • Ensure your online content is readily accessible on your website or blog and that you notify your clients of updates.
  • Direct people to your online content using social media, email etc. but think about when the best time to do this might be. If you are posting on Facebook then most people tend to be online during the evenings and weekends. If you’re using LinkedIn then during working hours is the best time to post.

When you’re thinking about what content you’re going to share, also think about when and how you’re going to share it – it might make all the difference between winning work and missing out.

What do you think?

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Are you leveraging LinkedIn?

A number of professionals I’ve spoken to recently have mentioned that they’re on LinkedIn, they’ve got quite a few connections, but they’re not sure what to do next.
If you want to leverage LinkedIn but aren’t sure how, then here are six tips to help get you started (I’d love to hear any tips you have to share too):
1. As with anything, the first thing you need to do is plan -
  • write down the key things you would like to achieve as a result of being on LinkedIn – For example, do you want to position yourself as a specialist in a particular area?   do you want to build your profile among CEOs in the telecommunications sector? do you want to keep on top of issues in your area of expertise? do you want to generate more work?
  • write down who you want to engage with, how you’re going to engage with them, and how often you’re going to engage with them.
  • write down how you will measure your efforts - for example, number of click throughs to links you share or number and quality of responses to discussions you start. My friend Natalie Sisson, the Suitcase Entrepreneur, has developed a fantastic spreadsheet to measure the ROI of her social media activities. It’s really helped me and hopefully it will you too.

2. Ensure your profile is compelling and complete (see our earlier blog post for some tips on this).

3. Join groups that your target audience(s) belong to. Contribute to relevant discussions where you have a view and can demonstrate your expertise, and answer questions. Be yourself – and be curious. When you feel comfortable start initiating discussions with your target audience(s) – some people are great at this – learn from them. Look at past discussions within the groups you belong to and see which sorts of questions generated the best discussions.

4. Share relevant, timely content with your target audience(s). If you can share content that others will want to comment on then that’s even better because LinkedIn is all about engaging with others. Types of content you might want to share include white papers, articles you’ve written, tips and how to’s, podcasts, seminars you’ve presented …the list is endless. Also forward content generated by others (both within your firm and externally) that you have found interesting to people in your network who might also benefit from it.

5. Use your status box (‘share an update’) to engage with those in your direct network. Ask questions, share links to useful information etc. The new ‘search updates’ function that LinkedIn launched last week provides a real opportunity for people outside your network, interested in a particular subject to view your network updates. However, in order for them to find your updates, you need to ensure each one contains the keywords your target audience(s) is likely to search for. For example, if you have something to share about developing a social media policy ensure your update contains these words.

6. Use LinkedIn to help you plan – at a firm, practice group, sector, client and individual level – it’s great for identifying who you know within an organisation (and who you don’t know but need to), as well as keeping on top of what’s happening within a company.

Whatever you do on LinkedIn, try to integrate it with your other social media activities (for example on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc), your website and your traditional marketing activities.

So, is leveraging LinkedIn important to you? How do you measure your results? What other advice would you give to professionals wanting to engage and grow their networks on LinkedIn?

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