Monthly Archives: November 2011

8 sure-fire ways for professionals to lose clients: Part 1

by Kirsten Hodgson

This is the first in a three-part series of posts looking at how lawyers, accountants, engineers and other professionals can protect and strengthen their existing client relationships by avoiding 8 common mistakes.  This post deals with the first two. 

Number 1. Lack of client interaction beyond the day-to-day

The only way you can possibly understand what’s important to your clients, how you’re performing for them, and what they’d like to see from you going forwards is to ask them. Yet many organisations either assume they know or are apprehensive about what their clients might say if asked.

One of the most valuable things you can do, in the current environment, is to conduct regular face to face relationship reviews with your clients and business partners. These should be conducted at least annually with your major clients and should then be supported by end-of-matter reviews and semi-regular catch-ups to discuss potential opportunities.

 If you’re not doing this, you can be sure that your competitors are: and they’ll be the ones who’ll benefit as they will be able to focus their efforts and their money on those things that will make the biggest difference to your clients.  This could lead to you losing work to your competitors in the medium to long term.

 There is no downside to conducting reviews, provided you have the capacity to act on the feedback and that you do so (and let your clients know what you have done). All our clients experience a greater understanding of their relationships by engaging in this process, and some of our clients reap huge rewards. By conducting relationship reviews for one of our clients, we identified six concrete opportunities that our client didn’t know about, helped them to save one major relationship, and to generate $250K in new business from a further two clients alone.

Number 2.     Over-servicing/under-servicing

One of the most common complaints we hear from our clients’ customers is that they are either being over- or under-serviced. Either they are being bombarded with information, phone calls and personal visits or they’re not hearing from their advisers/suppliers enough. The problem is compounded by the fact that what one client sees as over-servicing, another will see as under-servicing.

The only way to ensure you provide your clients with the right level of service is to understand their expectations and how they like to be communicated with and then to tailor your approach to each client accordingly. For example, some clients will want to receive email updates, while others would rather you picked up the phone or posted these on Twitter or LinkedIn; some will want you to keep in contact between work, others won't unless you are contacting them about something that might impact them/their business. Even when you're doing work for clients they will have different expectations about what they want from you, how they expect you to communicate with them and the frequency. You need to know what these are, otherwise you're setting yourself up for a fall. 

I'll post the next two mistakes professionals make next week. 

What's your view? 

What are the biggest mistakes you see professionals making with regard to their existing client relationships? 

 

 

 

 

 

4 top tips for professionals to leverage Facebook

by Kirsten Hodgson

It's good to see so many professional services firms setting up Facebook pages (and to see that some are reserving their Google+ pages). However, I don't think that relying on a company page is the key to leveraging Facebook or Google+ from a business development and marketing perspective (with the exception of recruitment).

I believe that it's far more important for lawyers, accountants, engineers and other professionals to find those communities already catering to those they want to engage with and to be active there. For example, if you are targeting property investors it is worth searching this term within Facebook (search both pages and groups using the search filters down the left hand side of the page). You can then comment on discussions and even start them on some pages. Over time you can look to draw people's attention to your company page.

I know an accountant who generates a reasonable amount of business from Facebook  each year simply by engaging with others in places they already 'like'. He doesn't even have his own Facebook page. 

With that in mind my top 4 Facebook tips for professionals are: 

1. Search for those pages and groups where the people you wish to engage are already active and start to build relationships there.

2. If you do set up a company page seek to build a community. For example, you may post the latest information and articles related to your area of expertise on your site to try to position it as the go to place for information about that topic. Alternatively, you may wish to use your page as a Q&A. Have a look at what others are doing to give you some ideas of what seems to work well.

3. Give people a reason to 'Like' your page. Why should they push the Like button? How is it going to benefit them? Decide and then tell people. And make sure that you think about how to keep those people liking your page in the long run. I've 'un-liked' (not sure that's even a word!) a number of company pages because they drew me in for a specific reason, such as to support a fundraising effort, but have then stopped engaging once the campaign is finished.

4. Include a landing page to drive people to push the 'Like' button. Zappos and Red Bull have done this well. The main reason to do this is that when people go into Facebook they often only check their Homepage so you want your content to appear in their newsfeed. This will only happen if they have 'Liked' you.

What other tips would you share? 

How, if at all, has using Facebook benefited your business? 

How can lawyers, accountants and engineers benefit from recent Google+ and LinkedIn enhancements?

by Kirsten Hodgson

There have been a few improvements to the social media networks over the past week. Google+ launched its business pages and LinkedIn announced that it had overhauled its Events feature and launched its new Group Statistics dashboard.

What do these updates mean for lawyers, accountants, engineers and other professionals? 

Google+ business pages: 

Even if you are not using Google+ nor have any intention of starting a business page, I strongly recommend you reserve your company name. This will ensure that if you decide to activate a Google+ page in future, your name is available for you to use (and has not been claimed by another party). To set up your Google+ business page, firstly determine whether you want it to be linked to someone's individual Google+ account. If the answer is 'yes' you can log into your personal account and create a new page. If the answer is 'no' you will need to set up a Google account for your business (if you already have one then great). You can then set up your business page.

The URL for setting up a business page is https://plus.google.com/pages/create

LinkedIn Events: 

In the medium term the new, improved version provides huge opportunities for lawyers, accountants, engineers and other professionals to increase their reach in a targeted way. Once more people use the feature I can see it being really valuable.

4 ways you can leverage the LinkedIn Events feature: 

1. Set up your own seminars and workshops as an Event on LinkedIn. You can then share these with your network (via the network update stream) as well as with appropriate groups and via Twitter and Facebook. I recommend you also ask others in your team to share the event details with their networks through the Status Update function. The easiest way to do this is to supply them with the text and link so they just have to copy and paste this information into the 'Share an Update' box, which appears near the top of your LinkedIn homepage screen. To set up an Event, click on the 'More' tab on the LinkedIn toolbar and select 'Events' from the drop-down box. Then click on the yellow 'Create an Event' box and follow the prompts.

2. Search for events you may wish to attend. You can search by keyword, industry, or geographic location. It's a great way to find out what events are taking place and to monitor competitor activity. To search for Events click on the 'More' tab on the LinkedIn toolbar and select 'Events' from the drop-down box. Type your keyword, industry or geographic location into the 'Search Events' box and hit 'Search'.

3. Find out who is attending an event. Over time I think this will be a really powerful tool. It will enable you to determine whether those you wish to engage with will be at an event. You can then look to connect with them prior to the event. For example, you may want to drop them an email along the lines of 'I see you are attending the X event on DATE. I will also be there and would very much like to find out your views on Y (or discuss the new legislation). Would you be free for a 10 minute chat over coffee during the lunch break on DATE?'

4. Promote your clients' events by sharing them with your networks on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+

LinkedIn Group Statistics

I have to say I quite like this feature. It allows you to see the demographic make-up of a group, where the majority of group members are based, the group's growth chart and a summary of activity over the past week. It's useful to help you determine if a group is right for you and the types of discussions likely to resonate with other members.

If you want to see the Group Statistics for a Group to which you don't currently belong, click into the group overview and then click on the Group Statistics box on the left hand side of the screen.

If you want to view the stats of a Group to which you do belong, scroll down the page until you see the 'Group Statistics' box on the right hand side or click on 'More' within the Group toolbar and scroll down to 'Group Statistics'.

It's good to see the social media networks looking to enhance their platforms – the challenge for us is to keep up with changes the networks make and to think about how these could help us in our businesses.

What do you think of these changes? 

How else could they benefit professionals? 

What other recent social media network changes do/don't you like and why? 

Social media as a professional development tool

by Kirsten Hodgson

My recent interview with Rick Shera highlighted that social media is not just a profile raising/lead generation tool. It's also a great learning tool. 

When I first started using LinkedIn and Twitter it was a bit of an experiment. I wasn't sure how social media could help me, my business or my clients but I quickly realised people were sharing some hugely valuable content in the professional services space and that I could learn a lot.

I now do about 80% of my professional development via social media – be it reading articles others have shared via LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc, attending webinars, downloading e-books/guides or asking questions of, and engaging with, others I've met via social media.

Like Rick, I now only subscribe to one or two email newsletters, getting the majority of content via my RSS feed (all in one place – hooray!) and I don't attend as many conferences/seminars as I used to because I can often keep up with them online and do my learning at times convenient to me.

This is one of the main reasons why I disagree with professional services firms blocking staff access to social media sites: They are such great sources of valuable content.

Provided you set clear guidelines, focus on what employees CAN do and how you want them to behave, I think you can give staff access. You can then deal with those who abuse this individually. If it's an endemic issue, perhaps you have a hiring issue or you haven't communicated clear guidelines (but I'm digressing – this is a post in itself).

How can you find those sharing quality information? 

- ask around. Who do others recommend you follow in your areas of interest? You can ask your colleagues, other members of groups on LinkedIn, your Twitter followers etc.

- set up hashtags for your areas of interest on Twitter (take a look at www.hashtags.org to find out which # people use)

- use the 'Who to follow' function within Twitter and type in your areas of interest. You can then take a look at the content those suggested are sharing and determine if you want to follow them

- join relevant groups within LinkedIn and Facebook and follow those sharing interesting information or making valuable comments

- look at who others are following (on Twitter)

- check out The Matte Pad's blog post: 5 ways to find clients on Twitter (you can also use these tools to determine who to follow from a professional development perspective).

What other ways can you find those who are sharing quality content? 

How, if at all, has social media helped you from a professional development perspective? 

Should professional services firms blog?

by Kirsten Hodgson

To my mind, there's no right or wrong answer to the question 'should professional services firms blog?'  If an individual, a group, or the firm commits to blogging on a pre-determined basis then it's a great tool, but if it's something that will fall off the radar when things get busy, it's probably best not to start. 

Why consider blogging? 

  1. Demonstrate your capabilities, knowledge and expertise - blogging is a great way to share information, ideas, opinions etc with those you wish to engage. Because it has a long shelf-life (i.e. posts remain up until you remove them) it is a great library of your content. I seem to use this scenario a lot but if you are recommended to a prospective client along with two or three of your competitors, and the person then looks each of you up online, what will they find? A blog is a great way to differentiate yourself before the person has met you. If they are interested they can look through your posts and determine if they like what they find. 
  2. Engage others - one of the real benefits I've found with blogging is the interactions with others. You get to engage with people, some of whom you may not otherwise have come across and, often, you get another perspective on something you've posted which is great for your own professional development. 
  3. Promote your clients and/or other products/services you think would be of value to your target audience - blogging about a client's achievement is a great way to publicly recognise your client and pointing those who read your blog in the direction of a product or service that you think could help them can be really valuable. The key thing is to disclose if you have any affiliations with that product/service up front.  
  4. SEO – I am NOT an SEO expert (I know next to nothing about it) but I do know Google loves fresh content and so regularly blogging on topics relevant to your target audience means you are more likely to get found. One law firm I spoke to recently said that they were surprised how prospective clients found them and that it was often very specific search terms that led the prospect to their blog, which then resulted in them making contact. 

Tips for professionals who want to blog

  • Agree to a blog frequency you can stick to - while there's a temptation to think you will be able to blog 2-3 times per week before you start you need to think what's realistic for you. It's far better to decide to blog once a week and to stick to it than to start off with 3 or 4 posts per week only for them to fall by the wayside when you get busy. 
  • Share the load - once you've determined how frequently you will blog, agree as a team who will write which post. This means you personally may only need to write a post once every month, whereas you as a team/firm are still able to commit to weekly/twice weekly posts. 
  • Brainstorm topics - create a list of possible topics and keep adding to this. 
  • Stick to one topic per post – if there is a lot of info or the post leads into another thought, save it for a later post. 
  • Write several posts at once so that you have content ready to go during busy times. 
  • Consider audio or video posts as well as/instead of written posts – it's fine to mix it up or to stick to what you're comfortable with. 
  • Include a question at the end of each post to encourage comments and to engage others. 

What other reasons are there for professionals/professional services firms to blog? 

What other tips would you share?