Monthly Archives: February 2012

Social media for professional services firms – why fix what ain’t broke?

by Kirsten Hodgson

Image courtesy Danilo Rizzuti @ freedigitalphotos.net

If your current marketing efforts are working, why should you even consider using social media in your professional services firm? 

It's a good question. 

Here are three compelling reasons why lawyers, accountants and other professionals should at least think about it: 

1. Managing your reputation - yes, it's important to know what, if anything, people are saying about you, your firm or your service online and it's also important that all your online profiles clearly position you, but a focused approach to using social media can also help you to build your reputation. 

Regularly sharing content (both that you, and others, have generated) that your clients, prospective clients and referrers will find valuable and that relates to your area(s) of practice, or industry specialisation helps to position you as an information source.

Helping others by answering their questions or contributing to discussions enables you to begin to build relationships with prospective clients you may not otherwise have met.

If you focus on a particular area, and combine what you do offline with what you do online, you have a better chance of positioning yourself in a certain space. For example, if you've presented at a conference you can share that presentation via social media or turn it into a blog post, article or video (and again share these via social media). You can invite comments to try to engage others. If you want to build your reputation then why wouldn't you use all the available channels open to you that reach those people you want to target? You just need to find out which social media platforms they use and focus on these.

And if you want to monitor what people are saying about you, you can set up google alerts for free or can choose from a multitude of other monitoring and measurement tools out there – Ken Burbary's Wiki of social media monitoring solutions provides a comprehensive summary of what's available currently. 

2. Research and planning – if you're going to a new business meeting or you know there is an important RFP coming up for review, monitor social platforms. Viewing someone's LinkedIn profile, their recent activity and their company's activity can provide some really good insights. Again you can use monitoring software (for those in law firms check out Manzama) or you can go into relevant social media networks and search there. For example, LinkedIn's Signal is brilliant for this. 

If you are doing some key client, industry sector, practice group or personal planning then searching the social media platforms can be really helpful. From finding out who you don't know within an organisation but need to, to working out how to get in front of those [directors] you want to target over the next 12 months; from understanding how your clients are using social media, to what their key focus is, social media platforms will quickly give you many of these answers. Often you'll be able to plan a way forward too, using your connections and/or groups to connect with key decision makers and influencers you need to reach. 

3. Boosting the success of your planned marketing initiatives - social media can help you increase your reach. For example, if you are running a seminar you can let your network know, share the details via relevant groups, tweets or your Facebook page. You can ask others to share this information on your behalf and include a link to your registration page, to attract more attendees.

If you've put together an article or blog post you can do the same thing. This can help you to amplify your messages. However, bear in mind that social media is about networking and engaging and, while it's fine to share information and content that others will find valuable, you also need to help others and engage with them rather than solely pushing your own messages out. 

A focused and intelligent approach to using social media for business development and marketing purposes, that's integrated with your other activities can also help you generate business enquiries and build a pipeline of leads that you can then nurture. Ultimately you can get new work…but it takes time, consistency and commitment. This is another post in itself and one that I'll tackle one day…

Why else do you think professionals and professional services firms should consider integrating social media in what they do? 

Or do you disagree entirely? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Professional services firms marketing: Clients don’t know what we do

by Kirsten Hodgson

Image courtesy of Dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

"Clients don't know what we do" 

Does this sound familiar?

It's a common complaint I hear from those in law firms, accounting firms and other professional services firms.

But why should clients know what you do?

Or care for that matter?

They only care about how you can help them.

It's very easy to get pigeon-holed (I know I have been – lots of times). You help a client out in a specific area. They see you as someone who specialises in that area but they don't automatically know how else you can assist.

Sending them a credential statement, a brochure or having a single conversation with them won't cut it.

Asking questions, uncovering their needs, finding out which of these are most pressing and then discussing how you can help will.

I understand that you want to be front of mind should your clients have a need in a particular area that falls within your expertise and be looking for help. In order to be in their choice set I believe you need to use the full range of tools/channels available consistently over time…and gradually perceptions will change. I've really focused on this with one client in particular and have just got work in an area they would never previously have considered me for.

How can you change perceptions and let clients know how else you might be able to help? Here are 9 ideas. On their own they don't amount to much, but as a whole they will make a difference.

  1. Hold an annual planning meeting with key clients designed to uncover their key issues and focus over the coming year and to showcase your expertise by providing them with some initial advice/tips/guidance that they will find valuable.
  2. Call your top 5 clients when issues arise that they need to know about. Let them know how these issues may impact them and offer to talk to their staff about this.
  3. Keep close to your clients. Catch up with them regularly (on the phone or over coffee) and ask how things are going and what they're doing. If you can position yourself as a sounding board and someone who adds value they'll likely come to you before engaging others anyway.
  4. Go and visit your client's office/site. Really get to know their business. You may come away with some ideas to help them that you can then sound them out about.
  5. Put together an Infographic setting out the full range of your services and linking it back to specific problems you can help address…or produce a series of Infographics on topics/issues that will be of interest to your clients and share these with them.
  6. Compile and share case studies about how you've helped others in the past. Don't forget to say how these are relevant to other clients. You can post these to your website (both in relevant expertise sections and your bio in written, video or audio format or a combination of these), include as a slideshare presentation on LinkedIn, include one in each of your newsletters etc. Rotate these so that you deal with a different area each time and keep coming back to them.
  7. Put together blog posts and videos on topical issues or frequently asked questions in each of the areas in which you work and share these on your website, via social networks, via email, in your newsalerts or newsletter etc.
  8. Consider if you can include the areas in which you can help clients in your email signoff, on the back of your business cards etc. This will depend on your brand guidelines and needs to be done consistently across your firm or your brand look will be inconsistent.
  9. Think about whether there is a way to convey how you can help your clients that will be visible on their desks – e.g. do they have/need a pen holder, a calendar or something infinitely more exciting but still as useful!

The point I am trying to make is that 'clients understanding exactly what you do' doesn't occur overnight. You need to communicate consistently over time, in a variety of ways if you want your clients to truly understand how you can help them. Ultimately, if you can position yourself as someone who can point them in the right direction when they do have an issue, you'll likely hear about the opportunities first.

What's your view? 

What other tips would you share? 

How to create a good LinkedIn company page

by Kirsten Hodgson

Are you making the most of your firm's LinkedIn company page? Here's a quick 'how to' video for those in law firms and other professional services firms to make the most of this feature:

Creating a LinkedIn company profile for law firms, accounting firms and other professional services firms

What other tips would you share? 

6 reasons why leveraging social media is like long distance running

by Kirsten Hodgson

I was out for run last week and was thinking about how I'm going to use social media this year, when it hit me: there are many parallels between long-distance running and the journey towards effectively leveraging social media. 

Here are 6 similarities I've discovered. What would you add?

1. You need a clear goal or its really difficult to keep going – anyone who's trained for a long distance event, be it a marathon, half marathon or other distance knows that, even with the best will in the world, it's really hard to keep up the momentum once you've run the race. Those 3 hour runs become 2 hour runs which then become 1 hour runs unless you are highly disciplined or have another goal to aim for. It's the same with social media. It's easy to start off with a bang only to lose enthusiasm and/or momentum after a few months.

2. You build up slowly but surely - when running you start by building your base fitness and then build both your speed and endurance. When using social media you establish the foundations first (complete profiles, starting to connect with others) and then consistently engage, slowly building momentum as you go.

3. You can feel totally alone - when you're out running on a cold, damp, dark morning and you don't see another living soul you can feel like you're the only one out there. Even if you're running a race, if and when you hit the wall, you may retreat into yourself (I know I do) and it's like everyone around you doesn't exist. When you're new to social media you can feel like noone's listening. And it's sometimes true, they're not. But over time that will change if you focus on engaging with, and helping, others.

4. You meet others and support oneanother - one of the reasons why I love both running and social media is that sense of community. You meet so many great people who are supportive and who help oneanother. There's a sense of cammeraderie and shared experience.

5. You're in it for the long haul – unless you're superhuman or have amazing natural fitness you can't run a distance event on no training in the time you want to. You've got to be committed for a period of weeks and months if you want to get a PB (personal best) or finish the race. It's the same with social media – it's not a silver bullet. If you want to leverage it effectively you need to be in it for the long haul. Passive involvement doesn't cut the mustard nor does abandoning social media after 4 months because you haven't seen a return. It's very much a slowly, slowly approach.

6. It's addictive - once you have the bug there's no going back. It's still good to put that bug to good use though. Set yourself your next goal and persist until you achieve it.

What other similarities have you found between running and leveraging social media? 

Do you agree/disagree with my list?