Monthly Archives: March 2012

Social media tips from Julian Summerhayes – What’s your USP?

by Kirsten Hodgson

Julian Summerhayes runs Brand You, a UK based company helping people become the best they can be: his strap line is “to become what we truly are.”

He works mainly within the professional services sector, assisting clients to leverage their talent to maximise client wins and revenue, mainly using social media.

Julian is a former lawyer who specialised in sports law and dispute resolution; he practised for 14 years. I started following Julian on Twitter (@Ju_Summerhayes) about 18 months ago and love his straight-up, practical advice and his clear passion for what he does.

I talked to him about his raison d’être and how he envisages social media helping professionals build and develop their personal brand (amongst a number of other interesting, service orientated issues – Excellence being Julian’s other big thing!)

KH: Tell me about Brand You?

JS: I had an epiphany one day. My passion has always been people – or the reason why some people make more of their talents than do others. I have been a long time student of personal development in the broadest sense (Napoleon Hill being high up as one of my all time favourite authors). I set up Brand You to help my clients – mainly service professionals – leverage their intellectual and creative capital to become the best version of their brand indentity/persona. Brand You is about passion. It’s about finding your unique voice, being different, memorable and making a lasting impression. It’s also about talent and managing your talent.

KH: When and why did you start using social media tools?

JS: When I was a practising lawyer I set up a sports law team acting for agents and athletes, which I loved; it stems from my passion for cycling. Lance Armstrong was an early adopter of Twitter and, because he was on there, a number of other professional cyclists also joined. I did too.

KH: How can leveraging social media help lawyers and other professionals to harness the power of their own brand?

JS: If someone is passionate about what they do, and if they have the patience to make a difference in their area, then they can think about how social media tools can help them to make a dent in their world. Social media isn’t an instant fix. I think lawyers (in particular) expect to do one thing one day and see an immediate return the next. For me, it’s about tapping someone’s passion, focusing on why they got into their profession and what they want to achieve and then using some of the social media tools and methodologies to make more of that passion. In a way it feels like I am helping people who have a message to share reach out and connect with their tribe.

One suite of tools will be right for one person, another suite will work for someone else and that’s the great thing. One person might say let’s do a blog and another person might put some videos out: It’s about finding your unique voice.

I think the key thing many professionals struggle with is the idea of a USP. I always say to people think about how you can sum yourself up in the smallest number of words that you possibly can. I try to tap into this and help people convey their passion succinctly. Using Twitter as an example, I’d ask what the difference between your Twitter feed and your competitors’ feeds is.  If you’re all dishing out the same news, the same reports of case law, and the same piece of legislation, why should people follow you?

What you will see soon, I suspect, is lots of redundant accounts, lots of people who give up on it because they think that’s a waste of time, and a distraction.  Quite what they will revert back to, who knows!

There are professionals who absolutely hate what they do and social media is the last thing in the world that they need. What they need is some coaching, possibly some career counselling to say ‘Do you know what, you have this absolute passion for painting.  Why the heck are you pursuing law when you should be painting?”  People are not fixed to their careers – yes there’s a financial constraint if you’re a senior partner, you’ve got a huge amount resting on this but ultimately you won’t be happy and won’t deliver the best value nor the best service if you don’t enjoy what you do.

It’s a complex issue but in terms of the power of social media it’s about maximising the how rather than just the what.  If you pursue something that you are passionate about, then everything else will fall into place.

Some firms in the UK have really gone niche, but they haven’t done it from a passion point of view, they have done it from an economics point of view, which is actually wrong.  For example, they’ve got into spinal injuries claims because there’s a rash of these coming through. Is it something they’re passionate about?

No?

Then why do it?

If you don’t have passion you can’t sustain anything for very long.  

KH: Assuming someone is passionate about what they do and they want to build their own brand, what do they need to think about before they start using social media?

JS: Less is more.  Just start with one thing and get good at it.  Get really, really good at it.  In terms of building your tribe, you need to be thinking about each platform having its own individual theme, ecosystem and way of doing things.

Try not to do too much.  If I was starting off again, frankly I’d probably only start with a blog and maybe Twitter but I wouldn’t end up as I did at one point, having about 40 platforms that I messed around with.  

You need to be quite strategic, you need to think about where your clients/referrers/fans are going to congregate.  If you’re in a private client scenario, you may not start with LinkedIn.  You may start with Twitter, a blog, a video.  It’s important that you understand the viewing habits of your audience. The book Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research introduces the Social Technographics Ladder, which breaks users into groups based on their level of participation online.

In terms of ROI you can have that conversation but it’s pointless at this early state, I want to see how committed you are.  Are you going to master the two platforms, are you going to stay engaged, are you going to fall off the wagon after three months?

Social networks are just tools! They will evolve and change over time. Don’t get hung up on the tools.  Focus on the passion, focus on your messaging.

I follow the POST philosophy – People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology. Focus on the people first.  Don’t worry about the objectives, the strategy will come and the technology is last.  I have a thing about it, strategy is execution. Strategy will come out as you do more stuff. The more stuff you do, the better your strategy will become.  I think too many firms spend hours and hours drafting a strategy.  Then, when they execute it they think ‘hmmm, maybe we should try something else’.

Do lots of stuff

Fail faster.

That way you’ll know what works through trial and error. Try different messaging, different content.  Don’t expect instant results.

I believe it’s going to be the quirky ones, the edgy ones, the rebels who are going to get noted.  Their service may be frankly no better than others but that doesn’t matter.  From a social media point of view it’s these quirky personalities that get picked up.

KH: Talking about client service…

JS: The thing that attracts me to social media is the collaborative spirit, which you just don’t get in many professional services firms. It is counter-intuitive. At the end of the day it’s about the client experience. Without the client you have no business.  What you should be thinking about is am I the best person for this job, if I’m not then who can I refer this work to who will do a better job than me?  

If you don’t do the very, very best job you can, clients are going to go somewhere else. Put your people first or equal first with your clients because with the people doing a fantastic job, marketing will take care of itself.  If you make promises to someone else and keep them, you will be doing well.

Social media for me is just a tool, an extension of who you are and if it helps you do your job better, great.  But don’t get wrapped up in it in thinking that people will go around and forget the fact that you provide a lousy service and your receptionist doesn’t answer the phone in a very polite manner.  Those are things that, for most people, make more of a difference than regular tweets.

What’s your view?

You can find out more about Julian and Brand You at www.juliansummerhayes.com

 

Measuring ROI in professional services marketing – do we measure the right things?

by Kirsten Hodgson

I've recently finished reading Olivier Blanchard's book 'Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in your Organization', which I can honestly say is one of the best books I've read about social media. However, some of what Olivier says applies to much more than simply social media.

In it, Olivier talks about the concept of F.R.Y. (frequency, reach and yield), which he was introduced to by Microsoft but whose origins are unclear.

"For years, I searched in vain for a way to add a little more sophistication to the 'Do this, and you'll sell more stuff' conversation. I already knew, both instinctively and from experience, that good products combined with good marketing and customer-focused business practices drove business forward. I just hadn't found a formula to help frame the mechanism by which this worked." 

Reading about F.R.Y. was a lightbulb moment for me. It's something that can easily be applied to professional services firms in order to enable us to better measure the impact of our marketing efforts.

F stands for frequency – i.e. getting existing clients to buy from you more often

R stands for reach – i.e. acquiring new clients

Y stands for yield – i.e. getting existing clients to spend more with you every time they buy from you.

The vast majority of marketing and business development initiatives within professional services firms can be categorised into one of these areas:

Frequency: 

  • News alerts about new legislation/issues (with the aim of engaging us to help with any resulting work)
  • Seminars (for existing clients)
  • Key client programmes (designed to grow your share of wallet)
  • Practice group development and industry sector focus (as far as these relate to existing clients)
  • Value adds such as clinics or strategy sessions with the clients
  • RFP responses for existing clients
  • Cross-selling initiatives
  • PR (to reinforce purchase decision)
  • Pricing strategies (e.g. volume discounts, retainers, fixed fees)
  • Social media activities (as related to existing clients)

Reach: 

  • Referrer strategies
  • Seminars (for prospects)
  • PR
  • News alerts/news letters and any other content (blogs, videos, audio, speaking at conferences etc) aimed at prospective clients
  • Practice group and industry sector focus (relating to new business)
  • New business meetings
  • RFP responses, beauty parades, and credential statements for prospective clients
  • Social media activities
  • Website

Yield: 

  • Upselling (e.g. client comes in for a will and you find out they also need a family trust)
  • Alternative pricing structures (not always, but often when you wish to be rewarded for the value you deliver)

I think sometimes we measure the wrong things. It's easy to say we've done a great job on a seminar if we get 200 attendees, and that's true if the reason for holding the seminar is about brand awareness but if it's about reach (converting prospects into clients) or frequency then it's the wrong measure. We need to know how many of those attendees subsequently engaged us.

By understanding how our marketing and BD initiatives fit into each of these three areas, we can evaluate their success against our overall revenue objectives in each area of F.R.Y. (and work out where to focus in the future by seeing if different market segments react to, and engage with, different types of initiatives). 

Doing so would make it far easier for us, as professional services marketers, to communicate the value of everything we do, to others in our firms. Partners already see the value of BD in areas like pitching. It's easy to demonstrate how the win rate has gone up and the ROI on a particular pitch, because you know the cost of putting it together, you know whether you've won or lost it and, if you've won it, you know (or will at some stage know) the value of the resulting work.

It's harder to measure the impact of other, 'softer' initiatives. Often, it's several of these (rather than one thing in isolation) that lead to more work, but we can begin to think about this.

It's all too easy to track the opening rate of news alerts but then never to revisit down the track comparing a list of which clients have given you work in that area with those who opened the news alert. Sure, that probably won't have been the only initiative you've run – you may have run a seminar and some of your professionals may have met with the client/prospective client for coffee, but by tracking these things, we can begin to assess the likely impact of each one.

The only way to reliably know why you are given a particular piece of work is to ask the client what factors led them to appoint you (and to possibly prompt them about some of the initiatives you've run in that area). Maybe that's something we need to get better at doing.

What's your view? 

Do we measure our initiatives in the right way? Do we need to? Do we have time to? 

Related Posts: 

Inputs, outputs or outcomes – which do YOU measure? The Masala Principle Blog by Tim Haveron-Jones

Professional Services Marketing: How the Internet Has Stolen Your New Business – And What To Do About It

by Kirsten Hodgson

 

A guest post by Gihan Perera, an Internet coach for thought leaders, consultants and other business professionals on why it's so important for lawyers, accountants and other professionals to establish their authority online: 

The Internet has changed the entire buying process – and it affects you, even if you don’t sell anything on-line. Barry Trailer and Jim Dickie, writing in the Harvard Business Review in 2006, put it this way:

“Buyers have always had a buy cycle, starting at the point they perceive a need. Sellers have always had a sales cycle, starting at the point they spot a prospect. It used to be that these were in sync … [but] now, the buy cycle is often well under way before the seller is even aware there is a cycle.” [emphasis added]

Customers still need to deal with businesses, but now they do it differently.

In the past, when they wanted to buy something important – whether it was insurance, real estate, legal advice or their next car – they would start by talking to a professional, preferably somebody they already knew, liked and trusted. This adviser would then take them on a journey, guiding them to the right buying decision.

That’s no longer the case. If you’re an adviser, you might want people to turn to you first, but they don’t. Instead, they first ask Google. And then perhaps they will ask their Facebook and LinkedIn friends. Or send a tweet to their followers. Or be guided by an e-mail newsletter or blog they read recently. At the end of this process, they might still choose to talk to you, but now the interaction is very different. Information is power, and the customer now has all the power.

Of course, some of your long-term clients do still call you first. But many don’t. That’s why you have to be there consistently in their minds, so that when they’re ready to take action, you’re the first person they call.

That’s easier said than done, because you don’t know exactly when the buying process started (exactly the point that Trailer and Dickie made in the extract I quoted earlier). So the only way to be there is to always be there.

Give Value, Get Business

One of my favourite actors, Steve Martin, when asked for his secret to success, put it this way:

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

That’s the approach to take in your marketing, and it all starts with your expertise. The more you can position yourself as an expert (and even better, as the expert), the greater the leverage you have in your business.

You must do this, because if you don’t, somebody else will! This is not something you can ignore. Even if you already have a stable of existing clients, you need to generate new business. And even those loyal clients might be tempted to look elsewhere.

So how can you do this without giving away the farm or spending every waking moment on-line?

The Secret is Consistency

I spent a month in Auckland in 2010, and one of the simple pleasures during my stay was buying from “The White Lady”, a mobile hamburger stand that parked itself every night on a street corner near my apartment:

The White Lady is an Auckland icon, which has been in operation since 1948. Its most impressive feature is not its longevity, but its consistency. When I said it’s been there every night, I really do mean every night. It has a proud history of being open every night for decades, except for a few weeks in 1998 when Auckland suffered a major power outage.

Make consistency your goal as well. Success on-line is not an event; it’s a process.

Here’s a sample process you can use to consistently deliver high-quality material that establishes your authority:

1.       At the start of each month, find a topic of interest to your clients and prospective clients, and write a 300-500 word article on that topic.

2.       Post it to your Web site and blog at the start of the month.

3.       A week later, send it to your newsletter subscribers.

4.       A week later, post it to your Twitter feed as well.

5.       A week later, post it to your LinkedIn account.

6.       Repeat this process each month!

If you follow this process diligently, you’ll be taking the first steps to building your authority and reputation on-line with a blog, newsletter, Twitter and LinkedIn. As a result, you’ll be increasing the chance that you’ll be the first port of call when somebody is ready to take action.

Remember: Be so good they can’t ignore you!

Gihan Perera is an Internet coach for thought leaders, consultants and other business professionals. He's the author of "Fast, Flat and Free: How the Internet Has Changed Your Business". Visit http://GihanPerera.com and get free e-books, webinars and more.

What's your view? 

What other tips would you share? 

LinkedIn company profile for law firms – which firms use this feature well?

by Kirsten Hodgson

LinkedIn has built more functionality into its LinkedIn company profile feature over the past 12 months or so. I took a look at the company profiles of the first 100 law firms to appear in the LinkedIn search results to see which firms are taking advantage of this feature and to put together a list of those worth looking at if you're building your LinkedIn company profile.

I used the keyword 'Law Firms' in my search and the first 100 results included many of the leading UK, US, Canadian and Australian firms. I also took a look at the 8 largest New Zealand firms (none of which had set up their services pages). The total number of law firm profiles returned by my search was 18,017. While some of these are service providers to the legal sector, the majority are firms themselves. 

While about half the firms I looked at have developed their profiles in some way, the vast majority are still not taking advantage of the feature, despite their followers numbering from the high hundreds to well over 5,000 in some cases. 

Missed opportunity? I think so. 

Granted, some of these followers will be staff and others will be competitors, but many appear to be clients, prospective clients, and potential staff. If they've already chosen to follow your firm through LinkedIn, why wouldn't you try to engage with them within this platform? Make it easy for them to access information you share and information about your firm within LinkedIn. 

Which law firms are using this feature well? 

Before I come onto this, if you want to know what it's possible to do with your LinkedIn company profile check out this short video I put together a few weeks ago. 

The best examples of firms, making good use of the features available, are: 

DLA Piper - I really like the way the firm has laid out its services – practice groups is one service, global sectors is another, its microsites are listed and there's a service titled Interact with us that provides information about the firm's blog, Twitter feed, YouTube and Facebook pages. It's a great way of communicating a lot of information without overwhelming people. 

Goodwin Procter - like DLA Piper, Goodwin Procter makes good use of the Product and Service spotlight and it's a rare example of a firm that's set up a promotion on its services homepage (for its sustainable development blog). 

Axiom - While Axiom doesn't appear to be posting status updates I love its services homepage – it's the only firm I could find, that has uploaded a video. 

Other firms who are using this feature pretty well include Baker Donelson and Foley Hoag

There are several other firms that have set up their services pages but a number of these don't currently have a services landing page, which is a shame as you just see a list of their services without an introduction (the advantage of having the introduction is that you can tailor it to different audiences and provide a flavour of who you help, how you can help and what you're like to work with). 

There are other firms that have set up their careers page but haven't set up their services page. And there are way too many firms that have done nothing to their company profiles. 

I know that it's another thing for already stretched marketing teams to do, but much of the information can be copied from your website. At the very least I'd recommend you take a look at who your firm's followers are and then consider how, if at all, you should use this feature. 

Which other firms do you think are using the company profiles feature well? 

Do you think firms should use it? Why/why not?