Monthly Archives: August 2012

Professional services marketing: Do you hear your clients’ voices online?

by Kirsten Hodgson


I had a great experience on Twitter this week and it got me thinking, how many professionals would even know if someone was tweeting or posting about them and/or their firm?

What happened was this. Nancy Myrland tweeted about Tweetdeck removing the endless scrolling in lists. I replied saying Hootsuite still allowed that and she responded that she wished they allowed people to display more lists. Within an hour someone from Hootsuite tweeted us this:

“Hi there! We’d appreciate your feedback in our feedback forum” with the link attached.

That one tweet showed they’re listening and looking at how they can improve. A visit to the forum highlighted they’re responding to people’s suggestions and keeping them informed as to progress they are making re. developments around these.

How many professional services firms could say the same?

If you’re not already listening for mentions of your name and your firm name, then you should get started.

Now.

Some simple and free tools you can use that will enable you to monitor most sites are Google Alerts, Social Mention and Hootsuite (you can set up streams to monitor mentions of your name or your firm name or anything else you wish to monitor).

If people do mention you, you can make a call about whether and, if so, how to respond.

You could create a great impression by doing so.

Or you could stick your head in the sand and people will think you don’t care.

You only get one chance to make people feel positive towards you.

Are you going to take it?

What other advice would you give to professionals about monitoring what’s being said online?

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why professionals should never outsource social media engagement

by Kirsten Hodgson

Image courtesy of noheadlights via Flickr

Have you ever been a situation where you thought you were talking to one person…

…and then it turned out you were talking to someone entirely different?

Perhaps it was one of those phone calls where, half way through, it dawns on you that you got the wrong ‘Mel’

Or it’s not until someone says to you ‘you don’t know who I am, do you?’ that the penny drops.

You feel pretty awkward don’t you?

Why outsourcing conversations isn’t right

Then why is it that some professionals think it’s okay to outsource their conversations via social media?

I’d hate to think I was having a conversation with one person when the whole time I was talking to their social media person.

You can do that at a brand or firm level but it really doesn’t work at an individual level.

  • Because it’s inauthentic
  • Because it doesn’t sound like you
  • Because you’re not building rapport with the other person

If and when you meet them you will have no idea what discussions “you’ve”  had with them.

How do you think that will make you look?

And, if your social media person is posting things in your name and your existing clients are seeing this, do you think they won’t notice if the other person uses language that you typically wouldn’t?

What can you outsource?

Don’t get me wrong, it is okay to outsource some of your social media activity.

Like listening and monitoring or setting up your profile. In fact it can be really helpful to do so.

But engaging with others is the one thing that should NEVER be outsourced. After all, you might get your PA to set up a new business meeting but you wouldn’t get them to go to the meeting on your behalf.

You need to build relationships with others one by one to create the face-to-face opportunities.

Some ‘so called social media experts’ will try to sell you the whole package and, while it would be wonderful to sit back and do nothing while letting someone else take care of everything for you, what will that really achieve?

Generating work via social networks doesn’t just get handed to you on a silver platter.

You have to put in the effort to reap the rewards.

And therein lies the issue.

What’s your view?

Have you outsourced any of your social media activity? If so, what’s worked well and, conversely, what’s not worked so well? 

 

Professional services marketing & the used-car salesman approach to social media

by Kirsten Hodgson

Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

I was going to blog about some ways to engage via social media this week, but a couple of things have happened that have made me realise there are a number of so called ‘social media experts’  out there who are behaving like used car salesmen.

I don’t think this is in the interests of professionals and could really damage their reputations.

Yes, social media is new. No, there isn’t a defined way to use the tools. We’re all learning and we’re all able to try new things and that’s the exciting part. These media allow two way communication and enable us to initiate relationships online that we can then take into the real world.

So, I simply don’t believe that the used-car salesman approach is sustainable nor in the interests of those in professional services (in particular).

The inspiration for this post came from Robert Caruso @fondalo who has been writing a series of great posts on this very topic. In light of what I’ve seen recently, his posts have really resonated with me.

What is used-car salesman behaviour?

Basically, this is when people you’ve never met nor come across before try to sell to you via social networks, WITHOUT trying to build a relationship first.

In the last week I’ve come across two such approaches and one other issue:

EXAMPLE 1

I got an automated ‘thanks for following me, now recommend me to someone who might need my help’ message on Twitter from someone I’d never met. When I checked, they weren’t sharing any valuable information in their field via their Twitter feed – so why would they think a stranger would recommend them?

Maybe I’m just over automated messages but if you want someone to recommend you, you have to demonstrate your value first.

Otherwise, why should anyone refer one of their contacts to you when they have no experience of you nor your work.

If you’re going to use automated messages please focus on the other person and say something like ‘thanks so much for the follow, look forward to reading and sharing your tweets’ and make sure it’s set up correctly (see the other issue below!) – you only get one chance at a first impression – it’s up to you how you wish to be perceived.

Better still, ditch the automated message and send a personal one to key people with whom you wish to connect. Start to build a:

R E L A T I O N S H I P

EXAMPLE 2

Being sold to on LinkedIn by someone I don’t know. Again, what’s in it for me? Had they sent me some useful content and allowed me to read more for myself it might have been a different story. I may have wanted to connect to them and to find out more (buying from them would still take a bit more time…)

THE OTHER ISSUE I CAME ACROSS

I also noticed that someone I knew was following me on Twitter so followed him back. Within the space of 20 mins I got 25 automated ‘thanks for following me messages’. Something had clearly gone wrong.

I let him know and then unfollowed him until he got it fixed. However, two days later he stopped following me – automatically adding people to try to build followers? Definitely (following almost 2,000 people with 200 followers). Automated tools can be helpful but you do need to build relationships.

More followers may mean better exposure. But not if they couldn’t care less what you’re sharing. In a professional setting, I think it’s better to take a slower approach to growing your following, whether using an automated tool or not.

Social media is NOT a silver bullet

I don’t blame the professionals themselves. I just think they’re getting some really bad advice from social media companies acting like used-car salesmen. Who wouldn’t want to believe that there’s a silver bullet and you can quickly attract new clients via social media?

The reality is what damage does attempting to sell to someone you don’t know do to your reputation? How many of those who’ve ignored you have told others? Is it really worth even trying?

What’s a better approach?

You can absolutely approach others you don’t know but do so trying to form a relationship, not an instant new client. This morning I read a great  post by Seth Godin in which he said:

Don’t try to convert strangers into customers. It’s ineffective and wasteful. Instead, focus on turning those momentary strangers into people eager to hear from you again and again.”

He’s hit the nail on the head and, as usual, put it way better than I ever could. If you are using social networks as lead generation tools you have to form a relationship with the other person first.

This could be by sending them information they’ll value, inviting them to an event that’s relevant to them, asking for their input into something – there are an infinite number of ways you can do this. Turn yourself into someone they want to follow because you share great information and make it easy for them to keep up to date with developments in a particular area.

The point is that acting like a used car salesman and putting the sale first isn’t going to be a successful way to go about things in the long term.

If you’re not positioning yourself by either producing relevant content or curating content (effectively doing people’s reading for them) then why the heck should someone hire you over someone else who has?

You may get a few meetings in the short term but you’ll have to work hard to convert them – the prospect won’t have been able to assess whether you know what you’re talking about in advance and may not feel a driving need for your offering.

And you may have put a lot of people off. Perhaps this isn’t so important in a larger market but certainly in a smaller one or in a niche industry, people talk. I’ve certainly told at least 5 or 6 other people about the poor things I’ve seen, mainly because I was with them when these things happened. That’s a dangerous position for a professional to be in.

If you build relationships first then, by the time you do meet to discuss how you can help, half the work’s been done for you and the work is yours to lose. I’d far rather spend the extra time up front to build relationships and credibility and to begin to build trust than focus on old-school selling.

Consultative selling has to be the way forwards.

What’s your view? 

Social media YES’s

  • Build relationships
  • Share relevant content that you, or others, have created
  • Ask questions and seek others’ opinions
Social media NO’s
  • Outsourcing engagement (other things you can outsource but not the conversation)
  • Sending automated responses to Twitter followers – make them relevant to the other person
  • Constantly selling (it’s tantamount to cold calling)
  • Treating social media purely as a numbers game
What behaviour have you seen in the social media sphere that hasn’t sat well with you? 

Conversely, what have you seen that’s been really good? 

 

 

Connecting with others on LinkedIn: why bother?

by Kirsten Hodgson

Connecting with others on LinkedIn: why bother?

You know why you’re on LinkedIn.

You’re happy with your profile.

It’s time to connect with others.

Why bother?

The LinkedIn free account limits you to seeing profile information for your first, second and third degree connections, plus those in your groups. You can get around this by using Google to x-ray into LinkedIn, but you will miss out on some of LinkedIn’s advanced search functionality. This is really useful for planning and research purposes.

4 key ways to connect with people you know

  1. Import your email contacts from your desktop or internet email system
  2. Use LinkedIn’s people search or advanced people search to find individuals
  3. Look through contacts of your connections to find those you know
  4. Browse LinkedIn’s people you may know feature (including your university and previous employers)

Connecting with second degree connections

Second-degree contacts are those connected with one or more of your contacts. If you identify someone you’d like to meet, view their profile to find out how they are connected to you. You could then ask your contact to introduce you, but think about why they should and why their contact would want to meet/connect with you. What’s in it for them?

Connecting with people you don’t know on LinkedIn

Should you even do so?

LinkedIn’s user agreement says no but results of a 2011 poll show lots of people do and thought is divided.

There may be very good reasons why you might want to connect with someone you haven’t met – for example a journalist or someone in your field who shares really good content. In fact, LinkedIn and other social networks are turning the traditional business development process on its head. Instead of meeting people and then connecting with them online, you can now meet and start to build relationships with others online before taking them into the real world.

I am happy to connect with those I haven’t met in person provided:

- they share similar interests

- or they share quality content

- or I’ve had a conversation with them (e.g. through a group discussion).

Ultimately, it’s your choice. If you do want to connect with someone you don’t know well, personalise the invite you send to them.

What should you do with your connections?

It depends on your goals, but LinkedIn is a great tool to keep in contact with your connections and to build relationships one by one. Simply connecting with people and then doing nothing is not going to help you grow your practice.

You might like to:

  • email one of your connections each week to share something that will be of interest to them or to set up a time to meet
  • connect two of your contacts every month who might benefit from meeting each other
  • like, comment on or share content that your connections are sharing that may be of interest to your other connections
  • share status updates your contacts will value

One of the strengths of LinkedIn is that you can see who in your network knows someone. If you’re looking at targeting CEOs in a particular industry sector then you can see which of them is on LinkedIn and who in your network knows them. This could really help with planning and prioritising targets.

When connecting, do what’s right for you and what will help you achieve your goals. Once you’ve connected with others, you’re ready to start engaging (phase 3 of my 5-phase process). I’ll cover some ways you can do this, next week.

What other tips would you share for connecting with others on LinkedIn? 

Image courtesy Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net