Monthly Archives: October 2012

5 ways online marketing can help you build your practice

by Kirsten Hodgson

Online and offline marketing are two sides of the same coin. Neither one should be done in isolation.

Online marketing’s purpose, in the professional services context, should be to create more offline opportunities. Rather than replacing face-to-face contact it should create more opportunities for ‘offline’ meetings.

5 ways online marketing can help you create more opportunities:

1. Profile raising/positioning

As a legal, accounting, engineering or other professional you’re probably already sharing information with your target audiences. This may be content you’ve created (such as articles, seminar slides, Whitepapers, or newsletters/newsalerts), or content others have put together that those you wish to build relationships with will be interested in.

You can also share this content via social networks and via your website, further positioning yourself in your area. If people ask questions and you can help them out (without ‘giving advice’ per-se) you can further demonstrate your expertise. This will give people a flavour of who you are, what you are like to work with and what you do before they have actually done business with you.

People can ascertain whether you know what you are talking about and whether you’re someone they would like to work with. Not everyone will like what you’re saying or agree with you and that’s okay. There’ll be others who will.

2. Attracting more of your ideal clients

You can find and engage with prospects online, begin to build credibility and trust and then take these relationships offline. Ultimately, you can generate new business via social networks – but this won’t happen overnight.

For example, an employment lawyer set up a LinkedIn group for HR Directors and Managers. He invited 100 people to join and 60 accepted within a fortnight. The group now has over 900 members and this lawyer has built his client base on the back of this. He explained to me that this is the most successful business development initiative he and his firm have ever undertaken.

3. Creating more touchpoints with your existing clients, referrers and influencers

Provided your existing clients and referrers are on social networks, these provide additional channels to communicate with these people and get in front of them.

You can share content that they will value, ask and answer questions, or put them in contact with other people you know who they might benefit from meeting. Social networks increase your visibility, allowing you to stay top-of-mind.

A few professionals I’ve spoken to have won work as a result of sharing information relevant to existing contacts on LinkedIn. For example, one lawyer reconnected with a former client and met with his contact but nothing came of it. A few weeks later he noticed one of the sales people from his contact’s firm was active on LinkedIn. He joined a group this person belonged to and answered a question the sales person posted. As a result the sales person picked up the phone to him and gave him a piece of work.

4. Research and planning

A person or an organisation’s activity on social networks can be a rich source of information. Perhaps you’ve set up a new business meeting or are putting together an RFP response or capabilities statement. By searching social networks, you can see what topics and issues your contacts are discussing. This may give you information you can talk to them about or include in your response. At the very least if you can find out a bit about their hobbies and interests you can find an ice-breaker.

I recommend that if people you are meeting or pitching to are on LinkedIn, you look at their profile. Similarly, if you are doing any key client, industry sector, practice group or personal planning, look at the social networks. Again, using LinkedIn as an example, you could search a particular organisation to find out who is on LinkedIn and to ascertain which of these people you don’t know but should. You can then look to connect with them, either by asking a contact to introduce you or by joining the same groups and commenting on the other person’s discussions (assuming they are active on LinkedIn). You could also join LinkedIn groups relating to a particular industry sector or topic.

5. Professional development

Monitoring social networks allows you to keep up to date with the key issues in your area of practice, in a particular industry sector or for a particular client. Following people who share good information and relevant hashtags on Twitter can lead to a rich source of information. LinkedIn groups and your LinkedIn connections can also be great sources of up-to-date content.

By using online tools well (and in conjunction with other initiatives), you can create more offline opportunities…and make it easier to get more of the work you enjoy doing.

Look to build relationships one by one, seek to demonstrate your expertise in order to build credibility with those people you wish to engage and, over time, think about how to move some of these online relationships into the real world.

How have online tools helped you build your practice?

Image courtesy Jomphong via Freedigitalphotos.net

5 ways to use LinkedIn for lead identification

by Kirsten Hodgson

How can you use LinkedIn to find those people you wish to engage?

Over the past two years LinkedIn has grown exponentially. In June 2010 LinkedIn had 70 million members. In March 2012 there were 150 million members. By September 2012 the number had grown to 175 million.

While two years ago more of my contacts were not on LinkedIn than were, that’s completely changed and you’re much harder pressed nowadays to find business people who don’t have an account.

LinkedIn and other social media are turning the traditional business development process on its head. Whereas in the past you’d meet someone and add them as a LinkedIn connection, now the opportunity is there to ‘meet’ and start to build relationships with people on LinkedIn and then move these beyond the platform.

4 ways to use LinkedIn to find those to whom you wish to connect

1. Perform an Advanced Search:

LinkedIn’s Advanced Search function allows you to search by a range of criteria including keywords, job title, company name, industry sector, country (and, in some jurisdictions, postcode) so it’s a great way to find those you wish to build a relationship with.

LinkedIn’s free account does limit you to seeing 100 search results and you can only see names of those in your network (i.e. your 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections) as well as those who share a Group with you. In order to benefit from the Advanced Search feature you need a critical mass of connections. However, there is a way around this without rapidly increasing your number of connections and without upgrading to the paid account – and that is using search engines such as Google to search LinkedIn (but that’s a post for another week).

Once you’ve performed the search you can begin to follow those you wish to, join the same groups and seek to engage them there, or invite them to connect with you – letting them know why they should do so. What value will they get from connecting with you?

To access the Advanced Search feature click on the word ‘Advanced’ next to the people search on the top right of your LinkedIn toolbar.

2. Search the Groups Directory:

Type in keywords or names of industry sectors you’d expect those you want to build a relationship with to join. Have a look through the results. Typically groups will be listed in order of size with the largest membership first. You can take a look at groups which may be relevant, see who in your network is a member, view group discussions (if the group is open), look through group statistics and determine if it’s for you.

If it is, then join. Take a look at the types of discussions that get the most traction and emulate. In some groups posting links works well whereas in others it’s better to keep all content within the discussion thread. Comment on other people’s discussions where you can.

If you identify people you wish to connect with you can take a look at their profiles, see which groups they’re members of and join the same groups.

You’ll find the Groups Directory under the ‘Groups’ tab on the LinkedIn toolbar.

3. Search LinkedIn SigNAL

Signal makes it easier for you to quickly find the information you’re looking for. You can use it to search for keywords or types of information. The beauty of it is that it allows you to see posts from across the LinkedIn network – not just those in your network – so you can quickly find people who share similar interests or who are actively looking for help in an area in which you can assist.

You’ll find Signal under the ‘News’ tab on your LinkedIn toolbar.

4. Search LinkedIn Answers:

The Answers section is a great place to showcase your expertise by answering relevant questions. Doing so will enable you to build relationships one by one. If someone you want to connect with asks a question, answer it.

‘Answers’ is accessible via the ‘More’ tab on your LinkedIn toolbar.

5. Search LinkedIn Events:

Monitor events in your town and area(s) of expertise and sign-up where appropriate. You could organise to meet others who have signed up via LinkedIn prior to the event, thus maximising networking opportunities on the day.

You may also wish to post your own events so others on LinkedIn can register – don’t forget to promote these through relevant groups and your status updates (as well as on your website and via other communications channels).

LinkedIn is a great tool to identify and begin to build relationships with those you wish to. If you approach people with common-sense and focus on them and their needs, you can begin to build some good relationships that you can then move beyond LinkedIn.

How else have you used LinkedIn to find your target audience?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles @freedigitalphotos

LinkedIn: A powerful market research tool

by Kirsten Hodgson

Much has been written about LinkedIn as a lead identification and lead generation tool, and rightly so.

But it’s so much more than that.

It’s also a powerful research tool for those looking to develop new products or services or who wish to enter new markets.

One of my contacts, Zivana Anderson, found LinkedIn to be hugely beneficial when researching the market need for a new product for one of her clients.

After finding out the target market for the product, she used LinkedIn’s Advanced Search feature to identify those she wanted to talk to. She then sent an ‘expertise request’ to the people she wished to meet. They were all senior Heads of Department at major national and global corporations. 70% of those asked accepted her request.

They were all very generous and helpful with their time and spent much longer with her than she’d envisaged. As a result of her work, her client was able to establish the market need and had a clear line of communication with would be buyers.

Zivana’s advice to others seeking meetings with busy, senior professionals via LinkedIn:

1. Ensure your profile is complete and positions you well. It needs to lend credibility to your request and show that you are a professional.

2. When contacting the other person be really clear about what you’re doing and why, how long you want to meet for and the things you wish to find out. Be polite.

3. Don’t suggest a specific time. Say ‘at a time convenient to you’ so that you can get the person’s approval in principle.

4. Join a group that the other person belongs to so that you have the ability to email them using the free LinkedIn account.

This could be a great way to use LinkedIn if you’re looking to build profile in a particular industry sector or want to penetrate a new market. By emulating Zivana’s approach, you too could get in front of senior, hard to reach, decision makers.

Have you used LinkedIn as a research tool? How’s it helped you?

 

How to stand above the crowd on LinkedIn: 3 great actions

by Kirsten Hodgson

With more than 175 million members as of September 2012 (source: Wikipedia), standing out from the crowd on LinkedIn is important if you want to position yourself as an expert in your field.

The following three actions will help you to do this.  By adding value to your relationships you will be remembered and more likely to create long-term and interactive connections.

In terms of offline networking, the actions below are similar to meeting someone at a conference and making an off-hand remark about a case you are interested in.  A few weeks later you receive an article about that case along with a note saying how nice it was to meet you. How would this make you feel about that person?

Action 1: Each month introduce two of your LinkedIn connections who’d benefit from meeting one another.

I use LinkedIn’s messages to do this. When writing your message, make sure you let them know the reason for the introduction (e.g. targeting similar clients, offering complementary services), a brief summary of how you know each person and their skill-sets. Make sure you keep a note of introductions you’ve made so that you can follow up and see if the people connected/met down the track.

Action 2: When you come across an article that will be of interest to one or more of your LinkedIn connections, share it with them directly using LinkedIn email.

Let them know why you think it will be of interest to them and why they should read it. This may be something you or a third party has written. For example, if there is an upcoming legislative change you may want to give certain people a heads up…even if you don’t know much more at this stage, the fact that you’re the person bringing it to their attention means they are more likely to think of you if and when they need some help. This shows the other person that you are thinking of them and their needs and helps to position you as someone who understands their business/industry.

Action 3: After accepting someone’s invitation to connect on LinkedIn ALWAYS  send them a follow up message thanking them for their invite.

This simple step invites people to continue the conversation should they wish to do so. I do this routinely and, as a result, had two prospective clients (with who I had no prior relationship) email me back to request a meeting to see if I could help them within a two-week timeframe. They have both, subsequently, become clients.

These three actions are simple to implement but can have a huge impact on you and on the others involved.

Action: Put the above three actions as recurring tasks in your calendar or social media action plan.  Then monitor what happens.

In the words of C.G. Watson “Every action triggers a reaction.” Try to make your connections react positively to yours.

Which LinkedIn actions do you recommend or appreciate?

Image courtesy digitalart via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Social media, the Hare and the Tortoise

by Kirsten Hodgson

I love Aesop’s fables – they all have a great moral and I enjoy reading many of them to my kids (particularly after they’ve done something naughty).

The Hare and the Tortoise could have been written about social media. When the tortoise challenges the hare to a race, the hare soon leaves the tortoise behind. However, so confident is he that he’ll win, he takes a nap halfway through the race only to awake to find the tortoise has crawled past him and beaten him over the finish line.

What does this have to do with social media?

Everything.

Social media is more like a marathon than a sprint. You have to be clear about what you’re looking to achieve and be in it for the long haul. Social media puts another set of tools at your disposal. If you start off with a bang only to give up after a few weeks/months, you’ll be overtaken by others.

3 ‘hare activities’ to avoid on social media

1. Setting up profiles on multiple platforms and then doing nothing with them:

Be focused in your efforts. Identify the platform(s) that are best going to help you to build relationships with those you want to and focus on those. When these are working well for you, you can branch out. The danger of being active on too many platforms is it’s very hard to keep the information up to date.

When setting up profiles, it’s important that these position you well. Social profiles tend to rank highly in search engine results. If you don’t believe me, log out of Google and then search your (and your firm’s) name. While your website is likely to come back near the top so too are your social media profiles.

The top two ways people hire lawyers (I have no doubt this is similar for other professional services advisers) according to some BTI research is peer to peer referrals and online search. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Asking others in your network who they recommend in a particular area is a logical starting point. However, they may get two or three names. So, what happens next? They are often not ready to call you but instead perform an online search. Ensuring your profiles clearly position you is one way to tip the level playing field in your favour before someone’s met you.

If you decide that you don’t wish to be active on a network, remove your profile. A skeletal one isn’t going to benefit anyone.

2. Amassing followers, friends or contacts quickly without actually building a relationship: 

Social is about people and people build relationships with other people. I do understand the argument that you need a wide network to amplify your messages and it’s true that a wider network helps you see better quality search information on LinkedIn, but as professionals we’re selling ourselves and we need to build credibility and trust.

The best way to do that is to build relationships with others one by one. Showing a genuine interest in others, having conversations, sharing their content and asking them questions all helps to build a rapport.

Once you’re on people’s radars and they’ve had some sort of interaction with you, they’re much more likely to read and share your content and to refer you to others.

If you are looking for more work, a targeted always beats a scattergun approach so prioritise who you want to build relationships with and aim to have at least one interaction per week with one of these people.

3. Underestimating your competition: 

I spoke to partners in a professional services firm a while ago who were taken aback that another professional had built a strong reputation in a certain area. Their view was that the person wasn’t as ‘technically sound’ as they are.

However, the other person was doing a great job demonstrating their knowledge in their field, was building relationships and was getting work.

The professionals I spoke to may believe they’re better but what they think doesn’t matter. It’s what prospective clients think. The vast majority of work doesn’t need the ‘best’ brains. It requires someone competent  - and there are lots of competent people out there so you need to distinguish yourself. 

Don’t underestimate your competition. Social media has made it much easier for those without the support of a large firm behind them to market themselves. If you’re not using these channels to help others and build relationships, others are. 

Summary and actions:

  • Be focused and targeted in your approach to social media. Choose the social media network that best suits you and those you want to connect with.  
  • Ensure that your social profiles position you well. Set up an honest, up to date profile that explains who you help, what you help them with and who you are.
  • Seek to build relationships with others one by one and focus on helping the other person with no expectation of them doing the same for you. Using the search function within a network (e.g. the Advanced Search function within LinkedIn), identify three people you would like to connect with. Look to see what content they are sharing, where they are sharing it, who with and what they are responding to.Engage in conversations they are having online. 
    1. Compliment or thank them for an article they shared.
    2. Join a conversation they are having.
    3. Ask them to connect with you.
  • Don’t underestimate your competition. Social media levels the playing field and makes it much easier for those who are active on these channels to compete. Just be prepared for them to overtake you if you get caught out napping.

What other examples of ‘hare’ behaviour have you seen? 

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net