Monthly Archives: June 2013

Lawyers and accountants: Content marketing critical for positioning

The “synonymous effect of content marketing” is a key reason why lawyers, accountants and other professionals need to embrace it.

Content marketing’s nothing new.

It’s been around for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. It’s something that you’ve probably been doing throughout your career: sharing content that you, or others, have put together with your target audience(s).

The difference now is that online tools make it even easier for you to create an association in your existing clients’ and prospects’ minds between you and the content you share.

In his Slideshare for social selling presentation, Kevin Fisher terms this the “synonymous effect of content marketing” where “the effect of the content becomes synonymous with the sharer.”

Irrespective of whether you’ve created a piece of content, or curated someone else’s, it’s about getting people to associate you with a particular topic.

When doing so it is important to think about your audiences. You will want to share different content with different types of people. After all a CEO’s concerns will be different from those of CFO’s or General Counsel.

When creating your own content consider creating variations of it to appeal to each of them – for example, if some Case law has been set you may have clients likely to benefit, as well as those likely to lose out, as a result. Rather than sending them the same summary, you could change relevant parts to be written from their perspective.

We all know how easy it is to get pigeon-holed by clients...they use you in one area but often have no idea of your skills in another – usually because you’ve never told them.

Or they’ve never had a need in that area.

Content marketing can reverse this effect.

It’s one thing to tell someone something once (they may or may not remember) but quite another to consistently associate yourself with particular topics. For example, if you specialise in equity capital markets and regularly share content about shares, market commentary, trends etc. people are going to start thinking of you as an expert in this space.

If you’re a tax specialist you’ll want to share content relating to tax developments,   Inland Revenue (or equivalent) updates etc.

The beauty of it is that you won’t need to create the vast majority of content. You’ll have sourced it and shared it where relevant – positioning yourself as a ‘go-to’ source of great content in your area(s) of expertise by doing people’s reading for them.

The aim is that when people have a need in your area they think of you.

Even if you know someone really well, it can be months between meetings. If they, or a contact of theirs, has a need, you may not be top of mind.

Consistently and frequently sharing relevant content via social networks and email (as well as over the phone and in-person) reinforces your expertise and keeps you front of mind.

Meaning people are more likely to call on you when they need help.

Kevin, in his slideshare presentation, references the Demandgen Report (Feb 12) which found that “more than 90% of business to business purchases start with content engagement.”

Whether or not that’s true for lawyers and accountants, I don’t know. But I do know that often you’re the ones to alert your clients and prospects to a particular issue. You often get work on the back of this, right? Well that client’s purchase started out with content engagement.

If you want to position yourself to get more of your ideal work from more of your ideal clients, then you’re going to want to make content marketing part of your mix.

Tips for getting started:

  • Identify the key topics/areas/industries with which you want to be associated.
  • Set up a calendar and insert key dates (relevant to your topic/area/indusry) such as when new legislation is due out that may affect your clients, the next Reserve Bank announcement etc.
  • Look through your existing content and see if you can re-use or re-purpose any of it. Diarise this in your calendar and look for different angles for different segments of your audience.
  • Plan what content you will create and when – fit this around conference talks you’re giving, presentations you’re running etc. so that you’re minimising the amount you need to create from scratch.
  • Find some good sources of 3rd party content you can curate – for example, set up Google Alerts for keywords relevant to you, follow relevant people/organisations on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn etc, and subscribe to any relevant national and international broadsheet, trade and competitor publications and blogs. Doing so will help you to keep abreast of the latest developments and to share these with your network. 
  • Identify how and where you are going to share this content both on and offline. For example, sending articles to individual contacts, incorporating them in your newsletter, sharing via social networks such as LinkedIn status updates and within relevant LinkedIn groups (n.b. don’t just share a link into multiple group as that’s a form of spam. Draft a tailored intro and space out your posts), putting them on your website etc. There are so many ways to share content. Use as many as possible to maximise your reach. Don’t worry that people might have seen it before, they’ll ignore it the second time.

What have I missed? 

How could you improve your content marketing? 

Related articles:

The LinkedIn Guide to Personalized Content Creation

Social media plans: why failing to prepare really is preparing to fail

by Kirsten Hodgson

Whatever people might say, social media is NOT a strategy. But it is a tactic (or series of tactics) you can use to achieve your overall business and marketing objectives. Before you start using social media (or before you go any further) then you need to be clear about what you want to achieve and who you want to engage with. Answer the questions:

  • How can I use social media to help me achieve my business and marketing objectives?
  • Which objectives could social media be an appropriate tactic for?

Putting together an action plan can feel like a chicken and egg situation because it’s hard to know how you can leverage social media without having used it first. The steps I recommend are:

  1. Identify those you want to engage with (or monitor!) For example existing clients, prospects, referrers, peers, competitors.
  2. Identify which social media platforms they use. Start by asking people you know with whom you wish to engage, and use the search functions within each social media network to see if those you wish to engage with are on the platform (such as the ‘Advanced search’ function within LinkedIn. You can find this in the top right hand corner of your menu bar. To enter the advanced screen simply click on the word ‘Advanced’ next to the magnifying glass icon. You can then search by name, company name, position etc).
  3. Write down which networks you will use to engage with your audience(s). If you are new to social media I would pick one network initially and use it well before moving onto others. This is to ensure you don’t spread yourself too thinly. While it can be tempting to use tools such as Hootsuite (which is a fab tool that I highly recommend) to post to multiple platforms simultaneously, you need to be careful that you get the tone right for each network and that what you are posting is relevant to that audience. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing every single tweet someone puts out in your LinkedIn or Facebook stream.
  4. Write down what topics/areas you would like to engage them on. What are the things that are important to your target audience that you can help with, or what would you like to find out more about from them? What discussion topics will you respond to? Identifying these areas really does help you focus and prevents you wasting time online, which is so easy to do.
  5. Write down how you will use each social media network, including which features you will use to engage with people and how often. I recommend creating a simple spreadsheet to set out this info. Using LinkedIn as an example you should consider how and how often you will use:
  • Status updates
  • Posting to groups
  • Responding to discussions within groups
  • Asking and answering questions
  • Polls
  • Events

Within Facebook, where do those you want to engage currently hang out? How can you get in front of them in these places? I think too many firms rely on others visiting their page rather than going to where those they wish to engage with are.

My advice would be: -

If you have an overall goal around client retention and growth then look at how you can use social media to better service your existing clients. For example, you may want to think about a quick response Twitter account, that your clients know they can use if they want someone to contact them immediately, or you might want to set up a private group on LinkedIn for particular clients where you and they can brainstorm issues of interest to them, meet others who they would benefit from meeting etc.

If one of your goals is to grow your business in a particular sector or area of specialism then first and foremost you will want to find out where the key industry players and others you want to engage with are. The best way to find out is to ask those you wish to engage with which social media networks they use. Alternatively, search for them on existing social media networks. Within LinkedIn, for example, you can use the Advanced Search Option: [INSERT VIDEO SHOWING PEOPLE HOW] Go where your ta is. From a business development and marketing perspective, I’ve identified 9 key ways professionals can use social media:

2012 legal marketing predictions

by Kirsten Hodgson

2012 is just around the corner. 

How is the legal landscape likely to change? Here are my predictions: 

1. Legal Process Outsourcing becomes more widespread. The challenge for 2012 will be how firms differentiate their offerings from one-another. 

2. More use of legal project managers who are engaged on a project by project basis to manage the various law firms. 

3. 

LinkedIn new navigation and advanced search orientation video

by Kirsten Hodgson

LinkedIn’s now rolled out its new navigation to most users and has begun to roll out the slightly amended advanced search feature. Here’s a quick orientation video (6 mins) to get you up to speed. It covers:

  • How to find features under the new navigation toolbar
  • How to get to harder to find features including Signal (1.45 min into video), the ‘cheaper’ LinkedIn premium plans (2.42 mins) and Recommendations (3.26 mins).
  • How to use the more intuitive search feature (4.15 mins) and the amended Advanced Search feature (4.58 mins) (n.b. the ability to sort results by keyword is no longer available in the new search feature).

What do you think of the recent LinkedIn changes? 

What areas would you like future videos to cover? 

 

The content is king myth busted – here’s why it isn’t

by Kirsten Hodgson

I don’t dispute that creating content (that’s of value to your clients and prospects) is important.

But, alone, it’s NOT king and it’s not even queen. Here’s why:

If you want to position yourself as a thought leader and to generate work as a result of sharing your compelling content, then two other components are vital:

  1. Timing
  2. Distribution

Ideally you want to be the person who brings an issue to people’s attention, or who provides them with great, thought-provoking information about a topical (or upcoming) subject.

However,  I regularly interview clients of professional services firms who say:

“I received X’s newsletter/alert on the new [employment law changes]. It was really interesting but we had already engaged someone to help us with that. Had X called us to give us a heads up before the changes occurred, and then followed up with some brief information about the changes and what they might mean for us when the [new legislation] came out, they would have got our work.”

Another example: I recently saw a tweet from a large law firm about an interesting case. They reported it and talked a bit about the implications for others. It was interesting. Sounds good, right? 

The problem?

That same case had been doing the Twitter rounds 6 weeks prior to the law firm putting its tweet out. It was OLD NEWS. It had already been dissected to bits.

Clients and prospective clients were likely to have seen it elsewhere – like in the media or via the same social networks this firm was using to share its content. Sure, there may have been a few who missed it but the firm missed an opportunity to create really valuable content by being S L O W. 

I know things need to go through design and approval processes – that, in and of itself, in today’s world can be an issue.

If you want to position yourself for work you’ve got to either be quick to market OR you’ve got to put a unique angle on something.

To the firm’s credit, their article was well-written, it was just past its use-by-date.

I’d say a lot of professional services firms miss out on work because the content they share, while valuable, is often poorly timed OR it’s sent out via only one channel when a multitude of channels would be better. If you’ve done the work, make sure you share it with those who will benefit from it.

My recommendations?

  • Make sure you are the one to bring an important subject/trend/development to your clients’ attention and then keep them informed as and when necessary. Get around the approval process by putting out short updates, linking to relevant articles while they’re timely and letting them know when your analysis will be out.
  • Use a variety of channels to share your content with your target audience and to engage with them – both offline and online (face to face is always the best form of contact with key clients and targets followed by phone, and then email and online).
  • Leverage issues – pick an issue and make sure you’re all over it, or know enough to ignite discussion, inform clients or ask pertinent questions.
  • Ensure your online content is readily accessible on your website or blog and that you notify your clients of updates.
  • Direct people to your online content using social media, email etc. but only do so if it’s designed to help or be of interest to them. Never just send a link. Write a short intro with some key info or an overview of the piece. This makes it easier for people to make a call about whether it’s something they should read, watch or listen to.

When you’re thinking about what content you’re going to share, think about when and how you’re going to share it – it might make all the difference between winning work and missing out.

And that’s why creating good content alone is NOT king.

What do you think?

Image courtesy Digitalart @freedigitalphotos.net

5 habits of successful law firm social media managers – additional thoughts

by Kirsten Hodgson

Kevin O’Keefe (@kevinokeefe), CEO and Publisher at Lexblog, wrote a great post last week on the 5 habits of successful law firm social media managers. It’s based on a post by Andrew Caravella (@andrewcaravella), vice president of marketing at Sprout Social, a social media management and engagement platform.

Kevin provided some great advice, that I’d like to add to. So, for what it’s worth, here are my two-pennies:

Embracing internal social networks and becoming a social business

Kevin wisely advises law firm social media managers to prioritise the platforms they use and to align business strategy/goals with the tactics.

One area, related to this, law firm social media managers need to drive is the use of internal social networks.

Law firms are their own worst enemies.

Their structure, physical layout and, in some cases, sheer size, encourage silos and make information sharing a challenge! While some firms do have internal social networks I’d question how well they are actually being used to facilitate better working and information sharing across a firm. And whether they’re actively being used to support firms’ to achieve their strategic objectives.

Are those at the top sharing info via this network?

Are they sharing meeting minutes on there?

Are they rewarding others who share information and collaborate?

A law firm social media manager can make a real difference by learning from the likes of IBM, Microsoft and some of the accounting firms and driving the effective use of a firm’s internal social network.

This will help firms to make better use of other social networks and help remove many of the current obstacles.

Eat the elephant one bite at a time

The other thing that really struck a chord was Kevin and Andrew’s advice to “create strategic alliances and set the tone for compelling social behavior.”

There are always going to be social media sceptics or those who just don’t want to use the tools.

But then there are others who are keen to learn and to understand how they can use the tools to achieve their goals.

Start small. Start with these people and build outwards. Over time share their successes and bring others on board that way. You can’t eat the elephant in one bite and that’s particularly true in a law firm.

But you can effect change by focusing on the paths of least resistance.

And by focusing on those things that will make the biggest difference.

Building a social business and using the tools to best effect will have a huge (and positive) impact on your firm and the achievement of its goals.

It’ll be a roller-coaster ride…but what an amazing ride to be on.

What other habits do you think successful law firm social media managers should adopt? 

Image courtesy Idea go at freedigitalphotos.net