Author Archives: Kirsten Hodgson

How do you find the time for social media in professional services?

 

How do you find the time for social media

Two questions I’m regularly asked by BD and marketing professionals working in professional services firms are:

“How do we best use social media?”

And

“How do we find the time for it?”

I can totally relate to these. Social media can feel like one more thing to add into your already busy day.

A great way to start is to think about how one, or a combination, of these tools could increase the effectiveness of an existing initiative or make it quicker or easier for you to achieve a specific objective.

Here’s an example:

What we did

When I was marketing manager in a law firm, one of our corporate practice’s goals was to build more and stronger relationships at board level, both to generate work at that level and to raise the firm’s profile to ensure board members would be comfortable should management decide to hire the firm.

As a result, we held a corporate governance symposium and invited numerous ‘captains of industry’ along.

Following the session, one of our partners drafted a White Paper largely based on discussion and feedback at the event, which was given to all Board Members on our database as well as specific journalists.

What could we have done if we were doing it all over again today?

It was a great initiative and it worked well for the firm. However, if that was today, we could have done so much more such as:

  • Used LinkedIn to identify other key company directors to invite
  • Used Twitter, LinkedIn etc. to help with the research
  • Invited people through the platforms or run promoted/sponsored content informing them about the event that would appear in their newsfeed/stream.
  • Offered the Whitepaper as a download through our team’s individual accounts, our company page and via promoted/sponsored updates. The whitepaper could possibly have been offered as gated content company directors could download in return for signing up to a ‘Board Table’ newsletter (allowing us to keep in touch with them on an ongoing basis).
  • Published a summary of the whitepaper to our blog or website and directly to LinkedIn and then promoted this in relevant groups asking a question to drive discussion.
  • Interviewed the relevant partners and put together a video and audio, which could be posted on YouTube, iTunes etc. and shared via social networks. Alternatively we could have held a Google+ Hangout or Hangout on Air.
  • Used LinkedIn and Twitter to identify and reach out to relevant journalists.
  • Sent a summary of the whitepaper to journalists and company directors – social networks would have made this process easier because we could have used tools such as Inmail to send it to those people who were previously unknown to the firm along with a smart intro setting out why we were sending it and the benefit to the other person of reading it.
  • Set up a LinkedIn group for corporate governance issues and invited people to sign up for it at the event – via tablets they could log into.
  • Live tweeted from the event.
  • Set up a Corporate Governance tweet chat – if we found sufficient directors were using the tool and/or a regular forum to discuss issues e.g. via a Google+ hangout.

The point is, this initiative was incredibly successful, but it could have been even more so had we been able to use social tools as part of our tactics. At the very least, a LinkedIn group would have enabled the firm to sustain the momentum over the long term.

So, rather than thinking of social media as an additional task, think about how you can use it to make your job easier and improve a particular outcome. I guarantee it will be worth it.

How do you use social media to add value to existing initiatives in your practice/firm?

Image Credit: www.pbs.org

Why do so many professionals struggle to build their practices?

I met with a lawyer last week who has a wealth of experience in his field, yet is struggling to build a practice.

It’s an issue many professionals face.

He explained that he’s been for coffees/lunch with everyone in his network and assumed the work would follow.

How to improve your lead conversion over a coffee

Fair assumption, right? I mean these are people who already know him.

Unfortunately not.

For starters, I bet they’re propositioned on a fairly regular basis by lawyers who want their work.

Secondly, they may have every intention of giving him work, but they just don’t have any currently.

Whatever the case, this lawyer was feeling despondent and unsure about what to do next.

Have you ever had a similar experience?

If you’re in a similar situation here are some practical steps you can take:

It makes total sense to start with your existing network. However, it’s important to get your approach right. Think about it from your contact’s perspective – which of the following would you prefer?

“Hi Jane. It’s great to see you. I can’t believe it’s been 2 years since we last caught up. As you know I’ve started my own practice helping companies with X issues and would love to work with you. Do you have any work for me?”

Or

“Hi Jane. It’s great to see you. I can’t believe it’s been 2 years since we last caught up. As you know I’ve started my own practice helping companies with X issues and would really like to find out from you what I need to do to position myself within your industry. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?

It could be that I’m British, but the first approach would make me feel uncomfortable, whereas the second wouldn’t – plus I’d be happy to provide some insights and to help the other person.

So, the first step is to plan.

The plan

What’s the outcome you want from the meeting? Getting new work is probably a tad optimistic for a first meeting but gathering information in order to develop an offering for the person you’re meeting, or to get an introduction to the person’s colleague isn’t.  A good outcome will involve a next step – an opportunity to progress things. It will help to avoid pleasant, but ultimately pointless, meetings.

Once you know your goal, write down between 3-5 questions you want to ask the other person.

The meeting 

The second step is to set up the meeting. Let your contact know why you want to meet e.g. “I’m looking to put together an offering for the construction industry and would really value your input. Do you have half an hour in the next few weeks for a coffee?”

When you get to the meeting, restate the purpose and then ask the questions you’ve planned to get the other person talking. You should be doing most of the listening. At the end, get their buy-in to the next step e.g.” I’m going to put together the offering over the next week. Would you mind if I run it by you once I’ve done so?”

Always ask who else you should be meeting with/speaking to. If they mention people you don’t know, ask if they’d be prepared to introduce you and what you can do to make that process easy for them.

The follow up

After the meeting, follow up with a good summary of your discussion and possibly send the person something related to your conversation if appropriate.

The key thing now is to work on the next step. However, you’ll also want to ensure you’re top of mind with the other person both in the interim and over the long term. This is where social networks and traditional marketing come into play.

  • Connect/follow the person on social networks on which they’re active.
  • Develop a content plan (if you haven’t already done so) and then create and curate content relevant to them. Share this directly with them (if appropriate) as well as via relevant social networks, your website, newsletter etc.
  • Invite them to any events/functions you’re hosting that might interest them.
  • Introduce them to others in your network who they would benefit from meeting.
  • Engage with, and share, content they share.

Look to get as many positive touch points with them as possible. This will help keep you top of mind so that, should they have a need, or be asked to recommend someone to a contact, they’re likely to think of you.

There is no silver-bullet, but by adopting a carefully considered and integrated approach, you can really stand out from your competitors. Which is exactly what you need to do if you want to win more of your ideal work.

Your thoughts?  How do you make the most of your coffee meetings with old contacts? 

How can accepting Bitcoin payments help your legal practice?

Coming from the UK but living in New Zealand I get people’s frustrations with bank fees on international transactions. Quite frankly, it feels like daylight robbery.

How can accepting Bitcoin payments help your legal practice?

Which is why I love the idea of Bitcoin, a digital currency in which transactions can be performed without the need for a central bank.

In January 2014, LegalVision, one of Australia’s most innovative legal service providers, announced it would be the first Australian law firm to accept payment in Bitcoins.

Lachlan McKnight is the CEO and co-founder of LegalVision, which helps small to medium businesses and start-ups looking for legal assistance, advice or documentation. Their business lawyers work online and for a fixed fee.

I spoke to Lachlan about:

  • what prompted this
  • how it’s impacted LegalVision’s business
  • what advice he’d give to other professional services firms thinking about accepting Bitcoin payments.

Why did you decide to accept Bitcoin payments?

“We had a customer based in Germany who wanted to pay in Bitcoins and so we decided to look into it. We signed up with Bitpay, which was a really easy process, and started accepting Bitcoin payments. The real benefit to international clients is that we can charge them less, as Bitcoin trading fees are much lower than traditional international bank transfer fees.”

What, if any, impact has doing so had on your business?

“When we announced that we were accepting Bitcoin payments, we got lots of media coverage both in Australia and internationally. As a result, a number of people came to us asking us to help them resolve Bitcoin disputes.”

“We now seem to get found by people wanting help in this area. Interestingly, negative publicity about Bitcoin resulted in more work for us.”

“Bitcoin payments make up a small, but growing percentage of our total revenue. However, a lot of our clients operate in the online or technology sphere. Even if they don’t want to pay in Bitcoin, the fact we accept this currency shows that we understand new technology and that we’re open to new ways of doing things – it’s essentially a trust signal.”

“Accepting Bitcoin payments has also been valuable internally as it shows our existing and potential staff that we’re a different type of business to a traditional law firm.”

What types of customers typically pay in Bitcoins?

“Typically overseas clients who don’t want to deal with money transfer issues and Bitcoin entrepreneurs. I expect this will change over time but Bitcoin is still not main-stream.”

What advice would you give to lawyers and other professionals looking to accept Bitcoin payments?

“Firstly, I’d say it’s very easy to set up and to use. Secondly, once you’ve taken a payment in Bitcoin, sell it immediately for your local currency. The value of Bitcoin does fluctuate from day to day and so, unless you’re prepared to take a risk, you’ll want to exchange it for real money.”

How to set up a Bitpay account:

1.  Go to www.bitpay.com and fill out the short form.
2.  Click the link in the verification email they send through to verify your email address.
3.  Once you receive your account approval, log into your Bitpay account and set up details of your settlement currency and bank details.
4.  Adjust your approved sales volume limit from US$100 per day by clicking ‘raise your limit’ on your dashboard. There are 3 options:

  • Basic – enables processing up to $1,000 per day. It requires a manual account review and can take 1-3 business days.
  • Verified – enables processing up to $10,000 per day. This requires a manual account review and you will need to provide proof of address, incorporation documents, photo ID and Tax ID number. It takes 2-4 days to set up.
  • Trusted – enables processing up to $100,000 per day. This requires all the same things as ‘Verified’ plus the most recent 3 months of bank statements OR an extended validation SSL certificate.

4.  Add payment buttons and/or plugins to your website, or invoice via Bitpay.  

What do you think – can you see a benefit in accepting Bitcoin payments in your practice?

Should I connect with other lawyers on LinkedIn?

Lawyers regularly ask me this so I thought it worthy of a blog post.

The answer to this really comes down to your objectives. What is it you’re looking to achieve?

Should I connect with other lawyers on LinkedIn

There are some very good reasons why you might wish to connect with other lawyers, such as:

  • You wish to generate referrals from other lawyers
  • It’s a great way to keep track of former colleagues and friends who may one day move in-house
  • You want to pick up some tips from others’ activity.

I know some of you will be concerned that other lawyers will look through your contacts and try to poach them.

In order to prevent this, you have two options (other than not connecting with them):

  1. Be proactive and focus on providing your clients with excellent customer service and regularly sharing content they will find valuable and helpful. In all likelihood your competitors will be talking to your clients anyway, so this is always a key area on which to focus.
  2. Hide your connections on LinkedIn. This means your connections can only see details of shared connections (i.e. those connections you have in common). To do so, go to ‘Privacy & Settings’ (hover over the photo of you in the top right hand corner of your LinkedIn toolbar and select Privacy & Settings from the dropdown list – you may be prompted for your password), look under the ‘Privacy Controls’ header in your profile settings and select ‘See who can see your connections’. Choose ‘Only you’ from the drop-down box.

On one hand, LinkedIn is about networking and helping others in your network and it many people perceive it negatively when people hide their connections, but on the other if you act for Shell and you have lots of connections at BP this could cause issues with your client.

Ultimately, you have to do what’s right for you and make sure that your social media guidelines are flexible enough to allow others to do the same.

What are your views on connecting with other professionals in your industry?  Are you for or against?

Image Credit: www.jobinterviewtools.com

The single biggest mistake I’ve made on Twitter

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

It’s just a shame I didn’t have the foresight to avoid this mistake. Because it’s actually a biggie and is badly affecting the way I use Twitter. I know I’ve been missing lots of great info from the people I really want to follow.

My mistake is this: I didn’t properly think about which Twitter lists I’d actually need long term and now they’re in a mess. 

The thing is I’m probably not alone, which is why I’m sharing what I’m doing about it – in the hope that it will help you too.

So, back to the lists. They started out okay but, as I’ve followed more people, tweets I want to see have become buried in overly-active streams. I not only didn’t think hard enough about my lists but I kept on adding people to them.

Why Twitter Lists Aren't Working for Me

 

Things are about to change.

After 5+ years on Twitter I’m finally going to be more strategic about how I use lists.

Why should YOU care?

Perhaps you’re in a similar situation and are wondering how you can make the most of Twitter. Perhaps you’re new(ish) to the platform and want to know what lists to set up.

Here’s what I’m doing.

I am setting up lists for:

  • Top clients
  • Other clients
  • Top prospects
  • Top referrers
  • Top influencers in each sector I follow (split into separate lists by sector)
  • Journalists by sector
  • People who re-tweet me (so I can make sure I reciprocate)

I’m then keeping my existing lists but in a much more streamlined format. Once I’ve moved people into the new lists the existing ones should be much easier to monitor.

I really wish I’d taken the time to do this at the outset. It would have saved heaps of time and my sanity!

What else do you think I (and others in a similar situation) should do to avoid ‘buried info syndrome’ on Twitter? I’d love to hear your tips.

Image Credit: mediainjection.com

New LinkedIn feature allows firms to send messages to a specific audience

In late July LinkedIn launched a new feature, Direct Sponsored Content, that allows firms/companies to sponsor their content WITHOUT it appearing on their company or showcase page. This means you can now send specific messages to a specific audience.

New LinkedIn feature allows firms to send messages to a specific audience

Imagine you’re aware of an upcoming RFP and want to position yourself prior to it coming out – you can use one, or a series, of direct sponsored content, to get on the radars of those who will be involved in the decision.

There are a whole lot of applications for this and it effectively means that your competitors and others (who you’re not targeting) will be unaware of what you’re doing. 

How to create direct sponsored content in 11 easy steps:

  1. Go to your company or Showcase page, click edit, and scroll down to the ‘Direct Sponsored Content’ posters box and type in the people authorised to post for your firm. If you want to include a poster to appear alongside any sponsored content, do so here.
  2. If you don’t have a business account, you’ll need to create one and link it to your company page. Go to Business Services, Advertise and sign in to the campaign manager. Move your cursor over your name in the top right and select ‘Create your Business Account’ and then type in the name of your firm (if that doesn’t work open your company page in a new window and copy and paste the URL across).
  3. When you have your business account: Go to Business Services (top right of toolbar), Advertise, Manage.
  4. Select ‘Create new campaign’.
  5. Click ‘Sponsor content’
  6. Scroll to ‘What would you like to sponsor’ header and click ‘Create Direct sponsored content’ This will open a dialogue box.
  7. Type in your message and URL link (you are limited to about 1.5 lines of text total).
  8. Click save.
  9. Click ‘Direct Sponsored Content’
  10. Select the message you just created.
  11. Follow the prompts – name your campaign etc and then press next for targeting and costing options.

This is a great new feature. It not only means you can put the right messages in front of the right people at the right time but also allows you to send these from a Showcase page rather than just from your Company page.

Have you used this feature? Let us know what you think of it or how you think you’ll use it. 

Image Credit: http://marketing.linkedin.com/

I’ve set up my LinkedIn profile, now what?

Firstly, congratulations! You’ve taken a really important first step: setting up a LinkedIn profile that clearly positions you.

But what should you do now?

While it will depend on your objectives for being on LinkedIn there are some key steps below you should consider:

1. Connect with people you wish to

The more people you connect with, the more people potentially see your updates. If they then engage with these updates (by liking, commenting on or sharing) the greater your reach as their connections can then see that particular update.

The second reason to connect with more people is that search results will be more meaningful – important if you’re looking to grow your practice. With LinkedIn’s free account, you can see up to 100 search results and full information for your first degree connections (i.e. those people you’re connected to), your second degree connections (connections of your contacts) and fellow group members.

Of course, if you only want to connect with those you know or have met in person, that’s fine too – if search is important to you then you have three other options:

  1. Join more LinkedIn groups
  2. Upgrade to a premium (i.e. paid for) account
  3. Use Google to search LinkedIn (known as X-ray searching LinkedIn)

There are several ways to find people on LinkedIn:

  1. If you know their name, type it into the search bar
  2. Look through the ‘People you may Know’ feature
  3. Look through your connections’ profiles and, if they have their connections on display, take a look at these
  4. Upload or sync. your email contacts – LinkedIn will then tell you which of them are on LinkedIn (if you’re a lawyer I do NOT recommend synching your contacts – you will be able to see your last few email exchanges with the person within LinkedIn, which could cause confidentiality issues should your account be compromised).
  5. Use the Advanced Search feature to search by a number of criteria.

 2. Join relevant LinkedIn groups and start talking to people there

While the majority of groups on LinkedIn are a waste of time – either because they’re badly managed and are full of spam or there’s not a lot going on, there are some great groups out there so it’s worth looking for them.

You can check out the group stats as well as who in your network is a member of a group prior to joining and if the group is ‘open’ (i.e. anyone can join and discussions are indexed by Google) you’ll be able to see discussions too. This info will help you to make a call about whether a group’s for you.

If not, leave it and join another that better meets your needs. LinkedIn currently allows you to join up to 50 groups plus a further 10 subgroups, which is sufficient for most people.

3. Develop a content plan

If you’re looking to position yourself and overcome pigeon-holing then you’ll want to develop a content plan – essentially a calendar setting out what you’ll be producing when. Here’s a how to:

Tips to make creating content easier for you:

  • Share the load around your team – it means you might only have to put together one or two pieces for a year’s worth of content
  • Think about existing content that you could re-use, update or repurpose (e.g. an article into a Slideshare presentation)
  • Block out an afternoon to draft your content – you may find it easier to go with stream of consciousness first and to edit and reorder later
  • Repurpose all new content you produce – get as much mileage from it as you can (e.g. once you have 4-6 blog posts you could turn them into a free guide)

Your own content should be supported by good quality third party content that either helps to create a need for your services or positions you as up with the play. By curating content, you can position yourself as a go to source of info by doing people’s reading for them. There are so many sources of great content from social networks, blogs, traditional media etc. Consider downloading an App such as Feedly or Pulse onto your phone and subscribing to at least 5 good sources of content in your area. You can then take a quick look through each day – when waiting for a meeting to start, while catching the bus/train to work, when watching TV) – and quickly and easily share it. 

4.  Regularly share relevant content with those in your network

Share both your own and third party content via your usual channels as well as LinkedIn. Get relevant people to share it via their accounts (including directly with individuals who need or may want to know about it), share it on your company and/or Showcase page(s), share it via relevant groups (don’t forget to include an intro and don’t share into multiple groups simultaneously or you’ll run the risk of being blocked by a group manager, meaning all your content will need to be moderated before it can be posted in every group to which you belong. That’s unless a particular group manager unblocks you in their group. However many don’t know how to do this), sponsor your update (if appropriate) or run a LinkedIn Ad.

5. Start your own LinkedIn group

There are many reasons why you might want to start your own LinkedIn group. These include:

  1. Building your profile in your area of expertise
  2. Positioning yourself as an authority in your area
  3. Finding and attracting those with similar interests or who may need your help
  4. Widening your professional network by building relationships with group members
  5. Learning more about the views and perspectives of those in your industry
  6. Establishing a community
  7. Generating interest in you and your firm, including inbound enquiries.

If you want your group to be a success then you’ll need to plan and to do more than follow LinkedIn’s process, which suggests you invite people to join your group before there are any discussions there – why would anyone want to do that? It doesn’t make sense.

This Prezi (below) talks you through how to go about setting up a LinkedIn group that people will want to join and that will deliver value to its members. If you find it helpful, please share it.

 6.  Seek to move relationships beyond LinkedIn

LinkedIn is another way to stay top of mind with existing contacts and to find and engage ideal prospects. However, it’s unlikely that professionals will get work simply through being on LinkedIn.

Another step or steps will need to occur such as an in-person meeting, a Skype call or putting together a pitch document so it’s important to look for opportunities to move the relationship beyond LinkedIn. There are a multitude of ways to do this from events, to asking people to guest speak, write articles, attend a roundtable, catch up for a coffee etc. The key thing is to make it about the other person. If there’s a benefit to them, then go for it. Just remember that a meeting is much more likely to be successful if you’ve positioned yourself with and demonstrated your value to the other person first.

7.  Measure, measure, measure

Hopefully you’ve picked a few key measures that are tied to your objectives and are tracking these over time and in conjunction with your other initiatives.

Keep tracking what’s working well and what’s working less well and tweaking your approach accordingly.

If you want to generate work from LinkedIn then you’ve got to be active: consistently so. Doing a little and often is a much better approach than going at it with great gusto in the early days only to tail off after a few months.

If you focus on positioning yourself as a valuable resource, helping others, and building relationships one by one, then you won’t go far wrong.

What other advice would you give to professionals wanting to use LinkedIn to grow their practices?

If your content’s not educational, you’re losing work

According to some recent research  conducted by Kentico, a company’s educational content doesn’t come up when searching for topics related to a problem or need nearly as often as it should. Only 27% of those interviewed report it happens often, 57% sometimes, 11% hardly ever and 5% never.

If your content’s not educational, you’re losing work

While not specific to the professional services sector, it does suggest there is a huge opportunity for firms to put out more useful content that educates people around their problems and needs.

I’m not saying some firms don’t do that already. There is a heap of useful content out there and some of it is great.

But, that’s not always the case. While being helpful is often the intent, sometimes the salient points are buried on page 3. Or there’s too much jargon, too many big words and unbearably loooooooong sentences.

If you’re not putting out content that helps and informs your prospective clients (or the helpful bits aren’t easy to find), then you can bet your bottom dollar that you’re losing work to your competitors.

If you’re putting out puff pieces that aren’t particularly interesting or helpful to others then STOP right now.

Put down your pen. Or your Dictaphone.

And rethink things.

Starting with what do the people you’re looking to talk to want or need to know?

  • What are the common questions your clients ask you?
  • What upcoming, new, emerging legislation are you aware of that will or could impact them?
  • What are some tips you could provide for dealing with X or Y situations?
  • What research have you conducted or commissioned that your clients and prospects will want to hear about?

Once you’ve brainstormed a list of topics, put together a content calendar, setting out what you’ll produce, when. Don’t forget to mark in dates like when a Bill’s having its next reading before Parliament, when a decision is expected that could create case law and so on.

Assign responsibility for compiling each piece of content, sharing it around your team. If you decide to produce one piece per month then a team of 6 would only need to put together two pieces each per year.

Tips to make compiling content easier for you:

  1. Play to your strengths – if you don’t like writing, how about an audio or video post.
  2. Block out time in your diary to produce the content – blocking out an afternoon means you could draft 4+ pieces (giving you enough content for a good few months).
  3. Ask a skilled interviewer (such as someone in your marketing team or an external consultant) to interview you for a piece. They could then draft this for you – but you will need to make sure you check it carefully!
  4. Once you have a piece of content, repurpose it. If you’ve written a blog post, record it, break it down into bite-sized tips, combine 3-4 posts into a free guide, turn it into a Slideshare presentation (or Prezi). The list is endless.
  5. Get help editing and optimising your content – you don’t have to do everything yourself. Ask someone to physically put the post up (their job  could include sourcing and adding an image, adding hyperlinks, creating any call to action you want to add, categorising the post, SEO etc.)

Once your content’s ready, share it via your usual channels.

Make sure you don’t blast it everywhere simultaneously. Space posts out (using a tool such as Hootsuite to schedule them) to maximise the number of people who see them.

Don’t forget to identify clients or contacts who’d specifically benefit from a particular piece and to share this with them directly (think about whether any journalists might be interested). Let them know why you’ve done so and why you thought they’d be interested. You could do this via email, LinkedIn, Twitter or another social network.

Monitor how your content goes down. Respond to any comments in a timely fashion. Then re-purpose your content and put it out there in another form.

What strategies have worked for you when compiling content and how do you keep it educational (versus promotional)?
Image credit: www.flinders.edu.au

LinkedIn’s premium features: be seen before your competitors

LinkedIn’s just announced changes to its premium accounts and there’s a key reason for professionals to upgrade.

It’s this: doing so will help you to get found before your competitors.

If you’re using (or intending to use) LinkedIn to attract more of your ideal prospects then read on!

More and more people are using LinkedIn’s search functionality to find people with specific skills. Up until now all search results have looked the same. But that’s no longer true.

Now, profiles of LinkedIn premium members will look bigger and contain more info than those with the free account.

LinkedIn's premium features will now help you get found before your competitors

To further help premium members, LinkedIn now makes personalised suggestions to help them to optimise their profiles: i.e. to increase the number of search results in which their profile appears.

Optimise your LinkedIn profile to get found

A little-known feature that’s been around for ages but that LinkedIn is now plugging is the ability for premium members to set their profile to Open. This means that every LinkedIn member can see your full profile and reach out to you for free. If you have a premium account and want your profile to be open go to ‘Privacy and Settings’ by clicking on your photo in the top right hand corner of the screen and selecting ‘Privacy and Settings’ from the drop down list that will appear. Select ‘Change’ in the Open Profile section towards the top of the page and tick the ‘Turn on open profile’ box.

LinkedIn Open Profile

Lastly, things will look different once people look at your profile. Premium members will benefit from a larger photo and expanded profile header and early access to LinkedIn’s new custom profile background, which will roll out to all members over the coming months.

Work with clients in the building sector? Have some good shots of you speaking at a conference? Or want to highlight something else in your profile? You can use the custom profile background to do so.

When designing your profile background your image should be 1400 x 495 pixels, less than 4MB in size and in JPG, PNG or GIF format.  Remember not to place text or images where your profile cutout will go, it also pays to note that LinkedIn places a colour gradient over the bottom half of this background so you may want to keep your graphics in the upper half.

LinkedIn new profile background

If you’re not a premium member you can still request early access to the custom profile background

What’s the cheapest premium account that will give you access to these premium features?  

The cheapest premium account was called the Personal Plus account but it looks like this has been renamed Premium Spotlight. It costs US$7.99 per month if billed annually. Here’s a handy chart LinkedIn has put together comparing the various premium plans.

What do you think of the new LinkedIn features?  Have you seen some profiles with the new backgrounds that really stand out? Share the links in the comments below.

Be seen as an expert in your field: leverage an issue

Imagine you’re a client of an accounting or law firm. Your accountant and lawyer both seem to be doing a good job. There’s just one problem: you don’t hear much from them when they’re not working for you.

Be seen as an expert in your field: leverage an issue

Each month you hear from another accountant and lawyer – they send you information you want to know, their posts pop up when you log into LinkedIn, they call you when there’s a tax or legislative change that looks like it will impact your business. You see them quoted in the media, they speak at conferences you attend. In short they’re everywhere.

Would you stick with your existing accountant or lawyer or would you switch? I guess it depends on how good a job they’re doing for you but at some point you’re likely to think “I really should give this new guy/girl a go because they’re clearly know what they’re talking about.”

If I was the incumbent accountant and lawyer I’d be worried!

The point is this: if you’re not top of mind with your clients and prospects you’re missing out on business: business that you want.

So if you want to stop that happening and be seen as an expert in your field, you’re going to need to work hard to own the space.

How?

You need to identify key issues that will impact your target market and then leverage all the tools and channels available to you. One very effective strategy is to take an issue and leverage it to death: own it! 

The ideas below are based on some work I did with one of my clients a few years ago that positioned her as a leader in her field. Those operating in the same area say she’s still right up there today.

The first thing you need to do is to brainstorm the upcoming big issues in your area of practice. When doing so, think about:

  • whether there is any new/emerging legislation
  • what your clients and prospects say their big-ticket items are going to be for the next year or two
  • what’s happening in your area overseas that may impact your clients or may become legislation in your country
  • whether there’s an opportunity to commission some research that will be of value to your target audience (such as research to uncover attitudes, future trends, issues etc) or to run round-table sessions

Then choose your topic or issue and create an action plan:

  • write down your goals ensuring they are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound). For example a goal might be to generate $X in revenues from water-related projects between Jun 2014 and May 2015. NB: goals don’t all have to be financially related and could include converting specific prospects into clients, or to be the go to person for the media for enquiries in your area etc.
  • write down the measures you will use to ascertain whether you have achieved your goals. For example, number of clients, number of repeat clients, percentage of overall work from this area, client feedback etc.
  • write down the actions you will take and when you will take them (see below for some ideas of how you can leverage the various channels). You may want to do this as a timeline so you can see what you are going to do when and include when third party decisions will come out that you will need to respond to (such as when Bills before Parliament are due to have their next reading or when the next Budget or Reserve Bank decision is due out). Doing this means you can allocate time to read through decisions/key points and summarise these to your clients/prospects.
  • keep updating your action plan with next steps to ensure there is forward momentum.

How to leverage the issues

I regularly see professionals put out a news alert to their clients, and they may even speak at a conference and put together an article on the same topic but I very rarely see them proactively leveraging all communications channels open to them to really own the space. While it might look like a lot of work it’s actually surprisingly easy to repurpose content. You can also ask your colleagues and marketing team to help with some of the activities. Using the example of some new legislation coming into force, here’s what you can do:

  1. Call your top 5 clients who are likely to be impacted. Don’t wait until the legislation comes into force. Give clients an early heads-up and then let them know you’ll come back to them when you have more information.
  2. At the same time post a LinkedIn update, both personally and on your company and/or relevant showcase page; post an update to Google+, Twitter, and Facebook if relevant and ask your colleagues to do the same. You could direct those interested in hearing more to sign up to your notifications list. If you set up a landing page, where they can input their name and email address you can grow your distribution list for this issue.
  3. Talk to colleagues whose clients may be impacted by the upcoming legislation, including what it may mean for their client. If they agree this may impact their client, ask them to give their client a heads-up and offer to go and talk to the client when the time is right. If you want a colleague to set up a meeting between you and their client, give them a few prompts they can use when talking to their client as this will increase the likelihood of client buy-in.
  4. Talk to your main referrers about the issues and offer to speak to their clients. Down the track you could offer to run a workshop, webinar or round-table for them.
  5. Put together a short news alert setting out the issue, who it will impact and what it is likely to mean (or when further info will be available). Repeat as Bills have their next reading or become legislation.
  6. Put together a short video along the lines of the information in the newsalert.
  7. Speak to conference organisers early and look to get a speaking slot at any relevant events.
  8. Organise a seminar/webinar at an appropriate time. You may want to look at specific events for specific clients plus more of a catch-all session.
  9. Put the news alert on your website, consider adapting it into a blog post and/or Slideshare presentation, and share via social media networks. Do the same with the video and conference/webinar slides. You could also put your videos on your YouTube channel and they could double as your blog.
  10. Identify the best publication to reach your target audience and call them to give them a heads up on the issue and how it might impact their readers, and to see if they would be interested in an article or some commentary on the topic. Repeat for other media including TV, radio, and online.
  11. Do a roadshow in the main centres in your country.

Using a multi-pronged approach means you will achieve maximum reach and will be visible each time the issue comes to the fore. I strongly believe that taking an issue and leveraging it is one of the best things you can do to position yourself as an expert in your field.

Do you see yourself as an expert?  Comment below and share how you are positioning yourself and what’s worked well.