Category Archives: Legal marketing

Social media: firing up key client & practice group planning

Social networks will never replace face-to-face communication.

But they can lead to more opportunities for in person meetings.

They can play a role at all stages of business development from planning through to client relationship management. I’ll look at this in a series of posts over the coming weeks but today want to focus on the planning stage.

How to use social media for your business development

How can you use social networks at the planning stage?

When compiling your key client, industry sector and/or practice group plans social networks can help you identify key players in specific organisations. This is particularly helpful in a number of situations: Continue reading

18 ways to position yourself as a specialist in your field

Why do professionals need to position themselves?

Clients have a choice – they get to decide who they engage on particular projects, matters, cases or deals and who they spend their money with. According to research conducted by BTI Consulting in 2011 into the top ways clients select lawyers, personal recommendations are key followed by online searches (I assume this would be similar for selecting other professional advisers).

How to Position yourself as a Specialist in your Field

What they found is that the two are not mutually exclusive and that, if someone recommends a professional to a prospective client, the prospective client is then likely to do an online search on that person prior to contacting him/her (although there will undoubtedly be lots of instances of people finding professional advisers online). Continue reading

7 Internal Marketing Tips for Professionals

If you’re looking to build your professional practice, one of your best referral sources is likely to be others you work with. However, in order for them to recommend you to their clients and networks, they need to know who you help, what you help them with, and some examples of issues you can resolve or assist clients with.

6 ways to market to your colleagues

It’s less about cross-selling and more about working together to uncover unmet client needs. Continue reading

How to do social media (well) at corporate level

I am a big believer that social media is predominantly about people connecting with other people. Even the world’s largest brands are using their people to form stronger relationships with their customers and prospects.

Social media at a corporate level

It’s no longer sufficient to hide behind a brand. And I don’t believe that’s ever really been the case in the professional services world. Continue reading

Why sharing your content via email alone isn’t enough

Last week a lawyer asked me why he should share content on LinkedIn if that same content was already being sent to his connections via email.

It’s a good question.

And there are three good answers.

Why share content on both LinkedIn and your emails

1. Don’t assume people read your emails

Even though you send people your email newsletters and updates it doesn’t mean they read them. When people are busy they often ignore newsletters and other news alerts. Often they intend to read them but don’t get around to it, they place them in a folder to look at if needed or they simply hit delete.  Note: If you are using Mailchimp, iContact or a similar campaign service to send your emails you will be able to track who has opened your emails and other key stats. Continue reading

LinkedIn group top tips: Interview with John Grimley

It’s easy to set up a LinkedIn group.

But it’s remarkably difficult to find really valuable ones.

Either they’re full of spam, or cover such a broad range of topics that the majority are irrelevant to you.

Some groups are hijacked by the same people every time.

Or are inactive.

How can you ensure that your group doesn’t suffer the same fate?

If you run or are looking at setting up a LinkedIn group and want to ensure it delivers true value to members then this post is for you.

I spoke to John Grimley, who runs two successful LinkedIn groups - International Business Development Blog, which has over 2,400
members and Asia Law Portal, a relatively new group, with around 500 members – about how he’s gone about it.

 

In the following audio-interview (29 mins long) he shares the lessons he’s learnt and his tips. It’s well worth a listen. I’ve also summarised below some of his key messages.


Key highlights include:

LinkedIn is THE online business portal. It allows you to contact anyone in the world from your desktop.(Click to Tweet this Tip)
• John had read about LinkedIn groups and participated in several including Business in Japan and China Law Blog. He saw how these had grown and how well managed they were and decided to emulate them in his area.
• For a LinkedIn group to be successful you need quality content that’s regularly updated and quality management. (Click to Tweet this Tip) The manager(s) needs to keep the group discussions focused on conversations in that niche and ensure these don’t go off-topic. This allows the group to develop its identity.
• When setting up a LinkedIn group it’s important to take a long-term view and to nurture the group as it grows. (Click to Tweet this Tip)
A ‘please introduce yourself’ discussion is a great one to break the ice. It allows group members to meet one-another.
A LinkedIn group is a virtual referral network – it can be cost and time efficient. (Click toTweet this Tip) It’s almost a virtual meet-up. You’ve got an audience ready and willing to join your group if you make it attractive enough.
• Even if you work in a small organisation you can use social media including LinkedIn groups to amplify your messages, connect to people and reach more of your ideal targets around the world.
Find news of particular interest to your group membership. To do this use traditional news sources, trade media, bloggers etc. Curate this and bring it to the membership so they have an opportunity to read, learn and ask questions.
Write to people you’re connected to on LinkedIn to invite them to join your group (if they might be interested). Then search for others. Use a combination of email, LinkedIn email and Inmail to invite them. One challenge is you can’t personalise the LinkedIn group invites using the invite feature but you should try to send tailored invites wherever possible.
• If you’re setting up a really focused LinkedIn group consider interviewing potential group members before allowing them to join. (Click to Tweet this Tip)
• Remember that subgroups are essentially groups and take the same time commitment as a regular group to run.
• As a group manager you need to think about curating content, managing the group, editing out spam and keeping conversations going. LinkedIn’s recently changed things so the newest discussions appear on top (you can choose your view and select between ‘What’s happening’ and ‘Latest discussions’) which may be LinkedIn’s way of showing that groups require active management.
• There are a lot of places people can go for information. You’ve got to think ‘Why would/should they come to your group?’
Make your LinkedIn group about content and conversation not about selling. Don’t think of it as anything but a labour of love. (Click to Tweet this Tip) Actively manage it on an hour-by-hour basis. People will get to know you and will come to you if they need help.
• In order to encourage group members to participate in the group rotate your managers’ choice to focus on a theme you want members to think about. (Click to Tweet this Tip) Where time permits, thank people for their contribution and suggest they write/post around a particular topic.
LinkedIn groups are about news and information NOT advertising. (Click to Tweet this Tip) It’s important that people understand the distinction.
A LinkedIn group can be a magnet for referrals. (Click to Tweet this Tip)
Define your group around the TOPIC you’re covering and NOT your firm name. (Click to Tweet this Tip) Build up your use of other social platforms. Learn as much as you can every day about how you can make it better.
• John has developed clients and income from his groups. He’s met people working in a similar area and has got to know lawyers with a thirst for knowledge about how to develop their business.

If you would like more info about setting up and running a successful LinkedIn group, my e-book “Complete Guide to LinkedIn Groups: Network with the right people. Generate new leads. Get new business” is now available for NZ$ 18.97. 

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

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 

Putting T.H.E customer first in online branding

by Kirsten Hodgson

How can professionals and professional services firms build a strong brand online? I asked Andrea Benvie, owner of Flex Marketing & Design and a specialist in both marketing and graphic design, for her advice.

Here’s what she had to say:

In an increasingly digital world, online branding is greatly important – in many cases, your customer’s first encounter with you may be an online one.

Just as you would have heard that “first impressions” count when it comes to meeting someone face to face for the first time, the same holds true if that meeting is over the internet. And remember, the form it takes can range from a forwarded-on e-newsletter, through to a shared blog post or simply a visit to your website. Whatever it is, the customer or client experience all adds up to them forming an impression of your brand.

Branding basics

Just a re-cap on some branding basics before looking at the online specifics more closely…

Your brand is what is “built” from your consumer and customer impressions of your branded product/service or company – it is not what you want them to think of it.

In other words, it is the result of how you go about all the aspects that contribute to “branding” (including, name, logo, pricing, attributes/benefits of what you offer, values, philosophy, customer care etc).

It takes time to build a brand, especially one that is recognisable, trusted and other hallmarks of success. And because you can only shape it according to what you think your customers want and not necessarily nail it 100% of the time (i.e. their impression of your brand may differ to your intended one), the most important aspect of building any great brand is to understand your target customer really well.

Building your brand online

If you have an online presence, then your brand can be made up of the experience either mainly online (such as online retailers Amazon, Trade Me) or a combination of on and off-line. Either way, it is important to consider the brand journey throughout ALL of the interactions people have with you. If you want to increase your sales online, you need to grow your brand online first. Top of mind in creating a brand that is going to produce more sales should be “making it a no-brainer to do business with you”.

How? 

Online it is particularly about instilling trust and confidence with prospective customers and encouraging loyalty with existing customers. It all boils down to being able to answer these 3 questions really, really well…I call it putting T.H.E customer first

T. How am I helping customers or prospects to TRUST my product or services?

H. What am I doing to HELP my customers or prospects?

E. How am I making it EASY for my customers or prospects?

Tips to create a better brand online

Here are a few pointers for improving how you deliver each of these things to create a better brand online:

Building TRUST

  • Create a connection or relate to people by using their language – tone, style, level of formality and talk about or displaying information that is of interest to them
  • Demonstrate your commitment to service through open and honest communication, including your policies on refunds and exchanges. Managing expectations helps avoid disappointment too (you might even adopt an approach to “under-promise and over-deliver”) e.g. how long it takes to deliver, after sales service provided etc can be covered off via a Q&A section on your website if you don’t have a more relevant page for it to appear.
  • Use voice of others to provide testimonials. These can either be written or via online video (which will help drive traffic to your website). This is also where social networking sites can come into their own – use what’s relevant to your business.
  • Don’t hide. It is even more important online to build people’s trust by being “present”. This means not only having a fully optimised website to be easily found online, but “humanising” the brand to replicate many of the things people base trust on in face to face contact. Unless there is a good reason not to (such as compromising personal safety), show relevant images – good quality photos of yourself and team, your premises (if interesting), online map or physical address if possible, options for how to get hold of you (ideally landline as well as mobiles). Although not strictly business, it can be helpful (particularly in trades such as building/plumbing when you are going into people’s homes) to include some brief personal information – e.g. married with kids, horses, favourite past times etc as this “exchange” of information can build trust. Anything to demonstrate that you’re not going to take people’s money and run!
  • Quality via design. As a graphic designer as well as “marketeer” I have to add that it’s worth engaging a professional designer to create your logo as this helps convey your level of quality and reinforce your own values about “doing things properly”…if you yourself “do things by halves”, consumers will question whether they will experience the same “by halves” treatment when it comes to the product or service you provide them!

 Giving HELP

  • Information. For some brands this is the biggest thing they can help customers with and add real value to the relationship. Especially if the product or service is complicated or technical. Providing information is also a fantastic platform to establish an authority on a subject and many brands end up becoming the “go to” source for important/reliable information online…imagine how that improves their search engine rankings too! How to inform? The online choices are vast – downloadable pdfs/ebooks, website pages themselves, electronic direct mail, social networking sites, blogs, video, slideshows/images, links, search functions on websites etc.
  • Advice. This is similar to above, but suggests a 2-way dialogue between a representative of your company and the end customer. So, it could be as simple as a form that allows customers to email you or something more instant like live chat with customer service reps and online “call back” services. Even responses to posts on social networking can be a route to providing “advice”.
  • Freely available. “Help” should be something that demonstrates a brand is “giving”…few people want to enter any kind of relationship that is take, take, take. Freely available, means that it’s easy to find, and within reason, without charge. Just remember the “giving” bit when it comes to “help”…that is why this section is titled “giving help”.

 Making it EASY

  • Consistency. Online, offline it doesn’t matter – where it is the same brand, it needs to feel like it. Consumers should not have to “work hard” to figure out what you do, what you stand for etc.
  • Seamless conversion. So you’ve grabbed someone’s attention, “sold” them on your product or service, all online, now you want that converted to $ in the till. Are you making that process easy for customers? If they have engaged with you online, chances are they are going to want to make that purchase online too – providing them with different online payment options is helpful too
  • And repeat. Once they are officially a “customer” you need to make it easy for them to come back. There are plenty of tools to use for this depending on the nature of your product/services, however having a good understanding of customer behaviour modelled off history with other customers is a great starting point as it can help you predict recency, frequency and monetary value (RFM). Online supermarket shopping is a good example – they make it easy for customers by saving their favourites and last purchased shopping lists to cut down on the time factor which can be a big motivating factor behind grocery shopping online. They use transactional data to trigger when the next promotional activity (e.g. free delivery) needs to be timed to prompt a “lapsed” customer to order rather than just giving away margin for a purchase that was going to happen anyway.
What other advice would you give? 

Andrea Benvie is the owner of Flex Marketing & Design. Andrea has over 20 years experience in the marketing & graphic design fields and in recent years has brought these skills together to offer creative, one-stop shop solutions for small & medium businesses. A popular area of helping clients is in the area of branding because this combination of marketing & design knowledge allows her to truly understand where the commercial opportunities intercept with the creative ones for growing client’s businesses. www.flexmad.co.nz