Category Archives: Professional services marketing

Very few professional services firms are ‘selling’ their services online [research]

A new piece of research looking at the ‘value of internet services to New Zealand businesses’ has been released by the Innovation Partnership.

Professional service firms selling their services online

Funded by Partnership members Internet New Zealand and Google, and conducted by Sapere Research Group, “it shows that everyday Kiwi businesses could add $34 billion to the New Zealand economy if they made effective use of the internet.”

It also found that “businesses that make effective use of Internet services are six per cent more productive than average businesses in their industry.”

The research focused on 4 sectors, one of them professional services (the others being retail, dairy/agriculture and tourism). I recommend you read the whole piece as it’s really insightful and they’ve done a great job. I just want to touch on a few things that stood out to me:

Unsurprisingly professional services firms have the highest percentages of staff using the internet but what the research found is that the Internet is “central to operations, less so for marketing.”

Very few professional services firms are ‘selling’ their services online.

That doesn’t surprise me.

But it does worry me because the world’s changed and firms, and those within them, have a huge opportunity to use online tools to grow their practices.

Take, for example, a professional services firm’s website. The report found that “for client facing activities the website was the most important, and the most important impact of the website was to give information to clients and potential clients, particularly on who works in the firm and what they do.”

Some interviewees noted that the most visited pages on their websites are staff bio pages but a number also noted that this could be because there’s little else of interest on their website.

Seriously? THE most important impact? Surely it should be to position the firm and provide info of interest and relevance to these people. And perhaps to provide real-time client service?

Why aren’t more firms offering free information of value to their clients and prospects on their websites in return for capturing their name and email address?

I can hear those in big firms now …”It wouldn’t work for a big firm”.

Why not?

You have practice groups. You have industry sectors. Why not put the offer up on those pages as well as in relevant bio pages? After all, they’re the most visited part of your site! (better hope the bios themselves set you apart!)

By capturing visitor info you can then follow up with relevant info over time, setting your firm apart from your competitors and building credibility with the recipient.

In this day and age you HAVE to offer more than a static website or your latest update with key information buried on page 24!

The report also states that “LinkedIn provides a similar functionality, both for clients to check out the firm and vice versa.” And that “online advertising was no substitute for word of mouth or traditional networking for finding…clients.”

LinkedIn and other social networks are not JUST another research tool and they’re certainly not ‘online advertising’ (unless you’re using them to spam people!) They are another way to generate word of mouth referrals and another way to network – but you’re not limited to networking with just those people in the same room as you on the night.

One interviewee described firms’ use of social media as “somewhat like lemmings going over a cliff” in that everyone felt they had to do something, but no one was quite sure what to do, so they all copied each other.”

I think that’s the biggest problem. It can be hard to find the time to work out how to use these platforms. But you owe it to yourself to be able to make an INFORMED decision about whether each social network can help you to achieve your goals and support your other initiatives.

If not, it’s fine to steer clear. BUT you shouldn’t do so out of ignorance or fear.

You only need to read the paragraph in the research that says “Some lawyers we spoke to, involved in the technology sector, had clients find them through Twitter and had never met face to face” to see that it is not only possible to find clients and get recommendations via these tools but that others are already doing so.

Do you want to be left behind?

How to encourage professional service providers to relax their style

“How do you encourage professional service providers like lawyers, accountants & engineers who’re used to using a more formal language style in their comms to adopt a more relaxed & social attitude?”

How to encourage professional service providers to relax their style

This question was posed recently by Julie South in the LinkedIn group: Social Media for Lead Generation in Professional Services firms. It’s something a number of professional services marketers struggle with.

Here’s how I responded:

“I do understand why many professionals do find it hard to relax their style particularly when their day-to-day work requires formal language and they’ve been trained that way. There are a few things that worked for me when I worked in firms and that have worked since. 

1. Interview them and then write the piece yourself – I’ve found this much easier than editing and the professionals I’ve worked with tend to like it because it’s easier for them.
2. Interview them and put the piece out as audio or video. If you’re sitting off camera and asking the person questions, they tend to come across as more relaxed.
3. Get them to dictate their piece, have their PA type it up and then edit that! Again, spoken language tends to be more informal. Tell them they just have to go with stream of consciousness and not to think too hard – they can edit it later.
4. Ask them to imagine they’re talking to a particular client and have to persuade them / or tell them exactly why X is a big issue, or they need to act on Y.
5. Give them some specific questions they need to answer.”

Have  you tried any of these tactics? Which have worked best?

Are there other things you’ve tried that have worked well? Please let us know by leaving a comment below.

Image Credit: www.lawcrossing.com

LinkedIn groups: a key way to generate leads

According to a new infographic by Oktopost, 80% of B2B leads are through LinkedIn. The most popular method to generate leads and to then convert those leads is to get involved in group discussions.

LinkedIn groups: a key way to generate leads

The power of groups often goes unrecognised by those in professional services. Well-run groups are their own community of people with similar interests.They’re a great place for you to find and engage your prospects. From there and over time you can generate leads and new work. 

While you’ll definitely want to join groups to which your ideal prospects belong, you should consider setting up your own group if there’s a gap.

Why set up your own LinkedIn group?

There are multiple benefits of doing so, including:

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

However, if you decide to do so you’ll need to make sure you plan it properly and designate time to build it.

How to set up and run a LinkedIn group that delivers value to its members

The vast majority of LinkedIn groups are a waste of time because they haven’t been nurtured or policed. As a result they’re either very small with little activity or they’re full of spam. To make sure yours doesn’t go the same way, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Plan – what’s the purpose of your group? What’s the scope of discussions you want to see? Who do you want to join? What discussions will you start each week?
  2. Create your group – ensure you use Keywords in the name so that people searching the LinkedIn groups directory can easily find it, and write a clear summary and description that will appeal to those you want to join.
  3. SKIP the step which prompts you to send invitations to join your group – why would anyone want to join an unpopulated group?
  4. Populate your group with at least 2 discussions. A welcome discussion is always a good one, as people like to comment on these.
  5. Get your house in order by selecting your settings, permissions, drafting your group rules, templates and setting up sub-groups (if appropriate).
  6. Pre-approve your group managers (you can have up to 10 including the Owner) and a few ‘friendly’ clients and colleagues who you’d like to join the group early. The aim is to get them to comment on the existing discussions and to add their own so that, when you invite others to join, there is already some activity.
  7. You’re now ready to invite others. You can use LinkedIn’s standard one liner but it doesn’t really tell people why they should join so you may want to consider a personalised email to each of those you wish to invite. You can work from a template so it’s simply a case of inserting their name each time.
  8. Commit to ongoing moderation of your group. If people have to request to join or have their discussions approved before they’ll post (a good option to prevent spam), ensure you, or one of the group managers, goes in at least once a day to do so. It’s really frustrating for group members if they try to post something and it takes a week or two to be approved – often it’s out of date by that time.
  9. Start one new discussion each week in the early days. If you want people to return to your group it’s important that there’s fresh, relevant content. You’ll need to drive this until the group takes on a life of its own.
  10. Comment on others’ discussions and stay involved in threads that you start. You may want to summarise these at the end or to put together blog posts summarising a discussion. Remember to give credit to each contributor.
  11. Continue to invite people to join the group and encourage others to do so. You may want to ask your PA to send out a certain number of invites on your behalf each week.
  12. Promote your LinkedIn group. For example, you could include it in your email signature, on your website, your blog, your newsletters etc.
  13. Look for opportunities to move relationships beyond LinkedIn. For example, you may want to hold an event or a webinar for group members, you may invite someone in the group to write a guest article, you may seek their opinion on something. The options are endless.
  14. Monitor and analyse key statistics about your group. This will enable you to track its growth, determine what’s working well, understand what you need to do differently, and track leads generated by the group.

How’s doing so benefited others? 

In early 2011, a lawyer I know set up a group on employment law issues for HR Directors and Managers. A little over a year later the group had grown to over 1,000 members and the firm had hosted two HR Question Times in its offices. In total, almost 200 people attended, the vast majority of who were NOT clients of the firm.

The lawyer and his colleagues were able to start to build relationships and to generate work as a result. He describes this as the most successful business development initiative his firm has ever undertaken. The group now has over 1,600 members.

Here are links to two audio interviews with other successful LinkedIn Group owners:

An interview with Tom Skotidas, who runs the group Social media for lead generation

An interview with John Grimley, who runs the groups International Business Development Blog and Asia Law Portal.

To benefit from running a LinkedIn group you’ve got to be prepared to give it the time and effort it deserves (I spend around 30-60 mins a week on the group I run). However, the effort is well worth it. Remember to focus on others and their needs rather than how they can help you, and you’ll start to see a pay-off.

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. 

Image Credit: www.funnyjunksite.com

Content curation: the poor cousin to content creation in professional services marketing?

Just as every superhero needs his or her sidekick, so too does content creation.

Why content curation's not the poor cousin to content creation

But far from being its poor cousin, content curation has a multitude of benefits, many of which are overlooked in the drive to display “thought leadership”.

3 often overlooked benefits of content curation

1. Generating demand for a particular service

If people don’t perceive they have a need, then they’ll never buy. My friend, Tom Skotidas, put it brilliantly when he said “content curation is essential for demand generation.”

Think about it.

If Harvard Business Review says why more professional services firms need to be thinking about social selling and the benefits, people in those firms will start to consider social selling. They’ll be more likely to notice information about social selling in professional services firms.

It paves the way for your own content.

2. Overcome pigeon-holing

Unless you have a lot of time and/or an army of content developers on board, it can be difficult to regularly put out compelling content. However, by regularly sharing good third party content, interspersed with your own, you can keep in front of your clients, referrers, prospects, and colleagues.

You can position yourself as a go to source of info and as being on top of the issues in your area. Over time people will begin to associate you with the content you share and think of you when they have a need.

3. Adding rocket-fuel to your referral and prospecting strategies

By sharing others’ content you get on their radar.

You can then begin to have conversations and start to build a relationship with them. They then start to notice your content.

Don’t underestimate the power of this.

In the past month alone, I’ve had three new business enquiries from people who’ve been referred to me by people I’ve never met!

I’ve had conversations with them on social networks and talked via Skype and they’re recommending me on the strength of that, the content I share (both my own and third party) and discussions we’ve both been involved in within LinkedIn groups and Google+ communities.

I’m convinced that if I’d taken a Kath and Kim “look at me” approach and only shared my own content (however helpful), this wouldn’t have happened.

No-one likes a self-promoter!

How do you find good third party content?

There are so many great sources of content including:

  • Aggregators such as Feedly, Pulse and Flipboard. Download one of these onto your phone and follow bloggers and publications of interest to you and those you wish to engage.
  • Your LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook feeds including groups, lists, trends, communities etc.
  • Industry publications.
  • National and international media.
  • Google Alerts.
You’re likely already consuming some of these. If you do so online, sharing info with your network is simply a matter of writing a short intro setting out who should read/watch/listen to it and why, a key finding/message or how something may impact your ideal client, and then pushing a button to share it.
Action
  • Find two pieces of third party content relevant to your area each week and share them (remembering to include your own intro) via social networks, emailing selected contacts who will benefit from the piece, and your other channels.
Your turn: how’s curating third party content helped you? 
Image Credit: fansided.com

 

Professionals: how to take advantage of LinkedIn opening its blogging platform to all users

A couple of weeks ago LinkedIn announced that it’s opening its blogging platform to all users.

LinkedIn’s Publishing Platform

This provides a HUGE opportunity for professionals who post helpful, authentic original content.

What’s LinkedIn doing?

Over the coming weeks and months LinkedIn is rolling out its publishing platform (i.e. the place where Influencers currently post) to all members. You’ll know you have it when you see the pencil edit icon within your ‘Share an update’ box on your homepage.

What does this mean?

Once you’ve got the feature you’ll have the potential to reach more of the people you wish to by sharing helpful, relevant and inspiring content.

Think about it.

If your content hits the mark then people it would currently be difficult to reach will share it with their networks. And they will choose to follow you on LinkedIn.

There could be a snowball effect.

This does assume people will use the feature selectively. LinkedIn’s put up some great guidelines within its Help Center that you should check out. These explain what to do and what not to do.

Putting up your latest PR piece will undermine the feature and it will be hard for other members to sort the wheat from the chaff.

So, please only post content that is genuinely going to be of interest or helpful to other LinkedIn members.

How will your posts be distributed?

I’ve paraphrased the below from the LinkedIn Help Center:

  • All of these posts will be public so can be found by people not on LinkedIn. 
  • They will be shared with your connections and followers through their newsfeeds. 
  • Posts will be displayed on your LinkedIn profile, directly below the top section, which contains your photo and headline. 
  • Interactions such as likes, comments and shares will help distribute your content beyond your immediate network. 
  • LinkedIn may also distribute your posts independently as part of aggregated ‘best of LinkedIn’ content. 
  • Your posts can be found in an Articles search on LinkedIn.

You can also share your posts via other social networks, email, on your website and so on.

If you put together original content, you should seriously consider whether it would be worth posting this directly on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn says, “You can republish something that you have published somewhere else as long as it is your original content that you own the rights to.”

You know all those great blog posts you’ve compiled? Why don’t you take a look through them, work out which resonated most with your audience and, if they fit LinkedIn’s best practices, re-post them there.

You wouldn’t want to use LinkedIn in place of your blog because your blog is easily searchable, gives people an instant feel for you, helps you get found and is under your control…but it’s definitely another tool you can use to disseminate your best content.

LinkedIn hasn’t been specific about when the feature will roll out to everyone but you can apply for early access

I will be.

What do you think of this development? How else do you think it will benefit professionals? 

 

How to use LinkedIn to power up your events

How can you use LinkedIn to get more mileage from events that you run?

How to use LinkedIn to power your event

If you’re putting in the effort to set up an event, you want to make sure you get it right…

It’s got to be relevant to the intended audience

You want the right speakers

And, you want to get the right people along to it.

How can LinkedIn help when planning an event?

- You can use LinkedIn to identify and reach out to potential speakers. They could be fellow members of a LinkedIn group, high profile specialists in their field or people with great moderation skills.

LinkedIn allows you to reach beyond your direct network and get the RIGHT speakers for your audience.

- You can use LinkedIn to informally poll people about what they’d like to get from the event or see covered. While LinkedIn’s removed its Poll feature, you can start a discussion in a relevant group along the lines of:

“If you were to attend an event on X, what’s the one thing you’d want to find out/get from it and why?”

- You can also email up to 50 of your contacts at once – just remember to uncheck the ‘allow recipients to see each other’s names and email addresses’ box.

An added advantage of doing these things is that you’re alerting those you want to attend your event early on in the piece. 

- You may wish to set up an early-bird list so that you can communicate with those who sign up prior to the event.

How can LinkedIn help when promoting your event?

When promoting the event, you can:

Ask your team members to put up the events on their profile. There’s no longer an event section but you could get them to either add a link to the event page of your website at the bottom of their summary section (good because it’s visual) or add the ‘courses’ section and list it there (probably not the intended use for that section but it would work and you could then move it up your profile for a few weeks to promote the event).

- Post into relevant groups’ promotions sections - or, if they allow you to post to the main feed, you may wish to do so – provided the event is relevant to members. If the updates are relevant then definitely post them to groups.

Set up a banner (as a roving spotlight) on your company page so people can link through to the sign up page from there and put it out as an update from your company page – segmenting your audience where appropriate. You may also want to promote the event using the sponsored updates feature.

How can you use LinkedIn post event?

Post event you could:

- Put together a blog post covering the main points and/or share your slides (e.g. using Slideshare) with your connections and in relevant groups.

- Share short soundbites or snippets of info that work as stand alone pieces.

- Ask questions of your connections and group members that relate to the event or pose questions that were asked by your audience.

- Put the event up as a webinar that people can sign up for.

There’s probably a tonne more you can do, so I’d love to hear your ideas and what’s worked for you.

Please leave a comment below.

Grow your Practice with LinkedInIf you’d like to understand how to make LinkedIn work for you or wish to train multiple lawyers in how it can help them, sign up for our 10 week mini-course and be first to hear about our forthcoming online course with actionable modules “Grow your Practice with LinkedIn: for lawyers”, your roadmap to LinkedIn success.

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Social media: Are you benefiting from the subliminal messaging effect?

Subliminal stimuli are any sensory stimuli below an individual’s threshold for conscious perception (Wikipedia)

They’re designed to influence by circumventing the conscious awareness and were used in advertising (until subliminal advertising was banned in the UK and Australia in 1958).

Are you benefiting from the subliminal messaging effect?

Benefiting from the subliminal messaging effect

While we don’t use subliminal messaging on social networks, one of the key benefits of sharing content relevant to your niche has a similar effect.

Over time, almost sub-consciously, people start to associate you with the content you share (e.g. if you regularly share telecommunications related pieces, people will link you with telecoms).

Essentially, you’ll become synonymous with the content you share.

Benefiting from the familiarity principle

And, because you’re posting content consistently, you’ll also benefit from the familiarity principle.

People in your groups, communities, your connections, followers and friends will feel like they know you (even if you’ve never met) and over time, will start to trust you.

It’s a bit like when you’re travelling, are feeling thirsty and walk into a shop to be faced with an array of drinks (none of which you’ve ever heard of) and a can of Coke. Provided you like Coke, you’re much more likely to choose it over the other drinks because it’s familiar to you.

By frequently sharing content that is valuable to those in your network and staying top of mind you’ll increase the likelihood that, when one of them has a need in your area, they will call you.

If you’re not regularly sharing relevant content via social networks then you’re missing a trick and making it easy for your competitors to steal a march on you.

Can you really afford to do so?

How have you benefited from the subliminal messaging effect or the familiarity principle?

Image Credit: rileyquinnauthor.blogspot.com

10 tips for lawyers and accountants to avoid being pigeon-holed

“Clients don’t know what we do” 

Does this sound familiar?

It’s a common complaint I hear from those in law firms, accounting firms and other professional services firms.

But why should clients know what you do?

Or care for that matter?

They only care about how you can help them.

It’s very easy to get pigeon-holed (I know I have been – lots of times). You help a client out in a specific area. They see you as someone who specialises in that area but they don’t automatically know how else you can assist.

Sending them a credential statement, a brochure or having a single conversation with them won’t cut it.

Understanding their needs (ask probing questions if you don’t already know) and then regularly sharing helpful content that helps to address these needs and, at the same time positions you, will. It’s a bit like subliminal advertising (only it’s legal) in that you share information about tax often enough, people are going to start associating you with tax. And when they have a need, you’re more likely to be top of mind than your competitors who haven’t been as proactive.

Of course you want to be front of mind should your clients have a need in a particular area that falls within your expertise and be looking for help. In order to be in their choice set you need to use the full range of tools/channels available consistently over time…and gradually perceptions will change. I’ve really focused on this with one client in particular and have recently got work in an area they would never previously have considered me for.

How can you change perceptions and let clients know how else you might be able to help? Here are 10 ideas. On their own they don’t amount to much, but collectively they will make a difference.

  1. Hold an annual planning meeting with key clients designed to uncover their key issues and focus over the coming year and to showcase your expertise by providing them with some initial advice/tips/guidance that they will find valuable.
  2. Call your top 5 clients when issues arise that they need to know about. Let them know how these issues may impact them and offer to talk to their staff about this. Better still, call them when you become aware of issues to give them a heads up. Be the person to put an issue on their radar.
  3. Keep close to your clients. Catch up with them regularly (on the phone or over coffee) and ask how things are going and what they’re doing. Follow their social media accounts and share, comment on or like their posts where appropriate. If you can position yourself as a sounding board and someone who adds value they’ll likely come to you before engaging others anyway.
  4. Go and visit your client’s office/site. Really get to know their business. You may come away with some ideas to help them that you can then sound them out about.
  5. Put together an Infographic setting out the full range of your services and linking it back to specific problems you can help address…or produce a series of Infographics on topics/issues that will be of interest to your clients and share these with them.
  6. Compile and share case studies about how you’ve helped others in the past. Don’t forget to say how these are relevant to other clients. You can post these to your website (both in relevant expertise sections and your bio in written, video or audio format or a combination of these), upload to LinkedIn, include one in each of your newsletters etc. Rotate these so that you deal with a different area each time and keep coming back to them.
  7. Put together blog posts and videos on topical issues or frequently asked questions in each of the areas in which you work and share these on your website, via social networks, via email, in your newsalerts or newsletter etc.
  8. Share third party posts and videos on topical issues related to the areas in which you work. Make yourself a ‘go to’ source of information by doing people’s reading for them.
  9. Consider if you can include the areas in which you can help clients in your email signoff, on the back of your business cards etc. This will depend on your brand guidelines and needs to be done consistently across your firm or your brand look will be inconsistent.
  10. Think about whether there is a way to convey how you can help your clients that will be visible on their desks – e.g. do they have/need a pen holder, a calendar or something infinitely more exciting but still as useful!

The point I am trying to make is that ‘clients understanding exactly what you do’ doesn’t occur overnight. You need to communicate consistently over time, in a variety of ways if you want your clients to truly understand how you can help them. Ultimately, if you can position yourself as someone who can point them in the right direction when they do have an issue, you’ll likely hear about the opportunities first.

What’s your view? 

What other tips would you share? 

Image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

Building your brand: The power of one click

As a professional you probably regularly consume content.

You may read the paper.

The trade press.

Blogs.

Newsletters.

You may watch things on YouTube.

Listen to the radio or to Podcasts.

And this is all great for your own interests and learning.

BUT you could be missing out on a trick.

Continue reading

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