Social Media: Turning the traditional business development process on its head

by Kirsten Hodgson

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

"By the time prospects call me, it's like half the work's already been done."

My virtual assistant, Justine Parsons, was talking about how LinkedIn is one of her primary sources of referrals and how it's shortened her lead times. She's an active LinkedIn user. She regularly posts interesting status updates, initiates group discussions and has conversations. She's helpful and friendly.

I met her on LinkedIn, liked what she had to say and engaged her. The lead time was short from her perspective – I emailed her via LinkedIn introducing myself and asking if we could talk. But I'd already been able to make a judgement call before she even knew who I was – by reading her blog posts and discussions/comments. Traditionally, I'd have asked around for a recommendation and then called two or three people to see who I thought was the best fit. In this case, I didn't have to – I already felt comfortable with her.

How is this relevant to you as a lawyer, accountant, engineer or other professional? 

Having conversations with others, sharing useful content and helping people out via social networks (and in person!) means you too can position yourself to win new work.

Imagine going into more new business meetings that are yours to lose rather than being on a level footing with two or three of your competitors.

You may still need to put together a proposal but much of the hard work has been done.

You've already demonstrated your capabilities/knowledge, and positioned yourself.

The prospect has articles, comments or blog posts they can point to that will help them convince others in their organisation that you're on top of your game.

Much of the purchasing decision happens BEFORE the prospect makes contact with you, meaning once they've spoken to you, they're often ready to hire you pretty quickly.

That's what smart use of social networks can do for you.

12 ways you can engage using LinkedIn

Once you've got the basics right (profile set up with good content), and you've found and started to connect with others (clients, referrers, prospects, colleagues and peers) you're ready to engage.

Using LinkedIn as an example, here's what you might do:

  • use your status updates to ask questions, share articles and other content that those you are connected to will find interesting, run polls etc.
  • comment on, like or share a status update one of your connections has shared.
  • send a direct message (via LinkedIn email) to one or multiple connections with some information they will find valuable.
  • put two of your connections who might benefit from meeting one-another in contact.
  • start a discussion in an appropriate group – you may want to ask a question, share some content and ask for views/comments, offer a free guide or White Paper etc.
  • comment on a group discussion someone else has started – answer their question, give your opinion, respond to someone else's opinion in the discussion thread, point them to some helpful information.
  • like a group discussion that you've found valuable.
  • invite someone with whom you've engaged in a group discussion to connect (let them know why they should do so).
  • answer a question in the answers section.
  • if you've signed up for an event on LinkedIn, invite someone who is attending the same event as you to meet up at the event.
  • start, vote or comment on a poll.
  • give recommendations to others who have done a good job.

Provided you are clear about why you're using social media, who you want to engage and the topics you want to discuss, you can position yourself in your area of expertise, remain front of mind with existing clients and attract new prospects.

If you want to make it easier for people to choose you, leveraging social networks can help.

What's your view? 

If you want to know how you can use LinkedIn to achieve YOUR business development and marketing goals, then my book 'The complete guide to LinkedIn for lawyers: connect, engage and grow your business' will be available from June 2012. I'll post further details shortly.

Specialising in professional services and law firm marketing. I help firms to retain and grow existing clients and attract more of their ideal clients. My core services include social media for lead generation, voice of the client programmes and tender strategy and development. Outside of work I love to run. I’m a bit like Forest Gump in that I’m not that quick but can keep going for ages. I also enjoy coming up with new inventions. Unfortunately, most of them have already been invented! | * Professional services marketing consultant | * Legal marketing consultant | * Law firm marketing consultant