by Kirsten Hodgson
A guest post by Gihan Perera, an Internet coach for thought leaders, consultants and other business professionals on why it's so important for lawyers, accountants and other professionals to establish their authority online:
The Internet has changed the entire buying process – and it affects you, even if you don’t sell anything on-line. Barry Trailer and Jim Dickie, writing in the Harvard Business Review in 2006, put it this way:
“Buyers have always had a buy cycle, starting at the point they perceive a need. Sellers have always had a sales cycle, starting at the point they spot a prospect. It used to be that these were in sync … [but] now, the buy cycle is often well under way before the seller is even aware there is a cycle.” [emphasis added]
Customers still need to deal with businesses, but now they do it differently.
In the past, when they wanted to buy something important – whether it was insurance, real estate, legal advice or their next car – they would start by talking to a professional, preferably somebody they already knew, liked and trusted. This adviser would then take them on a journey, guiding them to the right buying decision.
That’s no longer the case. If you’re an adviser, you might want people to turn to you first, but they don’t. Instead, they first ask Google. And then perhaps they will ask their Facebook and LinkedIn friends. Or send a tweet to their followers. Or be guided by an e-mail newsletter or blog they read recently. At the end of this process, they might still choose to talk to you, but now the interaction is very different. Information is power, and the customer now has all the power.
Of course, some of your long-term clients do still call you first. But many don’t. That’s why you have to be there consistently in their minds, so that when they’re ready to take action, you’re the first person they call.
That’s easier said than done, because you don’t know exactly when the buying process started (exactly the point that Trailer and Dickie made in the extract I quoted earlier). So the only way to be there is to always be there.
Give Value, Get Business
One of my favourite actors, Steve Martin, when asked for his secret to success, put it this way:
“Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
That’s the approach to take in your marketing, and it all starts with your expertise. The more you can position yourself as an expert (and even better, as the expert), the greater the leverage you have in your business.
You must do this, because if you don’t, somebody else will! This is not something you can ignore. Even if you already have a stable of existing clients, you need to generate new business. And even those loyal clients might be tempted to look elsewhere.
So how can you do this without giving away the farm or spending every waking moment on-line?
The Secret is Consistency
I spent a month in Auckland in 2010, and one of the simple pleasures during my stay was buying from “The White Lady”, a mobile hamburger stand that parked itself every night on a street corner near my apartment:
The White Lady is an Auckland icon, which has been in operation since 1948. Its most impressive feature is not its longevity, but its consistency. When I said it’s been there every night, I really do mean every night. It has a proud history of being open every night for decades, except for a few weeks in 1998 when Auckland suffered a major power outage.
Make consistency your goal as well. Success on-line is not an event; it’s a process.
Here’s a sample process you can use to consistently deliver high-quality material that establishes your authority:
1. At the start of each month, find a topic of interest to your clients and prospective clients, and write a 300-500 word article on that topic.
2. Post it to your Web site and blog at the start of the month.
3. A week later, send it to your newsletter subscribers.
4. A week later, post it to your Twitter feed as well.
5. A week later, post it to your LinkedIn account.
6. Repeat this process each month!
If you follow this process diligently, you’ll be taking the first steps to building your authority and reputation on-line with a blog, newsletter, Twitter and LinkedIn. As a result, you’ll be increasing the chance that you’ll be the first port of call when somebody is ready to take action.