Tag Archives: Content marketing

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

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

 

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

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

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

Be passionate and know your niche – positioning yourself online

If you want to use social media to help you position yourself, you’ve got to answer a fundamental question first:

What do you want to be known for?

It sounds like a simple enough question but it’s amazing how many professionals don’t have a clear answer.

You can’t be all things to all people, so the first step is to define your niche – what issues or things are you going to help people with and who are these people? For example, a divorce lawyer might position themselves as a divorce lawyer for women or a childs rights’ advocate. An accountant may position themselves as a virtual CFO…the opportunities are endless. Continue reading

How can professional services firms use social media to increase their tender success rate?

by Kirsten Hodgson

More often than not, professional services firms know when an organisation will be going out to tender, well before the tendering organisation issues the RFP or EOI.

They may have told you.

They re-tender every two to three years.

Or, there’ve been reports they’re looking to rationalise their spend, initiate a project etc.

Professional services firms spend a lot of time and money evaluating whether or not to pitch for work and, if so, compiling their proposal.

The enlightened ones even look for ways to tip the level playing field in their favour before the tender’s been put out.

This is where social media can really help.

How can leveraging social media help professional services firms to increase their tender success rate?

Looking at who’s on social media platforms within the target organisation will help you to identify the likely decision makers, influencers, veto-holders and gatekeepers.

You can use this information to compile your Who knows Who matrix.

You can then ensure members of your team connect with as many of these people as possible – be it by inviting them to connect on LinkedIn, by joining the same groups or communities on LinkedIn or Google+, by following them on Twitter, or friending them on Facebook (if appropriate).

You’ll likely be thinking about the key issues and considerations for the target organisation – be it in relation to a particular project they’re putting out to tender, or more broadly in the case of a panel tender.

Once you have a list, you can develop content that will be both of interest, and relevant, to the target organisation. This will help to position you as ‘experts’ in your area and/or their industry sector.

As well as sharing this content strategically via traditional means such as a news alert, and on your website you can also share it via social networks.

Those connected to the decision makers, influencers, gatekeepers and veto-holders can share this content via their personal feeds such as their LinkedIn updates, their Twitter account, their Facebook page or their Google+ account.

In addition, you could post it in relevant group or community discussions on LinkedIn and Google+, and put it on your company page, firm Twitter feed, Facebook page etc. In this way, you’re softly positioning your firm well before the RFP’s been issued and are ensuring that, should someone from the target organisation check you out, they’re likely to see this content.

When compiling your RFP response, you can point to the central repository for this content, be it your website, your blog or You Tube.

In some cases, firms may want to take it one step further and tailor specific professionals’ online profiles for a particular opportunity. This would involve a bit of work but, where an opportunity is of strategic importance to a firm, it may pay to ensure that profiles highlight those areas of key interest to the target client shortly before and during the pitch process. Profiles can easily be changed back afterwards.

Do any firms do this already?

I’ve anecdotally heard of a firm in the US that strategically places content on LinkedIn prior to RFPs being issued. They’re looking to position themselves in the tendering organisation’s eyes early. I think that’s a really smart approach.

I’m not aware of other firms doing this at this stage, but would love to hear of more examples if you’re aware of any.

Your 6-step approach to leveraging social media for RFP success

1. Use features such as LinkedIn’s Advanced Search to identify who, within the tendering organisation, is likely to be involved or have some input into the evaluation process.

2. Identify the key issues and considerations for the tendering organisation using your usual processes such as coffees/meetings with the client, strategy sessions with the client, client interviews, secondee interviews etc. and develop a content plan for the months leading up to the pitch. This can be as simple as a calendar setting out what you will be compiling when. Actively hunt out relevant third party content too, and build this into your plan. 

3. Develop/source the appropriate content.

4. Share this via social networks  - e.g.

  • directly with specific contacts (if and when appropriate), via a professional’s personal LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook accounts if he/she is directly connected with, or followed by, one or more of those who will be involved in the decision making process.
  • within LinkedIn groups and Google+ communities. 
  • on your website, your firm’s Twitter feed, Facebook page, and LinkedIn company page
When doing so, don’t forget to ask a question to encourage discussion and debate. 
5. Stay actively involved in any discussion threads around the content you’ve shared. 
6. Refer to your repository of content, where appropriate, in your RFP response.
Do you know of any firms already doing this?
How else could professional services firms leverage social media to increase their RFP success rate?

 

Will law firm websites even exist in 5 years’ time?

by Kirsten Hodgson

 

And, if so, what will they look like? 

With the growth in functionality of social media platforms, will there be a need for law firms (and other businesses) to maintain their own websites in the future?

In September 2011 I attended the APSMA conference in Sydney where there was a great panel session on ‘the evolution of our roles as professional service marketers’. When asked about how law firm websites have changed over the past 10 years, one of the panelists commented that her firm’s website is becoming much more of a resource centre and that the amount of content on it has grown exponentially.

Great Jakes in New York, have developed a ‘Rainmaker-focused website’, essentially comprising attorney microsites. This setup allows lawyers to customise the information that appears within their individual microsite (which sits within the overall firm site), and to organise that content across multiple pages.

The thing I love about this approach is that it allows lawyers to post reputation-enhancing content into their microsite so it’s linked to them, rather than getting lost elsewhere on the site. This also eliminates the need for lawyers to set up their own work-related blogs that are entirely separate from their firm’s website. I think this is a really smart approach.

As the proliferation of content continues and the channels diversify, I believe it will be those professionals and firms that provide valuable resources and content to their clients, prospective clients and other stakeholders that will prosper…However, it must be easy for them to find that content.

The power is increasingly in the hands of the client:

  • It’s the client who seeks out the info he/she wants
  • It’s the client who compares the relative merits of two or more providers
  • And it’s the client who determines the channels through which he/she will access info.

Having valuable resources which are regularly updated and which are easy to find and access will differentiate professionals/firms and, I believe, influence clients’ buying decisions going forward.

However, the old adage that good content will get found is simply not true any more. It’s those people who are active in the social media space, who have built their reputations, whose content is shared most. Is it good? Most of the time yes, but is there other good content out there? Most definitely. It’s just you don’t always know about it.

While I think engagement via social media will continue to grow, I think in 5 years time websites will become less necessary EXCEPT:

  • as a content repository (i.e. an expanded blog),
  • as a portal to transact business, or
  • as a place to find out a person/organisation’s contact details.

I believe the majority of people will visit these websites via social media platforms (whatever they may be in 5 years’ time) and that the majority of searches will take place within the social media platforms themselves.

What’s your prediction?   

N.B. I actually wrote this post in late 2011 but never posted it. One year on my thoughts are still the same! I’d love to hear yours.

The key to getting good content in professional services

by Kirsten Hodgson

Anyone who’s worked in professional services marketing will know that it’s not always easy to get good content from professionals.

Often it’s not timely

Or is not fit for purpose.

Perhaps it’s an 8 page essay with the key points buried near the end or it’s unclear who should read/watch/listen to the piece and why.

During Clare Adshead-Grant’s workshop on getting fee-earner buy-in at the recent PSMG conference in London (which I’ll cover in a later post), a participant asked how you get fee-earners to put together good content (or, in some cases, any content) in the first place?

It’s a great question and one that I struggled with for years when I was in-house.

Interview the fee-earners and write the content yourself

One delegate responded that, in her firm, the marketing people interview the fee-earners and write the content themselves.

This is a great idea and one which can be applied to a wide range of content from articles to bios. It not only saves you inordinate amounts of time editing, but also allows you to ask the right questions and to drill down to get to the crux of things.

We work with smart people.

The knowledge is in their heads but it often takes questioning and gentle probing to elicit the key points that will make clients and prospects sit up and take notice.

Or, at the very least, see the relevance to them.

This information is often missing from pieces professionals put together because they haven’t been trained to think in terms of features and benefits and it doesn’t come naturally to some of them.

Interview fee-earners to develop video and audio content too

Interviewing professionals for content doesn’t just apply to the written word. It can be equally effective to interview them for video and audio content.

Interviewing them, helps them to relax and turns the clip into a more natural, as opposed to scripted, piece. It’s easy for a skilled editor to edit out the interviewer so that the professional appears to be speaking directly to the person watching/listening.

Next time you want a professional you work with to pull something together, think about whether you, a member of your comms team or a skilled copywriter could interview them.

Asking them to edit your work is a lot easier and less time consuming for them than having to put something together from scratch.

What’s your view?

Have you tried this technique and, if so, how’s it worked for you?

Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos

 

 

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.