Tag Archives: law firm 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?

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

Should you hide your LinkedIn connections – the pros and cons?

The answer is: it depends.

Should you hide your LinkedIn connections?

I’ll come onto why in a moment, but I wrote a post a year or so ago strongly recommending that people leave them visible. However, there is one really good argument for why you wouldn’t.

Both perspectives are set out below so that you can make the choice that’s right for you. Continue reading

Professional services firms: Don’t underestimate the power of the familiarity principle

by Kirsten Hodgson

The familiarity principle, or mere-exposure effect, “is a psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them.” (Wikipedia)

A few weeks ago I recommended a professional I’d never met to a contact because I was confident that person could help. Thinking about it afterwards, I realised that a couple of my ‘real world’ contacts could probably also have helped. This led me to question why I’d recommended the person I didn’t actually know.

I realised it was because I feel like I know them. This is a person I’m connected to on LinkedIn, I follow them on Twitter and they share some good content. I’ve built a rapport with them. As  a result, I have confidence in them and they were top of mind when my contact asked for a referral.

This is the familiarity principle at work.

It’s easy to see why someone travelling through Africa would choose “Coke” over the local equivalent they’ve never heard of. It’s a safe option and you know what you’re getting but…

…how can those in professional services take advantage of this principle?

It’s largely about being visible. If someone’s regularly writing articles or a blog on a topic, or is regularly quoted in the media, people will get to know their name and can make a judgement call about whether they know what they’re talking about. Over time, the person becomes more familiar and people will be more likely to contact that person over his or her competitors.

Being present on social networks, and actively engaging with those you wish to, also enables professionals to benefit from the Familiarity Principle.

How?

The more you see someone’s name, photo, content they share and comments (provided these resonate with you), the more you feel like you know them.

If you are active (in a targeted way) on social networks then you’re likely to notice that more people want to connect with you. If you then seek to build relationships one at a time, and help others out, they’ll start to trust you.

It’s at this point that the other person is usually happy to use you or to recommend your services.

Actively using social media is a great way to make the familiarity principle work for you. It’s one way to find opportunities and turn them into instructions.

7 steps to ensure you benefit from the familiarity principle on social networks

1. Ensure your profile is complete and that it clearly positions you. Be focused in terms of your profile and the content you share. Stand for something. You can’t be all things to all people so be really clear about who you help and what you help them with.

2. Every time someone invites you to connect and you accept, go back to them thanking them for connecting and ask them a question about their business.

3. Every time you invite someone to connect with you, send them a tailored invite.

4. Share at least one piece of content each week (on LinkedIn, Google+ and/or Facebook) and one per day on Twitter, that will be of interest and use to those you wish to engage. Often this will be content one of your contacts has generated. Sharing other people’s content is a great way to get on their radar and to initiate a conversation with them.

5. Comment on discussions on LinkedIn and Google+ and on relevant posts on Facebook. Aim to comment on one discussion/post per week.

6. Use the reply or direct message functionality on Twitter and the email option on LinkedIn to have conversations with others. Aim to do this at least once a week.

7. Always focus on helping others out by pointing them to information to help address a question they have or by introducing them to someone in your network they’d benefit from meeting. In terms of frequency, I aim to introduce two people in my network each month.

What else would you add? 

How’s the familiarity principle worked for you in social media? 

Image courtesy Andy Newson/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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?

 

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

 

 

5 ways online marketing can help you build your practice

by Kirsten Hodgson

Online and offline marketing are two sides of the same coin. Neither one should be done in isolation.

Online marketing’s purpose, in the professional services context, should be to create more offline opportunities. Rather than replacing face-to-face contact it should create more opportunities for ‘offline’ meetings.

5 ways online marketing can help you create more opportunities:

1. Profile raising/positioning

As a legal, accounting, engineering or other professional you’re probably already sharing information with your target audiences. This may be content you’ve created (such as articles, seminar slides, Whitepapers, or newsletters/newsalerts), or content others have put together that those you wish to build relationships with will be interested in.

You can also share this content via social networks and via your website, further positioning yourself in your area. If people ask questions and you can help them out (without ‘giving advice’ per-se) you can further demonstrate your expertise. This will give people a flavour of who you are, what you are like to work with and what you do before they have actually done business with you.

People can ascertain whether you know what you are talking about and whether you’re someone they would like to work with. Not everyone will like what you’re saying or agree with you and that’s okay. There’ll be others who will.

2. Attracting more of your ideal clients

You can find and engage with prospects online, begin to build credibility and trust and then take these relationships offline. Ultimately, you can generate new business via social networks – but this won’t happen overnight.

For example, an employment lawyer set up a LinkedIn group for HR Directors and Managers. He invited 100 people to join and 60 accepted within a fortnight. The group now has over 900 members and this lawyer has built his client base on the back of this. He explained to me that this is the most successful business development initiative he and his firm have ever undertaken.

3. Creating more touchpoints with your existing clients, referrers and influencers

Provided your existing clients and referrers are on social networks, these provide additional channels to communicate with these people and get in front of them.

You can share content that they will value, ask and answer questions, or put them in contact with other people you know who they might benefit from meeting. Social networks increase your visibility, allowing you to stay top-of-mind.

A few professionals I’ve spoken to have won work as a result of sharing information relevant to existing contacts on LinkedIn. For example, one lawyer reconnected with a former client and met with his contact but nothing came of it. A few weeks later he noticed one of the sales people from his contact’s firm was active on LinkedIn. He joined a group this person belonged to and answered a question the sales person posted. As a result the sales person picked up the phone to him and gave him a piece of work.

4. Research and planning

A person or an organisation’s activity on social networks can be a rich source of information. Perhaps you’ve set up a new business meeting or are putting together an RFP response or capabilities statement. By searching social networks, you can see what topics and issues your contacts are discussing. This may give you information you can talk to them about or include in your response. At the very least if you can find out a bit about their hobbies and interests you can find an ice-breaker.

I recommend that if people you are meeting or pitching to are on LinkedIn, you look at their profile. Similarly, if you are doing any key client, industry sector, practice group or personal planning, look at the social networks. Again, using LinkedIn as an example, you could search a particular organisation to find out who is on LinkedIn and to ascertain which of these people you don’t know but should. You can then look to connect with them, either by asking a contact to introduce you or by joining the same groups and commenting on the other person’s discussions (assuming they are active on LinkedIn). You could also join LinkedIn groups relating to a particular industry sector or topic.

5. Professional development

Monitoring social networks allows you to keep up to date with the key issues in your area of practice, in a particular industry sector or for a particular client. Following people who share good information and relevant hashtags on Twitter can lead to a rich source of information. LinkedIn groups and your LinkedIn connections can also be great sources of up-to-date content.

By using online tools well (and in conjunction with other initiatives), you can create more offline opportunities…and make it easier to get more of the work you enjoy doing.

Look to build relationships one by one, seek to demonstrate your expertise in order to build credibility with those people you wish to engage and, over time, think about how to move some of these online relationships into the real world.

How have online tools helped you build your practice?

Image courtesy Jomphong via Freedigitalphotos.net

LinkedIn: A powerful market research tool

by Kirsten Hodgson

Much has been written about LinkedIn as a lead identification and lead generation tool, and rightly so.

But it’s so much more than that.

It’s also a powerful research tool for those looking to develop new products or services or who wish to enter new markets.

One of my contacts, Zivana Anderson, found LinkedIn to be hugely beneficial when researching the market need for a new product for one of her clients.

After finding out the target market for the product, she used LinkedIn’s Advanced Search feature to identify those she wanted to talk to. She then sent an ‘expertise request’ to the people she wished to meet. They were all senior Heads of Department at major national and global corporations. 70% of those asked accepted her request.

They were all very generous and helpful with their time and spent much longer with her than she’d envisaged. As a result of her work, her client was able to establish the market need and had a clear line of communication with would be buyers.

Zivana’s advice to others seeking meetings with busy, senior professionals via LinkedIn:

1. Ensure your profile is complete and positions you well. It needs to lend credibility to your request and show that you are a professional.

2. When contacting the other person be really clear about what you’re doing and why, how long you want to meet for and the things you wish to find out. Be polite.

3. Don’t suggest a specific time. Say ‘at a time convenient to you’ so that you can get the person’s approval in principle.

4. Join a group that the other person belongs to so that you have the ability to email them using the free LinkedIn account.

This could be a great way to use LinkedIn if you’re looking to build profile in a particular industry sector or want to penetrate a new market. By emulating Zivana’s approach, you too could get in front of senior, hard to reach, decision makers.

Have you used LinkedIn as a research tool? How’s it helped you?

 

How to stand above the crowd on LinkedIn: 3 great actions

by Kirsten Hodgson

With more than 175 million members as of September 2012 (source: Wikipedia), standing out from the crowd on LinkedIn is important if you want to position yourself as an expert in your field.

The following three actions will help you to do this.  By adding value to your relationships you will be remembered and more likely to create long-term and interactive connections.

In terms of offline networking, the actions below are similar to meeting someone at a conference and making an off-hand remark about a case you are interested in.  A few weeks later you receive an article about that case along with a note saying how nice it was to meet you. How would this make you feel about that person?

Action 1: Each month introduce two of your LinkedIn connections who’d benefit from meeting one another.

I use LinkedIn’s messages to do this. When writing your message, make sure you let them know the reason for the introduction (e.g. targeting similar clients, offering complementary services), a brief summary of how you know each person and their skill-sets. Make sure you keep a note of introductions you’ve made so that you can follow up and see if the people connected/met down the track.

Action 2: When you come across an article that will be of interest to one or more of your LinkedIn connections, share it with them directly using LinkedIn email.

Let them know why you think it will be of interest to them and why they should read it. This may be something you or a third party has written. For example, if there is an upcoming legislative change you may want to give certain people a heads up…even if you don’t know much more at this stage, the fact that you’re the person bringing it to their attention means they are more likely to think of you if and when they need some help. This shows the other person that you are thinking of them and their needs and helps to position you as someone who understands their business/industry.

Action 3: After accepting someone’s invitation to connect on LinkedIn ALWAYS  send them a follow up message thanking them for their invite.

This simple step invites people to continue the conversation should they wish to do so. I do this routinely and, as a result, had two prospective clients (with who I had no prior relationship) email me back to request a meeting to see if I could help them within a two-week timeframe. They have both, subsequently, become clients.

These three actions are simple to implement but can have a huge impact on you and on the others involved.

Action: Put the above three actions as recurring tasks in your calendar or social media action plan.  Then monitor what happens.

In the words of C.G. Watson “Every action triggers a reaction.” Try to make your connections react positively to yours.

Which LinkedIn actions do you recommend or appreciate?

Image courtesy digitalart via FreeDigitalPhotos.net