Imagine you’re a client of an accounting or law firm. Your accountant and lawyer both seem to be doing a good job. There’s just one problem: you don’t hear much from them when they’re not working for you.
Each month you hear from another accountant and lawyer – they send you information you want to know, their posts pop up when you log into LinkedIn, they call you when there’s a tax or legislative change that looks like it will impact your business. You see them quoted in the media, they speak at conferences you attend. In short they’re everywhere.
Would you stick with your existing accountant or lawyer or would you switch? I guess it depends on how good a job they’re doing for you but at some point you’re likely to think “I really should give this new guy/girl a go because they’re clearly know what they’re talking about.”
If I was the incumbent accountant and lawyer I’d be worried!
The point is this: if you’re not top of mind with your clients and prospects you’re missing out on business: business that you want.
So if you want to stop that happening and be seen as an expert in your field, you’re going to need to work hard to own the space.
You need to identify key issues that will impact your target market and then leverage all the tools and channels available to you. One very effective strategy is to take an issue and leverage it to death: own it!
The ideas below are based on some work I did with one of my clients a few years ago that positioned her as a leader in her field. Those operating in the same area say she’s still right up there today.
The first thing you need to do is to brainstorm the upcoming big issues in your area of practice. When doing so, think about:
- whether there is any new/emerging legislation
- what your clients and prospects say their big-ticket items are going to be for the next year or two
- what’s happening in your area overseas that may impact your clients or may become legislation in your country
- whether there’s an opportunity to commission some research that will be of value to your target audience (such as research to uncover attitudes, future trends, issues etc) or to run round-table sessions
Then choose your topic or issue and create an action plan:
- write down your goals ensuring they are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound). For example a goal might be to generate $X in revenues from water-related projects between Jun 2014 and May 2015. NB: goals don’t all have to be financially related and could include converting specific prospects into clients, or to be the go to person for the media for enquiries in your area etc.
- write down the measures you will use to ascertain whether you have achieved your goals. For example, number of clients, number of repeat clients, percentage of overall work from this area, client feedback etc.
- write down the actions you will take and when you will take them (see below for some ideas of how you can leverage the various channels). You may want to do this as a timeline so you can see what you are going to do when and include when third party decisions will come out that you will need to respond to (such as when Bills before Parliament are due to have their next reading or when the next Budget or Reserve Bank decision is due out). Doing this means you can allocate time to read through decisions/key points and summarise these to your clients/prospects.
- keep updating your action plan with next steps to ensure there is forward momentum.
How to leverage the issues
I regularly see professionals put out a news alert to their clients, and they may even speak at a conference and put together an article on the same topic but I very rarely see them proactively leveraging all communications channels open to them to really own the space. While it might look like a lot of work it’s actually surprisingly easy to repurpose content. You can also ask your colleagues and marketing team to help with some of the activities. Using the example of some new legislation coming into force, here’s what you can do:
- Call your top 5 clients who are likely to be impacted. Don’t wait until the legislation comes into force. Give clients an early heads-up and then let them know you’ll come back to them when you have more information.
- At the same time post a LinkedIn update, both personally and on your company and/or relevant showcase page; post an update to Google+, Twitter, and Facebook if relevant and ask your colleagues to do the same. You could direct those interested in hearing more to sign up to your notifications list. If you set up a landing page, where they can input their name and email address you can grow your distribution list for this issue.
- Talk to colleagues whose clients may be impacted by the upcoming legislation, including what it may mean for their client. If they agree this may impact their client, ask them to give their client a heads-up and offer to go and talk to the client when the time is right. If you want a colleague to set up a meeting between you and their client, give them a few prompts they can use when talking to their client as this will increase the likelihood of client buy-in.
- Talk to your main referrers about the issues and offer to speak to their clients. Down the track you could offer to run a workshop, webinar or round-table for them.
- Put together a short news alert setting out the issue, who it will impact and what it is likely to mean (or when further info will be available). Repeat as Bills have their next reading or become legislation.
- Put together a short video along the lines of the information in the newsalert.
- Speak to conference organisers early and look to get a speaking slot at any relevant events.
- Organise a seminar/webinar at an appropriate time. You may want to look at specific events for specific clients plus more of a catch-all session.
- Put the news alert on your website, consider adapting it into a blog post and/or Slideshare presentation, and share via social media networks. Do the same with the video and conference/webinar slides. You could also put your videos on your YouTube channel and they could double as your blog.
- Identify the best publication to reach your target audience and call them to give them a heads up on the issue and how it might impact their readers, and to see if they would be interested in an article or some commentary on the topic. Repeat for other media including TV, radio, and online.
- Do a roadshow in the main centres in your country.
Using a multi-pronged approach means you will achieve maximum reach and will be visible each time the issue comes to the fore. I strongly believe that taking an issue and leveraging it is one of the best things you can do to position yourself as an expert in your field.
Do you see yourself as an expert? Comment below and share how you are positioning yourself and what’s worked well.