Tag Archives: Legal firm marketing

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

Social media, the Hare and the Tortoise

by Kirsten Hodgson

I love Aesop’s fables – they all have a great moral and I enjoy reading many of them to my kids (particularly after they’ve done something naughty).

The Hare and the Tortoise could have been written about social media. When the tortoise challenges the hare to a race, the hare soon leaves the tortoise behind. However, so confident is he that he’ll win, he takes a nap halfway through the race only to awake to find the tortoise has crawled past him and beaten him over the finish line.

What does this have to do with social media?

Everything.

Social media is more like a marathon than a sprint. You have to be clear about what you’re looking to achieve and be in it for the long haul. Social media puts another set of tools at your disposal. If you start off with a bang only to give up after a few weeks/months, you’ll be overtaken by others.

3 ‘hare activities’ to avoid on social media

1. Setting up profiles on multiple platforms and then doing nothing with them:

Be focused in your efforts. Identify the platform(s) that are best going to help you to build relationships with those you want to and focus on those. When these are working well for you, you can branch out. The danger of being active on too many platforms is it’s very hard to keep the information up to date.

When setting up profiles, it’s important that these position you well. Social profiles tend to rank highly in search engine results. If you don’t believe me, log out of Google and then search your (and your firm’s) name. While your website is likely to come back near the top so too are your social media profiles.

The top two ways people hire lawyers (I have no doubt this is similar for other professional services advisers) according to some BTI research is peer to peer referrals and online search. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Asking others in your network who they recommend in a particular area is a logical starting point. However, they may get two or three names. So, what happens next? They are often not ready to call you but instead perform an online search. Ensuring your profiles clearly position you is one way to tip the level playing field in your favour before someone’s met you.

If you decide that you don’t wish to be active on a network, remove your profile. A skeletal one isn’t going to benefit anyone.

2. Amassing followers, friends or contacts quickly without actually building a relationship: 

Social is about people and people build relationships with other people. I do understand the argument that you need a wide network to amplify your messages and it’s true that a wider network helps you see better quality search information on LinkedIn, but as professionals we’re selling ourselves and we need to build credibility and trust.

The best way to do that is to build relationships with others one by one. Showing a genuine interest in others, having conversations, sharing their content and asking them questions all helps to build a rapport.

Once you’re on people’s radars and they’ve had some sort of interaction with you, they’re much more likely to read and share your content and to refer you to others.

If you are looking for more work, a targeted always beats a scattergun approach so prioritise who you want to build relationships with and aim to have at least one interaction per week with one of these people.

3. Underestimating your competition: 

I spoke to partners in a professional services firm a while ago who were taken aback that another professional had built a strong reputation in a certain area. Their view was that the person wasn’t as ‘technically sound’ as they are.

However, the other person was doing a great job demonstrating their knowledge in their field, was building relationships and was getting work.

The professionals I spoke to may believe they’re better but what they think doesn’t matter. It’s what prospective clients think. The vast majority of work doesn’t need the ‘best’ brains. It requires someone competent  - and there are lots of competent people out there so you need to distinguish yourself. 

Don’t underestimate your competition. Social media has made it much easier for those without the support of a large firm behind them to market themselves. If you’re not using these channels to help others and build relationships, others are. 

Summary and actions:

  • Be focused and targeted in your approach to social media. Choose the social media network that best suits you and those you want to connect with.  
  • Ensure that your social profiles position you well. Set up an honest, up to date profile that explains who you help, what you help them with and who you are.
  • Seek to build relationships with others one by one and focus on helping the other person with no expectation of them doing the same for you. Using the search function within a network (e.g. the Advanced Search function within LinkedIn), identify three people you would like to connect with. Look to see what content they are sharing, where they are sharing it, who with and what they are responding to.Engage in conversations they are having online. 
    1. Compliment or thank them for an article they shared.
    2. Join a conversation they are having.
    3. Ask them to connect with you.
  • Don’t underestimate your competition. Social media levels the playing field and makes it much easier for those who are active on these channels to compete. Just be prepared for them to overtake you if you get caught out napping.

What other examples of ‘hare’ behaviour have you seen? 

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

A 5-phase process to leveraging social media in professional services

by Kirsten Hodgson

The wrong way to approach someone you've never met before

A couple of people have approached me in the past month via LinkedIn. Prior to this I'd never come across them but they both sent direct messages requesting a meeting. I accepted out of curiosity

Or perhaps it was my British reticence to say 'no' or, more to the point, 'why?'

Both meetings were predictable. The person told me about their business and their ideal client and asked if I could refer them work. They asked very few questions.

I walked away thinking they'd have to do more if they wanted a referral.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to refer work to others but they have to demonstrate their credibility first and I have to have built up some sort of rapport and trust with them. 

I'm not saying you can't approach someone you've never conversed with before on LinkedIn.

But there is a better way to go about it.

A better way to go about it

Focus on the other person and their needs.

Offer something of value to them. Or thank them for something they shared and ask them a question.

For example, if someone approached me about a roundtable or webinar on a specific topic of interest to me, I'd go along. If they asked for some input into something (and said why they wanted it) I'd help. Wouldn't you?

While the aim of any social media activity has to be to build relationships one by one and to take these offline, there are some things you need to do first.

A 5-phase process to leveraging social networks

Here's a simple 5-phase process to leveraging social networks.5 phase process of LinkedIn

 

Phase 1 involves setting up compelling profiles that clearly position you, on each of the networks you use for work purposes

Phase 2 is about connecting with others

Phase 3 involves engaging with others and being active on each network on which you wish to have a presence

Phase 4 looks at taking relationships offline

Phase 5 covers measuring your performance

The speed at which you move through each of these phases will vary.

It is important to have all your ducks in a row so that you are well placed to take advantage of new work opportunities when they do arise. If your profile clearly positions you, if you are connected with people in your target industry sector(s), if you regularly engage and share valuable content, then others are more likely to want to meet you offline.

And you're more likely to get requests from people to meet up.

If you have a clear sense of what it is you're looking to achieve and if you measure how you're doing, using metrics that matter to you, you'll probably find integrating social media with your existing business development and marketing initiatives helps them to fly.

Over the coming weeks I'll be posting a series of follow-ups covering each of the 5 phases in more detail. Subscribe using the email subscription form above if you'd like to receive these articles by email. Alternatively you can subscribe to the RSS feed. 

My book 'The Complete Guide to LinkedIn for Lawyers – connect, engage and grow your business' is due out on 31 July 2012. It's being published by LexisNexis. If you'd like to pre-order a copy or find out more click here.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this process? What else would you include? 

How has following a similar process helped you/your firm? 


Using LinkedIn in convoy: helping professional services firms to win new business

by Kirsten Hodgson

In mid 2011, Brian Inkster talked about the importance of tweeting in convoy (a term coined by Jon Bloor) to win new business. Tweeting in convoy is about ensuring that your team's personal accounts, your practice group/industry sector and your firm twitter accounts link up and complement one-another. This concept should also be applied to a professional service's firm's LinkedIn activity. 

Using LinkedIn in a convoy

There is a synergistic effect to be gained from doing so and this is likely to lead to greater business success. Here's why.

Why should professional services firms use LinkedIn in convoy?  

Typically there are multiple professionals from within your firm on LinkedIn. But they're all doing their own thing. 

They're making a small dent and, provided they are actively using the platform, they're staying front of mind with their own individual networks.

BUT they're not currently harnessing the power of the firm's combined network so they might not be making their clients, referrers and other contacts aware of other issues that could impact them or that they might be interested in.

As a result your firm could be missing out on new business opportunities. 

Consider the following scenario: a major tender is due out in 3 months. You want to position your firm as the leading authority in the client's industry sector. You blog about various issues they'll be facing, some members of your team share this with their contacts (some of whom work at the tendering organisation), you do all your normal pre-tender things to position yourself before the tender comes out.

How much more traction would you get if all of your team members on LinkedIn with connections at the client organisation posted the link to the blog on their LinkedIn status updates with some commentary about why it's important and who should read it. Additionally the key relationship people for that client/prospect might email their contacts within the organisation to give them a heads up on issues. Some of your team members might ask questions in group discussions where employees of the tendering organisation are active. Other team members may answer these questions or get involved in the discussion.

You can see how, even with a bit of coordination, your efforts are much more likely to get noticed. 

In terms of tweeting in convoy Brian talked about the firm account as being the battleship.

The practice group/industry accounts are the aircraft carriers. 

And the personal accounts are the destroyers.

In the LinkedIn context your company profile is your battleship.

Your individual accounts are your destroyers.

Any practice or industry focused groups that you run on LinkedIn would be your aircraft carriers. 

If everything you do on LinkedIn is part of an organised whole, you are likely to get more traction more quickly. 

What steps should you take to get your various LinkedIn accounts working in harmony? 

Firstly, you need someone, or a team of people, to coordinate activity. By this I mean there needs to be a central repository of content and a mechanism for firm updates to be sent to team members on LinkedIn to post to their status updates and for team members to request that their updates are shared by colleagues or via the firm's status updates. 

This is where smaller firms have an advantage as it's less unwieldy for them to do this. Large firms will likely need a more structured process. 

Secondly, answer the following: 

Are your people connected to one another on LinkedIn? 

Do they like, comment on or share their colleagues' updates (where appropriate) with their own network? 

Do they call or email clients, contacts or prospects who may be interested in some information shared by a colleague? 

These are all things which should be encouraged and which must be spearheaded by the 'coordinating person/team'.

Without the left hand talking to the right hand, your LinkedIn efforts will only be as good as each individual person. 

If you want to benefit from the sum of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts and to maximise your chances of winning new business via LinkedIn, consider how you and your colleagues can use LinkedIn in convoy. 

What's your view? 

How has LinkedIn helped you and your firm from a business development and marketing perspective? 

Image by Brian A. Lautenslager, U.S. Marine Corps [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

LinkedIn as an internal communications tool in professional services firms

by Kirsten Hodgson

When you think of internal communications you tend to think of tools such as Yammer. LinkedIn doesn’t automatically spring to mind. BUT if you’re a lawyer, accountant, engineer, or internal marketing professional it should definitely form part of your internal communications arsenal.

At a basic level ensure your profile positions you well with your colleagues. Even if your clients are internal, they may well look at your LinkedIn profile to find out more about you, your skills and how you can help them.

What conclusions would they draw from your profile? 

By connecting with your colleagues on LinkedIn you can not only leverage one another’s contacts but can also use LinkedIn to help break down silos and make them aware of issues their clients might be facing with which you can help (through the status updates feature). If you use this in conjunction with one on one meetings, door-stopping, news-alerts, key client, industry sector and cross-practice group meetings, it can be very powerful indeed.

A couple of weeks ago LinkedIn launched its targeted updates feature to all companies on LinkedIn. This gives internal communications teams (and the professionals they work for) the ability to send tailored messages to their colleagues. While these will be visible to anyone viewing the company page they will only appear in the updates stream of those ‘followers’ you select. This could be a great way to communicate or reinforce key messages and sharing these on LinkedIn makes it easy for your colleagues to share these with their networks. 

When using LinkedIn for internal marketing purposes, focus on helping your colleagues. If they share information that your contacts would benefit from seeing, share their update (or at a mimimum ‘Like’ or ‘Comment’ on it). If you become aware of a skill they have that one of your clients may need, offer to make an introduction. Each month aim to introduce one of your colleagues to one of your connections who would benefit from meeting them. 

In large firms it’s almost impossible to know all your colleagues. You can harness the power of LinkedIn to get to know some of them a little better. It’s not a tool you should use in isolation but could add rocket-fuel to your existing internal communications initiatives. 

How else could you use LinkedIn for internal communications within a professional services firm? 

LinkedIn Signal: helping professionals to cut through the clutter

by Kirsten Hodgson

Ever feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information that appears in your LinkedIn updates stream? 

Perhaps you want to see who's been sharing useful content, who's got a new job, or who's connected to who. 

It can be difficult when the information is all mixed up – particularly for those of you with larger networks. But it doesn't have to be. 

If you want to cut through the clutter and quickly find the information that's important to you then consider using LinkedIn's Signal. 

Signal is essentially a searchable news and information feed on LinkedIn. It's one of the LinkedIn features I use often – to see what content those in my network are sharing, to research clients and prospects, or to see what's being said about a particular topic. It allows you to quickly eliminate the information you don't want to see

How can I access Signal? 

Go to the 'News' tab on your LinkedIn toolbar and select 'Signal' from the drop-down list. You can then set up searches using a range of criteria and can save these so that you can quickly access the latest information in future. 

What criteria can I search by? 

Keyword – such as a topic, someone's name, a company name or an industry sector. 

Network – your updates, updates by your 1st degree connections (i.e. those people to whom you are directly connected) or your 2nd degree connections (those people to whom your 1st degree connections are connected). 

Company 

Location 

Industry 

Time – such as the past hour, past day, past week or past two weeks. 

School (read University)

Group 

Topics 

Seniority

Update Type – such as who's connected to who, shares, groups, answers etc. allowing you to quickly hone in on what you want to know. 

Additional tools – such as updates by category (i.e. type of update), updates by connection (i.e. showing activity for each person in your network) and your updates. 

If you've got a new business meeting planned, are responding to an RFP, want inspiration for your blog or an article you're writing, or are doing client, industry or practice group planning, take a look at Signal. It's easy to use (just remember to clear your previous search before conducting a new one) and can be an information goldmine. 

Do you use Signal? How has it helped you? 

What other ways would you recommend professionals use Signal? 

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.

Should I allow comments on my professional services firm’s Facebook page?

by Kirsten Hodgson

Short answer: yes. 

That is, if you want to see any benefit from Facebook.

Otherwise you're just using it to talk at people. When you should be aiming to engage them in conversation in order to build relationships. 

One question lawyers, accountants and other professionals frequently ask me is "But what if someone says something bad about me?"

Chance's are, if they are going to do so then they already are. But you're just not aware of it.

Wouldn't you rather know and wouldn't you rather they did it somewhere where you have the opportunity to respond in a professional manner? 

You may find people say great things about you too.

Dealing with client complaints on your Facebook page (or anywhere public) is pretty simple. It doesn't require an exercise in point-scoring, nor is it about who's right or wrong…

…it's about protecting your reputation.

You don't need to get into a debate online. Often it's enough to say "I'm sorry you had a bad experience. I'll call you now to discuss how I can put things right". You can then resolve the issue offline. 

Others can see you've done something about it and will know you listen and respond to your clients.

If the comment is incorrect (e.g. based on misinformation) you can set out the facts or direct the person to the full story (on your website). Others can then view this too, which will work in your favour as it will help to stop further rumours.

Bottom line: don't be scared of negative feedback. It often means the person still cares…and it gives you a chance to demonstrate your professionalism.

Would you rather know about comments your clients may be making about you and have the chance to respond? Or not? 

What's your view? 


Does your LinkedIn profile position you to win new business?

by Kirsten Hodgson

Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan @ Freedigitalphotos.net

It's all very well having a complete LinkedIn profile BUT does it position you to win new business?

Using your LinkedIn profile to DEMONSTRATE why you are the right person for the job is critical if you are to position yourself for new business before someone has even met you.

It needs to reflect the key things that clients say they look for when selecting a lawyer or other professional services adviser. Based on interviews I have conducted with over 200 clients of professional services firms since 2009 these are:

Someone with the necessary technical competence/expertise as defined by:

  • their past experience working on similar projects/matters/cases
  • their reputation, including their ability to influence decision makers
  • their knowledge of their subject area
  • their level of professionalism.

Someone who is the right fit: 

  • at both a personal and a team level (including the wider team of consultants and other experts).

Someone who understands, or shows they are willing to learn about, the client's business: 

  • an adviser who will anticipate needs and protect the client's interests.

If this is what they look for, then think about how you can showcase this in your LinkedIn profile:

For example:

  • Including results and past work in your summary section as well as in job descriptions helps to showcase your expertise.
  • Including a short paragraph about your working style and approach helps people begin to understand how well you will fit with them and their team as do recommendations (if you are allowed to get these in your market).
  • Adding additional apps to your profile such as Projects, Google presentation, Slideshare presentation or Box.net allows you to display presentations, videos, case studies or other information relevant to your prospects (again this will help to demonstrate your expertise and/or your understanding of an industry sector).
  • Adding the Blog link app means you can display your latest blog posts within your profile, which is another great way to showcase your knowledge.
  • Including some personal information about your hobbies and interests enables people with similar interests to connect with you.
  • Regularly sharing valuable information via your network updates helps to position you and demonstrate your knowledge of your subject area and your client's industry. The latest posts appear on your profile.
  • A good headline can inform people, at a quick glance, whether you have the expertise and industry sector understanding they need and can encourage them to read further. For example, imagine a construction company that has a dispute with another company on an international project. They need an arbitrator and see an arbitrator's headline which reads 'International Arbitrator specialising in the Construction and Infrastructure sectors'. They're likely to investigate further and that person will almost certainly stand out from someone else who merely has the headline 'arbitrator and mediator'.

If you want to increase the likelihood of prospective clients requesting a meeting with you and winning new business, make sure your LinkedIn profile positions you in the best possible light. Doing so could mean the difference between a prospect contacting you to find out more and moving on to the next person.

Take a look at your LinkedIn profile. How well does it position you? 

Look out for my forthcoming book 'Lawyers: LinkedIn made easy. Learn how to grow your business using LinkedIn'. It's packed with information like this and is a step-by-step guide to leveraging LinkedIn to achieve your business development and marketing goals. It will be available by June 2012.

What other ways could professionals enhance their LinkedIn profiles to better demonstrate the key things that clients say are important to them? 

Inundated with LinkedIn emails? You needn’t be

by Kirsten Hodgson

Photo courtesy David Castillo Dominici @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the things I regularly hear from professionals when talking to them about social media is that they're fed up with all the LinkedIn emails they receive.

Often they've set up a rule so that these go into another folder and they don't have to read them.

There is an easier way.

You can set your preferences within LinkedIn, ensuring you either receive no emails or you only receive those emails you want to and on a frequency that works for you.

Here's how to do it.

  1. When you're logged into the LinkedIn platform hover over your name (which appears near the top right hand corner of your screen).
  2. Select 'Settings' from the drop-down box (n.b. LinkedIn may ask you to input your password before it will take you to the settings screen).
  3. Select the 'Email Preferences' tab – which appears below your account information on the left hand side of your screen. It's the second of four tabs.
  4. Click on each of the four options in turn and amend them accordingly:
  • 'Select the types of messages you're willing to receive' – uncheck any boxes next to the types of information you DO NOT want to recieve.
  • 'Set the frequency of emails' – go through each of the options and select 'individual email', 'weekly digest email' or 'no email' according to your preferences.
  • 'Select who can send you invitations' – select which of the three options you prefer.
  • 'Set the frequency of group digest emails' – go through each of your groups and select 'individual email', 'weekly digest email' or 'no email'. It's great that you can change this for different groups.

When deciding which emails you do and don't want to receive, think about why you're on LinkedIn. If it's for business development then you'll want people to be able to connect with you or to send you a personal email via the LinkedIn system. You'll also want to know about relevant discussions in your key groups. You may prefer to check those groups on a regular basis. It's up to you.

Hopefully this helps some of you overcome LinkedIn email overload.

What other tips would you share?