A new piece of research looking at the ‘value of internet services to New Zealand businesses’ has been released by the Innovation Partnership.
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”.
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?