Tag Archives: leveraging Twitter

Winning work and expanding an accounting practice

Brad Golchin is a Certified Practising Accountant (CPA) with an extensive background in Accounting, Business, Training and IT. He’s Director of both Wise Advice in Auckland, New Zealand and XO Accounting Pty Ltd in Sydney and Melbourne Australia.

Brad first started using LinkedIn in 2008, having been active on Facebook prior to that. He initially used Facebook to connect personally with friends but soon received friend requests from clients. Both groups began messaging him their accounting-related enquiries through the platform.

Winning work and expanding an accounting practice

As a result, he began using Facebook as a way to position himself and his accounting firm: by asking his clients the sorts of information they would look for online and then answering these questions and sharing them along with third party content that would help people.

He did this via posts and in four Facebook groups for property investors. A few of these investors then asked him to connect and one engaged Brad’s services. Others in the same investment group subsequently engaged his firm too: resulting in fees of around $30,000 per annum and highlighting that clients and prospective clients do use social tools.

Because Wise Advice works with business clients, Brad set up a comprehensive LinkedIn profile when he first joined the platform. He sees this as his online CV. His credibility is demonstrated through his experience, client testimonials (recommendations) and, more recently, content he has uploaded to his profile and posts he’s published to LinkedIn.

Brad’s biggest success was being contacted by a large US corporation who had found him on LinkedIn and were interested in the way in which he used the latest technology in his business. They sent their 2IC to New Zealand to talk to Brad and subsequently flew him to the US to meet their team and discuss collaborating.

As another example of him winning work via LinkedIn, he connected with a Board Member of a New Zealand Charitable Trust on LinkedIn who saw his content and his involvement in the not-for-profit sector and recommended to her fellow Board Members that they move the Charitable Trust’s accounting work to Wise Advice.

LinkedIn hasn’t just benefited Brad and his businesses in terms of generating new work, it’s also enabled him to:

  • Easily keep in touch with his existing network – particularly when they change job. As Brad says “it’s easy to go into LinkedIn and quickly say ‘congratulations’ whereas email and phone take longer. This is often sufficient to stay top of mind.”
  • Set up meetings with first and second degree connections (i.e. your connections and their connections) and to look up people’s contact details if he’s out of the office and wants to get hold of them.
  • Find a licensee for Wise Advice.
  • Find an Australian partner to run XO Accounting. Brad posted in two accounting groups that he was looking for someone, had 10 interested responses and then interviewed these people to find the best partner.
  • Have better new business meetings. Brad always looks at the personal and company profile of people he’s meeting and their LinkedIn activity.
  • Search people who have sent him an email who he doesn’t know so that he knows a bit about them before responding.
  • Find out who key decision makers are in a particular organisation. Brad uses LinkedIn’s Advanced Search feature to uncover this information.
  • Collect debt. Brad’s team have used it to find late payers!

Brad also uses Twitter, primarily as a brand awareness tool and to drive traffic to his blog and website.

Brad’s advice to others?

“When I talk to other accountants they’re usually reluctant to use LinkedIn and other social networks because they think it will take a lot of time. However, if you build it into your daily routine (much like checking your emails) it doesn’t take long and there are helpful tools such as Hootsuite or Buffer to assist.

I believe you have to be out there to get noticed. If you’re looking to build a sustainable practice then the next generation of clients are using these tools – so you need them too. At the very least make sure you’re listening to see what’s trending and what people are saying about you and your firm.

Big companies use social networks for customer service. I’ve found that I get a much faster response if I contact them via Twitter than phoning them. As this becomes more mainstream clients will expect their accountants to respond to them via these channels too.”

This is an excellent example of an accountant using social networks in an integrated way to win work and increase the success of existing planned initiatives.

This case study is one featured in my upcoming book ‘LinkedIn for Accountants: connect, engage and grow your practice’, published by LexisNexis. 

Do you have a good story to tell? If so, I’d love to interview you. Please leave a comment below or feel free to connect and I’ll be in touch. 

 

The single biggest mistake I’ve made on Twitter

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

It’s just a shame I didn’t have the foresight to avoid this mistake. Because it’s actually a biggie and is badly affecting the way I use Twitter. I know I’ve been missing lots of great info from the people I really want to follow.

My mistake is this: I didn’t properly think about which Twitter lists I’d actually need long term and now they’re in a mess. 

The thing is I’m probably not alone, which is why I’m sharing what I’m doing about it – in the hope that it will help you too.

So, back to the lists. They started out okay but, as I’ve followed more people, tweets I want to see have become buried in overly-active streams. I not only didn’t think hard enough about my lists but I kept on adding people to them.

Why Twitter Lists Aren't Working for Me

 

Things are about to change.

After 5+ years on Twitter I’m finally going to be more strategic about how I use lists.

Why should YOU care?

Perhaps you’re in a similar situation and are wondering how you can make the most of Twitter. Perhaps you’re new(ish) to the platform and want to know what lists to set up.

Here’s what I’m doing.

I am setting up lists for:

  • Top clients
  • Other clients
  • Top prospects
  • Top referrers
  • Top influencers in each sector I follow (split into separate lists by sector)
  • Journalists by sector
  • People who re-tweet me (so I can make sure I reciprocate)

I’m then keeping my existing lists but in a much more streamlined format. Once I’ve moved people into the new lists the existing ones should be much easier to monitor.

I really wish I’d taken the time to do this at the outset. It would have saved heaps of time and my sanity!

What else do you think I (and others in a similar situation) should do to avoid ‘buried info syndrome’ on Twitter? I’d love to hear your tips.

Image Credit: mediainjection.com

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?

11 ways to showcase your professional expertise using social media

A recent post on the Harvard Business Review blog talked about three forgotten drivers of professional services firm performance. It argued that:

“when there is uncertainty about the quality of a product or service, firms do not have to rely on differentiation in order to obtain a competitive advantage. Whether you’re a law firm or a hairdresser, people will find it difficult – at least beforehand – to assess how good you really are. But customers, nonetheless, have to pick one.”

10 ways to showcase your professional talent using social media

Continue reading

How to handle online complaints in this social media age

Last week a contact of mine, Guy Alvarez, shared a link to an article about a British Airways passenger who had paid over $1,000 on a promoted tweet telling people not to fly the airline because it lost his luggage.

How to handle online complaints in this social media age

BA’s customer service team didn’t handle the situation well so the passenger paid to get his message heard and made sure it appeared in the twitter feeds of followers of BA.

Ouch. 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?

 

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

 

Professional services marketing: Do you hear your clients’ voices online?

by Kirsten Hodgson


I had a great experience on Twitter this week and it got me thinking, how many professionals would even know if someone was tweeting or posting about them and/or their firm?

What happened was this. Nancy Myrland tweeted about Tweetdeck removing the endless scrolling in lists. I replied saying Hootsuite still allowed that and she responded that she wished they allowed people to display more lists. Within an hour someone from Hootsuite tweeted us this:

“Hi there! We’d appreciate your feedback in our feedback forum” with the link attached.

That one tweet showed they’re listening and looking at how they can improve. A visit to the forum highlighted they’re responding to people’s suggestions and keeping them informed as to progress they are making re. developments around these.

How many professional services firms could say the same?

If you’re not already listening for mentions of your name and your firm name, then you should get started.

Now.

Some simple and free tools you can use that will enable you to monitor most sites are Google Alerts, Social Mention and Hootsuite (you can set up streams to monitor mentions of your name or your firm name or anything else you wish to monitor).

If people do mention you, you can make a call about whether and, if so, how to respond.

You could create a great impression by doing so.

Or you could stick your head in the sand and people will think you don’t care.

You only get one chance to make people feel positive towards you.

Are you going to take it?

What other advice would you give to professionals about monitoring what’s being said online?

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why professionals should never outsource social media engagement

by Kirsten Hodgson

Image courtesy of noheadlights via Flickr

Have you ever been a situation where you thought you were talking to one person…

…and then it turned out you were talking to someone entirely different?

Perhaps it was one of those phone calls where, half way through, it dawns on you that you got the wrong ‘Mel’

Or it’s not until someone says to you ‘you don’t know who I am, do you?’ that the penny drops.

You feel pretty awkward don’t you?

Why outsourcing conversations isn’t right

Then why is it that some professionals think it’s okay to outsource their conversations via social media?

I’d hate to think I was having a conversation with one person when the whole time I was talking to their social media person.

You can do that at a brand or firm level but it really doesn’t work at an individual level.

  • Because it’s inauthentic
  • Because it doesn’t sound like you
  • Because you’re not building rapport with the other person

If and when you meet them you will have no idea what discussions “you’ve”  had with them.

How do you think that will make you look?

And, if your social media person is posting things in your name and your existing clients are seeing this, do you think they won’t notice if the other person uses language that you typically wouldn’t?

What can you outsource?

Don’t get me wrong, it is okay to outsource some of your social media activity.

Like listening and monitoring or setting up your profile. In fact it can be really helpful to do so.

But engaging with others is the one thing that should NEVER be outsourced. After all, you might get your PA to set up a new business meeting but you wouldn’t get them to go to the meeting on your behalf.

You need to build relationships with others one by one to create the face-to-face opportunities.

Some ‘so called social media experts’ will try to sell you the whole package and, while it would be wonderful to sit back and do nothing while letting someone else take care of everything for you, what will that really achieve?

Generating work via social networks doesn’t just get handed to you on a silver platter.

You have to put in the effort to reap the rewards.

And therein lies the issue.

What’s your view?

Have you outsourced any of your social media activity? If so, what’s worked well and, conversely, what’s not worked so well?