Tag Archives: Professional services firms marketing

How to use social media to get more traditional opportunities

A few weeks ago a connection on LinkedIn shared an image showing the effectiveness of various marketing initiatives at generating leads versus their adoption rate.

How to use social media to get more traditional opportunities

 

 

 

While interesting, what struck me is that these things appear to have beenconsidered in isolation.

Which seems bizarre…

Because we all know the concept of synergy where the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts. So, why on earth would you consider various channels in isolation?

Unfortunately, it does seem that social media in particular tends to sit to one side within professional services firms (generally speaking) instead of being woven into every marketing initiative they undertake.

Ditto the website.

There is a huge opportunity to be had from using social and other online tools to create more traditional opportunities or better outcomes.

But firms have to realise that it’s everyone’s job and not just the role of their social media person or digital team. Basically we need to connect the dots.

How could it work?

Here are 3 scenarios:

1.  You want your professionals to be quoted more in the mainstream and trade media read by your clients and ideal prospects. Typically this will fall to your PR/comms person or team.

In addition to the great work they do though, it’s important to realise that journalists are on social media – particularly LinkedIn and Twitter. So why wouldn’t you reach out and get on their radars there?

When I interviewed three business and legal journalists for a book I wrote, they all said they use LinkedIn as a quick research tool, to find story ideas and an expert and as a point of reference. One summarised it well:

“LinkedIn is an incredibly useful tool for a journalist. It’s given me story ideas, helped me to find knowledgeable people, and enabled me to easily track people down. Group discussions are particularly useful for finding story ideas. I typically print the discussion and circle the contributors’ names (provided they’ve made an insightful contribution). When I start writing the story I then contact them for comment.”

Journalists will be open to connecting with you provided you work in a similar area or have a common interest. Let them know that’s why you’re inviting them to connect and then build your credibility from there by sharing useful content, commenting on relevant group discussions and reaching out directly with story ideas where relevant.

 2.  Some members of your team will soon be attending an industry conference full of business leaders in a particular industry sector. Your firm may, for example, have put together a research piece around the top trends affecting that sector or the key implications of X piece of legislation for the c-suite.

You could set up a landing page where people can download this content at no cost to them (in return for their name and email address) and develop a series of autoresponders to be sent out to them over the coming weeks providing more insights and tips and inviting them to set up a meeting with one of your team at the conference to discuss this further / or to attend a briefing setting out the key things they need to do now / or a roundtable workshop on the issue…and then use social media/email/newsletters etc. to make sure the people you want to reach know about the content.

There are so many things you can do but how much more value will your team members get from the conference from this approach than simply treating it as business as usual? They will not only be able to connect with people they know but will be in a position to have much better discussions with people they don’t…and will be on these people’s radars for all the right reasons.

3.  Your team is planning to run a face-to-face event and, separately, a webinar on a topic that small business owners need to know about. You want to reach out beyond your existing clients and target other small businesses.

That’s where social media could really help you – for example, you could use LinkedIn to identify and reach out to local small business owners for the in-person event and more widely for the webinar, and invite them to connect with you in the first instance.

You could then send them something they will value, possibly related to your webinar topic, such as a free guide or tips. You can then easily invite them to your event/webinar – setting out the benefits to them of attending. In addition you could share details via Twitter using a hashtag those you want to attend, would typically follow.

Other  tactics you could use include:

  • Sponsored and direct sponsored content – i.e. you pay to have info about your webinar appear in the newsfeed of those you want to attend
  • Sponsored Inmails – if you are looking to attract a large number of people in a clearly defined segment, this could be an option and is easily combined with sponsored and direct sponsored content as a package
  • Inmails – paid for emails via LinkedIn that you send to a select audience. If you aren’t on one of the more expensive premium accounts (which give you a set number of free Inmails each month) you can purchase these individually and use them to invite people to your event and the benefits of attending. If they respond to you, you get credited your money back so there’s a real incentive to provide the other person will value!
  • LinkedIn groups – you could post the info there or get a discussion going around the topic you’ll be presenting on as a way to engage people and to position it or even start a group and invite those you wish to reach to join (you’ll need to spell out the benefits of the group and why they should join), post some interesting questions or info about the topic and then down the track invite group members to your event/webinar.
  • Along a similar vein you could hold a Tweetup on the topic, making sure you publicise this in advance, and then use this info in your session and invite those who participated in the Tweetup to attend.

Social media used in isolation can get results but they’re few and far between and there are better ways to use your time.

But social media as an integrated part of a whole is extremely powerful and well worth your time. And better still, you can test LinkedIn paid for features on a shoestring, refining your approach until you get the results you need.

Has your firm used social media to generate more traditional opportunities? If so, what’s worked well and less well?

If not, what are the main barriers to doing so?

 

New LinkedIn feature allows firms to send messages to a specific audience

In late July LinkedIn launched a new feature, Direct Sponsored Content, that allows firms/companies to sponsor their content WITHOUT it appearing on their company or showcase page. This means you can now send specific messages to a specific audience.

New LinkedIn feature allows firms to send messages to a specific audience

Imagine you’re aware of an upcoming RFP and want to position yourself prior to it coming out – you can use one, or a series, of direct sponsored content, to get on the radars of those who will be involved in the decision.

There are a whole lot of applications for this and it effectively means that your competitors and others (who you’re not targeting) will be unaware of what you’re doing. 

How to create direct sponsored content in 11 easy steps:

  1. Go to your company or Showcase page, click edit, and scroll down to the ‘Direct Sponsored Content’ posters box and type in the people authorised to post for your firm. If you want to include a poster to appear alongside any sponsored content, do so here.
  2. If you don’t have a business account, you’ll need to create one and link it to your company page. Go to Business Services, Advertise and sign in to the campaign manager. Move your cursor over your name in the top right and select ‘Create your Business Account’ and then type in the name of your firm (if that doesn’t work open your company page in a new window and copy and paste the URL across).
  3. When you have your business account: Go to Business Services (top right of toolbar), Advertise, Manage.
  4. Select ‘Create new campaign’.
  5. Click ‘Sponsor content’
  6. Scroll to ‘What would you like to sponsor’ header and click ‘Create Direct sponsored content’ This will open a dialogue box.
  7. Type in your message and URL link (you are limited to about 1.5 lines of text total).
  8. Click save.
  9. Click ‘Direct Sponsored Content’
  10. Select the message you just created.
  11. Follow the prompts – name your campaign etc and then press next for targeting and costing options.

This is a great new feature. It not only means you can put the right messages in front of the right people at the right time but also allows you to send these from a Showcase page rather than just from your Company page.

Have you used this feature? Let us know what you think of it or how you think you’ll use it. 

Image Credit: http://marketing.linkedin.com/

If your content’s not educational, you’re losing work

According to some recent research  conducted by Kentico, a company’s educational content doesn’t come up when searching for topics related to a problem or need nearly as often as it should. Only 27% of those interviewed report it happens often, 57% sometimes, 11% hardly ever and 5% never.

If your content’s not educational, you’re losing work

While not specific to the professional services sector, it does suggest there is a huge opportunity for firms to put out more useful content that educates people around their problems and needs.

I’m not saying some firms don’t do that already. There is a heap of useful content out there and some of it is great.

But, that’s not always the case. While being helpful is often the intent, sometimes the salient points are buried on page 3. Or there’s too much jargon, too many big words and unbearably loooooooong sentences.

If you’re not putting out content that helps and informs your prospective clients (or the helpful bits aren’t easy to find), then you can bet your bottom dollar that you’re losing work to your competitors.

If you’re putting out puff pieces that aren’t particularly interesting or helpful to others then STOP right now.

Put down your pen. Or your Dictaphone.

And rethink things.

Starting with what do the people you’re looking to talk to want or need to know?

  • What are the common questions your clients ask you?
  • What upcoming, new, emerging legislation are you aware of that will or could impact them?
  • What are some tips you could provide for dealing with X or Y situations?
  • What research have you conducted or commissioned that your clients and prospects will want to hear about?

Once you’ve brainstormed a list of topics, put together a content calendar, setting out what you’ll produce, when. Don’t forget to mark in dates like when a Bill’s having its next reading before Parliament, when a decision is expected that could create case law and so on.

Assign responsibility for compiling each piece of content, sharing it around your team. If you decide to produce one piece per month then a team of 6 would only need to put together two pieces each per year.

Tips to make compiling content easier for you:

  1. Play to your strengths – if you don’t like writing, how about an audio or video post.
  2. Block out time in your diary to produce the content – blocking out an afternoon means you could draft 4+ pieces (giving you enough content for a good few months).
  3. Ask a skilled interviewer (such as someone in your marketing team or an external consultant) to interview you for a piece. They could then draft this for you – but you will need to make sure you check it carefully!
  4. Once you have a piece of content, repurpose it. If you’ve written a blog post, record it, break it down into bite-sized tips, combine 3-4 posts into a free guide, turn it into a Slideshare presentation (or Prezi). The list is endless.
  5. Get help editing and optimising your content – you don’t have to do everything yourself. Ask someone to physically put the post up (their job  could include sourcing and adding an image, adding hyperlinks, creating any call to action you want to add, categorising the post, SEO etc.)

Once your content’s ready, share it via your usual channels.

Make sure you don’t blast it everywhere simultaneously. Space posts out (using a tool such as Hootsuite to schedule them) to maximise the number of people who see them.

Don’t forget to identify clients or contacts who’d specifically benefit from a particular piece and to share this with them directly (think about whether any journalists might be interested). Let them know why you’ve done so and why you thought they’d be interested. You could do this via email, LinkedIn, Twitter or another social network.

Monitor how your content goes down. Respond to any comments in a timely fashion. Then re-purpose your content and put it out there in another form.

What strategies have worked for you when compiling content and how do you keep it educational (versus promotional)?
Image credit: www.flinders.edu.au

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?

How to encourage professional service providers to relax their style

“How do you encourage professional service providers like lawyers, accountants & engineers who’re used to using a more formal language style in their comms to adopt a more relaxed & social attitude?”

How to encourage professional service providers to relax their style

This question was posed recently by Julie South in the LinkedIn group: Social Media for Lead Generation in Professional Services firms. It’s something a number of professional services marketers struggle with.

Here’s how I responded:

“I do understand why many professionals do find it hard to relax their style particularly when their day-to-day work requires formal language and they’ve been trained that way. There are a few things that worked for me when I worked in firms and that have worked since. 

1. Interview them and then write the piece yourself – I’ve found this much easier than editing and the professionals I’ve worked with tend to like it because it’s easier for them.
2. Interview them and put the piece out as audio or video. If you’re sitting off camera and asking the person questions, they tend to come across as more relaxed.
3. Get them to dictate their piece, have their PA type it up and then edit that! Again, spoken language tends to be more informal. Tell them they just have to go with stream of consciousness and not to think too hard – they can edit it later.
4. Ask them to imagine they’re talking to a particular client and have to persuade them / or tell them exactly why X is a big issue, or they need to act on Y.
5. Give them some specific questions they need to answer.”

Have  you tried any of these tactics? Which have worked best?

Are there other things you’ve tried that have worked well? Please let us know by leaving a comment below.

Image Credit: www.lawcrossing.com

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 do social media (well) at corporate level

I am a big believer that social media is predominantly about people connecting with other people. Even the world’s largest brands are using their people to form stronger relationships with their customers and prospects.

Social media at a corporate level

It’s no longer sufficient to hide behind a brand. And I don’t believe that’s ever really been the case in the professional services world. Continue reading

14 ways to Grow your LinkedIn Company Page Followers

The old adage ‘build it and they will come’ isn’t quite true when it comes to your social media presence.

Especially your LinkedIn Company Page.

14 ways to grow your LinkedIn company page followers

A question I’m regularly asked is ‘how do we grow our company page followers?’ so I’ve set out below 14 things firms could do RIGHT NOW. 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

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