Tag Archives: Professional services firms marketing

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

LinkedIn: A powerful market research tool

by Kirsten Hodgson

Much has been written about LinkedIn as a lead identification and lead generation tool, and rightly so.

But it’s so much more than that.

It’s also a powerful research tool for those looking to develop new products or services or who wish to enter new markets.

One of my contacts, Zivana Anderson, found LinkedIn to be hugely beneficial when researching the market need for a new product for one of her clients.

After finding out the target market for the product, she used LinkedIn’s Advanced Search feature to identify those she wanted to talk to. She then sent an ‘expertise request’ to the people she wished to meet. They were all senior Heads of Department at major national and global corporations. 70% of those asked accepted her request.

They were all very generous and helpful with their time and spent much longer with her than she’d envisaged. As a result of her work, her client was able to establish the market need and had a clear line of communication with would be buyers.

Zivana’s advice to others seeking meetings with busy, senior professionals via LinkedIn:

1. Ensure your profile is complete and positions you well. It needs to lend credibility to your request and show that you are a professional.

2. When contacting the other person be really clear about what you’re doing and why, how long you want to meet for and the things you wish to find out. Be polite.

3. Don’t suggest a specific time. Say ‘at a time convenient to you’ so that you can get the person’s approval in principle.

4. Join a group that the other person belongs to so that you have the ability to email them using the free LinkedIn account.

This could be a great way to use LinkedIn if you’re looking to build profile in a particular industry sector or want to penetrate a new market. By emulating Zivana’s approach, you too could get in front of senior, hard to reach, decision makers.

Have you used LinkedIn as a research tool? How’s it helped you?

 

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: are you up for the 1 action per day challenge?

by Kirsten Hodgson

Do you ever have every intention of doing something…

…but for one reason or another you just don’t get around to it?

Maybe something more urgent crops up.

Or the day runs away with you.

Or perhaps you’re struggling or just not that motivated to do it.

Whatever the reason, a lot of us have things that keep appearing on our ‘to do’ lists day after day, week after week. And we never seem to get around to doing them.

Until now.

The 100 day challenge

I joined the Happiness Experiment a few months ago. Initiated by Kate Billing, whose focus is on making the world a better (work)place, Kate suggested writing down three good things each day. It’s a way of giving you a positive mindset and being grateful for the little things (even on those horrendous days it’s amazing the silver linings you can find).

More recently Kate asked people to join her in a 100 day challenge: it could be anything you were inspired to do and you had to commit to simple daily actions for 100 days. There were three guidelines:

  • make a commitment
  • work your edge (stretch past your comfort zone!) AND
  • follow through (forgiving yourself when you don’t and beginning again)

Given my tendency to procrastinate I decided to commit to doing one thing each day that I wouldn’t normally get around to.

I’m 14 days in and my ‘to do’ list is getting shorter. Plus it’s actually getting easier to do the things I would normally put off.

I’ve:

  • made several phone calls I was uncomfortable about making
  • written and posted some thank you cards (in record time)
  • progressed a project that’s been on the back-burner for four months because I’ve been too busy to work on it
  • and completed several other tasks – both work related and personal.

What’s this got to do with professional services marketing?

As professionals we’re busy.

And we tend to prefer doing the things we’re good at, or that we can tick off quickly.

That means things like business development initiatives are often put on the back burner in favour of client work.

Even when there’s not too much work on it’s easy to avoid getting out from behind our desks.

Particularly if what we know we need to do is outside our comfort zone.

However, doing one thing per day really isn’t so daunting.

Plus, if you commit to it, there’s something inside you that really wants to get it done so that it’s not hanging over your head.

You could even let a colleague, friend or partner know your goals for the week so that they can hold you accountable.

Imagine how much more you could achieve and how much more of the work you love, you could be doing.

So I’m going to set you the same challenge Kate set:

Commit to doing one thing each day for the next 100 days and see what happens.

It could be:

  • writing a personal note to 1 client each day.
  • calling 1 contact each day just to find out how things are going.
  • doing 1 thing to help a colleague each day.
  • doing 1 business development task each day – one day it might be coffee, the next it might be asking for some client feedback, attending an event, or starting a conversation on LinkedIn

You get the gist – so long as you’re focused and the activity will contribute towards your overall goals.

Interestingly, 100 days is (according to Kate) the period of time for technical practice for improved performance ( for example the Suzuki school of violin practice).

If you can develop this habit, imagine how much you could achieve, and how much better you could serve your clients.

What action are you going to commit to?

Have you done anything similar? If so, I’d love to hear how it went and the benefits from doing it.

Related posts:

Natalie Sisson’s 100 change – be inspired by 100 change makers in 100 days

Kate Billing’s The Happiness Experiment