Tag Archives: Professional services marketing

How to set up the new LinkedIn Showcase Pages in your Company Pages (video)

LinkedIn’s just announced its new Showcase Pages, which are a great addition to your Company Pages. 

As LinkedIn says:

“LinkedIn members will be able to follow the specific brands and products they care most about that have Showcase Pages.”

This is great news for professional services firms. You can set up showcase pages for up to 10 of your services. People can choose to follow these pages in addition to, or instead of your company page, allowing them to self-select the info that’s relevant to them.

They’re another great way to share helpful content with other LinkedIn users and to build a community – essentially they’re all about sharing great content. But, unless you’re a big brand, it’ll likely take time to build your followers.

And you’ll need to think carefully about your capacity to manage these pages. They will need to be regularly updated (ideally at least weekly) so there is fresh content and you look on top of the issues. The good news is that you can use a mix of your own and third party content to position you so it shouldn’t be too onerous to find things to post.

This ‘how to’ video below shows you how to set up a showcase page (and how to delete one should you need to).

Tips for promoting your Showcase pages

There are so many ways to promote your Showcase Pages. Here’s a list of ideas to get you started:

  • Get relevant people within the firm to include links to these on their profiles (ideally at the bottom of the summary section).
  • Include links from relevant pages on your website to these showcase pages.
  • Include a link in your email signoff.
  • Mention this in your news-alerts, in client meetings, at the end of seminars or presentations.
  • Invite relevant contacts to follow a showcase page for news on ‘X’.
  • Pay for some of the really valuable posts to appear as sponsored updates in a certain demographic’s LinkedIn feed – a number may then follow a particular Showcase page in return.

How to set up the new LinkedIn Showcase Pages in your Company Pages

I’d love to know what you think of Showcase Pages. Let me know in the comments and please share Pages you’ve set up. And please share this post if you find it valuable. Thanks.

Should you hide your LinkedIn connections – the pros and cons?

The answer is: it depends.

Should you hide your LinkedIn connections?

I’ll come onto why in a moment, but I wrote a post a year or so ago strongly recommending that people leave them visible. However, there is one really good argument for why you wouldn’t.

Both perspectives are set out below so that you can make the choice that’s right for you. 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?

 

Will law firm websites even exist in 5 years’ time?

by Kirsten Hodgson

 

And, if so, what will they look like? 

With the growth in functionality of social media platforms, will there be a need for law firms (and other businesses) to maintain their own websites in the future?

In September 2011 I attended the APSMA conference in Sydney where there was a great panel session on ‘the evolution of our roles as professional service marketers’. When asked about how law firm websites have changed over the past 10 years, one of the panelists commented that her firm’s website is becoming much more of a resource centre and that the amount of content on it has grown exponentially.

Great Jakes in New York, have developed a ‘Rainmaker-focused website’, essentially comprising attorney microsites. This setup allows lawyers to customise the information that appears within their individual microsite (which sits within the overall firm site), and to organise that content across multiple pages.

The thing I love about this approach is that it allows lawyers to post reputation-enhancing content into their microsite so it’s linked to them, rather than getting lost elsewhere on the site. This also eliminates the need for lawyers to set up their own work-related blogs that are entirely separate from their firm’s website. I think this is a really smart approach.

As the proliferation of content continues and the channels diversify, I believe it will be those professionals and firms that provide valuable resources and content to their clients, prospective clients and other stakeholders that will prosper…However, it must be easy for them to find that content.

The power is increasingly in the hands of the client:

  • It’s the client who seeks out the info he/she wants
  • It’s the client who compares the relative merits of two or more providers
  • And it’s the client who determines the channels through which he/she will access info.

Having valuable resources which are regularly updated and which are easy to find and access will differentiate professionals/firms and, I believe, influence clients’ buying decisions going forward.

However, the old adage that good content will get found is simply not true any more. It’s those people who are active in the social media space, who have built their reputations, whose content is shared most. Is it good? Most of the time yes, but is there other good content out there? Most definitely. It’s just you don’t always know about it.

While I think engagement via social media will continue to grow, I think in 5 years time websites will become less necessary EXCEPT:

  • as a content repository (i.e. an expanded blog),
  • as a portal to transact business, or
  • as a place to find out a person/organisation’s contact details.

I believe the majority of people will visit these websites via social media platforms (whatever they may be in 5 years’ time) and that the majority of searches will take place within the social media platforms themselves.

What’s your prediction?   

N.B. I actually wrote this post in late 2011 but never posted it. One year on my thoughts are still the same! I’d love to hear yours.

The key to getting good content in professional services

by Kirsten Hodgson

Anyone who’s worked in professional services marketing will know that it’s not always easy to get good content from professionals.

Often it’s not timely

Or is not fit for purpose.

Perhaps it’s an 8 page essay with the key points buried near the end or it’s unclear who should read/watch/listen to the piece and why.

During Clare Adshead-Grant’s workshop on getting fee-earner buy-in at the recent PSMG conference in London (which I’ll cover in a later post), a participant asked how you get fee-earners to put together good content (or, in some cases, any content) in the first place?

It’s a great question and one that I struggled with for years when I was in-house.

Interview the fee-earners and write the content yourself

One delegate responded that, in her firm, the marketing people interview the fee-earners and write the content themselves.

This is a great idea and one which can be applied to a wide range of content from articles to bios. It not only saves you inordinate amounts of time editing, but also allows you to ask the right questions and to drill down to get to the crux of things.

We work with smart people.

The knowledge is in their heads but it often takes questioning and gentle probing to elicit the key points that will make clients and prospects sit up and take notice.

Or, at the very least, see the relevance to them.

This information is often missing from pieces professionals put together because they haven’t been trained to think in terms of features and benefits and it doesn’t come naturally to some of them.

Interview fee-earners to develop video and audio content too

Interviewing professionals for content doesn’t just apply to the written word. It can be equally effective to interview them for video and audio content.

Interviewing them, helps them to relax and turns the clip into a more natural, as opposed to scripted, piece. It’s easy for a skilled editor to edit out the interviewer so that the professional appears to be speaking directly to the person watching/listening.

Next time you want a professional you work with to pull something together, think about whether you, a member of your comms team or a skilled copywriter could interview them.

Asking them to edit your work is a lot easier and less time consuming for them than having to put something together from scratch.

What’s your view?

Have you tried this technique and, if so, how’s it worked for you?

Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos

 

 

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

5 ways to use LinkedIn for lead identification

by Kirsten Hodgson

How can you use LinkedIn to find those people you wish to engage?

Over the past two years LinkedIn has grown exponentially. In June 2010 LinkedIn had 70 million members. In March 2012 there were 150 million members. By September 2012 the number had grown to 175 million.

While two years ago more of my contacts were not on LinkedIn than were, that’s completely changed and you’re much harder pressed nowadays to find business people who don’t have an account.

LinkedIn and other social media are turning the traditional business development process on its head. Whereas in the past you’d meet someone and add them as a LinkedIn connection, now the opportunity is there to ‘meet’ and start to build relationships with people on LinkedIn and then move these beyond the platform.

4 ways to use LinkedIn to find those to whom you wish to connect

1. Perform an Advanced Search:

LinkedIn’s Advanced Search function allows you to search by a range of criteria including keywords, job title, company name, industry sector, country (and, in some jurisdictions, postcode) so it’s a great way to find those you wish to build a relationship with.

LinkedIn’s free account does limit you to seeing 100 search results and you can only see names of those in your network (i.e. your 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections) as well as those who share a Group with you. In order to benefit from the Advanced Search feature you need a critical mass of connections. However, there is a way around this without rapidly increasing your number of connections and without upgrading to the paid account – and that is using search engines such as Google to search LinkedIn (but that’s a post for another week).

Once you’ve performed the search you can begin to follow those you wish to, join the same groups and seek to engage them there, or invite them to connect with you – letting them know why they should do so. What value will they get from connecting with you?

To access the Advanced Search feature click on the word ‘Advanced’ next to the people search on the top right of your LinkedIn toolbar.

2. Search the Groups Directory:

Type in keywords or names of industry sectors you’d expect those you want to build a relationship with to join. Have a look through the results. Typically groups will be listed in order of size with the largest membership first. You can take a look at groups which may be relevant, see who in your network is a member, view group discussions (if the group is open), look through group statistics and determine if it’s for you.

If it is, then join. Take a look at the types of discussions that get the most traction and emulate. In some groups posting links works well whereas in others it’s better to keep all content within the discussion thread. Comment on other people’s discussions where you can.

If you identify people you wish to connect with you can take a look at their profiles, see which groups they’re members of and join the same groups.

You’ll find the Groups Directory under the ‘Groups’ tab on the LinkedIn toolbar.

3. Search LinkedIn SigNAL

Signal makes it easier for you to quickly find the information you’re looking for. You can use it to search for keywords or types of information. The beauty of it is that it allows you to see posts from across the LinkedIn network – not just those in your network – so you can quickly find people who share similar interests or who are actively looking for help in an area in which you can assist.

You’ll find Signal under the ‘News’ tab on your LinkedIn toolbar.

4. Search LinkedIn Answers:

The Answers section is a great place to showcase your expertise by answering relevant questions. Doing so will enable you to build relationships one by one. If someone you want to connect with asks a question, answer it.

‘Answers’ is accessible via the ‘More’ tab on your LinkedIn toolbar.

5. Search LinkedIn Events:

Monitor events in your town and area(s) of expertise and sign-up where appropriate. You could organise to meet others who have signed up via LinkedIn prior to the event, thus maximising networking opportunities on the day.

You may also wish to post your own events so others on LinkedIn can register – don’t forget to promote these through relevant groups and your status updates (as well as on your website and via other communications channels).

LinkedIn is a great tool to identify and begin to build relationships with those you wish to. If you approach people with common-sense and focus on them and their needs, you can begin to build some good relationships that you can then move beyond LinkedIn.

How else have you used LinkedIn to find your target audience?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles @freedigitalphotos

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?