Category Archive Law Firm

Byadmin

Social Media Management for Professionals (4 of 4)

The final Q & A covering aspects of social media management for professionals

social-media-marketing-for-professional-services

Q1.      What do you do if staff have a personal twitter account, the content of which is at odds with the business or could bring it into disrepute?

A1. As covered in the previous Q&A your social media policy should cover such eventualities. If the account and its content is in clear conflict with your business you can request that it is deleted or amended to suit the firm. If they refuse check your social media policy – it should offer the firm the option of dismissing staff who breach the rules however allow time for the matter to be resolved before taking hasty action. Very often staff are not aware of the commercial sensitivities and competitive issues involved in running a business. If the reason for concern is raised in a reasonable manner and time granted for any suitable action to be taken you should resolve most matters quickly and easily.

Where the firm has acted reasonably, there is a clear conflict and yet the staff member has refused to co-operate you would be entitled to take appropriate action.

You will require an up to date social media policy and evidence that staff have been made aware of the rules and consequences of any breach. If in doubt consult an appropriately experienced employment lawyer before taken direct action.

2.      Is there a role for video within social media platforms and how can we make the most of it if there is?

A. Video is an excellent medium for promoting your business but in my experience too few are using it to best effect. We have moved on from the simple written word and hyperlinks to an increasing use of images as a form of visual branding. Video moves the message on a stage further where both the impact of moving images and sound can exponentially increase the reach of your message.

There is therefore a growing role for video as an effective mechanism to promote your company and social media platforms can significantly increase the audience reach of such content. The video may be beautifully produced, excellently articulated and worded to aim at your key customers but simply uploading to your website will not deliver the audience it deserves.

Examples of video best practice;

  • Prepare a clear plan or script, setting the scene, target audience, players, location, content and expected duration. This should also consider the platforms to which the video should be linked. Is it to be uploaded to YouTube, Vimeo or be a “live” broadcast on Periscope or Facebook?
  • Avoid talking heads – the subject talking directly to the camera but clearly reading a script. Seek engagement by using an interview scenario and vary the shots. It’s worth investing in a professional broadcaster to pose as interviewer or provide training for those most likely to be front of camera. Nothing worse than one of your senior and most accomplished practitioners looking shifty on camera due to nerves and poor preparation.
  • There are tools that can create video from presentation slides to create a webinar. If you must use this technique keep the video to a time frame between 5 and 10 minutes max. If you have more content than 10 minutes can handle consider breaking the project into a series of videos rather than one or two lengthy broadcasts. Also seek out a voice-over that is bright and impactful not dull and sleep inducing.
  • Don’t oversell the video. Viewers like to discover new content and be the one’s to share and inform their own networks. It is precisely this section of your audience that can turn a “nice project” into a “winning performance” gaining significant traction through online engagement and recognition. Be informative as to the content of the video but don’t get carried away in a narrative. If a viewer thinks they’ve discovered a gem of informative and entertainingly presented content they will only too quickly share. If they have been presented with an overtly self congratulatory introduction they will sit back and expect to be “wowed!”

Overall I would recommend experimenting with video but be careful not to damage the firm’s brand with an overly amateurish production. Smartphones are actually powerful enough to create good video footage but investing in sound enhancement equipment and editing software will be money well spent.

3.      Is there a role for paid-for promotions on platforms like LinkedIn?

Experiment, see how they work measure results and decide on future investment. I’ve used several and the best so far has been Facebook.  Facebook works for me because it provides access to a significant depth of demographic data which helps tailor campaigns. If you’re looking more to a B2B over a B2C campaign I would suggest LinkedIn but again tread very carefully before committing £££. I’ve had mixed results with LinkedIn and the jury is still most definitely out on whether it can deliver over time for a variety of prodct/ service offerings. Most LinkedIn users are acutely aware and wary of in platform advertising and promotions.

My advice is to treat any advertising expenditure on LinkedIn or other social platforms like that of TV, Radio or Press. You want a return on your investment you’re not simply investing in the channel hoping it might work.

On the upside I have found LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to be very supportive when issues have arisen. Now is a good time to experiment with this area of advertising as, (a) Not many are using the medium to advertise (b) The platforms are very keen for their ad propositions to work and ergo, happy to help and respond if it goes poorly.

4.     What can firms learn from social media analytics?

Typically it’s the last thing considered but it is so important in deciding the demand for future investment and resource. Twitters own in app package is actually very good, Hootsuite can produce tailored reports LinkedIn is useful when looking at the tracking of post activity and e-mail apps such as MailChimp and Campaign Monitor also help. There’s the daddy of drilling into data,Google analytics but I’m not going to lie, it can be difficult to identify the specific data set that you need,

My advice, unless you have an analysis ninja to hand is to keep it simple and focus on the key metrics of engagement, brand profile, reviews, comments and ultimately client acquisition. Nothing simpler than asking a new client what brought them to you, where they heard of you and had they been aware of your social media accounts, if so which ones. Old fashioned? Yes Effective? Most definitely.

This concludes the four part Q&A social media management for professionals. If you have any questions not covered by this series of articles feel free to connect and ask me directly or comment below.

Byadmin

Social Media Management for Professionals Part 3

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Q1.      How do you keep a level of consistency in your message and retain engagement on a long-term basis?

A.

  • Be clear about your target audience and ensure your network includes a healthy proportion of those key individuals and organisations.
  • Listen, share, originate, post [repeat].
  • Measure your social engagement on Klout, Kred or Buzzsumo identify what works and repeat that approach and for whatever fails to hit the mark avoid doing it again.
  • Keep up to date with platform developments and regularly run sessions for departments to share successes and lessons.
  • Ensure those charged with posting for your business have the knowledge and capability to maximise commercial opportunities and identify appropriate content to share.

Q2.      How should firms organise accounts on platforms like Twitter – one single one for the business? Regionally? By practice? By service type?

A. No set right or wrong method but try and avoid confusing the audience. Consider those with whom you want to connect and if a distinct account is merited due to personality, service offering, sub brand or language and location go for it. My advice is “keep it simple” quite often firms can have internal conflicts or demands which require separate accounts but consider the content that is being created and the objectives. If goals can be equally met by one account rather that two or three stick to the single offering.

Q3.      Can a firm have too many channels/ platforms?

A. I would advocate experimenting on a small scale and certainly seeking to secure an account name for the firm for protection and readiness for future action but decide within reasonable time-frames if any new channel requires the investment.  Some law firms may consider channels such as Pinterest or Instagram as irrelevant and a waste of time but ignoring their potential without properly evaluating is the real folly.

If an account such as Instagram is able to present a positive reflection of the firm’s brand then ask yourself why you would not want to at least try it.

A large number of professional practices are getting to grips with Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook and that seems to many to be enough. If you’re limited in your resources identify which is most likely to be a platform that your ideal audience would be attracted to. Then take time to understand and develop a presence within that medium.

Q4.      How do you maintain and protect your firm’s reputation on social media?

A. Great question. No simple answer. You cannot possibly guarantee to protect the reputation but you can ensure that those charged with using the channels on behalf of the firm are appropriately experienced, trained and aware of the consequences of any breaches of your policy. [You do have a social media policy, don’t you?]

As for all other staff they too need to be aware that social media can be a dangerous area to express personal, particularly strident or abusive views. The media channels all too regularly report on examples of dismissals for inappropriate posts. There’s no harm in sharing these examples with your staff as and when they hit the headlines to remind them of their obligations and consequences of breaching the rules.

As we know all too well, social media has its dangers especially in the hands of the opinionated, erratic, drunk, naive, angry or untrained users. Equally it can be a very positive tool to help raise the firm’s profile and effectively engage with those with whom you want to build lasting relationships online and offline.

Take great care in deciding on those charged with managing your online presence and as owners or managers in the firm take an active, ongoing interest in the content that is being broadcast in your name.

Byadmin

Social Media Management for Professional Firms – Part 2

Here is the 2nd part of my review of social media management for professional service businesses, derived from typical questions posed over the past few months.

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Q.      How do you inject personality into a firm’s twitter account to encourage engagement?

A. Many large corporate organisations adopt a mechanism of allowing their social media team to leave their initials or first name after tweets. This works well for customer service related posts and responses to queries, concerns or complaints. I recently had a very lively exchange with Aviva’s twitter team proving they were confident in their personas and on top of my particular issue. If you don’t have the scale of resource that makes that possible you could nominate a member or members of the marketing/ PR team and let them be the face of the firm. The only danger with that in professional firms is that there can be an expectation that the person posting has direct experience of the law, surveying or accounting practice and is not a marketer. It can therefore be too easy to come across as somewhat “fluffy” lacking in substance and rather more preoccupied with cake and lighthearted matters than the business to which they are charged with promoting.

If you think you need to create a professional persona for your twitter account you may wish to consider the following.

Ask yourself…”What is the culture of the business?”  If it were a person how would it behave in a meeting, socially and when presenting generally?

If you find that too tough a concept or you’re heading toward a rather schizophrenic answer try asking a few trusted clients.  Humour can be an excellent mechanism for injecting both personality and creating interest but beware the fine line between laughter and tears. Avoid contentious points and consider the maxim of steering clear of core topics of sex, religion and politics.

If there’s no obvious personality traits to hang your online identity to try the following more direct approach;

a) Identify a personality in the firm that clients warm to and has proven successful.

b) If not familiar with social media introduce them to the basics and the essential do’s and don’ts

c) share posts with the “personality” and ask them for their view on how they would present it to an audience, keeping to their own style and not adopting a corporate persona.

d) Test, refine and seek feedback from networks it’s an ongoing process but over time those promoting the firm via social media will start to adopt the personality and it will become established as a clear identity. It may help to give it a name.

Q.      Do professional firms properly understand their audience?

A. Honestly the answer to this question is too often no.  Many firms, be they big city affairs or regional niche practices, measure their success by their number of followers/ connections. Of course you’ll make no headway at all without a network of a certain size but it’s not just numbers it’s proper connections with those who will add value.

Your target audience is client (decision makers), client (staff influencers), 3rd party influencers/ opinion formers, potential staff for your firm, potential suppliers/ supporters, sources of sector specific news and information.

There are a number of techniques that can help identify the above but the advice should be to grow your network steadily over time and continually monitor the membership profile.

Q.      Do firms drive enough conversation on social media or are they guilty of transmitting rather than communicating?

A. Too many broadcast because of a lack of quality home grown content and ignore the opportunities to listen to their networks. We can all be guilty of it but at heart know ourselves when someone is truly listening or just waiting for their next opportunity to speak.

Social is as much listening as sharing, it’s a vital element of effective social engagement. Social selling is not traditional selling its consultative, relationship based and takes time. Trust is key and that’s built over time. Broadcasting puts your brand out there listening and responding intelligently elevates the brand perception of your network.

Q.      Which channels should firms focus on? How should they adapt to different channels?

A. LinkedIn is the classic professional networking portal but is awash with samey articles as the platform has morphed into a publisher of original posted content. As a result you need to work hard to retain a profile and audience interest.  Consider taking your LinkedIn connections to another space….e-mail.  There is a much underused tool on LinkedIn which provides the ability to download connections and their contact information to a spreadsheet.

Twitter has merit in keeping your profile raised and there is an expectation now that every business should have at least one main account. Twitter can provide a client service measure notably one to watch for both positive and negative feedback. As mentioned in previous points time needs to be given to thinking about the audience and how you might properly increase traffic to the website.

Facebook – If only to own the space and name the firm should have a page. Staff are far more likely to engage than clients but no harm in that. Often used effectively by law firms to show their community engagement, work with charities and staff achievements such as fund raising or extra curricula activities.

Google+ worth retaining a presence and keeping a watching eye on developments – has not realised its goals, unfinished business. The vast majority of firms in the UK use Google+ primarily to enhance their main Google ranking.

YouTube – Video is becoming an increasingly important medium for communicating to online audiences but thought needs to be given to its execution. No hour long death by PowerPoint presentations but 5 minute nuggets of information.

Persicope / Blab – interesting developments in video streaming and great for events but always a potential risk when “live” streaming so needs to be carefully managed.

Byadmin

Social Media Management for Professional Firms – Q&A Part 1

Social Media Management for Professional Firms – Q&A

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The following series of questions and answers were sourced from meetings recently attended, in particular a panel appearance organised by Infinite Global in London.

Q. Who within the firm should own the social media function?

A. I don’t like the use of the word “owned” because it suggests acquiring a right which can either cause friction with others who have an equal interest in the medium or offer up a “get out of jail free card” for those who feel they don’t own it so don’t need to contribute.

Whomever you appoint to take overall responsibility must do so in the knowledge that they are reliant upon others to support and participate. By way of example, a digital marketing manager may, quite logically, be given the task but if they lack the gravitas and personal authority to generate a response they’ll struggle to deliver. Equal to and perhaps of greater importance than the digital know how are the skills to engender collaboration and communication across the firm? “Soft skills” and application of emotional intelligence (EQ) are absolutely essential in harnessing the collective knowledge and skills to communicate the capabilities of individuals and the firm as a whole. Consider this before appointing the person to take ultimate control of your social media activity.

Q. Should PR professionals be the broadcasters of your social media Channels or just managers?

A. The PR function has moved into the centre ground in thoughts of strategic delivery with the increase in digital marketing opportunities and insatiable demand for quality, engaging content. PR is in essence communication but it isn’t all about the external facing message.  Before you consider their role with regard to delivery you need to consider THE most important piece of PR in a firm, the internal campaign to win hearts and minds of key decision makers on the direction of the firm’s communication strategy. Social can, and in my view should, hold a strong part of that strategy but without “buy in” you’re on the outside looking in to those who have the eyes and ears of the senior management team.

Most PR/marketing professionals will have their own twitter accounts and it is expected that they will have a LinkedIn profile. Only by using the medium can you fully understand it but don’t assume PR’s and marketers are all highly proficient with everything social. It is a medium that moves very quickly and deserves to be treated with respect. Outsourcing has its risks as does the handing over of the keys to the firm’s twitter account to the “socially savvy” new recruit. My advice would be to set clear objectives for what you want from your social activity. Here are but a few examples;

  • Increase in brand awareness by (%)
  • Monitoring client feedback
  • Gaining (x) new clients and (y) referrals
  • Creation, management and communication to a social network that reflects the core target areas of the firm (set realistic size target by viewing peer group leaders)
  • Achieve greater news media coverage on key service areas (this should feed back to brand awarness and new clients)
  • Increased traffic to targeted sections of the website (ensure google analytics track social feeds and report regularly)

Once you have your agreed objectives you can decide on who takes the reigns managing or broadcasting or both. That decision is very much down to the make up of your firm and the resources available for such activity.

Q. How do you bridge the gap between those who produce the content (lawyers) and those who are actively promoting the content?

A. There are a few excellent examples of where producer and promoter are actually one and the same. In these situations all the marketing team need do is ensure the practitioner is up to date with the mechanics and protocols of the platforms used.  These “thought leaders” can be extremely powerful advocates for the firm showcasing depth of knowledge and experience alongside their connection to social media management.

Typically the above tends to work for smaller practices with entrepreneurial, driven leaders who have identified the potential of social media marketing. Having a solo performance can be effective however it does place a great deal of pressure on the individual and at times of holiday or illness the firm can be left adrift with only the testcard available for broadcast. (anyone under the age of 40 may need to Google “testcard”)

Of course not many law firms possess the individuals who can both create the content and find the time to promote it. Typically the marketing team are charged with making the very most of the “carefully crafted” content.  This content, let’s say it’s an article on inheritance, will quite often be first posted and hosted on the firm’s website. It might seem obvious but the authors profile should top and tail the article. A brief introduction to the expert at the beginning followed by a more detailed “cut out” section at the end. Browsing behaviour is such that readers may only take in a few lines so there is no harm in repeating the name and contact details of the author. When posting on LinkedIn the publisher can also share the content on Twitter.  If sent on the firm’s main or department twitter account I would recommend a strong headline to draw in the reader and again a very brief bio before the link to the website.

Social media users prefer to deal with real people rather than logos and brands however including a bio of the author and if space allows, a link to either their own twitter or LinkedIn profile will help increase engagement.

Q. What role should lawyers, accountants or barristers play in social media activities?

A. If you have willing volunteers chomping at the bit to tweet don’t dampen their enthusiasm but do ensure they know the ground rules. Be clear and try at all costs to avoid “the tail wagging the dog” as enthusiastic broadcasters monopolise the firms social channels leaving little space for the areas you really need to promote. The firms strategy should point to the key areas requiring promotion, say a specific service area that is topical and requires a greater profile. The marketing team then identify those who have the knowledge and capability to demonstrate expertise, (not necessarily the most senior practitioner or head of department).

On an ongoing basis to better manage the process each service area/ department should have at least one “social advocate” ideally someone who knows the difference between trolls and twitterati. They should be kept up to date with general social trends and specific industry activity to ensure they make the most of their time online and don’t fall foul of any pitfalls i.e. tweeting specific client info or inappropriate comments when “relaxed” after a glass or two.

They should be tasked with helping to generate content in the form of regular articles, news items that can be commented on and any changes in legislation that clients and contacts should be made aware of. In effect they are your radar for their specific area of interest.

Typically you’ll encounter;

a) enthusiastic disappointers, talk a good game but don’t deliver

b) surprising stars, those who’ve kept their social skills secret thinking they were either too junior or simply not capable enough

c) Just can’t be bothered, too busy, too important

d) Steady Eddie and Edwinas who can deliver but prefer to stay in the background

Whichever you identify be very clear as to what is expected and set realistic goals for output. If they fail to deliver don’t be afraid to remove the responsibility and seek out someone who can.

If you don’t appear to have many in the firm with the core skills to contribute and support your social activity relay this to HR and consider building in social media related questions when recruiting to help identify those strengths.

Part 2 of this Q & A feature will arrive next week. If you have any specific questions relating to the above please feel free to comment or simply connect and drop me a line.

Byadmin

Bad Connections – Social Media Rules of Engagement

Recently we witnessed the media storm related to an exchange between two “professional” individuals on LinkedIn.  By professional I’m talking about a barrister and a senior solicitor.  No lightweights in the legal world.  An associate tenant barrister working toward a doctorate in Law & Sociology at Cambridge University, supporting her research in the fight against FGM and a strong background of working with vulnerable women in a variety of matters.  The solicitor is the joint chair of International IP Litigation & Head of European Intellectual Property at a global law firm.

Bad Connections

So how could two so well connected individuals find themselves at the centre of a media storm relating to the appropriateness of social media communication?

It’s actually quite simple.

The context is key here.  The male solicitor requested to connect with the female barrister on LinkedIn, a common enough action and no issue as the request was accepted.  What happened next is where their online relationship rapidly unravelled.

The solicitor immediately took the opportunity to message the barrister via the platform thanking her for accepting the connection request but then continuing to comment on the quality of her profile picture.  Prophetically he went as far as to say “probably horrendously politically correct” and used the word “stunning” and that it would “win the prize for the best LinkedIn picture I have ever seen”.

In receipt of such a message you could respond in any number of ways including:

  1. Ignore
  2. Reply privately and thank him for the compliment
  3. Reply privately and suggest he needs to think before sending such a message and disconnect from the sender via LinkedIn.
  4. Reply and also post the message and reply publically via twitter

As you will no doubt be aware or have worked out the barrister took option 4.  It’s actually not terribly surprising given her work and the undoubted shock at receiving this message on a platform such as LinkedIn.

Once posted on twitter the media quickly stepped in, spotting an opportunity to create a heated debate centred on a middle aged lawyer and an inappropriate post on social media.  The act of taking direct action via twitter added fuel to the ire of those defending the solicitor and accusing the barrister of an unnecessary overreaction.  The story appeared over the next few days in print and online in The Guardian, Independent, Daily Mail, Daily Express and reported on BBC radio 4, newsbeat on radio 1 and radio 5 along with many other sources.  In addition there were continual re-tweets and favourites of those for and against the actions of the barrister.

I have no issue with the initial response and in fact I was included in the Independent report with a screen shot of my response on twitter.  The difficulty I have is that the media involvement,  rather than raising a very pertinent issue of how we perceive and value roles  in the workplace and the need to communicate appropriately, simply polarised the argument by using terms such as “Feminazi” and digging up unnecessary archive posts on Facebook.

What happened?  In essence a lawyer made a couple of inappropriate comments in a brief message to a recent contact on LinkedIn.  LinkedIn is not a dating site nor is it a platform for lightweight banter.  It is NOT Facebook or for that matter Twitter.  It is akin to a professional networking environment where those you know and work with connect and exchange information with similar minded individuals.

The context in this conversation was entirely wrong as the lawyer did not have the relationship with the barrister that could in any way explain the comments.  By contrast “Friends” on Facebook can frequently participate in lively highly personal exchanges and yes at times they too can be offensive and require intervention.  Users of Facebook understand that there is a level of familiarity with the social interactions on the site. Whilst companies do have their own Facebook pages most users on the platform use it to keep up to date with friends and family and only work colleagues they are particularly familiar with and trust.

With all social media sites there are unwritten rules of engagement, understood by frequent users of the platforms and on occasion those rules are breached either deliberately to cause offence or unwittingly through naivety or lack of experience. This is why it is so important to be aware of the social media rules of engagement.

Apologies have been submitted by the solicitor and his firm.  I would now hope we can move on having learnt something from the incident and not lower the debate into a fight between so called “men haters” and “misogynists”.

How We Use the Main Social Media Sites

LinkedIn – Professional business to business social networking platform, exchanges akin to formal or informal meetings but all within a workplace context.

Facebook – Personal platform for keeping friends and family up to date with your life.  Socially led with focus on activities outside of work, leisure time not concentrating on work.

Twitter – Can be both work focussed and socially focussed but users tend to have either one type of accounts or another.  Great care should be taken in posting both work related content and activities of a more personal nature as it may cause to undermine the professional efforts.  With careful management it is possible to balance both.  In general terms Twitter is less formal than LinkedIn.

 

 

 

Byadmin

Business Development – Why You Need to be Thinking LinkedIn

There are no shortage of “top tip” type posts extolling the virtues of marketing you or your business on social media platforms.  Many offer useful practical advice and are indeed helpful whilst others appear to offer nothing other than the basic, obvious and on occasion not all together accurate nuggets.

In this latest post I’m sharing my advice for busy professionals who are already on LinkedIn but have yet to enjoy positive engagement or would like to improve on the current level of activity.

Before I begin there is the all-important question, why bother with LinkedIn?  I’m not going to assume that you’re already a fan of the platform and just raring to go.  You might be rather cynical and need to be convinced of LinkedIn’s worth or have adopted a more passive relationship with the site.   Alternatively you might be super keen but as yet just not “cracked the code” and finding a lack of solid engagement frustrating.

In the current connected world we live in it is becoming increasingly difficult to find time and space to develop new business opportunities, make new contacts and re-introduce yourself to old acquaintances.  We need to make use of tools that help organise our lives and for me there are few better than LinkedIn. It provides a five star Rolodex, virtual environment connecting you to a world of opportunity.  The beauty of LinkedIn is that it is very likely those companies and decision makers you want to stay in touch with are already using the site.

OK, you get it, everyone’s gathered in this global networking thing and you should get more involved…but how?  You’ve connected with people you work with, clients, university chums and a few professional contacts you picked out of your e-mail address book.  You’ve liked a couple of posts and updated your profile, even changed the picture.  What you’re struggling with is the “next step”.  You see a number of regular contributors and they seem to spend a great deal of time pushing theirs and others content, but you don’t know if it’s generating anything for them other than the obvious recognition they get.

The truth is there is no set rule or winning formula to create a stream of new business opportunities.  If anyone suggests this they’re over promising and very likely you’ll quickly become frustrated at the results…or lack of them.

For me the key is in identifying the business development methods that work for your organisation offline and adopting a similar approach online.  For example if you work in professional services it’s unlikely that bombarding prospective clients with sales messages will do it for you.  Delivering useful information via seminars and following up on enquiries generated as a result would be one example more suited to the sector.  In this example you can use LinkedIn to post content reflecting your particular expertise and encourage engagement through comments to start a conversation.

I would also strongly encourage you to have a plan for your online activities and set a target for creating new business opportunities.  This will help to retain a focus on why you would invest time online and avoid time stealing distractions that don’t move you toward your goals.

Before posting any content it’s worth reviewing your profile and making sure that it accurately reflects how you wish to be seen.  Often we focus on job titles and our internal corporate terminology to describe a role but it might not be clear to others exactly what you do.  Create your own elevator pitch that clearly explains who you are and what makes you somebody that others would want to connect with.  There’s no harm in checking out other profiles and adapting elements you like into your own if it’s an aspect that you’ve previously struggled with.

When you started on LinkedIn you probably, like me, got terribly excited and started joining dozens of groups.  The fact is we don’t always have the time to give to all the groups and over time you’ve realised they’re also not very active.  Give your groups a refresh, be ruthless and stick to those where you feel you’ll have the best possibility of engaging with potential new clients/ customers or those who’ll refer you to others.

Groups offer an opportunity to join a conversation on topical issues that affect a sector or service you have an interest in.  Try and avoid joining groups that you feel comfortable in because they’re populated by others who are in a very similar line to you.  Ask the question “What will this group bring to my business?”  If there isn’t a clear answer don’t join.

We all have connections in our network who are prolific bloggers, some offering very useful and reliable quality content, but it is hard to keep to this standard if you set out to post every day.  You should consider posting your own content but keep it to topics that are relevant to your area of expertise and provide helpful insights for your network.  It could be once a week, twice a month or once a quarter but if frequency is low, step up the conversations you participate in with your target groups.

Posting from LinkedIn, rather than placing a link to external content offers your best opportunity for engagement. It is easy to draft your copy in an external document, proof read it and then copy and paste into LinkedIn.  To access this function you need to be in the “Home” section of LinkedIn and click on the “Publish a Post” option.  There are also options here to “upload a picture” and “share an update” the latter typically involves content from other sources such as your own website or news channels.

The biggest obstacle that many busy professionals face is time or rather a lack of it.  To make LinkedIn work for you it’s a good idea to set yourself a plan of checking in with the site twice a day and having e-mail notifications set to let you know of your group or post activity.  Set yourself a target of post frequency and keep an eye out for inspiration from news items, articles and events.  Overall it’s better if you can get into a routine of using social media sites to support rather than interfere with your working day.  By being organised and structured in your approach you will be more discriminating in the content that you consume and create.

Key Points – Quick recap

  • Review your profile and view it as if you are a potential client/ customer. Take time to look at a variety of profiles and adopt ideas that would work for you.
  • Consider the précis “elevator pitch” for your profile.
  • How do you generate new business offline? Consider how you would adapt this approach on-line and set a plan and target in generating interactions and new business opportunities.  Include in this plan the time that you will invest and frequency of posting your own original content.
  • Review your groups and concentrate on those that offer opportunities to engage with prospective customers.
  • Keep a journal of interesting news, articles and items that will provide the inspiration for your posts.
  • “Publish a Post” of your own original content on LinkedIn rather than uploading hyper-links from external websites. Remember this is distinct from the “share an update” option which will often involve posting external links and is a great way to bring your connections to your website or share the content of others in your network.
  • Remember to carefully proof read your post before publishing, a second pair of eyes can be invaluable.

The above is obviously not a definitive guide to using LinkedIn but provides guidance that should help improve your engagement and ideally grow your confidence in using the world’s largest professional networking site.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to comment below or e-mail me david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk

Byadmin

Knowing the Price of Everything and Value of Nothing

Oscar Wilde’s famous quote from his only published novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, is one that intrigues me.  It can have a number of subtle meanings but within the novel it is specifically relating to the bartering of an item in Wardour Street . In the late 19th century this part of London was known for antique and furniture shops and Lord Henry’s bidding for a piece of old brocade may have hinted at the difficult economic circumstances of the period.  Lord Henry’s frustration at the time taken to secure his purchase leads to his statement, “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

Cost-value graph on blackboard

Fast forward to the 21st century and things are not so different.  One effect of the recent recession has been our re-focus on reducing our outgoings both personally and commercially as the pinch on our profit and lifestyle hit home.

Let me be very clear (sound like a pompous politician there) I don’t have an issue with careful cost control.  Quite the contrary, I actively encourage a regular domestic and business review of expenditure.  The issue as it relates to Oscar’s brilliantly written line is that we can become “hard wired” to focussing exclusively on the currency of a product or service and not the benefit or return that item will bring.

As a marketer and business owner this is very important territory.  I’m equally a supplier and customer and in both relationships I try my best to be consistent.  The difficulty is in identifying what that often quoted but rarely defined “value” is.

What is “value”?

As a noun it’s “the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something”

As a verb “to estimate the monetary worth”

All too often we see the term reduced to a base level with items branded as “value meals” and the like.  That’s not really value, it’s just cheap but of course that’s a word that won’t shift a chicken tikka masala from your local supermarket shelf.

Knowing the value of something can be harder to realise than you might think.  Often we only truly gauge something’s worth when it’s no longer available.  From your favourite TV series to particular brand of perfume, that great boss who selfishly retired or reliable local mechanic who always fixed your car with a smile.  When they’re gone we appreciate them more.

This test equally works on goods and services that we might already attribute more value to than they deserve.   What about that expensive watch, particular club membership, car, holiday destination or brand of coffee?  These are often aspirational items and by owning or experiencing them we believe as a consequence our lives to be “better” and thereby valuable.  That’s a state of mind that many brand owners want their target customers to buy into but if we were forced to use an alternate would our lives be so much worse?

Businesses that sell services can often struggle to differentiate themselves from the competition.  There will always be those who use price as a promotional blunt instrument.  Successful companies take the time to understand not only the mechanics of their offering but the emotional response to experiencing the best and worst of the market offerings.

You might technically be measured as the very best at what you provide but if you employ robots or a team of over confident practitioners to deliver, they’re unlikely to capitalise on that technical advantage.

Good business is all about the human experience.

So what are the factors that make the difference?

  • Accessibility
  • Action
  • Attitude
  • Communication
  • Empathy
  • Experience
  • Flexibility
  • Focus
  • Knowledge
  • Listening
  • Resilience
  • Responsiveness
  • Simplicity
  • Truthfulness

And of course this can all add up, when we include the fee, to value.

If you’re up for a challenge take a look at a couple of services and products that you use over the course of the next few weeks.  Ask yourself what you are basing your decisions on and consider if that is the best measure for making those purchases.  Put yourself in a position where you must justify those purchases to a boss and they are going to want clearly articulated and rational responses.  Consider which of those items you would wish to retain and those that fall short and face being replaced.

What does value look like to you?  Once you’ve thought about it from your own consumer perspective you might want to have a go at applying it to your own business.  Consider, honestly, if you would want to buy from your business, if so great…. can you do even better?  If the answer is no… where are you failing and how can you address the shortcomings?

If you’re not a typical customer of your company’s product or service, seek out those who are and ask for their honest, non sugar-coated views.

Knowing the price of something is the easy bit, knowing the value… that’s a skill that we all need to work on.

David Laud

 

Byadmin

The Generations Game

A short while ago I was asked to present at a Practice Management Conference to owners and senior managers of law firms in the UK.  The brief for this event was to present on the challenge of engaging with younger clients.  A very topical issue not only for lawyers but many businesses facing the prospect of attracting new customers in the digital age.

Personally I find the topic fascinating and equally intriguing when you consider how little attention is given to thinking about the socio demographic make-up of potential clients.  OK, my apologies to those marketers out there that have this all neatly packaged but note, you’re in the minority.  There’s plenty of talk about addressing customer needs, presenting and delivering goods or services that appeal to a niche market but how many of us need to appeal to a broad spectrum of the population? How do we make that work?

The Generations

The Generations

For my presentation I didn’t want to talk solely about the youngest, newest client segment.  Sure, talking social media and digital advertising would be sexy and necessary but in isolation would not place that particular generational trend in context with other older segments of the population.  So there I had it.  Let’s cover ALL bases and provide an overview of the generations and their likely preferences.

To kick the presentation off I asked the assembled audience which category they fell into.  The options.

  • Traditionalist
  • Baby Boomer
  • Generation X
  • Generation Y/ Millennials
  • Net Generation/ Digital Natives

To truly test the audience of law firm senior executives I didn’t offer up the list in timeline order as it is above.  I then provided the specific classification by year to determine exactly which group they would fall into with a little more detail as to the typical traits of each, the dates represent the dates of birth :-

  • Traditionalists 1925-1946

Formal, private, loyal, trust, respect, face to face, written, value time

  • Baby Boomers 1947-1964

Competitive, aspirational, hardworking, want detail, like options, challenging

  • Generation X 1965-1979

Entrepreneurial, independent, work life balance, sound bites, e-mail, feedback

  • Generation Y/ Millennial 1980-2000

Optimistic, confident, seek positive reinforcement, multi taskers, e-mail, text, skype

  • Net Generation/ Digital Natives 2001+

Connected, ethnically diverse, entitled,

When asked to then place themselves in the appropriate category it became quite apparent most had mistakenly considered themselves to be in a category other than the one they belonged to.  This highlighted the fact that as a rule we don’t know which generation we are and probably don’t see it as being very relevant.  That is a mistake.

Let me provide a couple of examples:

#1

Mrs Marple is a recently widowed lady of 77. She is having her late husband’s estate managed by Swish Swash Law.  Swish Swash pride themselves on being at the cutting edge of technology.  “It’s all in the cloud man” “we’re totally paperless” “Have you seen our App?” “The websites purely organic and built for the mobile and tablet market” Yadda yadda – you get the picture. Well Swish Swash employ some very bright young lawyers and they are equally adept at their use of technology as they are at applying their legal knowledge.  They have a 24/7 approach to service and in their best efforts to keep Mrs Marple informed they send an e-mail and follow up text to her to inform her of their progress. It’s sent at 9.15pm.  Next morning a rather angry daughter of Mrs Marple calls the lawyer who sent the text explaining that her mother had been asleep and got very stressed when the message arrived thinking anything sent at such a time could only be bad news!

As a Traditionalist Mrs Marple would prefer face to face communication, a phone call would be ok as would a letter but only during normal office hours.  This generation values privacy and whilst very hardworking they do not always appreciate the 24/7 immediacy of life preferring a more ordered and sensible approach to working hours.

#2

My 2nd example features Jordan, a young entrepreneur who is setting up a business with a couple of friends he met at University.  They have plans to launch a business offering animation and augmented reality software solutions.  They need help with setting up the company and creating a partnership.  Jordan’s father has recommended the family firm Boggit Down & Co. Established in 1888 they have a long tradition of serving the local people of their small market town and cover private and business clients services from their grade II listed high st office.  Reginald Smythe (63) is the head of company commercial and a partner.  He receives a call from Jordan’s father and askes his secretary to arrange a meeting with the 4 young men.

Jordan receives a call from Edith, Reginald’s long standing secretary and she has difficulty arranging a time when they would all be available, they finally settle on a date 3 weeks hence. Jordan receives a letter 3 days later inviting him to the offices and setting out the terms of an engagement with Boggitt Down & Co.  Jordan and friends are not impressed.  They wanted to get things up and running pronto, they can’t wait 3 weeks and quickly decide to find a lawyer who can see them that week..or even better be prepared to have an initial e-mail exchange to provide advice and help them get started.  They Google for law firms who understand software businesses and find two within 10 miles of Jordan’s home town and a third that offers online support nationally.

As a Generation Y/ Millennial group the young entrepreneurs are quite confident, assertive and expect rather more instant returns.  The culture clash with the very traditional firm of Boggitt Down & Co. is too much and they can see that the firm is not going to “get” them or their business. Boggitt Down & Co. has not moved with the times nor understood the urgency of their need to set up this business.  The firm simply presents itself as it has done for years and not adapted to the preferences of a new, informed and impatient generation.

Two simple examples that do genuinely occur on an all too regular basis.  But what can firms do if they need to win and maintain clients from a cross section of the generational divide?

  1. Be aware of the client and their likely preferences, never assume
  2. Create variety in the methods of communication, face to face, phone, traditional letters, e-mail, text and Skype.
  3. Consider training for staff to understand the variances in behaviour and how best to offer client care with an emphasis on generational differences.
  4. Look at your own business and place it in its own generational group.  Where does your firm fit.  This isn’t when the business was established but more likely the generation of the owners or most dominant partners/ directors.  Their influence will be affecting the persona of the business.

In my firm we have a mixture of baby boomers, generation X’s and recently introduced generation Y partners.  The business is evolving and the factors that impact on the outward facing communication with clients are equally prevalent with internal communications.  Being aware of those subtle differences in attitude and approach to work is becoming increasingly important.  The generation game certainly is one for all the family – just don’t forget your *cuddly toys.

If you would like to discuss any of the points raised within this blog please feel free to contact me via e-mail david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk or twitter @davidlaud

*(That final reference places me firmly in my Generation X category, but equally recognisable by baby Boomers and Traditionalists apologies to any readers who are too young to remember the classic Saturday night BBC show of the 70’s and 80’s)

If you would like to discuss marketing support for your firm please feel free to contact me to arrange an initial no obligation meeting

 

 

 

Byadmin

Is the Marketing Plan a Dead Doc?

I sense that the traditional marketing planning process has taken something of a back seat in recent years.  I don’t have definitive proof just anecdotal comment from fellow marketers and business owners but I suspect there’s a trend developing.

Putting a Plan Together

Putting a Plan Together

The main reasons for our failure to plan appear to be time, or rather the lack of it.  When I’ve pressed on the subject many get defensive and point to a myriad of additional excuses such as;

  • Lack of resource to help with the process
  • Nothing wrong with the plan we have just need to update it
  • Too many day to day distractions
  • Other areas of the business are a priority

Plus the rather worrying comment I overheard recently “It won’t make any difference if we plan or not, it’s just a piece of paper and no one ever looks at it”

You might be surprised to hear that I have enormous sympathy for those making these comments.  I agree that you need the resources, time and a clear focus as to what the planning process is going to deliver for you.

In addition to the above statements I also get the impression that the increased emphasis on social media activity has created a challenge for many marketers, to “keep up”, innovate and manage the relatively new medium.  This creates a dilemma for the marketing manager/director or business owner.  As soon as you set out what you intend to do in your carefully prepared plan some new development, platform or nuance emerges that overrides the plan and requires either a re-write or more likely just enough reason to ignore the original plan.

Given the pace of change and pressures the obvious question would be, is the traditional marketing plan redundant, defunct and a “dead doc”?

My answer is yes and no.  Yes the traditional method of planning out a year’s worth of activity, by product, service or person by location with expected outcomes, in fine detail with budgeted expenditure and suppliers, has a diminished value.  It can still be worth undertaking as a broad guide to budget and activity and shape thinking but not as a firm “set in stone” plan.

If plans are going to have any real influence and ongoing relevance on the direction and success of the business they need to be dynamic and almost entirely built around a full and detailed understanding of the customer.  That’s nothing new…I can hear you cry and I would agree.  Many marketers already create their own flexible planning processes incorporating new technologies that are adaptive to customer behavioural changes.  The opportunity is in migrating businesses to this approach so that the thought of planning remains key and is not considered a waste of time.

How do you do this?  Well there are no easy “off the shelf” answers.  I know there are hundreds of marketing plan templates, just “Google” the words and you’re spoilt for choice.  The problem is that they are generic or too specific and invariably don’t relate to YOUR business.

 

The best advice is to follow a simple process…and for me it involves breaking down the overall plan into manageable projects.  Here’s how……

 

  1. Talk to the business owners about the process and intention to set out a new plan
  2. Avoid making assumptions – obtain current intelligence across the business (examples)
    1. Financial performance
    2. Customer data (including satisfaction surveys)
    3. Website Google analytics
    4. Social media stats
    5. Advertising performance
    6. Competitor analysis
    7. Market research
    8. Factor in any political, economic, legal influences
    9. Skills audit of marketing staff – identify training need

 

  1. Review overall company objectives and assess relevance and need to update
  2. Map out financial targets by product/ service/ office/ individuals
  3. Create marketing project plans for specific segments of the business and include
    1. The objectives
    2. Owners of the project
    3. Team members and roles
    4. Suppliers i.e. web designer, SEO agency, printers
    5. Platforms i.e. press, social media channel, radio station
    6. Timeline of activity including regular review points
    7. Costs
    8. Results and analysis (this should be factored in as an ongoing aspect of the project)
    9. Overarching schedule of the projects providing simple helicopter view of the marketing team’s actions to ensure that it is planned, not overly ambitious and achievable within the timescales suggested.

Today’s marketing professional needs to be an accomplished project manager, not necessarily an expert in any one particular field but capable of co-ordinating resources with the help of a straightforward plan.

Creating a method for the business owners to view and engage with the project plans as they develop would also help maintain “buy-in” and might be possible through a form of shared software platform or intranet.  This can also be used by the project team to monitor their progress and avoid “lag” by identifying issues such as a specific element that has failed to deliver.

As you might have gathered I’m a huge fan of project planning and management.  It’s obviously not a new concept but it lends itself perfectly to a dynamic fast paced environment which most of us find ourselves in.  Not so much re-inventing a wheel but adapting it to move faster, have greater grip and flexibility.

If this is a topic you have experience of or would like to contribute toward please feel free to comment or tweet me @davidlaud

David Laud

Byadmin

Law Firm Management – Survival of the Fittest

Charles Darwin knew a thing or two about evolution.  If I can cast my mind back to my human biology lessons, the term coined by the great naturalist was “Natural Selection”.  It took a little while for this radical theory to be accepted by the mainstream scientific community but now it is universally seen as the reason we, as humans, exist in the form we do today.  Of course not just humans, we can trace the origins of all living creatures through this process.

Crisis? Perhaps you need to adapt to survive...

Crisis? Perhaps you need to adapt to survive…

If Darwin were alive today he would no doubt be fascinated by our individual and organisational development.  He might also see how his theory can as easily be applied to businesses as it can to individuals.

A sector currently experiencing a significant series of evolutionary events, shaping their structure, relationships and existence is the legal profession.

Just last week we heard of yet one more familiar north east name going into administration.  The loss of 50 jobs and a history of 250 years, gone.  They are not the first in this recent wave of firm closures and they most certainly won’t be the last.

Why are we hearing of so many failures?  The answer, as in any scientific evaluation, is not straightforward.  The truth is that the myriad of challenges that have conspired to arrive at the door of law firms in the UK are individually manageable with care but when they arrive in rapid succession, they create a chain of events that leave only the very fittest and dynamic of practices standing.

The Law Society reported toward the end of 2013 that over 400 law firms had closed in the preceding 12 month period.  Last week the same organisation revealed that more than 4,500 solicitors had simply not arranged to renew their practicing certificates.  Without it they are unable to carry their work.

The events that have brought about the closure of so many firms include;

  • The recession resulting in SME’s looking to save cost by avoiding lawyers’ fees – (Law Society Gazette May 2013), larger corporations driving down fees and personal clients unable to get divorced as they can’t afford to put their affairs in order. The property market is also only just waking from its lengthy hibernation.
  • Personal Injury and Medical Negligence solicitors impacted by the Jackson Reforms seeing an immediate drop in fee income, volume of instructions and the departure of claims management companies from the market.
  • The Government removing legal aid for divorce and failure of mediation to replace the lost fee income.
  • Introduction of the Legal Services Act and “Alternative Business Structures” enabling non solicitors to offer legal services and large corporations such as Co-op, Direct Line, DAS, BT entering the market.
  • Professional Indemnity insurance cover proving increasingly difficult to obtain, suppliers in the market cherry picking only the very best risks and others facing excessively high premiums.
  • Solicitors Regulatory Authority introducing burdensome and expensive measures such as Compliance Officers for legal practice and finance.

These facts and more point to a series of tremors in the legal world that have built to form a seismic event.  The consequence of these factors is when the dust settles the clients, both personal and business will have far less choice.  On the upside, of those firms remaining we can be assured that they are resilient and very likely to be focussed on the needs and value they can bring to the client.

The conclusion we can draw using Darwin’s theory is that having survived the natural selection process those still standing will be fitter and more prepared for the future.  The advantage existing firms have at this time is their opportunity to still act, adapt and ensure their survival and avoiding a Dodo dilemma.

David Laud – Partner i2i Business Solutions LLP