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.
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;
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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?
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.
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?
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.
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 :-
Formal, private, loyal, trust, respect, face to face, written, value time
Competitive, aspirational, hardworking, want detail, like options, challenging
Entrepreneurial, independent, work life balance, sound bites, e-mail, feedback
Optimistic, confident, seek positive reinforcement, multi taskers, e-mail, text, skype
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:
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.
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?
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.
*(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
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.
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;
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……
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
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.
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;
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