Category Archive Professional

Byadmin

Give Your Time an MOT

Do you run your day or does the day run you?

Scan through this simple list of symptoms and see which apply to you;

  • Do you find yourself easily distracted?
  • Do you take longer to complete relatively simple tasks?
  • At the end of the working day do you feel deflated as its mostly been unproductive?
  • Is your sleep pattern disturbed?
  • Are you tired more often than energised?
  • Do you get irritated by little things?
  • Are you checking your e-mails several times an hour?
  • Is your smartphone always on and close to you at all times?
Thought Leader

Thought Leader

If you answered yes to any of the above the chances are you’re suffering with a level of stress that is having a negative impact on your quality of life.  We actually need a certain level of stress in our lives otherwise we’d not get much done.  Positive stress, also called eustress, gets the deadline met, the presentation delivered and you on board the right train at the right time.  It delivers adrenalin, excitement tends to be short term but can improve our performance.

Negative stress is where the mind starts to introduce anxious irrational thoughts that appear to be beyond our ability to manage.  It makes us feel bad, it can be both short and long term, has a direct impact on performance and if left unchecked can lead to unwanted mental and physical symptoms.

There are very many causes of negative stress.  It can be a relationship breakdown, new boss, new neighbourhood, too much work, not enough work, starting a family, financial worries, illness or losing someone close to you.

The fact is we ALL face these bumps and hurdles in our lives and for most of us, most of the time we can deal with them without any difficulty.  Unfortunately, the statistics seem to suggest that an increasing number of us are not coping so well.  As many as 12 million adults in the UK will consult their GP about mental health issues each year.  Diagnosed with anxiety or depression typically caused by stress this results in 13.3 million working days lost each year. It’s a sizeable and growing problem.

Here’s the disclaimer…I’m no GP, psychologist, counsellor or psychotherapist but I, like many others have had my moments with this increasingly common problem.  First and foremost, I would suggest that if you are worried about stress and its effect on you make an appointment to see your GP.  If you can sense that there are one or two warning signs and you want to find a way to improve the way you feel I would strongly suggest taking back control of your life.

Of course “taking back control” can be easier said than done but often we fall into patterns of behaviour which help propagate feelings of negative stress.  The result is that we lose control of our time, others fill it all too quickly and with that loss of control comes added anxiety.  The answer is to evaluate those things we are doing that are causing angst and

My “self-help” route was helped enormously by an old friend who I’d overlooked for too many years. The “friend” is in the shape of a number of tried and tested time management principles that I had learnt as a young manager at Thomas Cook and carried with me or so I thought through my career.  What happens over time and new challenges is that we adapt and grow and learn but often let key nuggets of working practice slip through our minds.

I have a theory.  Actually I have lots of theories but this one is relevant to our 21st Century dilemma.  Once upon a time, long ago in the 90’s, talk of computers, online business and e-mail suggested we would have more leisure time. Thanks to the advent of this fabulous technological era we would all be “chilled to the max” reclining on Ikea furniture and enjoying our newly won down time supping on Sunny D or Sprite.

Fast forward to today and that pipe dream of a technological Nirvana is about as far away as anyone could possibly have imagined.  Smartphones, social media, the Internet of Things and now robotics, VR, AR and AI…are you keeping up?  All these new wonderful innovations are not going to create time for us they’re going to squeeze into whatever time we have, competing with the multitude of tasks expected of us.  As life moved faster so did expectations.  News used to arrive via a broadsheet paper stuffed through the letterbox by a schoolboy on a Raleigh 5 speed. Now it’s instantly delivered in our hands via Twitter and we know about a Japanese tsunami before the BBC news team can brief Hugh Edwards.

So with steely determination I attacked the bookshelf in my office, being self-aware enough to know “Googling” the subject would result in momentary success followed by a likely hour of distraction.  I found notes in an old Filofax, yes do you remember those?  I also found a previous blog on the subject and arrived at the following list.

 

  1. Limit screen time – deliberately my first rule. Just see how productive you can be if you step away from the screen, PC, MAC or Smartphone.  Browsing Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or even your e-mail inbox can drain your productivity, step away and see the benefit.  One final point – turn the smartphone/ tablet off at night several hours before you go to bed, you’ll sleep better.
  2. Allow yourself to do fewer tasks. Give yourself a break, the trick is to focus on the things that are important so work out what they are and stick to dealing with them.
  3. Let prioritising and self-analysis of productivity become a habit
  4. Exercise and have a healthy diet. When we’re time starved we cut corners and often that can result in too many fast food meals which can leave us feeling sluggish and demotivated.  Drink can also be used as a self-medication for stress but conversely it can add to feelings of depression and hinder a restful night’s sleep.
  5. Get organised. Being tidy with a system for filing important information can help enormously with your efficiency and taking control of your environment.  It’s true that a cluttered office can lead to cluttered thinking.
  6. When something just has to be done allow yourself scope to lock yourself away to concentrate on the job in hand.
  7. Don’t be phased by a long “to do” list break the tasks down into absolutely must do’s down to non-priorities. Take them out one at a time.
  8. Don’t always start with the biggest task or greatest priority. We all perform better at different times of the day. If you’re an early bird and sharp first thing but fade after 4pm make sure you keep those taking tasks to the morning.  If you’re otherwise inclined reverse it.
  9. Set time limits for certain tasks. You may have a job that’s going to take days possibly weeks.  Set aside a proportion of time to take it on and work though it systematically.  Break it down into sub tasks and monitor your progress.
  10. Reacquaint yourself with the word “No” be polite but assertive if you don’t have the time to take on a particular project don’t be afraid to say so – often things that seem urgent to others are not as pressing as they seem.

If you’ve experienced problems with stress and/or or time management drop us a line today.

David Laud

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Byadmin

Social Media Management for Professionals (4 of 4)

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

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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

The Power of Influence – Knowing Your Social Media Score

Prior to all things going digital and smartphones embedding themselves in our lives, we had a simpler more straightforward life.  In the past your number of friends could be counted in birthday or Christmas cards or the entries in the address book you kept in the draw of the table in the hall, the one your phone sat on, plugged in to the wall.

The number of business relationships were similarly measured in cards that you bothered to retain, small enough to fit in a wallet or a specially designed holder that you could flick through.

 

The Power of Influence - David Laud i2i

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we all know the number of true friends or meaningful commercial contacts you have does not equate to how effective you are in business.  Similarly with social media our effectiveness in this medium is not due to how friendly we are but how much value we offer those we’re connected to.

Due to terms such as “friends” on Facebook many are still confused as to the type of relationships they are developing online but there is a very clear distinction.  To prove the point there’s a physical limit to how many people we, as humans, can maintain valuable inter-personal relationships with. At the risk of getting all anthropological with you, there’s real sound research supporting this view.

The science behind this is a calculation known as Dunbar’s number. It’s the limit to the number of people who we can keep regular social relationships with and the range has been static for thousands of years.  Professor Robin Dunbar has determined that the number of inter-personal relationships we can maintain falls between 100 and 230.  It’s therefore a fallacy to think you can realistically build a network of close contacts that count much more than 200 in total.

For those of us looking to social media for a return on business investment we need to look beyond simply acquiring followers.  The true power of the medium is not how many individuals are following, connecting or friending us but the influence of those in our network relative to our own interests.  It is the members reach and collective power applied across multiple networks that offer the greatest opportunity.

Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” makes frequent references to how ideas and products catch on by this use of social group dynamics and the manner in which information transmits throughout a group driven by those who have influence such as connectors and mavens.

As a simple example look at the way in which profile pictures quickly adapt to respond to a topical cause, or event. 26 million Facebook profiles used a rainbow filter in honour of Pride and support of the LGBT community.  But be careful when you see a bandwagon approaching, such profile changes can backfire as David Cameron can testify with his recent photo-shopped poppy.

The challenge is to create receptive networks built on mutual understanding and respect in which you can establish a position as a thought leader, originator, sharer and supporter of fellow members.

Great! You may say, but how do I know if I’m moving in the right direction if I can’t count the number of contacts as a measure?

Social influence measurement tools

The answer is to use a measurement tool.  One of the leaders in this influence measurement field is Klout, launched in 2008 it delivers its services via a website and app that use social media analytics to rank users according to online social influence.  They analyse activity across multiple sites that include Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Google+. The “Klout Score”, is represented by a numerical value between 1 and 100.

In preparing this article I spoke to Eddie McGraw Director of Communications at Lithium Technologies, owners of Klout, this is what he had to say on the topic of influence.

Influence can be a somewhat hazy term, but how we define it is the ability to drive action. That’s something we can actually quantify – how much your social activity is able to drive subsequent activity. It’s very important for both people and brands to have some gauge of who is and is not influential, so they can determine who the right people are that they should be engaging with.

 

Also, just as important as overarching influence would be subject matter influence – or what we call Topic Expertise. Kim Kardashian has 31 million followers, but that doesn’t mean people should look to her for advice on whether to invest in Apple or Google. One of the things we’ve just introduced is a way of looking not just at someone’s overall Klout Score, but at their level of expertise on a specific topic. This way you can find subject matter experts on the topics you most care about.

 

As Eddie states it’s not all about the numbers of followers or connections, the key is in establishing your clear area of expertise and thereby your range of influence.  Understanding where you are with regard to influence can help you better understand the effectiveness of your time posting content, improving the return for your efforts.  To put a number on it, the average Klout score is around 40.  To establish where you or your firm sits versus competitors you can search twitter accounts via the Klout website.

 

Increasingly brands and industry experts are becoming aware of the importance of social influence.  Leaving social media content creation to inexperienced, untrained or poorly managed individuals is now seen as far too risky for firms wishing to establish a consistent and respected brand.  In professional services, networks will look for and respond more favourably to a tone of voice combining intellect, empathy and personality with a dash of appropriate humour.  The trend is for owners of the business to start engaging more directly as they have the knowledge and gravitas to attract greater numbers of key target followers for their network.  By way of contrast, posting grammatically poor tweets about minutiae or blatant and repeated promotions, will have your network unfollowing in numbers.

Outsourcing the responsibility of social media posting to an agency, no matter how attractive, is also not advisable, as the risks far outweigh the benefits.  In professional service marketing above many other sectors, your credibility can be very quickly undermined if the voice of your chosen channels lacks authenticity.  Better to invest in qualified support and training for your own team and remain in control.

As a marketer one of my regular requests is to help clients build strong networks and then assist them to deliver fresh, interesting content in a manner that helps improve engagement.  By taking structured consistent steps and increasing the profile and social influence of partners, managing partners and specialists, the firm is better placed to demonstrate their capabilities and attract greater levels of interest.

Whilst I would stress that these tools are not 100% perfect, they do offer an essential insight to establish where your profile stands by way of influence and by regular monitoring keep track of your progress.

Suggested social influence measuring tools –   Klout, Kred/ Sprout Social, Peerindex (Brandwatch)

David Laud

Partner i2i Marketing Management

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

When Social Goes So Wrong – Reputation Management

One of the great benefits of social media is its instant connectivity and accessibility to so many individuals across the globe.  This benefit however can become a distinct disadvantage when things are not all rosy in the social media garden.

SMFL 01 Clooney full size

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s just look at a few examples.  Staff with the responsibility of posting content on behalf of your business decide to boost the reach of your messages by tapping in to a popular hashtag #.  It can be harmless and often look unprofessional, more akin to jumping on an overburdened bandwagon.  One such recent example is #PlutoFlyBy .

Nice pun from the bathroom accessory guys…

Space is all over the news with the#PlutoFlyby, so let us help YOU save space in the bathroom

Or this one from a US Italian restaurant chain…

Have a breadstick on us, Pluto! You’ll always be a planet in our eyes. #PlutoFlyby

Mmm… awkward and looks a little desperate however it’s not malicious and no one is harmed in the hijacking of the hashtag.

Moving on to corporations creating their own hashtag and it backfiring; now that can be an interesting spectator sport.

#MCDStories McDonalds marketing team expected nothing but genuine “nuggets” of wholesome stories, instead they created a McFlurry storm of negativity as tweet after tweet tried to out-score the other on their terrible experiences. Ouch!

Even classy supermarket Waitrose hasn’t escaped the hashtag howler brigade. Their #Waitrosereasons campaign generated a stream of pretentious and pompous tongue in cheek tweets that played on the expense of shopping at the store.  This included a tweet suggesting the shopper always transferred shopping to tesco bags so neighbours didn’t know they’d won Euromillions!

Yes we can laugh at the big brands getting it wrong but what if it happens to you and your business.  We are all vulnerable to attack as soon as we “put ourselves out there” but how do we respond if someone genuinely takes against your business or someone who works in it.

Examples that hit the media spotlight often involve high profile individuals.  Kevin Pietersen brought a successful claim for defamation against Specsavers when their Facebook and twitter advert suggested the ex- England cricketer tampered with his bat.

But it’s not always possible to hit the troublemakers for six.  Bed and Breakfast owners Martin and Jacqui Clark failed to win their case against TripAdvisor after they had received very poor reviews on the rating site.  The Judge refused to reveal the identities of those making the post which had caused the Clark’s to lose business.

This leaves something of a hole in the world of social media where trolls can continue to inhabit and inflict their pain without fear of retribution.  In my view this should be addressed rather swiftly as the proliferation of rating sites has led to many attempts to “game” the sites for competitive advantage.  If a review is fair the reviewer should have no fear of being seen.  If they are allowed to remain anonymous the opportunity to post false and defamatory messages is made far too easy.

What Should You Do

  1. You have the right to take legal action if a post mentions you or your business by name or by reference makes it clear who the message is about. For a successful claim of defamation it must be considered offensive leading others on hearing or viewing the comment to think less of the referenced person/ business.
  2. Defamation cases fall into two categories.
    • Libel for the written word e.g. newspapers, e-mails, texts, blogs, tweets and Facebook posts.
    • Slander refers to the spoken word – overheard or recorded.
  3. If you are the subject of an offensive comment on social media report it, block if it’s a tweet. Unfortunately Facebook’s policies are rather inconsistent but still report any messages that cause genuine offence.  Most social media platforms now have options to block foul and abusive posters.
  4. If it’s defamatory content my advice is not to engage with the person posting. Many celebrities and businesses have fallen into the trap of trying to “manage” the situation by responding directly. It’s a natural urge to do so but often creates a stream of communication that escalates without resolving.
  5. If not considered abusive or defamatory – let’s say it’s a publicly visible negative message/ complaint received mentioning a product, service or person within your business. Then you should seek to take the matter away from the public gaze.  If on twitter follow them and ask for a follow back to enable a direct message DM which only the two of you can see.   Message them on Facebook or better still ask for an e-mail address or if appropriate phone number so you can deal with the matter directly and without additional public interference.  Often with big brands, as seen with the hashtag examples, one negative comment can quickly lead to a feeding frenzy of vented spleens. Engaging publicly with everyone can quickly become a full time job.
  6. If your own quick actions as above fail to solve a problem of defamation or if the comments are visible in other mediums such as Google search you may need to call upon the help of a professional.

There has been a great deal of media attention around high profile cases of social media based defamation including Kevin Pietersen, Lord McAlpine and Russell Brand.  As a result there’s been a threefold increase in cases across the country as more of us gain an appreciation of our rights.  The numbers are still pretty low, only 26 matters  2013-14 but the year before saw only 6 cases.  Source: Thomson Reuters – Practical Law

One of the biggest problems a victim of social media trolling can face is the challenge to find anyone to listen.  The huge social media corporations are notoriously oblique in their “face to face” relations with users.  Facebook, Twitter and Google have layer upon layer of FAQ’s, help forums and suitably straight-jacketed reporting processes.  If, as many find, your problem doesn’t tick the right box you’ll have a merry old time attempting to get a sensible answer or swift resolution.

If you find yourself in such a situation please drop me a line.  Over the years I’ve had a number of successful outcomes for clients dealing with Google, Facebook, Apple and Twitter.

David Laud

Make an enquiry here:-

Byadmin

Marketing – Is it really all about the 3 C’s – Content, Content, Content?

Pick up a copy of a business magazine, webinar, SEO whitepaper, workshop agenda or open one of those hundreds of marketing tip e-mails [not all such e-mails are the same of course 🙂 ] and the chances are you’ll not go far before the word “content” is mentioned.

Content Marketing Plan

Content Marketing Plan

If you want your website to be a successful shop window for your company you need it to be well furnished with content, lots of it, all shapes and sizes, colours, creations and categories……or do you?

Call me an old cynic…but when I start to sense a trend forming and a bandwagon being jumped on I have a natural inclination to run in the opposite direction.   Sure SEO is important but what if you produce masses of poor content?  All that will prove is that you’ve created a big website full of “stuff” that nobody is going to read let alone share.  Surely the idea with this facet of marketing is to produce quality, focused material that appeals to those who you have identified as your target audience.   Badly written and presented content will have the adverse effect.  I would argue that even if you did rank higher as a result of your prolific production once anyone clicked on it they would be more inclined to bounce straight out again.  This would only create a negative impression.

Ok back to basics, what is “content”? Does anyone really know or is it just another “buzzword” that sounds good but has little thought behind it.

 

Content varies from the obvious written word, blog, news update, article to more visual and increasingly popular sources such as infographics, webinars and other video based productions such as YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Snapchat, Instagram, Meerkat and Periscope.

Just for starters WordPress report that there are 42.6 million blog posts per month. Now imagine how that number is going to escalate with the buzzword of the year “content” driving marketing activities.  Add to the written word the growing trend of video posts and you’ve a very busy and somewhat cluttered space in which you’re trying to make a name for yourself.

Typical Examples

A)     You can just see the common scenario developing where a young marketing manager, having read all the latest guides, asks the MD to produce a blog for the company.  The MD is very busy but she knows this buzz of blogging and “thought leadership” is the thing she really should be doing…so she writes one.  It’s not great but it is her first effort.  The marketer doesn’t feel that they can correct the boss so is left with no option but to post it.  No one comments on it, it’s only read by staff internally who universally agree the MD should stick to running the business.

B)      Or what about a situation where no one in the business has the time to write an article or blog so they look around for help.  Now for the purpose of balance I must advise that yes, there are excellent copywriters, journalists, wordsmiths who have both the intelligence and skill to produce high quality “home grown looking” material that is both informative and easy to digest.  Unfortunately given the “content” Goldrush we have no shortage of prospectors panning for nuggets but finding fool’s gold, those who look the real deal, talk a good game but simply don’t understand enough about the business and the best way to communicate with their target audience.  In this example the business spends a large chunk of their annual marketing budget on an agency who simply fails to connect with the client and produces low grade results albeit in large quantities.  The company sacks the agency when the MD asks a few pertinent questions at a board meeting such as “Do they own a dictionary” “Have they met our production team” “Why are the web visits up but the engagement down?” The result, the agency blames the client and the resultant lack of business demonstrates the importance of having a well thought through strategy that involves communications that connect with the target audience.

So what should you be doing?

  1. Know your audience and understand what they want, how they consume information and if indeed an MD blog is the way to grow your business profile.
  2. Google does seek fresh and relevant content so it is an idea to have your website populated with dynamic regularly updated and appropriate material.
  3. Don’t overlook the use of video or slides as content alternatives but ensure they are well scripted, planned and executed and not “handmade”.
  4. Don’t follow the competition, find your own voice and methods of communicating that speak of your business, its culture and strong sales points.
  5. Whilst it’s important it’s not all about digital.  Consider the offline use of content such as print, face to face and traditional broadcast mediums.
  6. If you can make use of the writing talent within your business.  It doesn’t need to be perfect but be prepared to offer constructive criticism to ensure that the finished article is as professional as possible.
  7. Provide training – consider bringing in a professional writer/ journalist to deliver a session on writing for a specific audience.
  8. Don’t make it a one hit wonder. Take responsibility for driving the content creation within the business.
  9. If you do outsource vet the suppliers with terrific care. I would strongly counsel against allowing an agency to run social media sites for your company however more complex written material may need external expertise to deliver. Seek out those who are prepared to understand your business and offer true bespoke material rather than a factory production line.
  10. Last but by all means not least, be clear as to your objectives and strategy. Ask the question IS CONTENT CREATION THE CORRECT SOLUTION FOR MY BUSINESS? If so what will work and where are you best employed to deliver optimum returns. If not don’t be badgered by the bandwagon promoters, trust your instincts.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog please contact David Laud via twitter @davidlaud or call 08456 446624

Byadmin

Excellent Customer Service – Have You Got it Covered?

Having just returned from a trip to California I’m inspired to write about customer service.  Not that we encountered the very best at every turn, yes it was mostly very good but my TripAdvisor reviews did include the odd horror.

cafe los feliz

Cafe Los Feliz – Good Food Great Service

Yes, even the great land of “awesomeness” and “super excitement” didn’t get it right all the time.  Anyone who’s visited the USA will know that the policy of tipping can be delivered in a variety of ways depending on who, where and sometimes when you’re visiting.  What you quickly realise is that “service” is very often included and if not added automatically you’re strongly encouraged by guideline % figures.

But if you don’t feel the service matches the promise it can get very interesting, almost as if the business refuses to accept they could get anything wrong.

On the downside we found attitudes were at times curt and clippy in certain establishments. The approach to customers tired and cynical.  Service in a couple of restaurants started well but quickly fell away as other patrons arrived and their well of goodwill and friendliness quickly dried up as visible stress levels increased.  One hotel in particular responded so poorly to my observations of their hotel on Trip Advisor that it will only serve to generate poor review number two.  If a customer is not happy don’t poke them with a sharp stick.  I was rather astonished at the arrogant dismissive response.  If you’re running a business you need to take all feedback on board and respond in a balanced sensible way, even if you do think their experience somewhat far away from reality.  The fact is it was their reality and their shoes you need to stand in.

On the upside we encountered many excellent examples of good service.  The Café Los Feliz lived up to their Instagram presentation with the delivery of an outstanding breakfast.  The Arch Rock restaurant in Santa Barbara who’s superb food was only matched by the excellent chat we had with the waiter and the Italian Seafood restaurant in San Francisco – Cioppinos so good we went back for more on another day.  Their promise of finding a table for us in 20 minutes evaporated to 5 when the maitre d came to us whilst we were ordering drinks at their bar to say she’d loved the way we’d been so happy and polite and offered to jump us forward to the next available table.

So the US are not, in my view, the custodians of all that is “excellent” in customer service.  Of course they’re still very good in so many areas but to my surprise there are a number who are clearly not as good as they should be.  Not a perfect piece of research, we were on holiday after all and not handing out questionnaires or interrogating staff and fellow customers.  Our perception however is real and nevertheless valid.  Perhaps the recession has had its impact and service levels have as a result been adversely affected as profits became harder to find.

We did all love our Californian excursion a truly memorable experience but it’s clear you don’t have to travel so far to see excellence in customer service.  This weekend we took our dog to the nearby beach at Saltburn.  We stopped off for a cuppa and a bite to eat at a small café near the beach and noticed the many purple blankets at each table.  The owners had considered the experience of their clientele, the UK climate and possibility of children and adults who’d taken a recent dip shivering as others decide to have a pit stop before heading home.

The blankets were a small but very important touch, showing that the Café understood its customers and cared enough to keep them comfortable whilst sipping tea and eating scones or ice cream. When it comes to customer service Camfields Espresso Bar in Saltburn have got it well and truly covered.

Camfields in Saltburn - They've Got it Covered

Camfields in Saltburn – They’ve Got it Covered

It’s the little touches that can make such a big difference and that’s true of any business.  The result you want is a happy customer and for them to spread the word like warm butter on those Yorkshire scones.

Byadmin

8 Top Tips to Help You Get Organised

Sunday is traditionally known as the day of rest, the day we stay away from thoughts of work and revert our attention to more leisurely pursuits.  The need for rest and relaxation and diversion away from stresses and strains of our busy working lives make Sunday a perfect day but….

That’s not quite how my Sunday worked out for me.

Getting Organised

This Sunday I spent the best part of the day harvesting dead wood from my office, organising myself and planning.  It had been a little while since I’d last re-organised but I’m now determined to stay on top of all things real (paper) and virtual (e-mails and digital files).

It is quite amazing how much “stuff” we accumulate and what we regard as important one week but happily consign to the bin the next.

Staying organised takes discipline and the ability to make effective decisions.  My biggest problem is fighting the inner hoarder in me – time to be more ruthless.

Of course the process and determination of what “truly organised” is will vary from person to person.  They key is to feel on top of things and confident that matters won’t get overlooked and opportunities or deadlines missed.

There is a level of science and tangible evidence of the psychological benefits of having a tidy up in the office.  So if you’re in need of a little more order in your life here’s a few tips to get things started:

 

  1. Work out what being organised will look like for you.  Don’t be side tracked by other views of what you should or shouldn’t do, make your own determination and picture your life in an organised vision of the future.
  2. Scope out the task and set out the specific actions that you’ll need to take.  If this attack on chaos at home or work impacts on others it’s only polite to share your thoughts.
  3. Know yourself…we all have little foibles that can often get in the way of progress. Procrastination or as my wife so delicately puts it “faffing about” can be one weakness if there’s a particularly knotty matter to handle.  My response to this is to deal with it first, get it out of the way and have the more enjoyable tasks lined up as the carrot to motivate me through the less palatable parts of the project.  Others may be stimulated by having their favourite tunes firing them into action in a “get to it” playlist….some may need both.
  4. You are in control so be your own boss but don’t be easy on yourself.  Set deadlines and meet them.  Just make sure they’re realistically achievable.  Don’t set yourself too big a task in one go.  There’s nothing worse than half completing the job and being tired out too. It will just end up being a de-motivating and totally counterproductive experience.  If you have a very large job to do to get yourself organised, break it down to manageable chunks.
  5. Don’t just shuffle the pack.  Clutter and disorganisation will only be temporarily alleviated by shifting “stuff” from one area to another.  Be decisive and ruthless.  Get rid, shred and recycle as appropriate.
  6. Many hands make light work – a phrase that can come in very handy if you’ve willing helpers.  Don’t be afraid to ask.  If you’ve shared as in (2.) above they may well volunteer their services willingly.
  7. Adapt as you go.  If the original plan needs a tweak because you’re finding a better way to index files or make use of a particular cabinet, go with the flow.
  8. Treat yourself.  We all like to feel a tangible benefit to working hard so why not promise yourself a nice lunch or trip out with the family as a reward for getting organised.

Once you’ve finished remember you actually haven’t…being organised is an ongoing process.  Keep on top of matters to avoid falling back into the bad habits of old.

The greatest advantage, once the job is done is the feeling of control and confidence you get from knowing exactly where things are.  You can save a great deal of time and avoid the frustration of duplicating effort by clearing out the clutter and in so doing retain the knowledge of what you have.

For me a cluttered office results in cluttered thinking and working practices.  A clean and ordered environment certainly improves my outlook and ability to cope with the ever increasing demands of the modern multi-tasking world in which we live.  My weekend might feel a little shorter but the week ahead will prove far more productive as a result.

David Laud  – Click Here to follow me on Twitter

 

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