Social media marketing for professional services

In our last January post: “How can you improve the experience using social media?” we put a menswear and a barber shop through a deep make over with social media marketing. The ideas sparked some interesting comments including this one from Miriam Ahern, director of the Institute of Management Consultants:

The strategies you suggest are fantastic for retail businesses Fred. True ‘out of the box’ thinking. However, I’d like to lay down a challenge to you!

Can, and if so how, professional services businesses (and independent consultants in particular) leverage social media marketing? In many cases the work we do for our clients is confidential. Often-times our ‘products’ are customised interventions or solutions for particular situations (unlike, say a website, where people can seek out examples of your work). Referrals tend to be based on reputation, relationships and are usually of the ‘word-of-mouth’ variety. Also many of our clients, particularly those in the public sector, probably would not like to see their names floating around on SM platforms.

Now, can professional services businesses leverage social media marketing? The answer is:  Absolutely yes!! Social media is all about relationships and word-of-mouth so that’s a great match already.

I understand some work and names might be confidential, or that the products could be customised solutions and that the client might be the government… but if that’s the problem, why focus on leveraging social media from such a tough angle? There’re so many other fronts to capitalise on!

Some consultants might say that their clients “are not online” (not sure to what extent that is right). More likely in the next 2 to 5 years most of their clients will be online. The question is, do we focus on building an online reputation now or in the future? Lead generation nowadays is much more about “being found” than going out and hunting.

Personal branding is a  HUGE priority  that anybody in the professional services field should have. Typical phrases such as “…with more than 10 years of experience in the industry” are no longer enough. There’s got to be something really relevant that as a consultant you  should be able to do to capitalise on the present and the future. Let’s have a look at five great examples:

1. Interact with your network

Most of you already heard of main social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, etc. The good news is that you don’t have to adopt all of them in one shot but it’s crucial to get started with LinkedIn for instance. Just think about all the projects that you worked on, all the presentations given, recommendations received, etc, etc… where is the record of all this? Why not keep an online point of reference for all this fantastic work!!

Ask yourself the following: how big is your phone book? How many business contacts do you have? 200, 500? Now, how many of those contacts do you keep in touch with or more importantly, do you know what are they up to? Unless you leverage the power of a business platform such as LinkedIn, you won’t be able to stay in touch and learn from your network.

Before you go to a business meeting, networking event, tradeshow, visit a new client, etc, people will either Google your name or look you up on LinkedIn. If your profile doesn’t come up or show anything interesting, you will be missing several business opportunities. Trust me.

2. Build a home base

Many of you have heard already about blogging. Unfortunately, many business professionals believe that it’s not something for them or that their audience won’t read them. Blogs are already part of the future folks and you must embrace this practice as soon as you can.

If you are really good and knowledgeable, write about it. Share what you know and more people will find you! You would be surprised how many people search in Google for what you offer! (including people in the government) Not kidding you. Go to the Google Keyword tool and enjoy 🙂
Take your business blog as if you were the owner of a newspaper. You are free to publish anything you want with the difference that your valuable information will not be only available to 3,000 or 10,000 individuals but the entire world!

3. Make a deeper impact

Video is the most engaging way of communication. Maybe you’re not very good at writting blog posts, then share what you know in front of a camera for instance.
Below, there’re two examples of busisness consultans that use video to promote their services and recommend others.
Yes, there is a lot of room for improvement: include branding in their videos, improve the image/sound quality, practice more, etc. However, the point is: these individuals dared to try something new to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

The truth is that nobody has to be Steven Spielberg to adopt video. It’s as simple as grabbing your €100 camera, setting it up on video mode and later uploading that video onto YouTube 🙂

4. Reach farther

How do you offer or deliver your professional advice? Do you visit your clients or they come to you? What about neither? 🙂
You can reach out to hundreds (why not thousands) of people from your own country and abroad offering webinars (online seminars/sessions). We currently use Gotowebinar.com technology. It’s very affordable and it’s a fantastic business tool that is expanding our opportunities incredibly. There are several webinar and online meeting tools out there. We leveraged LinkedIn a few months ago to ask other professionals like you what would be the best option, so feel free to flick through the answers here.
After each webinar, we compile all the material, including the full recording and we make it available in our blog so more people find us and can also benefit from the information.

5. Be creative

If you think that video is cool, then explore the huge opportunity for business professionals behind “LIVE stream”. There are a few platforms out there like Justin TV and Qik but I recommend Ustream.tv

This is like having your own TV station folks! For example, bring your laptop to any of your presentations, connect a good webcam and point it at you. Then press “broadcast” and offer your talk to whoever wants to join you around the world! The idea is that you promote any of these events so more relevant people click on that link and can follow your expertise and chat with you LIVE from their own computers as if they were there.

If the information is confidential, then don’t share it, but as we mentioned…why focus on what we cannot do?
Leverage these tools, share what you can, be original, flexible, dare to try different things and to think outside the box. There are brilliant opportunities for business professionals in social media.

What are your thoughts? Will you try any of these tools?

Social cial media is all about word-of-mouth

Best,

Fred

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anything from co-browsing YouTube to playing games, adding funny effects to a live video conference, interacting on Facebook together with your contacts or even shopping for things online together with your friends or family members
Comments ( 11 )
  • Roy Wells says:

    Fred,

    I could not agree with you more. For those of us who have professional services companies, much of our success is dependent on our ability to leverage our networks. Web 2.0 technologies allow us to have a single conversation with our entire network, and if only 5% of that network listens, it is an extremely efficient way to share your insights and knowledge. Blogging allows us to demonstrate our expertise without “talking out of school” and allows for a conversation with a much larger audience than we find in just our network. Thanks for the post, and look for the retweet.

  • Miriam Ahern says:

    Hi Fred.

    Firstly, I'd like to thank you for taking my comment seriously and for investing your valuable time and effort into crafting a blog-post specifically for professional services consultants. I will pass on the link to the members of the Institute for Management Consultants and Advisers (IMCA).

    I agree totally that the key to making sales these days is more about who knows you (and, of course, what you do), than who you know. In this context, your advice on promoting personal/professional branding rather than organisational/industry expertise is spot-on.

    Your previous blog and your response to my comments above have given me much food for thought. I believe that you have made an unarguable case why consultants should and could leverage social media. However I think that the resistance or reluctance can be broken down into three key issues for small businesses or sole traders to overcome:

    1. Keeping abreast of the fast-moving developments in the Social Media sphere
    2. What to do? Knowing how to exploit available opportunities
    3. How to do it? Do you try to start from where you are and learn how to use all the technologies?

    This begs the question, should non-techie professional consultants really try to get on top of it all or should we 'farm it out' to the experts? Or is there a middle ground?

    Best regards and thanks again for your insights.

    Miriam

    P.S. So disappointed not to see any frogs jumping around Brian Tracy's office 😉

  • Fred says:

    Comment by Lorcán Ó hUallacháin on Channelship's Facebook page:

    “That's a great line: “lead generation nowadays is more about being found, rather than going out and hunting”. We try to convince people of the merits of being “findable” – and I love it when people “get it” … but there's still a lot of people who don't understand, or refuse to understand – I'm fighting that specific battle in 2 cases right now! :o)”

    http://www.facebook.com/channelship

  • Channelship says:

    Thanks for the comment and the ReTweets Roy 🙂
    That's a good point as well: “if only 5% of that network listens”. I'm not suggesting that you should aim or be happy with 5% however, that percentage could actually mean a lot of people. It's an audience that through a specific platform now follows your expertise. As I mentioned in the post, a phone book cannot do that for you.

  • Channelship says:

    Reply from @fredchannel on Channelship's Facebook page:

    “Thanks a lot for the comment man. I guess we're both in the same fight 🙂
    I really hope that a significant amount of businesses understand the importance of “being found”, especially this year if they want to make a difference…”

    http://www.facebook.com/channelship

  • Channelship says:

    Thanks for your comment Miriam. You are very welcome!

    In order to tackle the three issues that you mentioned, the goal would be to pick the tools that really work for you or that you enjoy using for your day to day activities and then stick to them. The key is not to feel in a race or overwhelmed.
    If you are not in the technology field, or keeping up with the latest trends and platforms is not your thing, simply don't let that push you.
    As I mentioned, just stick to those tools that work for you and try to get the most out of them.
    Seth Godin is a great example of this. Many people cannot understand how come he is not on Twitter. He says that his strategy is only one blog post per day and that's exactly what he delivers.
    If you were to farm out your blog, twitter account or imagine your LinkedIn updates… that simply wouldn't be you. The purpose of growing your business network and learning from it would be defeated.

  • Ali Davies says:

    Hi Fred, I enjoyed reading your post and the comments. In addition I would add that it is important to enagage in these activites from a place of integrity, authenticity and serving the audience. There seems to be a section of the online and SM community that are all about “getting” rather than “giving” which is so unattractive.

  • Channelship says:

    Thanks Ali,

    Good point. If you think about the “geeting” and “giving” issue, there's actually no difference with what happens in the offline world 🙂
    What goes on in social networks is a reflection of the offline world with the different that because it happens online, there's a record. We just need to get used to understanding/digesting that concept through a 15 inch screen.

  • Jonathan says:

    You have put out some great content in this blog. The crazy part is that small businesses are to old school and think the way they have been doing business will keep working. There is so much more working in the minds of the consumers out there. if your 23yrs to 38yers old most of the buying process is on line . great information thanks

  • Jonathan says:

    You have put out some great content in this blog. The crazy part is that small businesses are to old school and think the way they have been doing business will keep working. There is so much more working in the minds of the consumers out there. If you are 23yrs to 38yers old most of the buying process is on line . great information thanks

  • Channelship says:

    Thanks for your comment Jonathan.

The comments are now closed.