Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Connecting Marketing and Business Development

It’s all about connecting efforts to raise visibility with getting face-to-face.

Professional service providers share their knowledge and wisdom readily as they solve client problems. In day-to-day practice, they are committed to their craft. Complete focus in the nuances and details in their areas of expertise is a given. The marketplace expects consistent strong and relevant content, sage advice, and an assurance that clients’ issues can be resolved. But these days, especially with the increased emphasis on content marketing, social media and interactive websites, professionals need to up their game to connect marketing efforts more thoroughly with successful business development strategies. https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/linkedin-are-we-forgetting-something-58549/

For most service providers, marketing is a backburner effort. We consistently hear there is never enough time to focus and deliver as much as they might wish. Successful business developers somehow figure out how to do it all by coordinating their marketing and business development time. And this is one of the issues that confuses some – understanding how to parse their time effectively between marketing and business development initiatives and tactics.

Marketing Vs. Business Development

In general terms, marketing is everything an individual, firm or company engages in to raise visibility. Effective marketing typically includes creating fresh content for clients, referral sources and potential clients, focused in a particular industry or market segment. Showcase your expertise on your firm’s website, push notifications, emails, and social media posts. Share success stories and case studies of interesting matters. These tactics can start new relationships and will enhance existing ones.

Inviting clients to events, sending them relevant information you have created or read, or notifying them of an important webinar are clear examples of marketing. Sending thank you gifts is an oldie but effective tactic as well. All these ideas come together to educate clients on what you do, and the how and why behind it.

On the other hand, business development is where the rubber hits the road. Put simply, it means getting “face-to-face” with clients, targets, and referral sources. Productive tactics might include inviting a client for a meal or to an event. But with Covid and the variants still looming, phone calls and short Zoom meetings can be effective alternatives for staying in touch and staying on top of clients’ issues and business goals. Interviewing a prospect or client on an industry specific topic can bring professionals closer to coveted individuals. And if the information is gathered from several different interviews and turned them into a social media post, blog or article and contacts are tagged, you create opportunities for multiple touch points to grow relationships.

The Bottom Line

Successfully growing a professional services practice requires a clear path and connection between marketing and business development. All of this ties into your ability to stay connected and share your knowledge with clients and your marketplace and finding time to personally connect.

Looking to Solve the Puzzle of Increasing Engagement on Your Company LinkedIn Page?

Company and personal pages should share great content and brand stories.

This is a question we are often asked. For those wishing to grow their followers and interaction with clients, potential clients and referral sources, the following tips will help.

  • When creating your About content for your company page, include your vision for the future, as well as your mission and values. Don’t forget to include your tagline and a description of your services and offerings.
  • Consistently post content that is based on the interests of your clients. Twenty percent of those posts should be about your expertise and services. Seventy percent of these posts should center around the industries you serve including updates, news, events and accolades for both your company and your contacts. The remaining 10% can be social or community-type events.
  • Ask your employees to share and like company posts on their LinkedIn pages.
  • Write stories which incorporate your brand and the right kind of emotional connection you wish to elicit from your marketplace.
  • Make all posts engaging content for your followers in your various vertical markets.
  • Some posts should be light and fun but still offer great content.
  • Occasionally share an error or issue that didn’t go as initially planned with your connections and explain how you rectified it and grew from it – be human and compelling.
  • Run paid advertising to increase engagement, boost visibility and drive revenue. Be consistent with it over time.
  • Images should be compelling and fit the screen fully.

Avoid Content Fatigue: Be the Solution, not the Restater of the Problem

Now is the time to let clients know you’ve got their back.

The past few weeks bombarded us with a constant stream of information, not only about the Coronavirus, but about what we need to know to carry on our businesses, to stay safe and healthy and to provide for our families.

Information seemed to morph daily. We have witnessed an unprecedented number of offerings such as webinars, video meetings and conference calls, push emails, podcasts, videos, blogs, social media posts and client outreach. The redundancy of all of this has contributed to a state of information overload and content fatigue.

For those of us focused in the area of business development, the last few weeks of this unparalleled situation has been spent gathering and analyzing information about how to best serve clients. It is crystal clear that those professional service providers who shared the best and most useful content developed and delivered it based on client and industry needs. These firms paid rapt attention to what content was already in the marketplace and what fresh, but needed, information they might share.

Clients may have grown weary of attending long webinars and getting through the seemingly endless stream of email blasts. But at the same time, research has demonstrated again and again, those businesses that market and remain visible in a client-focused way during a crisis or downturn recover the quickest. But the information your firm produces must be sensitive and useful in solving clients’ problems.

Then, what do clients and customers view as helpful and effective?

  • Deliver a cogent interpretation of new laws, government programs and/or a synthesis of available options.
  • Be proactive and gather information early on; avoid being the 10th service provider to share the same information in the same way.
  • Call clients and ask how they are doing. Listen carefully diving deeply into their issues with clarifying questions to gain a clearer understanding of their needs and concerns. Address them with specificity.
    • Don’t make decisions for your clients without asking them for input. Your clients want to hear from you. Consider attending their planning meetings as one of their trusted advisors.
  • In addition to addressing the legal, accounting, real estate or insurance questions your clients and customers are facing, help them identify their most pressing business problem(s). Imagine how thankful and loyal clients will be if you become adept at facilitating meetings using process improvement and process mapping skills to guide them to effective solutions.

What are the most effective marketing strategies and tactics in this unusual environment?

  • All content and briefings should speak to clients’ pain points. How do you best craft your message? Use a variety of mediums such as videos, one-page analysis, phone calls, email, interactive video meetings, blogs, and social media posts.
  • Your bio is one of the most read pages on your company’s website. Does it adequately convey your expertise, especially for these times?
  • Increase your power and results on LinkedIn by posting, commenting, searching out contacts and clients and commenting on their posts, posting articles, updates and videos on your firm’s page and then on professionals’ pages.
  • Set up Google Alerts and LinkedIn Alerts for key clients and industries. Staying on top of industry issues gives you and your colleagues great opportunity to reach out to clients and prospects on a continuing basis and in a meaningful way.
  • Consider community involvement or pro-bono work, especially as it relates your clients/industries.

In this most unusual time in history, your clients need you more than ever. Be the solution for them and not just the restater of the problem.

Drive Revenue Through LinkedIn

How do professionals increase their book of business through LinkedIn?

A great many professional service providers continue to avoid the reality of how to effectively use LinkedIn to increase revenue. We tend to see way too many posts of people enjoying a meeting or charitable event. While there is nothing incorrect about these posts, they do nothing to share one’s knowledge and expertise with fellow LinkedIn members. (Help me learn why I should do business with you.)

Social media and content marketing are the reality in which we are living. But excuses and resistance to change still abound. With so many different social media platforms let’s narrow the conversation to the #1 platform for business – LinkedIn.

According to Forbes, LinkedIn drives 64% of all social media visits to company websites. And 74% of those on LinkedIn use it to research companies and people. Do you really want to offer an incomplete LinkedIn profile when others come to check you out? Yet Forbes also tells us that over 50% of the LinkedIn profiles are not completed or optimized.

When professionals say they do not have time for LinkedIn, in actuality it does not have to consume a great deal of time. In fact, once your profile is truly optimized you can spend 10-minutes on most days to be a part of the conversation and to let your other connections know you are in the game and also noticing their posts and articles.

Take a Moment to Learn the Ease of LinkedIn

To begin, simply scroll down through your feed that appears on the Home page when you sign in to LinkedIn. This is also the location of your status update page. Make a few comments to some of the posts from your connections or simply click on “Like” and they will know you read their post and took the time to notice it.
Posting original content on your status update page is part of the process but this can be just a few sentences in which you post about a meeting or event you went to, or an article you read with a comment about it and a link to it. Whenever you post a blog be certain to repurpose it by posting it on LinkedIn and attaching a link to it. Perhaps you are sharing some information your firm posted or information that one of your colleagues posted about a case or other legal discussion.

Have you written an article? You can post fresh content, such as an article, to your profile page and also to your status updates. This is a free way to continue to demonstrate and enhance your expertise on a topic. Yes, business actually happens from consistently raising your profile by sharing your knowledge and engaging with LinkedIn.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce it can take between 8 to 20 touch points before someone knows you well enough, understands the depth of your knowledge in a particular area, and feels comfortable enough to want to do business with you. So after your next meeting, speaking opportunity, networking event, this free tool we call LinkedIn can assist you in making numerous touch points demonstrating your knowledge, expertise, and ability to connect and care. Be certain to add new connections after every meeting you attend. Stay top of mind by connecting with your clients, prospective clients and referral sources.

What is all of This Talk about Optimizing Your Profile?

LinkedIn is the go-to social media for business. In fact, Forbes’ research tells us that most individuals will go to LinkedIn before going to your firm or company website.

Optimizing your LinkedIn Profile helps others find and learn about you. To optimize your profile start by looking at the following two areas in your profile. There is more to be considered than what is included in this article but this is a great place to start to connect and get noticed on LinkedIn.

Let’s start by creating a clear Profile Headline (120 character limit) which appears under your name. Do not be generic, rather be specific. Try, “Resolving complex business litigation disputes,” rather than “Litigation attorney”, or consider “Forensic accountant who makes it happen in court” rather than “Accountant.”

Do not use the name of your business or firm in your headline. Consider incorporating key search words in your headline and also in your profile. LinkedIn automatically provides the name of your company and your education on the next line under your Profile Headline.

Your Profile Summary comes next (2,000 character limit). A well-branded Profile Summary helps distinguish you from the competition and allows viewers to get a deeper understanding of what you do, how you do it, and why you do it. Generic descriptions just don’t work well on LinkedIn. Emphasize your professional skills.

1. Avoid the use of “I.” After a few times of seeing that word it begins to sound like “me, me, me and then there is me!” Instead of saying, “I am a forensic accountant. I help companies…” Consider, “As a forensic accountant, we assist companies….” You might also consider writing in the third person such as, “As an attorney who successfully closes M & A transactions, Stacy spends time honing in on each client’s business goals before any transaction begins.”

a. Include keywords that clearly describe what you do so that LinkedIn and search engines can connect those searching for your area of practice, experience and expertise. As of January 2020, LinkedIn has over 675 million users and therefore is one of the largest search engines in and of itself. And you, as a LinkedIn user, get the enhancement of LinkedIn when folks are searching the web. For most of us, the first thing that comes up under our names on a Google search are several LinkedIn connections, posts, article and the like. This is powerful stuff.

b. Modify your Summary from any other online bios or profiles just a bit. Search engines will discount your Summary if it is taken literally from your website bio since that information is already online.

Engage in the LinkedIn Community

Now it’s time to polish and complete your profile. The following aspects of your profile page are next after you complete your Headline and Summary.

  1. Upload a professional high-resolution color photo.
  2. Establish credibility with recommendations.
  3. Manage your endorsements.
  4. Use the Media section to link to content on your website and blogs. Post presentations, articles and other content on your profile page. It provides the reader with a sense of the depth of your expertise and your distinctions.
  5. List education, projects, certifications, volunteering/causes, honors and awards. Use logos, colorful images and photos.
  6. Join and work a few targeted LinkedIn groups.

Conclusion or Can I still Ignore LinkedIn?

We are way past the tipping point for the adoption of the effective use of LinkedIn. And we are years past the Innovator, Early Adopter, Early Majority and are firmly in the Late Adopter and Laggard stages of those increasing revenue through LinkedIn.

Ignoring social media at this stage is akin to Late Adopters who avoided disruptive technologies like email, company websites and branding. Get connected and help spur new business through the number one business social media in the world, LinkedIn.

Digital & Content Marketing Strategy: Survey highlights and a summary

Just released in July, this 2019 survey, produced by Greentarget and the Zeughauser Group, provides specificity and insight into why content marketing is so important in differentiating your firm and building your brand. Full article here.

According to the survey, the four most important content marketing guidelines readers seek are relevancy, utility, urgency and novelty of the content. Opportunity abounds for those willing to do a deep dive into specific areas. “Many firms spend time defining the problem or issue in their content marketing, but don’t give enough meaningful insight behind the three to five things needed to solve the issue.”

LinkedIn remains the number one business social media platform. Your clients, referral sources and prospects use it to learn, as well as to connect with colleagues and business leaders. Most use LinkedIn to post relevant content to their coveted connections and to tap into groups that align with specific audiences focused on a singular topic.

The results point out the four most important attributes readers seek in social media content. The survey states readers want information to be educational, relevant, easy to read and timely. Although business leaders want drilled down focused content, they are not one-dimensional in their thinking. They don’t mind reading occasional broader topics to learn from – many seek it.

Does your firm have a focused content strategy? Consider who you are trying to reach and who you want to attract. Create a concept that is the core of your social media outreach by posting the relevant and strong information your audience is seeking.

Remember to place content on your website and blogs too. Incorporate key words so that those searching for specific information will find your posts. This will also help to improve the search engine optimization (SEO) of your firm’s website.

It’s 2019 – it’s all about content marketing these days.

How Brand Development can Increase the Value of a Legal Department

These days many corporate legal departments seek to understand a law firm’s distinctions. They want to know how and why they should choose one firm over another – what is the law firm’s differentiation?  ‘Branding’ and ‘Marketing’ are terms that traditionally refer to the ongoing actions implemented by an organization to enhance the sales of the organization’s products and services to increase revenue. And until now, these terms have not typically been connected to legal departments.

It seems to be time to change this. Many legal departments are discovering that their unique brand distinction in how they deliver services to their internal clients may already be there – they just need to be discovered and communicated clearly. Having satisfied clients within the company impacts how the legal department is viewed. It can influence hiring decisions and impact bonuses and salaries. Creating a clear and codified brand allows clients to understand how to best interface with the legal team and what to expect from its services.

You can learn more about increasing the value of the legal department by clicking here.

The Sky is Falling, the Sky is Falling!

The results of the 2019 Altman Weil annual Law Firms in Transition is receiving well-deserved interest from law firm leadership. This year, 362 law firms participated in this annual benchmarking survey. The good news is that most law firms are experiencing improved financial performance. And the issues surrounding what clients are expecting is becoming clearer. Lawyers are busier, per se, and many firms have raised rates.

According to the results, managing partners have long accepted the fact that there is a permanent trend in how the practice of law is and will be practiced. Change is continuing. But increased profits have some law firm leaders relaxing a bit about the impending discussions of “doom” about how the practice of law is changing. Is the sky really falling?

Apparently the sky has not fallen. But at the same time forward thinking firm leaders recognize that high collaboration with firm clients is increasingly essential. And according to the survey, almost all firm leaders agree that the pace of change will remain high or even accelerate.

What do Clients Want?

While clients may not be looking for the low cost leader they are seeking greater transparency and accountability in the delivery of legal services. Over 50% of the firms responded that they are invested in capturing data on the cost of their services. The basics of strong experience and expertise along with a high level of communication, good service and efficient processes remain important criteria for clients when choosing outside firms. And a whopping 96% of law firm leaders agreed that a focus on increased efficiency, and perhaps with it better predictability and innovation, are areas clients are seeking.

A clear, strong and distinctive law firm brand remains important to clients. About half of the respondents of this year’s survey said their firms are clearly differentiated from the competition. But what about those firms that have yet to go through a brand development process to identify, codify and implement a clear brand which consistently supports and reflects their unique distinctions? These firms make it difficult for clients and potential clients to understand why a firm with a muddled brand should be chosen.

The survey results report 78% of firms have created a more collaborative culture resulting in improved firm performance. Altman Weil suggests compensation systems should reward increased collaboration and better client service.

The survey did not explore additional issues that are increasingly vocalized by legal departments such as which technologies are preferred, how they use artificial intelligence, or how to incorporate problem solving solutions such as process mapping to minimize pain points.

Altman Weil’s 2019 Survey states that the demand for law firm services has been flat for years and that the acquisition of new clients is essential for continued growth and sustainability.  And according to the summary, managing partners are highly concerned about the impending recession. The sky may not be falling but savvy law firm leaders are making sure their firms are realistically facing the changing landscape in the practice of law to secure their futures.

The full survey results provide greater details and explanations.

 

Tipping Point: Transformation and Innovation in the Legal Department

This ARK Group book was just released. I was pleased to be tapped to write a chapter on the specific steps a legal department can take to increase efficiency, predictability and collaboration with outside firms.

Information about purchasing the book can be found here: http://ow.ly/cw5A30o0lN7 

The following is the ARK Group description of the book.

“The contemporary legal landscape is no longer a rigid hierarchy composed of limited and complacent behemoths, but rather an ecosystem, filled with a wide variety of players that facilitate disruption and revolution and jostle for clients’ attention with agility and innovation. This includes – but is certainly not limited to – entities such as technology companies, consultants, alternative legal service providers, and paraprofessionals.

“Law firms are not the only ones in this environment that must adapt or fail; the legal department and in-house counsel, too, must transform in order to remain relevant and competitive.

“The world of the general counsel (GC) has already seen massive shifts – ever-increasing globalization has meant more legal issues and corporate activism, which in turn has generated new challenges and heightened demand. The GC cannot simply act in the role of outsourcer of work to external counsel, as in the past. With the growth of legal departments (it is now not uncommon for legal departments to number in the hundreds or even thousands, often formed of expensive lateral hires) the GC must now wear a number of hats, including that of the “CEO” of their department.

“The introduction of data analysis into the legal space and the oft-repeated mantra of “less with more” has meant that the GC must now think in terms of spend and budget more than ever before, transforming the legal department from a cost-center to a value-add. They must cultivate a breadth and scope of vision, able to organize and lead their department as an innovator. The flourishing legal ops role also provides yet another challenge for the GC. As the incorporation of legal ops within the law department becomes increasingly essential, the GC must work to ensure alignment and manage change.

“The present time has been hailed as the golden age of in-house lawyering, yet – and perhaps because of this – it is an uncertain and challenging time for the GC. Tipping Point: Transformation and Innovation in the Legal Department is intended as a handbook for the GC looking to build a truly modern legal department and revolutionize their role. Encompassing aspects from leveraging influence with the c-suite to reimagining organizational hierarchies and seeking the right operational professional, this publication features contributions from those at the frontiers of the profession as it transforms and embraces new areas of expertise”.

Stop Clowning Around: It’s Time to Create High Engagement with Clients

Websites these days can create “high-engagement” if they are designed to offer fresh content which will attract clients, potential clients and repeat visitors. Many law firm websites are outdated and not built with the technology for easy to post strong content which would assist clients in meeting their business goals. Law firms of all sizes should be considering updating to current technologies and website strategies in order to stay relevant and to bring in new business.

When law firms jumped into having websites, most were not designed to extend the firm’s brand and disseminate thought-leadership content. These days, firms must view their websites as more than an electronic version of old-fashioned printed brochures. In this old model, bios and practice area descriptions were considered to be the most important content—and client focused content, such as articles, blog posts, and thought-leaderships pieces, were not offered. Even today, many law firms don’t publish fresh and relevant content on their websites. Rather, they do not update their websites to engage their coveted audiences. Some may post fresh content on their blogs or social media outlets, which does not engage viewers to stay on their website and learn more about the firm, its capabilities and unique differentiators.

Fortunately, this is changing. As the market for legal services has become more competitive firms have begun creating more content as a means of distinguishing themselves from the competition. These firms are seeing their websites as publishing opportunities yielding increased website engagement.

The bottom line is that law firms must invest in themselves and consistently develop fresh and client-focused content to maximize the return on their investment. It only makes sense that now, even firms that have resisted, are stepping up and revamping their websites to maximize the chance that visitors will read the firm’s best reputation-enhancing content and engage more thoroughly on their websites.

With years of helping law firms create client-centric and business development focused websites, we, at EM Consulting, are poised to help your firm maximize the return of investing in your website.

LinkedIn: Are we Forgetting Something?

LinkedIn is about content sharing, not social engagements. Clients, referral sources and potential clients develop a strong understanding of an attorney’s or firm’s areas of expertise by reading a steady sharing of industry or practice specific relevant information. Many firms have great success turning content marketing into content sales with this approach. But lately, we seem to be seeing more and more social posts; the kind a reader might expect from other social media platforms such as Facebook.

As changes in the legal landscape continue to increase, most law firms, thank goodness, have given up the dated 16-page full color snail mailed newsletter that covered an ocean of topics and services offered by a firm. Most firms have successfully segued into meaningful and focused snack sized bites of content marketing in specific areas for their various online channels such as websites, blogs, and social media. The goal of content marketing, which leads to content selling, is to increase the position and demonstrate a strong knowledge base of a firm’s and/or individual’s expertise on a precise subject.

Clients and potential clients are always seeking strong and pertinent updates and information. Posting germane industry and practice content and news increases a professional’s relevancy and position in the marketplace. Enhancing a firm’s or professional’s expertise in a specific area can make the difference between not being known or seen or getting on the short list when clients and potential clients are looking for strong expertise.

Is your firm having trouble finding ideas for strong content? There are many ways to achieve this. Consider starting by asking your clients, and those in the industries you are targeting, what types of information would be helpful. This is also a great way to reach out to clients and potential clients to start or to enhance a relationship. We often use an online tool www.answerthepublic.com which can assist in defining and then refining content ideas.

We know it takes time and consistency to raise visibility and make significant inroads into the LinkedIn marketplace. Those businesses and professionals that take content sales and social media seriously will start to see significant upticks in their results. This takes some time and an increase in the comments they make on their connections’ posts. Engagement also increases as professionals share and comment on their LinkedIn connections’ posts. Commenting on a post triggers LinkedIn to send an email to that person to let them know you read and commented on it – fabulous engagement.  This does not happen if you simply “Like” a post. The only way a connection will see that you “Liked” their post is if they take the time to visit the analytics LinkedIn offers.

Content should be varied and can include short updates as well as published LinkedIn articles which can both be created on the LinkedIn Home page. LinkedIn automatically places these articles on the writer’s Profile page. These short articles have a two-fold benefit as they also become permanently part of one’s LinkedIn Profile which demonstrates skill and knowledge when others are checking them out.

Lately, it seems there has been an increase in diluting an individual’s or firm’s brand with too many social posts on LinkedIn. The occasional post about an office’s activities or community supported organization can be powerful in expanding a brand message. However, the recent uptick in more personal and social posts, which are more suited for other social media platforms, is alarming.

Have you noticed the recent increase in the number of posts on LinkedIn about pets, restaurants, vacations, or family outings?  This type of engagement is more suited to other social media outlets such as Facebook.

LinkedIn, according to Forbes, is the number one business social media platform. We advise our clients to post about business, industry news, sharing information learned at conferences, short articles to help clients achieve their business goals, and even comments or analysis from reposting a relevant business article. Don’t forget to include quotes from clients and industry experts to further round out and demonstrate your business expertise and knowledge.

LinkedIn is a social platform but it is focused on business. You might consider that fact before you post your next restaurant review or vacation photo. Content marketing leads to content engagement and sales. Let’s leave the kitten videos to Facebook or Instagram.