After more than 25 years in the professional services marketing business, a person forms an opinion or two. This is extremely true for us at EM Consulting. In our Extremely Opinionated blog, our goal is to share ideas and opinions with you that might stimulate your thinking about marketing and business development.
There are many ways to look at branding and the brand development process. For those who do not fully understand the power of branding, it might only mean the color palate and font of your brand and website.
Brands can create excitement that yields integrated marketing tools and messages through which the brand essence reverberates. Brands, in their truest sense, take on special meaning to the buyer. A successful brand rewards a client with a certain amount of comfort in their purchasing decision.
The reality is effective and genuine branding digs deeply into what your firm and services stand for. How are you differentiated from others in your space? How do you deliver those services? How is your firm distinctive?
And most importantly, how do your clients or customers benefit from what you offer? What problems do you solve? What messages that you offer simply cannot be ignored by clients, referral sources, and potential clients?
One of our clients works for a company that takes its brand to its deepest and most effective level. They commented to me, “When a firm takes the time to identify and communicate its distinctions in how it practices, how it deals with its knowledge and content, and how it relates to its clients, we can see it and feel it. More firms need to identify their brands more clearly and be certain it is shouted from the rooftops and applied to their websites, blogs, social media posts, webinars, presentations, and thought leadership content.”
Brands can create excitement that yields integrated marketing tools and messages through which the brand essence reverberates. Brands, in their truest sense, take on special meaning to the buyer. A successful brand rewards a client with a certain amount of comfort in their purchasing decision.
The key to a successful brand is that the target audience perceives a distinction between your firm’s brand compared to other firms in your space.
Once your firm’s brand has been determined, each of your communication vehicles should be evaluated in terms of their ability to deliver and support the brand. Brand development is the process of discovering your brand. Branding is everything else discussed in this article.
How clear and meaningful is your firm’s brand?
Most early adopters of social media, meaning those who started five to ten years ago or more and stayed with it, have realized significant increases in their revenue, visibility, brand position, and marketing success.
Those who joined the game much later sometimes struggle to achieve success. But even those late to the party can drive revenue by consistently and actively participating on LinkedIn over time. It does not have to be just a pipe dream if you are willing to commit to consistently engaging on the most interactive levels. It takes time and work but it is also an inexpensive, essentially free opportunity to engage and prosper.
We have clients who have achieved great success despite only engaging on LinkedIn for the past 18 months to two years. These individuals consistently create original thought leadership content and make comments on their clients, prospects, and referral sources’ posts and articles. What does it take to achieve a significant return on the investment of your time? Well, you decide what level of engagement you want to participate in from the following options.
Small Engagement Strategies
Let’s start with this fact: Forbes reports that 67% of all individuals will check out someone’s Profile page on LinkedIn before going to their website bio. Learning how to optimize your Profile page is imperative even for some-time users on LinkedIn.
To successfully optimize a Profile, a user must complete most or all of the various sections on their Profile page. It is not enough to just have your headshot on the page with a short, but non-distinctive, headline right below your photo. In that top section, be certain you have added your website link and completed the Contact information. Why make it difficult for someone to reach out to you?
In the About section be certain to share information that helps viewers understand what you do, as well as why and how you do it. Have you shared how you are distinct from others in the same space as you? Consider including a brief testimonial in that section.
Create at least three articles by clicking on the Write Article words when you are going to post on your Home page. Each article post should contain an interesting image and offer clarity about your services. Share thought leadership about what you do; give cogent tips so viewers understand the value of what you might add.
Post at least once every two weeks. And scroll down on your Home feed several times weekly so you can engage with your connections’ posts. It’s free marketing. These contacts now know you are thinking of them.
Medium Engagement Requires a Bit More
If you want to up your success somewhat, consider posting at least weekly and be certain your posts are 80% thought leadership. The other 20% can be reposts of external articles, and/or self-promotional posts such as you speaking at an event or getting an award.
Engage the Search Bar at the very top of the page several times weekly typing in the names of the coveted connections with whom you want to increase your visibility and engagement. Go to their Profile page or Company page and click on Posts. Make thoughtful comments on their posts that show you read the posts and understand their messaging. Simply posting comments such as, “Great post” does not pack the same punch.
Consider posting short-30-second videos periodically to share important information in your voice and brand position. Videos tend to get a lot of engagement.
Be certain the Cover image behind your photo on your Profile page has an interesting and distinctive image that reinforces your brand and what your company does. Leaving it blank tells the world you’re not that interested in carving out a clear and meaningful position on LinkedIn.
Large Return on Your LinkedIn Investment
Looking to start to knock the ball out of the park? Do you want to significantly increase your engagement and ROI on LinkedIn? Those who want to drive revenue need to commit to spending 15 to 20 minutes on LinkedIn at least four times weekly.
Start by reviewing your Profile page. Have you provided enough information to make it clear and easy for a viewer to completely understand what you do and what your brand stands for? Engage several of the advanced functions such as the Features section. This allows you to highlight your favorite posts and articles so that a viewer on your Profile page can instantly get your distinction and brand value proposition. Click on the “bell” on your most important connection’s Profile pages so you will be notified when they post. This allows you to comment and engage in their posts. You can find out how to engage the bell function here.
Start to monitor your engagement more frequently. Are you tagging professionals who might be interested in what you sharing? Three to five tags per post are ideal. Avoid tagging everyone that was in that large meeting with you. LinkedIn is not fond of that maneuver. Add appropriate hashtags which reinforce what you do and how you do it.
Create strong thought leadership posts once or twice each week. Make most of your posts original content which teaches or shares what you do. Within an hour of a new post, return to it and make a comment on everyone’s comments. Click several emoji responses. The more engagement you receive on your posts the more LinkedIn will tend to push your posts up towards the top. You should gradually start to see your engagement increase on your posts. Consider using tags and hashtags in the body of your posts as well. You can even include a quote from an industry colleague with whom you want to reinforce your relationship.
It takes time and consistency to obtain a bigger and more profitable ROI from LinkedIn. It’s a long-end game and can take months to years to come to fruition. But it doesn’t take a lot of time once you get into the groove of this type of posting and engagement. Don’t be surprised if you start to see positive benefits including increased revenue, getting asked to speak at events, or getting asked to set up meetings with potential clients and referral sources.
Small, medium, or large LinkedIn results? You decide.
Professional services firms are starting to wrap their collective arms around the difference between a brand and brand development. Branding is a tactic. And brand development is a discovery process that unearths brand distinction. The definition of a brand is, “A claim of distinction.”
Branding tactics include the consistent use of color, graphics, and positioning lines used in the communication of a brand’s distinction. But the color, graphics and tagline are not the distinction itself. No, a brand’s distinction is whatever separates it from its competitors, makes it stand out as extraordinary, or better yet, more valuable to the client—the end user.
Branding is the process that unearths a law firm’s unique distinctions. If you know three solid, bulletproof unique selling points (USPs), ones that no other law firm can claim, then communicate that differentiation by creating a clever and catchy positioning or tag line. If you can’t really define at least three USPs, your law firm should go through some sort of discovery process that will uncover them. Start by listing as many facts as you can about your firm (a hundred or so) then distill those facts down to three to five USPs.
We call this process Turning the Telescope.
This means we turn the telescope on the firm and conduct an inward search of what is unique about it like its culture, people, products, history, you name it. Once you’ve accomplished your discovery, find ways to make them absolutely unique. That creative and clear positioning line that communicates your firm’s brand essence is the beginning of the branding process. This line becomes a firm’s brand promise.
The concept of branding expands from tag lines or clever slogans to encompass brand-focused integrated strategic marketing plans. Successful brands have a well-crafted Brand Essence Statement or a paragraph that captures what the brand stands for. The critical attributes of this statement should be applied throughout a firm’s website, not just on the Home page or the About the Firm page. Website branding should also be realigned with new technologies and industry trends – not just redesigned.
Your firm’s unique distinction helps clients and potential clients understand who you are, what you stand for and what’s important to your firm. Branding is a serious proclamation of a firm’s brand values to its clients.
In articulating a brand promise your goal is to imbue your mark or logo as well as your positioning line with consistent meaning so that every appearance of it further communicates the brand promise and reinvests the logo with all associations. These traits are integral components of how your firm will go to market. All of a firm’s communication materials reiterate the brand concept. Over time we expect that when clients, prospects, recruits, and other friends of the firm see the collateral materials or hear the firm name, they will recall the brand concept and link it mentally to the critical attributes that differentiate your firm from other firms in your space and define its value proposition.
As a maturing competitive figure skater, I have noticed that my lessons are increasingly similar to Groundhog Day. I seem to be relearning the same skills over and over again — and losing elements along the way. I have finally and completely let go of any daydreams of being in the Olympics. Sigh…
But seriously, why is this happening?
I recently booked a session with my incredible sports-mind coach, Dave Diggle of the Smart Mind Institute (www.smartmind.com), to explore why this happens to aging athletes. A former Olympic gymnast, Dave travels the globe working with high-level athletes in every sport imaginable, from rugby to gymnastics to racecar driving to figure skating. I first reached out to Dave in 2012 after knee surgery when I simply could not get my competitive edge back, and for the past 10 years, Dave has helped me sharpen my skills, increase my confidence, and achieve greater competitive results, including multiple national gold medals.
So, What is Happening to My Skills?
In my mid-60s, I started to notice I was losing a few skills. It took a while to let go of those elements and reconfigure my programs to highlight what I still did well. But this past year my frustration grew, on some days with a bit of trepidation just stepping on the ice. I was not loving these new feelings of insecurity!
Regarding skill inconsistency, Dave explained that skill acquisition occurs in the prefrontal cortex, the front of the brain. Once we’ve accomplished and can trust a skill, it gets relegated to the subconscious, but each time we work to improve an acquired skill, it moves back to the prefrontal cortex for the brain to rebuild the blueprint. If you’re old enough, you might remember those hand-cranked printing machines our teachers used in school – a drum rotated, picking up ink and printing dark purple copies, and as the well of ink ran dry, the copies became lighter and lighter until they were invisible. Well, when we’re younger, the blueprint stays strong for much longer periods of time, but as we age, starting at around 45, the blueprints can become fainter, just like a near-empty ink well. This causes us to second-guess our subconscious, forcing the element back into the prefrontal cortex so we can refine or relearn it. For me, this was happening more and more frequently over the past year — I’d regain the skill for a while until the next Groundhog Day event. The ink well is clearly not as full as it once was.
There were days when I’d step onto the ice without the same confidence I had in the past. I found myself a bit tentative struggling with moves, edges, and turns that had been easy for me for decades. Dave explained that our prefrontal cortex is one of the last areas of our brain to fully form (the mid-20s), and as such when we’re young, our only form of gauging and trusting is through emotion. This can lead to inconsistent processing as a child, but once our prefrontal cortex develops, we move to a more system-based process that leads to consistency.
However, as we age, we tend to gravitate back toward emotion. We revert from having a trusting mechanism to one that analyzes how we feel at every turn because, as mentioned earlier, the clarity of our blueprints becomes fainter and we stop trusting. More than a few times, I have found myself asking, “How do I feel about this?” Apparently, this is all a normal part of the aging process: My skills are not as sharp, my blueprints are softer along the edges, and my gauge is no longer one of trust but of feeling.
But We Can Prolong Our Success
Dave says we can prolong our achievements on the ice, or in any sport, with tools such as Visualization/Mental Imagery, Recognition & Reward, and Specific Language Patterns.
Visualization enables us to create and recreate in our minds what a successful skill “blueprint” looks and feels like, allowing us to refine, build and create an even stronger blueprint. The more robust the blueprint, the less emotions are necessary for trusting it.
Once the blueprint has been reestablished, you can add the emotional overcoat – trust – to the skill or program. This is accomplished by accessing the memory part of the brain, the hippocampus, to recall the feeling of success and bring it to the surface alongside the reestablished blueprint, gluing the two together.
Dave recommends different types of visualization and mental imagery:
1. Disassociated visualization is when we use our mind’s eye to “see” ourselves performing on the ice. Not only do I “watch” myself successfully complete an element, but while at a competition venue, I stand at the boards, play my music, and visualize myself skating my entire program. I’ve also used this type of visualization while off the ice due to injury or travel; it has allowed me to trust the process and gain the positive emotional feeling of “I know I can do this” when I’m back on the ice.
2. Pre-emptive visualization is a tool that helps us break down a skill when we feel tentative. In the same way we learn or build a skill in our prefrontal cortex, pre-emptive visualization is a neurological process that lays a neural pathway for us to follow the specific foundation of how that skill works. So rather than waiting for a skill to lose its quality, we can pre-emptively layer the detail on our skills by each day picking a different skill and visualizing how that skill is executed. As stated earlier, there are days now when I feel a bit uncomfortable as I step onto the ice because I focus more on my feelings than on the blueprint. But with pre-emptive visualization, I can focus more on the logic and preparation rather than doubt or any other negative emotion.
Recognition and Reward is the process in which we “teach” our brain where to use positive emotions. This is the same psychological process that a rat in a laboratory maze uses to follow a specific path to receive a food reward. We can train our brain to follow our performance blueprints by recognizing success and rewarding it, thereby building a positive pattern of success. This can be accomplished either by receiving something upon completion or by sharing our successes with our friends and family. When we share success, our brain releases dopamine and we feel great, training our brain to follow that pathway again to receive that positive hit repeatedly.
The big takeaway is that starting around age 45, we need to use new tools and a “smart mind” to manage our training and optimize our time on the ice. Which leads to the final tool, Specific Language Patterns. This relates to our self-talk. Keep it positive! When I get off the ice, the first thing I do is recap the two or three things that went well during my session, so that I don’t dwell on anything that might’ve gone wrong. In addition, I’m working on modifying the negative “I can only skate for an hour, three times a week” to the positive “I can still skate for an hour, three times a week.” That’s empowerment!
Let’s face it, marketing professional services is a bit like making the invisible visible – it’s almost like smoke and mirrors. After all, we can’t see our services, yet they can make significant and indeed impactful contributions to businesses, individuals, practice groups, and firms.
But how do you turn the invisible into visible results? It must always begin with a clear brand development process. Professional services firms must find their true distinctions, codify why they are unique and how they deliver their services to meet client needs. Once an individual or firm creates its clear brand it must then implement a specific plan to bring it to life through marketing and meaningful business development measurable plans.
For twelve years, we have worked side by side with Jeffrey M. Verdon. Jeff is a distinctive and nationally regarded #assetprotection attorney for affluent investors. Having such a long and productive partnership has allowed us to work together to increase Jeff’s national and regional visibility, drive significant revenue, and obtain wonderful business development opportunities.
Together we secured numerous national speaking opportunities, interviews on national radio, chances to be interviewed and quoted in prestigious news publications like the Wall Street Journal, become a guest on podcasts, become an interviewer and presenter at numerous award functions, advertise in a meaningful way in targeted publications, form relationships and obtain referrals from numerous professional service providers, and significantly grow his law firm.
Jeff has even been an online longtime contributor to Kiplinger’s Wealth Creation Column publishing 22 articles for them. He raised his visibility and business development success by showcasing his fresh well-branded content in the area of wealth management and asset protection. Through our firm’s outreach and connections, this ongoing effort produced an increasing number of clients and revenue for the firm.
And all of this success recently led to the New York-based law firm of Falcon Rappoport & Berkman reaching out to Jeff and finalizing a merger with his firm on December 1, 2022. https://frblaw.com/professionals/jeffrey-m-verdon/ FRB was a perfect cultural and practice area match helping the firm reinforce its brand, Great Results Begin with Great Relationships!
With consistency, collaboration, creativity, and focus, a brand can raise an individual and a firm to new heights not yet imagined. But it must always start with a clear brand. For Jeff, his brand line was The fusion of planning and protection, offering high-net-worth individuals #advancedestateplanning and a legacy that would protect their families for generations to come. He has brought that with him to his new firm.
Jeff and the Falcon firm now work together to assist their Private Client Group to reach new heights. https://frblaw.com/practice-areas/private-client/ This is a branding success story.
Has your brand with its “unique selling points” been incorporated into your marketing initiatives to propel your business development success? Are you using it to demonstrate how and why you are different from others in your space?
The first questions to consider when delving into a brand’s impact involve exploring the clarity of its messaging, its unique appeal, its market position, and the effectiveness and depth of differentiation it offers from the competition.
Consider answering these questions about your own brand:
Are my unique distinctions and areas of focus uniformly and clearly presented in all marketing efforts?
When a new viewer comes to the Home page on my website, do they get who we are, what we do, and why we do it, all within seconds?
Does my LinkedIn Profile pay off my brand and unique essence in the same way? Do my posts demonstrate clear thought leadership and industry knowledge?
Is the messaging throughout my website consistent and clear? Do I offer examples of client successes that pay off my distinctions and areas of expertise?
Have I considered how I am distinct from others in my space and do I offer that up to potential clients? (Why would a potential client/customer choose us?)
Branding is no fool’s errand. It is a deep and involved process that can provide a big payoff in driving revenue. Very few professionals have the luxury of being the only person in their space. Take marketing consultants, for example. I was recently in a Zoom networking meeting in which there were three marketing consultants. Each of us offered distinctive services and positioned ourselves completely differently.
For example, take Susan Gold, of Susan Gold Coaching. Susan’s position clearly shows her position in the marketplace as a “Marketing Strategy Coach working with B2B businesses to help them attract their ideal clients.”
Susan works with her clients digging deeply to uncover the best marketing strategies that will produce the most effective results. https://www.linkedin.com/in/susanmgold/
When Michele Correnti, of Correnti Marketing & Events, explained her line of services we quickly understood that she helps law firms build and clarify their online presence. She offers a niche market service in her well-defined area of focus. https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelecorrenti/
When it was my turn to reveal the areas of competence at EM Consulting, I shared our brand or tag line, “Our business is developing yours℠.” I included the words from my LinkedIn Profile headline copy, “Award-winning biz dev consultant driving revenue connecting your distinctions with the unique and sustained client and potential client interactions.”
Our services start by clarifying the client’s brand messaging. Next, we apply it to their website (or create a new one if the site is older than three to four years as web technologies have morphed) and also to LinkedIn. We create solid marketing and business development plans creating a unique and sustained offering. The goal is to combine clients with potential clients in their targeted industries, vertical market, or the space the client plays in. Simply stated, our brand is driving revenue. https://www.linkedin.com/in/merryneitlich/
Three consultants, all marketing professionals, but offering different and specific areas of expertise.
At another meeting I attended, there were three insurance professionals present. Each one worked in a different space and was well branded.
By way of example, take Frank Campbell of Stratus Financial Planning. Frank’s company performs custom analysis of life insurance plans because – wait for it – 88% of all plans do not deliver what the owner of the plan expected. There are a myriad of reasons why so many plans fail. Frank uncovers them and can correct over 80% of those policies’ deficiencies. https://www.linkedin.com/in/frank-m-campbell-clu-98b91040/
Then, there’s Jim Better. Jim shares a personal story of a family member who ran out of funds needed for their long-term care. This had a devastating effect on his family. Jim took his years of experience selling insurance now singularly focusing on helping individuals secure long-term health care insurance. Jim understands the devasting outcome of having no such policy in force. https://www.linkedin.com/in/jimbetter/
And finally, we share the story about Aaron May, who heads his company which sells employee benefits for companies’ employees. His firm serves small to mid-size organizations taking great pride in their white-glove and personal service. They work closely with their client companies and their employees taking as much time as needed time to educate them and have them completely understand all of their benefits. The professionals at Ancile Insurance always take the time to answer the myriad of questions to deeply explain coverage offerings, clearing up any confusion. This focus offers true compassion and lots of education creating differentiation for the company in the crowded insurance market. https://www.linkedin.com/in/aaron-may-930a2572/
Is it the time for you and your company to reflect on your brand’s clarity? Are you using it effectively to create a distinction in the marketplace and to drive new revenue? Branding, after all, is the backbone of strategic marketing. https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/branding-is-the-strategic-backbone-of-84058/
If your website is more than three years old, it might be time to rebrand and get the latest technologies.
Here are the stories of three professional services firms and how they developed their branding to become clear and consistent on their websites. Each was looking to raise their firm’s visibility and to drive an increase in revenue. We worked collaboratively with each firm to uncover their company’s unique distinctions, ultimately creating more robust positioning and clarity for the marketplace. And each entity had its own preferences and goals in how they wanted to use digital marketing.
Stratus Financial Partners
Frank Campbell, the founder of Stratus Financial Partners, sought to develop a more apparent brand and to create a successful implementation of its marketing strategies. In addition to growing his company, Frank had an underlying motivation to help more people. That is Frank to a tee – helping others.
During the brand development process, I was stunned to learn 88% of all life insurance policies don’t pay what is expected. There are numerous reasons why this happens and finding the right person to conduct a policy analysis to discover potential problems can be challenging. It is best to select a professional who is part of a rarified group of only one percent of all licensed insurance brokers: These are the experts who put in the work to become California Licensed Policy Analysts. Frank is one of them and is making a difference to policyholders and their families.
On the company website, www.stratusfp.com, one can read about the Stratus brand, Ensuring families and businesses are protected, and learn about the real reasons policies can fail. The site shares stories of how Frank and his team successfully fix broken policies for a modest fee. There is a small percentage of policies that cannot be righted. When this occurs, Frank’s team explores new policy options for those clients, comparing offerings and rates with over 50 insurance companies to get the perfect policy for each client.
The new website and the personal and company LinkedIn pages are frequently updated with the information clients, potential clients, and referral sources need and want. With this depth of information and deeper brand clarity, Stratus
Financial Partners is positioned for success.
Sumrow Business Law Group
It has become standard practice to replace old websites every three years. We know that the requirements for search engine success are constantly morphing. And after three years, well, those website technologies are simply out of date. The reality is search engines do not favor older sites, especially those which do not offer frequent content updates or have up-to-date technology. The internet and search engines are fickle. They tend to promote sites that are thoroughly optimized and sport the latest Google trends for better analytics. These days, keywords, messaging, and search engine optimization are only a part of the ticket for improving a site’s standing in search results.
Matt Sumrow, the founding partner of Sumrow Business Law Group, knew it was time for a clearer brand and a new website. With Big Law experience and now a solo entrepreneur, Matt’s clients are primarily mid-sized companies that need a corporate attorney to assist with deals, M & As, contracts, and outside general counsel services. Matt prides himself on his new and aligning brand line built from years of experience: Real Insights. Real solutions.
With a bustling practice and no outside marketing support, Matt knew that realistically, he would not be blogging on an ongoing basis nor making frequent website updates. He also knew he needed a new site that offered the latest technology. This new website, www.sumrowlaw.com, was created paying mind to his constraints and goals. Building the site with substantive representative matters, client testimonials, ever-green blogs, and a page of client logos and stories, it was developed it to reflect his expertise and successes. We built-in keywords and organic SEO so the site could stand independently. Matt is a realist. He is not looking to be on the first page of results when potential clients search for a “corporate attorney in Orange County, California.” But he certainly wanted potential clients and referral sources to understand his talents and areas of expertise instantly.
The feedback on his new site produced the results he wanted and needed.
AGA Legal Staffing
For many years, Amy Goldware was a partner with a Los Angeles agency that provided legal staffing solutions. The two partners of this entity split in Q4 of 2021. With a keen focus on client needs and service, Amy needed clear branding and messaging to launch her new company, AGA Legal Staffing. www.agastaffing.com
We collected the most important aspects of what the new company would stand for through the brand development process, incorporating Amy’s tremendous success and skills honed over the years.
The Brand Essence Statement we developed from the branding session stated, “At AGA Legal Staffing, we pride ourselves on delivering lasting solutions. With over 25-years of experience in the trenches, both inside law firms and as recruiters, we believe that good enough isn’t good enough. Integrity touches everything we do. And clients tell us our straightforward approach delivered with honesty, and the ability to pivot on a dime, are the reasons they come back, time and again.”
The website was developed with a client focus, which provides frequent updates on the new website as well as on LinkedIn personal and business pages. The site was highly optimized and filled with the keywords her clients use most often. The transition to the new company became seamless and successfully integrated into the marketplace in short order.
Amy and her staff are committed and focused on their clients’ needs and wants. Through the brand development process, we created the tagline, “More than you expect. Everything you want.” This perfectly represents what Amy and her team had in mind.
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.
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.
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.