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.
What is the Difference Between Branding and Brand Development?
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.
For Seasoned Athletes, Progress Can be Like Groundhog Day!
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!
Making the Invisible Visible
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.
Branding is a Strategic Asset that Morphs into Revenue Generation
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/
Brand Stories that Position and Drive Revenue
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.
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.
- Upload a professional high-resolution color photo.
- Establish credibility with recommendations.
- Manage your endorsements.
- 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.
- List education, projects, certifications, volunteering/causes, honors and awards. Use logos, colorful images and photos.
- 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.
Finding Your Edge – The Ted Talk
Back in 1990, author Deborah Tannen published her first bestseller, “You Just Don’t Understand” and I’ve been inspired by Ms. Tannen ever since. This breakthrough book was on the NY Times best seller list for almost four years and was among the first blockbuster books on men’s and women’s communication.
Over the years, I’ve used the myriad of examples from this particular book while training attorneys in gender awareness conversations. One story in particular has stayed with me over the years. Dr. Tannen was consulting in a large corporation meeting with its CEO. There was a knock on his door and the senior VP of HR, Susan, entered his office to inform him that they had finally had to fire an employee, Tom. They tried to remediate and train Tom, but he would not change his behaviors. Susan told the CEO she was sorry. After Susan left, Deborah Tannen asked him what her apology meant. He replied, “Oh, she was apologizing for failing.”
Later that day Dr. Tannen asked Susan what she meant by her comment. Susan responded, “Oh, we all felt so sorry we couldn’t correct the behaviors Tom was exhibiting. We tried to remediate the situation and provided him with quite a bit of training but he just wouldn’t change. My apology statement simply meant that we were sorry we that we had to terminate him as he is basically a nice man with a wife and two small children.”
Eye opening how the two of them perceived the exact same comment, right? But probably not all that surprising to most of us. Hopefully we’ve moved the needle a bit since 1990.
I continue to use Dr. Tannen’s books almost thirty years later in my work as a law firm marketing consultant as the lessons are invaluable. From time to time I get asked how I wound up becoming a law firm marketing consultant so long ago. It’s a simple story, really. When I was ten years old, I went to my parents one morning and said, “When I grow up, I want to become a law firm marketing consultant”, said no one EVER! LOL
But actually, what really did happen to me when I was young was that I had to figure out and find my edge, which I did over time. It’s part of the reason I fell in love with figure skating at the age of six.
Gliding over the ice, jumping and spinning simply delighted and inspired me. But unfortunately, growing up in a world class dysfunctional family with not one, but two alcoholic parents ended that joy by the time I was twelve. Let’s just say that if the police had GPS back then, our address would have been on their speed dial!
I struggled with this loss of my love of the ice but gradually learned that something good could come out of that loss. I had to learn to accept that if I wanted something done, I would have to do it myself. I developed great coping skills like staying focused, reducing friction (peace at all costs), listening for subtle sea changes, getting it right, and oh, trying to be likable as on some level I felt responsible for what was going on at home. I was running constantly while learning these valuable life lessons though. By the time I turned fifteen, I may have been ready for my first law firm marketing job. I mean I had acquired some great skills!
Somewhere along the way, those lessons learned started to inspire rather than drag me down. I discovered how to conquer challenges. I realized that I thoroughly enjoyed helping others.
Maybe some of the kids in my class thought I was being pushy when I went over to their desks and told them what to do, but to me, I was just focused on helping them achieve their goals. Oh, misguided energy!
As I grew, well, well, I was not popular in high school, at all. I was a late bloomer and even at seventeen, I looked more like I was fourteen. It was horrible. I had this pipe dream that if I could just become a cheerleader, I would be eternally happy. I missed the squad as a junior but throughout that entire year, I literally practiced in front of my bedroom mirror every day. I visualized myself cheering at football games in my senior year. The joy I experienced when my name was finally announced as having made the squad taught me such a valuable lesson. It more than reinforced the notion that if I wanted something badly enough, I had to make it happen myself. And one of the best parts of this experience was helping another friend who also struggled to make the squad. But she made it too and we helped each other stay inspired throughout that whole year.
This was a turning point in my life, although I didn’t realize it at the time. I internalized the notion that I could find joy in pursuing goals and helping others achieve theirs along the way. Inspiration became my “why message” which has stayed with me throughout my life and invigorates me daily. One of the most watched TedX Talks of all time, given by Simon Sinek, taught us that people don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it. https://lnkd.in/gmfDFyN
And I realized my why was inspiring others. Along the way I replaced running on empty with a productive and balanced life filled with energy and a lot of joy. Of course, there were years of introspection, Alanon and lots of therapy involved too!
I took this passion of inspiring others into my career and continue to be motivated by helping to enthuse others. When a practice group lands a major client, or a marketing team I have been working with successfully helps its partners engage clients in conversations about creating better innovation and legal operations, well, that is just inspirational.
Moving ahead with my story, when I was in my forties, a skating rink opened in my home town. Something motivated me to buy skates and I started to take a few lessons. Before I knew it, I started to train for competitions.
Over the past 17 years I have had great fun and achieved some wonderful successes. And this year, I am proud to say I am the reigning national champion in my age group – you know – the mature women’s group! I applied my focused behavior of “getting it done”, to my training. For me, skating is pure joy and it drives me daily.
So, what have I learned from all of this? Well, it turns out there are many blessings we can experience in life including being raised by imperfect parents who did their best, learning to share our lives with a partner no more flawed than we are, and to count on a few friends who understand and accept us for who we truly are. Along the way I learned that one of the most beautiful and freeing things we can do in life is to forgive a wrong. These are life’s blessings. We should not forget to count them.
Every one of us has had to overcome challenges in our lives. We all know it was not just me! But I also know that everyone has a gift, a talent, a place in which they find inspiration. And don’t most of us feel our best when we have helped to inspire a win for a client, a co-worker, for friends or family? So, what is your gift? Your why message? What is your cause? What gets you out of bed each morning other than a paycheck and perhaps some strong coffee?
FINDING MY EDGE
I challenge you to Find Your Edge, hone your gifts. I promise you it’s there. Finding and continuing to refine your talents is your edge in life. This will not only continue to inspire you, but it will help you to inspire others along the way. After all, finding that edge is all about inspiration.
I believe this quote from C.S. Lewis sums things up very well, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”