All posts by Kirsten Hodgson

Measuring ROI in professional services firms: do we measure the right things?

A few years ago I read Olivier Blanchard’s book ‘Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in your Organization’, which I can honestly say is one of the best books I’ve read about social media. However, some of what Olivier says applies to much more than simply social media.

 

In it, Olivier talks about the concept of F.R.Y. (frequency, reach and yield), which he was introduced to by Microsoft but whose origins are unclear.

“For years, I searched in vain for a way to add a little more sophistication to the ‘Do this, and you’ll sell more stuff’ conversation. I already knew, both instinctively and from experience, that good products combined with good marketing and customer-focused business practices drove business forward. I just hadn’t found a formula to help frame the mechanism by which this worked.”

Reading about F.R.Y. was a lightbulb moment for me. It’s something that can easily be applied to professional services firms in order to enable us to better measure the impact of our marketing efforts.

F stands for FREQUENCY – i.e. getting existing clients to buy from you more often

R stands for REACH – i.e. acquiring new clients

Y stands for YIELD – i.e. getting existing clients to spend more with you every time they buy from you.

The vast majority of marketing and business development initiatives within professional services firms can be categorised into one of these areas:

Frequency:

  • News alerts about new legislation/issues (with the aim of engaging us to help with any resulting work)
  • Seminars (for existing clients)
  • Key client programmes (designed to grow your share of wallet)
  • Practice group development and industry sector focus (as far as these relate to existing clients)
  • Value adds such as clinics or strategy sessions with the clients
  • RFP responses for existing clients
  • Cross-selling initiatives
  • PR (to reinforce purchase decision)
  • Pricing strategies (e.g. volume discounts, retainers, fixed fees)
  • Social media activities (as related to existing clients)

Reach:

  • Referrer strategies
  • Seminars (for prospects)
  • PR
  • News alerts/news letters and any other content (blogs, videos, audio, speaking at conferences etc) aimed at prospective clients
  • Practice group and industry sector focus (relating to new business)
  • New business meetings
  • RFP responses, beauty parades, and credential statements for prospective clients
  • Social media activities
  • Website

Yield:

  • Upselling (e.g. client comes in for a will and you find out they also need a family trust)
  • Alternative pricing structures (not always, but often when you wish to be rewarded for the value you deliver)

 

I think sometimes we measure the wrong things. It’s easy to say we’ve done a great job on a seminar if we get 200 attendees, and that’s true if the reason for holding the seminar is about brand awareness but if it’s about reach (converting prospects into clients) or frequency then it’s the wrong measure. We need to know how many of those attendees subsequently engaged us.

By understanding how our marketing and BD initiatives fit into each of these three areas, we can evaluate their success against our overall revenue objectives in each area of F.R.Y. (and work out where to focus in the future by seeing if different market segments react to, and engage with, different types of initiatives).

Doing so would make it far easier for us, as professional services marketers, to communicate the value of everything we do, to others in our firms. Partners already see the value of BD in areas like pitching. It’s easy to demonstrate how the win rate has gone up and the ROI on a particular pitch, because you know the cost of putting it together, you know whether you’ve won or lost it and, if you’ve won it, you know (or will at some stage know) the value of the resulting work.

It’s harder to measure the impact of other, ‘softer’ initiatives. Often, it’s several of these (rather than one thing in isolation) that led to more work, but we can begin to think about this.

It’s all too easy to track the opening rate of news alerts but then never to revisit down the track comparing a list of which clients have given you work in that area with those who opened the news alert. Sure, that probably won’t have been the only initiative you’ve run – you may have run a seminar and some of your professionals may have met with the client/prospective client for coffee, but by tracking these things, we can begin to assess the likely impact of each one.

The only way to reliably know why you are given a particular piece of work is to ask the client what factors led them to appoint you (and to possibly prompt them about some of the initiatives you’ve run in that area). Maybe that’s something we need to get better at doing.

Like peas and carrots: social selling in professional services firms

Social selling should be to professional services firms what peas are to carrots – a match made in heaven.

Given that many professionals dislike the word sales and its connotations, social selling, in contrast, fits well with the approach of those in professional practice.

Hubspot defines social selling as:

“Social selling is when salespeople use social media to interact directly with their prospects. Salespeople will provide value by answering prospect questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy.”

In a professional services context I prefer to think of it as “the process of generating work from existing and prospective clients by sharing content they want to consume via social networks and in so doing build your personal profile and stay top of mind.”

Social selling in professional services firms

Essentially it’s using another set of tools where these clients and prospects are active to do what you’ve always done:

BUILD RELATIONSHIPS.

 

Unlike traditional “selling”, social selling shouldn’t push you too far out of your comfort zone because its principles of building credibility and trust will be familiar to you.

The fundamentals don’t change – you still need to identify people’s pain points and make them aware of legal and other changes that require them to take action (or could require them to do so down the track).

Your content still needs to create more questions in their minds so that they want to find out more.

How do you go about social selling?

In order to successfully socially sell, you need a laser focus – it’s not about taking a scattergun approach but about building relationships one by one.

  1. Know who you’re looking to build relationships with and how you want to be perceived. Put together your buyer personas as doing so will help you develop your plan.
  2. Make sure your social profiles clearly position you and, where possible, EVIDENCE your expertise. For example, you can publish to LinkedIn and your three most recent posts will appear towards the top of your profile, you can upload documents or link to pages on your website/blog, you can include social proof in the form of recommendations and endorsements (if permitted in your jurisdiction), and you can highlight projects, cases or matters on which you’ve worked.
  3. Connect with those you wish to build relationships with – including existing and prospective clients, influencers, referrers, journalists and colleagues.
  4. Engage: position yourself as a go-to source of information by doing people’s reading for them. Have a clear content plan that talks to people at different stages of the buying cycle and then use social networks to get this seen by more of the right people. For example within LinkedIn you can use tags, groups, direct sponsored content, sponsored updates and ads to get the right content in front of the right people at the right time. Link this to point 5!
  5. Seek to move people beyond LinkedIn into your lead nurturing system – i.e. targeted email lists. If your content is useful but is creating more questions than answers then people will want more. You can create a really useful how-to or White Paper that gives them what they’re looking for and they can access it simply by signing up to a targeted list you’ve set up (i.e. within your initial content you’d highlight this as a way to get more answers in exchange for their email address). It’s then a case of nurturing them through your system.
  6. Create more face-to-face opportunities as a result of doing the legwork online.

Social selling is not about overtly promoting yourself. It’s about being a resource to your target audience and using your content, including conversations, to start to build a relationship with them that you can then move beyond the social platform.

Today’s consumer is savvy and well researched, with a wealth of information at his/her fingertips. By being front of mind and creating a trusted, credible presence via social networks you are, by default, social selling.

 

Thoughts? What does the term “social selling” mean to you?

How can you best use social media in a professional services firm?

Two questions I’m regularly asked by BD and marketing professionals working in professional services firms are:

“How do we best use social media?”

And

“How do we find the time for it?”

 

I can totally relate to these. Social media can feel like one more thing to add into your already busy day.

A great way to start is to think about how one, or a combination, of these tools could increase the effectiveness of an existing initiative or make it quicker or easier for you to achieve a specific objective.

Here’s an example:

What we did

When I was marketing manager in a law firm, one of our corporate practice’s goals was to build more and stronger relationships at board level, both to generate work at that level and to raise the firm’s profile to ensure board members would be comfortable should management decide to hire the firm.

As a result, we held a corporate governance symposium and invited numerous ‘captains of industry’ along.

Following the session, one of our partners drafted a White Paper largely based on discussion and feedback at the event, which was given to all Board Members on our database as well as specific journalists.

What could we have done if we were doing it all over again today?

It was a great initiative and it worked well for the firm. However, if that was today, we could have done so much more such as:

  • Used LinkedIn to identify other key company directors to invite
  • Used Twitter, LinkedIn etc. to help with the research
  • Invited people through the platforms or run promoted/sponsored content informing them about the event that would appear in their newsfeed/stream.
  • Offered the Whitepaper as a download through our team’s individual accounts, our company page and via promoted/sponsored updates. The whitepaper could possibly have been offered as gated content company directors could download in return for signing up to a ‘Board Table’ newsletter (allowing us to keep in touch with them on an ongoing basis).
  • Published a summary of the whitepaper to our blog or website and directly to LinkedIn and then promoted this in relevant groups asking a question to drive discussion.
  • Interviewed the relevant partners and put together a video and audio, which could be posted on YouTube, iTunes etc. and shared via social networks. Alternatively we could have held a Google+ Hangout or Hangout on Air.
  • Used LinkedIn and Twitter to identify and reach out to relevant journalists.
  • Sent a summary of the whitepaper to journalists and company directors – social networks would have made this process easier because we could have used tools such as Inmail to send it to those people who were previously unknown to the firm along with a smart intro setting out why we were sending it and the benefit to the other person of reading it.
  • Set up a LinkedIn group for corporate governance issues and invited people to sign up for it at the event – via tablets they could log into.
  • Live tweeted from the event.
  • Set up a Corporate Governance tweet chat – if we found sufficient directors were using the tool and/or a regular forum to discuss issues e.g. via a Google+ hangout.

 

The point is, this initiative was incredibly successful, but it could have been even more so had we been able to use social tools as part of our tactics. At the very least, a LinkedIn group would have enabled the firm to sustain the momentum over the long term.

 

So, rather than thinking of social media as an additional task, think about how you can use it to make your job easier and improve a particular outcome. I guarantee it will be worth it.

Is your LinkedIn profile damaging your personal brand?

Answer honestly: would you be happy for a prospective client to take a look at your LinkedIn profile before they’ve met you or seen any of your other profiles and work online?

 

That’s exactly what many of them will be doing.

 

And yet, I’ve looked at hundreds (if not thousands) of lawyers’, accountants’ and engineers’ profiles on LinkedIn and an overwhelming number do not create a good first impression…

 

…which doesn’t make sense when you consider the importance you place on your professional reputation.

Why would these people be looking at my LinkedIn profile?

If you’ve ever Googled yourself you’ll know that LinkedIn profiles appear high up search engine results. Often they appear just below (or even above) your website profile.

 

This, coupled with the fact that, according to some 2011 research by BTI Consulting in the US, the top two ways clients find lawyers (I believe this would be similar for other professions) are:

 

  • Peer-to-peer recommendations
  • Online search

 

No surprises with personal recommendations. Of course, people will reach out to those they know and trust for recommendations. But what BTI Consulting found, is that often prospective clients will get two or three names. Instead of calling those 2 or 3 people they’ll do an online search. What are they going to find? You can’t dictate where people click: they could just as easily click on your LinkedIn profile as they could your website profile.

 

Bottom line: you could be missing out on ideal business (you don’t even know about) simply because you haven’t set aside the time to craft a good LinkedIn profile.

 

So, in this post, I’m taking it back to BASICS because it really matters.

Your LinkedIn profile checklist

Even if you think your profile does a good job positioning you, look through the checklist below to see if there are any improvements you could make:

 

1. Have you set up your profile background and does it clearly position you? Click to download a guide on how to create and upload your background banner.

 

2. Have you uploaded a professional, up-to-date photo? LinkedIn says that profiles with photos are 7x more likely to be viewed than profiles without.

 

3. Does your professional headline clearly position you? If you’re using LinkedIn to grow your practice then your professional headline is an opportunity to position yourself. When you connect with others, their connections can see that they’ve connected to you and your headline. When you start, or comment on, group discussions, your professional headline is displayed prominently. For that reason, instead of simply stating your job title, state who you help and what you help them with. Alternatively set out your key areas of specialisation or use your headline to ask a question that will resonate with those you wish to engage e.g. Are you looking for commercial legal advice from someone who has been involved in running businesses?

 

4. Have you included your postcode in your location information? The key reason for doing so is that your profile appears in relevant location-based search results that other LinkedIn users may perform.

 

5. Have you personalised your public profile URL? When you join LinkedIn you are assigned a public profile URL, which comprises your name and some randomly-assigned digits. If someone searches for you in Google then your LinkedIn profile will be returned in the search results but will often appear as ‘there are [3] people called John Smith on LinkedIn’. The reason for personalising your URL is to make sure your profile appears before others who share your name.

 

6. Have you included your contact info so people viewing your profile can get in touch?

 

7. Have you written your summary with your goals in mind? If you’re on LinkedIn to grow your practice then your summary shouldn’t read like a CV. It’s a marketing piece that should be designed to position you and clearly communicate the types of people you can assist and the issues with which you can assist them.

It should answer the following questions:

  • Who do you help?
  • What do you help them with?
  • What’s your approach to working with your clients and/or what do you like about what you do?
  • What do you enjoy outside of work?

 

And contain a call to action such as ‘If you have a commercial dispute you wish to resolve, please do get in touch. Phone XXX or Email YYY.’

 

8. Have you added links to and/or uploaded authorised marketing materials to your profile? Research continues to highlight that people like visual content so this is a way to showcase your expertise and stand out from your competitors. LinkedIn allows you to add links and upload files to various sections of your profile including the Summary section (you can do so in any section which has the box and plus sign icon). This results in a richer profile and allows you to evidence your capabilities and experience as well as those of your firm. You should check your firm’s guidelines about what you can and can’t upload.

 

9. Have you completed the experience section? Add your current job title to the Experience section of your profile. In order to have a complete profile on LinkedIn, the network wants you to list at least two previous employers in addition to your current role. However, it’s up to you whether or not you do so.

 

10. Have you researched your keywords and incorporated these into your summary section, your current job title and the skills and endorsements section? You can use a free tool such as Google Keyword Selector to find these out.

 

11. Have you added your skills in the skills and endorsements section? You can insert up to 50 skills. Repeating 3-5 main keywords (those words people will search when looking for someone with your skills) will help you appear higher up the LinkedIn search rankings and there’s another really good reason why you need to list your skills…

 

You may have seen a blue box pop up on your LinkedIn homepage suggesting that you endorse someone for a particular skill. Some of these suggestions can be arbitrary. To ensure that LinkedIn suggests others endorse you for the skills for which you want to be recognised, complete the Skills & Endorsements section of your profile. Alternatively, opt out of being included in endorsement suggestions.

 

12. Have you completed the Education section of your profile?

 

13. Have you completed the Additional info section? You do NOT need to add personal details unless you wish to do so but we do recommend completing the Interests section and the Advice for Contacting [YOUR NAME] section. People tend to work with people they like and so including your interests may strike a chord with others who share your passions. At the very least it will create a good conversation opener when meeting someone for the first time. The Advice for contacting [YOUR NAME] section allows you to specify who you do/don’t want to hear from – so if you’re not interested in sales pitches or hearing from recruitment consultants then say so.

 

14. Are there any sections you wish to add to your profile? There are a number of other sections you can add to your profile. These appear towards the top of your profile page, just below the first section (containing your photo and headline info). If you are just setting up your profile, some of the sections mentioned above will be located here – you will need to manually add them to your profile.

 

15. Have you made a list of content you can publish to LinkedIn? There are some key reasons why you might want to:

  • Whenever you publish to LinkedIn, your connections get notified that you have published a new post and the title. They see this when they log into LinkedIn. This means that even if they log in a week, or a month, after you’ve published, they will still see the notification. If you simply shared a status update, it would disappear from people’s newsfeeds pretty quickly, often without many of them having seen it.
  • Posts published to LinkedIn are searchable, meaning they can get found by people on the platform looking for information about a particular topic. Plus there is the possibility one or two of your posts will be picked up by a Pulse channel (which is why you’ll want to tag them to make it easy for LinkedIn to categorise). Hundreds if not thousands of people follow each Pulse channel so it’s a way to increase your content’s reach.
  • Publishing to LinkedIn is also a permanent, easy to access, showcase of your content. Your 3 most recent posts appear towards the top of your LinkedIn profile, directly below the box containing your photo and professional headline, and above the summary section. These posts are one of the first things people will see when they look at your profile. To view more of your posts, they can simply click on the words See more (which appear above the three most recent posts).

Improve your SEO by publishing to LinkedIn

Despite publishing to LinkedIn regularly, it was only when LinkedIn rolled out its stats feature that I realised how highly published posts rank in Google search results.

 

Two of my posts were getting lots of views 6 months to a year after they were published and I didn’t know why. When I looked at the new stats feature I saw 100% of the traffic to them was from Google. When I mentioned this to a colleague she whipped out her iPhone, went onto Google, typed in “How to view someone’s LinkedIn profile without them knowing”, turned to me and said “yeah, it’s coming up right near the top of the search results”.

 

I then did the same thing for a couple of other posts, much more niche focused, that were still getting a few views each week, well after being published, and they too were appearing high up Google search rankings for related terms.

 

I’d posted some of these on my blog but this didn’t appear to negatively impact the ranking of the LinkedIn posts – I’d be really interested in your findings on this point. Have your posts been negatively affected as a result of doing this?

 

What does this mean for you?

 

If SEO is important to you and your firm and you want to be found for specific topics:

  • Put together useful content that answers your clients’ and prospective clients’ questions.
  • Use long-tail keywords in your title. For example, if people regularly ask you how to set up a shareholders agreement, then make that the title.
  • Tag your posts so that LinkedIn can categorise them – scroll to the bottom of your post in draft format to find this feature.
  • Publish this content to LinkedIn and encourage your colleagues to share it – you can also share it within any relevant LinkedIn groups (provided the group owner permits this) as a status update (or a series of updates over a longer time period), via your company page, Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc.
  • Monitor visitor traffic over a 6 month period.
  • Let me know what happens!

 

Make sure you publish posts with a long shelf life as it seems to take around 2 months to see traction via Google as highlighted below (n.b. this is not typical for my posts – most of them get far fewer views and are much more up and down in terms of traffic from Google – some weeks there are more views than others but there are still some views coming from Google each week).

 

How to find the stats feature:

  • Go into one of your published posts – either by clicking through from your profile, or hovering over the Profile tab on the LinkedIn toolbar, selecting ‘Your Updates’ from the dropdown list and then clicking on the ‘Published’ tab.
  • Click on the ‘View stats’ button that appears at the top of your post next to the Edit button.
  • To view stats for other posts, simply scroll through your posts within the ‘View stats’ page and the relevant stats will appear.