This week I lead another of the successful inbound marketing and social media courses for professional services marketers for PM Forum I was glad that there were delegates from all the professions – lawyers, accountants and surveyors – although having a range of 3 to 9.5 (out of ten) for familiarity with social media made it rather challenging to ensure everyone took something away!. There were a number of useful discussions, the highlights of which I said I would post up for the benefit of the delegates.

Key areas of interest

At the outset, I asked the delegates to indicate their reasons for attending the session. The key reasons were as follows:

  • Increasing knowledge of social media use in the professions
  • Developing a strong business case
  • Insights into case studies from other professional service firms
  • Achieving engagement amongst fee-earners
  • Measuring the return on investment
  • Securing senior management buy-in
  • Implementation strategies
  • Managing expectations on both investment and results

Tools in use

In addition to LinkedIn and Twitter (the most commonly used tools in the professions), others mentioned included: Sharepoint, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and Klout. There was a helpful discussion about the difference between social media platforms, tools to make better use of those social media platforms and tools to monitor social media presence. Thanks to the delegate who provided the name of a neat Twitter visualising tool –

Main benefits of social media use

Whilst I provided extensive material and statistics on this point (and there are several blogs on the subject – use social media on the tag cloud to the right) the main benefits mentioned by the delegates included:

  • Gain positive word-of-mouth, brand ambassadors and brand evangelists (and online recommendations and referrals)
  • Increase brand, team and fee-earner awareness and profile
  • Research on markets, competitors, trends, sectors, clients, prospects and referrers
  • Create conversations and interactions with clients, contacts, targets and referrers
  • Identify topics, issues and questions quickly and provide an immediate response
  • Reach wider geographical markets and a much broader audience than with traditional methods

Integrated strategy

I have always advocated that a critical success factor is having an integrated business, marketing, selling and relationship management strategy with both traditional and on-line methods plugged into activities as appropriate. We talked about the challenges (often internal organisation and engagement oriented) of having a plan that addressed:

  • Integrating the firm’s overall strategy with marketing and sales strategies for teams and individuals
  • A properly structured and managed web site with suitable dynamic content management strategies and processes
  • A properly integrated digital PR and blogging process – that ties in traditional techniques and activities such as seminars, events, e-marketing (e.g. mailings of newsletters and alerts)
  • Constant focus on search engine optimisation across all platforms
  • Individual fee-earner sales and client relationship management activities
  • Establishing metrics that range from top level income and profit targets to lead generation, client service management, social media profile and individual fee earner effectiveness

Strategies to get started with inbound marketing and social media

As you would expect, almost half of the session was dedicated to this subject and a review of the materials and case studies from which key lessons could be learned. The delegates came up with the following stages:

  • Develop knowledge by watching and listening to the market and clients
  • Undertake external and internal research into client needs and activities
  • Make a business case (with objectives) to achieve senior level buy-in
  • Work with management, IT and HR to develop policies (including crisis management)
  • Agree the aims and develop appropriate metrics for monitoring and measurement
  • Decide on the markets and services on which to focus
  • Agree the content strategy (key messages and frequency)
  • Choose the appropriate platforms
  • Implement internal communication and training programmes
  • Select a pilot project to increase organisational learning and develop success stories
  • Design and implement inbound marketing and sales campaigns
  • Monitor, learn and revise aims and campaigns

As well the usual challenges you find in professional service environments (buy in, engagement, integration, measurement etc) there is an increasing issue with control over legacy activities – several firms are having trouble re-claiming social media accounts (and passwords) from where they were set up some time ago without any form of consultation and where the relevant staff have now moved on. IT challenges where the needs of system security are in direct opposition to wider use and the whole BYOD debate were also discussed.

Topics of most interest

As always, I asked the delegates for those topics that were of most interest and value to them in the session. The main responses were as follows:

  • The strategic steps to explore and initiate inbound marketing and social media use
  • Strategies to assist with achieving buy in and engagement
  • Breaking projects down into bite sized pieces
  • Relevant – professional service firm – examples and case studies
  • Appreciating that social media is not something that can be controlled in the same way as other marketing and sales activities
  • The value of social media in terms of its use in researching markets, clients and targets
  • Overview and ideas on the established and new social media platforms and tools

Many thanks to DTZ for hosting the event