In this Insurance How To, Synchron’s Michael Harrison, has produced an excellent summary for advisers seeking to position themselves and their practice in the new age of digital communications. He shares with advisers the do’s and don’ts in communicating with their clients in today’s world…
At a glance
Provided by: Michael Harrison
Business: Strategies Plus
Profession: Business Strategist
Topics covered: key consumer trends, networking, seminars, advisory board, client communications, newsletters, building a website, social media, using video
Times have changed
It used to be enough to advertise in the Yellow Pages, run a few ads in the local media or go to a Chamber of Commerce meeting if you wanted to attract new business.
Not anymore! At least not anymore if you are selling professional services. Attracting a stream of loyal clients to your business is getting harder every year.
Positioning your business is more important than ever if you want to be relevant. It’s how you go about it that has changed.
Three key trends
Three key trends are driving the way we should be thinking about business marketing.
The first is that we live in an ‘always-on’ world.
Our Internet-driven world is keeping us busier than ever, contrary to the belief we had pre the digital age, about paper clutter. Somehow we have added hours of extra business time to our everyday living. Whether you use a smartphone, iPad, or surf the web at your work computer, chances are that you spend an hour or two a day doing nothing specific, except being busy with mindless surfing. We all do it.
The second is Cloud computing.
Cloud computing is the practice of storing files in the “cloud,” or in simple terms, in cyberspace. It’s still in its infancy, but make no mistake, it’s here to stay.
It provides you with the freedom to access your files on the fly – regardless of where you are in the world. In other words, shared resources such as software and information are available on demand.
You can upload any file to your cloud and access it from any Internet connection in the world. If your computer breaks down, or you forgot to share that important presentation with your client before you left home, cloud storage can save your day. It simplifies the way you do business and takes some hassles out of our busy lives.
The third trend is what I call the fast-forward mentality. We all have inbuilt spam filters. Capturing someone’s attention for more than a few seconds is more difficult than ever.
Capitalising on the trends
To capitalise on these trends, professional services firms need to be seen in three ways:
- In person
- On paper
- In cyberspace
Each needs to leverage the others if you are serious about growth.
On the upside, it’s not too late to get started.
On the downside, if you are not currently doing some of the things discussed in this paper – you are already lagging behind your competitors.
Just two years ago you were able to utilise social media marketing with relative ease since you were probably one of the few doing it. Today, marketing via social media is a little bit trickier than setting up a Facebook Business Page.
Old Style Marketing – New Style Leverage
Being seen ‘in person’ means getting out there where people can see you. There are dozens of ways you can do it, but three in particular work for me and are easy to leverage.
Networking can be powerful in giving you exposure to industry masterminds and opening new doors. It allows you to share, collaborate, demonstrate and learn with and from others. That said, networking in your own industry is a waste of time. The key is to ask yourself where your clients and prospects ’hang out’. If you are an accountant and your best clients are dentists then dental conferences are where you need to be seen.
Your leverage comes from offering attendees a copy of your latest white paper, tip sheet or digital download and then following them up.
Running your own seminars allows you to position yourself as a leader, invite guests who will impress your prospects and leverage yourself by association.
Instead of being the only speaker, invite an expert. If there has been a change in tax law invite a leading accountant or tax lawyer to speak about the changes. As the organiser you will host the event, introduce the speaker, facilitate the questions and introduce everybody.
Your leverage is sending out a video summary of the key points and inviting guests to pass it on to their friends and colleagues. Just remember, it’s not about you.
3. Advisory Board
Advisory boards are great tools for building new business relationships. A light breakfast of coffee and muffins every couple of months can help you:
- Get new perspectives on existing issues
- Learn what’s happening around town
- Arrange introductions to people other members of the group already know
There are numerous ways to use Advisory Boards to create new business relationships and your fellow participants become your best advocates and provide testimonials when you need them. Yes! I’m talking about the video testimonials you will have on your website. You might even make them using Skype.
The power of the written word goes on. The only thing that might be missing is paper. Being seen ’on paper’ doesn’t necessarily mean the stuff that uses trees and damages the environment. It’s the content that counts.
Here’s how you can deliver your message:
Downloadable tip sheets are a great tool to help your prospects learn more about you and your business. As with most publications, they help establish you as a leader in your field. Keep them short, concise and value adding.
Use digital paper. Save them in PDF format to be downloaded from your website.
The best way to get noticed by your peers is to publish in one of your industry magazines. But, the best way to get noticed by prospective clients is to submit an article to the magazines they read.
Be interesting! Sometimes if you have a contrarian or contentious view, all of a sudden they will have space for your article.
Then leverage it by sending a digital copy to clients and prospects and publishing it on your website.
I know they are old fashioned but you would be surprised how many get read, especially if you make them visually appealing and informative. Even the old fashioned newsletters that are sent by snail mail can be effective if they are concise and interesting – which might just be a good contrarian strategy.
White papers should offer useful information and resources. They are great for building your brand and creating awareness.
Typically used in the entertainment industry one-sheets are single sheet overviews of your business, your biography and other notable information about you. These can be added to your website to help potential customers understand what you can offer them.
If you don’t have a website you probably don’t exist to 99% of your prospective clients. If you do have a website that’s been growing cobwebs due to lack of new information and regular updates it’s almost as bad.
Your website is where you market your business online in an unobtrusive, yet very effective way.
It’s not optional.
Today’s customers are savvy. They use Google and other online search engines to find you and other service providers. Forget the Yellow Pages (it’s old news and much too overpriced).
The best way to keep it current is to blog about your areas of interest every week or two. And then you tell the world about your latest article, news or other resource using collaborative networks.
Collaborative Networks (Social Media)
Collaborative networks are how we stay in touch in the digital age. You build your online presence by linking to sites such as:
- Linkedin – the business network
- Twitter – the information network
- Facebook – the social network which is starting to growth in the business world
- YouTube – the biggest ‘how to’ and information network
- Vimeo – the professional video network
These are the most powerful allies to any business, regardless of whether you are product or service based. There are others but if you use these effectively you won’t need them.
The money is in your list. You might have heard this expression before. Building your own list is easy with an auto responder service that can be integrated into your website or blog. An auto responder can deliver pre-determined emails, newsletters, special offers and training programs.
With YouTube being arguably the biggest search engine in the world, bigger than Google and Facebook (depending on which day you look), you have no time to lose if you want to use the power of video. It’s growing in popularity because it’s a succinct way of delivering information – whether it’s a testimonial or a ’how-to’.
Short video clips break through the clutter. They also attach to emails and make great podcasts.
Making videos is simple, fast and can be done easily using the free tools on your own computer.
Audio has been overtaken by video but with the huge growth in iPods it still has a place in a marketing strategy.
The Choices You Make Now Will Affect Your Future Business
Digital marketing is here to stay. So is old style ’analogue’ marketing. Marketing your business in the digital world means understanding both and leveraging them to maximise your impact. It’s a case where
1 + 1 + 1 = 100.
Michael Harrison designs turnkey DigiTouch® marketing programs that integrate digital strategies and traditional marketing to generate leads and increase sales for professional services firms. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 0418 822 666.