The professional services industry has traditionally relied on referrals to fuel business growth. Trust and good relationships are created and built upon through hours of networking and recommendations from current clients. However, while word-of-mouth is still an effective tool, it is no longer enough on its own.
With 64% of the UK’s population of over 65 million active on social media spending an average of 108 minutes a day on one or more social networks, you can’t ignore social as an essential way to connect with people and businesses (Keith Herrington).
But, get social wrong, and it can cause more damage than good to your reputation and your business. Your strategy for social needs to cascade down from smart goals set out in your professional services marketing strategy. Here are some tips to maximise the potential of LinkedIn for your professional services firm:
Build an Audience
Attending network events in person can only get you so far. You are bound by factors such as time, geography and logistics. While this traditional style of networking is still very valuable, it is what happens between events that will make you stand out from the crowd. Follow up with everyone you meet at an event, or even don’t get to meet (despite your best efforts, you can’t possibly speak to everyone, right?) by searching for them on LinkedIn. Look to get a touchpoint within a day of the event while it is still fresh in their minds. Listen in for signs of the person reciprocating - maybe a profile view or a like on one of your posts - and act accordingly. When sending connection requests on LinkedIn always include a personal message explaining your reason for reaching out. Make sure it is relevant, helpful and adds value to the person receiving it. This is not the time to sell your services.
Research shows that 59.9% of professional services buyers now consult social media before making their buying decision. 70% of them use LinkedIn. Conversely, only 8% use Twitter and even fewer (26%) use Facebook, Google+, YouTube and all the others combined.
Using LinkedIn, look to get touchpoints with the people you met at the networking event, but also look for other connections within the same organisation who could also be a potential decision maker or influencer. This Account-Based Marketing approach is highly effective for professional services firms. Once you’ve connected with one person in a company, their colleagues are more likely to accept your connection request too. It is very rare in any business that a single person is making decisions about service providers, so having multiple touchpoints brings you to the front of mind of all key stakeholders – not just the person you met over coffee that morning.
It is also possible to upload your existing contacts database to Sales navigator, and platforms such as HubSpot integrate seamlessly, enabling you to gain valuable insights from LinkedIn right within your HubSpot contact and company profiles.
Now you have the attention of your prospects you need to build trust and authority with them to show you are market experts and draw attention to your business.
Look for opportunities to participate in discussions and offer practical tips and advice where possible. Always be helping, not selling. Search for trends in discussion topics, if the same questions keep coming up consider writing an article specifically for LinkedIn which answers them.
When publishing directly on LinkedIn your original content becomes part of your professional profile, and it is displayed on the Articles section of your LinkedIn profile, which in turn builds authority. It is also shared with your connections and followers in their news feeds, and sometimes through notifications. LinkedIn members that aren't in your current network can follow you from your article, and finally, dependent on your profile settings, your article may be searchable both on and off LinkedIn (LinkedIn Help).
Positioning yourself as an expert in LinkedIn Groups allows to leverage opportunities, build a reputation and gain new contacts and referrals. But, in a crowded marketplace, you need to go the extra mile. Consider shooting some videos where you talk through specific client problems and post them on YouTube. YouTube integrates seamlessly with LinkedIn meaning your videos will play inline in people’s feed. You don’t need fancy equipment or even a studio to record a short clip – a smartphone is enough, just be conscious of good lighting and sound quality.
Measure the Results
As with all elements of your marketing strategy, you need to measure the effectiveness of your social strategy, check back your progress against your goals and ensure you are using your time and resources effectively. With LinkedIn, you can monitor results such as an increase in your number of personal connections, content shares and likes, and follower engagement with your company page and showcase pages. Set goals on a monthly or quarterly basis and keep a weekly scorecard. Look for any trends – what is working and what isn’t.
Other metrics to consider is how many people are visiting your website from LinkedIn. This may show up as referral traffic in your CRM or on Google Analytics, or on HubSpot, you can look at your sources report and filter by social media. Ultimately, your aim is for your LinkedIn referral traffic to convert into customers. For this to happen, you need clear conversion opportunities and a website which is easy to navigate and rich with useful content to keep visitor’s interest.
By building in these steps around your current networking activities, you will be growing your audience and reach consistently without having to leave the office. Social cannot replace the value of in-person networking for Professional Services Firms, but with 70% of your potential clients looking to LinkedIn to help shape their buying decisions, without an active LinkedIn Profile you risk leaving money on the table.