Social media - pros and cons for professional services marketing

All articles | Marketing
Published May 18, 2016 | Written by Keith Errington

Professional services marketing is not immune to the broader changes transforming the marketing techniques of the current generation of marketers. In every sector, marketing has changed. Older techniques, such as advertising, direct mail, flyers and trade shows, are not producing the same results they did in the past and are proving expensive and uneconomical. And while some traditional techniques, such as business networking, are still delivering new clients, they are time-consuming and require a physical presence that limits their scope and range.

So the newer channels of digital marketing – social media, opt-in newsletters, blogging and the like – are becoming the most effective way for any business to reach new and existing clients.

But these new marketing opportunities are not without their pitfalls; social media, in particular, is a potential minefield for the professional services firm. And even some of the biggest of corporates can get it wrong.  But we know that high-growth professional services firms focus more on social media than average growth firms. So in this post, we will look at the social media pros and cons for professional services marketing.

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Social media – a waste of time, or an efficient lead-generating machine?

The number one issue with social media is the time investment required. Indeed, it is not worth participating in if you cannot commit the time to make it work. A half measure will only produce lacklustre results that will fall a long way short of justifying the time spent.

There are two ways to ameliorate this: firstly, make sure you have identified and focused your efforts on your potential clients; and secondly, manage your social media activity to ensure it is as productive as possible. Using software tools such as Hootsuite or HubSpot allow you to not only save time managing your activity, but they also provide the data to fine tune your marketing.

Getting your social media strategy right

So how do we ensure that time spent on social media is productive? By working to the right strategy. As with any form of marketing having a strategy is essential, but it is absolutely crucial in social media where the most expensive resource of all – your time – can be frittered away on unproductive and directionless activity on social media. And even worse, the wrong approach may end up alienating and driving business away. Knowing what you are going to do and why is the crux of successful social media marketing.

Talking to the right people, about the topics they are interested in

Understanding your target market (or buyer personas) is important for two reasons: you need to make sure that you are aiming all this time and effort at prospects – people who are highly likely to end up giving you business; and, perhaps more importantly, you need to be talking to them about things they are interested in – otherwise they will not give your message the time of day.

Remember it’s not about the messages you want to broadcast, it’s about the messages they want to hear. Get this right and you will not only attract prospective clients, but those people will be pre-qualified so you are not wasting your time nurturing fruitless relationships.

Do you have the skills and the empathy to make social media work?

It’s possibly no big surprise to you that great communication skills are important in the world of social. However, they are the same sets of skills that you need for successful business networking – so you may possess them already.
When you are in a room full of prospects, how you approach them, your opening line, your topic of conversation and – more than anything else – your listening skills, are all crucial in determining how successful you are at engaging your audience and getting to know them, their interests and their requirements. And all these skills are transferable to social media.

Download our "Quick Guide to Inbound Marketing for Professional Services" for more ideas on how to take the referral online.

One less obvious skill that is more important in the – often remote – world of digital communication is the ability to add the human touch. As much activity takes place online and not face-to-face, the ability to empathise with the other party and feel like a real human being is a key skill.

You are having a conversation – not presenting a paper

Following on from the previous section, it’s important that you are not too formal, but at the same time you cannot be disrespectful, or worse, patronising. Getting the balance right is a challenge. Too formal and prospects will think you cold, unwelcoming and potentially unhelpful; too casual and they may think you unprofessional, lackadaisical and liable to waste their time.

Being active and helpful on social media helps you get found too

Not only will participating successfully in social media allow you to connect directly with prospects, but it will also help you to be found. Having a presence on social media affects your search engine ranking in a positive way – a strong benefit even if your social media efforts aren’t producing spectacular results.

All things considered...

You may look at this list of pros and cons and feel intimidated or perhaps reticent to make the commitment to social media, but then you may also be under the illusion that you have a choice.

Research has shown that 17 per cent of expertise-based referrals are made because the referrer has interacted with the firm on social media, and over half of potential clients have ruled out a company before even speaking to them directly.

Poor marketing and branding, a lack of content and being inactive on social media will decimate your referral rate. But by taking the referral online, you should see a healthy level of new business and, if you excel, then you will rise above your competition and become a top-performing company.

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Published by Keith Errington May 18, 2016
Keith Errington