by Brian Hemsworth | February 10, 2012 2:14 pm
Today, professionals have to market themselves more than ever before. Barriers, whether legal, cultural, or otherwise, have been torn down. And whether professionals like it or not, their competition is doing it. Lawyers, accountants, and other professionals are all seeing erosion in their client rosters.
What can you do to attract more new clients as well as retain the clients you currently have? There are lots of ways to approach the problem, many of which involve more phone calls, more advertising, and more networking. There is one way that has proven over time to help people in many professional service industries build their practices without feeling like they have sold their souls to sales. When you are able to position yourself as an “expert,” selling comes easier and clients stay longer.
The marketing of professional services is all about perception. It really has very little to do with how good you are at your craft, and while that always puts a few off, it’s a marketing truth.
So if marketing is about perception, how do you get people to perceive you as an expert? The trick is to find a way of getting someone else to do it for you. This gives you what PR professionals refer to as “third-party endorsement.”
It’s a very simple concept: When a potential client sees someone else who recognizes you as an expert, it makes it easier and more reassuring for them to engage you for your services. Simple, right? Yes, but not always easy.
There are three ways you can jumpstart the perception that you are an expert. They take a little effort, but any one of these strategies can have a dramatic impact on new client generation.
Public speaking puts you in front of others in a way that physically and mentally places you in a position of authority. Experience has shown that even people who see themselves as awkward or uncomfortable in social situations can often be powerful speakers.
How do you use speaking as a strategic marketing tool? The first thing is to do what Nike tells us and “Just Do It.” If you’ve never spoken, you need to start. Find a Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, or networking group that would like to get a free speaker. Test the waters in terms of your speaking abilities and your subject matter. Use every speaking opportunity, big or small, as a chance to sculpt your message and hone your speaking skills.
What should you speak about? Professionals typically make one of two types of public speaking mistakes: 1) They are way too technical, or 2) They try too hard to “sell” in their speech. In order to avoid these mistakes, there are a couple of ways to create understandable content. One solution is to think of yourself on some sort of public transportation, say a bus or subway, and speak at a level that the average person will understand. Another solution is to limit your speech to three key points or less. It’s far better to connect with the audience on one thing really well than to pepper them with too many concepts that they have little chance of remembering.
On the point of selling, you don’t need to sell. Instead, give a small amount of valuable information freely. People will come back to you wanting more, and then they’ll pay you for it.
You want to be prepared for people to come up to you after the speech or presentation, and you want to be sure to have business cards and brochures handy. But even then, use them strategically. For example, don’t just shove something in their hand. Point to the website on your brochure and say something such as, “We’ve posted some information about that on our website. If you just go to myweb.com and click on ‘resources’ you’ll find it.” That personalizes it and makes the other person feel that you value their question.
Regarding business cards: A great way to get more mileage is to take a card out, then point out a direct line or extension or e-mail, and say something such as, “Feel free to call me on my direct line, and we can set up a time to go over how this might impact your estate plan.” When you make it personal, you’re not selling. You are responding to their needs and driving the conversation to the next level, a meeting.
Another aspect of public speaking is creating your own event. While this has more cost and effort involved in the planning and implementation of the event, you also get complete control over the content.
Signing on to teach or train is another excellent way to gain third-party endorsement. I teach one night class a semester at a local university, and with that I will always be able to say that I’m a member of the university’s adjunct faculty.
Teaching positions are not easy to come by, but they are available. You may choose to start small with a community college. If teaching is something you’d like to do, you can also start by contacting a university’s department head and offering your services as a guest speaker. At the university I teach at, we frequently get emails about professionals who are open to speaking in our classes.
The value of teaching, as a marketing tool, doesn’t just come from teaching in a school setting. Continuing professional education is an excellent way of gaining a training title on your CV. Teaching MCLE or CPE courses are great ways for attorneys and accountants to become involved in training. This works particularly well when you have an area of specialization.
To maximize the impact, make sure to update your website, personal one-sheet, and other marketing materials to reflect your teaching experience. It is good to add a line about teaching or training even in the shortest of bios.
As mentioned in the discussion on public speaking, you can also create your own training or seminars. One variation on this theme is to create a Webinar. Using a third-party service, you can create Webinars where you teach or train on a topic of your choosing. The best part: Unlike seminars in person, if no one shows up, it’s no big deal. In fact, I know people that have created and recorded Webinars and posted them just to gain credibility as a trainer, not to charge money or try to get clients.
The third strategy of positioning yourself as an expert is to do it through writing and publishing. When you author an article or a book, it places you in the public eye as someone recognized for his or her knowledge, skill or talent. The subconscious thinking is that an editor hired this person to write for his or her knowledge and skill, and therefore must be good.
Book publishing takes time, but can pay dividends in business generation for years. On the other hand, articles take far less time, but can have a similar impact. An article can shine a light on a problem common to your clientele, offer insight into remedying the problem, and give them cause to contact you for more information.
Once articles are published, they can be reprinted, copied, posted on websites, and sent out as PDFs. Marketing people call these “DOKs” or “Displays Of Knowledge,” and they work very well with both new and existing clients. While some articles are very timely, others have an “evergreen” quality, and can last a long time.
Publishing does come with challenges, which include topic selection, finding the time to write, editing, finding publishers, and promoting your articles after publication. But getting published is one of the most effective ways to gain standing and stature as an expert in your field.
When writing in professional journals, one needs to be very careful with writing, source citation, and resisting the hesitation to “practice” your craft in writing. When writing for consumer publications, the concern is typically more about being interesting and discussing “hot topics.” Likewise, articles for consumers tend to be less technical, and often designed by editors as providing more general information.
Once you’ve begun teaching, speaking, writing, or some combination of activities, you will want to begin promoting what you’ve done. Some recommended ways include updating website bios, placing notices in calendar sections, linking to website articles, and having copies or reprints readily available.
A great technique to get more marketing mileage is to make copies of articles or summaries of speeches and put them in a mailing to existing clients. It’s best done with a personal note that says something along the lines of, “Hey, I recently wrote this piece for a magazine, and thought you might find interest in it.” I have seen a mailing of articles generate thousands of dollars in billings. And what’s really nice is that mailing articles often triggers clients to call about something else. Even if you don’t think they need the article for their situation, it may stimulate some conversation that will result in work for you.
Our firm has seen a significant increase in professional service marketing over the past five years. Professionals who never did anything other than a holiday card and an occasional client lunch are now faced with changing websites, creating promotional materials, and finding new ways of getting (or keeping) clients.
By positioning yourself as an expert in your field, you can begin to rise above the clutter. You may find that you don’t have to market as much, as often, or expensively, and that your marketing efforts are more focused toward the kind of clients you really want to approach. •
A great read on the topic is Own the Room: Business Presentations that Persuade, Engage, and Get Results, a book by communications consultants and business advisors Deborah Shames and David Booth. The book combines their years of expertise at their firm Eloqui, where they work with professionals, CEOs, and others on being more effective in speaking, presenting, and persuasion through verbal communication. Find the book at leading bookstores or online at Amazon.com or Barnesandnoble.com. For more information on the book, the authors, or their consulting practice, visit www.eloqui.biz.
GoToWebinar is the Webinar arm of GoToMeeting, the online meeting service. GoToWebinar is an easy-to-use Webinar service that lets you conduct very professional Webinars. It has great features like guest registration, custom branding, recording, and even a question and answer feature for your attendees. Best of all, you can try it absolutely free for 30 days to see if it will work for you. For more information visit www.gotomeeting.com/fec/webinar.
Want to write an article or book? Do you want help promoting something you’ve already created, such as an article, book, Webinar, or seminar? NGI Publishing Services at Newman Grace Inc. can help you manage your message across the entire spectrum of your marketing and media universe. Together with its sister company, Newman Grace Inc., the team creates traditional marketing and social media campaigns for law firms, accounting firms, financial professionals, consultants, and business professionals. While NGI Publishing Services creates publications and publication support, Newman Grace’s services include the creation of promotional materials, website, and Facebook and Twitter campaigns. For more information, visit the websites at www.ngipublishing.com and www.newmangrace.com. •
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