A variety of articles and resources
Make it personal
Networking is often found to be a scary thing. You step into a room full of people you don’t know, and I personally can’t think of anyone who truly enjoys these situations. Most people feel uncomfortable not knowing anyone and being exposed to a large (or even small) group of people. You would have to awkwardly introduce yourself and tell them what you do. You would then try to drink something or eat (even worse) and at the time you put your glass to your mouth or you had just stuck a piece of food in your face, people approach you to introduce themselves to you. Even more awkward. With your mouth full of food or drink you will have to excuse yourself for taking in some much-needed energy before you can shake hands with this stranger. Once you have done that you will probably speak about the company you work for and the work you do. You may discuss the weather and then very soon excuse yourself to go to the bathroom whereas you’d just feel too uncomfortable to continue the conversation and you just want to leave and have another bite to eat or have another drink. Fair enough. Networking seems exhausting especially after a long and intense day at work, you’d really have to reenergise yourself to get into the networking mode and be friendly to people you don’t know. I won’t give you networking tips in this blog post but the point I do want to make is that we have to keep in mind that we are introducing ourselves to people, we are in a room full of people and we are speaking to people. Not all people but most people have some empathy and will be able to have a meaningful conversation with you. And even if it is superficial and not meaningful, still people can be very nice and will listen. It is OK to share with them that you had to rush from work to the event and that you’d rather watch Netflix on the sofa but that you thought you’d learn something from the event so did make an effort to show up. You can be honest about the fact that you find it rather awkward and random to introduce yourself to people you don’t know. Think about it in this way, especially if you are so uncomfortable, you actually found yourself a topic for a conversation and you are genuine: win-win! If you ask yourself the question if you would rather speak to someone who is over the top and trying to be someone they are not or if you would rather listen to someone who would openly share with you that they had a bad day, which one would you chose? I surely would go for the latter although I don’t generally like people who complain, at least they are honest and genuine. Another thing you have to keep in mind is that these people have families, they have a mother and father, brother or sister. They may be a mother or father themselves and like to spend time with their kids or they may like playing golf, horseback riding, rugby, etc. You will find something that you have in common. Perhaps it is a book that you like or a series you have just watched. Speak about it and make it a challenge for yourself to find out for everyone you ever speak to what you have in common. You will see that the commonalities could form a good basis for staying in touch or at least to find out more about who this person is. I had various discussions about the use of social media for law firms. What would be the added value of seeing firm’s posts on platforms like Instagram and Facebook. I would always challenge that and ask why it is ought to be OK for consumer brands to be front and center on these platforms but not for corporate brands? At the end of the day, we are all people, human beings, with our own personal preferences and taste and as said before we may find things that resonate with us, that attracts us. On a personal level you would use these accounts and your clients and targets are people too you know, with their own personal life and their preferences. They always have the choice if they want to see something that is more personal rather than business focused. Keeping in mind professionalism, which should always be on top of the list in your career if you’d ask me, I do believe that making things more personal like conversations with clients, communications with clients and other interactions like networking, can be much more beneficial because you create an emotional bond which is, in my views, much stronger than a highly distant relationship hardly knowing anything about the person you work with or – as with networking events – want to speak to.
More is more
I am almost certain that your BD & Marketing team have asked you to write articles or share content in other ways. Content is key, we all know that. The more you share about a specific topic, the more knowledgeable you will be seen by the audience interested in that topic and the frequency will make you stand out. Trust me it is no rocket science, but it just works! What do you share and who decides what is of relevance? Well, the author does, to some extent, but the reader does even more so! I would therefore advise you to speak to your clients and ask them what keeps them busy, what their major concerns are so that you can write about that and share your thoughts and ideas with them, like I do with you now. I am writing this because I have checked with my target audience that this interests them (and if it doesn’t feel free to comment below). As soon as you have defined your topic, make sure that your style appeals to your audience. I for example chose to keep my blogs light and airy and not too serious because what you do all day long is already very serious and I don’t want to add to the level of seriousness – if this exists, but you know what I mean. You would want to make sure that your content also appeals to your audience and please take my advice that no-one is really interested in jargon. Let’s just keep things simple. Focus on your core message and think of three things you want your audience to take away from your article. The power of three. A very powerful principle which makes you focus on three key principles as the majority of people reading your posts or listening to your presentations, will only be able to remember three things and not more. So, don’t try to overwhelm them. Having acted on interesting cases is great and something you’d probably want to scream from the rooftops because it drives you. I get that, but please make sure you write about it in a way that it actually interests other people too. Not too technical (I am sorry to say but the technical detail will bore people, believe me) what you do want to share is the juicy detail. Why was that case so difficult, has it kept the team up all night, has it changed the legislation, was it ground breaking, etc. Share with your audience why this was so complicated and difficult and that you and your team are basically superstars for resolving it. That is what people want to hear. Why do you think tabloids sell so well? Why does everyone – including you, just admit it – read the Daily Mail? That’s why! How long you’d have to go on for is another question. Less is more no longer applies. The advisable length of a blog post or article has changed over the years mainly because of the revolution of the internet and the way it is currently used. According to several blogging websites and writers’ tips, it is suggested to opt for “more is more” instead. One of the reasons being SEO – also known as Search Engine Optimisation. I won’t bore you with the technical detail (as I have just advised you not to get too technical and I for one should probably set the right example) is a methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine, including for example Google, Bing, Yahoo and others. You do want to get ranked high because it will simply be more likely for people to find your article and read it should they be looking for any of the words you have used in your article. The more you write about the topic, the more likely it will be that search engines can do their job and link different words together and find patterns in order to rank you in higher positions. So, long story short; you need a long(er) article. The advisable length of any article published on the web is around 750-1000 words for a short article and 1000-2000 words for a longer article. Don’t write anything longer than 2000 words, you may as well write a book… I appreciate that it takes some time to write an article, but if you are interested in the topic, you could probably talk about it for hours, so why not write pages about it instead? The benefits of writing and publishing your articles are hopefully obvious but here are a few to motivate you to start writing your article today: • Increase your personal profile • Increase your credibility as an expert on the topic • Good profile for the firm • SEO can link to your firm’s website as well • Get your thoughts on paper; it clears your mind • Leave your footprint on the internet, it will pay off.
The next generation
It is hard to keep count of the number of discussions I have had about whether social media is the right thing for professional services businesses. The discussions are usually merely driven by thoughts, feelings and sentiment. Not very lawyer like, which surprised me as well. But the emotions around the discussion are worthwhile sharing with you. Views that have been shared with me range from “I just don’t like it” to “social media is something very personal and nothing to do with our business”. No one ever backed their views up by profound research or finings. This is I believe where I come into play and I have always entertained the discussion asking challenging questions. I agree with some of the concerns raised around using social media for professional services but I believe that for any other business the same rule applies; you will always have to be mindful of what you publish. Professional services are generally very much focused on Business to Business (B2B) and the discussions I have had about the use of these platforms for that segment has always been around how businesses reach other businesses through these platforms. My instant response is that businesses are built by people, people are in charge of the business, people operate the social media platforms, people read the posts. We are all people speaking to people. The question is however whether you would be interested to engage with any of the B2B information on a platform like Instagram, if you expect the platform to be about bikini bodies, travel and showing luxury goods. I personally do follow companies on my Instagram because I do like to get the updates. For me it is not only a good tool to keep up with our competitors (and the majority of them are in Instagram) but also to follow the news and to follow companies that have interesting insights to share. There is a lot that we can learn from others and I believe that platforms like Instagram are a perfect tool to use to get the highlights of the things that grab our attention. Be it legal updates, some news or insights about specific industry sectors, or thought leadership: I like to see it all. I am just one person but imagine your clients will be on Instagram too and they could be interested in the platform for the same reasons, you would want to share your updates too. The conversations around LinkedIn are generally a lot easier. Everyone seems to understand why LinkedIn is important because it is seen to be a professional platform and it therefore makes sense for B2B to be very active on the platform. The only challenge I have often encountered is around the question whether LinkedIn is personal or if the company could have control over employees’ LinkedIn profiles for as long as they work with the company. I think the answer is no, but I do get why the question is asked so often. If the company demands its employees to post specific messages on LinkedIn, is that allowed or are we crossing the line here? That is a conversation for next time, but my final thing to note is, and this blog is actually really about this, hence I named this blog as such, that we should be engaging on social media because of the next generation. The next generation is actively involved on social media, they can hardly do without. They look everything up online and get their questions answered via social media. Those kids will be our clients one day. We will therefore have to speak their language and their language is online and I believe that the sooner we adjust to this, the easier it will get in the long run. I personally understand why there still is quite a lot of resistance not for one because the professional services sector, especially law firms, have always been quite secretive about their business, but also because we have never really understood the purpose of it and how it can fit into our marketing mix. Well, it definitely can and I do think we should get ready to use it!
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