The theme of this year’s well attended 6th Annual Social Media Camp (#SMCamp) was integrating social media into your marketing tool kit. SMC Co-founders Paul Holmes, Chris Burdge and Sean Smith are to be commended for putting together a knowledgeable and engaging group of presenters. Thank you!
I’m suffering (in a good way) from information overload consisting of tips and sage advice dispensed with generosity and good humour. Brand strategist Marc Stoiber knows how to tell a great story and does a most excellent seagull impersonation, King of the Ugly Christmas Sweater, Bosco Anthony, really is kind of #epic, and in a cage match between Steve Dotto and his standing (sitting, no standing) desk I’m pretty sure Steve would win or make a damn fine webinar out of the spectacle. These were just a few of the excellent presentations I was able to attend. Not the least of which was Neal Schaffer’s (http://maximizeyoursocial.com/social-media-speaker-neal-schaffer/ ) concluding keynote address on social media strategy, which made my head explode (mission accomplished Neal). I would have attended them all if I had a clone or three.*
To say that I’m overwhelmed with sorting through all of the information and how to turn it into action items for our clients is an understatement. So, I’m going to recap the themes that ran through many of the presentations day-by-day and sprinkle in some useful tidbits of information for you to think about. Admittedly, this is a bit of a brain dump so if you have questions about any of this you are welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with “SMC2015 Takeaways” in the subject line and if I can’t answer your question I’ll try to connect you with someone who can.
Social media: Do ALL the things?
Short answer, not necessarily. Social media can be overwhelming. There is a vast amount of information out there with no filters and it’s growing every day. Not only that, it’s changing just as fast. When it comes to digital it’s helpful to have an interpreter. Someone who can help you to develop a plan that complements your business strategy and identify and harness the tools that best complement that strategy. This plan might mean using all the readily available social media bells and whistles e.g., LinkedIn, Facebook (yes Facebook), Twitter, Google+, YouTube, blogs and even the new digital version of the Yellow Pages. However, it might also mean using only those tools that are intuitive to you and that will reach your audience where THEY are congregating online. Bottom line: you do NOT have to do ALL the things to be successful in social. I bet that’s a relief.
Social media is NOT about selling. It IS about building relationships
One consistent theme throughout the conference was that social media is not about selling. That’s right, it’s not about finding all the possible ways to launch your sales pitch into cyberspace. It is a way to complement and build relationships with the intention of creating mutually beneficial engagement down the line. Sometimes the mutual part of it doesn’t come into play until later and that’s ok. The efforts you make, if aligned with your brand awareness strategy, will not be wasted. The goal is to position yourself so that when people do need your services your firm is top of mind. When a problem or opportunity arises the extent of your brand awareness comes into play.
It’s like every other part of life. You have to give to get. Further, it’s worth bearing in mind that people are more likely to purchase services (and things) from people they know, trust and like. The nugget there is that in order for people to know you, you need to find a way to introduce yourself and keep yourself on the radar. That’s where social can be useful.
So you want new client relationships. How do you get them?
In the land of marketing where tactics abound it’s hard to know where to start. Aside from confirming your business strategy which means setting goals, expectations and what constitutes success, I think there are two preliminary steps you should consider. First, get your story straight. Second, appreciate that the most effective marketing is actually about your clients, not you. You need to “give to get” particularly where social media is the medium.
What’s your story? Or What would Marc Stoiber do?
On day 1 veteran brand strategist Marc Stoiber gave an excellent keynote address entitled “Fire! Ready! Aim!” during which he made a convincing case for the proposition that for your brand to be memorable and resonate on social media (and elsewhere) you need to spend the time and effort necessary to get your story straight. So BEFORE you blog, Tweet, or post to LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+… stop, pause and think about your story.
Your story should make it abundantly clear how you think, feel and what your priorities are. It is a mistake to underestimate the power of stories in building your brand as a law firm. For one thing a good back story is a sure fire way to differentiate yourself from competitors who may be equally qualified and competing for the same group of clients. Go back to the “know, trust, like” formula and consider what’s more memorable as an introduction; a good story or a list of practice areas? Hopefully, you get the point.
Marc Stoiber believes that great brands are built on the basis of great stories, not social media. So why bother with social media? Well, among other things, social media is a tool to get your story told and shared. It’s shiny and exciting and has the potential to give you incredible reach. But, I would hasten to add, it is not a replacement for developing the story itself. To do that you need take time to think, find inspiration and reflect on what your story is.
Brands and stories go together like peanut butter and jam
Your brand is what people think about when they think about you or your firm. You can’t control what people think but you can have a positive influence on that process. Stories can have a beneficial impact in this context if they are interesting and clearly communicated. The gist is that you want people to share their stories about you with their own networks. You have a better chance of seeing that happen if your own story is clearly defined and interesting.
Good story telling is hard. But not impossible
So, now you may be thinking “Ok I need to figure out my story to differentiate myself and give people something positive to talk about. But how do I do it?” You need to go beyond the clichés that proliferate the legal marketing world. Yes, you care about your clients. Yes, you are committed to good service. Yes, you are experienced and responsive. I have yet to meet a lawyer who isn’t. But what is it about you that makes you different and why should a client hire you over a competitor? You can help answer these two questions with a good back story.
Still not sure where to start? That’s understandable. It’s not a cake walk to put together a good story. Marc was kind enough to share the three step process that he uses with his clients to get at their stories and it goes like this:
Listen to what people already think about you
This requires gathering feedback both internally and externally. Your reputation and what makes you appealing to clients may not be what you think it is. The only way you will know for sure is to listen to what people tell you when you ask them for their candid opinions. To get at the essence of your story means canvassing your firm to find out what they think your story is and canvassing clients to get their perspective. Internal input shouldn’t be a big ask. The client side of the equation means finding ways and making the effort to ask for feedback on their experiences with you AND listening to what you get whether it’s good, bad or ugly. For many this is hard to do but it’s a worthwhile exercise. Do your research and the stories will start to emerge.
If you are having trouble thinking of questions to illicit feedback on the internal side try asking your colleagues what motivated them to become lawyers in the first place and what they find most satisfying about their practices. Be sure to include your frontline staff in this process especially anyone who has direct client contact. They are the likely the first ones to receive client feedback (positive and negative) and their insight can be revealing. The other reason for doing so is that your employees also talk about your firm with their networks. Further, acknowledging the important role they play shows them the respect they deserve for helping you run a successful business.
Just to clarify, on the client side gathering feedback should not be limited to collecting testimonials. Yes, those can be useful but the exercise is more than that. It’s about really getting at the value of the relationship to your client. At the end of the day if you are going to position yourself to appeal to clients it is all about them.
Side note: don’t be afraid of negative feedback. It may be hard to hear but remember that the only way you can improve is if you know where you are falling short.
As lawyers you are trained to think. The other advantage you have is that you are trained to organize and collate vast amounts of information. Apply that same discipline to what you are hearing about your firm internally and from your clients. The objective is to identify what common themes emerge. Those common themes form the essence of your story and your brand.
Once you’ve gathered your common themes weave them together and try them out on people (clients, friends, colleagues, employees) to see if they resonate. You’ll know you are on the right track if you tell your story and the listener is nodding and engaging…if they are nodding off you’ve gone off the rails. Don’t give up. Try again until you get it right. If you can’t get it right on your own then consider hiring a facilitator to help you.
Why getting your story right matters to your bottom line
Your current clients are also your brand ambassadors. What they think and say about you counts with their friends, relatives, colleagues and extended networks more than what you push out via social media. Why? They (not you) are the trusted voice of authority among their own networks. If you are one of the many who believe that word of mouth referrals are the holy grail, this should be sufficient motivation to make sure the story being told about you is accurate and on brand. The idea is to harness the power of the people who already know, trust and like you to tell your story and add their own spin to amplify your message.
One statistic that came up in a number of different presentations comes from a study done by the Corporate Executive Board which indicated that over 57% of purchasing decisions are made before first contact with a supplier is initiated. While the study is American and focused on B2B I think it is equally applicable to the Canadian context and indicative of consumer behaviour in general. Lawyers do a job that has a direct impact on people’s lives. Given what is at stake, it stands to reason that people are going to research you, your firm or your business using the Internet, including social media, to find out about you, what you have to offer and whether you are the right fit for what they are trying to achieve. Moreover, you can bet that even if a prospective client has been referred by a network contact they are still going to check you out online. Either way, your story and the story people are telling about you can make or break your chances of that first contact. No first contact, no new file. You get the picture.
Interested in getting to work on developing and strengthening your story? We can help you do that. Give us a call or send us an email and let’s have a conversation.
If you want to learn more about Marc’s perspective on marketing lucky for you he’s written a new book just in time for summer reading. Check out Didn’t See it Coming
*Coming up: Takeaways based on John Jantsch’s presentation on putting integrated marketing in context in the age of social, Laurel Lindsay’s tips on marketing yourself on social media in 17 minutes a day, security in Social Media (no more geo tags for me thank you very much), social listening and crisis management tactics, measuring ROI and what that means and so much more. I’m only sorry I could not “attend ALL the things” – hat tip to the hilarious Allie Brosh of Hyperbole and Half.