The power of social media in marketing professional services firms.

social-media-peopleSeveral months ago I was meeting with a professional service firm who admittedly needed help in marketing themselves. They were a well-established company with a long history, and their management team had many business connections which had helped fuel the firm’s historical growth.  However, in today’s more difficult business enviornment their business had slowed. They wanted to know how to accelerate their growth, no small task today.

I asked the obvious questions about who they were targeting (not a sharp answer), what was their point of difference (vague response),  how they solicited business now (answer: haphazardly), what database manager they used for their prospect database (answer: none), and if they were they planning on updating their staid web site that looks 10 years old into something more interactive and contemporary (yes they would like to, said they). They were good people with good skills in their industry but  they were clearly at the starting gate in developing a marketing program.

I also asked about how they used social media in their marketing efforts to date (I knew the answer), but you’d have thought I was speaking a foreign language. “We just want to make some calls and get some meetings”, said they. “We really don’t need that social media stuff. That’s not for us.”

I demonstrated specifically how their competitors were smartly using LinkedIn to build their personal connections, and how they used Twitter, and also a Facebook fan page to position themselves as a thought leaders, build web traffic and, no doubt, leads. I think they were intimidated by the idea of social media, and wrongfully assumed that social media is a superficial tool with no business relevance. They couldn’t have been more mistaken.

While the firm might be good in their craft, it was clear to me they were incredibly slow to understand and appreciate the power of marketing in general and social media in particular, which is probably an indicator of being very slow to adapt to a changing business world. They were much more comfortable with an old fashioned (and decreasingly effective) program of cold call “dialing for dollars”. Truth of the matter, I was a telephone call advocate years ago, and still believe in the power of conversation. But since 90% of calls end in voice mail, it has become the ultimate “gatekeeper”, making phone solicitation far more difficult.

What can a strategic social media program as part of on integrated marketing effort do for a professional service firm? Not much other than:

1. Build awareness among prospects

2. Build web traffic

3. Position the firm as an industry leader

4. Generate sales

Social media should be an integral part of an overall marketing program, not an end in itself. A marketing program starts with a strategies and objectives. But when you get down to smart tactics, if you’re a professional service firm and you think social media is just for “kids”, I strongly recommend you step back and think about how the world has changed and how new tools can be an asset for the future. You’ll be glad you did.

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