Posts tagged ‘Business Development’

Are You Taking Advantage of “Special Offer” Media Opportunities, Or Are They Taking Advantage of You?

The pandemic impacts hit the U.S. business markets in mid-March 2020. Conferences and events, and the fertile business development grounds they provided, were cancelled, postponed or pivoted to online formats that were unfamiliar (at least way back in 2020) to most professionals.

“I generally speak at the Name-That-Conference for industry professionals and get a few solid new business leads out of that engagement each year…,” was the start of many a pipeline-focused conversation. But that pipeline ran dry with a highly transmissible virus attending all the same gigs.

Smart professionals and their firms turned their attention to content – and in most cases, this was what we PR-types refer to as “owned” content (the firm controls and distributes it without going through any gatekeepers, a.k.a. editors/reporters/producers). Webinars, newsletters, resource centers, blogs and even forays into the broadcast realm – in the form of podcasts and video series – proliferated.

This desire to educate, share and engage with potential clients in new ways was music to many in-house professional services marketers’ ears – and in the absence of third-party engagements, focusing on firm-produced media channels seemed the perfect pivot. But there is a dark side.

With the launch of these owned media channels, particularly podcasts and “online magazines,” there’s an emerging new category of “media” out there, and it appears to be confusing even the best and the brightest – somewhat intentionally.

Using recently encountered real-world examples, allow me to describe three different wrinkles on this media trend that should raise questions for communicators, marketers and business developers:

  • Example A: An A/E/C industry-focused “online magazine” with a well-targeted title and corresponding URL is “honoring” firms with various self-selected awards (think “top interior designer” or “best plumbing contractor.”)
  • Example B: A podcast has emerged in the IT space with a flattering name, online presentation and a cool-enough concept: the episodes profile the cream of the IT crop and discuss issues of interest to the top players in the space.
  • Example C: A family of podcasts in the legal industry, managed by a single producer, targets lawyers, identifies the podcasts within the family of managed productions that align with the lawyers’ expertise, and lines them up to participate.

Here’s the “owned” media catch: there is another brand behind each of these media channels.

  • In Example A, an A/E/C software developer produces the online magazine – and pushes pop-ups and other company promotion to viewers. (We had to dig in a bit to get to this as it is not overtly disclosed.)
  • In the case of Example B, the IT podcast is obviously and proudly branded by a service provider. We’ll discuss why this can be a red flag below.
  • In the legal podcasts described in Example C, while not obviously branded as law firm or legal tech productions, each is sponsored by and aligned with a specific legal brand.    

Companies create these owned channels for fairly transparent reasons:

  • Access to potential clients (whether their ultimate target is your firm or your firm’s clients).
  • Desirable audience overlap between their brand and the goodwill brought by your firm/professionals (and keep in mind these channels include “subscribe” and “follow” buttons – as well as active chatbots in some cases).
  • A halo effect that your firm brand can bring – providing them credentialing implied by your participation (and, therefore, approval) of their channel.
  • “Shared” media cross promotion on social channels as you help to amplify your participation.
  • Real estate on your website when you post your participation on your domain of authority.
  • SEO fodder.

And that leads us straight to the questions these “opportunities” should raise. Before you jump in wholeheartedly, ask yourself:

  • Is it wise to align our firm brand with this brand? Do we know the sponsoring outfit and its reputation with our own audiences – including clients, prospects, referral sources and the industry generally?
  • Do we want to provide our “implied approval” of this vendor and/or their product(s)?
  • Might our involvement or participation signal an “allegiance” – however tangential – that could be misconstrued by others in the space?
  • Is the sponsoring brand’s audience desirable to our business development goals?
  • Is the production value reflective of our firm’s standards?
  • Is the “sales” approach acceptable to us and our connections? (For example, will the channel spam our clients if they follow or register?)

Beyond these questions, as you evaluate these opportunities compared to traditional media outlets, consider that:

  • There are no audited circulation or subscriber numbers, so the audience noted may or may not be as advertised. Even if the numbers are there, they may or may not represent a large extended family of the producer, rather than solid targets for your business development efforts.
  • The traditional ethical canons associated with the fourth estate, don’t apply. There is no semblance of editorial independence here – so the rules of balanced reporting, separation of editorial and paid content, and protocols for handling correction requests may not be applied.

Now please don’t get me wrong, there are some seriously impressive owned media channels out there. It has long been a goal to land a client in the Costco Connection or to have the cult-like following of a channel like the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer. My only caution is to do the work to identify the sponsor of the media channel before replying to the come-on, granting interviews, posting accolades on the firm website or sharing the content with your entire LinkedIn network. Otherwise, you could very well end up doing someone else’s marketing while undoing your own.

Traci Stuart

September 20, 2021 at 4:10 pm Leave a comment

Appearance Is a Little Thing That Can Make a Big Difference

Every professional services company is looking for differentiators – things, large or small, that will provide an advantage in attracting and retaining business. As seemingly banal and inconsequential as it may seem at first glance, appearance matters. Enter the ever-behooded CEO of Facebook Marc Zuckerberg. Yesterday, a picture of his meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev was in wide circulation. As you can see, he bothered to put a suit on. You can also see that he didn’t bother to button his top button for a photo with a world leader.

For this, I am emphatically pressing the dislike button.

Zuckerberg’s carelessness and indifference are part of a spectrum of wardrobe malfunctions I have witnessed. For example, I have seen ruffled trousers, suits that needed to be pressed, stained shirts and – in perhaps the true nadir – a suit accented with a tie composed of smiley faces. Nothing screams, “I am a competent professional!” more than that.

Professional services are not the easiest product to sell. (Yes, as loathsome as that word is, there is still selling going on.) Unlike consumer products, decision makers regarding these services often look at a chart that looks like this:

Company A Company B
Highly Qualified Professionals Highly Qualified Professionals
Strong Reputation in the Business Community Strong Reputation in the Business Community

If we assume that pricing for each firm is nearly identical as well, the decision maker may extend the comparison from these macro traits to micro ones:

Company A Company B
Highly Qualified Professionals Highly Qualified Professionals
Strong Reputation in the Business Community Strong Reputation in the Business Community
Favorable First Impression at Face-to-Face Meeting – Came across as professional (in manners and dress); Projected confidence. So-So First Impression at Face-to-Face Meeting – Understood subject matter, but seemed underdressed; Projected a casualness that does not align with serious nature of this business.

The thoughts expressed in the third row may be either conscious or subconscious, but they do happen, and they truly underscore the need to be in-point and prepared in appearance. There is simply too much at stake.

Button your top button Zuckerberg!

— Michael Bond

October 3, 2012 at 5:20 pm Leave a comment

Creating Value – Lessons Learned from a Summer of Craigslistist

As the parent of three boys, my household has accumulated a lot of STUFF! As such, at the beginning of the summer, I made it my project to de-clutter the house through the use of Craigslist.

In doing so, I picked up a number of valuable marketing reminders that will help with my fall project (more de-cluttering), and these nuggets are not just limited to my household, they apply to professional service firms, as well.

Value

  • No matter the cost, value needs to be perceived. Customers on Craigslist aren’t shopping for deals or making impulse buys, they are investing time and resources to find a product they need. In a similar fashion, clients are reaching out to your firm based on the value you offer. It is important that firms reinforce this through their marketing efforts and all communication channels, which bring us to the next point . . .

Presentation

  • Value is perceived based on how your firm is presented. If I post a photo of the item I’m selling on Craigslist, potential customers can see the value first-hand. Printed materials, websites, social media, e-mails, etc. – they all need to present your firm’s value proposition. Imagine a website for an architectural firm without renderings, or a law firm’s RFP without any mention of the attorney’s expertise. The result would be potential clients  going to competitor that has actually demonstrated value.

Competitive Analysis

  • I once posted an item that cost quite a bit more than three others were offering. My bad! I didn’t research the going price on Craigslist, and in turn, my item didn’t sell. Professional firms are no different than any other business. You need to keep an eye on your competition and what they are offering. Doing so can reinforce your efforts to create value or inspire new methods of attracting and retaining clients.

Timely Response

  • We live in an era of immediate gratification. This was reinforced when I took a day or two to respond to questions about my posted items. By the time I returned the correspondence, the potential customer had already moved on to someone else or another product. The same is true for clients. It’s highly likely your professional firm has built its value on client service. This needs to be supported by timely responses to inquiries. If not, the client may find solutions elsewhere.

Communication

  • In completing my summer project, I was constantly amazed by the number of people that responded to my post with a message requesting a call. It’s the Internet, shouldn’t all communication be electronic? I quickly came to realize that my potential customers were not luddites and instead only wanted to know who they were purchasing from. It was part of their perceived value – you don’t want to buy something from someone you don’t like. In the same vein, professional service firms need to maintain regular communication to not only build value but to create a relationship.

While my summer project is over, the lessons learned serve as good reminders. As we interact with those looking to purchase an item from Craigslist or attract a new client, we need to remember the importance of value. And speaking of value, if you are looking for some gently use children items, find me on Craigslist.

–          Chuck Brown

 

September 14, 2012 at 6:20 pm 1 comment

What’s Going on in your Patch?

There has lot of grumbling about the imminent demise of newspapers.  You can scope out all the latest casualties here

On the flipside, there are many exciting developments that suggest news reporting in new and different forms is here to stay.

At the community level, Patch is one of the more interesting and innovative developments.

Patch is giving voice to underserved, but significant (15 – 100K population), suburban markets that are generally overlooked by the major metro dailies (that it, if the market still is one).  They’re doing it online, encouraging active community participation and giving back through their “Give 5” program.

Cheers to the talented team of publishers, editors and reporters who saw fit to evolve and innovate.  And another shout out to the local, on-the-ground teams across the country charged with starting up their community Patch sites.

But this is a business-to-business blog, so why should professional services providers care about these hyper-local, community-centric online publications?  Because this is the future of news and information delivery. 

Pick a city and check out the “Who’s who” profiles.  This is an opportunity to let the Little League parents know that, despite your fanatical screams for the Pony Padres every Saturday, all week you’re a mild-mannered expert in interstate taxation issues.  Are you a green architect who wants to showcase your services and work with like-minded folks with the potential to refer business your way?  Check out the volunteer opportunities to steer local school and library greening programs. 

In recent weeks, my office has had reason to coordinate with two different Patch editions.  In both instances, there were fatal accidents in the local area, and attorneys were working to find witnesses to help sort out what actually occurred.  The Wall Street Journal just isn’t very effective for this purpose.  Of course, there are highly targeted advertising opportunities to be had, as well.  Patch is an easily accessible information resource unlike any the majority of smaller communities has ever known.

Remember, every media outlet – from CNN to The Recorder to the El Cerrito Patch to your personal Facebook page (yes, it counts) – appeals to a different audience and speaks to that audience in a different voice and style.  So beware of thinking the neighborly tone of your local Patch allows for less-than-professional participation. Working with media remains all about awareness of the differences in these communication tools and delivering appropriate messages in a manner that is going to resonate and reflect well on you and your affiliated organizations. 

–          Traci Stuart

January 28, 2011 at 10:25 pm 2 comments

Evolving from Yellow Pages to SEO

If you have good content, how do you “optimize” it for search engines? First, start with the end in mind. What terms might a client search for? Have you woven these into the content? Then consider your client base.

Continue Reading December 20, 2010 at 7:04 pm 1 comment

Twitter Influence on In-House Counsel Growing

As older attorneys retire, it’s predicted that Twitter’s influence could increase substantially in the coming years

Continue Reading October 14, 2010 at 10:18 pm 5 comments

I CAN Develop Business

I CAN is an acronym for the essential components needed to maximize the impact of business development plans: Integration, Communication, Accountability and Notability.

Continue Reading March 5, 2010 at 7:12 pm Leave a comment


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