Every lawyer, accountant, and consultant is looking to save time doing business development. What many professionals don’t know, however, is that they can do just that by building their online footprint. Actually finding and making the time to grow their own client portfolio is one of the biggest challenges for potential partners and that’s partly because they don’t use online methods. It may take time to grow your online presence but here are 5 reasons why doing so can help you sign up the right types of clients quicker.
1.) Helps you get introductions from your network
One of my ex-clients rang me recently, asking if I could help his son with introductions to possible employers. I agreed readily – after all, I will always help out my clients, past, present or future. Although his son was keen and eager to find his first role as an accountant, he didn’t have an online footprint. No LinkedIn profile, blog, published article or anything that I could point to when introducing him as evidence of his credibility.
Now, this was a very junior professional looking for his first job, so understandably he may not have a published article. If he was blogging about what he was learning or using Twitter to build his network or LinkedIn to ‘show his best professional side’, it would have made any introductions much more likely to have a positive result.
On the other end of the scale is one of my new clients – an established long-standing partner in a regional accountancy practice – and he is working with me to develop his online footprint. Not because he believes that it will quickly turn on a tap of referrals and new business, but because he knows it will help him shorten the business development process and help him get his foot in the door more often.
Long story short, if you grow your online profile and build your online presence, potential clients will immediately see you as professional and credible and will be far more likely to engage with you.
(If you would like some FREE templates to help you build a great LinkedIn professional headline and summary, see here).
2.) Helps to differentiate yourself
I was idly looking over AccountingWeb today when I saw someone blogging on a very similar niche subject to myself. Shock horror – how dare they? (Joke!) So, I tracked them back to their website and had a very good nose around.
When I looked around my competitor’s new website, I was comforted. I knew that the consistency of my online content which I regularly provide (combined with easily navigable quality content), reinforced my credibility as I wasn’t trying to be all things to all people.
If you are trying to claim multiple specialities or sector expertise in your online footprint, this starts to dilute your credibility. While you may be constrained by your firm’s website and marketing protocols, what quality consistent content have you got which you are freely providing to help bring your prospects back time and time again? By producing regular and useful content, you are ensuring that you stay front of mind when prospects are ready to buy so that they ring you first.
3.) Helps you to get the foot in the door and keep it in the door
One of my former clients was doing incredibly well and had nearly achieved her annual objectives after only 3 months of doing the programme. Not only that, but she was also recently given a referral to a prospect for a large piece of work (Woohoo!). Although both great successes, this is where her business development process hit a slight hitch as her prospect asked her for her website address to see more of what she did. Cue the need to re-prioritise the re-building of her website – doh!
Similarly, another of my former clients started to work with me when she was denied the chance to tender for a piece of work for an existing client. Why? She didn’t have a website, which ruled her out of applying for the tender process. Big businesses, who use tendering as a way of picking suppliers, will want to see a website and use it to check out your credibility.
If you make an effort to grow your online presence, it will grow with you ensuring that you can point existing clients and new potential clients to your website and social profiles immediately. Not only does this keep a foot in the door with existing clients, but having all your ducks in a row means you’re more likely to win new clients too.
4.) Helps the phone ring without you having to chase down every opportunity
The point in the buying process where prospects make themselves known has changed in the last five years. Previously, prospects would announce themselves earlier and use the first contact with you to evaluate your competence before proceeding to a proposal. Now, with the advent of all the content and knowledge freely available to prospects, they do a large proportion of their research before they call you. This means that when they do call you, they have a good idea that they probably want to buy from you.
To put this into context, let me tell you about how fortunate I was to win a large contract to provide business networking training in Ireland. The work was put out to tender and my tender was successful without me having to do a beauty parade. I strongly believe that I wasn’t asked to go over to Ireland to do a beauty parade because they checked out my credibility by looking me up online. This combined with a strong tender submission meant I got the contract without having to physically present to the client.
What have you got in your online footprint which allows your prospects to evaluate your credibility?
If you take the time to build your online presence, it is always there in the background, hopefully generating organic leads for you (if you’ve done it right). In fact, you can take this one step further. You can use the content you provide to educate your prospects about what they can expect from you, and what work they can do to shorten the business development cycle with you. For example, can you provide them with a document (e.g. if you are an accountant on ‘how to change your accountant’), which shows them the information they will need to provide to their new supplier and the questions they will be asked in the process?
5.) Allows you to attract the kind of clients you want
I was recently speaking with an ex-client of mine, who I’d helped with his social media strategy. As part of the work I did with this client, I helped him integrate his social media activity with his overall business development strategy. As a result of our work, he devised a content plan for his social media which focused on the problems which he provided solutions to (the type of problems which he knew prompted his clients to pick up the phone to him).
Due to focusing on his social-media-content-plan, he had almost completely eliminated the wrong types of leads (i.e. the ones which take time to qualify and never go anywhere). Now, he is generating a significant amount of leads from each new blog post, leads which generally turn into good business for him.
I have seen countless professionals, such as accountants, consultants and lawyers, trying to be all things to all people. You know the type, the ones where their LinkedIn profile says things like this:
“I work with entrepreneurs, professional practices, start-ups and SMEs”
Is there anyone this person doesn’t work with? All this does with your online footprint is reduce the effectiveness of your marketing, meaning the leads you do produce are often the wrong type and waste your time to qualify and progress them through the sales process.
Start winning the right clients quicker!
You may not want to work to build your online presence or grow your online profile, but if you want to save time on your business development, this is a great way to do just that! Any investment you make in your online footprint can help the phone ring more as you differentiate yourself from your competitors, so use these 5 ways now to grow your online presence!