If your business is a highly relationship-driven business, such as a professional service firm, you may still be wondering what role social media plays in building your business. Everyone seems to be singing its praises, but few can articulate how it will benefit your business and how it will positively impact your bottom line. Relationship-driven businesses, where there are significant financial and reputational risks, rely on trusted business relationships to deliver services or products. Every day, you are developing and nurturing relationships with existing clients, referrers, influencers, and prospects. So, how can social media help you do this?
The first key to unlocking the power of social media is choosing the right platform to reach your ideal clients. LinkedIn is an obvious one for business-to-business (B2B), but typically only for clients in industries who see the value in networking online. LinkedIn is vital for building relationships with referrers and influencers and for those ideal clients that are ‘hanging out’ on LinkedIn. If your ideal clients are in other industries that don’t really engage with LinkedIn, other social media platforms may be more valuable. A large number of ideal clients may use Facebook for personal social networking, so don’t discount it as a business channel. With the right content, you can use it to drive traffic to your website where the target audience can engage further with your content. Your ideal clients may use Instagram, which is a much more visual platform, so you may need to develop campaigns designed for their preferred social medium.
You need to have a strategic social media plan, which includes a content management plan, to identify the areas of service you want to be known for and, therefore, found online for. These would normally correspond to your practice development areas, already identified in your overall marketing plan.
Here are some of the ways you can use social media for marketing and business development:
- Raising Your Profile. Whether it’s your own personal brand, as a Visible Expert®, or your firm’s brand, you need to establish trust and credibility. By using well-positioned content, including thought leadership in your area of expertise, social media can help you ‘cut through’ and become recognised as a subject matter expert. A good marketer can help you identify your target audience and develop relevant content that will resonate with that audience. A cleverly designed and clearly articulated content strategy can focus your efforts in the most valuable areas. Traditional public relations used TV, radio, print media, industry publications etc. to distribute messages. These days social media platforms are really just media channels to publish your content, but a well-structured social media strategy, that aligns with your business strategy, can become an extremely valuable relationship building tactic. Social media is very cost-effective. Your content can be more direct and more authentic. It’s also a great opportunity to involve your team members to help develop the content.
- Targeting Your Ideal Clients. Building your online network, allows you to start engaging with potential new clients and potential new referrers and influencers. Once you know who you want to be talking to, in terms of your ideal client and your ideal referrers, you can then use social media and inbound digital marketing to build a list of people you want to build a relationship with. This is where social media, and particularly LinkedIn, has dramatically changed the way we begin business relationships. It is now acceptable for someone that you don’t know to start interacting with you online. Sales Navigator is a powerful tool for building prospect lists and following and interacting with leads.
- Nurturing Leads. Done strategically, you can begin to have two-way conversations with prospective clients and influencers and gain extremely valuable information in the process. Engaging content can increase traffic to your website and from there you can begin to use your website to nurture leads. Inbound marketing systems can capture prospective clients’ details, which become your ‘top-of-funnel’ prospects, which you can then nurture through automated email campaigns. Your targeted content, on a relevant social media platform, should attract prospects to your website to entice them to engage further with you and your brand. Once a prospect visits your website, there they should find quality thought leadership content, such as research reports or whitepapers, that are ‘gated’ (i.e. the prospect needs to fill in a form to download it), which allows you to capture their details.
- Engaging Employees. The key to a positive corporate culture is trust. Employees need to trust the leadership team and, equally, leaders need to trust employees to do the best job they can do. Ultimately, your engaged employees will deliver exceptional service to your clients, which, in turn, creates brand engagement and brand loyalty, so it’s worth spending time and money on developing and implementing employee engagement strategies and initiatives. Instead of implementing policies to try to prevent team members from using social media at work, more and more firms are incorporating their employees’ social media enthusiasm into their marketing. When your team is on social media anyway, it’s only a short step to encourage and engage employees in social media marketing and create new social media ambassadors for your firm. As your employees promote your firm, values, and culture on their own social media accounts, make sure they are empowered to maintain their individual voices. Genuine posts are more important than marketing speak. Encourage them to be honest and portray the firm in a positive light as they add their own spin to a post or topic. Some firms also have internal social networks, such as Yammer, encouraging employees to collaborate and engage with the firm’s leadership and strategy.
- Nurturing Relationships. Once you’ve initiated and developed new relationships, social media can help you maintain them. Clients can keep up to date with important news items and relationships with referral sources can also be maintained. You can interact with their posts and activity and they can follow your content, which helps them know how you can help their clients. If relationships aren’t well managed and you aren’t connecting as often as you need to, because you are busy looking after everything else in your world, they may not be secure. The ultimate business relationship is a symbiotic relationship, i.e. one that is mutually beneficial. Social media can be utilised to help you maintain stronger relationships.
If you would like more information on developing a social media strategy for your relationship-driven business, or Sales Navigator for business development, please contact me.