Guest Blogger: Lee Frederiksen, Ph.D., Managing Partner, Hinge
When looking for a new restaurant, you probably search differently today than you would have several years ago. While you may still ask friends and colleagues for a recommendation, there's a good chance you'll also use online tools such as Google or Yelp to discover new options and check them out.
Guess what? Today, the way corporate buyers find professional services firms isn't always so different.
At Hinge, we've spent almost 10 years researching how buyers of professional services find, vet, and choose firms. We've also researched the marketing tactics and strategies used by the most successful professional services firms. We refer to these organizations as Visible Firms® — and the vast majority of firms could benefit from emulating their approach. In this post I want to share a few key findings of our research so that you can consider whether your marketing plan addresses the way today's buyers buy.
Evolving expectations of professional services buyers: younger, more web-savvy
Two factors make the way today's buyers shop for law firms different from the past.
The first factor involves the buyers themselves. Not surprisingly, a growing percentage of buyers are “digital natives” — they grew up using the web. As a result, they are far more likely to use a variety of online resources to look for and evaluate providers. These resources include search engines, social media, professional networking sites, and others. It's worth pointing out that this is not a fleeting trend. By the year 2025, Millennials (people born between 1980 and 2000) will account for 75% of the workforce.
The second factor is how much more information users can gather from the web. Rather than rely on the opinions and advice of a limited circle of colleagues, today's buyers take matters into their own hands and conduct web searches and scrutinize prospective providers' websites. This trend is reflected in the continuing rise in total Internet searches, which now surpasses 2 trillion per year.
In addition, our research has shown that today's buyers tend to rely not only on Internet searches, but a variety of strategies and sources of information as well:
- 80.8% of professional services buyers check out a prospective firm's website
- 63.2% search for firms online
- 62.4% of buyers ask friends or colleagues if they've heard of the firm
- 59.9% of buyers check the firm on social media
- On average, buyers use at least 3 of these approaches to check out a firm before buying
We learned about these changing preferences through research we conducted over several years. In the process, we interviewed more than 1,000 buyers, as well as more than 130 Visible Experts® — individuals at firms who are well known in their markets as having exceptional expertise and reputation. Key tactics used by Visible Firms include:
- Positioning and marketing key individuals within the firm as Visible Experts. This can produce a “Halo Effect,” a natural tendency among buyers to associate their positive perception of an individual with the whole of their organization.
- Conducting focused content marketing to engage with greater numbers of qualified leads.
- Creating websites with keyword-optimized content that guide visitors to progressively more relevant content and closer engagements, such as webinars.
Today's buyers are making decisions based on the relative visibility of firms in the marketplace - a perception that is influenced by firms' reputations, as well as their savvy use of online marketing techniques to maximize their visibility to prospects who search online. By implementing a thoughtful, multi-pronged marketing strategy that takes advantage of the preferences of today's buyers, law firms can become the Visible Firms that lead their markets.
|We know the traditional aspects of a network can be and are easily imitated by many: a single representative for a firm, face-to-face meetings, shared office space, and more, but WSG is not a conventional network. Make your experts standout, reach out to practice area/industry activist to get to know their counterparts at conference gatherings exclusively for WSG members; use the unmatched digital platform. Get the message out to your principals, WSG is a network that can adapt to fast changing client and industry expectations.|
|Tips on how to develop the equation:
• Bring your influencers together and use member referral successes to help build a group or committee that will champion WSG.
• Extend meeting attendance beyond just one person and set up a time to discuss post meeting feedback.
• Tie in digital aspects of the network. Explain and distribute benefits of WSG digital resources and information readily available to leverage this advantage.
|As a network that rises above with our platform of innovation and digital distinctiveness, get more out of WSG beyond your typical, traditional network memberships. Take the conventional outlook on meeting attendance, and transform it with strategic meeting participation. Know who your WSG champions are, reach out to them, expand the group and let us know how we can help.|
We know that marketing and BD professionals are critical to getting the most out of a firm’s membership and to the success of the network. As such, WSG recently held two meetings to bring together firm marketing and BD professionals to discuss how to best leverage a firm’s membership. These highly successful meetings, held in Austin, Texas and in Copenhagen, Denmark in April, serve as important steps to sharing knowledge and building relationships across the network. As a marketing professional within your firm, WSG encourages you to develop a more strategic approach to your firm’s WSG membership through the following three strategies:
1. Implement “The Basics”
We know that the more a firm leverages and engages the network, the more they benefit from their membership. By implementing “the basics” your firm will immediately expand the reach of existing content, demonstrate expertise and leadership and build visibility with fellow members as well as with clients and the general web community. It’s a long-term relationship and it starts with these basics:
• Maintain robust and up-to-date firm and professional profiles on the WSG site. Sync information on your firm site with WSG’s site by implementing the WSG Import Module.
• Share your latest firm news, articles and blog posts to the WSG site. Utilize RSS feeds to automate sharing.
• Include the WSG logo, description and links on your firm’s website to promote your membership and the value it brings to the firm and clients. Visit the WSG Brand Guidelines to download logos and descriptions.
• Develop a plan to ensure strategic engagement, visibility and relationship building by firm professionals through WSG meetings and events as well as practice, industry and association groups. This includes active engagement in the WSG Marketing and BD group!
• Regularly track referrals and collaborations through the WSG Referral Tracker Tool, allowing you to track inbound and outbound Network referrals with one simple tool.
2. Integrate WSG Into the Firm
WSG’s integration of knowledge, expertise and client service providers from the legal, investment banking and accounting professions creates better opportunities for providers and clients alike. However, people need to know and understand this in order for your firm and clients to benefit. Consider the following:
• Ensure that key stakeholders, from firm leadership to practice area leaders to marketing and business development professionals, understand the benefits and opportunities of WSG membership and work to leverage them.
• Communicate the value and benefits of your WSG membership to firm professionals. Ensure professionals across the firm understand how to access and utilize membership to better serve clients.
• Communicate the value and benefits of your WSG membership to your clients. Tout what your membership means to them: immediate access to prospects, information and leading experts with a known record of superior quality service.
3. Develop Strategic Relationships
WSG membership is made up of not only member firms, but also the over 19,000 individual professionals within each member organization. Each individual has their own personal WSG account focused around their areas of practice and interests, enabling members to move well beyond the “primary contact” model to locate expertise and build relationships to benefit the firm and its clients. Some important relationships to include:
• Relationships within your firm to optimize firm activity and engagement across the WSG network.
• Alliances based upon professional areas of practice, interests and participation in WSG groups (practice, industry and association).
• Connecting with marketing/BD professionals across member firms to identify business opportunities and share knowledge.
• Between firm and WSG marketing team to further discover and utilize the breadth and depth of the WSG Network.
Membership is not “one size fits all” and WSG offers a wide variety of opportunities and resources, making it easy for firms to customize your membership. For more information and resources, we encourage you to visit the WSG Knowledge Center and view advantageous documents on the WSG Marketing Materials page. If you are not already in touch with a WSG Marketing staff member, reach out to [email protected] to discover more ways to optimize your firm’s membership.
As a WSG member, your firm’s search results are automatically associated with a global organization and its established members, increasing search engine rankings, enhancing brand awareness and building business opportunities. However, the magnitude of value your firm will achieve is tied directly to the quality and consistency of the content you provide.
Below are three WSG resources you can take advantage of to optimize your membership and improve search engine results.
1. Optimize Your Firm’s Online Profile & Presence
WSG firm profile pages provide members with valuable opportunities to demonstrate firm leadership and ensure that you are found for the right reasons by the right people both internally by fellow members, as well as externally from the general web community. By keeping your firm profile up-to-date and including keyword-rich content that highlights areas of expertise, you’ll ensure the consistency of firm branding and maximize firm visibility across the web.
Optimize firm profiles by including: firm overview, logo, main contacts, areas of practice, professionals, news, articles and key links to additional information on your firm site.
2. Build & Maintain Better Professional Identities
Unlike many networks, each WSG member firm professional has an individual login and profile. With this, professionals can maintain a robust profile showcasing their expertise and adding valuable content to their online presence. Be sure that individual profiles are updated regularly and include keywords that demonstrate specific experience and industry expertise.
Optimize individual profiles by including: biography, focused areas of practice, professional positions, accomplishments and memberships, blogs, articles, seminars and education.
3. Automate Firm Content for a Consistent SEO Benefit
Make it easier to expand the reach of your firm’s high-quality content with WSG content automation tools. If your firm has not done so already, we encourage you to submit RSS feeds to add SEO-rich articles, press and blogs to the WSG site in an easy and streamlined way. You can also enroll in WSG’s Import Module, to automatically update professional profiles from your site to ours. Contact us at [email protected] to learn more.
With a documented content strategy that includes WSG, firms have an advantage when it comes to promoting their expertise and building credibility. If you’d like to learn more about how to include WSG in your firm’s content marketing strategy, please contact us at [email protected] or 1 + 713.650.0333.
There has and will always be a discussion on the pros and cons of global firm structures, but one thing stays consistent throughout, and that is that there will always be a place for a strong reputable, above par independent firm. Therefore, participation in a non-exclusive, well vetted, quality controlled network like WSG continues to be a smart choice.
A quick comparison of key points:
Quality and Consistency
While one-brand global structures tend to try to use quality and consistency as a positive, the reality is that when you do not really know the professional to whom you are referring work, whether they are under the same brand or not, you do not know what kind of service your client will receive.
As a member of WSG, making an effort to meet and get to know your counterpart is expected and necessary, not just an option. When a referral is made, awareness of service and quality is expected without fear of losing the client through business development or compensation nuances that can be discouraging instead of encouraging. Additionally, WSG’s high standards of entry and monitoring of member firms through one corporate source ensures the highest level of quality and consistency.
Long standing brands have stood the test of time and success, no question. This is also true for independent firms, which confirms that leading independent firms and professionals are not necessarily the ones willing to join global firm structures. The most successful independent firms are usually comfortable staying that way and associating astutely with their global counterparts. This association is only successful globally through a highly ranked, recognized and non-exclusive network like WSG that has successfully maintained a stable and reputable membership.
Many times the definition of stability with one-brand global firms is referring only to the brand while within the WSG network, stability most often refers to each long standing firm and its long standing professionals individually.
WSG harnesses innovation with the strength of a network and the power of technology to ensure infinitely more opportunities for quality work from quality partners. Each of the over 19,000 professionals (and growing) in the member firms have individual accounts and complete access to the network. This number alone offers increased opportunities. However, also unique to WSG is our visionary notion that as the world shrank so to would limitations from industry to industry, thereby integrating the legal network concept with accounting and investment banking services. While one-brand firms offer centralized operations in many senses, the limitations created by these operations affects the effectiveness of opportunity making network association for independent firms more opportunistic with less financial commitment.
The independent firm is always going to be important to the industry, but there is no getting away from the fact that independent firms can no longer expect to meet a global client’s needs alone. Similarly, a one brand firm cannot possibly build a footprint equal to that of a premier network across jurisdictions.
What is good for one may not be good for all, however, participation in WSG over the independent firm offers gains in size, strength, access and stability and secures its place among reputable go-to firms. It’s about leveraging the network to better understand changing landscapes, capitalize on business opportunities and deliver solutions and value to clients.
Your Firm’s Online Reputation and WSG
In the professional services industry, having a good reputation is critical to ensuring trust from clients and referral sources and to building your firm’s business. This includes your online reputation. Many decision makers, including in-house counsel, research firms online before deciding to do business with them. Do you know what they’ll find when they search for your firm and professionals?
The bottom line: The Internet gives everyone a voice and there are steps you can take to actively manage your online reputation and help ensure that your firm is portrayed in the most favorable light. We’ve provided some top tips on how to build a more positive and resilient online presence – and best leverage WSG resources to support your efforts.
Monitor Your Online Reputation
If you’re not already monitoring your online presence, start by ensuring that all the information on your firm’s site, social media platforms, industry directories and review sites is up-to-date, accurate, consistent and professional. Next, implement a plan to regularly monitor your firm name through searches (e.g., Google Alerts and Twitter Advanced Search) and sites that provide reviews within your industry. Remember that the names and reputations of firm leadership and professionals should be monitored too.
Feed the Machine
When a client, referral source or member of the media conducts a search on you and your firm, you want to be sure that what they see is accurate and reflects your knowledge, expertise and experience. The best ways to ensure this are to leverage the following tactics:
Content Marketing: Develop and publish a regular stream of relevant and targeted content across platforms such as websites, blogs, digital publications and other online forums including the WSG site.
Social Media: Social platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ provide opportunities for your firm to engage with key audiences and drive discussion on topics and issues most important to you.
Press: News and articles published by respected sources and on the WSG site can provide a big boost to your online presence and help to fortify your reputation.
SEO: A successful SEO strategy ensures that your firm’s website is visible earlier in search engine results and that you are providing the most relevant information for the client.
Industry Directories and Review Websites: Listings in prominent industry directories establish credibility for your firm and aid in search results by associating your firm with a respected and trusted source.
Request feedback: We know there are many barriers to gaining and sharing client feedback, but if you are able to garner testimonials (and they are within ethical conduct) they can go a long way to boost your online reputation.
Leverage what you already have. WSG provides members with many opportunities to enhance their online presence. WSG has over 500,000 indexed website pages which include in-depth profiles, information and content from top-ranking firms and highly respected professionals across over 140 jurisdictions. Together WSG’s online presence and the strength and quality of the network can provide a boost to your firm’s search results and online reputation. Consider further utilizing the Network with the following:
- WSG’s Import Module automatically updates your professional profiles on the WSG site with the latest information from your site, providing another source of consistent and accurate online information.
- By posting firm news, articles and blogs to the WSG site, you’re further fueling search results and getting positive information about your firm in front of a larger audience.
- When firm professionals join practice and industry groups and actively contribute through discussion forums and posting blogs, they’re helping to build their own online presence.
- Contributing success stories to the WSG website provides additional opportunities to exhibit firm successes and collaborations.
- WSG Alliance Partner, Interact Marketing, provides in-depth expertise and services to help firms better leverage the latest digital marketing techniques and WSG.
In summary, when it comes to online reputation management the “best defense is a good offense” and WSG will continue to look for ways to best support your online reputation management efforts. Even by implementing some of the recommendations included in this article, you can impact how your firm is positioned online.
To learn more about how WSG and Alliance Partner Interact Marketing can help you to manage your online reputation, contact WSG Marketing at 713.650.0333 or [email protected]
This year’s WSG IBA Networking Luncheon is experiencing record registration with 120 members expected to attend and a 12% increase over last year’s participation. With international professionals coming together from across the WSG network, it’s a good time to ensure that your membership is optimized to make the most out of your attendance. From networking functions and luncheons to regional meetings, here are a few tips to make the most of your time – and membership:
1. Do your research
One of the best ways to prepare yourself for a networking event is to study the people who are attending. Take advantage of WSG’s event pages to see who’s attending and use key search functions to make connections with individuals by firm, region, areas of practice and industries. Also, don’t forget to make sure your own profile is up to date.
2. Join groups
By joining a WSG association, practice or industry group you’ll automatically receive invitations to events, be notified when articles and news are published and have more opportunities to build relationships with professionals across the network.
3. Utilize the WSG mobile site
When traveling, it remains important to stay in touch. Considering the responsive abilities of the WSG website across tablets and smart phones, access to professionals and expertise can be done on the go. Visit m.worldservicesgroup.com to get familiar with the WSG’s mobile capabilities.
4. Strike early and introduce yourself to someone new
The IBA Luncheon will offer a strategic networking opportunity before lunch is served. Consider reviewing the attendee list in advance to determine if there are professionals you want to connect with.
Make a point to branch out and put the depth and breadth of the membership to work for you.
5. Follow Up
Aside from utilizing email and social media, the WSG website is a great place to stay in touch with people you meet, and reinforce your network connections. With practice groups, industry groups and association groups, like the IBA, WSG provides the resources to support your valuable connections.
We look forward to welcoming over 120 international delegates to the IBA Luncheon with the goal of building relationships and increasing referrals and collaborations throughout the network.
In the age of technology, there are more than 1.5 million smart phone applications that exist with upwards of 300 apps created every day. As discussed at the WSG 2015 Annual Meeting by keynote speaker, Rick Klau of Google Ventures, startups and the new generation of
evolving clients are not taking baby steps, but rather large leaps when it comes to technology. WSG recognized this early on and developed a mobile member-to-member app and a responsive, mobile-friendly website, further allowing members to access WSG and the member base on the go.
WSG is constantly looking to innovate and use technology to benefit our members. How is your firm leveraging technology to improve client services and solutions? If you’re thinking about furthering your mobile accessibility, here are five things you should consider:
How are clients using mobile devices? Take time to understand how a mobile app or site could most benefit your clients and your relationship with them. This is great way to gain insight into changing client needs and how a mobile offering could help meet them.
Get to know your competitors. Find out how your competitors are utilizing mobile devices and how you can improve upon their offering while differentiating your firm. This can help you to understand what it will take to achieve success in making your mobile presence unique.
The difference between mobile websites and mobile apps. While a mobile site is easy to use on a phone or tablet, an app is even easier. Once a user downloads an app they can access information at the touch of a button and the information tends to be more select and streamlined. This native app development does not require internet and allows information such as contact, member details, profile information, resources and knowledge tools to be quickly viewed.
The mobile experience is not the same as a desktop experience. People visit an app or mobile site because they want quick information and you must design with this in mind. If an app just transfers the same content and information from a desktop website, you’ll most likely have information overload and navigation too cumbersome for a smart phone.
Create mobile offerings for a specific campaign or event. Apps and mobile sites can serve many functions including unique campaigns, search features, user accounts, news feeds, and more. Consider this when designing apps and mobile sites.
While mobile apps and sites are still not the norm across professional services firms, it is precisely for this reason that they provide you with a unique opportunity to get a step ahead of your competitors and demonstrate to clients that your firm is forward-thinking. Either way, mobile apps and technology will continue to evolve and become a more significant part of business and business communications. If you decide to be at the forefront of these changes, we have a WSG alliance partner in place to help. Contact us at [email protected] or 713.650.0333 to learn more.