Professional services marketing: Build a business case for social success
Social media adoption has been rapid within organisations serving consumer markets. The same however can't be said for professional services, where social media generally speaking remains a struggle.
Many professional service firms are at a loss as to how best to harness the power of social to achieve their overall vision and goals, and often harbour a number of concerns stifling any progress:
Professional service marketers can help their firms overcome these concerns. Consider the following steps to help you steer your firm in the right 'social' direction.
Internal ownership of social media is hotly debated within firms. Social media audiences may not care who or which department owns 'social', but - not least for the purpose of governance - social media is so fundamental to a professional service firm that true ownership must start with the management board, and filter downwards.
The problem with this is that many management boards still need informing as to the true potential of social media which is where marketers can make the difference.
Marketing is a natural owner of social media in a professional services environment because it constitutes a tool for expanding brand awareness and delivering a client experience.
However, the true challenge for marketers is to avert ownership conflicts between internal departments by 'selling in' goals that are not team-driven, but are about the audience, the client and improving client experiences on a firm wide level.
For marketers seeking to take the lead with social media, an important step will be to bring the rest of the firm into the fold.
Professional service marketers must start building better business cases to bring management on side. Use your firm's pains as the fundamental starting position, and then show how social media can remedy those pains.
But we all know social media measurement can be difficult to calculate: as an organic, trust-building activity best suited for influence and soft lead generation, drawing a direct cause-and-effect between social marketing and ROI is a challenge. Yet it can be done effectively. And if your online programme can be shown to be beneficial to your firm, it will be one that justifies a budget.
So how do you build the business case for social? A formal checklist will help you build a case tailored to your firm's needs, provide insight into your results, and help you analyse outcomes to refine your programmes:
Social media is a proven marketing tool. Not only is it a viable platform for deploying your content via a content marketing programme, but social drives a firm's website traffic. In addition, social can help you and your firm:
By doing some research and evaluation of how your particular firm will benefit, you’ll be on your way to building the business case you need to justify 'going social'.
There are real risks with going social; privacy and security being high on the list. The spontaneous nature of social media can also backfire on firms. And many professional service firms will worry that the conversational tone of social communications will undermine their carefully managed reputation and 'corporate voice'.
These are all legitimate concerns that you should address head-on in your business case before a decision-maker may feel comfortable about pursuing and investing in social media.
Key to the business case are the goals. There are countless purposes of social that your firm could pursue, so you need to focus.
Start with the firm’s goals, and take it from there. How do your business goals align with your audience’s objectives? What types of conversations will you facilitate? What are you trying to achieve in those conversations? Given resources, what are the reasonable outcomes you can expect or strive toward? What is possible? Desirable? Achievable?
With a set of goals in place, you will be providing much-needed clarity across the firm for all social media activity.
As you talk through your business case, questions will naturally arise regarding your strategy. The social media strategy for the professional service firm must define those activities that relate to the core commercial activities of the firm’s brand.
The firm’s management board will want to hear more about:
Professional service marketers need to show a highly focused strategy. The best way to achieve focus is by analysing and understanding your current client data, online and offline. By fully understanding your current clients, you can better determine where they congregate socially, and what the firm needs to do to grow the reputation of the firm, transform the brand online, retain existing clients and acquire new clients like them.
Professional service marketers should adopt strong social media performance measures as part of the business case. The management board will want to see how you will create measures of performance which will in turn show performance levels.
Remember good metrics for social media are:
Professional service marketers have a range of metrics to call upon. Use a combination of:
This is where you measure operational efficiencies and cost avoidance resulting from social activities, as well as the more obvious marketing and business development impact of cost-per-lead and cost-per-acquisition.
By tying in the activity-based metrics to the bottom line, you can bridge the gap from a soft activity to hard business revenue.
Many firms are making some use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter, incorporating them into existing marketing activities. But the various social platforms serve different purposes for different people and organisations, who interact and engage with them in different ways. And as social technologies, applications and tools continue to develop, firms can become even more confused about which of those technologies they should invest in and when.
To keep up with the ever-changing landscape in the social media technology landscape, consider:
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