I hear business owners say all the time that they don’t need to worry about finding new clients online because most, if not all, of their business comes from word of mouth.
Of course, referrals are great. Keep your clients happy, encourage them to spread the word and, over time, clients will come.
The problem, though, with over-reliance on traditional word of mouth is that we’re moving away from the world where firms used to find clients to one in which clients find firms. And if you work in a sector in which there are thousands of firms doing pretty much the same thing — you’re an accountant, say, or a financial adviser — how are you going to make your business stand out from the crowd?
The answer is twofold. First, you need to be different, and secondly, you need to communicate that difference to your clients.
I strongly urge you to read an article by Paul McCaffrey of the CFA Institute entitled “Social media: The cornerstone of financial firms in the 21st Century” and to watch the presentation, included below. It focuses on a firm called Ritholtz Wealth Management (RWM), based in New York. When it launched two-and-a-half years ago, RWM employed four people and had $90 million in assets under management (AUM). It now has more than $300 million under management and the staff has grown to 14.
How have they done it? Largely through a combination of high-quality content and social media. All of RWM’s advisers are active on social media. They’re also prolific and skilful blog writers. That means that not only are they constantly attracting people to their blogs, but there’s plenty of excellent content to keep those visitors there. The more familiar you become to people, and the longer they stay on your site, the more likely they are to engage with you and ultimately become your clients.
The company’s CEO Josh Brown, whose blog The Reformed Broker has become one of the most-read investment blogs in the US, explains:
“It has never been more important to be able to differentiate yourself as a financial adviser than it is right now, and social is how we do it. It’s how anyone can do it if they want to put in the time and the effort.
“We don’t use recruiters and we don’t run employment ads. We’re saying what we actually think, not what we think people want to hear. You put your opinion out there, and like-minded people find you.”
The above video is a presentation given by Josh at the 2016 CFA Institute Wealth Management Conference in Minneapolis. In it, he gives some really useful tips to professional services of going down the social marketing route. They include:
Tempting though it may be to pay for followers, don’t do it. Engaged followers are far more valuable than fake ones.
Always be courteous, and don’t respond to trolls. Rise above any bickering or unpleasantness.
You won’t become a social media star overnight, so manage your expectations — and keep at it when progress seems slow (The same principle applies to blogging).
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Have a laugh and enjoy yourself. After all, social media has to be more fun than cold calling.
Finally, I began by saying how valuable referrals are. That must remain an important method of lead generation for any firm. But start seeing social media as an extension of word of mouth — if you like, the 21st-century equivalent. It has huge potential. Remember, you can meet far more prospective clients online than you could ever invite to a company cocktail party.
Here’s Paul McCaffrey’s article: