While larger firms may seem to have an advantage over their smaller counterparts because they allocate more money toward marketing and public relations, there’s no reason why smaller firms can’t do what they can to market their practices.
Marketing doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but it does take a bit of time to get it right. I know this is non-billable time, but you have to put time and money into a practice in order to get something out of it, right?
Over the past few months, several smaller firms have approached me about this very topic: how to break through the noise to capture market share. Now that the economy is improved, firms have more of a marketing mindset – although if truth were to be told, they should have been thinking about marketing all along.
Here are 5 marketing and PR tactics smaller firms can use to boost their presence:
#1: Update Your LinkedIn Profile
You may be using LinkedIn, but how long has it been since you’ve updated your profile? Among the firms I talk with, LinkedIn is still considered the most professional of all social media. All of the content on LinkedIn is searchable, so you’ll want to optimize your profile with enough content to be “found,” if colleagues want to refer business to you and prospects want to find you.
- Populate the “professional headline” feature in your profile with keywords that describe what you do. For example, mine reads, “PR, Marketing and Communications Professional With a Focus on Professional Services - Accounting, Legal, Medical.”
- Include a professional photo and make sure it’s current.
- Write out your summary, then simply cut and paste it into a bio or resume.
- Include all your social media handles under Contact Info.
- I’m not a big fan of endorsements, but by all means try and gather some recommendations from clients and colleagues you trust.
#2: Get on, and participate in, Social Media
In addition to LinkedIn, I advise getting on several more social media outlets to widen your presence – but do more than just sign up. Be active, update your status frequently, and comment or participate in conversations on a regular basis. Consider:
- LinkedIn: If you’re not already on here, get on now! See some basic tips above on enhancing your profile.
- Twitter: You don’t have to constantly tweet on Twitter, but it does help to build your followers. Remember that all of the content you post is searchable, so include a phrase such as “franchise tax” in your tweets if franchise tax is one of your niches.
- Facebook: This one isn’t for everyone, especially those hesitant about sharing personal information. You can use your privacy settings as much as you like, but remember two things. First, you’ll have to have a personal Facebook page in order to create a business page. Second, you’ll have to spend time updating the business page, even though you can set up feeds from Twitter and other social media.
- Pinterest: This “bulletin board” social media application is getting more and more popular for companies of all kinds because, again, the content is completely searchable.
- YouTube: You probably didn’t know YouTube is the second most popular search engine next to Google, so if you are producing your own videos through a smartphone or something more sophisticated, by all means get your own channel and promote your videos on your website and all other social media.
#3: Work on Your Website
Most practitioners have websites, but like your LinkedIn profile, how long has it been since you’ve refreshed your site? Is the content dated? Is there content at all beyond the typical “About Us” and “Services” pages?
Most websites I see lack several important elements:
- The contact information is buried under a button or in someone’s bio. Have your contact information easily recognizable on your site and make sure you include your social media handles and addresses.
- The content is way too long. No one is going to read page after page of content about what you offer and what you’ve done. Keep the pages short with 2-3 paragraphs at the most.
- The site lacks warmth. People like to do business with people they trust. If you’re using a template website, that’s fine, but find a way to warm it up. I prefer sites in WordPress because you can customize the pages and you can also maintain the site, yourself, very easily.
#4: Network Your Niches
Let’s face it – accountants are not the gregarious type. Yet, you can’t hide in your office and expect the phone to ring. Nowadays, most accountants niche in services and/or industries, so find ways to connect and network with prospects who fall into these areas.
For example, if you enjoy working with architects or interior designers, find a local meetup for these industries and attend the meetings. It may take some time, but you are almost guaranteed to pick up business once you get out there and network.
#5: Take a Reporter to Lunch (or Something Else)
Regular readers of my articles and blogs may be really tired of hearing me harp on this one, but it really works. Reporters may seem to be indifferent to what you have to say, but the reality is that they have a quota of stories to fill on a daily or weekly basis, so they are looking for good content.
Take my advice and call (yes, use the phone) a reporter and ask he or she out to lunch (or another meal or coffee). Be sure you have something to actually talk with the reporter about; use something in the news as a hook, for example, or simply explain that you are an expert in a certain service, such as business valuation.
Take Baby Steps
Whatever tactics you want to pursue, you should realize that you can’t do everything at once – and shouldn’t expect immediate, overnight results. Investing time and resources into marketing and PR is an investment for the long-term survival of your firm.