Monday, February 1, 2016

Climbing the social media tree [Infographic]

social media tree

To date, LinkedIn boasts 400 million users! A small minority is doing phenomenally. Social media marketing is the best thing that’s ever happened to them.  But, let’s face it, most are standing still, watching the traffic go by. They’re unsure how to proceed and a little worried about making a mistake. They’re trying to figure out if they’ll get anything out of it. Or, if it it's just going to waste their precious time. This observation is especially true of a rather large cross section of lawyers, accountants, architects and other professionals. 

So, for all the doubters out there, here’s what the climb looks like and how the right approach can make it possible for you (and your team) to move from stuck to motivated and energized to build the practice. 

First Branch
You’re not on the map. Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, twitter, you’ve heard the names and maybe even seen what they look like. But you’ve never created an account. It feels like another world. You're pretty much disinterested.

Second Branch 
You’re online presence is faceless. You’ve just started a profile. No photo. No logo. No activity. You have concerns about the competition and client confidentiality. You’re not convinced it’s worth investing your time or money. But you're quietly beginning to worry that you're missing the boat.

Third Branch
You only have a few connections. People reach out to you. You’re still uncertain but you start saying yes, selectively and hesitantly. However... you still have your doubts.  

Fourth Branch
You’re not responsive. You’re on. But you’re not. People are finding you and you’re not getting back to them.  You’re confused about how things work. Or you’ve delegated it all, without a plan.  You're feeling disorganized and disconnected.

Fifth Branch 
You’ve improved your profile. You tell the world a bit about yourself and maybe even show your face! You're beginning to show interest.

Sixth Branch 
You’ve added connections. You’re starting to find people you know, independently, and it feels less like... well, climbing a giant oak! You begin to reach out. Your curiosity has been piqued. 

Seventh Branch 
You’re mostly self-promotional. Your view changes. You start seeing the site as a way to reach real people and begin using it to broadcast news about your practice. Nobody’s responding. Your curiosity is waning. You're getting frustrated. 

Eight Branch 
You just 'like' stuff. You start noticing what others post and, mostly, do nothing more than throw out the occasional 'like'. Although you have started reading what others post. You don't take any risks and don't get noticed as a result. For the moment, you're a wallflower. 

Ninth Branch 
You are proactive. You start joining groups and finding people with common interests and synergies with your practice. It propels you into action. Your experience is starting to be inviting. 

Tenth Branch 
Your voice changes. Instead of posting promotional content, you start to use your real voice to share thoughts, ideas and opinions, including some controversial, funny or provocative commentary. Your market (and possibly even a few social media influencers) responds. You feel at ease. 

Eleventh Branch 
You become consistent. You start looking forward to and, even, craving interaction. You check for notifications on all devices. You’re motivated and committed. 

Twelfth Branch 
You become strategic. You post what readers are seeking and you respond to their posts. Your network is expanding. Your new connections are aligned with your practice and your goals. You're in the zone.

Thirteenth Branch 
You go offline. Your online activity transforms into real offline networking. The lines between online and off begin to blur. You’re chomping at the bit to do more because you’ve tasted success. You're connected.

You are generating results. Your online activity supports your practice development goals. Traffic is up. Readership is up. Connections are up. But most importantly, you’re getting regular inquiries and referrals, all from your desired growth market. Your confidence goes deep. It's based being able to count on predictable results.

Social media marketing isn’t sales. It’s networking, with a plan. That’s not a new, untested concept. The better you get at it, the more your circle expands. If you’re doing it strategically (with clarity about who you want to meet and why), it can’t help but be good for your practice.  

You’d have to sabotage it, for it not to be. 

That said, despite the incredibly high numbers on LinkedIn and other social media sites, most people just get stuck at the wallflower or self-promotional stage. They never see the real potential. 

So, ask yourself, do you have any doubts about the effectiveness of business events, when well attended by your market or referral market?  If not, then why would you doubt social media marketing? It’s the very same thing. 

It’s just online (a boon to introverts everywhere... but that's another article!). 

And when it’s really working it doesn't stay online!    

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law, architecture, accounting, consulting, medical and other professional practices are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, marketing services.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Lawyers, stop wasting time on social media marketing

I fielded some tough questions about how lawyers can stop wasting time on social media marketing in this video interview with Catherine Moffitt of Cosgrove Associates (a consulting firm focused on law firm profitability and interim office management)! A summary follows.

QUESTION #1: Why should lawyers care about social media marketing?

It's a good question. I think it's on a lot of their minds. Despite the staggering numbers of lawyers and other professionals on LinkedIn, most aren't doing too much. Nevertheless, the rare few who have really jumped on board have made tremendous use of social media to build their practices. 

Compare social media to a trade show. Let's say you were given tickets to this great trade show where your clients and referral network were expected to be. Why would you say no? It's just lost opportunity. 

QUESTION #2: Does social media marketing eat into billable hours?

Another good question. While social media marketing can (and does) eat into billable hours, there's a good reason for it. Rather than directing efforts in a concerted manner, there seems to be a lot of frenetic energy out there. People are unsure what to do with the different sites, so they just post stuff and then they typically don't get anything in return. 

But you need a plan to be efficient, to direct actions towards goals. 

Let's switch gears to hockey as an analogy. When all the players on a hockey team are focused on the same thing, they move in the same direction and they get the goal. If they were willy nilly about it, someone running off to stretch, another saying hi to his wife... They wouldn’t win. 

QUESTION #3: If done correctly, does it work for lawyers?

You said it, if done correctly! That means you're not a wallflower. Nor are you (exclusively) self-promotional. If the only thing you do on social media marketing is say 'hey look at me I got published' or 'I'm speaking at such and such'...., no, you're not going to be successful. Returning to our earlier comparison to a networking event, if someone sincerely listens and asks good questions, he will leave with good connections. The same idea applies to social media. So, if the people are there and you go in with a good attitude and a plan, of course it would work. Why wouldn't it?

QUESTION #4: Should lawyers that aren’t comfortable doing this outsource it?

It's a reasonable question. Many lawyers and other professionals aren't comfortable with social media marketing. But there are ways to work with a professional to get comfortable and still save the part of the job that would be best done yourself, for yourself. Here are some of those ways: 
  • To define message and style ie the key to getting others to connect, whether it be by way of thought leadership, humour, being provocative or other. 
  • To tie the social media marketing strategy to the vision for the practice. 
  • To write descriptions for the people and the firm. 
  • To develop a strategy for posts, in order to maintain authenticity and not just be posting for the sake of it. 

When you do that work, you get comfortable. Firstly, you know what you're doing, so you're not out of your element. And you're satisfied that you're presenting an appropriate and suitable, professional identity. That doesn't mean everyone will like you online. Some will and some won't. That's fine. No marketer would ever suggest that lawyers should sell to everyone. They'll get a lot farther defining a specific bull's eye market and developing a strategy their market will relate and respond to.

QUESTION #5: What are the best social media marketing sites for lawyers?

I don’t have a blanket approach. Instead, I recommend that lawyers get clear on their goals and better assess their starting point: 
  • Where are your connections today? 
  • Who is your target market? What are they doing online? 
  • Who is on your team now? Are they excited about video marketing? Speaking engagements? Writing? Instead of establishing blanket expectations for everyone on the team eg x blogs or seminars per month, take into account the talents of your team. It will help to make the firm's goals achievable. 

QUESTION #6: How do you know if it’s working?

It's tricky! Think about going to a networking event. How do you measure if that worked? Do you count the number of business cards you gave out? The number of people you spoke to? There are lots of analytics available on social media. But, at the end of the day, the most important thing to know is if you converted online efforts to offline connections. For example, you could have a relatively small following online and have deeper engagement with those people. Maybe you met more of them. Collaborated on work. Gave referrals to each other. Started groups together... That's how to turn social media marketing into real life connections that help to build a law practice. 

QUESTION #7: How can lawyers set themselves up for success?

First lawyers should decide what is success for them because it's not the same for everyone. Then they need to put a plan in place, starting with best marketing practices applied to a flagship project. It could be a good logo, tagline, website, brochure, presentation... Regardless what the project is, it needs to be strategic about messaging ie so the firm knows what it wants to say about itself at the highest level, by area of practice and by professional. Once established, this clarity and consistency transfers into social media marketing, whereby each individual on the team will have their own professional personality but all efforts streamline to the same message. 

Though it might seem like a shortcut, aggressively moving forward with social media marketing won't make up for skipping these steps.


The bottom line is that lawyers should decide if they really want to make a success of social media marketing. If the answer is yes, then they should take it as seriously as any other professional effort and develop a plan and strategy aligned with the firm's goals. 

And even if it's executed internally, a marketing professional can help make all those efforts more efficient and effective, because enough time has been wasted on fruitless social media marketing!   

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, law firm marketing and legal business development services.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The untapped marketing goldmine for architects: Video

The Untapped Marketing Goldmine for Architects written by Sandra Bekhor, was published by The Business of Architecture show.  Below is a short except.

You Tube searches have surpassed Google. Seriously, Google. There is no higher mountain. So architects, what are you doing to do about it? 
Ironically, architects – deliverers of the most evocative, dimensional product out there – are trailing behind other professionals with respect to employing video in their marketing campaigns. It’s time for architects to tell moving stories (pun intended) about their craft. But, let’s be clear, that’s not a call for more talking heads telling the world how great they are. Sorry, but that doesn’t pull any heartstrings and, simply put, without emotion marketing is pretty insignificant. That’s not to say that video shouldn’t be driven by point of difference. It absolutely should. But, in a manner that captivates interest, attention and imagination. Nobody is your captive audience. 
Here are five ideas to get your creative juices going about video marketing...

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Monday, November 23, 2015

Hire the right fit the first time

Hire the right fit the first time written by Sandra Bekhor, was published by The Lawyers Weekly (November 13, 2015 issue).  Below is a short except.

Bad picks slow down plans, affect firm culture and shake client confidence. 
Most lawyers would agree that their biggest asset is their people. They’d probably also agree that their biggest vulnerability is their people. And yet when they get busy, the pace of the recruiting process doesn’t allow for a thorough assessment of, guess what? People.  
So, predictably, some new hires don’t work out. The new hire eventually leaves or gets terminated and it’s back to the drawing board to search for the next recruit. In some cases, this process drags out for months, or even years, while principals or supervisors debate whether or not they should let someone go.  
But all’s well that ends well right? Maybe. Or maybe not. 
To make that call, the real cost of a bad hire, aside from obvious expenses like recruiting fees, time lost doubling up on interviews or training, and the downtime between hires, needs to be better understood... 
Read article.

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, law firm marketing and legal business development services.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Can you explain your business to a 9 year old?

Last week I spoke at the Montessori Learning Centre career day in Pickering (as you can see from the lovely thank you note that just barely survived my gym bag). "Talk about your business, what got you started and share some tips", my friend Lucy, teacher, at the school says. "No problem," I tell her.

Then I started to think about it. 

Oh no. 

What did I get myself into?! 

I can explain my business to adults in my sleep (ok maybe not in my sleep... still you get the point). But to grades 4-8? All of these questions started to creep up about how to 'translate' terms and situations. 

In the end it was a good excuse to take the elevator pitch I already had through yet one more round of simplifications. Not to 'dumb it down'. To simplify. Kids are smart. They just need information to be communicated to them in familiar terms.  

While it may not be as obvious with adults, often that's what they need too. 

So, here's an excerpt from my talk... which I'm happy to say the children clearly understood, given the degree of interaction that followed:

"Architects, lawyers and accountants don't put their services in a box, like cereal or iphones. But they need marketing too. However, since these services aren't products you can see, touch or feel, it's even harder to market them. People have to use their imagination to understand.  As their marketing consultant, it's my job to spread the word about what they're doing, why it's great and who would benefit the most from working with them."

Needless to say, I won't be keeping this as my ongoing elevator pitch, verbatim. But it does provide inspiration for taking the jargon down a notch. 

So, if you already have an elevator pitch, ask yourself if you can use it to explain your business to a 9 year old. 

If not... maybe it's not done yet.  

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law, architecture, accounting, consulting, medical and other professional practices are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, marketing services.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The single biggest web marketing mistake everyone (almost) is making...

We've come to turn to the internet for, well, nearly everything. 

While much of that is enriching to our businesses (and our very lives), are we deluding ourselves into thinking that the internet has become a panacea for all our marketing woes? And is it possible that we've been lulled into relying on it for things it was never meant to do?  

You know like, for instance, if we started using Band-Aids for painter's tape... Where do I begin? They're too sticky. They would leave residue behind and be a nightmare to remove. They'd be prohibitively expensive. Paint would drip through all the gauzy areas... And you'd be hard pressed to finish with any semblance of a straight line. 

Suffice it to say that sometimes it's best to use a thing for what the thing was designed for. 

The internet was designed to reach the world.  It's not a secret.  It's in the name - the world wide web? So, it may not be the most efficient way of reaching... I don't know, say the guy next door?!?

I see this all the time in my consulting business, law firms, architects, medical clinics and other small to mid-sized professional offices struggling to get the word out. When I ask them how they're marketing themselves, they proudly advise me of their new facebook and /or twitter accounts.  When I ask about their offline efforts, the answer is usually something like 'oh we tried direct mail once, but it didn't work'.  No, it's not just you. Seriously, this happens a lot.  

The single biggest web marketing mistake everyone (almost) is making is this. They're dismissing grassroots marketing - potentially a perfect fit for their goals - and using the internet for EVERYTHING.  

Here are five examples of how to do better:

  1. Weave back and forth, from online to off - my personal favourite. Whether it's to network with prospective clients or referrers, go to or create your own live events, anything from seminars to cycling and wine tastings. Get out there (with your team) and press the flesh. And for those of you that are already doing so, stop keeping those activities in a silo. Use the internet to share your experiences, post photos and reconnect with the very same people you met in the flesh. They will remember you far better than having briefly scanned your profile and your online efforts will continue to solidify the connection. Keep doing it and your internet marketing will be more targeted, one degree at a time. 
  2. Market to the neighborhood - especially fitting for medical clinics and other services targeting the local client. Every neighborhood has its own culture.  Read the local paper, visit complementary businesses and generally tap into the comings and goings of the area to discover the best opportunities to get the word out about your firm. There are ample opportunities from sponsoring local events or teams, public speaking, networking opportunities and promotional partnerships. Start walking and talking. You might even enjoy yourself. What's wrong with that? 
  3. Use snail mail to pop from the clutter - That's right, snail mail is the new internet! How many letters do you get these days? Would you notice if you received a personalized package from someone in your professional network? And what if it included a handwritten message, clever marketing materials or a surprisingly likeable keepsake?  Don't be too quick to dismiss direct mail as a viable option just because you had a couple of bad runs. There may very well be a logical explanation. Objectively, was the message clear and compelling? Did it reach the right audience? Did they even receive it? Did you follow up with subsequent mailings to build up to the appropriate frequency? Investigate.
  4. Pick up the phone, you know the part with the numbers that can actually call someone?! -  I can't tell you how many times I've heard from clients that nobody calls anyone anymore. Our phones may be smart, but are we? We're so busy texting, emailing and 'liking' that we've forgotten how to connect as human beings. Remember that a short call is a lot more powerful that posting something on LinkedIn to the audience that never showed up to read it. 
  5. Better yet, go for coffee! And don't let distance stop you, skype coffees count too! 
Using the internet for everything is tempting. It does so much so very well. But it doesn't do everything well.

So, stop it.

Take a step back and revisit your goals. Who are you really trying to reach? Where are they -not just online, but in real life? What are their hobbies, interests, connections... What do they read? Where do they live? Who do they know? What's the easiest way to reach them? Start looking at the options to reach your market with a much broader mindset.

Ironically, the more open minds in marketing these days are the ones that know better than to dismiss their grassroots, like shaking hands, smiling and telling someone that you're pleased to meet them.  

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law, architecture, accounting, consulting, medical and other professional practices are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, marketing services.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

How To Raise Your Fees 276%

Guest Blogger Enoch Sears
How To Raise Your Fees 276% was written by guest blogger Enoch Sears. Enoch is the founder and publisher of the Business of Architecture show and principal architect at Enoch Sears Architect.

A man was having a hard time choosing an architect to renovate his home. Time was running out, and he needed to make a choice to get his project completed in the time frame he desired. His last meeting of the day was with an architect whose prices were higher than the other firms. Although the man had the money, he wasn't sure why he should pay a higher price when other firms were willing to take on the project for a lower cost. When he arrived at the meeting, he cut straight to the point: “I’ve noticed your fees are higher than anyone else’s. Why would I pick you over these other firms who can do the same work at a lower cost?”

The architect nodded knowingly and said, “Let me ask you a question, how much is your home worth now?”

The man shrugged, not sure why the question was relevant. “Well, about $500,000.”

The architect smiled, “When the renovations are finished, your home will be worth $2 million, which means, you’ll make $1.5 million. Would you like to make $1.5 million?”

“Of course!” The man replied, surprised because he had not considered the final market value. 

The architect reached out to shake his hand, “Great, let’s get started.”

What if I told you, as an architect, you could make your clients 1.5 Million? Would that change the way you talk about your architectural services to prospective customers? How about clients? How many more projects would you gain? You would sit comfortable knowing that your architecture fees aren't too low.

The key to landing more projects and getting the best fees is to sell the value of what you provide.

So what's the difference between selling time vs. selling value? 

When you sell time, you are limited to a fee based on the amount of work you do. On the other hand, when you sell value you highlight the benefits a customer gains by working with you. Yes, your services have a cost, but clients are also investing in an outcome and a process. Instead of focusing on the cost of services, ask yourself, what are the benefits that encourage a potential customer to choose your services over the competition?

What are your clients looking for?

To understand value based selling, you need to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. If other concerns are addressed, would cost be a barrier to moving forward? Besides a finished project, what other expectations do customers have? Think about some of the worries and concerns they might have about the process you can address. Talk about the overall value the finished project brings, even addressing the benefits to your client's lifestyle. We all want more time, less stress and speedy delivery. Can you deliver these things to your clients? 

Why does selling value work?  

If a client looks for an architect who can simply complete a project, he or she will likely find the lowest price point. After all, why shell out significant funds for a project any architect can complete? But what if an architect could complete the project on time and provide improvements the client hasn't even considered? What if an architect takes the client's ideas into consideration and plans time to provide status updates and explain complex requirements? At the end the project is finished on time, on budget and although the customer may have paid a higher fee, they walked away with $1.5 million because they bought into the value, not simply the price.  

A good architect can get a the project done. A great architect will add value by addressing the client's worries, protecting their investment, and saving them time and energy. As an expert architect, you know the secrets to a successful project and can pass that value to your clients. Raise your fees. Sell value.

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law, architecture, accounting, consulting, medical and other professional practices are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, marketing services.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Coffee anyone?

What's a good return on social media marketing? Lots of followers? Likes? Shares? 

What about offline connections?  As in actually meeting people? 

Oh yeah that. 

Well, Jeff Echols, digital marketing consultant, gets it.  Rather than rest on his laurels as a social media influencer, he meets someone for coffee everyday.  That might just be how he became a social media influencer in the first place... by talking to people!

I had the pleasure of having a 'virtual coffee' (that's a thing now!) with Jeff on Friday via skype. We had a lovely chat about everything from racing cars to the intricacies of consulting.  We both now have one more solid, like-minded acquaintance in our network, for support, banter, referrals or plain old fashioned friendship.  

Nothing wrong with that.  

As with any great 'online-offline' strategy, after each coffee date Jeff closes the loop by posting some thread of what he learned about the person. You can read all about it at #CoffeeADay. Here's an excerpt from our coffee together last week:

...Sandra is very good at sniffing out the real issues her clients suffer. She reads between the lines to understand the whole story. 
We decided she should bill herself as a Business Psychologist...

While these posts reinforce the real life ties he made, they also do something strategic for his business. They give him opportunity to model storytelling, his area of focus and passion.  

Isn't that what any good social media marketing strategy should do?  

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law, architecture, accounting, consulting, medical and other professional practices are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, marketing services.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Turning strangers into clients - a webinar for naturopathic doctors

Described by participants as eye-opening, 'Turning strangers into clients' is now available to naturopathic doctors. It will be offered as a webinar by the Association of Perinatal Naturopathic Doctors (APND) on October 7th at 12pm, EDT. 

This will be the third professional body that has requested the presentation of this topic. It's previously been accredited and well received by the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) and Interior Designers of Canada (IDC). 

So, why is this seminar resonating so strongly with the professional marketplace?  From the program:
Social media is one of the most valuable and versatile practice development tools ever to be available to healthcare practitioners. And yet, its performance has ranged from inconsistent to disappointing. Is it simply a roadmap that’s missing? This session explores a fresh perspective on leveraging social media - not for likes, comments and shares - but rather for laser focused, goal oriented action. 

For further information, or to register for this webinar, please visit the APND registration page.  

Further reading (and watching!) on this session, a deep topic that's been modified to speak to the specific needs of each unique audience: 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized naturopathic, chiropody, chiropractic, dental, veterinary, massage therapy and other Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) clinics are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, medical clinic marketing and business development services.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Collaborative value of a marketing consultant

Collaborative value of a marketing consultant was previously published in The Bottom Line, Government / Compliance, March 2015.

There’s a wide range of possibilities between just going where the wind blows and deliberately determining the future of an accounting practice. But are accounting practices aware of where they land on this spectrum?  If they wanted to take a more active role in shaping the future of the practice, would they meet their goals?  If not, could a knowledgeable and experienced marketing consultant make a meaningful difference?  Given the murky waters of an unregulated profession, how would one go about making such an assessment?

On the cusp of change, there are often more questions than answers. Here are some practical tips on how to assess the firm’s needs and, if it makes sense to move forward, how to work with a marketing consultant.

Find the gaps.
In order to determine whether strategic marketing advice is a critical gap, some of the questions to pose include: 
  • Does it feel like the marketing plan is always in trial mode? 
  • If the performance of the marketing plan is in question, is there clarity about why it’s not working? 
  • When switching marketing tactics, is there any certainty about decisions and the decision-making process? 
  • Does it seem like the competition is getting business when they’re not best suited for the job? 
  • Is there a general sense of frustration due to lack of progress? 
  • Is pride in the firm’s accomplishments accompanied by worry that those achievements might as well be a well-kept secret? 

Investigate the options. 
If the answers to the questions above point to the need for strategic marketing advice, learning to assess the talent and fit of a marketing professional is the next step, and key to that is the ability to remove the divide between the professions. 

Marketers and accountants bring different perspectives, training and focus to the table.  That's the very reason why there is value in the collaboration, assuming the marketer understands and respects the sensitivities of professional practice.  Therefore, look for individuals with applicable experience.  

Ask about past projects, including the rationale behind campaigns and ensuing results.  Pay close attention to approach and style. Consulting gets pretty involved, so it works best when there’s a natural cultural fit. Learning about a consultant’s history is informative. Bear in mind, though, that more will be learned from their questions than answers.  At the beginning of the process the key to success is insight that comes from real understanding of context, not standard textbook replies.

What are the rules of engagement? 
There are many creative ways to engage a consultant. Any assessment of the most feasible arrangement should take into account the firm’s goals (are they aggressive or moderate), budget or cash flow considerations and whether any internal resources might be available to support the process.  

Mid-sized firms may already have dedicated marketing resources and there may be specific scenarios where the firm would benefit from senior-level advice or training. A marketing plan, communication strategy or positioning statement are examples of high-level directional materials that could serve to guide the internal marketing team’s efforts, ultimately delivering a higher return on marketing expenses and salaries.  

For small firms that prefer or need to do everything themselves, a list of recommendations or an assessment of where the firm is going wrong could be sufficient to redirect the focus and improve impact.

For those wishing to minimize initial risk, it’s worth considering starting small. Graduated contracts allow the firm and consultant to get to know each other, building confidence in the relationship before digging too deep into either the work or the budget. 

Choosing the right projects to assign to a marketing consultant helps to ensure that the investment made in these services adds value to the firm. For example:
  • The marketing plan isn’t just a paint by numbers to choose Facebook or LinkedIn, speaking engagements or blogs. It’s driven by goals and inspired by the firm’s history, successes, challenges, business environment and the reputation of its individual accountants.  If it’s strategic, it can be the ticket back into the driver’s seat of the accounting practice. 
  • A compelling creative direction is the root reason why people respond to logos, websites and social media, not just logically but viscerally.  A marketing consultant can assist with the development of a unique and valued point of difference and a strategy to communicate such messages through graphics and language, across the program.  
  • A marketing consultant can help to keep the plan on track, stay strategic, tie individual components together, oversee implementation, put key performance indicators in place, overcome hurdles, pursue new opportunities as they arise and manage the need for change.  A great plan that sits on the shelf doesn’t help anybody, other than the competition.  

Positioning marketing consultants for success. 
Working with a marketing consultant is a partnership.  
  • Get started on the right foot with agreement about what success looks like, with tangibles that can be measured, observed and fine-tuned along the way.  
  • Give the consultant access to information and get involved in the process, so the resulting program reflects the firm’s authentic character. The experience prospective clients have, from the way their inquiries are handled to their initial consultation, should be consistent with expectations established with the firm’s literature.  
  • Invite the team into the process to contribute ideas and expand on the firm’s marketing plan with personal marketing plans, based on individual ability and interest in writing, speaking or networking. Involve the consultant in training and overseeing such efforts. 
  • Address issues and opportunities as they arise together, in order to maintain continuity in the plan and ensure that the consultant’s knowledge about the firm continues to add value. 

Working with a consultant is engaging every step of the way. Not only is involvement from principals and the team critical to the plan’s success, but it often yields an additional benefit that tends to take accounting firms by surprise - through their engagement, every participant is enriched. They become more sophisticated about how they see and pursue practice development opportunities, as well as how they present to others.  

Over the course of time, it's not just the consultant but everyone who participates in the process that adds incremental value to the practice. 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, CPA, accounting, investing and actuarial firm marketing and business development services.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Who is your real market?

If you're a client of ours or a regular at Toronto Marketing blog, you've probably heard me say this before... social media isn't a revolutionary way to market. It's just a new vehicle. Consequently, the best way to generate results (since they don't accept likes and follows at the bank yet!) is to apply traditional marketing principles. And effective marketing plans begin with clarity about the target market, delving far deeper than the point at which most professional practices operate. Here is an overview of some ideas to get you started:

  • Go forwards - It can be challenging to describe a target market in great detail without examples. Instead, try to list the names of 10 prospective clients that you would like to work with. Then figure out why you chose those businesses and what they have they have in common with each other. What type of business? What sector? Which individual in that business? What services do they need? Why do you want to work with them?  
  • Go backwards - Apply the 80 / 20 rule to your client files. Which clients represent the 20% of the work that drove 80% of the profits? Or 80% of your most interesting, strategic work? What is consistent across those files? Can you describe the commonalities to the point that it would influence the shape of your marketing plan? 
  • Go outside - Marketing is easier, cheaper and more effective when it's focused on one bull's eye audience. So, as just one example, whether your firm targets consumers or businesses, your market could potentially be referrers alone. Actively targeting them with your marketing materials will make it far more likely to generate word of mouth files and also help to ensure that those referrals are suitable for your practice. 

Along with a discussion about some of the hot trends in the marketplace, these ideas are expanded on in my interview with Enoch Sears from the Business of Architecture in the video above. Although our talk is primarily focused on marketing architecture firms (and law firm marketing by contrast), the principles are transferable to professional practice generally.

See if you can take away one practical tip to get started on today! 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law, architecture, accounting, consulting, medical and other professional practices are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, marketing services.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

2 P's that drive success for professional practice

Many areas of professional practice development are teeming with controversy. But everyone seems to agree on one thing. Professional services are not consumer goods... and that difference should be reflected in marketing.  

Before speaking with Enoch Sears about this topic on the Business of Architecture, I arrived at a realization that summed it up. Consumer marketing is (and has been since the 60's... as Enoch rightly pointed out!!) driven by the infamous 4 P's.  For those unfamiliar, this model and its application to professional practice is expanded on at the top of this video.  But, experience tells us that there is a better way for professional practice. So, here's what I came up with instead.

2 P's that drive success for professional practice, in the modern marketplace:
  1. Point of difference - Consider developing a unique and valued difference that goes so deep that none of your peers do exactly what you do.  When they come across someone that needs that service, what do you think will happen? They will refer to you. What else?  So, in one strategic move, you turn your competition into referrers and you expand your market.  Point of difference can be developed in the most creative of ways. Beyond service, it can also include style, process and many other possibilities. 
  2. Partnership -  It's not the legal definition of partnership that's being referred to here but rather that 360 degrees of 'partnerships' professionals develop throughout their careers. The alignment of such partnerships is a direct reflection of the strength and reach of the practice. So, if the (literal) partners running the firm share a vision for its future, their leadership will have a positive rippling effect throughout. But, if they are disconnected, whether discussed or not, it negatively impacts motivation, performance and growth.  The same is true of partnerships with staff, referrers and other complementary businesses. 

All of these ideas are expanded on at the 6:30 mark on the video above with very specific and concrete scenarios to take this discussion out of the theoretical.  Although our talk is primarily focused on marketing architecture firms (and law firm marketing by contrast), the principles are transferable to professional practice generally.

Plans for doing this video began when I noticed a wave of clients going through sweeping changes all at once. There were clear patterns in the resulting solutions that enabled them to manage ensuing risk and also take advantage of opportunity (including both the overt and hidden). So, instead of waiting for issues to force your hand, you can put some of this learning into place proactively!

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law, architecture, accounting, consulting, medical and other professional practices are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, marketing services.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Practical law firm marketing tips directly from Google!

I recently attended a Google event on the impact Google is having on the Canadian legal industry. When Alec Humes (Google spokesperson) opened up the session, he told us that if there's anything he'd like us to take away from his talk, it's 1. mobile & 2. video. So, today, I'm passing along one practical tip on each for our readers.

Practical Mobile Marketing Tip 
Have you ever searched for your firm on your smart phone?  Does the map with the image and blue banner followed by the icons for call, directions and website come up?  If so, is the information accurate? Complete? If you've found any errors or your firm is missing entirely, visit Google My Business to post or update your profile.  You can view this result in the right hand column on Google desktop searches as well.

I did a quick search for some clients and friends to see how they're doing. Most were fine. But there were a few that were off the map (literally) and others that were misclassified, some grossly. It's a really easy thing to fix, with the possible benefit of being easier to find no matter which device your prospects are using to find your firm.  And, according to Alec, people are using their smart phones even when sitting at their computer. 

Practical Video Marketing Tip
Searches on YouTube have surpassed Google. So, if you're not already using video to market your law firm, think about it now.  Even if your audience isn't searching for the topic you're posting, video offers tremendous opportunity to be interesting and real, when implemented well. 

Participants graciously tweeted highlights and photos live from the event. You can read about it here

Thank you to Mark C. Robins at and Alec Humes at Google for a fun evening and an educational event! 

By the way, in the photo I'm trying out Google Glass. Weird. Photo credit goes to Garry J. Wise, of Wise Law OfficeWise Law Blog and SlawTips. Actually, even the idea of taking the photo goes to Garry! 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, law firm marketing and legal business development services.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Strengthening Your Clinical Team

Strengthening Your Clinical Team, Anna-Liza Badaloo (Manager, Clinical Development) interviews Sandra Bekhor, was previously published in The Pulse - Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors, Summer 2015, Issue 78.  

Working with others in a clinic setting can be an incredibly rewarding experience. But there’s more to working effectively together than figuring out rent percentage splits and scheduling. How well does the team work together on a day-to-day basis? How can you improve these relationships and make sure you’re all on the same page? The Pulse sat down with Practice Development Consultant Sandra Bekhor to find out how you can use the summer months to take a step back and strengthen your clinical team.

Write a Mission Statement: One challenge of having a clinical team, is that clients often feel that they’re not on the same page with all staff in the clinic. If your clients feel this way, it’s a great opportunity to find out if you are indeed all on the same page. Try writing a clinic mission statement and discussing it with everyone in your clinic.  Think of your mission statement as your compass. It powers all clinic decision-making processes, ensures that the right things are being prioritized, and avoids the inclusion of personal agendas. Everyone must feel they have a meaningful role, and that each role pushes the mission forward. To design your mission statement ask yourself about its purpose and valued difference.

How Does the Team Gel? Is your team communicating and relating well? If you’re not, clients will sense that vibe and it will reflect negatively on your clinic. Never underestimate the importance of this level of communication. Some initial questions to ask yourself to assess this would be: Are there conflicts? Do all staff share a vision? Balance each other? Understand each other’s jobs, and how each job contributes to the whole? Could your clinic benefit if you step up your role as a leader by engaging in coaching and mentoring? Consider kicking things off with a team bonding exercise or a clinic retreat for a day, an afternoon or even a few hours. 

Review Job Descriptions: Although you may feel that it’s obvious what everyone’s job is in your clinic, try writing out a job description for all clinic staff, and yourself. You may be surprised by what you learn! Then take it one step further: have all staff (including yourself) write down a job description for what they would like to be doing.  Then figure out how to get from your current job description to your future one by asking yourself: Do I need to delegate more? Stop doing something? Outsource something? Get more training on a specific topic? 

Performance Management: This is only applicable to clinics where there is an established reporting structure. Remember, performance management is not an annual activity, it is a daily activity. Setting up a process is key.  For example, are there formal reviews? And what are you measuring in these reviews? There is little point to conducting performance reviews without ensuring that you are measuring indicators that truly help you assess performance. And perhaps most importantly, what is your communication around performance reviews? Often times, it’s not what you say, but how you say it. To get started, sit down one-on-one with each of your direct reports to learn about their personal career goals and where they are struggling.

Evaluating Processes: If you think you don’t have a process for something, think again: whatever you’re doing right now is your process. So the question becomes, is your current process working for you? If not, you need a new process. Some facets of clinic management that are worth considering here are human resources, communication, administration, overt medical/clinical aspects, and training. To think about what processes may be due for a revamp, ask yourself: Where things are getting lost? Where am I losing time? Where am I worried that something important for a patient is getting lost, negatively affecting continuity in care? What keeps me up at night?

The Hiring Process: These processes always take longer than you think, and often are reactive. Do yourself (and your clinic) a favour, and plan ahead. Start thinking about the steps required to hire a new staff member. Identify what you need and think about where you can source individuals with these skills. You can even have a few initial meetings. The key here is that you don’t need to act on it right way, but if you lay the groundwork for your hiring process in a slower time period, when you’re ready to hire (which often coincides with a busy time in your clinic) you’ll be all set to go. 

Imagine returning to your clinic after a summer vacation with the knowledge that you’ve done the work necessary to support and improve clinic function throughout the busy fall season. The final step? Sit back, and congratulate yourself on a summer well spent. Your clients and your staff will thank you!

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized naturopathic, chiropody, chiropractic, dental, veterinary, massage therapy and other Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) clinics are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, medical clinic marketing and business development services.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Mindfulness for Lawyers Goes Mainstream

Ever wonder how all the recent buzz about mindfulness might possibly have relevance to you, as an individual and maybe even as a professional? Well, I was recently interviewed by Garry J. Wise, of Wise Law Office, Wise Law Blog and SlawTips on the possibilities for lawyers.  Here's a short excerpt:

“Sharper listening skills will make you a better lawyer, presumably, whether you are listening to your client, opposing counsel or a judge. What you do with that information is up to you."...

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, law firm marketing and legal business development services.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Takeaway #2 from 'Turning strangers into clients', a social media roadmap for architects

I just got back from speaking at the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) conference in Hamilton. My session was called 'Turning strangers into clients', a social media roadmap for architects.  I've already shared one takeaway after giving a webinar on this topic to the Interior Designers of Canada (IDC) last November. But it's a really deep subject, so here's takeaway #2. 

Social media marketing is deceptively simple. No programming. No printing. Even design is optional. Essentially, it presents no obstacles to posting content to the web.  Anyone can set up an account and click away.

So, without cost or risk, many architects (and other professionals) just join in, hoping something will stick. And after numerous attempts with inconsistent to disappointing results, they are left wondering how the game is really played. 

Before delving into the hows and whys of social media, there's a pink elephant in the room that we need to talk about.  The hidden costs of social media marketing need to be acknowledged in order to change the mindset about how it should be approached:
  1. Your time - how much time do you need to spend on something before it starts to be considered a real cost? Same goes for everyone else at your firm.  Architects are busy people. Those minutes, hours and days could easily have been put to good use, should they have been available... even if it simply meant going home earlier. 
  2. Opportunity cost - What's the value of lost opportunity? If the social media marketing game had been 'played right', what would you have won? New clients? Talented employees? Media coverage? And since success breeds success, over the years how could you have built on those winnings and compounded them?  If you had won one new client two years ago, what other opportunities might have followed? More projects from the same client? Referrals? A better portfolio? Media coverage?...
  3. Reputation -  Everything you post is public. So, it becomes part of your firm's way of greeting the world. And, in many instances, it's your first impression, possibly with your bull's eye market. Would you normally treat such opportunity lightly in the real world?  Not likely. Just think about the focus and preparation that you put into meeting with a prospective client, presenting a proposal or attending a networking event. 

So, what's the takeaway? 

While social media marketing is 'social' and very much about building relationships between individuals, in order to be effective it needs to sit on a foundation that includes clarity about what your firm does that's great, who you want to work with above all else and the way you wish to communicate with others. Why do these high level brand and marketing decisions matter when it comes to a 140 character tweet? A photo on instagram? A brief comment on LinkedIn? Every action you take - the people you connect with or don't connect with, the responses you post to others or the lack thereof, the news you share about your projects - all of it communicate something about your firm's character. And if you try to keep it neutral in order to play it safe, you'll still be communicating something... lackluster. Not a quality architects normally embrace. 

Consider the ripple effect of your brand and marketing strategy.  It's not just a matter of a logo, brochure and website.  It's the engine behind the social media marketing posts that deliver more than likes.  They deliver results.  

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management