Years ago, when we first began conducting client satisfaction interviews for clients, we spoke to a chief litigation counsel at a global manufacturer. This individual worked with law firms all over the world. He was a sophisticated consumer of services and an expert in his field. But what he told us about the criteria he used to select lawyers surprised us.
He told us he only hired attorneys that he liked, lawyers he could see himself spending time with beyond a particular case. Yes, they had to be great lawyers. They had to deliver results. Had to win the big cases. Had to blend courtroom skill with business acumen. But when all those things were equal—or when it became hard to determine who really was the better lawyer—the decision came down to this: Do I like you?
Even in business, decisions are made by people. And people make decisions that aren’t always driven by objective criteria. Rapport, likeability, affinity—these intangibles count a lot more than we often consider when we’re crafting our marketing programs.
And don’t forget that other critical intangible: Trust. Trust is inextricably linked to “like.”
So how does this relate to social media? How do you create “like” in an impersonal, online world?
There are numerous social media platforms to consider, but let’s look at LinkedIn, since it’s most popular today with professionals, surpassing 100M subscribers just this month.
Most professionals know LinkedIn helps you create and connect with your network, but LinkedIn also allows you to showcase your personality (the “like” factor) and build your reputation (the “trust” factor).
In the sometimes “me too” world of professional services, being unique— in a professional context—is a good thing. It creates points of difference between you and your competitors, enabling prospects to see you as a strong alternative. Points of difference also – and critically – make you memorable.
OK, back to LinkedIn. Rule #1: Don’t create a LinkedIn profile that sounds like everyone else’s. Let your personality and persona shine through. Here are a few tips for using LinkedIn in a personal yet professional manner:
Write your summary in the first person.
When you write in the first person, you sound approachable. Write your summary as if you were speaking with someone and explaining exactly what you do. If you write as you speak and write for a human audience, your own personal style will start to shine.
Infuse personality into your summary!
Don’t be afraid to show a sense of humor. The first step to liking or trusting someone is getting to know them. A lawyer I’ve worked with, a recognized expert in his field, has one of the funniest website bios I’ve read. And guess what? It works! His clients love it because it reflects his personality. His prospects like it because, while it clearly conveys his skill, it does so with a little panache. Writing with personality is the first step towards becoming approachable. Folks will feel as if they’re hearing you in your own words and getting to know you better. The more they think they know you, the more they like and trust you.
Using humor is not without risk, however. Run your summary by peers or clients who might be a little more open-minded than others to sound out your summary.
Be the Expert – Show, Don’t Tell
We’ve all read the bios that list credential after credential, award after award, sometimes going as far back as grade school! This is not what we mean by “be an expert!”
To be considered an expert—to create shortcuts for those who don’t know you to start trusting you—you must demonstrate your expertise and that isn’t accomplished by the traditional bio as litany of accomplishments. Instead, it is an actual demonstration of what it will be like to work with you. After all, that’s exactly what business development in professional services is—a trial run for what working with you will actually be like once he project or case has begun!
So, how do you “show” rather than “tell” the world you’re an expert? Engage in LinkedIn group discussions that attract your target audience. LinkedIn has thousands of groups, many of which will resonate with your targets. Find one or two and commit to engaging. Answer questions; start discussion threads; tie other members’ comments together for clarity. You will show your audience that you understand their needs and that you have a solid understanding of the legal issues they face.
LinkedIn Answers is another way to demonstrate expertise. On LinkedIn Answers, people post questions they have on any topic. Search for topics that pertain to your specialty and answer them! You’ll reach others on LinkedIn that you might not never have connected with otherwise, including reporters, who are using LinkedIn to find expert sources and your profile will update each time, alerting current connections to the answers you’ve provided, reminding them about problems you solve. The more you answer, the more reputation – and trust – you begin to generate.
It has long been an adage in professional services that people do business with people they know, like, and trust. Note the emphasis on people. They don’t like “me too” biographies, copycat summaries, laundry list accomplishments as narrative for skill, and personality-less profiles. They like people!
Yes, credentials, skill, and experience are essential. That’s a given. But in professional services, where we can’t kick the tires of the car or take it for a drive before we’ve paid for it, intangibles like trust and like are critical in the selection and retention process – because, remember, it isn’t purely objective.
So bring your personality back into marketing. Be personable. Be likeable. Be you. Use LinkedIn—and every other marketing initiative you run—to demonstrate what makes you different, what makes you a likeable, approachable, interesting—and yes, highly skilled—human being.