Over the past month, I have been reminded very strongly about the importance of building your online footprint – particularly if you want to save time doing business development. In this blog post, I look at the 5 ways in which you can use your online footprint to help you sign up the right clients quicker.

1. Helps you get introductions from your network

One of my ex-clients rang me recently, asking if I could help his son with introductions to possible employers. I agreed readily – after all, I will always help out my clients, past, present or future. Although his son was keen and eager to find his first role as an accountant, he didn’t have any online footprint. No LinkedIn profile, blog, published article or anything which I could point to, when introducing him, as evidence of his credibility. Now, this was a very junior professional looking for his first job, so understandably he may not have a published article. If he was blogging about what he was learning, or using twitter to build his network or LinkedIn to ‘show his best professional side’, it would have made any introductions much more likely to have a positive result.  

2. Helps to differentiate yourself

I was idly looking over AccountingWeb today, when I saw someone blogging on a very similar niche subject to myself. Shock horror – how dare they? (Joke!) So, I tracked them back to their website and had a very good nosy around. When I looked around my competitor’s new website, I was comforted. I knew that the consistency of my online content with I regularly provide (combined with quality content which was easily navigable), reinforced my credibility as I wasn’t trying to be all things to all people. This is very true for any HR consultant – don’t try and be all things to all people.

If you are trying to claim multiple specialities or sector expertise in your online footprint, this starts to dilute your credibility. If you would like some help to think about the content you would like to share to build your online footprint, then download our free guide to content planning.

3. Helps you to get the foot in the door and keep it in the door

One of my clients, who is a trainer, on the ‘Go-To’ Expert programme is doing incredibly well, and has nearly achieved her objectives for 2012/2013 after only 3 months doing the programme. (Woo hoo!) She was recently given a referral to a prospect for a large piece of work. However, her business development process has hit a slight hitch. Her prospect asked her for her website address, so he could see more of what she did. Cue the need to re-prioritise the re-building of her website. D’oh.

4. Helps the phone ring without you having to chase down every opportunity

The point in the buying process where prospects make themselves known has changed in the last five years. Previously prospects would announce themselves earlier and use the first contact with you to evaluate your competence, before proceeding to a proposal. Now, with the advent of all the content and knowledge freely available to prospects, they do a large proportion of their research before they call you. Which means when they do call you, they have a good idea that they probably want to buy from you.

I was fortunate to win a large contract to provide business networking training in Ireland. The work was put out to tender, and my tender was successful, without me having to do a beauty parade. I strongly believe that I wasn’t asked to go over to Ireland to do a beauty parade, because they checked out my credibility by looking me up online. This combined with a strong tender submission, meant I got the contract without having to physically present to the client. 

What have you got in your online footprint which allows your prospects to evaluate your credibility?

In fact, you can take this one step further. You can use the content you provide to educate your prospects to what they can expect from you, and what work they can do to shorten the business development cycle with you? For example, can you provide them with a document, for example if you are a mediation specialist, on ‘what to expect during a mediation’? To help you plan your content, how about downloading our free 10 page guide to content planning?

5. Allows you to attract the kind of clients you want

I was recently speaking with an ex-client of mine, an productivity training specialist, who I helped with his social media strategy. As part of the work I did with this client I helped him integrate his social media activity with his overall business development strategy. As a result of our work, he devised a content plan for his social media which focused on the problems which he provided solutions to. (The type of problems which he knew prompted his clients to pick up the phone to him.)

As a result of this focus to his content plan on social media, he has almost completely eliminated now the wrong type of leads. I.e. the ones which take time to qualify and never go anywhere. He is generating a significant amount of leads from each new blog post, which are the leads which generally turn into good business for him.

The amount of times that I have seen trainers trying to be all things to all people. You know, the type that on their LinkedIn profile say things like this:

”I work with entrepreneurs, professional practices, start-ups and SMEs”

Is there anyone this person doesn’t work with? All this does with your online footprint is reduce the effectiveness of your marketing, meaning the leads you do produce are often the wrong type, and waste your time to qualify and progress them through the sales process.

What has worked for your business to build up your on-line profile effectively?

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