I’m concerned about some of the activity I see playing out among brokers and advisors with their online social activity. And I’d like to note that paradoxically this concern is actually a cause for celebration.

There is enough participation online that it’s time to take a reflective look at the type of activity you’re engaging in and evaluate what your goals are with marketing, in particular, your online presence. Now that so many are participating and it’s getting really exciting, you need to be more strategic about your approach.

But before getting into the concerns, let’s start with the kudos.

Since 2009, when we started our advisory firm, Kevin and I have been on LinkedIn and Twitter and regularly writing and blogging. We really felt it was the key to developing a national presence and were very dedicated to spending time exploring, developing, and refining ideas to share in small nuggets or full-length articles. We often posted to the deafening sound of crickets, but we persevered, truly believing this was the way and people would start to catch on.

And I am beyond delighted to say that after many years, online activity really has become the critical platform for sharing and learning, meeting new faces and solution providers, and researching prospective clients as we hoped it would be. Kudos to all of you participating and believing in the power of the online connections to advance your knowledge and your businesses!

Now here’s where the rub comes in.

Activity or productivity?

Increased activity is great if it’s the right activity and helping you advance your mission. But activity for the sake of feeling busy is wasted time. And activity not focused on helping you advance your goals may be fun, but again, likely a waste of time.

So let’s talk through this.

At Q4i we tout having a strong LinkedIn presence as critical for sales success. And, as you’d expect from any good learner, we get pushback. Why is it critical? How is it helpful? What should I do? How do I do it? I see other people doing things that don’t seem like it would be helpful to me and sales. Is it actually relevant activity?

These are all excellent questions and observations.

Our member agencies talk about this regularly, and the most common question asked of one another from those not convinced is, “If you’re participating online, is it helping your sales?” To which one of our members replied, “I’m not looking for the golden calf of leads from LinkedIn posting & sharing– that isn’t the point of marketing. I realize the LinkedIn efforts are both agency and personal brand building, not lead generation.”

And he’s right. Marketing can set you up to be seen in a positive (or negative) light with readers and that could lead to an eventual sales conversation. Marketing can also support your prospecting efforts for those people who are already interested in you. And you will find the occasional situation where LinkedIn activity leads directly to business.

But if you approach marketing/online activity as a direct means to lead generation, you’ll fail. You need to connect with people over topics that are meaningful to them. And your sales pitch is not one of those topics.

Peers and clients

I see people spending a significant amount of time connecting with peers and not drawing a clear client/prospect connection. Making those peer connections is an excellent use of the platform and time. I’m not arguing against this at all.

In fact, I celebrate it and think it’s an incredibly valuable use of time. Discussing ideas to help everyone advance in their roles is extremely relevant and very much needed. And the open nature of these conversations is raising the tide of the entire industry.

But talking only to peers and industry insiders begins to feel like an exclusive club where clients are not permitted. Conversations are going on about clients, but not necessarily including them.

I’m not suggesting that you stop what you’re doing with the industry connections. Rather I’m suggesting that you expand what you’re doing to include clients.

If you’re only talking to your peers, you’re leaving your clients and prospects out of the conversation.

If you’re only talking to your clients and prospects, you’re leaving out valuable conversation to help you expand your knowledge and reach. And you’re also missing an opportunity to show your clients how active you are in the industry, working diligently on their behalf.

And if you don’t participate at all, you lack access to critical resources and advantages that others have.

Bottom line is that you need to participate and be well-rounded in your activity.

Drawing clients and prospects into the circle

Bringing clients and prospects into conversations takes some concentrated effort. Draw the correlations for them directly. Don’t make them wade through your feed and read everything to find a nugget of relevant information. They probably won’t, in which case, you’re missing out on possible opportunity.

Instead, call out employers – either generically (i.e., Hey CEOs, this is relevant to you!) or even by name if appropriate (tag them using @ and selecting their name) and use your extended online presence as an opportunity to educate your client/prospect audience about all of the ideas you’re learning through peer sharing. Heck, you could even introduce them to some of your circles much like you might do at a networking event.

Get creative and educate, educate, educate

But don’t limit yourself. You’re acquiring so many great ideas by participating in these networking circles and there are many ways to get the information from those online conversations to your clients.

A face-to-face conversation is one obvious method. A client sent me an email explaining how he’s been talking with clients about his ideas. “I told them I have to work on tempering my enthusiasm… and they said it’s my enthusiasm that has them sold on the concepts.” He wants to be the one introducing the ideas and controlling the conversation. And he is, through face-to-face meetings, group presentations, and online conversations.

Which brings up a key point that face-to-face conversations are a great method for sharing important information. But don’t use that as an excuse to not connect otherwise, waiting for the perfect opportunity to let people know what’s on your mind. Get it out there now. There are so many ways to share directly and indirectly:

  • Send direct messages (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter)
  • Or send emails – either individually or through bulk newsletter-type updates
  • Write up your ideas in blog posts
  • Make a video and post to LinkedIn or Facebook (the place where you tend to see your clients/prospects most frequently)
  • Break the ideas out into small bites and create a presentation you can upload to SlideShare and then post to your blog, LinkedIn, Twitter

The great thing about all these options is that you can share once and then re-package and repurpose it. For example, a LinkedIn update can expand into a blog post, which can be reworked as a video, and then broken down into a SlideShare. It takes multiple interactions for the ideas to really sink in, so don’t be shy about re-sharing in this way.

Another great benefit to doing all the work of creating and re-creating content, you’ll be even more prepared to talk about it in meetings or in a presentation.

The most important idea to take away is that you need to be the one sharing the message and the education.

Making the marketing – sales connection

Finally, let’s bring this back around to how it translates to sales. All of it works hand-in-hand, you just have to be diligent about sharing the relevant information, drawing in targeted people, paying attention to who is engaging, making adjustments, and when appropriate, reaching out as a follow-up.

One of our members offered her advice to the common struggle of how to make online activity useful for advancing your sales efforts. “I always suggest to brokers that when posting, they need to see if any of their top prospects are engaging or if it’s just connections/friends that they’ve had in the past (i.e., the same people over and over again). If your top prospects are engaging, then that gives a great sense of some ROI and additionally a reason to reach out to them to chat.

Even if it’s not top prospects, there could be new leads. Take the time to evaluate who has engaged with your posts that week– spend an hour a week to go through all of the posts/engagement and see if there is anyone new worth reaching out to.”

Excellent advice!

I LOVE that so many people are educating themselves and being engaged in a growing community. I also want to see all of this time spent being used in a really productive way to connect with the people who rely on you to bring them the ideas, advice, and solutions they need to have a thriving employee population.

We’ve long said that those who figure out how to master educational marketing will own their markets. There is so much information and flying around every day – the information is readily accessible, and employers will be drawn to the people who introduce the ideas to them. Don’t let someone else out there draw the attention of your clients and prospects. Make that your mission.

Those who take the conversations and idea exchanges they have online and regularly translate them from personal development into client education will be winning clients hand over fist.

Dedicate your time to ensuring that one of those people is YOU!

Photo by Giulio Fornasar