A law industry business development consultant I know says it takes on average 17 "touches" with a prospect before turning him or her into a client. Whether that's the number or not, the point is clear: It takes sustained engagement to bring in business.

So, whether you're a consultant, a lawyer, an accountant, or any other kind of professional, why would people engage with you? The answer is simple: They trust you.

And if you have some influence within your industry, your field of expertise, or your geographic region, they will be all the more likely to trust you. It's that simple.

Accordingly, if "influence" is a reason that potential clients are attracted to your services, it should also serve as a pillar of your online marketing strategy. In other words: Clout matters.

What Is Klout?

Klout "is the dominant system of grading and rating how much influence people have," write authors Gina Carr and Terry Brock in their book Klout Matters. Klout is "a social scoring system...used to measure your online and offline influence in various ways."

Klout uses social media accounts, such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn, to grade online participants. For example, if you have a Twitter account, then you are already being graded, much as you are earning a credit rating behind the scenes via your personal commercial transactions. (Also, Klout recently rolled out a new version of its service that provides tools to curate and share content related to your interests. And it's reportedly in the process of being acquired by Lithium Technologies.)

Klout is not the only influence-measuring program out there. For example, PeerIndex and Kred, and TweetLevel and BlogLevel by Edelman, are similar tools that attempt to determine people's online influence.

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image of Nicholas A. Kosar

Nicholas Kosar manages marketing campaigns for an AmLaw 100 law firm in Washington, DC. Prior to his work in the professional services sector, he was in book, magazine, and digital publishing.

LinkedIn: Nick Kosar

Twitter: @nakosar