Here's Part Two of my six-part conversation about professional services firms and social networking, with Microengagement's Tim Gilchrist and Steve Fisher. If you missed it, here's Part 1.
Lowe: I've watched as professional firms are beginning to embrace blogs, podcasting or other social media techniques. Do you think these firms have embraced a strategy of social networking, or do you think they are just feeling their way?
Gilchrist: Part of the beauty of the whole movement toward social networking is that a lot of these companies are left with no choice. Look at YouTube, which sold for $1.65 billion; you can't ignore that. In the end, it's a good thing.
Companies that otherwise would not engage their customers at all now are having to do so. The market conversation will continue with or without them. The smart ones are going to sit down and think ahead about things that might happen, like when customers design and produce TV commercials [about their firm] and put them on the Internet. Look at the example of Microsoft's Channel 9 and Lego: at first suing their own customers for hacking software and then embracing them and turning it into part of their production (Lego).
Lowe: When do you think the business world is going to "get it" about social networking, and what will it take?
Fisher: A lot of business-to-business companies I dealt with did not "get" even talking to their customers on a regular basis, even through just traditional media: getting on the phone or conducting a feedback survey, let alone leveraging the new social media.
So the answer to the question is: it depends upon the company and how customer-oriented it is. You might find that 20-25% of companies say they are really close to their customer, and the other 75%, to varying degrees, are either not that close or don't even bother to talk to the customers at all. It's not in their comfort level. Inertia is a big factor.
Gilchrist: The thing I like to focus on is the new crop of kids, call them Gen Y or whatever. I refer to them as 'natural born crowd sourcers.' Think about just a few of the facts of their upbringing and how they think. Look at Gen-Y'ers, and contrast that to a 40-year-old. We did our homework alone. They wouldn't know what that is. For us, 'play' involved getting on a bike and riding. They just jump online. So they really do approach collaboration differently. Their heroes are not the sort of brilliant misunderstood geniuses that overcame everything; their heroes are more the (famous) people who got where they are by collaboration.
Next time: Are professional service firms less sensitive to clients' needs than they could be?
Suzanne Lowe is founder of Expertise Marketing, LLC and author of The Integration Imperative: Erasing Marketing and Business Development Silos – Once and For All – in Professional Service Firms and Marketplace Masters: How Professional Services Firms Compete to Win. She blogs at the MarketingProfs Daily Fix and her own blog, the Expertise Marketplace.
Before founding Expertise Marketing in 1996, Ms. Lowe spent more than a decade leading the marketing programs for top-tier management consulting and business-to-business organizations. Before that, she spent more than a decade managing and implementing strategies for political candidates and organizations.
She spearheads the only widely disseminated research initiative on strategic marketing perceptions, practices and performance of professional service firms around the globe.
In addition, Suzanne Lowe has written or been quoted in nearly 100 articles on the topic of professional services marketing strategy. Her work has appeared in the a rel="nofollow" href="http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu/b01/en/hbr/hbr_home.jhtml">Harvard
Business Review, BusinessWeek.com, CMO Magazine, Harvard
Management Update, and scores of profession-specific magazines and journals, including MarketTrends, Marketer, Marketing the Law Firm, Accounting Today, Engineering, Consultants News, Structure, Journal of Law Office Economics and Management, The Practicing CPA, Environmental Design and Construction, Massachusetts High Tech, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, and the Legal Marketing Association’s Strategy. She is a contributor to the second edition of the book Marketing
Professional Services, by Kotler, Hayes and Bloom. She has also been instrumental in the development, writing and publication of five books and nearly 50 articles and book chapters for her consulting clients.
Suzanne speaks regularly around the world to leading trade associations, industry groups and in-house firm audiences. Her work has also been presented internationally, most recently at the American Marketing Association's annual Frontiers in Services conference. She facilitates a Roundtable of Chief Marketing Officers from some of the world's largest and most prestigious professional service firms. She has guest-lectured at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and designs and delivers customized executive education programs in marketing for professional service executives.
She advises the leaders of professional service firms, from small start-up practices to large global organizations.
Ms. Lowe received a B.A. from Duke University.