BTerrell Group Blog

Masters of CPA Social Selling: Eric Majchrzak on How to Raise Your Social Capital

Posted by Brian Terrell on Wed, Oct 22, 2014

Social selling doesn't fall neatly into the standard buy/sell model. Even though you're the seller in a social selling relationship, you're the one who needs to raise capital – not the buyer. You need to raise your social capital.  According to today's master of social selling, Eric Majchrzak, "Social capital is the currency of the social web."

Eric is the Chief Marketing Officer for BeachFleischman, an Arizona-based CPA firm with over $20 million in annual revenue. BeachFleischman serves an international client base and it's made social media and social selling an integral part of its marketing strategy. For Eric, the key to raising social capital is to "build relationships through social channels for the purpose of providing value. Don't merely sell for the sake of sales but really have a purpose behind your activity."

In order to provide something valuable to your target market, you need to know what they're thinking about and talking about. If you want to know that, you need to listen (my wife taught me that). Eric uses social media tools like Twitter and LinkedIn to listen to what people in search of a CPA firm are saying or what accounting questions they're asking. This approach not only helps them identify people during their "point of need," but influences the content the firm puts out. The firm regularly posts original content on its blog answering common accounting questions or providing tax tips.

Social Capital Funding Sources

While providing value is the "what" of social capital, Eric identifies a multitude of sources as the "where" of finding it. In fact, there are so many social capital funding sources that Eric insists that everyone can contribute:

  1. Bringing offline activities online: All the ways CPAs are already active in the community, from sitting on boards to being active in professional or nonprofit organizations – these remain valuable methods for raising social capital. Eric recommends these offline activities be augmented with online communications. For example, BeachFleischman recently participated in the viral ALS ice bucket challenge.
  2. Introverts and Extroverts: The extroverts may still dominate the in-person relationship building, but Eric doesn't want anyone to overlook the introverts on their team. "They really have a lot to say. It's all locked up in their brain, which makes them great candidates for content marketing," Eric explains. They're the sources for your white papers, seminars, and blog content. Eric also suggests the introverts are great resources for monitoring forums and communities, to do the social listening described above.
  3. Staff and Institutional social profiles: Eric and his team manage the firm's institutional social media presence through mediums like the blog and its social media profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. However, they also get staff on some of these platforms. They'll ask individual people at the firm to reach out and create social connections through social media that may be valuable for the firm. Other social activities firm personnel perform include following key folks on social media and sharing relevant content through their own profiles. The content doesn't need to be their own; it can be the firm's or other sources that are providing quality content that's relevant to the firm's community and prospects.
  4. Tech savvy and Newbies: Eric explains one of the reasons BeachFleischman is on so many social media channels is because "we want the opportunity to engage people in the space where they're comfortable. In the space they're used to going into every day." He takes this same approach for getting people at the firm online regardless of their social media experience. Eric recommends ramping up the newbies slowly, perhaps just 5-10 minutes a day.  Typically, the newbies' first task is to share content from the firm via their personal LinkedIn profiles. Additional responsibilities and platforms are added into the mix later; these can include tasks such as following organizations important to the firm and sharing their content. Having newbies monitor group discussions is encouraged not only to keep an ear on what issues people are talking about, but also as a good way to get them more comfortable in eventually  participating in the conversation.

Making the Investment

Raising social capital doesn't happen overnight. There's no angel to tap your shoulder. Listening to Eric, I think I can boil down his fundamentals of the "how" of raising social capital:

  1. Listening to your prospects, clients, and community. What are they talking about; what's concerning them? You build social capital by focusing on them, not you.
  2. Sharing content filled with good value that's relevant to what you're hearing from your community.
  3. Participating in the communities, online and offline. Listening and sharing are part of participating, but also actively network, ask for and accept connections; follow people and organizations that are providing good content.

Now you have Eric's what, where and how of raising social capital. The rest is up to you.  Well, not entirely... we've got more interviews with masters of CPA social selling coming up to give you more tips and guidance. So check back here often; you can also follow us on Twitter at @BTerrellGroup to get notified when a new post comes out.

Tags: social selling

Masters of CPA Social Selling: Jason Blumer Reveals How His Firm Gets Ideal Clients to Contact Them

Posted by Brian Terrell on Wed, Oct 08, 2014

The giant, flashing red neon sign that greets you when you visit the Blumer CPAs website may be your first clue that it's not your typical CPA firm. Maybe.

Forging a distinctive path through the well-tilled field of public accounting has already gotten Jason Blumer profiled in the New York Times and the Huffington Post. But today is where things get really exciting for Jason – now he's getting profiled here on the BTerrell Group blog, exclusively for you! I had a chance to talk with Jason where he shared with me some details on his firm's approach to social selling.

If you read the recent post covering my talk with Rhonda Maraziti, Director of Marketing and Practice Growth at WithumSmith+Brown, you've already gotten an introduction to social selling (if you haven't, read about it here). In case you still think social selling only works to get teenagers to buy a certain pair of shoes or energy drink, consider this:

Jason shared with me another interesting fact – most of his firm's client come from Twitter.

I'll repeat that. Well, I'll let Jason tell you himself:

"We get most of our clients come through Twitter; our clients find us. We really don't have to go out and find them. We have a constant source of leads coming into our sales pipeline."

If that doesn't convince you that social media and social selling now need to be part of the marketing landscape for a professional services firm, I can't help you. For the rest of you:

Changing the Mindset

One of the first steps he used to implement a social selling strategy was to create a firm brand, not your typical CPA firm tactic. As Jason explains it, clarifying a brand for the firm is critical to being successful with social selling, "If you look at the social presence of most firms, they're not really talking to anybody. You need to know what you're trying to say and who you're trying to say it to."

Social selling works when you attract prospects because they're interested in what you're putting out there. So you need to know who your prospects are. One of Jason's key recommendations is to niche your clientele; an approach he acknowledges is difficult for many firms.

"People are fearful of detracting customers, but what you're really trying to do is align with the right customer and have the wrong customer go away."

Presenting a clear brand voice though your firm's social presence forges the relationship with the right kind of customers. According to Jason, their content "lets people know that we're thought leaders, we have knowledge and when we're talking, we know what we're talking about." For example, the firm has a particular expertise in helping creative companies manage themselves through the benefits and complexities of growth. As a result, much of its content shares the firm's insights and guidance surrounding growth.

Getting It Done

Now that I understood Jason's strategic approach to social selling, I needed to know about his tactics. Jason and his firm use a variety of channels to get their content out:

Since Twitter has been so successful for the firm, that will be our focus here. Jason has been on Twitter for around six years – "before anyone knew what to do with it," he says.

Jason offers two pieces of advice on how they use Twitter. First, they make their content here (and the other social media sites) visual. Research shows that social media posts with images get more shares, which is an important part of expanding the reach of your social audience. One tactic Jason uses is to create a simple visual of a quote from an upcoming podcast and tweet that out as a promo. Here's a recent example:

Sample Tweet

The next tactic you should appropriate is to re-post the same content multiple times. Jason's wife Jennifer oversees marketing for the firm and uses Tweetdeck, a scheduling tool, to make this easy. The shelf life of a tweet has been calculated to last anywhere between 18 minutes to 3 hours, so pushing out the same tweet at different times of day over an extended period of time helps reach the broadest audience.

The multi-tweet approach also speaks to the evergreen nature of the firm's content. The tweet above may be promoting a recent podcast, but there's no reason in the world why Jennifer can't schedule today for this tweet to go out again three months now. Her standard protocol is to share a tweet at least three times.

Understanding the ROI

Jason doesn't bother to track KPIs. His firm's approach is to "just saturate the world with thought leadership quotes, posts, and we do it consistently."

Consistency – that's our fourth big take-away here.

When it comes to ROI, Jason says, "It's hard to connect a new client to a specific post. But an inundation of all that content to one person, ultimately over a year may go 'Wow! These guys are the guys!' and reach out to us then."

Quality prospects coming to find you? Now that's living the dream.

Tags: social media, social selling

Masters of CPA Social Selling: Rhonda Maraziti Credits Executive Sponsorship for Directing WithumSmith+Brown’s Social Selling Success

Posted by Brian Terrell on Wed, Oct 01, 2014

Networking and referral marketing reign at or near the top of business development strategies for CPA firms and other professional service organizations. In the digital age, Social Media platforms provide additional networking options for professionals to attract and retain clients. In this post, I recap the first in a series of conversations I’ve had with CPA firm marketing leaders regarding Social Selling, which might be defined as using social platforms to develop and promote a brand, provide thought leadership to the marketplace, and drive business to a firm. Thank you to Rhonda Maraziti, the Director of Marketing and Practice Growth at WithumSmith+Brown for agreeing to share her thoughts on professional service Social Selling in the digital age.

Social Selling in the Digital Age

CPAs and other professionals have always engaged in and excelled at Social Selling through real world social activities and events designed to connect firms with prospective clients. Of course this still works; however, the process can now begin online with Social Media and then carry over to face-to-face meetings. Social Selling in the age of Social Media uses various digital social platforms, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to build a personal and business brand, share content designed to establish thought leadership, and attract prospective clients that ultimately drive business to the firm. Social Selling success requires knowing a target demographic and understanding in which platform’s context that demographic participates. “We find that LinkedIn users are far different from Instagram users,” says Rhonda, adding, “Facebook and Instagram we keep light with culture. Twitter we use for news and to promote thought leadership. LinkedIn we use for connections in thought leadership.”

Rhonda insists that, regardless of the platform on which one publishes, driving traffic to a firm’s website must remain strategically top of mind. “Developing and implementing an effective content marketing strategy is likely the most important thing professional service firms can do today, using the power of Google and the many social platforms out there to drive traffic to their website. Most everything we post or share has a link leading back to our website.” Increased traffic results in better SEO (search engine optimization), meaning a site will garner increased visibility to users searching the web.

Online Relationship Building Doesn’t Replace Offline

Rhonda reminds us of the enduring importance of in-person relationship building: “We still need to have those personal relationships and meet face-to-face, and go to lunch, and take your client to the golf course.” However, with the younger generation immersed in mobile technology, relationship building with younger generations may have to start online. In certain cases, she emphasizes, some prospects want to find a professional first through Social Media. They want to take part in conversations happening around their business and interests. So, it’s important to meet them where they are.

Assessing return on investment in marketing and advertising challenges all marketers, but Rhonda says it’s getting easier with Social Media. Social platforms constantly develop new ways to track analytics, such as measuring likes on Facebook or retweets on Twitter. She recommends and her firm uses Google Analytics, which tracks users who visit a site after spending time on social platforms. In addition, a CRM “opportunities pipeline”, which collects data on how clients and prospects find the firm, helps gauge the effectiveness of social platforms.

Importance of Executive Sponsorship

When asked about WithumSmith+Brown’s route to becoming an industry leader in Social Selling, Rhonda credits the executive sponsorship and example her firm enjoys from their Managing Partner and CEO, Bill Hagaman.  Bill participates with his own blog on the company website, and he actively publishes shorter snippets of news and thought leadership via Twitter.  In addition, Withum produces video blogs, informational videos on their services, and an annual video celebrating the firm’s yearly State of the Firm event spotlighting the firm's culture, repurposing that content across various Social Media channels. The culture videos prove to be particularly effective recruiting tools and have landed the firm on the cover of Accounting Today in addition to contributing to other interview and public relations opportunities. With this and other video content, Rhonda says, “Not only are we perceived in the profession as smart leaders and as a good accounting firm, but we also have a nice balance of having some fun, too.”

Congratulations to Rhonda Maraziti and WithumSmith+Brown for using digital platforms to propel brand building, thought leadership and business development. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and best practices so that other professionals may better prepare to enjoy the opportunities that digital Social Selling provides! Please check back next week for my article on a recent discussion with Jason Blumer, Chief Innovation Officer of Blumer & Associates, CPAs, PC, who is yet another thought leader willing to share his expertise on this important topic!

WithumSmith+Brown is well versed in the disciplines relevant to doing business in today’s world.  Since 1974, the Firm has continued to grow in breadth and depth of experience and expertise, providing an elite level of service and quality to private and publicly held companies. As the Director of Marketing and Practice Growth, Rhonda Maraziti directs a team of 10 marketing professionals assisting 80 partners and 250 CPAs in 12 offices with building their books of business. Please follow Rhonda on Twitter (@RhondaMaraziti) and then visit withum.com to watch their State of the Firm videos, view Bill Hagaman’s blog, and learn more about the firm.

 

 

Tags: social media, social selling