Social media has entered the workplace faster than many companies have been prepared to handle. Uncertainty over its benefits means adoption has been slow, especially among management consulting firms.

Our research bears this out: management consulting firms lag high-growth companies in their use of techniques such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, along with other digital marketing techniques such as blogging, search engine optimization, e-newsletters, pay-per-click advertising and use of YouTube.

This reluctance is further highlighted by these data points regarding overall online marketing:

  • Most management consulting firms generate less than 20% of leads online
  • 50% of management consulting firms update their websites up to once a week, as compared to 75% of high-growth companies
  • Less than one-third of management consulting firms use online contact forms, whereas over 70% of high-growth firms employ them as a primary means of contact.

Social Media Winning Over Management Consulting Firms

Clearly, social media is going against the grain in management consulting, but that is changing. Another vital statistic shows that more than 70% of management consulting firms anticipate hikes in digital marketing at an average rate approaching 95%.  While digital marketing covers more programs than social media, this projected increase is indicative of an inclination toward embracing social media. We attribute the preference for more digital marketing and social media to three reasons.

  1. Digital marketing and its social media component are less costly than traditional marketing.  Allocating staff time for a social media plan and implementation is simply not as expensive as advertising and sending teams to trade shows.  Firms don’t want to bet their future on repeat business from existing clients, so they need to widen their base of leads and increase their percentage of online leads.
  2. Buyers of these services are increasingly looking online for solutions to their problems.  In fact, in our last study 27% of buyers reported this – more than any other industry category.  This makes it imperative for management consulting firms to be online, using social media to own issues of importance to clients and to showcase their expertise to prospects. 
  3. A management consulting firm is only as good as its staff.  Firms recognize that their intellectual property goes home every night, so they must have an environment that is good for retention, and recruitment.  As a result, they need to increase their 20% rate of online recruiting.

Custom-Build Your Social Media Strategy

Because it operates under a general definition of improving clients’ levels of performance, management consulting has become a category of many types of firms. It includes marketing companies that generate leads, sales companies that provide training, recruiting firms that find staff, human resources firms that help manage personnel with processes and systems, and a host of other types of firms with their own niches.  And of course there are large management consulting firms with the wherewithal to support clients across many industries.

Here’s why this is important for a social media strategy.

1) Customize. The breadth of firms demands that management consulting firms have a social media strategy tailored to their niche.  Find the online venues used by your audiences, and then develop and deepen relationships with them.  You may find that clients frequent one area while potential influencers are in another.  Recruits may likely be in a third.

Some cursory research will guide you here, and LinkedIn groups are a great place to start.  Twitter also is a good source and you can use its own embedded tool to search for followers based on keywords.  You may try 3rd party tools such as Twellow, a search directory of people by area of expertise, profession or other attribute. 

2) Be helpful. Engage audiences by providing content that addresses their issues without selling them. Content can take the form of providing an article from a colleague or client with a few words of introduction describing why it’s valuable.  Or you may want to stake out a position on an industry issue, or offer an opinion on how to overcome a longstanding problem.  A content calendar will help staff as they implement the program.

3) Get creative. Plan on creating different types of content for each platform, even if it’s for the same audience.  People are in a different mindset when using LinkedIn vs Facebook, and you may need to connect with them on more than one level. You are ultimately trying to master the art of the subtle sale by educating readers and sharing knowledge.

Experiment with Measurement

Popular long-term metrics for social media are certainly leads and sales, and there are software dashboards that to some degree can track how well social media is feeding the business development statistics.  You can also ask for qualitative measurements, such as how well your reach was extended into new or existing markets.  Which issues did the firm embrace and clarify? Did the social media effort help filter out prospects that otherwise would have consumed business development time? Did it reduce sales cycle time?

As you build your system of measurement, consider having staff probe prospects for how they found the firm online, what their reaction is to the content they saw or what pushed them to take the step to contact your firm.  As with the strategy, customizing is necessary for properly measuring a social media program for management consulting.  

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