Even if your firm is just stuffed with the keenest minds in the business, if potential clients don’t know about it, your payroll will eat your firm.
This came to me most clearly after a conversation with a colleague I’ll call “Janet” who works with one of Canada’s biggest banks. She leads a team that finds external expertise that the bank needs. Her team gets called in whenever the bank needs to solve a particular problem and doesn’t have the expertise in-house or want to hire someone permanently. Perhaps it needs to put a valuation on a unique kind of business, or find someone with expertise in preventing phishing attacks.
Because of this role, I figured she’d be a good person to shed some light on the question of how the bank determines whether a self-proclaimed “expert” is right for the assignment.
As Janet told me, “We hire a ton of consultants.”
Her team includes a researcher whose job includes online searches to find experts on a wide range of topics. She says that this starts with keyword searches under relevant topics. The researcher develops a long list of people and organizations that seem to have expertise on the subject at hand.
Once he’s pulled together a list of possible service providers, the team gets to work shortening the list. They look for articles that the purported “expert” has published, speaking engagements, the number of times quoted in the news media, courses they’ve taught and other indications of expertise.
From what Janet said, it came clear to me that third-party validation of the potential consultant or firm is important. It’s not just enough to have a blog, for example -- that blog must be well regarded and cited by others, and it’s better yet if the information has been accepted for publication in a recognized business magazine or journal. Doing a webinar is good, but it’s better yet to present the same information to a recognized conference or business association.
Depending on the level of recognition of the potential consultant’s expertise, Janet’s team develops a short list and then, after interviews with the people involved, makes a recommendation.
My conversation with Janet was useful to me in that it validated my view that for thought-leaders, getting their ideas published is an important way to get their status recognized.
I’ve generally thought of getting published, making presentations and speeches, authoring books and other thought-leadership measures as a way to get noticed, so that a potential client will reach out after absorbing the content generated by the consultant. The idea is that potential clients would read the articles, hear the presentations and watch the videos as part of their usual process of staying current.
Janet confirmed the importance of demonstrating expertise, for what are becoming classic Content Marketing reasons -- to get found by potential clients or customers with a pressing need.
But that conversation also underlined for me the importance of online “location” in online search. This is different from “location” as is currently hot, as in location-specific content for mobile devices, answering questions such as “What stores nearby are having sales on shoes?” or “Where’s the nearest ATM for my bank?”
Online “location” on a trusted, authoritative website is an important part of giving your firm’s content the validation it needs. That will give potential clients, such as “Janet’s” bank, the confidence that your firm is a good choice. More importantly, it will help indicate that your firm is a SAFE choice -- that if the decision-maker decides on your firm, he or she can defend that choice to the higher-ups.