Emma Hall is head of sales at GW Legal
There has been talk in the news recently about how, and if, other media companies can compete with the likes of Netflix, YouTube and Amazon.
According to BBC director general Tony Hall, for example, rules controlling UK media need to change otherwise British content could soon be a thing of the past. Netflix and Amazon alone are spending £13bn a year on programmes, whereas British main broadcasters are only budgeting around £1bn to £2bn annually.
At the same time, Tony Hall commented on how the BBC must keep up with the times and start appealing more to younger generations. It plans to do that by rebranding iPlayer as a ‘destination’ rather than just a catch-up service, spending more on youth programming and through its new app BBC Sounds, which brings together live and on-demand radio, music and podcasts.
If it doesn’t, Tony Hall warns, we will no longer have programmes which everyday British people can relate to, shows that reflect our own life circumstances and with characters we identify with. According to surveys, this is the content local consumers desire – but will they get that through the likes of Amazon and Netflix as opposed to the BBC? It’s not as likely.
These comments got us thinking about the legal and property fields and how this exact same situation is happening to smaller and medium-sized firms right now, as well as to brokers and introducers who work independent of the huge players.
There are some massive firms out there now providing a one-size-fits-all service to solve just about any legal issue (or so they advertise) and are often offering ultra affordable pricing schemes (again, as advertised!) that smaller businesses just can’t match.
Is it even possible that we can all – small and massive businesses – survive in today’s increasingly competitive, technological and ever-changing market, where in the consumer wants everything now, now, now?
Here are a few of our thoughts on the matter…
It’s all about the technology
All firms, large and small, and even independent practitioners, need to embrace new technologies, there is no question about it… even the smallest businesses can’t ignore this fact any longer.
The truth of the matter is – without proper technologies and a current, modern approach to all your operations, younger people are not going to use your services, as Tony Hall reinforces in his above example.
Moreover, without good technology, older generations probably aren’t going to utilise your business offering either. Everybody is online now. Eight-year-olds can code, 80-year-olds have the latest iPhone. The world would crumble without computers.
A few things are certain though – you must have a good website, you must invest in services such as SEO optimisation so potential clients can find your business and you must be on social media and have a regular stream of useful, meaningful and audience-targeted content.
It may be true that smaller firms don’t always have the resources and infrastructure to compete completely with the larger ones, especially in terms of technology. Maybe you don’t have an in-house IT team who can create a shiny new app for you or the budget and staff to implement an online chat option. Fine. Good tech practices need not be expensive and you don’t necessarily need to have it all.
Take social media, for example. Some businesses today are relying almost solely on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube to promote their businesses online – and to good results. Facebook in particular offers affordable advertising options that can really target your ideal client. There is no excuse not to give it a go. If done well, your online spend is going to be at least matched by the revenue you generate through new clients.
If you’re not sure where to start technology-wise, it can be a good idea to bring in a consultant to temporarily help out. Likewise, many digital firms now offer free ‘health checks’ that can assist you in identifying any problems you might have online.
A Little More On Social Media
A question often asked by small business owners is, ‘What do I put on social media?’ and ‘How can I use social media to get more customers or clients?’
There’s no one answer to this question, but there are a few basics that we employ.
- A mix of content that is interesting to stakeholders, whether they are clients, introducers or others in the legal or property fields. ‘Mix’ is a key term here. Posting your best offers and competitive pricing structure day-on-day-out isn’t going to get you far, as your followers will soon get bored. The same goes for posting what your staff members eat for lunch every Monday to Friday – that’s just too much sameness! Savvy online consumers want a variety of content, to really get a feel for your business, your values and the type of service you offer. A 30-second scroll down your social media feeds should indicate that to them, just as a flick through a magazine or newspaper would give a reader a good idea of whether they want to give that product a better look. Alternate between articles (written by you and uploaded on your own website or those in the media that are relevant to the services you provide – or even better, both), more personalised imagery such as staff photographs or office snaps, details of any deals, offers or events you are promoting and more current content such as a Facebook post to support a national charity initiative happening that week or a tweet about a trending hashtag. The ‘mix’ is everything.
- Attractive, good quality imagery. Social media posts that are accompanied by a picture are guaranteed to attract at least double the engagement of a text-only post. Use free stock imagery sites, take your own photographs of staff and the office or even try your hand at design. There are free online tools that are fabulous for this these days. If all else fails, spend a little money and hire a photographer and/or designer on a short-term basis. A student photographer could be a good idea if you’re on a tight budget.
- Engaging with other users. It seems obvious doesn’t it, but it’s amazing how many people think so much about what content that they are posting that they forget to be social and engage with other Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn users. ‘Follow’ those of interest to you or your business, ‘like’ the content of partner organisations, run online polls to get the opinions of your followers. These little things will go along way.
The other great thing about social media is that it can really put a personal face to you or your business and, as such, help you compete with larger firms, who may have a more one-size-fits-all image that can come across as cold and uninviting, even if accompanied by a killer deal.
Other Ways To Get Active Online
- Take part in an ‘Ivent’ – literally an event that takes place on the internet instead of a ‘real’ venue. Nowadays many in our industry are using digital platforms to share knowledge – through virtual presentations, workshops and collaboration sessions – without even leaving the office! Keep an eye out.
- Create a virtual tour or video of your office, the staff and the services you offer. In the long run, this is much more convenient than inviting partners or clients to your office every other day!