Op-ed piece on the leading B2B portal Consulting.de with ~ 55.000 readers and ~ 95.000 page views monthly
Why leaders in consulting need personal branding on LinkedIn too
July 13, 2021
Personal branding has become mandatory for senior leaders in social media
This one of the theses of a recent BDU study. Hence I am asking in my op-ed whether or not leaders in consulting can still do without a clear positioning in LinkedIn.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall: Who is the fairest of them all?” used to be the saying.
Today it’s “Who’s the most visible on LinkedIn? Who is the opinion leader?”
This is also underlined by the latest BDU study with the statement:
“Personal branding has become mandatory for executives on social media “.
Partners and Senior Partners in Professional Services are asking themselves:
Do I really have to? Why at all? I am rainmaker after all! Should HR adjust the job description for consultants? Would these include a social media presence, a corporate influencer role, in the future?
Many questions. To all my clear answer: Yes!
I have been active on LinkedIn since 2008. Since 2014, I have been positioning and training CEOs, Senior Partners or entire practice teams on LinkedIn. When I see what has happened in the last two or three years, I would say:
Much new. Much different. And most importantly: Measurable conversion-to-leads results.
LinkedIn used to be a nice-to-have. Today it is without alternative.
In the cacophony of messages and channels, you can look at the LinkedIn phenomenon from the outside with currently more than 725 million users – 16 million of them in DACH. Dismiss it as a vanity marketplace or the playground for digital natives to launch their careers in consulting.
Or from spectator to actor knowing:
- There is no alternative to this channel in the next five years.
- Only those who are visible, shape and expand their reputation digitally will be heard and gain relevance. And relevance is ultimately what leads to buying decisions.
Looking at the Social Selling Index (SSI) on LinkedIn, management consultants and accountants are not the strongest ‘self-promoters’. Their SSI fluctuates between 30 and 35 points out of 100. So there is still room for improvement.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 24 years in the consulting industry, it’s:
Top decision-makers and board members insist on numbers, data, facts. So it’s not just the thesis“This belongs in the modern Marketing mix and is an integral part of the CEO communications strategy.”
For those who are still hesitating and looking for powerful arguments, here are the most important figures. They all pay in to the three killer KPI’s – Reputation, Relationships and Revenues.
1. Modern buyers of consulting services want social selling: 75% inform themselves on social media
90% of decision makers NEVER respond to cold calls. A frustrating figure from the Harvard Business Review. So it’s not the pandemic that’s messing up traditional sales processes in B2B, but a simple fact:
People buy from people – not simply products . These people would like to have met them BEFORE. According to IDC, 75% of B2B decision makers rely on social media to get information BEFORE they make decisions.
74% of all buyers choose the provider who FIRST has proven real insights and the famous ‘added value’. An unbeatable testament to the first mover advantage!
Last but not least: According to CEB, 57% of the purchase decision has already been made BEFORE the official sales process starts.
In short: Companies don’t buy a pig in a poke.
They want to have seen and experienced their ‘consultant of choice‘ several times BEFORE. Professional services players cannot avoid this careful relationship building – strategic social selling. Classic mailings don’t last – no matter how sophisticated the CRM system is. Too often, they are one-way streets. Interaction and intensive exchange as in the comments on LinkedIn do not arise in this way.
2. The social CEO is always stronger than the corporate brand
The CEO’s reputation accounts for a whopping 58% of a company’s overall reputation. A few years ago, this ‘reputation premium’ was ‘only’ 45%. Consequently, 67% of top decision-makers worldwide expect the CEO to have a visible public profile. Incidentally, 71% of managers also expect this of themselves.
Today, this reputation is ‘omni-driven’. Companies and their marketing teams cannot focus on a few key factors, but have to consider very many, different factors. This includes a compelling social media presence, a strong CEO personal brand.
Digital personal branding pays off not only for CEOs like Herbert Diess, who will crack the 200,000 follower mark in the next few weeks, but for every executive. Also or especially in Professional Services.
If you look at well-crafted posts for CEOs, board members or senior partners, they always beat the corporate account in two dimensions. Both the reach and the engagement rate – the likes, comments and shares – are always higher. If they tell their very own story – about a study, for example – they easily get into the high five-figure range. Corporate accounts that only post study results in an abstract tone do not manage this.
3. Every second buyer of consulting services complains about the lack of differentiation: so why not make the USP visible on LinkedIn?
Our #MBS-partner Cardea AG likes to highlight two key figures in our joint consulting brand positioning projects.
According to them:
- 47% of consultants rate the market perception of their own consulting as only ‘mediocre’. And:
- One in two buyers of consulting services say they have a hard time finding the right management consultant. He/she felt that there was no clear differentiation between the consulting firms or that this was not discernible.
With differentiated positioning and a strong brand, consulting players can generate 20% more revenue. With consistent implementation in extreme cases even up to 40%. Once these houses have worked out their differentiation – often painfully – this must also be played with the entire communication keyboard.
Hence the very expensive website relaunch, the revised logo and the fresh slide deck are not enough. The significantly less cost-intensive Musketeer approach instead of the Highlander approach is needed. Everyone – from the CEO/country manager to the senior partners to the young consultants – then lives and presents the USP of the consulting brand. Where could they do this more visibly than on LinkedIn?
4. 41% of Visible Experts record sales increases and new business
In my consulting projects, I repeatedly experience decision-makers who doubt whether they should become a Visible Expert – an expert with high name recognition and a convincing reputation for specific expertise. A good 70% of the over -40s (secretly) hope that the corporate account will take care of it or delegate their LinkedIn posts to changing working students.
Hinge proves measurable returns for individual visibility in his studies. After that, 46% say their own ‘showing face’ paid into their personal brand. 38% that it had increased their credibility and strengthened their reputation.
If your own personal brand leaves you cold, the new business potential may be the winning argument. 41% of respondents cited sales increases as a consequence of their Visible Expert status.
For those who continue to procrastinate, consider the halo effect of your own digital footprint. Decision-makers who get involved, who make their expert status visible, not only benefit themselves, but do something good for the entire consultancy.
This is precisely what may be even more decisive in the future. According to the BDU business climate survey Q2/2021, 61% of respondents expect virtual contracting processes to intensify competition in the consulting industry, as more management consultancies will submit a bid for each mandate.
5. Trust cannot be built through logos, but only through the people behind the brand
If there’s one thing the consulting business is all about, it’s trust. Trust. This is where the Trust Barometer provides the best overview. According to it, 58% of Germans believe that CEOs themselves should be accountable not only to shareholders and boards, but also to the public. 57% say CEOs should take the lead on change instead of waiting for the government.
Everyone in Professional Services knows that a contract cannot be won in a single day. Especially not when there are costly purchase cycles to go through.
B2B relationships grow slowly and require a lot of nurturing and commitment so that trust is built over the long term. Expertise always plays a role – and the person, the CEO, the senior partner, the consultant, behind it. Why? Nobody wants to communicate with a logo, but only with people!
Here, personal branding on LinkedIn is a key lever with an effort of 15 minutes per capita daily. Those who show themselves approachable, authentic and with attitude trigger the success formula:
Content builds relationships. Relationships are based on trust. And trust drives sales.
Conclusion: Professional services can’t get around digital reputation management for their top executives
If these brand ambassadors then demonstrate “the art of business storytelling” and us strong hooks or as Jumpa Lahiri says “The first sentence is a handshake, maybe a hug too“, then consultants have their clients and prospects hooked.
Is professional personal branding important to you? Are you striving for a high conversion rate in leads? Then take advantage of my top 1% ranking in the Social Selling Index (SSI®) on LinkedIn and let’s talk!
Author: Susanne Mathony
The positioning of brands and people are my passion. For more than two decades, I have lived out my calling with CEO positioning, strategic marketing and communications consulting, PR and business storytelling.
Added in 2014 was the Social Media Consulting. Here, the focus is on #SocialCEO and personal branding and positioning of boards and teams on LinkedIn.My home is Professional Services. At GSA and EMEA level, I worked for AlixPartners, Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), Strategy& as well as Russell Reynolds Associates, among others.
As a political scientist and trained journalist, I started my career at a Washington, D.C., think tank.