Category Archives: Social Media

How Thought Leadership and Social Media is Unlocking Belt and Road Opportunities

Thought leadership initiatives promoted by social media are helping companies, consulting firms and professional services firms unlock opportunities along China’s vast Belt and Road infrastructure development initiative.

As the Economist and the World Bank have detailed, China’s Belt and Road initiative was launched in 2013 and is aimed at strengthening infrastructure, trade and investment links between Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.  71 other countries have joined the initiative, which collectively accounts for over 30% of global GDP, and 62% of the world’s population.  And as the Guardian has detailed, China is spending approximately $150 billion dollars per year on a range of Belt and Road projects.

Belt and Road’s economic impact and opportunity for the private sector is made clear in a report last year from Reuters detailing that China has now become Germany’s largest trading partner, overtaking the United States.  Notably, German government and trade association officials say they plan to continue efforts to expand trade with the greater Asia-Pacific region. And Belt and Road, of which Germany is an original member — is cited among the catalysts for this bilateral trade expansion.

Conversely, as a Nielsen report details, high-growth markets along the Belt and Road are now seen as “showing significant opportunity for Chinese brands looking to expand their operations overseas”.

Emerging Belt and Road Thought Leadership

The Belt and Road is geographically vast, and the power of the internet is already being harnessed by many to capitalize upon its’ opportunities far afield.  Notably, China’s Foreign Office has written to encourage media cooperation along the Belt and Road to foster and promote the initiative’s success.  In response, some accounting, legal, trade and investment firms have established sophisticated thought leadership positions as a means by which to attract new clients and increase their brand awareness along the Belt and Road.

Notably, all of the Big4 accounting firms have begun to write extensively on Belt and Road, including Ernst & Young (EY)DeloittePricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and KPMG.  Asia-Pacific region accounting firm Dezan Shira has established Silk Road Briefing. And international law firms Norton Rose Fulbright and King & Wood Mallesons have also established a growing body of work devoted to Belt and Road subjects. And Belt and Road Advisory, a consulting firm focused on Belt and Road opportunities, maintains the Belt and Road Blog which “encourage[s] a plurality of views on the BRI and…invite[s] guest contributors.”

Perhaps the most significant hub of information on Belt and Road to date comes from the Hong Kong Trade and Development Council (HKTDC).  And PwC’s initiative is a unique standout as it now publishes the PwC B&R Watch —  a “review of capital project and deal activity in the countries that fall under the Belt and Road Initiative (B&R)”.

Too, leading think tanks, multinational organizations and news publications are publishing about Belt and Road in increasing frequency, including the Council on Foreign Relations, the World Bank, the Brookings Institution, The Diplomat and the Economist. And conferences about Belt and Road, often with substantial social media promotion, are occurring at increasing frequency.  Some of these conferences have been conducted by the Milken Institute, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, Cavendish Group International, ATWORK, Innovation Angel Funds, and INNO Innovation Space and the World Transportation Conference.

Create a Belt and Road Thought Leadership Initiative

It remains early days for Belt and Road thought leadership.  And firms that might wish to become an early adopter thought leader on Belt and Road still have time to do so.

Well-planned and carefully cultivated — thought leadership initiatives benefit those organizations that undertake them.  McKinsey Quarterly is perhaps the most high-profile example of this success.  And the World Economic Forum’s blog and social media channels are a superb example of thought leadership and social media promotion combined to promote international trade and investment.

Well designed to appeal uniquely to key Belt and Road audiences, a sophisticated thought leadership position staked out now will likely yield more Belt and Road-related publicity, clientele and revenue for firms that take up the challenge.  Given the substantial opportunity Belt and Road offers, it would be wise for any company or organization seeking to generate revenue, brand awareness and expand their network in Belt and Road regions, to establish a Belt and Road-focused thought leadership position as a key organizational priority.

For more information about creating content or managing social media focused on Belt and Road?  Click here for more information or to arrange a discussion.

How to Use Twitter and LinkedIn for B2B Business Growth

Recent reports from XEN (@xensystems) (citing Regalix) and Shane Barker (@shane_barker) detail how Twitter and LinkedIn remain the top social media platforms utilized by B2B businesses.  Regalix detailed how 93% of companies are using Twitter, while 91% are using LinkedIn. Amid this usage, the acceleration of social media usage continues, with Barker detailing how by 2021, social media usage will exceed 3 billion globally – up from 2.6 billion in 2018.   

And businesses are an important part of this usage, with XEN detailing that by 2015, 95% of B2B businesses used social media.  Blogging was the primary tactic of this business usage, with two-thirds using multiple social platforms to share their blog content. (Here’s more information on the importance of blogging for Middle Market Advisors, Public Affairs Advisors, and Legal Services Sector Professionals)

Primary goals of B2B businesses include brand awareness (the first priority according to XEN), lead generation, constant customer engagement, updating customers about company products or services or promotion of company products or services.

Prime forms of B2B business content include blog posts (the most popular), case-studies, white-papers, and articles.

Optimizing Twitter use for B2B businesses

Dominique Jackson explains in Sprout Social that Twitter is a crowded place, where businesses must utilize specific techniques to increase their chances of being seen.  But importantly, it “drives the third most referral traffic of any social network”, as Andrew Hutchinson (@adhutchinson) has noted in Social Media Today.

Hutchinson further details how Twitter has recently seen recent growth in active users, in time spent on the platform, and in engagement. It’s open, public platform provides advantages to businesses, he says.  This provides B2B businesses with an opportunity to identify and engage with clients and customers on a global scale, either through Twitter itself – or via other platforms including email.

Jackson suggests utilizing an often overlooked tool that Twitter affords users – the ability to directly message followers. (Here’s more information about how Twitter lists, which can be used to identify and organized key contacts for B2B client development via Twitter).  Beyond direct communication with individual followers, Jackson recommends working with Twitter’s algorithm.  Specifically, Twitter reversed the way it displays users feeds to show Tweets they’re more likely to care about.  Hence, learn and tweet about what your target audience wants to know about – and your Tweets will receive greater exposure among your target audience.  When followers engage more with your Tweets, Twitter’s algorithm will pick up on this and prioritize your tweets for this audience.

Jackson underscores the importance of Twitter video, citing statistics that reflect that 82% of Twitter users watch video on the app.   Even with few followers, your videos stand the chance of being seen by many more users on Twitter.  And using industry or subject specific Twitter hashtags is another way to find people looking for the subjects you’d highlighted with your hashtags

Because tweets don’t have the same organic reach as they did before, Jackson recommends tweeting more frequently.  Utilizing different hashtags and becoming creative with the introductory language to specific content would be helpful here.  For example, sometimes use the title of your article when posting it to Twitter – other times use excerpts from the body of the article.

Jackson emphasizes the importance of “always put quality ahead of quantity. If you have the ability to Tweet something awesome every hour, go for it. Your audience will tell you if it’s working or not.” He mentions Twitter advertising as another option (though it’s more expensive than Facebook ads).  (Here’s more information about how Twitter can be utilized by Public Affairs advisors for business development).

Optimizing LinkedIn use for B2B business

Shane Barker explains how LinkedIn, one of the most popular and widely used B2B social networking platforms, provides an opportunity to connect with other B2B professionals to grow together.  In particular, the site provides for the sharing of content, engagement around content and recruitment. (Here’s more information about how your can identify emerging business issues as a guide for B2B content creation).

He cites a CMI study which indicates over 85% of B2B organizations use LinkedIn, with 500 million members (as of 2017).  Beyond brand awareness, Barker explains, LinkedIn permits users to promote products or services – and then engage with other users in your industry or ideal customer focus to build connections around your business.  This engagement helps strengthen relationships which ultimately lead to one-on-one interactions.  One of the most powerful elements of LinkedIn is the ability to reach decision makers easily, which helps make the often complex nature of B2B sales – more easy.

Neil Patel (@neilpatel) recommends 7 advanced LinkedIn strategies for B2B marketing.  They include turning a LinkedIn company page into a lead generation page, using LinkedIn advanced search to identify prospective clients or customers and utilizing groups to search for topics of high relevance to your ideal potential clients and customers.

Choose to harness LinkedIn and Twitter for B2B Growth

Given the vital importance of Twitter and LinkedIn to B2B business growth, any B2B business seeking to generate new clients and customers – should seek to learn and implement strategies for harnessing these two platforms as a means to achieve growth.   This article provides some first-step information — but there’s much more available by searching: LinkedIn and Twitter.

Need help with creating content or managing social media?  Click here for more information or to arrange a discussion.

Thought Leadership: Worth the Challenge to Achieve It

Thought leadership is worth it – but it’s hard to achieve, explains Aden Andruswriting in Disrupting Advertising.  He explains that thought leadership is much more than simply social shares or backlinks.  “True thought leadership”, he details, “makes people want to work with you and [it] has a huge impact on your bottom line.” “People respond best”, he explains, “when you create real value for them.”

In the case of his own efforts to generate a thought leadership position for his client company – excellent content produced significantly higher organic traffic and 32 times more organic lead volume – over a two-year period of committed thought leadership efforts.

He explains, however, that “any good blog editor knows that more organic ‘leads’ is not the same thing as more organic sales.”  Two years after his thought leadership efforts began, he noted, his company generated 64 times more revenue

“So, does thought leadership generate meaningful business results?”, he asks. “Absolutely. In fact, if you do it right, becoming a thought leader in your industry is one of the most effective ways to build your business.”

Practical Advice on How to Achieve Thought Leadership Status

Julie Schwartz writes in ITSMA blog that “marketing can’t do thought leadership alone… if it does, the output will be promotion, not thought leadership.” Marketing, she explains, “must get the buy-in, support, and commitment of executives and subject matter experts to become part of the idea-generating and dissemination process.”  She further notes that the success of any thought leadership effort “requires a deep commitment not just from marketing but from the entire company”.

Schwartz details 4 key elements for any organization to successfully achieve thought leadership status:

  1. Thought leadership efforts must connect deeply with target audiences need and goals
  2. Fact-based research is essential to establishing a more credible thought leadership
  3. Organizations must develop engines for idea development as well as dissemination (often, but not exclusively, social media based). “McKinsey and Bain have had these [initiatives] for decades, [and] more mainstream B2B companies are now making the same kind of thought leadership marketing transformation”, she noted.
  4. Concrete metrics used to judge success are required, and they are: Reputation Relationships and Revenue.

Further Considerations if You’re Contemplating Thought Leadership 

Julie Schwartz and Aden Andrus explain with precision the reasons why thought leadership works to increase revenue and can be achieved via specific steps taken by an organization (not only marketing).  They both also cite the need to measure the effort as against revenue.  I’d note that when considering who might be appointed to undertake responsibility for the editorial process of such an effort – consider appointing someone who understands the intersection of business development and content marketing.  Too, that this person has deep experience in researching and writing thought leadership publications.  And finally, that this person also understands fully the mechanisms by which inbound marketing and content production fit in the mix between outbound sales and business development.

Thought leadership, as is explained above – is not easy to achieve.  It takes time, patience, and the work of both marketing professionals, writers and subject matter experts.  Working together, however, these professionals can help an organization achieve substantial revenue growth.  Which begs the question:  If you’re not focused on building a thought leadership effort – shouldn’t you be considering it?

Need help with creating content or managing social media?  Click here for more information or to arrange a discussion.

 

5 digital thought leadership platforms worth emulating

Thought leadership initiatives require social media platforms in order to succeed, according to a 2015 article in Law Practice Today by Guy Alvarez, founder and CEO of Good2bSocial, and Lee Garfinkle, chief marketing and business development officer of the Americas at Allen & Overy LLP.

They explain that a thought leader is someone whose views on a subject are recognized as a major influence in their field.  But they note that in the internet age, access to useful information is easy to access, making the achievement of thought leadership more difficult. Thought leaders, they explain, should also seek to actively and consistently understand their client’s businesses and the challenges they face.

Owned social media channels also important to achieving thought leadership status

Alvarez and Garfinkle underscore the importance of harnessing not only social media channels like Twitter and LinkedIn to both publish and engage, but the need to utilize owned channels like a firm blog.  This permits firms wishing to achieve thought leadership status access to data on readers which can then be utilized to improve thought leadership efforts, as well as for business development purposes.

While Twitter and LinkedIn can be utilized to broadcast, engage and collect market research on existing and prospective clients, they will not provide the depth and breadth of information an owned blog will. The digital marketing and social marketing ecosystem created by a digital thought leadership platform, they explain, will with time and perseverance lead you to a thought leadership position in your industry.

Integrating thought leadership social media with business development

Integrating thought leadership social media efforts with your business development strategy is vital. As Liz Cerasuolo, Stefanie Marrone and Gina F. Rubel advise in a recent article on Law.com: “Develop a lead-focused content strategy” in order to effectively convert prospective clients into new clients.  This includes placing calls to action in your thought leadership articles, funneling inbound new leads into your business development team and working closely with them to create thought leadership they can use in their engagement with prospective clients.

Plan for the challenge of producing consistent thought leadership content

It’s also vital to consider the time commitment required to publish regular, thought-provoking, and client-centric thought leadership.  To do this, firms need to work with a professional writer capable of not only articulating your ideas in writing to your key audiences, while also helping you adhere to ambitious publishing goals (e.g. four blogposts per month).  Most professional writers who focus on marketing as a niche are also often very capable of assisting you adopt and manage all the relevant social media channels you may need to create the all-inclusive digital platform Alvarez and Garfinkle recommend.

5 examples of thought leadership effectively integrated with social media

With all this in mind it’s important to consider who already appears to be working toward perfecting these efforts in their own industry niches in various parts of the world.  While there are many examples of what might be considered excellent digital thought leadership platforms, I’ve selected 5 which you may wish to emulate (and perhaps you know of others you’ve already contemplated emulating).  Each is not only utilizing its’ own blog, but is also active on important social media channels to distribute content and engage with key audiences:

  1. UPS Longitudes – As United Parcel Service explains: “UPS created this blog as a forum to share not just our thoughts and views on the trends reshaping the global economy, but those of the true thought leaders in topics ranging from trade to transportation, ecommerce to emerging markets, Big Data to … well, whatever the future holds.” View it here: https://longitudes.ups.com/
  2. World Economic Forum — As the BBC reported in 2016— in the past few years – WEF has gone from opposition to social media use – to a highly active and successful example of its’ best use. Read a more extensive description of their social media success here. And view their site here: https://www.weforum.org/.
  3. Interel – Interel is “an integrated global public affairs and association management consultancy…with offices in Washington, Brussels, London, Paris, Berlin, Beijing & New Delhi, along with [a] worldwide network of affiliate firms.” View their blog here: https://interelgroup.com/blog/
  4. Corporate Finance Associates is an investment banking firms serving middle-market companies in North America. Their blog is located here: http://www.cfaw.com/blog/
  5. King & Wood Malleson’s China Law Insight – This multinational law firm with a substantial China mainlaind presence blogs in both English and Chinese on their blog, located here: https://www.chinalawinsight.com/

Need help with creating content or managing social media?  Click here for more information or to arrange a discussion.

How to use online content marketing to increase Middle-Market deal flow

Sophisticated content about the details of the Midmarket deal making process will generate more deal flow for Middle Market advisors, according to a webinar conducted by John Carvalho, President of Divestopedia and Stone Oak Capital Inc.

The webinar, entitled The Changing World of Private Equity Deal Sourcing, notes how the Middle market deal space is extremely crowded, but that great deal sourcing practices can significantly help middle market advisors source more deals.  

Online publishing complements traditional deal flow efforts

Notably, Carvalho details the tremendous cost and effort some Mid-Market advisors are currently making to source good deals.  In some cases, this deal sourcing requires travel of up to 30 weeks a year, with spends of between $450,000 to 1 million annually.

He explains how an online strategy would make these efforts more efficient and less costly.  A sophisticated online effort that strengthens your firm’s brand awareness would sit beside other sophisticated deal flow initiatives, including a carefully defined deal focus, more interaction with M&A intermediaries, and increased targeting of companies that might sell. Importantly, Carvalho explains that if more relevant and high quality deal flow finds you from this online effort, it’s succeeding.  

Carvalho also cites industry thought leader on the subject, David Teten, who has identified 5 best practices to generating more deal flow, which are the establishment of a specialised outbound origination program, via the deployment of a dedicated business development professional, creating opportunities instead of waiting for them, targeting companies that are flashing deal signals, installing a CRM system, and leveraging social media. Also important to note: Another industry leader in advocating social media use by Mid-Market advisors, Axial, in a survey of their members, found that 89% of CEOs research potential contacts online before doing anything else.

There’s scepticism about social media in the Middle Market, but it does work

Carvalho notes that there’s a lot of scepticism about social media among Mid-Market advisors, hence they’ve been slow adaptors. He explains that there’s a perception that deal flow found online may be low quality. And that Middle-Market dealmaking is seen as a relationship business, which social media will never replace.  Efficiencies can, however, be achieved, as Carvalho explains, by initiating connections online that become conduits to deals.

As a counter to the scepticism about social media, Carvalho notes that social media should be seen simply as a distribution channel to increase outreach. He cites in particular how:

  • Social media savvy Millennials already in corporate decision-making positions are increasingly turning to social media to find Middle-Market advisors  
  • Indirect online-generated relationships can be a significant source of deal opportunities.  
  • Educational content can build brand and build investment leads.  
  • Among the top reasons companies select a Middle-Market advisor is brand recognition and the firm’s demonstrated expertise (which online content marketing can amplify).
  • The Riverside Companies have said their brand recognition helps bring in more deals.

Designing a middle market focused social media strategy

Carvalho details how there should be 4 goals for an online social media strategy for a Middle-Market advisor: Build Brand; Drive Traffic; Demonstrate Expertise; and Generate Leads.

What type of content?

There’s an appetite from the C-Suite to learn more about the deal process. The most successful forms of content involve digging deeper into topics and issues for business owners to know about before doing transactions – things beyond the superficial. Middle-Market advisory firms, therefore, can create content from their experience in dealmaking, Carvalho explains. Case studies, videos, and articles about the process can be created from this experience. But most firms don’t have staff able to do this, he details (this is where firms can work with a social media savvy writer with knowledge of the Middle Market, to help them develop and distribute content)

Which distribution channels?

Deal sourcing platforms, your firm website, third party publications, and social media sites including LinkedIn and Twitter (the two prime sources for promoting midmarket content, with YouTube becoming more popular) are ideal as distribution channels for your online content, Carvalho detailed. He also suggests the possibility of using sites not often used by mid-market advisors as a means by which to generate even more exposure.  In a workplace increasingly composed of millenials (35% of the workforce by 2020), expanding the scope of your sophisticated online presence is an important long-term strategy to consider for expanding deal flow

Need help with creating content or managing social media?  Click here for more information or to arrange a discussion.

Leveraging Social Media for More Deal Flow: 10 Resources for Middle Market Advisors

The National Center for the Middle Market details in an article by Dorie Clark, that “social media is a powerful sales and marketing tool [for Middle Market Advisors], but it’s important to recognize you’re playing the long game.”  

Clark cites the advice of Bryan Kramer, CEO of Silicon Valley-based digital agency Pure Matter, who recommends looking at every relationship on social media as long term, utilizing a focused effort on the social channels where your clients will be active, while also delivering thought leadership you produce to them via those channels – then only selling your services when the time is right.

Middle Market advisors may ask, however, which social media channels should they utilize for their unique businesses? As well, what sort of thought leadership should they produce, and with what frequency?  And finally, who can help them do this effectively so the efforts lead to more deal flow?

To help answer these (and more) questions Middle Market advisors might have about how they might effectively adopt social media as a means by which to generate more deal flow, I’ve compiled a list of 10 articles I’ve produced on a variety of social media subjects for Middle Market Advisors.  Here’s a list of them in chronological order, with an excerpt from each that provides an overview of the subject each article covers:

  1. How investment bankers can find needle-in-the-haystack deals, By John Grimley, LinkedIn Pulse, July 26, 2014. “Middle-market focused investment bankers are well-positioned to secure new deal flow in highly specialized niche-areas by blogging. Whether it’s based on the geography, revenue, sector or ownership structure of the companies you serve – or the market niche you’ve carved out in your financial services business.”
  2. Why investment bankers should be blogging, By John Grimley, LinkedIn Pulse, August 4, 2014. “The importance of social media in the decision making process of senior corporate management teams is increasing rapidly. Compared to the costs associated with traditional referral methods used to generate proprietary deal flow, it is likely that a blog will generate more proprietary deal flow at significantly less cost.”
  3. International opportunity dawns for boutique investment banks, By John Grimley, LinkedIn Pulse, August 9, 2014. “Boutique investment bankers seeking cross-border deal flow in an increasingly global marketplace need to transcend traditional deal origination methods characterized by in-person networking and become active on social media – in particular, blogging – in order to most effectively reach sources of deal flow across the globe on a 24/7 basis.”
  4. Social Media: An Overlooked Business Development Tool, By John Grimley, Axial Forum, September 3, 2014. “Mid-market deal professionals, from private equity professionals to investment bankers, often face the challenge of being perceived as simply a vendor to mid-market C-Suite executives – their services indistinguishable from their competitors.­ However, social media is increasingly becoming a tool to help overcome this misconception.”
  5. Do You Need Social Media to Secure More Deal Flow?, By John Grimley, Axial Forum, January 20, 2015. “Strictly speaking, no middle-market advisor must use social media. Traditional in-person networking has, and will continue to have, a fundamental role in middle market dealmaking. But in an age where the internet is increasingly becoming the means of communication (Twitter alone has 284 million active users) — if you’re not using social media to source deals and nurture relationships, you are likely missing out on some opportunity.”
  6. Why Private Equity Firms Should Publish, By John Grimley, Axial Forum, June 15, 2015. “As Forbes magazine recently outlined, the US economy is now the number one focus for foreign private equity investors seeking a global safe haven.  But what they’ll find here, as Forbes explains, is “more capital in the hands of a growing number of PE funds chasing too few good assets..”
  7. How Content Marketing Can Help Portfolio Companies Grow, By John Grimley, Axial Forum, September 8, 2015. “To outperform their rivals, private equity firms will need to enhance their ability to spur organic growth in the companies they own,”.  Content Marketing can be a part of generating that organic growth.”
  8. Why Deal Professionals Should Emulate Business Insider, By John Grimley, Axial Forum, December 2, 2015. “Midmarket deal professionals can learn something from the recent acquisition of online digital news magazine Business Insider by European publishing company Axel Springer: Online publishing is something you should be embracing.”
  9. How to Combine Social Media and Traditional Deal Sourcing for Maximum Results, By John Grimley, Axia Forum, May 10, 2016. “Combining traditional deal flow sourcing with social media and content marketing can help middle market dealmakers more effectively connect to key audiences, including C-suite executives”
  10. How private equity can generate more deal flow in the Asia-Pacific region, By John Grimley, LinkedIn Pulse, November 25, 2016. “A new Bain report details how Asia-Pacific region economic uncertainty and fierce competition for deals means that private equity funds in Asia — currently holding much unspent capital — will have to work harder and in a more disciplined fashion to find attractive companies.”

Need help with creating content or managing social media?  Click here for more information or to arrange a discussion.