5 ways for professional services companies to humanise digital engagement


Publishing and promoting great content has become table stakes for professional services companies and it is expected by their target market. Competing companies have to constantly produce and promote thought leadership in order to differentiate themselves.

In order to inform, educate and influence their target clients, progressive marketing departments at professional services companies create content which is published on their website and blog and apps and promoted using the likes of search engine optimisation, search and display marketing, email and social media, advertorials and published by the media.

Whilst content is essential, it does not always serve to develop relationships and foster an emotional connection. Developing and promoting content is a costly exercise, so professional service organisations must ensure they are getting a good return on their digital marketing investment.

Here are five things professional services companies should consider to “humanise” digital engagement with their target clients.

1. Performance measurement

Whilst branding, communications and public relations is essential in any professional services organisation’s marketing department, emphasis is not always placed on generating leads for client-facing sales staff.

This is primarily because marketing departments are not measured on lead generation and sales revenue. By introducing “business development” performance management,  marketing departments will need to make the necessary changes to ensure they are developing leads for the relevant service lines in their business.

2. Use more video

Video content is preferred and consumed more readily than any other content. There is no better way to humanise online thought leadership than video. Video is easy to produce, publish and share.

Your clients will far rather watch a three minute video clip than read the written equivalent. Video looks good on all devices and platforms and if you are selling your people and their expertise, a video will build way more credibility with a prospective client.

This medium connects with prospects from a visual and audio perspective and serves to produce a more personal connection with your target market.

3. Personalised email

A great way to create a more personal touch and humanise your email communication is by sharing personalised emails with your subscribers. A salutation such as “Dear Eric” will create a more personal connection between the sender and the recipient than a newsletter.

It is proven statistically that personalised email sent from a known person builds trust. Email subscribers will reply to a known sender and the senders name will become familiar to them over time.

This a great way to build credibility and trust, stay top-of-mind and establish the sender as a “go-to-person” when the prospect needs advice or assistance, wants to meet or requires a proposal.

4. Employee advocacy

Progressive professional services organisations are implementing employee advocacy platforms as an extension to their marketing communication channels. An employee advocacy platform is a good way to democratise your corporate social media and email communication channels to staff members.

Many client-facing staff members would like to share content with their social media connections and email contacts however many are nervous about what to say or they are unfamiliar with some of the platforms.

An employee advocacy platform presents staff members with categorised thought leadership which they can easily share with their social media followers and connections and email contacts. The employee advocacy platform will pre-populate the social media posts and email content for the employee, so it is a simple case of clicking and sharing.

5. Social selling

Social selling is the next logical step for companies using employee advocacy platforms. Staff members are trained on how to use social media effectively to monitor who is displaying interest in the content they are sharing (i.e. likes, shares, comments) and how to engage and interact with relevant social media followers and connections to build relationships, establish credibility and trust in order to initiate offline engagement.


A great way to humanise your online digital marketing is to introduce performance metrics to encourage marketing departments to develop leads for client-facing staff members, video to present more of a human touch, personalised email from a known sender, employee advocacy to democratise corporate social media and email communication to staff members and social selling to empower staff members to use social media more effectively to sell.

Do you have anything to add? I would love to hear from you. I welcome any comments and please do share this article.


5 reasons why email is still a great B2B marketing tool

I want your email The glory days of outbound marketing are slowly drawing to a close, and are being replaced with a new form of marketing called inbound marketing. Instead of pushing sales pitches at the customer, savvy marketers are now using compelling content to draw customers toward them. Experts argue the latter is more effective and less intrusive.

Caught up in the middle is the fate of email as a marketing tool. When drawing up a comparison between outbound and inbound marketing, email is often lumped into the mass communication, spam category of outbound marketing. For the following reasons, this is a flawed conclusion I would urge CMOs to reconsider:

1. Just like social media, email is an “opt-in” channel

If a person wants to access your tweets on Twitter, they follow you. If a person would like to read your LinkedIn updates, they connect with you. If a person would like to view your Facebook posts, they Friend you. Similarly, if a person wants to receive email newsletters or updates, they subscribe to your channel.

The difference between social platforms and email is that you can send an email without receiving prior permission, and this is why email communication has been tainted. The solution, however, is not to kill email; it is to apply an opt-in strategy to your email marketing program.

2. Every channel is a mass communication channel

Each one of the channels mentioned above is a one-to-many communication platform. You can argue that Twitter enables mass messaging, and the same goes with Facebook and LinkedIn. All have content streams that have to be monitored and checked for information, just like you have to check your email inbox.

In this regard, email is no different than the channels that support inbound marketing.

3. Spam isn’t where you think it is

Here’s the Wikipedia definition of spamming:

Electronic spamming is the use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages (spam), especially advertising, indiscriminately.

With promoted updates now being introduced across all social platforms, you are going to receive unsolicited messages – spam, some might call it – amidst new inbound marketing content.

But here’s the rub: people with well-managed inboxes will receive less spam, because they have a number of services preventing spam from entering their inbox. For them, spam is blocked at the Internet Service Provider, blocked by their company firewall, or sent directly to the junk mail folder on their computer.

4. If you ask permission, you will enjoy more success

If you provide an email subscription service that enables prospects and clients to provide optional information – such as their company, job title, seniority level, country, desired communication frequency and other interests – you will be able to give customers what they want and when they want.

People crave information, if it is relevant, useful and well-timed. By collecting and respecting personal preferences, your organisation builds credibility, trust and confidence.

The important thing is not to abuse this channel.

5. Email is still the preferred channel

Progressive marketers are moving to inbound marketing models because they work well, but many of your clients and prospects are not moving as quickly.

We have conducted research with existing clients and prospects, most of whom were senior managers and executives within our target market. We were surprised to find that over 90% of these individuals still preferred a personalised, weekly email. They favoured a short, skimmable introduction to the content we were introducing, with a link to download or read more.

Final words…

Abuse has given email a bad name, but – managed correctly – email is still a viable and often-preferred marketing channel.

Let’s not forget that every single social and blogging platform still uses email to contact their respective users to bring them back to their platforms.

David Graham is the Digital Engagement Leader at Deloitte Africa. He focuses on B2B digital marketing, relationship marketing and content marketing. You can email him at davgraham@deloitte.co.za

Image: 28 Dreams/Flickr

How to earn trust to initiate offline engagement using B2B online marketing

BHKXXE Businessmen signing up a contract

In my article titled What you should be doing online to attract new business opportunities, one of the points I raise relates to building trust with prospective clients. People ask for advice or make purchasing decisions from trusted advisors, and trust has to be earned and takes time to develop. Once trust is lost, it is exceedingly difficult to regain, if at all.

A good comparison that I will use for the purpose of this article is that of the dating game. I have listed five stages in a human relationship and equated these with B2B online marketing, in order to demonstrate how you gain trust by treating prospective clients as you would your first date, and your ongoing relationship thereafter.

1. The introduction

Introductions are generally facilitated by mutually known friends, colleagues or family members. In most cases, the introducer knows you well. This generally occurs in business too. A client, colleague or business partner who can vouch for your honesty, credibility and trustworthiness will introduce you to prospective clients without prompting or upon your request. If trust has not been earned, there is little or no chance of this happening.

2. The first date

The first date either makes or breaks a potential relationship. There are many determining factors which include similar interests, shared values and the all important “chemistry”. When asked what is important most people do not talk about looks. They want the person to be themselves (i.e. genuine), they should display an interest in the other person and they should make the other person laugh.

When we equate dating with online marketing, you should focus your efforts on “being genuine” with no hidden agenda, display an understanding and interest in the potential client’s industry and the typical business challenges they have to deal with. I suggest that you DO NOT talk about yourself in terms of your company’s products, services and solutions. This information should be available on your website and the prospect will have a look at this information when the time is right.

3. Subsequent dates

If you follow the rules there is a good chance that there will be a second, third and fourth date and your relationship will grow and strengthen. During this process you are getting to know each other more and more which will result in a mutual knowledge of each other’s good points and flaws. Generally compromise and understanding comes into play because no-one is perfect. If at any point trust is broken, this could end the relationship for good.

To get the second (and subsequent) dates, B2B online marketers have to present the potential client with a compelling reason to continue the relationship. This is best achieved by generating value-adding, interesting, compelling business-related content which the prospect will have access to through an email or blog subscription or engagement and interaction on social media.

4. The proposal

If all goes well with your dating, at some point, the question of a more permanent arrangement will be initiated. The process normally involves “going steady” followed by a marriage proposal. This will either be accepted or rejected.

B2B online marketing, if executed properly, is an ideal way to build credibility and trust over time, and in so doing, you will be seen as a trusted advisor who will stay “top of mind” through continuous value-adding online interaction. If the content and interaction with prospective clients resonates with them, there is a good chance they will contact you should they require assistance or advice and request a proposal. If you are using the appropriate tools to monitor online interaction, you will be able to identify individuals who are consuming your content and you can request a meeting.

5. The wedding

The wedding or close may take place online or offline, depending on whether you are selling products, services and solutions online or not. This article is aimed at companies that sell professional services, products and solutions that are not sold online. You can build a certain level of credibility and trust online using B2B online marketing however the relationship needs to be taken offline in order to meet your prospective client face-to-face.

If you use B2B online marketing effectively, this will assist you in initiating offline engagement. The plus factor is that when you have the first offline meeting, credibility and trust has been developed already.


B2B online marketing can be a very effective tool to build credibility, stay top of mind with prospective clients and to initiate offline engagement, if executed correctly. Remember that you are interacting with human beings with whom you need to develop a relationship and an emotional connection. Remember to be genuine, share content regularly that resonates with the prospect, do not talk about yourself and be patient.

This article was written by David Graham, Digital Engagement Leader at Deloitte Digital

David is a thought leader in the Business to Business (B2B) digital marketing, relationship marketing and content marketing space and is the “go-to” person at Deloitte Digital for businesses who wish to connect, interact and influence business decision makers online, in order to initiate offline engagement. David has more than 20 years in sales and marketing roles at leading global software and management consulting organisations, engaging with executive decision makers and providing them with solutions to business challenges.

If you would like to have a more detailed B2B online marketing discussion with David Graham, connect on LinkedIn, follow on Twitter or email at davgraham@deloitte.co.za

Follow Deloitte Digital on Twitter or visit the Deloitte Digital website to get a taste of how Deloitte Digital can help digitise your brand

What you should be doing online to attract new business opportunities


online marketing 2

by David Graham – Digital Engagement Leader at Deloitte Digital

Getting business-to-business (B2B) online marketing right is an art and a science, a combination of multiple factors which involve people, process and technology. The analogy we like to use is that of an orchestra. The B2B online marketer is the conductor and the orchestra are the instruments (i.e. people, content, process and technology).

We have been approached by many companies, asking how they should engage, interact and influence clients and potential clients online in order to generate new business opportunities. Based on the experience and insights we have gained with our business-to-business (B2B) online marketing activities to date, here are five areas where you should focus your B2B online marketing efforts.


The biggest mistake businesses make is they talk about their products, services and solutions. Focus on building trust and confidence first. How do you do this? Equate your initial engagement and interaction with a new prospect or client with that of a first date. Your first date will fail miserably if you spend all the time talking about yourself (i.e. your products, services and solutions). If you talk knowledgably and competently about a subject that resonates with the prospect, and continue to do so over time, you will earn trust will be seen as a thought leader. Thought leaders are approached by people who need help or assistance. They say a good salesman does not sell but rather encourages the purchaser to make a buying decision.

  1. Content is the most important ingredient

Without the regular production of good content, your B2B online marketing efforts will fail dismally. Online content comes in many guises. This could be web copy, a thought piece, an article or opinion piece, the results of a survey, a blog post, a Facebook or LinkedIn update, tweet or the content of an email. Each one of these serves a different purpose and needs to be worded, structured and formatted differently. Images in the form of photos and video also fall within this category and must be used appropriately on the relevant online platforms. Your content will serve many purposes such as educating, informing and influencing but also “humanising” your business in order to create an emotional connection with your target audience.

  1. Find out where your target market is online and their preferences

The big difference between business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing and business-to-business (B2B) marketing is that with B2B marketing, you know your target market. If you are operating within a specific territory you will be able to identify a finite number of businesses you would like to sell your products, services, solutions (and people) to. You will also know who the typical decision makers are within the organisation. Armed with this information and insight, it is a simple case of reaching out to these individuals and asking them how they prefer to consume content online. Once you have this information, you can then develop a strategy to engage and interact with these individuals on their preferred platforms. While you conduct this exercise, you may want to ask which online publications they read because you ell then know which editors and journalists to interact with. Once you know where your target market is online, focus all your B2B online marketing efforts on these platforms.

  1. Educate your staff

Gone are the days when all marketing was done by one department. Nowadays everyone has access to websites, blogs, mobile apps, email and social media. It has been proven statistically that if only 20% of your staff members actively engage and share your business content online, the will be a significant positive impact on your bottom line. Many marketing specialists now use the P2P or Person-to-Person marketing phrase. As with any change in an organisation, this behaviour won’t just happen. Your executive management must own this and cascade it down to operational level within your organisation. This will require a formal education and change management programme. If need be, motivate staff members to connect and share your business content by building it into their key performance indicators.

  1. Measure, measure, measure

There are a plethora of tools available which you must use to enhance and fine tune your B2B online marketing, which must be used throughout your B2B online marketing process. Some example I can cite are listening tools which enable to identify what your clients, prospects, media and competitors are talking about online (e.g. conversations relating to your products, services, solution, your company and industry). Depending on the online platforms you decide to use, there are analytics provided with all of these platforms which enable you to measure the success of your campaigns and online interaction. Before you embark on your B2B marketing process, obtain agreement from your management in terms of critical success factors and ensure that the analytics you extract can be used to measure your success against the CSFs.


To conclude, the top five things you must focus on when it comes to B2B online marketing is to build trust and confidence (i.e. DO NOT SELL), develop a sound content strategy, find out where your target market and the media are and go to them, educate your staff and become a “social business” and use all the measurement tools that are at your disposal.

Please note that these are the most important areas to focus however there are many other factors that you need to take cognisance of which we can discuss at your request.


This article was written by David Graham, Digital Engagement Leader at Deloitte Digital

David is a thought leader in the Business to Business (B2B) digital marketing, relationship marketing and content marketing space and is the “go-to” person at Deloitte Digital for businesses who wish to connect, interact and influence business decision makers online, in order to initiate offline engagement. David has more than 20 years in sales and marketing roles at leading global software and management consulting organisations, engaging with executive decision makers and providing them with solutions to business challenges.

If you would like to have a more detailed B2B online marketing discussion with David Graham, connect on LinkedIn, follow on Twitter or email at davgraham@deloitte.co.za

Follow Deloitte Digital on Twitter or visit the Deloitte Digital website to get a taste of how Deloitte Digital can help digitise your brand


Do you stay in the trenches or go over the top?


During Word War 1 there were two types of soldiers in the trenches, one who played a support role in terms of logistics, communication, developing battle plans and provisioning and those who went over the top and engaged with the enemy. If you are a business-to-business marketer, do you stay in the trenches or do you go over the top?

“Online business-to-business marketers who stay in the trenches are never going to derive tangible value from their participation on the social web”

If you want more leads and prospects and your marketing department is spending most of their time doing the following, it is time to revisit your B2B social media marketing strategy:

Presenting management with reports that ONLY reflect the number of page views and visitors to your website and blog, number of Twitter followers, Facebook Likes, LinkedIn followers, subscribers to the blog, YouTube views, etc

Use words such as communication, reputation management, branding, public relations, corporate identity and do not use words such as engagement, conversations, interaction.

It is no coincidence that marketing colleges and universities are rewriting their marketing management syllabus because the playing field has changed and marketers have to radically rethink how they do things.

For organisations who sell products, services and solutions to other companies, PR, branding, reputation management and corporate identity are still fundamentally important but do not underestimate the importance of using the social web for what it was designed for ie to connect, interact, engage and build relationships.

You need to identify the people in the trenches in your marketing department and those who are prepared and willing to go over the top into no mans land. The trench dwellers are very important but you shouldn’t use them when the whistle blows and the troops start climbing the ladders.

The soldier who goes over the top has to be brave and when he is in no mans land he has to improvise, depending on what he encounters.

If you are planning on generating new business opportunities from your participation on the social web, one way broadcasting and reporting on page views will not cut it. Identify your soldiers, equip them with the right tools and training and you will see the results!

Do you agree or disagree? Do you have anything to add? Would you like to comment? I would love to hear from you?

I invite you to engage and interact with me on Twitter and LinkedIn

5 things people need to do more of on LinkedIn

linkedin image

It is widely acknowledged that LinkedIn is THE social network of choice for business people globally. With new features and functions being added on a regular basis and user numbers growing at a phenomenal rate, it has become a highly attractive platform for business-to-business (B2B) marketers. Here are five things you should do more of to improve your interaction and engagement with clients or prospective clients on LinkedIn.

1.      Ensure your profile clearly articulates your value proposition

Before you start connecting with anyone, ensure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and contains relevant information. Whether you are a recruiter, subject matter specialist, job seeker, business owner or a representative of a company, make sure your profile clearly articulates what you do and how you add value. If you are a supply chain specialist who has been consulting to the top five consumer goods companies for the past twenty years, then make sure this appears in your summary. Ask your current and past clients to provide recommendations and endorsements and include any awards and achievements to add more credibility.   

2.      Give the person a reason to connect with you

I receive many connection requests from people who use the standard LinkedIn “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” message. This doesn’t tell me what I will get out of the “connection”. Your success rate will improve significantly if you put a little more thought into the introductory message. Articulate why you are connecting and how the person will derive value from the connection.

3.      Find reasons to follow up or respond

LinkedIn provides you will numerous opportunities to follow up with connections. Here are some examples:

When a person accepts your connection request, reply to thank them for connecting and invite them to subscribe to one of your communication channels (e.g. weekly email, your blog, your Twitter account, your Facebook page or your LinkedIn group)

When someone who you are not connected to joins your LinkedIn group, send them a note welcoming them to the group, ask them what information they are interested in, send them a connection request and/or invite them to subscribe to your other communication channels

If you are posting content on a regular basis, keep an eye on who is liking, commenting and sharing your updates. If you are connected with the person, you can send them an email to thank them and to send them additional content that may interest them.

4.      Introduce connections to your network  

If a CIO of a mining company connects with you, take the time to identify others within your network to introduce the person to. This can also include subject matter specialists within your company. If you are responsible for marketing or sales, the subject matter specialists within your organisation will appreciate these introductions. It has been proven time and time again that business executives will more readily accept a meeting invitation when the request comes from a person they are connected with on a social network.

5.      Ask for introductions from existing connections

For every new connection you make, you have access to new 2nd level connections. As you develop your LinkedIn network, it becomes easier to access 2nd level connections through existing connections. It is a simple exercise to ask for an introduction and your connections will generally assist, if you ask them nicely and provide a good reason why you would like to be introduced. This also provides a reason for you to connect with existing connections and a reason to follow up to thank the person for facilitating the introduction.


Here are a few ways you can get more out of your LinkedIn investment. The golden rule for all social networks is providing good content and regular interaction. If you constantly post relevant, topical, interesting, value-adding content, your connections will continue to share, like and comment, providing you with the opportunity to engage and interact, invite them to interact on other platforms, present additional business content, provide introductions to other like-minded individuals and invite them to engage off line.

There are many other ways to engage and interact on LinkedIn. What LinkedIn tools, features and functions do you use?

I invite you to connect and interact with me on Twitter and LinkedIn

4 things B2B marketers get wrong on the social web

b2b marketing

People have turned to the social web in their droves to market themselves and their companies. The very medium that people are using to connect and sell their services also provides all the information, advice, guidance and tips needed to do this properly. Even though this information is readily available online, people still resort to tactics that do not work. Here are the top 4 things I have identified.

I invite you to interact with me on LinkedIn and Twitter  

1.      No research conducted

If you plan to use the social web  to engage and interact with new and existing clients, spend time finding out where they are first. All too often companies use platforms that are not frequented by their target clients. Conduct surveys or acquire research to identify their platforms of preference. You should also consider influencers and brand advocates. Even though your clients may not use a particular platform, people who influence them may do so.

2.      Too much selling and no interaction

According to Wikipedia, “social media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks”. If you look at this definition, the word “selling” does not feature, but the words “create”, “share” and “exchange of information” are mentioned. Wikipedia defines marketing as “the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the PURPOSE of selling the product or service”. The first definition does not mention selling and the second definition mentions selling as a by-product, so if companies practiced “social media marketing” properly, information relating to their product, goods or service will be shared amongst their social media communities, and in time, their clients will make a “buying decision”.

3.      Too much focus on quantity and not enough on quality

Whatever platform you are participating on, concentrate on the quality of the conversations and interaction rather than the number of subscribers, connections, followers, friends, shares, likes and retweets. The other consideration is the quality of the people you are interacting with. Are they potential or existing clients, influencers and advocates? If you are having quality interaction with the quality people, the quantity will come of its own accord.

4.      Too much attention on yourself

The biggest mistake companies make is to initiate engagement by talking about themselves and their products, services and solutions. Take the time to understand the markets and industries you work in and their challenges and talk more about that instead. Anything relating to your company and what you do should always be secondary. If you create, share and interact around relevant content, the propensity for your communities to interact will increase substantially.

To summarise, find out where your clients are first, communicate with them on their platforms of process, understand the definition of social media marketing and develop your strategy accordingly and talk to your clients about their industries and business challenges.  

I have only listed four things which B2B marketers get wrong on the social web. What would you add?