Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Introverts Underestimate Their Negotiation Powers

I just came across interesting negotiation tips in the preview for Quiet by Susan Cain. This is specifically directed at introverts who may have underestimated their abilities in this area. Here's an excerpt from a story about a junior lawyer sitting at a negotiation table and freezing... 

"Then she'd remembered what I'd told her again and again: she was an introvert, and as such she had unique powers in negotiation - perhaps less obvious but no less formidable. She'd probably prepared more than everyone else. She had a quiet but firm speaking style. She rarely spoke without thinking. Being mild-mannered, she could take strong, even aggressive, positions while coming across as perfectly reasonable. And she tended to ask questions - lots of them -and actually listen to the answers, which no matter what your personality, is crucial to strong negotiation."

Fascinating! I think I'll have to read the book now!

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Does leadership skill have a place in law firms?

Did you know that culture can account for nearly a third of financial results?

A third.

Seriously, A THIRD. 

Given the opportunity to make such dramatic impact by modifying one single factor, anyone that cares about the performance of their law firm should be wondering what they can do to positively impact culture... right now.

Simple.  Develop leadership skill. 

Managers who use leadership styles that positively affect culture deliver better financial results.

This is a matter of knowing when and how to:

  • Make it clear to each individual how their role fits into the big picture. 
  • Give individuals the freedom to figure things out on their own. 
  • Set standards and be directive. 
  • Tend to the emotions of others and your own. 
  • Ask for input, listen and get buy in. 
  • Give instruction and feedback. 


So, the next time you’re facing the managerial aspect of your job as a lawyer, consider intentionally choosing an approach that fits both the individual you’re working with and the situation you’re addressing.  

There’s a considerable difference between managing by default and leading. It may take some planning, training and coaching to get there.  But is there a law firm out there that can really afford to throw away any opportunity with that much upside?


- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management


Small to mid-sized law firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, law firm marketing and legal business development services.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Accounting Firms - Get strategic or risk getting lost

Get strategic or risk getting lost was previously published in The Bottom Line, Mid-September 2013. 

Options.  They can swing doors wide open or gamble resources away.  They can inspire us to act with urgency or be the cause of indecision and procrastination.  
    
The options to market an accounting firm have exponentially increased over the past fifteen years.  Most are thanks to the internet.  But, creative ways of using the internet to generate interest for seminars and other live events has multiplied offline marketing options as well.  And with the ensuing online clutter, some strictly offline marketing activities, such as direct mail, have experienced recent renewal.  

Tempting as they might be, the options to market an accounting practice don’t usually deliver on the promise of success, without a strategic approach to filter them for fit.  

What follows are essential components to the process of assembling a strategic marketing plan:

Objectives 
As with a business plan, a marketing plan needs to support short and long-term financial, strategic and lifestyle practice development goals.  There are, however, considerations that extend beyond those typical of a business plan, including: establishing desired image, attracting qualified recruits, generating media coverage, extending referrer networks and building a specific area of interest or client profile.  

Positioning
One of the most challenging aspects of developing a marketing plan is defining a firm’s market position. This is essentially the firm’s unique and valued difference. For some accounting practices, market position may be built into the basis of their operations.  But for most, analysis is needed to establish clarity about standout strengths and to ensure that the firm’s promises don’t simply mirror those of its peers.

Target market
Prioritizing a subset of a target market helps to position the marketing plan for success on multiple levels.  From websites to seminars, the content of any marketing activities that speak directly to the needs of a specific audience, and referral market, are more likely to resonate.  As well, it’s simpler and more cost effective to choose marketing activities that reach a specific group, rather than casting a wider net.  

Competitive set
If marketing decisions are made in a vacuum, they run the risk of being predictable and cookie cutter.  Market research about direct competitors can reveal where, to whom and how other accounting practices are marketing their services, down to the detail of language style and marketing promises.  Faced with this information, a firm will almost always be able to go yet one step deeper with its own analysis and decisions about target market, market position and marketing activities.  

Business environment 
In order to stay relevant, the marketing plan needs to be reviewed against changes in the business environment on a regular basis.  Since the recommended duration of the plan is annual, most changes aren’t expected to impact the details of the current plan but, rather, will provide inspiration for subsequent years. By way of example, recent developments in today’s business environment include: professional branding, widescreen website design, micro sites, micro blogs, apps, mobile and browser compatibility, self administration of websites, changes to Search Engine Optimization, new social media marketing sites and tools, newsletter segmentation strategies, video marketing and new approaches to networking.  

Marketing activities
Between advertising (online or off), direct mail, public relations, speaking engagements, websites, Search Engine Optimization, social media, blogs,  newsletters (digital or print), networking and events, the list of marketing activities to choose from is long and it's getting longer. Choosing begins with finding options that align with the firm’s goals and its target audience.  But the most fitting activities will also align with the talents of the team participating in the ongoing implementation of the plan i.e. based on interest and inclination to network (online or off), speak and write.   Finally, marketing activities require a third tier of alignment.  They need also to align with each other, where each activity is positioned to amplify success because it has a place in the overall chain of events. 

Budget 
The budget to market an accounting firm depends on many variables, including the size of the practice and the stage within its life cycle.  An ongoing marketing spend also depends on specificity of target audience, complexity of service offering and list of marketing activities.  To develop professional materials for the first time, however, a disproportionately high, one-time investment should be expected.  If this period coincides with tight cash flow, foundational pieces could be phased in over months or even years.  The ability of a firm to maximize return on its marketing investment will be based on three factors: reach (ease of access to the desired growth market), frequency (repeated messaging directed at the same audience) and impact (the degree to which the firm’s professional identity and its marketing messages resonate with its audience).  

Timing 
There was a time when marketing plans extended for a five-year period.  But in order to stay nimble and responsive in a fast paced world, it’s recommended to consider the long-term broadly and plan for details on an annual basis.  To facilitate connection with clients, referrers and even search engines on an ongoing basis, it’s also recommended to market continuously, rather than just during the slower accounting months.  With planning and coordination, many marketing activities can be developed well in advance and scheduled for release throughout the year.  Consideration needs to be given, however, to allowing for real-time marketing activity, including social media, networking and, possibly, writing articles or giving seminars that respond to news or other time-sensitive updates. 

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
More that ever before, marketing plans need to be reviewed and revamped on a regular basis, against actual performance and changes in the marketplace. This process is essential to building continuous improvement into the plan.  KPIs can be informative in this regard, if the right factors are being measured.  For example, there are many tools available to easily measure website traffic and, at first glance, this indicator may seem to be obvious and useful.  But without a sense of whether the profile of the website visitor matches that of the firm’s desired growth market, this indicator will be of limited value.  Finally, generating results will also depend on the firm’s ability to balance the knee jerk reaction to prematurely implement change with the discipline of follow through and commitment.  
--

Beyond filtering options in order to improve marketing investment and facilitate a firm’s ability to meet its goals, the value of this planning process is in taking the heat off the sales process, from the generation of leads through to closing.  A strategic marketing plan can help to ensure that an accounting practice is findable, by the right audience, efficiently and effectively.  Most importantly though, when it is founded on authentic messaging that resonates, by the time prospects pick up the phone, they usually are highly suitable and highly interested.


- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management


Small to mid-sized firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, CPA, accounting, investing and actuarial firm marketing and business development services.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Should Law Firms Open a Satellite Office?

I was recently interviewed by Kim Arnott at The Lawyers Weekly about the pros and cons of law firms opening satellite offices. Here's a short excerpt:

...“Make sure your first house works well before you open a second house,” advises Bekhor. Maximize the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your main office with good procedures, clear policies and well-communicated expectations. Once that’s done, you’re ready to consider whether you can profitably transfer those attributes and your brand to a second location.


- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, law firm marketing and legal business development services.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Integrating Marketing for Impact in a Digital Age: A Seminar for Architects

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive for this session when it was delivered at the Ontario Association of Architects conference in May 2012 and at IIDEX in September 2011.  So, it's back by popular demand at the Alberta Association of Architects 2013 Professional Development Day, in Calgary on October 17!  

Here's an excerpt from the program, Integrating Marketing for Impact in a Digital Age:

...Marketing remains elusive to many architects and interior designers, as it increasingly becomes a series of disjointed and often costly activities. This presentation will provide participants with the tools to understand how to increase the value of their marketing efforts through integration...


Please visit Alberta Association of Architects for further information or to register for this seminar.  


- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

20 Tips: Networking with healthcare professionals – online & off, introverts & extroverts

Networking with Healthcare Professionals – online and off, whether you’re introverted or extroverted was delivered as an accredited webinar for naturopathic doctors as part of the OAND webinar series.  Though the webinar explores numerous examples and fundamental guidelines, this article is based on the premise of the topic.  More about this webinar is available here.

Forget the image of the master networker stuffing his pockets with business cards, as he schmoozes his way around the room.   Networking has changed.  There isn't one right way or one right personality to network, any longer.

Today, a successful networking strategy is about resonance.  

You could be quiet as a mouse and run a ridiculously, successful healthcare networking strategy based on any number of creative approaches.  You could place the spotlight on others with twitter chats, run activity - rather than discussion - oriented events such as yoga or meditation sessions designed to give back to healthcare professionals, become a hub for co-branded collaborative projects that bring together complementary professions and more.  Or, you could be the life of the party and use the web to get the word out about offline mastermind groups, blogger nights, sports teams (why not start a local soccer team -chiropractors playing against naturopaths?) and other 'meet and greet' types of events.  

Whatever you decide, aside from your disposition and talents, the plan will need to account for your practice goals and unique circumstances.  You'll also need metrics to keep you honest about how deeply you're connecting with your audience.  The following 20 tips are meant to be helpful considerations for the entire process. 

10 tips for online networking with healthcare professionals:
  1. Don’t spam or self promote - It may be easier to limit your use of social media to article distribution, but it's not more effective.  
  2. Respond to what others write about themselves - Responding to others will help to generate awareness of your own online presence. 
  3. Respond when others write to you - Whether they're a fit or not, take the time to be a good brand ambassador and respond to anyone that contacts you online.  
  4. Use social media to warm up offline introductions - A quick hello or an introduction by way of a shared contact can establish connection, shifting a cold call to a warm one. 
  5. Process information before responding - One of the advantages of networking behind a monitor is that you're never put on the spot. So take the time to consider how you can add value and interest with each response. 
  6. Be personal and relevant - You can see through form letters. Others can too. The time you take to make connections between shared history or networks won't go unnoticed. 
  7. Think success through, how will you handle the volume /workload  - If your strategy is designed to generate volume, you'll need to be prepared to engage with a large audience. If it's designed to generate recurring activities, you'll need to commit to a predictable schedule in order to inspire others to join you. 
  8. Take the time to learn about someone before reaching out - It's a lot less pressure to meet someone, if you take the time to do a Google search on their name.  A quick scan of their digital footprint will provide much inspiration for icebreakers. 
  9. Take initiative - If you have an idea for a group but it doesn't exist, start one. If you like what someone writes, tell them.  If you want to meet someone, find some point of connection to create a reason to say hello. 
  10. Take it offline - Build phone calls, skype calls, lunches and activities into your online networking strategy, in order to solidify and expand any newly formed relationships.  
10 tips for offline networking with healthcare professionals:
    1. If you find speaking draining, pad your events with quiet time - If you enjoy it and you know you're good at it, figure out how to maintain your energy so that this becomes something you can do and even look forward to doing.
    2. Learn how to introduce yourself  -  Most of the stress revolving around a networking event is centered on the 30 seconds it takes to introduce yourself.  A natural sounding, elevator pitch peppered with stories and questions can shake away those jitters.   
    3. Learn how to ask powerful icebreaker questions - If you get others to talk, you'll have removed the pressure from yourself to keep talking and you'll learn something about them.  Wasn't that the point all along anyhow? 
    4. Give the quiet people a chance to talk, without interrupting - If you're a natural talker, then you may need to learn the discipline of picking up on when others need time to put their words together.  After all, there's always the chance that your most desired contact in the room is introverted. 
    5. Be professional - If you wouldn't want your patients to know about it, don't share it with your network.  
    6. Be prepared - Carry business cards with you and rehearse an elevator pitch, so that you can present yourself professionally anytime and anywhere that you might run into a member of your network.  
    7. Forget your agenda… be friendly and generous - Imagine how much less stressful your job as a networker would be if the only onus you placed on yourself was to help others, be it by way of introductions, suggestions or invitations to collaborate.  
    8. Be real - Think about how you connect with patients when you're just getting to know them. You might have a common hobby or your kids might go to the same school.  People connect more easily over the stuff that makes up our real lives.  
    9. Nurture your existing network - Networking is usually heavily focused on creating new connections, while the value of expanding one's existing network is often underestimated. 
    10. Take it online - It might be counterintuitive, since the objective is to meet people. But if you get into the habit of connecting with your offline network online, then you stand a better chance of staying on their radar via social media updates and newsletters.  

    I recently heard a great adaptation of the old adage 'we have 2 ears and 1 mouth, so we can listen twice as much as we speak'. It goes, 'We also have 2 eyes and 1 keyboard, so we can read twice as much as we write'.  Whether you're online or off, introverted or extroverted, networking with healthcare professionals is about relationships.  Bring the best of yourself to whatever you do and the connections will certainly gel. 



    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    President, Bekhor Management

    Friday, June 21, 2013

    Wake up those senses! MAI - Prototype, at the LUMINATO FESTIVAL in Toronto

    MAI Certificate of completion with my lovely friend Roxanne!  
    If you haven't made it down to the LUMINATO FESTIVAL yet, the MAI - Prototype is worth checking out.  I can't tell you too much without spoiling it (and if you're interested in seeing it don't ask anyone or read about it... this is one event that delivers a bigger punch with the element of surprise). 

    Marina Abramovic succeeded to bring participants into the present moment with an intensity that won't soon be forgotten!  Through the interactive experience of the installation, we engaged with our senses and even with how we held each other's presence, as if for the first time. Before we got started, I disregarded a warning that we might need to raise our hand in case things got too intense. But once I was in it, I understood!  

    As an aside (since I can't seem to take my marketing cap off!) I will note that the highly visible, branded tent in the Bellwoods Trinity Park, combined with the certificates of completion that participants were awarded, made the event 'share worthy', despite keeping quiet about the experience itself.


    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    President, Bekhor Management

    Tuesday, June 18, 2013

    Architects, are you choosing a safe image over a powerful one?

    The Power of Image was delivered as an accredited seminar at IIDEX 2012 and the RAIC Festival of Architecture, Halifax 2013.  Though the seminar explores numerous case studies, this article is based on the premise of the topic.  More about this seminar is available here.

    Architects practice in one of the most complex, creative arenas in the professional sector.  Yet, when you look at their marketing, most present themselves as if they were doing the very same thing.  Websites, proposals and brochures are driven by large portfolio photos with little else to speak of creativity. Statements about a firm's profile, biographies and projects rarely stray from predictable storylines, tone and language.  Many use the very same words.  The same applies to interior designers, landscape architects and engineers. 

    Are design professionals swimming in this sea of sameness because it feels safe?  If so, since when is a self-imposed formula that boxes in creativity... safe?    

    9 ways to shake off a false sense of security and inject your image with power:
    1. Gap between the SWOTs (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat): Conduct a SWOT analysis on your practice to reveal and clarify what's really working (even if it remains a largely untapped focal point).  Then conduct a 2nd SWOT analysis on your marketing.  Ask yourself if the results of the two exercises reinforce each other.
    2. Standard marketing plan: Review your marketing plan for any activities that you keep up just because they are standard fare in an architect's marketing plan. Assess whether there might be bigger opportunity to replace them with activities better aligned with either your interests or your desired growth market.  Alternatively, if your resources are being stretched, consider dropping some activities altogether and focusing more deeply on a shorter list of activities.
    3. The website formula: Your portfolio photos might be fabulous.  They might even be teeming with stories about how you overcame challenges and came through for your clients.  But what will the prospective client unfamiliar with your work be able to read into them?  Consider whether a business message, creatively introduced through graphics and text, might bring a deeper understanding to the value your firm offers.
    4. Accessibility of social media: Social media reaches the marketplace in a way that simply wasn't on the table with traditional marketing, as little as 10 years ago.  But without a voice, filler tweets, posts and profiles won't be moving your practice any closer to your goals.  
    5. Fear to specialize: Ask yourself if you are telling the world that your firm is full service and that it caters to every audience because that's how you wish to practice or because you worry about walking away from opportunity.  Consider that it will always be harder for your audience to believe that your firm is good at everything rather than believing in the value of a specialty skill.
    6. Big strategy misconstrued as big budget: Websites fully loaded with all the bells and whistles, prestigious addresses and all encompassing marketing programs can be costly.  But, without the backing of a solid brand and marketing direction, none will necessarily result in a powerful image.  On the other hand, it is absolutely feasible to build a powerful image without them, when the direction is clear and unwavering.
    7. Overlap in skill with graphic design and marketing: The skill of an architect overlaps with many complementary professionals: interior designers, lighting designers, landscape architects, photographers and even engineers.  Yet, when you identify where and how you will work with allied professionals your practice grows stronger.  The same applies to marketing and graphic design professionals. You are architects.  That's a lot in and of itself.  
    8. Doubt about point of difference: Most of my first encounters with clients are the same.  I ask about point of difference and find that there is either uncertainty that it exists or certainty that it does not.  By the 3rd meeting, it's usually clear to me that it does exist. Sometimes, it's being taken for granted.  Often, it remains an untapped opportunity.  
    9. Group think: It's always harder to experiment with new ideas when a cohesive group has arrived at consensus with regards to what they consider to be normal.  If you think that this behaviour might be playing out when it comes to marketing your practice, challenge it.  

    Architects and other design professionals experience the highs and lows of the economy more than most professionals.  Understandably, a safe marketing strategy is a real and critical consideration, on a very nearly daily basis.  But, in many ways, what seems safe may in fact be the enemy of creativity, the very source of an architect's bread and butter.  

    So, if it's not with a wide target market and portfolio photos that speak for themselves, as an architect how can you recession proof your practice? Make a decision about what excites you most about your work and pursue it, full steam ahead, no apologies.  Lead the way in this effort with marketing that, instead of masking this one big idea, very nearly shouts it out.

    Shaking off that false sense of security won't feel safe.

    But in reality, backed by thoughtful, strategic planning, shaking things up to inject your image with power might be the safest way to develop your practice.  

    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    President, Bekhor Management

    Monday, June 10, 2013

    Find the Path to Your Law Firm’s Success - The five-year mark is critical to assess and adjust your focus

    I was recently interviewed about the path to success for law firms by Megan O'Toole at The Lawyers Weekly.  Here is a short excerpt from the article:

    ...“The best way to attract more profitability is first of all to understand what is profitable for you, and then to turn your professional identity into all that. Your marketing needs to be speaking directly to that audience so that they know nobody’s going to serve them better,” Bekhor said. “It’s about getting in touch with your point of difference, being clear about that, and not shy about it. That’s the hard part.”... 
    Read article. 

    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    President, Bekhor Management

    Small to mid-sized law firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, law firm marketing and legal business development services.

    Co-ordinate Efforts to Create Strong Identity - Aligning marketing plans between the firm and its lawyers ensures a consistent message

    Co-ordinate efforts to create strong identity was published by The Lawyers Weekly (April 12, 2013 issue).  Below is a short except.

    When lawyers approach personal and firm level marketing as two distinct and independent exercises, they create needless limitation on impact. So, despite the best of intentions, neither the individual nor the firm is set up to maximize return on investment.

    Simply put, when it comes to law firm marketing, the co-ordinated whole is considerably stronger than the sum of the individual parts. Without a real connection to the firm’s identity, when speaking, writing or networking, individuals might as well be representing any firm. And, without real input from the individuals that make up the firm, its logo, tagline, website or brochure might as well be representing any group of lawyers... Read article.



    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    President, Bekhor Management

    Small to mid-sized law firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, law firm marketing and legal business development services.

    Friday, April 5, 2013

    Networking with Healthcare Professionals – Online and Off, Whether You’re Introverted or Extroverted

    I will be delivering an accredited webinar for naturopathic doctors as part of the OAND webinar series, Networking with Healthcare Professionals – online and off, whether you’re introverted or extroverted.  Here's an excerpt from the program:

    What would it take to enable you to effectively network with other healthcare professionals? Attitude or tools? 
    Networking is about people. Go into it with the right attitude and you’ll surround yourself with allies. Go into it with the wrong attitude and you’ll spin your wheels. In order to facilitate the right attitude, however, you’ll first need to establish a process that accounts for your practice goals, natural talents and interests and the sensibilities of your prospective healthcare referrers.

    Please visit the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors (OAND) for further information or to register for this webinar.


    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    President, Bekhor Management

    Thursday, April 4, 2013

    The Power of Image: A Seminar for Architects

    Feedback was overwhelmingly positive for this session when it was delivered at IIDEX, September 2012.  So, it's back by popular demand at the RAIC Festival of Architecture in June.  

    Here's an excerpt from the program, The Power of Image: Closing the Gaps Between Packaging and Your Firm’s Strengths:

    Inside and out, a workplace, a residence, a place of worship and virtually any thoughtful architectural space embodies not just function and art, but inspiration, values and meaning. Yet, the opportunity for firms to broadcast an image that does justice to the beauty and integrity of its work, remains vastly untapped...
    Excepts and stats from the evaluation forms: 
    • 83% indicated that the program was meaningful
    • 83% indicated that the content could be applied to their work / business 
    • 87% indicated that the level of information was appropriate to their needs
    • “Very interesting and effective use of graphic examples which helped to generate discussion”
    • “Really enjoyed the content and the way it was presented”
    • “Surprisingly informative! Very, very good presentation!”
    • “Wonderful seminar.  Would love to attend more seminars from the same speaker.”
    • “Finally I understand the how of the idea of marketing my difference authentically”
    • “Great presenter. Valuable slides. Kept the audience engaged and focused on marketing specific to the industries in attendance.”
    Please visit RAIC for further information or to register for this seminar.  It will take place on Thursday, June 6, 2013 from 3:30-5pm, in beautiful Halifax!


    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    President, Bekhor Management

    Tuesday, February 26, 2013

    Show Clients Your Strengths

    Show clients your strengths was published by The Lawyers Weekly (March 1, 2013 issue).  Below is a short except.  

    A powerful image isn’t about finding the right words. It’s not about figuring out how to convince prospective clients that your firm is right for them. It’s never going to be right for everybody. It’s not even about having the budget for the most prestigious address, the prettiest graphics or the fanciest programming. 

    It’s about a strategy to do justice to the good work you and your team do every day.

    What’s the greatest moment your law firm has ever experienced? You know, when you were just about on fire in court, when you put an end to conflict that caused your client significant anxiety, when your writing just about sang with clarity or when your very presence garnered attention, respect and anticipation. 

    Would someone who witnessed that shining moment see it in your marketing? Not sure? Flat out no? You’re not alone. Nonetheless, each and every time your message misfires represents another lost opportunity to deeply connect with the market you wish to serve.... Read article


    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    President, Bekhor Management

    Small to mid-sized law firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, law firm marketing and legal business development services.

    Tuesday, January 1, 2013

    What 'Went Right' Last Year?

    In a perfectionist society, gearing up for the new year usually means thinking about 'what went wrong' last year. That's not to say that we don't acknowledge 'what went right', but if you consider the amount of time, energy and focus you place on the two, hands down 'what went wrong' wins every time. 

    You can stop in your tracks right now and change that.  Focusing on 'what went wrong' isn't as beneficial as you might think.

    If you want to make the most of 'what went right' for years to come, make it a priority to find, study and deeply investigate each and every success (big and small) for everything it has.

    • Why did it happen?  
    • What does it mean? 
    • Why now?  
    • What are the ramifications?  
    • What can you do to replicate it?  
    • How can you build on it?

    Even though it feels like beating yourself up over 'what went wrong' is the right thing to do, there’s a lot more to gain from deeply studying 'what went right'.  Don't let the fact that it's a pleasant process fool you into thinking that it's not good business sense.  


    **

    I also wanted to thank you dear readers for following our blog and to wish you a happy new year and all the best for a great year ahead!



    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    President, Bekhor Management

    Monday, November 19, 2012

    Top 10 Do's of Social Media for Professionals

    I recently had the pleasure to speak about Social Media for Professionals at the CGA Ontario conference.  From that talk, here are my top 10 do's, along with examples of best practice. 

    TOP 10 DO'S OF SOCIAL MEDIA FOR PROFESSIONALS: 

    1. Define your goals and action plan - As tempting as it might be, social media success isn't about being everywhere and using every widget and app.  It's about getting one thing right and doing it in a very big way, consistently and predictably.
    2. Build point of difference into everything - There's no such thing as a throw away update or tweet. Together, everything you post tells a story about your opinions, your expertise and your style.  Excuse the pun, but every character counts!
    3. Personalize introductions - I once received an invitation from an observant someone who noticed a comment that I posted to a shared contact.  Her introduction was teeming with a sincere effort to connect our paths.  Was it worthwhile? Well, here we are a few years later and... I still remember her.    
    4. Be creative and resourceful -  Don't get intimidated by widgets, navigation, hashtags.  Your success isn't limited by technology.    It's limited by your field of vision as a strategic networker.  If you can't find a group to join, start one.  If you can't find a question to answer, ask one.  If you're not getting responses to your posts, comment on someone else's post...
    5. Go offline - Social media doesn't just level the playing field for smaller firms.  It also levels the playing field for introverts.  While that may be a profound equalizer, don't fall into the trap of hiding behind your screen.  Remember to pick up the phone, get out for lunch and even plan activities with your newly formed online contacts.  
    6. Be helpful - Among the rules of engagement, people don't want to be sold to on social media.  But they do want to learn from those who share information or insight in a consistent manner on a deeply specialized topic. 
    7. Be engaging - Dialogue is a two-way street.  The danger in preprogramming your social media posts is total disengagement.  While you're actively sending stuff out, you may be losing out on the opportunity to in the moment respond to the things that others are posting.
    8. Establish rules of engagement - How many groups have you been to on LinkedIn that offer genuine discussion?  I've found one. Seriously.  It's called Sales Best Practices.  If you'd like to understand why it's been so successful, read the group rules.  Try and post a boring pitch or a promotional article and you'll find yourself banned. Publicly!
    9. Bring yourself into it - Here's a tweet from a bank of all places.  'What groom hasn't shuddered at the old saying an engagement ring should cost at least 2 months' salary?' In less than 140 characters, this tweeter managed to communicate attitude and an understanding of contemporary culture, inviting connection with its audience.   
    10. Use your settings - If you wouldn't say it in front of a client then don't post it where it can be found by a client, permanently.  

    Do you have your own favorite do's?  Have you witnessed or experienced any particularly magical moments?  Tell us.

    Also, stay tuned for our top 10 don'ts of social media for professionals (along with a memorable faus pas or two)!

    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    President, Bekhor Management


    Small to mid-sized firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, CPA, CGA, accounting, investing and actuarial firm marketing and business development services.

    Friday, October 5, 2012

    Linkedin Isn't About Technology - It's About People

    Less than a quarter of the 147 million people on LinkedIn are actively engaged with the site.  

    Why's that?

    A lot of professionals get caught up with the excitement of the opportunity and jump right in without giving it too much thought.  They sign up, start posting some content, invite a few clients and friends to connect and then forget about it totally.  They're a little intimidated by the technology and unsure about what to do next. 

    LinkedWorking by Lewis Howes and Frank Agin is a great reminder that Linkedin isn't about technology. It's about people. So, while the book walks the reader through the basic components of the site, it offers strategic advice about how to network with people every step of the way.  Figuring out how to post an answer in the questions and answers section isn't the hard part.  Thinking of a strategy to make that exercise help you build your practice is.  

    True to this spirit of treating the site as an online networking event, the book is chock full of success stories by real people that make it their business to always be helpful, personable and resourceful.  

    Here's a short excerpt from a success story by Sheilah Etheridge, an accounting and business management specialist, known as the "Queen of Q&A" on LinkedIn:

    Whether you are networking live and in person or on LinkedIn, it all comes down to the same thing.  You must be willing to open yourself up to the possibilities... 
    Many people make the mistake of focusing solely on the business side.  However, by allowing others to get to know who you are as a person, and you getting to know who they are, you will often find commonalities that pave the way to doing business together.  It is all a part of building trust within your network.

    Isn't that what it was always about?   

    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    President, Bekhor Management

    Tuesday, October 2, 2012

    Say it Loud, An Accountant and Proud

    This article originally appeared in the Mid-September 2012 issue of The Bottom Line.

    At some point in their careers, all professionals have been the butt of a joke that invokes a stereotype: lawyers are liars, dentists are scary, engineers are geeks, naturopaths are witch doctors (seriously, it’s listed as a synonym in the thesaurus), sales people are scammers, accountants are boring … the list goes on. 

    But who are these stereotypes about anyway? Nobody. They are inaccurate, ignorant descriptions that have nothing to do with the good people who do these jobs for the benefit of others.

    If that’s the case, why do some accountants still freeze when required to introduce themselves? Rather than treating each encounter as full of promise, they’re tied up with worry about being pigeonholed through preconceived notions. As a result, opportunities to build the practice, connect with like-minded clients or allies and springboard from one success to the next are lost.

    If accountants want to be perceived as something other than shy and boring, they need to dismiss the stereotype from their own minds first. Once that’s done, they will find that they are free to refocus their attention on developing an authentic understanding of themselves, what excites them about their careers, their clients and their very lives. If accountants don’t deeply believe that they are anything more than a stereotype, they won’t get anywhere convincing anyone else.

    So, the question is, how do accountants go about articulating their genuine enthusiasm for their work and how does doing so impact their profession and their lives? Let’s take a lesson from some particularly liberated and vocal accountants on the web.

    On Twitter, @ClarkHearsey’s introductory statement includes: “No bowler hats and pinstripes here just ordinary people who happen to be accountants.” The background photo on her Twitter page is of a goat, and her tweets account for her personal interests, including wine, food and, well of course, the shearing of goats. No doubt she’s made herself accessible to like-minded clients.

    A job posting (by an unnamed firm) that is promoted on Twitter as “accounting doesn’t have to be boring” goes on to build the case by presenting the firm as “dynamic, high growth, recession proof and paperless with state of the art facilities and technology.”

    On YouTube, WS+B went viral with a free-spirited, flashmob video series (that borrows heavily from a hip video developed by communication students at the University of Quebec). It oozes with the individuality of each member of the team (from independent lip-synch styles to wacky clothing choices that range from boas and metallic beads to sports team jerseys, electric green shorts, tank tops
    and tuxedo jackets). Beyond awareness and recruiting, which were huge, benefits included the shoot itself being an enduring team-building exercise.

    On Facebook, Accounting Today conducted an accountant of the month contest entitled: “Accountants are many things. Show us that boring isn’t one of them.” Responses ranged from dancers proud of their ability to use both sides of their brain, to a fearless warrior who claims he doesn't shy away from business challenges thanks to his experiences re-enacting history in full contact
    armoured combat.

    From the blogosphere, MarksACCjokes.blogspot.ca is devoted to sharing jokes about accountants. The twist? This blog is published by an accountant with the sole purpose of debunking myths about the profession. 

    The author of keenancharteredaccountants.co.uk/blog makes a point of not holding back in terms of expressing his pride in his professional accomplishments: “I’m proud to be a chartered accountant — I’ve worked hard to do so. It has taken me a long time and a lot of hard work to reach the position I am in today … ”

    Craig Mckenna at thegrowthacademy.com writes about how Edward was fired from The Apprentice for counterproductive behaviour that communicated that he was ashamed of being an accountant, and how he did notice that Edward was worried about being stereotyped.

    In the media, Forbes covered the story behind the rebranding of MGO that included a new tagline poking fun at themselves — “Proud to be Boring Accountants.” The new site is littered with serious yet lighthearted phrases focused on enlisting trust for professional excellence and nothing more: “We take our profession seriously, not ourselves,” and “Quality that withstands scrutiny and might induce
    yawning.” 

    Why is such a proud and vocal approach conducive to practice development? Unconcerned with the ill-effects of any stereotypes, these accountants have given themselves permission to jump onto that soapbox and say what they have to say. It’s a given that the courage to entrench themselves online is in itself a terrific contributor to awareness and the overt messages that they share (about their professional and personal views and interests) facilitate connection with like-minded clients and allies.

    But what may not be immediately evident is the power of the underlying messages of confidence and passion that course through all of these examples. It’s simply contagious.

    So, can accountants quietly hibernate, put out their marketing and avoid dealing with this pride issue? Truthfully? No. Marketing isn’t enough (and that’s coming from a marketer).

    Without the real confidence and pride to back it up, marketing doesn’t work. Whether they understand it or not, prospective clients, referrers and clients will always pick up on something that doesn’t gel for them, if there’s a disconnect between a firm’s marketing materials and the experience of meeting with the team for the very first time.

    The opposite is also true. Learning to express pride and confidence is enormous but it needs to be carried through with the packaging that says you mean it, including professional marketing materials. This isn’t any less important than the care you would take in choosing the right clothing and making your office presentable.

    When accountants learn to express pride in a big way, they are subliminally telling the world they wouldn’t trade what they do for anything else. They are building their practices and giving themselves permission to enjoy the process. However, what they may not realize is that, in doing so, they’re not just helping themselves. They’re helping the entire profession.


    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    President, Bekhor Management

    Small to mid-sized firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, CPA, accounting, investing and actuarial firm marketing and business development services.

    Thursday, September 6, 2012

    Social Media for Professionals


    I will be delivering an accredited seminar for accountants at Certified General Accountants of Ontario (CGA), Social Media for Professionals.   Here's an excerpt from the program:

    These days most professionals are feeling the pressure to jump in and try to make social media work as a practice development tool. While some have been wildly successful, most are finding it difficult to generate a return and some have, inadvertently, damaged their reputations. Join practice development consultant Sandra Bekhor as she navigates the demographics, functionalities, risks and opportunities of a variety of social media sites. Particular emphasis will be placed on the do’s and don’ts for LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network.

    Please visit CGA for further information or to register for this seminar.  It will take place on Friday, November 9, 2012 from 10:15 - 11:15 a.m.

    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    President, Bekhor Management

    Small to mid-sized firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, CPA, CGA, accounting, investing and actuarial firm marketing and business development services.

    Tuesday, August 7, 2012

    The Power of Image: Closing the Gaps Between Packaging and Your Firm’s Strengths

    I will be delivering an accredited seminar for interior designers and architects at IIDEX Canada, The Power of Image: Closing the Gaps Between Packaging and Your Firm’s Strengths.   Here's an excerpt from the program:

    Inside and out, a room, a house, an office and virtually any thoughtful space embody not just function and art, but inspiration, values and meaning. Interior designers and architects are well versed in the poetry of the visual. Yet, from the overt to the subliminal, the marketplace continues to present untapped opportunities to drive this home, for the right clients. Attendees will review the current state of design professionals’ brands, online and off, and assess what’s working, what’s not and what to do about it.

    Please visit IIDEX for further information or to register for this seminar.  It will take place on Friday, September 21, 2012 from 9 - 11 a.m.

    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    President, Bekhor Management

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

    How Could Regulating Naturopaths Undermine Anything?

    On July 25th the government of Alberta officially recognized naturopaths.  While that pleased many, it seems to have scared a few.

    By way of example, in his article, Alberta's position on naturopaths is hard to swallow, Calgary Herald writer Rob Breakenridge has suggested that this act might be "undermining the health-care system."

    Now I can understand how taking a service away from Canadians might possibly undermine our health-care system.  

    Sure.  

    But adding something?  

    Leaving aside our personal beliefs and preferences with regards to the particular service in question (for a mere moment), the very act of adding... how can that undermine anything?  

    Now your neighbours (and maybe even a few friends that don't share this part of their lives with you) will benefit from the steps their government has taken to monitor quality control for their personal medical choices. 

    You, Rob, are still free to make your own independent choices about your personal health-care. Nothing, absolutely nothing, has changed about that.

    If the majority of Canadians have voted for naturopaths with their own dollars (a considerably more carefully thought out vote than whipping out that health care card, I might add), there must be some benefit that they are receiving. Maybe they have a condition that traditional medical care simply can't address.  Maybe they're experiencing problematic side effects from their prescriptions. Either way, they can't all be wrong or inept.  

    It doesn't seem like there are any losers here.  Albertans just got a bit of protection.  If you don't want it, don't use it.  

    And you can change your mind anytime you like...


    Further reading: The ministry's announcement is available at the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta's website  

    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    President, Bekhor Management

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

    WiseLii: An App Needs a Reason to Be

    An app is an app is an app. It's not a website nor is it a brochure.  

    If you're still trying to figure out whether developing an app could help to build your professional practice, consider the very recently introduced WiseLiian app with a reason to be!

    "WiseLii is a free app that makes Canadian legal information, legislation and jurisprudence instantly available on the iPhone mobile platform."

    WiseLii isn't a simple twist on a website nor is it a vanity piece. It actually does something that couldn't be done before on a mobile platform. 

    Lawyers, legal professionals, journalists and the public can now find Canadian  statutes and regulations and research case law from Canada's courts on any legal topic instantly on the iPhone mobile platform. 

    Congratulations to Wise Law Office for having developed an app that represents an example in best practices and to CanLii for permitting WiseLii to access its data.  For further details, initial press coverage, download link and user manual, visit the WiseLii page of the Wise Law website. 

    We're also very pleased to have played a role in the branding and design of this important work. In collaboration with Garry Wise, WiseLii creator, we established a direction that would support its place within the firm's already extensive online presence.  Given the complexity of features, our approach was designed to ensure that the creative supported and enhanced function, legibility and navigation.  Thank you Wise Law Office for the opportunity to contribute to the next generation of apps.




    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    President, Bekhor Management

    Small to mid-sized law firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, law firm marketing and legal business development services.

    Tuesday, July 31, 2012

    Are You Selling Your Non-Judgy, Telepathic Talents?

    It's been a busy summer so far and I've got much to catch you up on dear readers!  Let's start off with some key insights from a webinar I recently delivered to interior designers, through Interior Designers of Canada (IDC) called 'Communicate Value with Every Point of Contact'.  These lessons are transferable to all professional sectors.   

    Professionals, you know that you deliver value to your clients.   
    Your clients know that you deliver value to them.
    Even your referral market knows that you deliver value.

    But how sure are you that you perceive that value in the same way?

    In this age of empowerment, clients are using their voice to make their satisfaction (or disappointment) heard through very public ratings, recommendations and testimonials.  If you read these carefully, you'll notice the striking difference between how clients describe the value they receive from the way professionals promote that very same value (through their website and other marketing materials).

    As with all professionals, interior designers get excited about their education and experience (and it was hard won, so who can blame them?).  Clients on the other hand, not so much.  Instead, they get stirred up about having had experiences with interior designers that don't make them feel judged or have the ability to just about read their minds.

    Fascinating.

    Imagine how much faster you'd connect with prospective clients if that gap didn't exist? 

    On a related note, this morning I read You Are (Probably) Wrong About You by Heidi Grant Halvorson, @hghalvorson.  The author talks about how "our surprising self-ignorance makes understanding where we went right and where we went wrong difficult, to say the least" and how self diagnosis is nearly impossible.  

    So if we accept the premise of this article, where does that leave us in terms of our ability to communicate value in a manner that resonates with our audience? 

    Think of it like this.  

    Getting an objective, professional perspective on your value statement can be akin to translating your text into another language... the one your clients speak .  That's not to say that your marketing should read the way your clients write... that wouldn't work for a whole other set of reasons!  



    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    President, Bekhor Management

    Tuesday, June 5, 2012

    Meet Mr Service Himself.. 'Uncle' Bruno

    Bear me with me as I travel back to Toronto and share one more Montreal story with you, dear readers!  For the chiropractors, accountants and architects in the audience, do keep reading.  I assure you, this article is for you.

    Montreal's where I grew up, so I go back often to visit with the family.  One of our traditional hangouts is the Jean Talon market. We even have a favourite farmer, Bruno.  Jokingly, as we arrived, my dad asked if I knew Bruno and I exclaimed -well of course..he's practically my uncle!

    [Let's pause here, to appreciate the profound loyalty this man has inspired, in an environment where, almost without exception, pleasantries represents the height of every other relationship.]   

    As I greeted Bruno, I told him that my significant other had specifically requested that I bring back a chili plant from his place but that I refused, knowing the ordeal I would face hauling it back by train.  Mr Service himself gave me his usual, winning smile and told me to come back after lunch and he'd have it packed up for me.  As you can see, pack it up he did!  It's at my feet right now and hasn't budged at all! 

    I wasn't just pleased. 
     
    I was delighted.
     
    [Second pause..yes, delighted.. all this fuss over a chili plant that I could easily have purchased in Toronto.  I know.  I could have. But it's better from Bruno... Or maybe the experience is better buying it from Bruno...]

    So, I open my wallet and ask how much.  The response?  Three dollars! And the winning smile yet again!!   
     
    My point?  We all know that professional services are driven by expertise, skill and fit.  But what happens when you and your direct competitors are all competent, up to date professionals serving the same market? Differentiation may boil down to how you personalize your services. 

    Bruno, thank you for modeling service excellence for all who deal with you and your farm.  

    On a more personal note, thank you for introducing us to the zucchini flowers (readers, see photo -lower left)... we made a fabulous veggie pasta with them!

    If I've piqued anyone's curiosity... do take the time to visit Bruno on your next trip to Montreal.  You won't be disappointed.  His stall is located just behind Première Moisson bakery, at the Jean Talon Market. 

     
    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    President, Bekhor Management

    Monday, June 4, 2012

    Predictability - The New Interesting

    Professionals often underestimate their ability to differentiate themselves from their peers in creative ways that go beyond services offered, target market or location.

    As I write this, I'm comfortably seated on VIA Rail, using the complementary WIFI.

    That's all pretty nice, don't get me wrong. 

    But the number one reason I love traveling by train is predictability.  I love seeing the words 'ON TIME' light up the departure board (or 'A L'HEURE', en français for this trip back to Toronto from Montreal!).  

    If you're running out of ideas as to how to differentiate your professional services, take a lesson from VIA.  They flipped predictability on its head and turned it into... the new interesting!

    Think about it.  You may already be doing that special something that, if properly harnessed, could become your powerful differentiator.


    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    erivcPresident, Bekhor Management

    Friday, June 1, 2012

    When More Marketing's Just More Money

    Professionals are always being told to do more marketing to drum up business - get out there and speak, send out brochures, get your website up, maybe write some articles, try a print ad, sponsor a community event, get on facebook...

    But at some point more marketing doesn't mean more return... it just means more money.
     
    (or time - an even more valued commodity, in today's frenetic society)
     
    Instead of focusing on reaching more people, think about reaching the same people more often, so they will start to notice you.  While larger numbers of people might be tempting, it's unlikely that you'll be remembered by anyone that sees your marketing only once.  
     
    Instead of worrying about what you'll give up by not being on facebook or delivering that seminar, concentrate on a select few marketing activities that reach the right audience, integrate seamlessly and leverage your natural talents and interests.
     
    Instead of doing more, do less.  
     
    But do it better.  

     
    - Sandra Bekhor
    President, Bekhor Management