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Why Even Service Professionals Must go Digital

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is forecasting a G-20 internet economy of $4.2 trillion by 2016, twice what it was in 2010. Although I work primarily with technology companies, I also support independent professionals such as life coaches and professional organizers. They realize that everyone, even local or regional professional services providers, have to learn to market themselves through the Internet as well.

BCG is projecting that roughly half the world’s population will be online by 2016, some 3 billion users, thanks, in part, to smart phone. “No company or country can afford to ignore this development. Every business needs to go digital,” said David Dean, of BCG, in their announcement. It’s easy to understand this for multinational corporations, but how does this play out for service professionals?

At social media’s core is the concept that you can and should rely on recommendations from friends, more than anonymous search engines, for which movies to see, what therapist to take your child to, how to select an interior decorator and so on. (And this is what has Google so afraid of Facebook.)

Any independent professional will tell you that a good referral from a satisfied client is worth all the marketing dollars you can spend. And it comes cheaply – all one needs to do is to what they should do anyway, namely, provide quality service. The referrals will come naturally. The connection, then, to the referral mechanisms enabled by social media should be obvious.

BCG surveyed over 15,000 small and medium-size businesses around the world and concluded that companies that take advantage of the Internet and social media grow faster than those that don’t. BCG estimates that in the United States, businesses that have a “high or medium” Internet presence expect to grow by 17 percent through the next three years, compared to just 12 percent for other companies.

How does that translate to success for independent practitioners? It all comes down to the basics – have your own website. (I’m routinely amazed to come across attorneys that don’t have their own website.) Establish a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ presence. Blog if you can, or hire a ghost writer if you can’t. Ask your clients to provide reviews and testimonials, and recommendations on Facebook.

And your website or blog needs social media participation elements in two dimensions – a like or share button for visitors to promote your content through their social graph, and badges to lead visitors back to your social media presence.

It’s that simple. And your practice depends on it.

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