Today’s technology has changed the landscape for how commerce happens in every industry: People communicate differently and have access to more information.

Employees telecommute, and it is easier to do business globally. Customers choose their products and services differently.

Yet the one industry segment that offers the most advice and yet appears to be the slowest to make changes is professional services. While advising their clients to embrace technology, try new things, work smarter and not harder, and so on, most professional service firms are themselves doing business the way they always have.

So, how does this new commercial landscape impact the methods you use to build your customer base?

The traditional efforts of joining a board, organizing meetings with other professional service firms from whom you can share leads, and going to networking meetings is proving to be very inefficient in today’s fast-paced environment. While we are not suggesting you quit all boards, stop seeking centers of influence, and quit networking, we do suggest that you need to increase your use of some modern ways to build business and reduce some of the traditional activities, to maximize your time.

You need to scrutinize the marginal value of all your business development efforts — what is the short-term and long-term value of one more ____ (meeting, article, tweet, etc.) right now? You will soon realize that regular social media disciplines add marginal value to all your business development efforts and you will look for a NEW right mix of business development efforts.

Every person in professional services needs to create a personal brand and must separate that brand from their firm. You must ask yourself what you want that brand to represent; the reason that someone should call you instead of someone else. What are you the expert at? How can you stand out? The key to building your personal brand is to make it clear, unique, and specific. It is all about “slight edge.” If you build a slight edge over the competition, you will get more phone calls and more people will take yours.

Once you have identified your personal brand, you are ready to use modern-day tools to communicate and grow it. There are many, and they are easy to use. Even better, most are cheap or free. Use a blog, LinkedIn, newsletter, article syndication, websites, Facebook, and Twitter to help you build your brand and create a loyal fan base. It sounds scary, but there are many books and resources ready to help you use these tools — and they are much easier than you think.

Failure to use these tools in a world that expects that you are, will give your competition a slight edge over you. Just as people expect experts to have a college degree, they now expect them to be using social media, and these expectations will only grow. This is their way of learning about you, deciding if they can work with you, and determining whether they will respect you. This is the new world. You are either going to “get on the bus,” or it will pass you by.

Now that we have made our case, it’s time to provide you with a map for getting started. Below is a framework to help you make the changes necessary to succeed on this path. We both enthusiastically embrace the Heath brothers’ change framework presented in their recent bestselling book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. Heck, even the simplest change can be hard because we are wired to resist changes that we don’t initiate! Here is how to start:

Find the Bright Spots
As a successful coach, you have proven you are able to influence your client using your communication skills. Thus, you already have the skills necessary to succeed on this new path! It does not matter whether you prefer to write, talk, and present to a group; there are now inexpensive tools available for you to capture your brightest moments and share them through social media. Identify “what’s working” in your best coaching engagements, capture it, and start sharing it through social media. This will ultimately allow you to do more of what’s working in your practice by extending your reach and attracting new clients!

Script the Critical Moves
1. Take a position and test it. In all your coaching, you have a unique perspective, personality, and contribution that you bring to the situation. Connect that uniqueness to your affiliations (i.e. Gazelles and the Growth Guy) and express yourself. Capture those expressions and build your digital assets. We expand on this later.

2. Launch a blog and stick with it. For a few years now, Verne has advocated owning a few words in the marketplace. Find your words and establish a blog around those words. You don’t have to be 100% correct from the start — there are many ways to learn and adapt if you miss your target at first. Note that it will take time to gather evidence to determine if you are on target or not. Your regular rhythm of blog posts (at least one per week), over time, will create value in any chosen niche. The important thing is to get started and stick with it!

3. Always be searching for ways to multiply the value of your digital assets.

Point to the Destination
Did you know? You can…
• Post an article on multiple blogs (yours, the GI Coaches Blog, etc.) which your colleagues can then share (“tweet”) because they want to show how special their affiliation is with you and the other quality people in your group.
• Upload this same article to an article directory where others outside your direct network will read it and share it on their own blogs.
• Use this same article in a series of seven to 10 articles to create a positional white paper that you can distribute as value added over the Internet or with your clients.
• Have members of your client’s leadership team walk up to you during breaks in your coaching sessions to initiate conversations regarding your recent blog post.
• Use a positional white paper (a slightly-modified compilation of individual articles) to easily submit a proposal for a call for presenters at a local chamber awards event, and be invited to speak.

These are all things we learned over the past year by committing to the three critical moves we listed!

Shrink the Change
1.  Review your calendar from the last 30 days.
2.  Identify at least one client engagement that is working.
3.  What about the engagement is working? Identify 3 specific things.
4.  What unique experiences have you had in your life that relate to these things that are working?
5.  Outline an article, short-talk (recording) or presentation that you could give connecting the above elements.
6.  Schedule time in the next week to write the article or record the audio/video.
7.  Post this digital asset on the GI Coaches Blog.
8.  Send an email announcement to the GI Coaches list celebrating your success.

Grow Your Brand
The best coaches in the world create results for their teams and promote their knowledge, experiences and perspectives. All the best coaches embrace many of the same principles and disciplines, but they separate themselves through their regular unique expressions. We believe that Gazelles International Coaches should aspire to do this better than any other group of coaches in the world!

Tweak the Environment
Identify an accountability partner to help you move forward in this area. You should connect with this partner once a week for 30 to 60 minutes. Walk and talk through the eight steps above to mold your perspective and information. You can meet in-person or talk over the phone. Record your conversations if it helps. Share your videos and get encouragement and feedback from your partner. Make sure the environment allows you to capture the right conversations and put them to use: Background noise will force you to recreate a spontaneous and valuable exchange.

Build Habits
Take 30 minutes every day to think about, talk about, or act on the expression of your unique perspective, personality, and contribution. Capture it, review it, improve it, and share it. Don’t wait for perfect. To paraphrase General George S. Patton, Jr., “A good ACTION, violently executed now, is better than a perfect ACTION next week.”

Rally the Herd
We must do what we coach our clients to do! Let’s all take one entrepreneurial baby step with social media by December 31, 2010!

Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm, please visit his website or contact Howard at 001 305 722 7216 or [email protected] .

Jon L. Iveson, Ph.D., is a Gazelles International certified business coach who specializes in helping companies and executives thrive. To learn more about him, please visit his website or contact Jon at 001 877 342 4267 or [email protected] .

To view samples of Howard, Jon and other coaches’ blog posts, visit the GI Coaches Blog.

Business Coaching, Sales

About Howard M. Shore

Howard M. Shore is a Certified Gazelles Coach, Certified Public Accountant Certified Executive Coach, Certified Behavioral Analyst, Certified Values Analyst, and Certified Attributes Index Analyst. He has earned Bachelor and MBA degrees from Florida International University, and completed advanced executive programs at Harvard Law School and the University of Chicago.