Pulling a Radiohead

October 10th is the one-year anniversary of the release of Radiohead's In Rainbows. Why should we care?

This landmark release prompted marketing-types to begin using the band in conjunction with the description of an interesting revenue model: "Pay what you want."

In Rainbows was first released as a free digital download. The band asked fans to pay what they thought the record was worth. The model was followed by others, such as magazines Paste and Good, and more recently by textbook author Noel Capon, who is letting students pay for a textbook after they take the class, and then only paying what they feel it was worth.

A gimmick, maybe, but gutsy.

Let's take a look at what we can take from this and implement in the way we market professional services:

1. Consider what your client would do if you asked them to pay an hourly rate after you provided your services.

You should be so sure of the service that you provide that you'd be willing to forgo payment upfront. Plan a results-oriented strategy that can set you apart from your peers. That means not only 'showing' your clients your value, your expertise, and your successes in your online marketing; it means accountability and the possibility of having them pay based on results.

2. Remember the adage "Sell the blades, give the razors away for free."

There are things that you can provide at no cost that can help your online presence. You could fill your site with useful links. You could give away a downloadable copy of an estate planning guide. You can email a list of Top Ten things to think about when choosing a divorce lawyer. If you're in insurance or taxes, perhaps a list of compliance points. You get the idea. The point is not to bait a trap - the point is to attract interest and earn trust before you try to close the deal.

3. PR is invaluable.

The buzz generated from these marketing efforts, be they gimmicks or sincere attempts to connect with a target audience, is real. In Rainbows sold well, topping the Billboard 200 upon its retail release. Good had a subscription spike in addition to being featured in The New York Times , and Capon's book - while the term isn't over and so the jury is still out - at least made it into a Wired featured story, which was then blurbed on Fark. And of course, they all landed here. ;)


Believe the Hype

Hype is hype, but...
After reading several posts this morning on whether or not Social Media (SM) is all hype, I decided to weigh in on the topic and speak to the 'self-branding' piece of this complex puzzle.
To say that SM is pure hype is like saying the Internet is just a fad. It's here to stay, and its injecting itself into mainstream media more and more each day. LinkedIn's new strategic move with CNBC in regards to content distribution is but one example. Whether companies can use this new medium to generate real dollars is something that remains to be seen. But you can bet that it will get them exposure (check out FedEx's move on Facebook: http://blog.buddymedia.com/blog/?p=58)

Playing to Win

While the mergers of big media companies and social sites may be consequential (if short lasting), the question for the service professional is how to harness this media to find clients. With that in mind, let's take a quick look at what we can learn from the major players.

1. You have to play to win.

Much like Powerball, if you don't enter you can't win. Large companies worldwide are entering the world of SM with all kinds of initiatives - some great, others not-so-great. This does not mean that you enter the world of SM for the sake of doing something. You shouldn't blog or place Twitter posts because you feel you have to...you need a plan first. And above all, you need relevant content.

2. You have to work at it.
You're putting enough hours in at your firm, I know. So realize before entering: even the big players haven't figured SM out yet. Creating useful content takes time... a lot of time. Realize that before going in. It's much easier to add contributions to discussion groups than it is to create a blog.

And take the time to build your network. Do this by letting others in the community know that you're the expert they need (do that by making meaningful contributions). It's what Hubspot calls "inbound marketing," which is letting people come to you, instead of you to them.

3. There's not (necessarily) instant gratification.

While SM can indeed boost your ego (Look Mom! I have 500+ connections), it probably won't win you clients, at first. Think of SM as a networking event, where you get to talk to a few people, build rapport, exchange business cards, make some follow-up calls, etc. Then realize that time constraints are gone --- meaning, people can respond to posts much, much later than they would to a phone call or meeting.

These are three simple things you ought to think about prior to beginning an SM campaign for your services: get out there, add meaningful content, and remember that you'll have to be patient.

(Image of touch interface by Microsoft)


Take the Inbound

Using SEO to drive traffic to a web site has become commonplace, but what about driving traffic to you, the attorney, specifically? Instead of trying to find clients...

Hubspot is helping to pioneer inbound marketing, which is a form of permission based marketing that utilizes social media in an effort to market non-intrusively.

The idea is to market yourself , your knowledge, and your company to a general population (think Facebook or Twitter) and let others find you, learn about you, and potentially contact you. This is done through a variety of channels and can be part of your firm's marketing mix.

That way, prospective clients can seek out what, when, where, and how they want to buy from you or work with you. I'll be exploring this in much more detail, using specific industry examples and providing resources and links, on subsequent posts.