AJ Huisman – The B2B Social Spotlight

AJ Huisman, Marketing Director, Kennedy Van der Laan

The “B2B Social Spotlight” is a periodic interview series that profiles B2B marketers who are putting social to work to elevate commoditized products and services.

Let’s do a little word association, shall we?

Law firm.  Boring.

Law firm.  Staid.

Law firm.  Stuffy.

Law firm.  *Yawn*

Law firm and social media.  Growing.

It’s true. There are plenty of law firms that are integrating social into  their marketing, but as you’ll read below, one professional marketer in particular wants to take things much farther.

Albert Jan (AJ) Huisman is Marketing Director for the Dutch law firm Kennedy Van der Laan in Amsterdam. AJ understands professional service company marketing. He’s been working in that realm for 17 years. Before joining Kennedy Van der Laan last year, he was Marketing Director, Continental Europe for Towers Watson, a huge global professional services company that helps organizations improve performance through effective people, risk and financial management.

AJ is not only an experienced B2B marketer, he’s a noted advocate for content marketing, becoming a recognized speaker on the subject. In fact, he spoke at the first ever Content Marketing World gathering.

Off the job, AJ, his wife, and three kids live in a historic old bakery (1732) in what he calls a “wonderful” small village a half hour North of Amsterdam.

When it comes to marketing Kennedy Van der Laan, what did you intentionally set out to do differently and how did social media/marketing fit in?

When I started last year, I wanted to transform the traditional way marketing was viewed internally into a totally new way of thinking about marketing. Marketing is not a bunch of secretaries ordering pens and brochures. It’s about helping the firm grow by facilitating ways to realize business goals. Content Marketing is my way of helping my firm grow.

Content Marketing is about showing value. People don’t want to know when you started your business or how many subs you have. They just want to get some answers, how to solve their problems and how to make their life easier. To learn about issues that they should care about but don’t know they should. And preferably consume that info in a pleasant way. Maybe even have some real fun in the process.

Law firms, depending on the practice, can be niche focused. How does Kennedy Van der Laan target its social outreach?

Most professional services firms tend to work in a silo approach. Every specific practice area works in its own little silo and has its own way of doing things, like trying to attract the same clients. Here, the marketing department can play a crucial role. Not only in getting the right content together but also maybe, just maybe, helping the firm adopt a more client centric approach.

The marketing department should be in tune with all content that is being produced in the vertical silos. Only then are they able to cut across horizontally and combine all relevant content for a specific client group. In this way a broader and more joined up proposition will be the result.

We take a subject that appeals to a certain client group and gather information from every practice area that might have interesting content for that group. We don’t let our internal organization structure drive our external communication and that works.

How do you work to attract not just clients, but create relationships and build dialogue? 

The traditional approach to marketing is dead. Transmitting useless features is no more. Or at least it should be. The new kid on the block is content marketing. While not entirely new, it’s the logical next step in this fast moving, transparent and critical world we live in. Transform your business and become a publisher!

Content marketing is a great way to engage and build relationships through dialogue. Funny enough most businesses don’t get this. They’re stuck in a mindset where they cling to their own “send” mode. Sure, it’s safe to list those 20 bullet points about why you are great, but who cares!? The only way I know that you’re the real deal is for you to show me. Not tell me, but show me. Show me you’re an expert in the field that I care about. We do that by giving training and seminars but also blogging about our clients’ favorite subjects. Via www.mediareport.nl, for example, we engage with (prospective) clients in the media sector in The Netherlands. Here, lawyers of our firm blog almost daily about media related topics and Tweet about it as well to drive traffic.

What social tools and approaches seem to be working for you?

We will be launching a new website after the summer which revolves around content. It will be the hub for all our other channels, like Linkedin, Twitter and YouTube. It will have a lot of video, an easy way to create and distribute content, especially in an environment where lawyers tend to be busy with clients. We have built a simple but sufficient video studio where we can quickly interview lawyers on the fly and distribute these clips easily. All the channels revert to the site, which is the main repository for the content we produce.

What do you regularly measure to see what is working and what is not?

Via Google Analytics, we measure everything that’s relevant for us about our website. And we also use a tool to connect our CRM system to our newsletters and here we can drill down to what’s read and what’s not. In this way we monitor subjects we could do a more in depth article about or even a training or seminar. We also ask our clients regularly about their business issues. After each seminar for example we ask all the attendees what they would like to see as the subject of our next seminar. What we are actually asking is: “What is on top of your mind, what business issues are keeping you awake at night?” and that fuels our content creation. It’s a bit early to tell if this has impacted our firm’s bottom line but we are constantly fine-tuning our marketing in ways to grow our business.

What hasn’t worked using social media?

We are constantly trying out new things, so we are constantly learning but haven’t made any huge mistakes, a few small ones that’s for sure. I am not sure interactive magazines are the most effective for our communication. Neither do I believe in integrally streaming seminars or any long (YouTube) video’s for that matter.

What’s the one thing people would never know about marketing a law firm?

That law firm marketing should be boring! We firmly believe that we have great content and that we go out of our way in communicating this in an entertaining way. This helps consuming and sharing this content in ways you can’t imagine. For our 20-year anniversary, we made our first corporate movie ever and it was not the traditional “old founding fathers looking back”-type. We asked ourselves a question: “What if our firm was a 20-year old girl?” what would she do, say, wear, etc. We wrote a script along the lines of our core values and had an actress play Kennedy Van der Laan. We showed the 5-minute movie to all our clients, which they loved, at the 20-year event and afterwards we all sent them the link: http://www.c360.nl/kvdl20/ embedded in a 360o photo of all attendees.

What is one thing your social followers don’t know about you?

I don’t think there’s a lot that the on-line community that I’m part of does not know about me 😉

What three blogs would you recommend?

The Content Marketing Institute: everything you ever wanted to know about Content  Marketing but were afraid to ask

Copy Blogger: about content marketing advice and solutions that work

HubSpot: about inbound Internet marketing blog about SEO, blogging, social media,   landing pages, lead generation and analytics

How can people connect with you?

See my Tweets on: www.twitter.com/ajhuisman, see my photo’s on: http://statigr.am/user/ajhuisman or you can send me an email at albert.jan.huisman@kvdl.nl


Do you know of other B2B marketers who are effectively integrating social media? I want to talk to them.  Send me a note at bob@rurelevant.com or via Twitter @RAReed.