Monday, February 28, 2005

Using Volunteerism to Boost Worth

This last weekend I volunteered to work at the California Speedway during the four days of NASCAR. I drove a golfcart to help anyone with disabilities get around the racetrack and participate in all that a NASCAR weekend has to offer. It was a wonderful experience.

If you look, there are a lot of articles, columns and words written about how to use volunteerism to boost your network and business development. Not enough is said about how being a volunteer just plain feels good.

Doing anything without an expectation of reciprocation is exactly the sort of thing that helps us feel worthy and at peace with who we are. And from there so much is possible.

Never be afraid to give. You will receive a return on your investment.

Legal Marketing; Be Who You Are

A thought on self-examination: What we want to see when we look in the mirror and what we really are is often two different things. Here is a wonderful little snippet of insight from Fouro:
You can't change organizations. You can only reveal them to themselves. And they like what they see. Or not.

If they follow the "or not" path, you can offer suggestions as to the alternatives that fit for them, and for what they believe. If they haven't evolved to the point of knowing what they believe, you start there and the rest reveals itself.

It is really that simple. The rest consists of removing spackle and years of self-deception.
How many times have you looked at someone wearing the most unflattering clothing and wondered if they looked in a mirror before stepping out their front door? There are so many people trying to look like something they are not... yet in their mind they're pulling it off. Why can't they see what we see?

This same inability to see what others see happens all too often in the marketing of law and professional services partnerships. The firm wishes to appear to be a certain type of firm; Maybe they're chasing a business trend, reacting to a competitor, or trying to just show a little ‘coolness’. The truth is a firm cannot be what it is not no matter how much they insist that they are.

I recently talked with a marketing manager at a large Midwestern firm who was venting frustration about her firms inability to utilize the marketers they’d hired. The very old-school executive committee, in responding to the buzz around marketing and sales at law firms, determined that they needed to “become a marketing organization”. They hired talented marketers, created some brand messages, expanded into new markets and announced that the “firm is changing with the times.”

Unfortunately, it’s not working. Their market does not really see much difference between the “old” firm and the “new” firm. More importantly, there has been no change internally at the firm that would suggest the firm has the ability to be anything except what they have always been.

At this firm they are truly putting on ‘clothing’ that does not fit. Why? Because they think that simply wearing a new outfit will make them different. But they’re not. Their partner compensation still enforces old ways; the executive committee puts the brakes on any initiative that does not conform to the “way we’ve always done things”, and the marketers are expected to “fall in line.”

I used to work at Brobeck, the wonder child law firm of the internet/IPO bubble. They did put on new clothes. For them, at the time, it worked. Why? Because a new generation of partners were handed the controls and they absolutely transformed what the firm was from the inside out. It became ‘something different’, and then behind that change they went to market.

When all of the new generation abandoned ship the remaining traditional and conservative partners no longer fit within the new mold created by those no longer there… and the firm died.

So much of what happens in business can be closely correlated to what happens in personal relationships and personal life. How many times have you heard someone say, “I can only be what I am”, when talking about frustrations in personal relationships? Businesses and partnerships are exactly the same!

It’s easy to get excited about what we want to be. The truth is told in what we are actually capable of being. Don’t be silly and see what you want to see in a mirror. Accept what you are and then be the very best at that.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Speaking of Out-of-Sight

MC (me) will be on a four day, no-tech hiatus returning on Monday, February 28. There is nothing more life-balancing than finding places to go where technology cannot follow.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Rainmaking is a Developed Skill

In his article, 'Rules for Rainmakers', Michael McLaughlin at tells us that rainmaking is a developed skill that any attorney (or professional services partner) with the correct mindset and commitment can learn. Read the story here.

Legal Marketing on a Shoestring

Here is a great article from Raymond Dowd at the New York Law Journal with marketing ideas for the fiscally challenged. In truth his tips are excellent for everyone.

Get Marketing Mileage from Power Point

Send your notes pages, not your slides.... So says Cliff Atkinson over at his 'beyond bullets' blog. It makes so much sense it's almost silly that the notes function of Power Point has been so neglected. Read for yourself.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Art of Not Talking Like a Lawyer

Over at metacool Diego Rodriguez talks about using PowerPoint as a story telling aid and not as a bullet point machine. Certainly worth the read. His remarks point at something even larger if it’s your wish to connect with other people. That bigger thing is “being understood”.

As a trained professional you’ve been immersed in the language of your colleagues. defines your language as “legalese”. This is good because that language expresses thoughts, concepts and truth in a way that holds particular meaning for those in your profession. On the other hand, the vast majority of people you talk to in practice development and marketing activities do not have that language skill.

Not surprisingly if you ask most people, including corporate executives, what a “tort” is, they know, but they don’t know. Or the recent law firm favorite, “complex litigation”. To most of us that means a really tough law suit. Go ahead, ask around. Don’t be surprised. There are so many words and terms attorneys use as part of their natural language that are only vaguely familiar to non-attorneys.

If you are a parent then you know exactly what I am talking about. I would never say to a four year old, “it would serve your interests best of you would…” Nope. I would say, “I’d like you to…” To simply state “complex litigation” as a service offering in collateral or discussion will leave most people a little confused. It would be better for you to state that your firm is very good at handling law suits about really difficult issues like patents and liability, that these kinds of law suits usually involve a large number of people and a lot of money is at stake.

Certainly “complex litigation” is a clean and quick way of stating what you do, but in marketing and business development ‘understanding’ produces more results.

Some attorneys have argued that “talking like an attorney” is important as part of the proof that you know what you’re doing (walks like a duck, talks like a duck, must be a duck). I don’t think people draw their conclusions from your ability to speak legalese, but rather from your ability help them understand what their choices are and your concern that they comprehend what lies before them.

It is OK for you to speak slowly and use small words. Your audience will thank you.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

On "Establishing Credibility..."

Michel Neray pens a great discussion on, 'How to Establish Credibility' over at In the business of marketing and selling legal and accounting services could there be a more poignant topic?

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Advisor Knowledge for Lawyers and Accountants

CEO Outlook: In the catagory of up-to-date trends and knowledge attorneys and accountants can bring to their clients; Here is a story out of the Christian Science Monitor with an interesting take on the changing expectations for CEO's. Read the rest of the story.

M&A Lessons: From Tom Gardner at Motley Fool -- "Operational focus is crucial to the success of most every small company in the world. Yet few small-business leaders practice it. Remember this Italian proverb: "Often he who does too much does too little." Read the rest of the story.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Legal Marketing and Conventional Wisdom

Andy Haven asks the question sitting in the tongue of so many legal marketers, “If industries that have been putting their best minds and millions of dollars into marketing for a century are having to rethink their assumptions, what does that say about marketing in the legal industry, which hasn't even begun to embrace much of the conventional wisdom?”

I would like to challenge everyone with a different question along the same lines: ‘What does it say about marketers in the legal industry that they assume conventional wisdom will work with law firms?’

So much of conventional marketing wisdom was born in industries and markets quite unlike professional services and law firms. Many of the most basic principles of what works and what does not are similar yet the tactics to me feel like something much different.

I have often said that legal marketing is a closer cousin to matchmaking than to business promotion. In every element I have to be considerate of BOTH the targeted customers and the product/person I am targeting them with.

Our products have personalities (the attorneys), and preferences, and no fear of revealing either. Even marketing the firm holistically requires individual attention to the attorneys. If I was marketing for Mattel I can tell Barbie who she will “be” for the market, and she won’t offer a differing opinion…

It gets right under my skin sometimes when attorneys don’t listen to what I recommend! And then I remind myself that legal marketing IS a new, new thing; that I’m part of it; and attorneys are just tenacious enough to keep reminding me of it.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

I'm Voting for Passion

Several years ago in a presentation I gave titled, "10 Ways to Avoid Marketing Success" I spent some amount of time discussing the lack of "opinion" among many marketers. This afternoon I ran across some wonderful commentary at the new Corante blog, BrandShift, discussing the very same thing.

I don't know about you, but I couldn't market for something I felt no passion for. And with the passion I do feel for the things, people, firms, and ideas I market it just feels natural to have an opinion... and state it out loud. And that was my rant in the presentation; Not nearly enough marketers will state their opinion out loud.

I believe it's safe to say that every marketer DOES have an opinion, but the posture of neutrality (sitting on the fence observing) is a means of self-preservation and avoiding commitment, or worse, avoiding the pain have having a position/opinion challenged.

Among professional services marketers I have heard so much self-defeating thinking coming from really intelligent people. "I don't know enough."; "I am just going to lose anyway."; "Why would they listen to me?"; "It doesn't matter what my opinion is, they're going to make their own choices."; and the one I hate the most, "Hey, I'm just doing what I'm told."

This is the part in the presentation when I'd emphatically shout to the audience, "WOULD YOU PLEASE GET YOUR OPINIONS OUT OF YOUR THROATS AND ACROSS YOUR LIPS!" Of all the professions, marketers, qualified by the very nature of what we do, should be a profession of passionately opinionated people! And great marketing comes from a place of passion, of creativity, both born of having an opinion and making it known.

Stating an opinion does not have to be an attack against someone else's ideas. It simply requires you to speak of what you believe, and that you act like your belief. Being open in this fashion makes it possible to learn, grow, change, and create change. This is a good thing.

By the way... coming soon to this blog, "10 Ways to Avoid Marketing Success."

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Everything You Need to Know About Podcasting in Four Minutes

You may even be asking, "What is Podcasting?" In four minutes you'll know courtesy of Lisa Williams. Then, to see the size of the podcasting wave headed your way click this link to a Google search.

If you are a professional services provider (you make your living off of what is in your head) this marketing vehicle has so much potential you should be rushing out to your nearest Best Buy to purchase a sound mixer and microphone stand.

Copywriters fire up your keyboards! There's a new talk show in town!!

Bad Idea #2

Looks like McDonalds needs to take a really close look at their marketing decision process. Though McDonalds serves burgers (something entirely different than professional services, DUH) the lesson we're witnessing is the disconnect between the top of an organization and the customer it serves. Somewhere in the McDonalds organization a decision maker is letting someone tell them, "I know what's going to work", and the decision maker is his/herself totally out of touch with the customer base.

Dear Senior Partners, committee Members, and Executive Boards; One way to exhibit trust in your marketing teams and contractors is to (yourself) stay familiar with the trends and clients in the markets you serve.

I would like to thank McDonalds for this important reminder, and if they are looking for new marketing team members I can be reached....

Monday, February 07, 2005

Bad Ideas in Advertising

We have a new candidate for "Bad Ideas in Advertising". To extend the life and reach of their weak, "Lincoln Fry" Super Bowl commercial, McDonald's has put up a blog purporting it to be the real life postings of their script created "married couple" and discoverers of the Lincoln Fry.

It gets worse. The site does not allow commenting yet shows dozens of comments (real or fake?) Who knows. Smells like there is a whole lot of tom-foolery going on here.

There have always been a lot of tongue-in-cheek campaigns carried out in every medium, and there always will be. That said let me stand up for why I think this is just bad advertising.
  1. The blogsphere was created by real people looking for a simple, unadulterated means of thinking out loud and sharing with an audience beyond their front door. There are plenty of tongue-in-cheek blogs but until now, no one was misrepresenting themselves to achieve a financial gain (at least no one that I am aware of).
  2. It feels wrong. This is what the dog must feel like as he/she is running across the lawn only to discover that the stick being chased is still in the owners hand. Doh!!
  3. I am a marketer yet still believe not all marketing needs to be in-your-face to be successful. There are plenty of examples of businesses and firms using the blogsphere to truly enhance their eminence with out using the traditional advertising models they employ in other mediums.
Every profession has people within it that don't seem to understand what "boundaries" are. Seeing the commercial I understood the humor. Seeing the blog I feel like I'm being treated as a fool. If it had been a link from the McDonald's home page, the humor could've continued. Instead it is a stand alone blog representing itself to be what it is not.

This is a good lesson on how far is "too far" for all firms and companies. Each medium has it's purpose. If you choose to ignore the reason for the medium you choose to ignore good taste. And let the chips fall where they may.

Event Checklist

Here is a simple, adaptable checklist to use when your firm is planning a seminar or event. The last time I used it we were planning a education event for CPA's... Feel free to modify and make it work for you.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Plug-Ins Part Two

The power of watch lists was confirmed not more than a few hours after I posted my remarks on using plug-ins on web sites... A very well spoken gentleman from Macromedia support commented on my post.

On the overuse and misuse of technology by site designers he said, "I'd agree that there's definitely a case that can be made against counterproductive use of technology -- if a site does not start up quickly, or forces you to wade through a lot of fol-de-rol before allowing you to proceed, then that's not very productive..."

On the security risks of allowing the Flash player plug-in he wrote, "The security model for Macromedia Flash is actually pretty strong, though -- it provides a sandbox in which scripts can safely play, and this sandbox is identical across operating system and browser environments." He continued later in his email to me, "...with the widespread presence of SWF files on Top 100 sites and the 98% adoption rate among consumers...?"

With regard to watch lists; obviously some companies (Macromedia definitely) understand the power of buzz and the reach of electronic communities. My advise is to follow Macromedia's example and dedicate one or many people to sniff out what people are saying around you (your business space) or about you.

With regard to the context of my statements about plug-ins and "just say no"; The most blatant of poor design, overuse of technology, and exposure to browser risk occurs at the front door of web sites. When designing an home page I think it's good manners to allow the user to determine a trust level before pushing content via technology onto their computer.

I use FireFox, plug-ins turned off, as my primary browser. If I trust a site and want to visit their pages that do use plug-ins I fire up "that other browser".

Macromedia has an excellent record of aggressively closing any holes discovered or exploited in their technologies. It is also true that holes and exploitation have occurred ("Click-Ad", security patch updates, and version releases touting improved security). It is not in any way neglect on Macromedia's part that creates risk. It is the determination of malicious individuals exploring every possible way to sneak inside someone else's computer.

Macromedia Flash is not a toy. It is a useful and functional medium for communicating information and concepts when employed thoughtfully and intelligently.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Marketing Awareness & Relationship Building Cycle

Seeing the big picture always helps me understand where all of the little parts fit. The big picture illustrated above is the path of awareness a prospective client travels as they are pursued by a person or firm and, what is the most effective means to influence the prospect as their awareness of their pursuer grows? Let's take a brief look at each of the six stages:

Do Not Know You
The prospect has never heard of you or your firm. They probably have an existing relationship with an attorney or firm. The most effective and efficient means of reaching this person is through your broader marketing/eminence programs.

Know of You
The prospect has heard of you or firm though your awareness programs, in conversation, or their own discovery. Their awareness of you is name only. They may know what it is you say you do, but really do not know and formed no opinion about your or your firm. The prospect is indifferent. The most effective and efficient means of reaching this person is through your broader marketing/eminence programs.

Have an Opinion About You
The prospect has formed an opinion (or impression) about you or your firm. Their opinion will be either positive or negative. They can no longer be indifferent though they often say they are. Their opinion came from hearing you or someone from your firm speak at a conference, seminar or event; Reading an article, white paper, biography; Hearing of you in a conversation when someone else stated their opinion; Have seen your marketing collateral/letters/web site, etc. The most effective and efficient means of reaching this person is through your broader marketing/eminence programs with support from business development and networking activities to quicken their learning curve.

Are Drawn to You
In this stage they've determined that you or your firm has "something" they might not find anywhere else. They will want to have a direct relationship with you or someone in your firm and will begin to assign emotional values to their choices. In this stage your relationship with the prospect is unbalanced. They are beginning to make an emotional investment in the relationship they will be wary of any inconsistencies. The power of rejection is on their side of the table and they may be quick to exersize it.

The exception to who holds the power of rejection is if they believe they need you or your firm for intangible gain (status, influence, or connections).

In this stage they are still hyper-aware of any information they see or hear about you. They will actively look for anything that supports their perceptions and they will be talking about you with peers, advisors, and other service providers. The most effective and efficient means of reaching this person is through your business development and networking activities with support from marketing/eminence programs.

Are Ready to Make a Choice
The prospect is wants to formalize the business relationship with you. They are in a balanced intellectual and emotional state and feel an affinity to the individual they will work with from your firm. They are increasingly irritated by existing services relationships and will become an advocate for change. The most effective and efficient means of reaching this person is through partner involvement, and business development activities.
Are Loyal to You
The prospect is now a client. They have an emotional attachment to you and the services you provide. They see you as an advisor, contributor to their business, and a friend. They are a reference and referral resource. The most effective and efficient means of reaching this person is through partner involvement, and tightly targeted retention marketing programs.

In the coming days I will be writing about the dynamics of this cycle, effective tactics for reaching your prospects at each level of awareness, and how you might organize your efforts internally for stronger collaboration.

Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

If You're Looking for Prospective Clients that Have a Future

This article at "Change This" does a good job of outlining the new world of software development. Companies that work this angle will be an opportunity for services professionals looking for clients that will grow.

Toys are for Playing; Tools are for Business

Macromedia Flash is a toy!

As I was surfing through websites of law firms including those of the Elite Excellence in Legal Marketing Award winners I was dismayed to find so many that require the Flash plug-in to see some or all of the their content. Though I was told recently that I'm not "tech savvy enough" to work with a firm I was speaking to in the Midwest (that comment still sticks in my throat) I actually do get a lot of calls to help companies make technology choices around their marketing initiatives.... OK, I ramble on.

Over the last several months web browser and plug-in trends have been undergoing a significant change that marketers have to be aware of.
  1. Internet Explorer is losing market share faster than Howard Dean in the last primary. With security holes in the code the size of tanks many users and IT directors are moving to browsers offering greater security and functionality. Leading the pack of these alternate upstarts is Mozzilla's FireFox (If you don't have it yet, get it!)
  2. In the technical and user forums that buzz about internet security, browsers, plug-ins and the like, an emerging trend is a disdain for third-party plugins for a variety of reasons. Usability experts and users complain about slow load speeds, to much glitz and not enough hard information, confusing design and interfaces, and security risks in allowing your browser to download and execute code, etc. What they're doing about it is turning off plug-ins. I have seen dozens of discussion posts ranting about sites that still deploy executable code through scripts and players right at their front page. A common refrain is, "I'm not plugging in so too bad for them."
As EVERYONE in the connected world hears more and more about how easy it is to "get hacked" or to contract a system virus, EVERYONE is listening to ANYONE with suggestions about how lower their risk. The word on the technology street, at least for now, is; Just say no to plug-ins.

My advise is to look at what you've deployed. Does your site require the reader to wait for content? Does she/he need more than a basic browser? How many clicks and re-clicks does it take for the reader to get to the meat of your site?

If you'd like to get an outsider to surf your site and offer an opinion of "easy or hard", go find a pack of sixth graders (no kidding). You'll discover more than you might have ever imagined!

Blog Design...

I love all of the pieces that make up "marketing"... and I certainly enjoy playing with design (one of my earliest jobs in marketing was as a computer graphics designer for a major daily newspaper - it wasn't always pretty but man we were FAST). MC is becoming a fun laboratory for experimenting with blog layout, feeds, content mix, CSS, and medium usability. Feel free to drop me a line when I'm hitting or missing the target.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Biggest Web Design Mistakes; Heed the Warning

Vincent Flanders is an expert on bad web sites. He's been writing about them since 1996 and has never lacked for bad examples to chronicle. While you're reading through his post, "The Biggest Web Design Mistakes of 2004," give some thought to the rest of your marketing materials. Many of the mistakes he discusses in web site design are often repeated in other pieces of marketing collateral.

I would also recommend that someone in your marketing group should be subscribed to Jared Spool's newsletter for web designers, usability specialists, and information architects.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Clients are Family...Treat Them as Such - Part Two

In "Clients are Family - Part One", we looked at several guidelines for improving your client relationships including: Know their beliefs; Know your needs and speak up; and Know how to respect and manage differences. As stated in Part One, all of these guidelines for client relationships could equally apply in your personal life.

I don't believe it can be said too many times that buyers of professional services make their choices based on the chemistry between themselves and the professional. And when it comes to chemistry, feeling always outrule logic.

Part Two
Learn to negotiate. Relationships no longer rely on roles cast by culture. We are free to create our own roles, so that virtually every act requires negotiation. It works best when good will prevails. Because people's needs are fluid and change over time, and life's demands change too, good relationships are negotiated and renegotiated all the time.

Listen, truly listen, to your client's concerns and complaints without judgment. Much of the time, just having someone listen is all we need. It opens the door to confiding. And empathy is crucial. Look at things from your client's perspective as well as your own.

Work hard at maintaining closeness. Closeness doesn't happen by itself. In its absence, people drift apart and are susceptible to wanting greater change. A good relationship isn't an end goal; it's a lifelong process maintained through regular attention.

Take a long-range view. A business relationship should be an agreement to spend a future together. Check out your expectations with each other regularly to make sure you're both on the same path. Update your expectations regularly.
Never underestimate the power of good grooming. Enough said.

Fun is good. Closeness is better. Fun is easy, intimacy is difficult. It requires honesty, openness, self-disclosure, confiding concerns, fears, sadnesses as well as hopes and dreams.

Never go to sleep angry. No relationship is perfect and anger is a normal feeling. It is not normal when anger becomes a mood. IF you carry your anger to bed with you, then YOU have some work to do on the relationship. But don't swallow your anger, deal with it. If you swallow your anger it will taint the relationship from that moment on.

Apologize, apologize, apologize (when it is appropriate to apologize). Anyone can make a mistake. Repair attempts are crucial-highly predictive of relationship happiness. They can be clumsy or funny, even sarcastic-but willingness to make up after a disagreement is central to every happy business relationship.

Maintain self-respect and self-esteem. It's easier for someone to like you and to be around you when you like yourself.

Enrich your relationship by bringing into it new interests from outside. Teach, mentor, and learn together. The more you have and share, the richer your relationship will be.

Cooperate, cooperate, cooperate. Share responsibilities. Business relationships work ONLY when they are two-way streets, with much give and take.

Maintain your energy. Stay healthy.

Recognize that all relationships have their ups and downs and do not ride at a continuous high all the time. No relationship is perfect all the time. Working together through the hard times will make the relationship stronger.

Make good sense of a bad relationship by examining it as a reflection of your the choices you make. Don't just run away from a bad client relationship; you'll only repeat it. Use it as a mirror to look at yourself and the reasons you chose to pursue that client. Change yourself and your criteria before you chase new business.

Seven Bullets for Your Marketing Plan

Rob Engelman offers his advise for professional services marketing.

Graphic Artists are Crazy

I might know. I am one. But, not like, "Wooo Hooooo, la la la la la, put me in a rubber room!!" Go online and look at any portfo...