Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Honesty is Fun (and good for business)

Admitting our weaknesses, especially to the people we serve, allows them to treat you with kindness and understanding. That's empathy. It's a good thing. Yes, your clients would like for you to be 'super-attorney' and 'super-CPA', AND, they would also like to know they are working with someone they can relate to. It always works best in a relationship if both sides are offered the opportunty to practice forgiveness. Jason Calacanis over at Weblogs, Inc. demostrates that honesty is fun (and good for business) here, then here, and finally here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Standing Ovation at Last for Marketing

First, let me say that all marketing surveys are flawed; and let me add that I only agree with surveys if they report something I want to hear. This one does. As reported by the Institute of International Research marketing will be the most important area of expertise for the next-generation of business leaders. It's about time!

A good business leader needs to be well versed in most areas of business. A particular skill that marketing puts in a leadership tool belt is the ability to step back and see the big picture. I believe great marketers and great leaders have developed their talent to see all of the parts moving at once, so that if one part is moved, changed or adapted, they have the ability to know its effect on everything else.

If you'd like to further develop your big picture skills, or would like to test the abilities you already have; try playing a computer strategy game like Sim City, or Age of Empires. These 'games' require significant attention to detailed manipulation of parts/people in order to create big picture outcomes.

The 'Be Attitudes' for Plaintiff Attorneys

Thank you to David Swammer for publishing this short list of 'Be Attitudes' on his Trial Law Blog alongside the intelligent and insightful tips of Larry Bodine of the Law Marketing Portal and Larry Bodine’s Professional Marketing Blog, Andy Havens of Sanestorm Marketing and Andy Haven’s legal marketing blog, Tom Kane of the Legal Marketing Blog, Jim Logan of JSLogan Blog, Kerry Randall of The Lawyer Marketing Guy, and Tom St. Louis of Zerald Communications.

The 'Be Attitudes' for Plaintiff Attorneys
  • Be Real – Plaintiff attorneys are in the business of first impressions. You are measured by opposing counsel, by juries, judges, recorders, reporters, and most importantly, prospective clients. If you try to be something you are not, you will be found out, and that never works for you. You can try to be too slick, too folksy, too intellectual, too connected... whatever. If it’s not you. Don’t do it.

    Your marketing materials, the words you use, the advertisements you place, have to match your personality. The first impression that counts is when someone meets you face to face. If your how you represent yourself in print or word doesn’t match who they meet, you lose. Be real. Be yourself

  • Be A Story Teller – Every client you represent has a story. It’s probably a good story… and people love to read a good story. When you make connections with the media don’t tell them a story about you; tell them the stories of your clients. Don’t talk about how you’ll bring them justice; talk about how they haven’t had any. To be the most visible, point at someone else and the attention will come back to you.

  • Be The Expert – Keep narrowing the type of cases you represent until you become the biggest name in that segment. It is a lot easier to aim your marketing 1% of the market than 50%, or %100.

  • Be Visible – Become an advocate. Support causes that will bring reward to the clients you represent. Become a mentor to other attorneys on their way up and you’ll benefit from the referrals. Advertise about the success of your clients, not the success of your practice. Get a PR agency to place you on podiums and get you quoted in news stories. And most of all, be accessible to your clients when they need you. Clients talk about who they see, so it better be you.

  • Be Caring – In the heart of every client you represent is at least a little fear. Probably a lot of fear. There is nothing more powerful than the word-of-mouth from someone that is a true believer. To make them a true believer in you, you’ll need to care about what happens to them.
When it comes to marketing a plaintiff practice it would be easy to simply run through all of the basics of marketing, but that could not be nearly enough. A plaintiff attorney WILL live and die (professionally) by their ability to connect with people and quickly earn trust. Do not ever believe that ‘marketing’ can make you anything you are not.

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Sunday, March 27, 2005

I Lost. Now What?

The quick answer to what you can do after losing a bid/prospect/proposal is: Learn! Of course, the quickest answer may also be the hardest. It can feel awful to lose. We may feel hurt, rejected; somehow it must be personal.

We process our losses on the inside in much the same way we deal with death or trauma. In no particular order we experience denial, anger, bargaining, depression/sadness, and acceptance.

The first step in learning from your losses is to talk about it with people you trust to be objective. A colleague, a mentor or coach, a professional peer… someone that knows you and has experienced professional losses of their own. We talk so that we can acknowledge our feelings about the loss and feel healthy about moving forward.

The next step is to find out why. And the only place that information can come from is directly from the mouth of decision maker who made the choice no to use you or your firm. Does that sound like a conversation filled with landmines? You bet. But if you want the truth, that’s where it will come from.

If you are too emotionally attached to the decision then ask someone else to have the conversation. If you want the truth, and you want to learn, get to the source.

Over the years I’ve made a lot of post-decision calls for myself and others. The most common understanding I’ve gathered after so many conversations is that their choice WAS PERSONAL. But not in the way you’d think. Most of the time they made their choice for someone else because they had a better relationship with the other person.

That’s it. They didn’t “like you less”. They “liked someone better”.

Beyond the relationship portion of the process you may also gain insight to the materials you used, the words you spoke, your timing, team members, etc.

Failure cannot breed success until you are ready to know what happened. Then learning will begin.

Friday, March 25, 2005

A Good Story is Gets Attention

Writing a good article/story is a wonderfully fun way to promote yourself. And, not every story you write and release has to be a discourse of professional knowledge. People love personality, and this attorney has IT. Now a lot of people KNOW it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Learning to Have an Opinion

This is too good to pass up. Toby at Diva Marketing is discussing an idea put forward by Michael Pollock of Small Business Branding for getting past 'writers block', which all by itself is pretty excellent stuff. I also think his ideas are excellent for practicing the art of 'having an opinion'.

In professional services we are paid to think. And like any professional skill, the more we practice our craft the better we may be. The sort of exercise put forward by Michael Pollock sounds like the perfect mental obstacle course. And it may be that you can tune his idea to develop different aspects of your thinking and opinion skills.
  • Exercise One: Set aside 10 minutes. Pick any book just as suggested by Michael. Read the sentence, write your opinions. Done.
  • Exercise Two: Set aside 10 minutes. Pick any book from among publications about your specific profession. Read the sentence, write your opinion. Done.
  • Exercise Three: Set aside 30 minutes (over lunch with a peer or colleague). Repeat the steps from Day One only this time state your opinion out loud (sort of the ultimate in "I wish I had said that" training).
As you get better at thinking/opinionating on the go the more comfortable you will be professionally and socially. Just remember to also work on understanding when it's best keep your opinions to yourself.

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Sunday, March 20, 2005

Ranting Does Not Teach

When I started the Catalyst blog in 2002 I figured this whole blogging thing was going to be a slam dunk. My task, as I saw it at the time, would be to visit law firm web sites, read legal news, and then write bitter diatribes about all of the bad marketing wandering about the industry.

For the most part, that never happened; and I’m glad. It’s way too easy to take pot-shots at the efforts of others and hide behind a veil of ‘expertise’. Do I think some things might be done better or differently? Yes. Am I always right? Yah, in my mind! But that don’t make me the bomb.

I worked for a really good coach and mentor at Brobeck, David Geyer. Now I’ve worked with a lot of wonderful people in my career, but David was a true teacher. When he arrived on the scene I was predisposed to not like him because I thought I was doing pretty good by myself. For a time I would talk with other marketers at the firm and point out all of the things that David was, “definitely doing wrong”. I was an instigator though consensus-building.

Through it all David remained steady and neutral. When I screwed up, instead of telling me all of the things I should’ve done differently, he only focused on what I did that was right, and then offered suggestions for how I could get it even more right. He was steady, mature, and a good marketer to learn from.

So what does that story have to do with blogging? Everything! What I’ve noticed in too many blogs is the sort of shaming and blaming that I had initially thought would be fun and instructive. Well, it’s not. It’s actually rather irritating to have so many people charging about finding ways to point their finger at everyone else. I’ve discovered that I don’t want to be a part of that. I’d like to more like David Geyer.

People and industries grow because there is learning going on. Learning never happens when the lessons we’re given only tell us what’s wrong. We learn because we’re shown new ways of seeing things.

This rant was born of a weekend reading news feeds full of criticism and finger-pointing. I hope that when my posts take on that aura, my readers will quickly put me back on course.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Use the Eye Wisely

A lot of folks have reported on the Eyetrack III research released by The Poynter Institute, the Estlow Center for Journalism & New Media, and Eyetools. As a graphic designer of business collateral I've always preached the more basic "Z" matrix to prioritize how information is laid out for a reader, and this study confirms that basic principle. And now that Eyetrack is getting so much exposure a lot of firms will be looking anew at their materials. If you so inclined I caution you to use the eye wisely.

As you determine what information needs to be on a page, make two lists. One list is the items that you want the reader to know about you or your firm. The second list is those things that the reader has come to find. The second list is the more important list.

A visitor to your firm website enters with questions that need answers. If they have to dig past your chest thumping... they won't. They'll move on. They don't necessarily need to know who you are or what your firm philosophies are. First they need to know how they can deal with the situation they are in (the reason they are looking in the first place). Give them enough of what they want and pretty soon they're asking the questions you hoped for.

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Saturday, March 12, 2005

Our Happy Customers....

Driving the freeway this afternoon I read the neon billboard of an auto dealership. It read, "OUR HAPPY CUSTOMERS HAVE VOTED US #1".... Well isn't that just peachy. If you want nice answers only ask the people that have something nice to say.

I am not sure what information caused the dealership to make the neon statement, but I do know that the order of words they chose to express their joy was totally misguided.

It happens way too often. Never let your excitement make your marketing decisions!

Friday, March 11, 2005

New Thoughts on Managing Email

Goggle on "managing email" and it returns about 210,000 links. OK, so a lot of people have an opinion on email etiquette. This one column by Stever Robins at Harvard's Working Knowledge website was a fresh read with new ideas.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Simplicity in Presentations

Here is a solid lesson in distilling information down to what is most important to communicate.

Understanding Your Clients

The way that business gets done is reorganized about every 20-30 years; the length of time-in-control for the heart of a generation. Though it certainly feels like a lot has changed in the last several years I think we 'ain't seen nothing yet!' Read this article at Slashdot and find out why.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Marketing Matrix for Professional Services

The academia are at it again. Kotler, Bloom, and Hayes have released their revised edition of "Marketing Professional Services". I know a lot of folks that swear by the wisdom of this trio of professors, and in the interest of leaving no stone unturned, I have read their book and must say they make a good argument for their methods.

And I also feel that the shortfall of this book is its foundation on consumer marketing practices. The trio is quick to point out that marketing professional services is not consumer marketing, and then use the "P's" matrix formula born in consumer marketing to chart a parallel path for professional services.

In light of their book release I thought this would be a good day to republish my marketing matrix developed specifically for professional services and founded on knowledge gained in the trenchs.

Re-Introducing the "Four R's" of Professional Services Marketing:
  • Resource: What is the professional knowledge you/your firm has that you can leverage on behalf of a client? The "product" of a law or accounting firm is it's people. They hold in their head the knowledge that becomes a resource to the client. In market planning you need to identify what resources your target market needs and which your firm can fulfill.
  • Relationship: What are the connections you have/need externally and internally to benefit your firm, clients and shareholders? The key to successful firms is the ability to create and sustain relationships inside the firm (partners, professionals, committees, client teams, support, etc.) and outside the firm (individual executives at clients and prospects, referral resources, shareholders, influencers, etc.). In your marketing plan the process and plan for developing these people interactions needs to be outlined to enhance the delivery of resources.
  • Rate: What is the correct rate structure for providing your resources to clients? How much will you charge? What are the payment terms, conditions? Is geography or client base a consideration? What compensation structures will be driven by rates?
  • Resonate: How will you resonate your message into the marketplace to benefit the reputation and sustainability of your practice/firm? The “product life cycle” in a professional service firm is the life span of the individual partners. Impulse buying is not a factor. Creating the vehicles and messages to bring about market awareness must consider the length of time that your “resources” will remain viable in the marketplace.
So, there is my take on the new, new marketing matrix for professional services. I invite your comments and thoughts.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Seth Godin's Liars Blog

I happen to think that Seth Godin is one of the better marketing thinkers of our time. And Seth has launched a new blog on marketing, Liars Blog, in anticipation of his next book, due out in 56 days.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Yak Shaving (All Too Familiar)

Seth Godin offers a great illustration of the term, "yak shaving". This should be especially insightful reading for anyone that believes in decisions through committees, that there can never be enough check points for projects, or have the need to "be on top of everything."

There are few mistakes that can't be undone, especially in marketing, but to have done nothing at all is a mistake that has no fix.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Billable Hour is a Marketing Problem

At Richard Hall has republished his article, "The "Billable Hour" - History of a Problem". In the article Richard looks at both the history of the billable hour and the not so great side effects of this now entrenched practice.

The billable hour IS a marketing problem because it is a constant ding on trust. We have all experienced knowing we could do something so much faster than someone else. That feeling is so much a part of us we cannot escape it. And, we also know how we've used time, or misused it.

A perfect example: Send a child to clean his/her room and the time it takes is exactly proportionate to how much time before the child's next "big thing" is on the horizon (a TV show, meeting with friends, going skating, etc.).

As marketers we constantly have to be aware of this little ding in trust that lurks in the one-to-one relationship between a partner and the client.

I think Richard is right. There must be a better way, and it cannot come by adjusting or tinkering with what is already in place. I think it will take an entirely new partnership, formed and modeled around a new way of pricing for services. The answer is out there. I'm looking for it. What about you?

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Understanding the Parts of Relationship Networking

We all know there is a decided difference between marketing strategy and marketing tactics. Pretty important stuff if you hope to have an impact. It is equally important to know the difference between the things we do or use to create business relationship opportunities and what we do to maintain the relationships we actually have.

Over at, Jake writes an interesting parallel column on building “community”. His point rather simple. Bringing a lot of people together in the same space does not a community make. Community can only happen once people are interacting, sharing, and relating to the other people around themselves.

The same hold true in business relationships. You can shake a lot hands, swap cards, laugh over cocktails, or play golf until your arms can swing no more. Real relationships develop over time with consistent attention and effort. As you read Jake’s column just put the words, “relationship network” in place of, “community”.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Something for Law Firm Marketers to Ponder

What is the brand you create just by continuing to do business "the way we always have"? The answer may feel good in your wallet but will put a ding in your ego.

Law Firm Marketing Essentials

I like a writer that cuts throught the hype and reminds us of the most important things.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Is This How You'd Like to Be Treated?

Seth Godin posted a short rant on how companies take advantage of the good will of their customers to save a buck or two. It's really worth thinking about. What are you doing at your firm that demonstrates an indifference to the feelings of your clients? Better yet, what are you making your clients deal with that you would never stand for yourself?

Succeeding in a Commodity Marketplace

Jeff Thull at pens a sound column on overcoming the challenge of offering services in a commoditized marketplace.

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...