Saturday, April 30, 2005

Free PDF Conversions

If you would prefer to send documents in PDF format but do not need all of the features available in a full version of Adobe Acrobat ($499.00), then here is another choice. The folks at BCL Technologies runs pdfonline offering free conversion of documents to PDF or HTML format. Of course there are some file size restrictions; but hey, what do you want for free?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Should Professional Service Firms Cold Call?

Call someone that you’re certain could use your services and ask them if they’d be open to talking with you. It sounds easy enough; it should work just fine, right? NOT! Cold calling evokes reaction and emotion in the person you’ve contacted that is exactly opposite of anything you’d like them to feel.

Success in professional services is based on building trust-based relationships between people. Is it reasonable to expect great relationships if I make people defensive and suspicious the first time they meet me?

In real life we are all conditioned by experience to be defensive in ‘selling’ situations. As you stroll into a car dealership and see the sales person walking your way, what do you feel? As you walk through a trade show you pause just long enough for a booth worker to catch your eye and they’re now about to start talking; what are you feeling? You answer the phone in your office and the caller asks if you have a minute for them to ask you a few questions; What are you feeling?

I suppose that good relationships have come from bad starts but I would bet it’s rare. In the very first few seconds of any cold call, the person you called IS thinking that you don’t care about them… you only care about getting their work (you’re greedy).

Now isn’t that a nice start to a long and happy union. NOT!

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Monday, April 25, 2005

More on Simple Truths

Have you ever gotten so comfortable in a business relationship that you took it for granted your client could forgive just about any mistake in judgment on your part? Here is a nice reminder about truth and trust: they go together.

Say Less = Stronger Bonding

Clients and prospects like feeling accepted. And how people come to feel accepted is that they feel like someone is listening to them. In studies of first dates it's been demonstrated that the person who does the most talking during the date comes away with a stronger feeling of connection. The same is true in business relationships.

Allowing a client or prospect to talk more increases their feeling of connecting with you. Notice I'm not saying, "listen more" (of course you have to listen to them talk...)... but active listening is a different skill set. To say, "let them do most of the talking" is simply about time. Give them the majority of talking time. That's it. That's all. Just be quiet more than whom you are talking with.

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Sunday, April 24, 2005

First Impressions are NOT Objective

This study on dating and 'first sight' impressions should mean a lot to anyone building business relationships. I have commented to so many audiences that business relationship skills can be learned in the pages of a book like "10 Commandments of Dating" or "The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work." Whether in our personal life or our business life, the relationship engine built into all of us is a single engine. It does not have two sets of filters nor can it tell the difference between a business reception or dinner on a cruise ship.

I used to chide myself for not having enough friends separate from my business life. One day I pondered what sort of people I'd like to meet... and discovered that I already knew them. They were all of the people I liked in business that crossed over into being personal friends as well.

I like doing business with people I would have as friends, AND, I like having friends to keep me company in business. In business use your brain to excel in your practice, and use your gut (instinct) to excel in relationships.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Don't Scream from the Middle of the Herd!

Seth Godin reminds us that we are always outnumbered if we choose to compete in a crowded market (shouting from the middle of the herd).

In legal marketing the easiest example of the herd mentality (and therefore the unheard) is in advertising. Corporate law firm advertising sheepskin of choice is the ‘tombstone’ ad. Buy space in a publication, fill it with a dozen or more boxes, and inside each of those boxes display everyone else’s logo with big numbers and accomplishments. Talk about creating a platform for getting lost in the crowd! If your advertisement looks like everyone else’s, then how are you demonstrating your “better?”

Over at Beyond Bullet Points, Cliff Atkinson is my choice for guru of ‘storytelling’, and a great place to start if you want to be different; For two reasons:

One. If you try to fit in by looking like everyone else, you do. And what is ‘normal’ is boring, repetitive, and definitely NOT compelling in any way.

Two. Your story IS different and compelling if you take the time to tell it. It is true that if you take the risk of telling your own story you WILL turn off part of your target audience. And that’s OK because the part of your target audience that will be a good match for your firm WILL get turned on by what you say.

Brobeck, the now defunct star law firm of the internet boom, ran a series of television ads on national networks that were described as “pretty far out there”. The ads were definitely a turn-off to a large part of the ‘old school’ corporate counsels at large corporations. But to the younger faster crowd (which was the client Brobeck could serve the best) the advertisements were a hit.

It takes a strong constitution to be different in marketing. And yet, different works. Remember your message is not that you as an individual are weird and different, but that your clients can expect a difference in their experience with you.

Don’t scream from the middle of the herd!

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A Great Marketing Analogy for Law Firms

I learn so much from my clients I wonder if I bring anything to the table! OK, so maybe I do have something ‘upstairs’, but the learning continues to be wonderful. I was at a meeting this morning and one of the attorneys was struggling with the question; “Why do we need emphasis on the firm’s message when all of us have such dissimilar practices? As long as we individually are bringing in new clients what can a ‘firm’ program produce?”

I admittedly stumbled around on that one blathering off good old marketing truths that were not having any impact whatsoever. (Thought to self: wasn’t my last post in MC about speaking their language, not mine?)

Another attorney in the meeting jumped in (thankfully) and said, “The firms reputation is the same as if you were buying a Toyota. They have cars in all ranges and styles to attract completely different buyers at every level. But when you think about buying what they offer (without regard for the specific model you’re looking at) you definitely think about whether you like Toyota’s name (reputation).”

He boiled it down to the essence of joining an attorney to a firm, and a firm to a reputation. The message IS important. I am so going to like working with this firm!

Monday, April 18, 2005

A Fine Example of Unreadable Writing

Considering the content of my last post this rant over at Stilicho about Wikipedia's entry on Web 2.0 is too good to pass up. It does seem that Mr Hartung is likes using graphic words leaning toward an SS~~006 Rating. But his editorial is right on the money. I'm certain the original author of the Wikipedia entry was absolutely glowing as he wrote his words. It just turns out that what he wrote was better suited for the script of 'Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.'

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Little Words Get Big Results

A tip for professionals: When writing any letter, email, or copy for an article, assume everyone that will read your words is in the 6th grade.

I recently read a letter written by a doctor to the parents of a child the doctor was treating that sent everyone scrambling for dictionaries and medical terminology books. The letter was heavily laden with exactly precise medical terms and was written in 'third person'. The parents eventually gave up and called the doctor to figure out what he had written.

In another recent example of silly writing; A first year attorney had drafted a letter to a client of the firm and made the mistake off using too much plain English (at least according to the partner that reviewed the letter prior t sending it out). The partner was quite brisk in explaining that attorney letters need to look 'legal' and instructed the attorney to include case references, legal terms, etc. The next week the partner received a phone call from the client who wondered if there was anyone that might have time to explain what the letter meant.

It's a wonderful truth about people (me included) and what we read. We like little words... We all understand little words in simple sentences. Remember, it is more important that people understand what you have to say than how you sound when you say it.

I know I've written about this before, but it keeps coming up and so I think a reminder can never hurt.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Your Priorities are Not Universal

Start your day by writing down your priorities for the next 12 hours. Your list may be:
  • Make sure XXX project is on schedule
  • Call XXX and make sure they are on-board with recent changes
  • Talk to boss to see if he/she is mad with me
  • Think about what to talk about at business lunch with XXX.
  • Don't last meeting keep me from getting to cleaners before they close
Now that you have listed your priorities put them in your pocket so they are handy in any conversation you have with ANYONE that day. And at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of every conversation look at your list.

You're asking, "Why?" Here is the answer.
  1. Just like you have priorities for your day, so does the person you are talking to, and his/her list probably looks nothing like yours. Don't get in the way of their priorities!
  2. Unless you have read them your list he/she has no idea what is important to you. If you need them to know; tell them. They cannot read your mind.
  3. What you do in a day plays toward what you do in business and life. If you think daily about what's important to accomplish, over time, what you accomplish will deliver greater results.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Let's See a Show of Hands

Professional services professionals NEED great first impressions. Having photos that look like everyone else IS NOT the way to go.

It's really hard to stand in front of a camera and not wind up looking like everyone else; Slightly turned at the shoulder, chin up and face frozen in a neutral smile (a smile that never seems to make it into the eyes) against a equally neutral background. One thing for sure, being a corporate photographer these days has got to be the highest paying assembly line work around!

In looking through my Outlook contacts (Outlook 2003 can show a photo of the person right on the contact page) I kept feeling something 'more' about certain photos than most of the others. And what most of these 'more' photos shared was 'hands'. Their hands were in the photo. Hmmm.

I have hundreds of headshots on file from all of my years as a marketer so I took several and asked friends to tell me about the people in them (they did not know any of the people in the headshots). Their answers said a lot!

Of the cookie cutter headshots their observations were superficial; "He looks nice, she's got great hair, that's a nice smile," etc. Hardly a word about personalities. When they looked at the 'hands' photos I would hear, "is he married? I'd like to meet him", or "She looks so smart and comfortable with success." WHAT!? Where did they get that? But they did.

When hands were in the photos, they would talk whole paragraphs about a person they'd never met. And almost every comment was warm and complimentary to the person they were looking at.

OK, there is no real science going on here. Just my observations. But in a profession where personality and first impressions are so important, every little tip, every little edge counts. So my advise; let's put some personality in our photos. If you agree, can I see a show of hands please.

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Sunday, April 10, 2005

Truth Continues to be Good Marketing

Good marketing is understanding the truth about myself and my firm; And then having the courage and fortitude to tell others, "This is who I am."
  • For those that do not like me/my firm; There are many other firms for you to choose from.
  • For those who wish for me to change my story; There are many other firms for you to manipulate.
  • For those who will say anything because they cannot stand to hear 'no'; There are so many other firms who will love manipulating you.
  • And to those who appreciate exactly what I and my firm are; I look forward to the opportunity to serve you and grow a friendship.
Accepting our limitations is not a path to failure. With absolute honesty we need to understand what will work for us and what will not. What kind of people do we like, what type of relationship do we want between us and our clients. Even more important, we need to know what we cannot tolerate in people.

I say again, accepting our limitations is not a path to failure. It is the path to focused and expedient success.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Mine Versus Ours

Building a book of business is hard work. Most attorneys and accountants are paid, based primarily on their ability to bring in revenue through billings. Because of this some partners become incredibly good at building barriers between their client relationships and their firm… meaning, “The relationship and business is mine.”

Does this help to grow a firm? Not really. It certainly helps a particular partner to increase his/her stake in the partnership, but it also creates an imbalance in the culture of the firm. I’ve spoken with a lot of firms and often hear the comment, “Pretty much everyone is on-board with the firms efforts except Mr. Rainmaker. He doesn’t see any need to be involved.” Sometimes there are two or three rainmakers that have chosen their own direction and are openly indifferent to firm-wide initiatives.

It’s not a good way to allow a business to run. Is it right for one or more people that can hold a firm hostage by claiming customers as their own? A sales representative would never be allowed such control of a company’s livelihood, but when the sales representative is also an owner… Bit of a sticky wicket, eh?

Over the next few months I am giving this subject a lot of thought. How can a firm create a culture where partners see clients as firm assets, not individual claims? If you have thoughts on this please add a comment or send me an email. I’ll share what I figure out as I stumble along.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

SEO and Marketing Catalyst

What I did right:
  • I post almost every day (fresh content)
  • I submitted my site to Google search (Jan '05)
  • I run Technorati tags on some of my articles
  • I ping "Ping-o-matic" every time I post an article
What I need to do better:
Not sure yet, but if I google on my name or legal marketing or professional services marketing I am still far down the list. Far above me are a great group of esteemed marketing colleagues. So there you go. My work is never done!

Marketing Catalyst Googles in at #2

An amazing surprise this morning to find out that 'googling' the title/term, 'marketing catalyst' brings this blog up in the number 2 slot! Since I started writing this blog I've been amazed at the positive response I've gotten. So if you are a regular reader; Thank you.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Marketing Help for Smaller Firms

A firm contacted me recently to discuss their marketing options. They number less than 60 attorneys and have an established book of business in specific areas of corporate practice yet feel their firm isn’t as marketing smart as it could be. They knew a full-time marketing director was not a practical answer… so what to do?

One answer of course is to reach out and ask someone like me to help them with choices, ideas, and actions. An EXCELLENT choice I might add. But educating the partners, helping them arrive at a plan, and even jumping in to make it happen may not be enough.

I went to their website to sniff around and get an initial impression of the firm and attorneys. What I found was not too bad, but it did point to a marketing problem that needed immediate thought.

The problem: Lack of attention. The evidence: The site didn’t work well in Mozilla or Netscape, lots of underlined links everywhere to make reading confusing, messages on pages that did not fit content, links to pages still needing content, very austere, etc.

By the way, this is a good, old-line firm. I checked. So how could their website not reflect the quality of the firm. We come back to the problem (lack of attention), and how to fix it.

Websites, like everything else require constant attention. As standards and technology changes so will your users experience. The same can be said of collateral, the firm boilerplate, messaging standards, proposal language, and all of the other parts of the firm that touch clients and prospects. Designating ONE person to pay attention to all of these things could be the answer.

Hiring a marketing coordinator with just few years under his/her belt could have huge benefits with minimal cost. One person who spends his/her time focused on keeping all things marketing in balance and up-to-date. They don’t need to be the idea person, just the support that keeps all of the pieces in play. Having this central character will improve a firm’s ability to respond to RFPs, generate marketing/sales letters, coordinate team sales activities, and more.

So if you find yourself wondering what your choices are with regard to marketing, putting a coordinator in place could be a great start.

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Sunday, April 03, 2005

Talk With People; Not At Them

This post over at B2BHints by Ari Galper carries an important reminder for attorneys and accountants. Typically firm partners making calls to prospective clients do not have any scripts that they are working from choosing instead to 'shoot from the hip'. For many though this sort of conversation is terribly nerve-racking. We want to sound 'smart', and 'proper' and 'professional', but we often come off as stiff and uncomfortable.

If you were smart and savvy enough to become a partner at a firm... take a breather. You've already got what it takes. Relax. You don't have to keep 'proving' it. You got it.

When my son was in Little League I interacted with a lot of parents I'd never met. In the course of so many conversations with other Dad's, they would ask, "what sort of business do you run?" Mind you, these conversations where at ball fields and we're all wearing jeans and t-shirts and the like. I wasn't worried about making sure they knew I was good in my work. Yet somehow I carried the aura of my work and my worth.

Who we are shines brightest when we stop acting. Whenever I am calling someone that I've never spoken to before, and I would like for them to like me, I focus on my natural curiosity to know more about them. Whenever I do the conversations take on their own life and the calls are fun.

A good way to get yourself out of discomfort and into the spirit of being you is to write down five questions to ask the person your calling about them or their company that have nothing to with what you represent. THEN, make the call.

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...