Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Rainmaking is an Acquired Skill

No one is born with the professional skills that support a great rainmaker. It's true that some people seem to be more comfortable in selling situations, but the ability to create and close deals is not particular to the DNA of great rainmakers. Here are a few other simple truths that may help clarify your expectations around the task of making it rain.
  • 80/20 is Reality: Your firm may have percentages up or down from 80/20, but I am certain they are not far from that benchmark. 20% of your partners generate 80% of your business; 20% of your clients generate 80% of your billings; etc. There are exceptions, but very few. In creating programs and working with marketing and sales objectives; focus with reasonable expectations
  • Training Will Not Overcome a Poor Sales Aptitude: Some people seem to be more comfortable in sales situations, and others fall apart. The human condition, with regard to comfort levels, is the result of how people are raised, their values, the environment of their family of origin, and cultural training, etc. Some people get to adulthood with the exact opposite aptitude needed for business development success. The percentage of people in your firm with this opposite aptitude is probably around 20% (see previous point). Don't beat your head against this wall. Find other ways for this 20% to make their contribution.
  • Marketing Tools Will Not Hide Poor Salesmanship: Take a less than attractive man or woman, dress him/her in the finest clothing, and he/she will still be less than attractive (attraction of course is in the eye of the beholder, but I'm sure you get my point). Marketing tools (collateral, multimedia, presentations, etc.) are exactly the same way. No matter how good your stuff looks, the prospect still measures their choice by the person holding the stuff. Improvement in your winning percentages should start with people skills and sales training. Save the 'stuff' for last.
  • Trust Overcomes Everything: Build trust and all else falls in place. Nothing more needs to be said here.
  • Know Your People, Build Their Skills: Partners are individuals with all different strengths and weaknesses. If they're already great at some things, stop burning their billable hours by enforcing training programs they can't benefit from. Focus on what they need. If your uncertain about how to identify what individuals need, visit www.peoplebest.com.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Tools Change; Marketing Does Not

This post by Robert Steers on his Be Excellent blog argues that marketing as a discipline may be unrecognizable in 10 years. He offers a lot of evidence with regard to developing technologies and how they are or will be deployed.

The idea that marketing keeps changing because the "tools" are evolving is a common belief; This is not a bad thing all in all, but it misdirects people away from what marketing really is. Marketing is about trying to influence emotions and evoking a preferred response. Stated in a simpler way, it is about wanting people to like "me" (or firm, or idea, or....)

What emotions or beliefs we can touch in another human being has not changed since the dawn of mankind. Barring forced servitude, people have always made their choices about what they like, what they will pursue, and what they believe based on the same dozen or so base emotions/feelings.

So... can marketing change? As an attorney trying to attract business, no matter what tools I use to initiate contact matters little to the final choice. The final choice has been and always will be a face-to-face activity; a relationship.

Tools are cool. Tools will not change marketing. If your marketing programs are all about the tools you use then I urge you to step back and consider what your target audience is feeling about the experience.
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Monday, May 23, 2005

Remember When...

I grew up in the Midwest, the son of a Staten Island native who was heavily influenced by the very personal social network of New Yorkers. When I watched old Cary Grant and Rock Hudson movies with strong "country club good ole boy" aura's I was watching the world "according to my father."

What I remember the business world represented in those movies of the late fifties and early sixties was how closely business relationships (clients, peers, bosses, etc) were intermingled with personal life; That's how my father lived.

We would have "friends" over all the time; big social gatherings at country clubs or simply visiting the local Officers Club (my father was retired from the Air Force) for a summer swim and dinner. In all there seemed to be no line between the people he knew from work and those he knew outside of work.

These days there is a lot of chatter about keeping our "work and home" separated. I think I like the old ways of my father. The very social nature in which he approached relationships feels so much healthier and happier than stratifying the when, how, and what for everyone I meet.

The same ideal feels right in creating marketing programs. I don't want to attract people I can't like, so I focus creating messages directed at the people I would like.

So... the next time you come up with a "great idea" for finding new clients, ask some people you like, and ask some people that you do not like how they feel about your great new idea. If the idea is more attractive to those you like less, then get back to the drawing board.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Is Competence Why People Keep Coming Back?

This post at Virtual Handshake is interesting... The author, David Teton, says that, "Charm helps, charm counts, but Character and Competence trump mere charm every time." It sounds logical but...is that how the world really works?

The attorney David uses in his example is celebrity lawyer Bert Field, who states he has never used socializing to get business. The implication is that people do not hire him as a person they can work with, but simply because of his "skills" (which are legendary).

I have another opinion about whether it's skills as an attorney or skill with people that is the foundation for his success.

Reading about Mr. Field in the many articles about him (like here, here, and here) revealed a deep and caring person (former surfer, dedicated walker, family man, and Shakespearean expert) that really connects to his clients. I would venture to say that without the ability to connect he could not have lasted as long as he has in the entertainment industry (known for squashing even their hero's).

I think "charm" might not be the right word to describe the ability to connect with other people in the sense of securing new business or sustaining existing clients. Maybe the right word is, "caring". Being able to communicate at an emotional level, demonstrating real compassion without judgment while maintaining a healthy sense of self feels like what Mr. Field does.

Just my take, and I leave you with a quote:
The secret of great rainmakers is not their ability to sell.
It is their ability to create a relationship that encourages the desire to collaborate.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Headshot Vs. Editorial Photography

Kevin Briody at Seattleduck has paid me a wonderful compliment by stating, "Bruce Allen has one of the better blog personal photos...." Can anyone ever tire of hearing nice things from good people?

His comments remind me to let people know the name of the photographer that has the creative genius to take complimentary photos. "My" photographer is a creative wonderkind; Raffi Alexander of Spiderbox Photography. If you want great talent on your side; give him a call!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Picking a Great Promotional Item

An age old question; What can I buy, stick my logo on, give away, and have any hope the item will not get tossed or lost?

To find the answer look around your office and home and count the number of promotional items you’ve kept. If you’ve hung on to anything at all I would venture to guess it’s not any of the cheap stuff.

I believe that professional services firms should only put their name on items that reflect the quality of their firm. A pen that costs $1.99 when you purchase 100 would not be a good example. So what is a “keeper”?

I once gave away a t-shirt with the name of a law firm on it. The twist was that it’d been imprinted to look like a surfer/Hawaiian shirt with flower pattern running horizontally across the front and back. The firm’s name was subtly worked into the design. That shirt went out over five years ago. I was at a business barbeque a few months back and a banker I’ve known for a while showed up wearing the t-shirt. She said that it’s one of the few giveaway shirts she’s hung onto simply because it “looked cool”. It cost just a little bit more to have the screening done, but I think it paid off beautifully.

On another occasion I commissioned an artist to design an original “modern art” print that was then printed poster size with an invitation to an open house tastefully added on the bottom. The invites were rolled into tubes and sent out. Several weeks later the attorneys reported that the posters were showing up in client offices, framed and hanging on walls.

If I was going to give a pen away I would want it to be an expensive pen (Montblanc maybe), I would be very selective about who I gave it to, and I wouldn’t print a logo on it. When it comes to fine gifts, like an expensive pen, people remember where it came from. Wouldn’t you?

I’ve had commemorative coins minted that people report they still have. I’ve personally hung on to a rocket tin-toy that was sent to me (It looks totally retro and cool). Another item that’s worked well for me is silk camp shirts with an embroidered logo on one of the sleeves in a color that matches the shirt (very classy).

Let’s review. If you would like people to hang on to the promotional item you give away then buy them something you would keep yourself. Have fun, be creative, be remembered. By the way, the firm that always comes though when I need promotional magic is Promotions by Design.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Hello. My Name is Barbara and I am Your Brand

Just about anything is easier to understand if it can be seen. “Branding” is tough to see.... A lot of folks can’'t see it at all. It'’s hard to know what to look for, let alone what to do with it or how to affect it. If you would like to see and feel your firm’'s brand, imagine your brand as a person and give that person a name.

You could name your brand Barbara”, or “Bob”. And like any individual, Barbara (the name of our brand in this example) has a personality, dresses in certain ways, attracts certain types of friends, and has her own set of skills. All these traits correlate nicely to the many parts of a brand.

Take for instance, her clothing. What she “wears” is the graphic standards for your firm. If you have no standard, or multiple people “doing their own thing” (like different letterheads, business cards, email signatures, etc) then Barbara is looking pretty shabby and suffers from multiple personality disorder. It's hard for anyone who meets her to really know her at all because she keeps changing what she looks like.

Or, how does Barbara “talk”? That would be all of the things your firm says about itself in press releases, or in your boilerplate, etc. I'’ve worked with firms that don't have a boilerplate and every partner in those firms has a different way of telling someone about the firm. So Barbara’ comes off as an indecisive babbler! One day she's this, the next she's that....

The people outside AND inside your firm really like; check that, thrive on consistency. If the person and personality of your firm's brand is constantly changing then you're making a whole lot of people uncomfortable and confused.

Anyway, give it a try. Give your brand a name and then start molding that “person” into someone you can be proud of.

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Friday, May 13, 2005

Seven Blog Business Models

This is an interesting take on creating catagories for blogging business models. Unfortunately, at least in my opinion, my blog appears to fall into Kevin Briody's catagory called, "The Chuck Barris Business Model". Such is life.... Enjoy.

Post correction... The original author of the Seven Blog Business Models is Dana Blankenhorn at a-clue.com. Kevin is one of the intelligent commentators on the topic... be sure to read his thoughts.

What is a “Professional Network”

I get asked this question a lot. Not because people don’t know, but because we lose sight of why we’re doing it. Sometimes the distance between contact and result is so long we wonder if we’re doing the right things. And like a good professional, we are simply stopping to check in with someone else and verify our direction.

When I’m asked, this is my answer. Your professional network (or business relationship network) are the people you know that will answer your calls. Not just contacts, as in; “I’ve met them a time or two.” More importantly, these are people that would be willing to help you accomplish something…like:
  • Sharing leads and referrals
  • Making introductions
  • Finding a new position
  • Closing a business deal
  • Being involved in your community
A name on a contact list is not enough. Your professional network is an immediate resource for reaching your goals. They will make every effort to come through for you and you desire to do the same for them.

Maybe the simplest name to give to the people that make up your professional network is; Friends.

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

What Are You Worth?

"Products, price thyselves?" This is exactly what you should be doing...but are you? Remember. You are the product.

When you walk into a store, select an item off the shelve, and take it to the register; there is no negotiation. The price is printed right on the item. That's what it is worth for the store to allow you to walk out with it. Notice what I just wrote. "That is what it is worth for the store..." The "store" does not care if you believe you are getting a good value for the money you've surrendered. That's your thing to figure out.

The same holds true for attorneys and accountants. You, the partner/professional, determine what you are worth. It's up to the prospective client to decide for themselves if there is value in the deal.

I know that pricing and rates are significantly more complex (or at least they seem to be most of the time) than the simple dynamics above. But there is a real truth up there that so many people overlook. And the "truth" is; YOU get to decide what you are worth.

Negotiations are not nearly as tough when you approach them with a healthy sense of self-worth. You have value, you bring value. Stand up for it!

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Leadership is Really "You First"

Believing you have superior knowledge and/or experience does not make you a leader. You may have title and position over others, but labels do not translate into leadership. In the "sad but true" department," I recently spoke with the administrator at a pretty small firm whose one and only partner is a fine example for our topic today.

The administrator's firm once boasted four attorneys. Now it has but one. The partner fancies himself a great leader and he blusters and busies himself by micromanaging the efforts of everyone. Surely his own work and personal discipline would serve as a great example for his associates.... Wrong! When he's not telling others how to do their work he is at the office of a friend down the hall chatting away. He's even left specific instructions that if a client calls he is not to be disturbed; "tell them I'm in a meeting."

This example is a bit extreme, but what is happening here happens all the time all around us. INCLUDING at your firm!

Martha Lagace, a Senior Editor at HBS Working Knowledge published an excellent article this week called The Zen of Management Maintenance: Leadership Starts with Self-Discovery. What she points out is leadership food for us all.

The follower of a good leader is filled with faith and trust. I think one of my tasks this week will be to explore leadership schools and training programs to find out which ones focus on building a healthy "self."

More on To Blog or Not to Blog

Here is an additional link to a two-sided debate of the merits, or non-merits of blogging.

Blogging is Not Mandatory

There has been so much hype about blogging it would seem that there is simply no choice but to blog. Finally a discussion is starting that looks at reasons NOT to blog. And there are plenty. As is pointed out, blogging is a one tool. It has it's uses but is not the answer to every business need. If you are thinking about adding blogging to the marketing strategy for your firm do yourself a favor and read both sides of the argument.

Monday, May 09, 2005

What are You Marketing For?

I had an interesting discussion today with an attorney about "why market?" And we agreed that most firms view 'marketing' as the path to increasing their client count (quantity). In my opinion that goal...increasing the number of clients, is a 'sales' objective. But the path to greater earnings is not isolated to increasing sales. that's where marketing comes in.

In the case of the firm of the attorney I was talking with, they are pretty much "at capacity"...so they definitely do not need to add clients on top of their existing load. But like so many firms, they would be well rewarded if they could increase the quality of the clients they serve. Now that's something marketing can sink its teeth into!

So when you're thinking about quantity, think sales; when you think about quality, think marketing.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

My Weekend and CSS

Building web pages requires a level of detail that attorneys and accountants would understand. Writing code is a very precise task with little room for error. My self appointed task this weekend was to do some updating on the Marketing Catalyst Group website (which you are welcome to check out), and along the way found myself enchanted by the hundreds of new design and coding variables for making a pure CSS website.

One of the better written sites I ran into was MaxDesign for creating containers and floating boxes. I also started using TopStyle which is an amazingly eloquent CSS authoring tool from the same creator behind FeedDemon and HomeSite. Another invaluable resource archive can be found at CSS ZenGarden along with plenty of CSS design examples from top graphic artists.

I am happy to know what I can about writing the actual code behind a website, and am even happier that there are so many wonderful experts out there that I can send the serious work to.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Legal Mind vs. The Marketing Mind

The legal mind is the mind of a hunter. An aggressive, action-seeking, problem solving, pursuer of decisiveness. Though just offering my own opinion from observation, those are the qualities that seem most apparent from the attorneys I know that are enjoying successful careers.

The marketing mind is the mind of a park ranger. A builder with long-sighted visions and a caretaker who does not wish to run towards a goal, but prefers instead to create something to entice and attract the goal to come when called.

Two entirely different mindsets. Two entirely different approaches to success; and different enough that it is almost impossible for one person to possess both sets of skills.

Maybe the correct title for a marketer in a law firm is "Marketing Interpreter". I know a lot of time is spent by marketers managing their internal communications and working with attorneys to accomplish marketing tasks, yet are often are frustrated by lack of understanding by the attorneys about exactly what is being accomplished. To me the lack of understanding makes perfect sense considering the mindset differences between our professions.

The lesson for me is to trust that attorneys are anxious and willing to be good marketers, and to honor their instincts about what they are comfortable accomplishing. And I always remember that my marketing initiatives should offer plenty of opportunities for some serious hunting.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Touch Marketing

In direct mail houses and advertising agencies a popular rule of thumb is to orchestrate "touching the prospect" at least five times in order to be remembered. It's a good rule. In those circles, "touch" represents anything you can get in front of the prospect, like an ad, a mailer, a letter, a radio commercial, etc. In professional services I believe the same rule of thumb should be honored; with a twist.

"Touch" in professional services marketing needs to represent physical presence; first-person contact with people you are targeting. We all know our success comes from creating and sustaining first-person relationships... and "first person" = "in-person".

If you want a shot at getting new business, or maintaining existing business, find ways and places to be seen, in-person, by those you are targeting.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Truth in Marketing; I Am vs. I Am Not

Professional envy among attorneys and accountants could be the single most infectious anti-marketing virus out there. It is so easy to look at the success of another professional, and then say to ourselves, “If he/she can do that/say that/market that way, then I can too.”

But when we plan our next move(s) according to what other people are doing we lose our chance to promote our strengths… and we are not being honest with ourselves or our clients. When we say, “yes” to a client it should reflect an honest assessment of what we can accomplish (healthy self-awareness); not what we think others are doing and we should do it to (insecure).

Equally important, your marketing and sales messages should reflect that same self-honesty. Here is a simple exercise you can do by yourself or in a partner/planning meeting to clarify your strengths and tighten your vision around the capabilities of yourself and/or your firm.

Make three columns on a blank page and head the columns, “The Idea”, “I Am”, and “I Am Not.” As you are discussing client tactics, marketing ideas, upcoming oral presentations, or simply doing a self-assessment, write the ideas, thoughts, and tactics in the “Idea” column. Then, place a check mark in the appropriate “Am” or “Am Not” column. This exercise is particularly useful in meetings when everyone is throwing out ideas for discussion.

What you may notice is a lot of ideas are born from seeing another firm or attorney do a particular thing, and then someone will say, “we should do that too.”

It’s easy to get caught up in the passion of someone else’s, or your own excitement. If you can be honest about your strengths, and frank about your weaknesses, you will find that your “I AM’s” will generate great successes and eventually become the envy of your competition.

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Monday, May 02, 2005

Ideas for Selecting Potential Clients

Four venture capitalists sat with the folks at HBS Working Knowledge and explained how they evaluate investment opportunities. It has been my experience that the criteria VC's use to filter opportunities are excellent guidelines for professional services firms. Read this and see if you don't agree.

Being a Leader of People in Your Firm

Leadership is tough to define in only a few words. The short description I like is: "People choose to follow a true leader. Leadership no longer exists when their choice is taken away." And as tough as it is to define leadership, it is even more difficult to learn how to lead effectively. This article at HBS Working Knowledge offers some keen insights into leadership and change.

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...