Sunday, July 31, 2005

What Rush Hour is Teaching Me About Marketing

  • I can only control my car. Sometimes I may influence the actions of other drivers but I have no control over when or what they do. The same rule applies in competing with other law firms. I can only control the strategy and tactics of my firm, what my firm does may influence other firms, but that influence is not control. If I allow myself to be influenced by the marketing tactics of other firms (“if they do it, we should do it too”) it’s like being hooked on a tow truck. We will both (my car and the tow truck) get to our destination, but the tow truck will always get there first.
  • I can drive no faster (on average) than the cars around me. There are many things that influence the effects of any marketing strategy or tactic. If the speed of my program is constrained by things happening outside the four walls of what I control (a changing economy, changes in the competitive landscape, reduced capacity for new work, etc) then patience and perseverance are my only course.
  • I can monitor the flow of traffic around me and change lanes to catch a faster flow, but if I change lanes too often other drivers will seek to keep me in my place (negative influence). It’s one thing to be a mover and a shaker as long as what I do is not erratically different or infuriating to others. Good marketing tactics need to demonstrate a difference between my firm and others, but if my programs are scary, the market will push back.
  • If I know the freeway well enough I can sometimes predict which lane has the fastest flow and set myself up to be in the right lane at the right time. As a marketer I value knowing and understanding the markets I’m targeting. No plan is perfect, but understanding when and how opportunities may present themselves can accelerate my progress.
  • Surveys have shown that greater than 80% of all drivers believe they are above average drivers, and on any typical stretch of road, certainly better than almost all of the other drivers around them. That sort of mindset predictability means that if a driver near me drives in traffic a certain way, I can be pretty certain he/she will continue to drive that way. The same is true of other marketers and their strategies. If I watch them long enough I may be able to predict (on average) what his/her next move will be.
  • Getting cut-off, being stuck behind a slow driver, missing an exit, getting caught behind a dirt-hauler spitting sand and pebbles on everyone behind them…. It happens. I can either work my way out of the situation and move on, or, I can get mad, work my way out of the situation, and move on angry. Since the only person I can control is me, I usually choose the former. All too often marketing can be a similar trial. My competition may do just the right thing to foil my plans. So I work it out and move on.

I’ve spent so much time in traffic in Southern California that I could run on and on with all of the marketing lessons I’ve learned. These are just a start. At least I have something engaging to think about as I do the slow crawl in rush hour.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Can We Make People Participate?

There seems to be, among some marketing professionals, an attitude of cynicism toward any attorney that does not listen to a marketers suggestions. A mantra among them is, "Let ME tell YOU how things are!" PLEASE, don't be one of THOSE people.

In a recent string of replies on a listserve, one question about helping an attorney develop a business development skill quickly degenerated into cynical rants about attorney attitudes, poor skills, bad habits and aptitude. The tone of language and cynicism in these comments… suggestions that some attorneys can at best be taught to “fake it”.

Do we (marketers) really know better, or do we know different?

Wth regard to the question of what to do in a situation when not all attorneys are willing to participate in marketing goals, or even seem to be (with or without knowledge) working against well laid plans, here is my own way that works for me. It may not work for others.

Being new at my current firm I am still meeting many of the attorneys for the first time and outlining some of my ideas for going forward. With every attorney I assure her/him that it is not my goal to change anyone; It’s my goal to discover all I can about each individual (the many parts of the firm I cannot “make” into something different) and then find the combinations of those many “parts” to form an message I can market.

There are attorneys that ask for help and mentoring… and there are those that want nothing to do with anything I can do or represent. Even the least of them (with regard to a desire to participate) will play a part in what happens next. It seems silly that any planning I do would not include every attorney. Whether they are participating or not they will all impact the brand of the firm and plans for the future.

It feels healthy to me to accept people for exactly whom they are, without judgment, and work with the parts that are there; Not the ones I wish I had. So, this is what works for me. I am always open to other ideas.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

On Becoming a Star Attorney

Fast Company released an article so packed with great ideas I giggled the whole way through it. The article, titled "Are You a Star at Work", could very well be named, "The Fast Track to Business Development for Attorneys".

Much of this article revolves around building a foundation of quality relationships as the accelerant for everything else you'll hope to accomplish. As an attorney looking for mentoring on building a practice, simply replace the word "company" (as this particular article is based on building an internal reputation) with "business community". Everything works perfect.

I especially enjoyed the "back of the t-shirt" theory. "'s not what people bring to the party that makes them a star - it's what they do with what they bring." That one line could be a mantra. How many attorneys lean too heavily on their bio's, education statistics, etc. and are confused that prospective clients and relationships don't leap into the fold.

I am ecstatic that Fast Company can get so much great information into such a short article, and yet sad to see so much blogging material revealed all at once. So... how many "star's" will be born today?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Friday Morning Rant

This morning my computer informed me that it was riddled yet again with several bits of malicious malware. Actually, it was two of the three security programs installed on the computer that were doing the talking. Both programs had just self-updated in the last few days so I hope what they found was the leftovers from the attack on my system a few weeks back. It’s odd though that neither program found the same things. I wonder how that can be if both claim to accomplish the same task?

Speaking of unwanted things that get on my computer, has anyone noticed the rash of emails from people claiming that with a little help from me (cash) they can free up a fortune currently trapped in some legal hole in a country far, far away? Do people still fall for this stuff?

Thursday, July 21, 2005


Can there ever be too many tips, ideas, or new thinking on how to improve PowerPoint presentation. I think NOT. Yesterday I sat in on a lunch session by an software company pitching an online tool to event planners. 90 minutes of a presenter reading from his slides so packed with words that in order to say anything not already on the screen he was explaining meanings of words. He lost me pretty early when he felt he needed to explain to his audience what a hyperlink on a web page is (I think my ears and nose started to bleed).

This countdown clock trick that Tom Kane links to in his post of tips and tricks is particularly slick. Of course there is always Cliff Atkinson over at Beyond Bullet Points.... Yesterday he offered some interesting ideas on presentation innovation in the courtroom.

I did like the software product and may give it a trial run. I'm going to trust that the software company's software writing strengths are as strong as their presentation skills are weak.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Capturing Life...

In the business of being a marketer I am constantly looking for inspiration; A vision. Something that pushes me to drive harder at creating new ideas and thoughts.

Here is one of the people that does that for me. Enjoy.

Spyware Doctor

Starting at about noon on Sunday I went to battle against some sort of malware that hijacked my computer; I must have been speeding on the internet highway. So let the battle begin....

I have McAfee and Microsoft Antispyware running at all times on my system.. and in most instances I run Firefox as my browser. For just one or two sites from time to time I run Internet Explorer because not all is yet perfect in the Firefox window. Oops.

Suddenly my internet blocking warnings are firing off like fireworks on the Fourth of July. I met the enemy and we fought. Down we tumbled through fire and ice (last line borrowed from the Lord of the Rings) until I smote him....

The key to my victory; Spyware Doctor. I ran multiple system scans; sweeps and purges. I journeyed into my registry and deleted away at the advise of many a bulletin board guru, but none prevailed until I ran Spyware Doctor.

Somewhere in the darkness a band of software warriors labor away to bring freedom to the helpless and hapless among us. They wage a war without end but they only call themselves Doctors. Thank you. March on to freedom.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Seeing the Whole Battlefield

The legal marketing competitive landscape in Orange County... and Southern California, is about to get a bit hotter.

First, the regions largest law firm (yet the one with the lowest profile) hires me. What is significant about that move is not whom they hired, but that they hired someone at a perceived level... a CMO (I do hope I fulfill their greatest expectations!).

Next, in a few weeks we will add another very experienced and savvy marketing person to the Rutan roster (a team is formed). And, without disclosing the exact initiative, we've launched a program that will capture a particular legal vertical for the firm. GOSH THIS FUN! So much to do and never enough time!

Being new at a firm has an inherent marketing advantage. Without bias or prejudice I can see the entire marketplace with the eyes of the "unknowing without opinion". This is important because once anyone gets too deep within the "forest" it's extremely difficult to be originally creative.

Right now I enjoy the advantage of "vision" over any competitor in my marketplace. My job is to work my advantage as quickly as I can while everyone is watching and wondering what I will do.

This ride is going to be a HOOT! I encourage you to check in here from time to time and read about the ride. I don't believe you'll be disappointed.

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A Different (Search Engine) Mousetrap

Thanks to Jason Calacanis I've visited a search engine site that is new to me; Icerocket. What's attractive about Icerocket is the ability to search blogs only. It's not tag based or service specific. Google, pay attention... you do not want to become "last year's search site."

Thursday, July 07, 2005

What's Not to Love...

Passion inspires vision... and vision inspires passion.

Someone asked me today; "Do you really enjoy what you do?" I hesitated only a heartbeat and answered with complete certainty, "YES!" My job is to create vision where none existed; to inspire bright minds to be something even more (hopefully) than these minds might have imagined.

In the great bubble culminating in the year 2000 I was connected to several "incubators". You know, those entrepreneur gathering engines that passed out hope like it was candy in their pockets. Without regard to success or failure I was inspired by the sheer determination of creative minds trying to create a business where (according at least to them) none had gone before. Does it matter if success is on the horizon or failure at their feet? So many bright minds bent toward a dream.

Does this not describe the partners in a law firm? Who wouldn't want to hang around the aura of inspiration. That's why I love the work I do. I am inspired by a collective of minds bent toward succeeding.

I was once informed I'd never do much more than "dig ditches in Louisiana"... If the people that dig ditches in Louisiana are as inspired as those I work with now; I would like that job too.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Vision of a Firm Can Be Expressed in Recruiting

Marketing and recruiting should be walking the halls of your firm holding hands... Not literally, but you know what I mean. I know the marketing vision of my firm will not succeed unless I have attorneys willing to work it. From the Executive Committee right down to the newest hire.

I heartily recommend that marketers should plant themselves in front of the appropriate people and share the vision of the firm. Discuss the types of individuals and skills that will compliment the marketing efforts. Discuss personality traits; look at already successful attorneys and see if there are traits you can look for in others.

As a former Marine Drill Instructor (the Nation's quickest melting pot) it was my job to take what young men jumped off the bus and turn them into Marines. And in the Marines we had recruiters that understood a potential Marine had to possess certain qualities beyond the ability to stand without assistance and breath through their nose.

Not every young man arriving at boot camp made it to graduation, but most did because the recruiters knew how to measure the spirit and willingness of these men to fit into the decidedly narrow culture of the Marines.

Law firms might consider the same factors. Will the attorneys (and staff) we hire fit into the work we do AND the vision we've embraced for presenting ourselves to the marketplace.

Go ahead, start the conversation and see what happens.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

An Analogy I Can Love

Diva Marketing announced the arrival of Diva Teresa Caro, and like a good soldier I trot off to see what she has to say. And in her first sentence I am captured! Her words read, "So, why is affiliate marketing like dating?" I cannot think of a better reason to like someone than to know that we share a common belief. So many times I've used the dating analogy that I've even linked to dating books as instruction manuals for law firm partners.

I don't know all that Teresa Caro will have to say... but for now; ROCK ON DIVA TERESA!

Money Talks... So Plan Your Conversation

In his own style of wit and realism Andy Haven offers an important lesson on the budgeting process. For me, my budget will be a integral part of expressing my plan and strategy.

Partners in most law firms see "marketing" as pure overhead; A firm function that eats into profit. The firm I am with now will definitely need to see measurable results, and my budget will be the most demonstrative vehicle for making their hopes come true.

I could not agree more with Andy when he points that a right of passage for marketers comes when they "learn to budget".

Proof of what might be negative is always easy to believe with the slimmest of evidence. Proof of what is good takes a little more work.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Gone Fishing

Words most professional services marketers have heard time and time again; "If you can just get me in front of them... I can close the deal."

The whole experience is much like fishing with a rookie in an unknown lake without a fish-finder (yes, such a devise is manufactured.... Isn't technology amazing?). And, just for those that might get hung up on the "rookie" reference, this is an analogy without inference of character.

The rookie wants to catch his/her first fish and is certain that if one can be gotten to the hook, he/she can reel it in. The more experienced person will need to do all of the things it takes to get a fish near the rookie's hook. Gather the right gear, put the boat in the water, understand the weather and water conditions, look for likely spots where fish hang out, select the right lines and lures, and finally point at the spot in the water where the rookie will cast to.

Sounds a lot like marketing for a law firm. And, when it comes to getting the fish in the boat; partners ARE really good at landing 'em. They have to be. It's the only way they'll survive in business.

The profession of marketing is all about being excellent at finding the fish. Just like with people in the markets we target, I suspect most of the time the fish would prefer not to be found. And, once found, not every fish in a school will chase your offering.

Not sure what all of this means, but it's fun to explore intangible processes. And, come Tuesday morning, instead of going to work, I'm going fishing.

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Friday, July 01, 2005

July Fourth is Worth Honoring

I am a former Marine, native to the United States, and humbled by all that has been sacrificed in honor of the American ideal. This article tells a good story in honor of what we commemorate.

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...