Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Greg Hoffman's Top 40 Blogs

I would normally send a thank you email to any one that links to this blog... but Greg Hoffman prefers to be allusive (I couldn't find an email link on his blog). So, quite publicly; Thank you Greg for including the MC blog in your list of the Top 40. You've placed me in some incredibly impressive company. After reading through some of your posts I am curious... is there rule against a blog author including themselves in their own list of top blogs?

Full Service is 'Many to One'

Law firms are made up of individual attorneys, each possessing a specific set of legal skills (maybe similar to some of the other attorneys in the firm, but never exactly the same). These individuals are instructed: ‘Go find clients and succeed.’

If planted as a group on a street corner in the middle of a city with those instructions in hand, the attorneys would take off in as many different directions as there are streets to walk down.

If the law firm has attorneys with expertise across a wide enough swatch of legal real estate, the firm can claim to be a ‘full-service’ firm. It’s a strong message. But does the claim have legs.

I know of several firms claiming “full-service” with incredibly long lists of great clients; every attorney working at max capacity, and yet suffers stagnate growth. In every case I’ve found the same malady. They’ve focused on being ‘One to Many”.

‘One to Many’ means each attorney is working with an individual set of clients separate and not shared with other (equity) attorneys. For each client only one skill set of the firm is being utilized.

What ‘full-service’ should mean (at least according to me), is ‘Many to One’.

The folks at Deloitte & Touche get this principle big time. They created a process called “target teaming”. Deloitte marketers regularly identify the top (X)% of clients they serve and partners with the primary relationship are required to form a multi-disciplinarily team to explore other services the client could use to their advantage.

Deloitte claims to be a full-service professional services firm; And in practice are living up to it. One client is offered access to many.

‘Many to One’ has some great advantages. Increased dependency, multiple paths of recovery from failed relationships, increased profitability, and most of all, the positive psychological effect of creating teaming experiences.

The steps to make this real are simple. Start with one great client. Find out everything you can about the client, their industry, their challenges, their competition, their culture, and their hopes for the future.

Next, form a team that includes one attorney from every discipline in your firm, and get them together to talk about everything you’ve discovered about the client. Ask them (within their individual areas of expertise) to think up ideas and strategies that could help the client achieve greater success.

Then, with list of ideas in hand, the attorney with the primary relationship makes introductions. The tax attorney needs to know the CFO, the real estate attorney needs to be introduced to operations leadership, the litigators should be cuddling up to investor relations, etc.

‘Full-Service’ is about providing many services to one client. Being a ‘Full Service’ firm could be the path to a true law firm “partnership”.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Law Firms and Color

I met with an brand management/printing company a few days ago and in the course of the meeting they handed me a decent sized stack of sample letterheads they print for other law firms. Most in the stack where from LAW 100 firms. The interesting thing I observed was that over 70% of the namemarks and graphic elements in this stack used blue and grey as the primary colors. That's a lot of the same thing!

Right now I'm in the midst of evolving the identity for my firm. Would you like to guess which two colors I am not considering for the firm pallet (now that my informal research in concluded)?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

An Invitation to Other Great Marketing Minds

When I first started writing this blog in 2002 it was an exercise in ego... (so sad). When I re-launched MC Blog in January of this year it was an exercise to get my head back in the game. It worked.

But what has been most enjoyable is sharing the incredibly great thoughts and ideas from other marketers and business development guru's... like Jerry Wilkinson, or Jeff Black.

I'd like to share more!

If you read this and have your own ideas about what works; a philosophy to share; a thought that needs to burst forth... I'm your guy. Send it to me and let's share what you know with the rest of the world.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Dog Days of Summer 2005

Today I recieved the article below from Jeff Black, a Principle Consultant with the executive search firm of McDermott & Bull. Jeff writes these articles regularly and sends them along to clients and friends, of which I am fortunately numbered, and he's agreed to let me share his words with you. Enjoy.

A Relationship Story
A Baseball Metaphor for Your Business – Focusing on What "Really" Matters

Seeing things as they really are is what every business wants to believe it does. No disguises. Sorry, it’s not that easy. Here’s my example:

During the last 5 years, things have started to change in the business of fielding winning major league baseball teams. That’s just the last 5 years of a game that has been played professionally for 130 years. Only recently have team owners begun realizing that the logic for choosing players that prevailed for 125 years was dead wrong. Fortunately for the fans, the good-old-boy network and "group-think" mentality that prevailed all that time caused every team to be stupid together, so at least the playing field was level for the fans.

The new economics of the game, with the huge imbalance in resources between the rich and poor teams, has spawned a sort of guerilla warfare among the wiser of the "have nots". If a team spends only half what others do, then they really have to spend smart. It sounds a lot like the battle between the big guys and little guys in any business, and the underdog behavior that is necessary for the little guy to compete.

Here’s how it works, and as with many good ideas, it’s really simple – just seeing things as they really are. For 125 years, while mountains of statistics have been collected on ballplayers, teams have consistently been blinded by their perceptions about "talent" (like the 95-MPH fastball). They have failed to truly evaluate what the data shows the player has actually done – as measured against what really contributes to winning and losing – generating and preventing runs. What’s happening in these guerilla units is that the Harvard MBA is replacing the grizzled veteran scout in identifying the right talent worth the investment of limited resources. Just like when businesses are seeking key talent, the best predictor of future success is past success…and this means real accomplishments - facts and data - and not just a good-looking fastball. We have to make sure we are measuring the right things.

Although Baseball had a natural tendency to value facts and data, as indicated by the extraordinary focus on collecting and cataloguing statistics, it has regretfully and blindly continued to rely on the flawed-but-familiar performance measurements that were crafted 100+ years ago (like batting average). Just like the technology business that can’t bear to move away from its engineering roots and focus on real business issues, Baseball has been run by insiders and good-old-boys forever, and the game has been the victim of its own reliance on tradition – it failed to evolve and to see itself as it really is. We’ll see in the next few years whether the new guerilla clarity makes the difference in who really wins more ballgames cost effectively, but the early signs point to a logic landslide. Just take a look at the Oakland A’s this year, with ¼ the payroll of the Yankees and ½ that of the Angels, they are doing awfully well.

In terms of relationships, this trend isn’t happening without some ruffled feathers, as you can imagine. There are a lot of Baseball old-timers harumphing around and whining about these renegades. Making revolutionary changes in an institution takes fortitude. The same is true for how your business looks at its own talent. Who can argue with the ideal of a highly integrated team with an open and honest culture where the best is brought out of every individual? Nobody can. However, if you don’t have winners and natural difference-makers on the team, the results are at risk. Are you evaluating your talent for their real contributions to your company’s success? Or are you blinded by how good they look throwing their fastball? Measure the right things, and remember, what gets measured gets improved.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Ten Tips from Jerry Wilkinson

Jerry Wilkinson (VP Sales at Merrill Corp. and former NFL standout) stopped by yesterday to share his thoughts with the attorneys at my firm during a training session on building a personal network. Most engaging! He left me some tips he’d jotted down and now I’m sharing them here:

Jerry Wilkinson’s Ten Tips for Highly Effective Business Networking
  1. Be you…authentic. Authenticity always has an audience.
  2. Find like-minded people in the business arena where your expertise meets an need.
  3. Do what you love and love what you do and you’ll never work another day in your life.
  4. PMA (positive mental attitude) is like a magnet. There is so much crap in the world, that most people truly enjoy being around optimistic people who see the glass as half full.
  5. Take it personal, make it personal. If you don’t then you won’t really have a relationship (with clients or contacts).
  6. Send handwritten personal notes.
  7. Be a resource. The power of brokering education, information and fun cannot be understated.
  8. Timing is important. Being timely is everything.
  9. Visibility is key. Join organizations that you really have a passion for (Boy’s & Girls Club of America, YMCA, Advisory Councils, et al).
  10. Leave the jerks to the competition. Is the revenue really worth the pain?

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

A Rant about Narrow Vision

At the Law Firm Business Development blog written by Jim Hassett he posted: “Stop marketing, start selling”, after reviewing a study by the ALM and Brand Research. I never like standing in the way of a good healthy airing of an opinion, but when he stated in the article: “…if you’re ever forced to choose between spending 100% of your money on marketing or 100% on sales, pick sales”, I decided his perspective was a bit unbalanced.

Until the mid-1980’s law firms did not ‘market’. Before marketers were added to the mix, law firms did spend 100% of their development dollars on sales ! The phenomenal rise in competition in the legal industry can be directly correlated to the growth of law firms using professional marketing strategies and tactics.

I believe professional sales practices and (sometimes) non-attorney salespeople are vital to the success and survival of a law firm. But to say that sales is all that may be needed is a throwback to a much earlier time and wishful thinking.

And one more thing, the narrow opinion of “marketing” as fussing over brochures, graphics and giving a few speeches tells me the author has not experienced the advantage of working with any of the many marketing professionals that ARE bringing so much growth to the industry.
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Relationship Blawging

This post over at Blog Business World makes a strong case for making blogs a part of your business relationship marketing mix (that was a mouthful!). Even though the author starts out by blurring the line between marketing and sales as if they are interchangeable, he makes a strong comeback with the statement: “As you write your daily blog entries, your readers get to know you and your business on a more personal level.”

I'm Hooked on the Color Code

Some things are just too much fun, and Color Code is one of those things. Described as a “full-color portrait of the English language” I have has serious fun entering new words to discover the colors portrayed. Now, I be honest… I have not a clue about what it means yet, but it will come to me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

When Marketing is Too Client Focused

This post by Kevin O'Keefe at lexblog.com points out the age old dilemma of professionals crossing each other boundaries when it comes to 'who may know best'. Kevin is not the only writer to tackle this subject, and I suspect the dilemma won't be going away ever.... But it did get me thinking about the frailty of going too far in handing creative control over to someone not of the firm.

Of course a firm wants the best creative assistance they can find... and there is plenty of great help out there. But, a lot of the best people in the design community have personality traits similar to successful attorneys. Traits like strong will and certainty of being right... you know, 'type A'.

IF all control is given over to people outside the firm (and they are certainly willing to wrestle for it) the firm may wind up with designs and communications they just can't feel comfortable wearing. Believe me; it happens.

Truth: Many design agencies are not very good in the discovery process. They don't take the time to really understand what makes a firm tick. They enter a project believing they already know what the customer-base prefers and set about to fit the firm into that image.

I believe it is the job of a design firm to create a 'message' that will resonate with a target audience, AND, reflect what is true about the firm. It can't be a facade nor can the attorneys be 'made' to represent something they are not. That means attorneys have to have input, and have to be able to tell their designers when the fit is wrong.

Often the process can feel nit-picky and frustrating because the attorneys are messing with tiny little details that are of minimal consequence. Sometimes it totally bites! What I’ve discovered is happening, in many cases, is that what they’re seeing just doesn’t ‘feel’ right, and don’t know how to express that feeling except to keep tinkering until they either give in or give up.

In therapy circles the term 'codependent' is used to describe people who have no healthy sense of self and habitually try to fit themselves within a perceived notion of what other people want them to be. To believe that attorneys should let other people make all of the design and communications decisions for them is to force them to try and act not as themselves, but as what others want them to be…. Sounds a lot like forced codependency to me.

Of course; there IS a healthy balance. Just remember who has to wear the suit once you're done tailoring it. It may look great, but does it fit?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Old is New & New is Old

There are new ways to deliver marketing messages, mostly made possible by evolving technology… but can we get one thing clear? There is NO “NEW MARKETING”! Enough with the seminars, articles and manifestos declaring the end of “marketing as we’ve ever know it”. One such seminar declared; “It’s not just the “four P’s” of marketing anymore. It’s not just “brand” anymore. Over the last ten years, marketing has been inundated with new ideas...blah, blah, blah.” AAARRRGHH!

Some people will point to cell and wireless technologies that soon will deliver personal messages specific to a store as you drive or walk by. In a smaller time a storekeep would stand in his door and greet you by name as you strolled by, “We’ve just received the latest shipment of hats from Sear Roebuck if you care to stop by later.”

Some will point at “one-to-one” marketing as evidence for “new marketing”. Marketers in a smaller time knew that EVERYTHING was one-to-one. In a smaller time marketing had to be about truth, trust, and surviving in a closed loop (the village).

I can tell you what I do believe is changing, and it’s not marketing. It’s the village. The village is getting small again (thanks once more to technology). People are shaping new villages linked by some common thread without geographic boundaries. And these new villages have all of the characteristics of their older, geographically confined cousins. Circles of familiarity; First-hand knowledge of the other people in their village, and a distrust of people from “the outside”.

I say again, there is no “new marketing” to learn. Marketing, on a timeline of “what works when” is simply repeating itself. Throw open your history books… it’s all there.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Esprit de Corps

Esprit de Corps is the result of individual and group effort toward a common goal. In the Marines it was expressed in the credo, “every Marine is a rifleman first”, meaning that no matter what specific job a Marine is trained to do, every Marine is trained to accomplish the primary mission of the Corps; To meet the enemy face-to-face in combat.

This same unity of purpose is expressed in successful businesses, corporations, non-profits, schools, and in families. Wherever I see failure I also find a weak or dysfunctional esprit de corp.

For law firms the ability to bring this spirit into the culture of the firm can be especially challenging. Because much of what a partner is measured/compensated by is individual results without regard for the success of the firm overall, the partners are not encouraged in spirit to cheer for the firm. And their focus in transmitted to the people they work most closely with, which in turn creates factions within a firm competitively seeking an environment that best serves the interests of the partners practice.

When everything is measured by, “is it good for me?” the results are predictable and ultimately undesirable.

I support any firm in bringing their people together with a single, greater goal and in fighting old practices and barriers that continue to enforce separatism.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Peter Jennings 1937 - 2005

There are people in public life we become attached to... Those that capture moments and make them something we can believe. Peter Jennings was one of those people. His job was to sit in front of a camera and read the news. What he did for me was make the news a personal experience. I work with and for a lot of similar people and every one of them will be such a loss. God's speed to you Peter. You'll be missed.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

On the Ownership of Ideas

Taking ownership of what I believe my firm should be doing is essential to my success. Taking too much ownership could also be my downfall.

Having an opinion is important when it comes to developing marketing ideas and programs for a law firm. Add to that the necessity to state an opinion with a business case deeper than just gut feelings (strategic thinking). And of course, add to this mix; passion.

Sometimes, I, or the attorneys, can become so married to our specific idea that it destroys the ability to measure any other idea. Since my idea is perfect what possible reason do I have to consider any other idea if the means exist to go forward with mine. If people stand firm on their ideas too many times they become a barrier to progress. Soon what others wish to do is remove the barrier.

What has helped me is remembering that, in marketing, there are dozens of roads that lead to the same destination. I may desire to travel one specific road (my idea) but there is so much more to the journey than the start. If I only got paid to have the ideas but never made the trip that would be incredibly unfulfilling.

But to make the journey surrounded by others with equal passion for the destination? Now that’s fun!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Counter Offer Syndrome

When I joined Rutan & Tucker it was high on my list to bring along a marketing coordinator from my previous firm. She is smart, talented, and a joy to work around. We made a team. AND, our last firm was changing in ways that made staying difficult. She was ready to jump. When partners at the last firm found out she intended to leave they pulled out all the stops; made promises; told her everything is going to be great from here on out. She stayed.

Not too many days later I've heard from her and now she is MEGA unhappy. The partners may have wanted things to transform, but the people she actually reports to are still the same. The hassles, the politics; overworked and left to the wolves (with a little more money).

An amazing statistic is that 89% of people accepting counter offers are gone in 6 months. 89 PERCENT! I remain hopeful.

What does this have to do with marketing? Everything! People want to leave because they are beyond unhappy. Clients do the same thing!

If the relationship is not transformed, money and platitudes will not change a thing. A huge discount (or a raise in the case of my teammate) changes nothing about why someone is unhappy.

If you believe you have an unhappy client about to move to a new firm your only hope is to change the relationship. Your only hope is to do the hard, gut-wrenching work to change a relationship. If you don't make the effort, you don't get to keep the business. Period.

Lessons from the Design Profession

I've found a great new voice on visual design and the profession of designing... or should I say he found me (he linked to one of my posts) and I followed his tracks back to his blog. It was worth the trip. Andy Rutledge of Male Design offers some great insight and ideas for his profession, and for the rest of us. Start by reading his manifesto on design. His conclusion below is right on... but the story is in how he arrived at his conclusion. Read IT!

- good design = good stuff
- bad design = bad stuff
- business + good design = coo success
- design is supercritical in just about everything anymore
- design = power
- power + responsibility = good
- power + apathy = go stand in the corner
- future + designers = brighter

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Ego as a Target Market

In business one of the most commonly displayed trophies is the list of "who I know". The better my list, the better I must appear to be to all that know my connections. We produce our own aura fueled by the aura of importance we assign to others.

Marketing for a law firm, at least to me, is about the marketing of people to people; Or, in different words, it's about creating an aura about my attorneys that lures the egos of the audiences I'm targeting. For that reason I do not believe any marketing strategy for a law firm can succeed unless it includes heavy doses of increasing the perceived aura of individual attorneys. How can I get them higher on "A" lists? Who are they seen with and where do they hang out?

There are a lot of parts in the reputation of my firm that are complimentary and great to have; Things like being known for fair pricing, good advise, excellent lawyering skills. Without these complementary parts my firm would fail. BUT, to really succeed, I need people out there proclaiming, "I need THAT attorney!" Words coming from an ego state-of-mind. The aura of association.

So, my marketing goal is to target the ego of my audience by building a positive and powerful aura around my attorneys. That shouldn't be too hard... should it?

By the way, thanks to Seth Godin for his discourse on the mistaken belief by marketers (or anyone making strategic and tactical marketing/business development decisions) that money equals motivation. His thoughts about ego is what got me writing tonight.

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...