Monday, October 31, 2005

More on Leadership and the Work Environment

This article at Fast Company points toward inherent psychological conditioning that causes many of us to get in our own way in the workplace. To be an outstanding leader, whether at a law firm or company, is not only about being tactically and technically sound, but also about facilitating the process of allowing the best of people to emerge.

I can't count the times my internal voices have shouted negative messages so loudly they've overwhelmed me. It's that little voice inside saying, "you're in over your head", and "you'll never get it right enough...". Self-intimidation can be a real problem and it's going on in the heads of the people around you all the time.

Of course, we can't stop after every task assigned to have a group hug, or do a 12-step emotional check-in, but we can be aware and look for ways to reduce the fear of failure in those we mentor.

The practice of law may be fairly black and white, but the people in it never will be.

Leadership is Risk

This article out of HBS by Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee talks about a condition that must afflict law firm leadership when it comes to marketing. Not that law firm leadership is special in some way that would make leadership more difficult, but with regard to marketing; law firm leadership are shepherding some pretty significant changes in how firms go to market. Here is something to read and consider.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Coming to a BBQ Near You

Stock or Custom Imagery

I need photos of people and graphic elements in harmony with the message I'm creating for the firm, and there are two paths to choose from. One path is find the photos and imagery I need from the millions already out there. Stock photography. The other path is to take my own pictures and create my own graphics. I will do the latter and here are my reasons.
  • Control: By creating my own images I have exact control of the content and context. And, the task of finding a deep set of stock images exactly matching what we have to communicate is difficult and defeating. Often images are "close", but not exactly right on.
  • Originality: How embarrassing is it when a marketer finds the exact image being used by a competitor or another company in the same magazine or publication. Some stock image companies do offer exclusivity contracts but at a premium.
  • Flexibility: Need new images to launch a campaign? Want to tweak what is already there? Just shoot some more images or PhotoShop what you already have. Many stock photos are copyrighted as none alterable.
  • Internal ownership: Internally any message I create on behalf of my firm is much more believable. They may laugh and kid each other a bit but believability starts on the inside. And, being a part of the process creates an honest sense of pride within the firm when the images are used publicly.
  • Fun: Posing and picture taking is one of those, "I'm having fun, am a little uncomfortable, not going to admit to either" sort of activities that people buzz about for a long time.
Just in case you're wondering, I will not be behind the camera. I've retained a very talented photographer to do the clicking, and will have a makeup artist on site to assist with making sure my people look their best every flash.
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Sunday, October 23, 2005

A Marketing Mantra

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."
Albert Einstein

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Thinking, Feeling, and the "California Type A"

I was talking with a friend tonight who expressed some reservations about what I do each day (she's owns a mortgage company... which is something I would not choose to do). But go figure. We wind up doing what we like right? Anyway, we were talking about the task I have of walking with the lawyers in my firm as we go through what is basically an emotional process; Branding.

If there was ever a profession that rewarded left-brainers, lawyering would be it. If there ever was a process more focused on right-brain choices, branding would be it. It's the experts of "thinking" giving their all to cope with "feeling" in a business environment. She wondered how it was to work with so many individuals that basically can't help but read only between the lines.

Which brings us to "California Type A" (CTA). That is the personality type I assign to myself. It's the combination of high energy contained in a laid-back persona. Just about every hyper-successful person I've known has been a CTA. And I believe, is the personality type of most well regarded law firm marketing professionals I've met. The qualities of a CTA are:
  • Tenacious -- What needs to get done will get done. Period.
  • Focused -- Very difficult to distract once a mission is underway.
  • Opinionated -- And quick to state it.
  • Infuriatingly calm -- It's all on the exterior but almost impenetrable.
  • Negotiator -- Everything has an answer that most people can live with.
  • Controlled by purpose -- not by time.
  • Big picture oriented -- is there a better way to see the world?
  • Feeling based -- A trust of the "gut"
Basically, a "Type A" disguised as laid-back. So, what type are you Dude?
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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Making Blogging Progress...

This evening I searched "Bruce Allen" on Google and the MarketingCatalyst blog came up #9. What is special about that for me is that there are a lot of Bruce Allen's out there. There is this guy running a talent shop, BA the drag racer, a columnist in Boston, a professor at Wharton, a comic book author... and even a CPA. Being Bruce Allen number nine, at least according to a search engine search, feels nice. I am allowing myself five minutes of self-validation (big grin).

Client Survey Wisdom from the Experts

“Greater customer satisfaction correlates directly to greater employee satisfaction.” So says Deana Kartel, a VP at JAMS. She was one of three outstanding panelists I moderated this morning at a meeting of the LA Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association. Joining her were Merry Neitlich, Partner, Extreme Marketing and Victoria Spang, Chief Marketing Officer, Sheppard Mullin.

The key takeaways from these experts this morning were:
  • Clients like knowing that their law firm cares. Merry gave examples of executives, that during an interview, made it a point to say that they were incredibly pleased that a law firm had a formal process to look after client relationships.
  • Client satisfaction programs can start with only a few partners participating. The results will build the momentum needed to engage larger numbers.
  • Understanding what your clients want does not happen naturally as a product of working with them regularly. They need a separate forum to reveal the inner workings of the business relationship.
  • The partner with the primary relationship is not always the right person to conduct the client satisfaction survey. Using a third party takes the burden of bad news off the shoulder of the client.
  • Written surveys are typically answered by clients that are positive about the relationship. The best answers come face-to-face.
  • Always follow up with the client after an interview. Let them know that you are taking action if action is required. ALWAYS!

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Marketing and Women Rainmakers

I received an email in a chain response to a larger circle of marketers that recommended a list of tips called, “20 Marketing Tips for Women Rainmakers”. I was disappointed by some of what I found after following the link and reading the list. Here is a quick summary of the points I felt needed some adjustment.
  • Ask for the work – This is a business development/sales tip. This is the question to ask when a specific opportunity is being discussed in a selling situation.
  • Tell people you would like to have them as a client and ask how you could achieve that goal – Another sales tactic. When I think of marketing I think of receptions and events. A shotgun approach like this at a marketing event would not generally receive warm responses.
  • Throw out lines as early and often as you can. You never know when you are going to catch a big fish. – See above. Business networking is quite different than hanging out in singles bars.
  • Be open to business development opportunities no matter where you are. Tell everyone you meet that you are a lawyer and would like to help them with their legal needs. – Does this just sound darn scary or what?
  • Let people know your flexibility in terms of financial arrangements. – And this is even scarier! Discussing price right up front is a sure sign to prospects that you’re not confident enough as a lawyer to be worth your full rate.
Most of what was included in this list could be directed at anyone without regard of gender.

Now, to be a good sport as a critic I have asked three of the most successful women in professional services to write their tips that I will publish here. What they will definitely focus on is marketing and business development tips specifically for women. Ideas and well learned lessons that offer a gender edge. I’m looking forward to making their advise available.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Law Firm Blawg Design Tips

Jakob Nielsen of has checked in on weblog usability. Among the many useful issues he discusses is:
2. No Author Photo -- Even weblogs that provide author bios often omit the author photo. A photo is important for two reasons:

* It offers a more personable impression of the author. You enhance your credibility by the simple fact that you're not trying to hide. Also, users relate more easily to somebody they've seen.
* It connects the virtual and physical worlds. People who've met you before will recognize your photo, and people who've read your site will recognize you when you meet in person (say, at a conference).

A huge percentage of the human brain is dedicated to remembering and recognizing faces. For many, faces work better than names. I learned this lesson myself in 1987 when I included my photo in a HyperCard stack I authored that was widely disseminated on Mac-oriented BBSs. Over the next two years, countless people came up to me and said, "I liked your stack," having recognized me from the photo.

Also, if you run a professional weblog and expect to be quoted in the press, you should follow the recommendations for using the Web for PR and include a selection of high-resolution photos that photo editors can download.
This is an excellent tip for blawgs! A lawyers image associated with more than a dry and uninspired bio is a good thing. Even if your blawg has multiple contributors (like Brandshift) it is possible to get photos on the page.

And if you have never explored Jakob's useit site... That's your (usability) loss.
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Sunday, October 16, 2005

LA-LMA Meeting on October 20

I don't normally promote events but since I am the moderator for this panel discussion I will be shameless and promote.... Here is the official word:

Where Business Development and Client Service Collide: Client and Targeted Non-Client Interviews
More law firms are using client interviews to boost their business development efforts. When used properly, client interviews provide a powerful glimpse into a client's business and reveal new opportunities. Legal marketing pros join in LMA-LA's panel discussion to share their success with client interviews. Strategic development, implementation and execution of these key client conversations will be covered, along with:
  • Differences between client surveys, market penetration research, industry analysis, and targeted non-client interviews
  • In-person vs. phone vs. written surveys
  • How to select which clients to speak to and what to ask them
  • Interviewing techniques
  • Roles of responsible partner, managing partner, marketing department, and the consultant
  • Reporting results to the firm
  • Common misperceptions and best practices
  • Moderator, Bruce Allen, CMO, Rutan & Tucker
  • Deana Kardel, Regional VP, JAMS
  • Merry Neitlich, Partner, Extreme Marketing
  • Victoria Spang, DMO, Sheppard Mullin
So if your in LA on Thrusday morning stop on by. Since I am only asking the questions I know I'll have a good time!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Liz Ryan on Bus Dev Networking

Just in case you are not subscribed to Thom Singer's RSS feed don't miss his Friday Guest Blogger, Liz Taylor and her post on business development networking.

Deciding What to Sponsor

What should the firm pay for and what should a partner pay for? A really tough question. Because I need to answer this question for the first time at a new firm (where prior policy and practices have washed back and forth across blurred lines) I am working on an attempt to define a clearer set of understandings. At this moment... here is my take (opinions and feedback are MOST welcome):
  1. Financial contribution supports a cause personal to the partner or personal to the client of the partner then it is a personal expense. These are typically “donations” and beyond strengthening the personal relationships between one partner and one client will have no real impact on new business for the firm. Examples include scouting fundraisers, school activities, and demographic and cultural causes.
  2. Financial contribution supports the client organization in some internally driven cause. The cause may lead to deeper introductions within the client organization but the benefit is still contained to one partner only. Examples include (client) employee raffles and parties, and attending client centric team building getaways.
  3. Financial contribution supports the professional interests of the client or a professional organization championed by the client and includes the opportunity to introduce additional firm partners to new business development opportunities. Examples include client supported industry councils, professional development roundtables/seminars, and business junkets with client peers.
  4. Financial contribution purchases equal access for two or more partners to develop new relationships and business opportunities. Examples are industry organizations/associations, conferences, roundtables, and any activity function where the decision to attend is to gain access to a targeted group.
Now... with definitions in hand, the question is: Where is the line? What activities should a firm pay for and what activities should a partner pay for with personal funds?

ANY feedback would be useful here.
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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Have Bug, Will Share

I made an effort to write today but all I can think about is how long until my next dosage of Advil® Cold & Sinus. Well... that and a major budget deadline looming. Tick, tick.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Internal Branding

I am currently working on building the internal branding campaign for my firm... and can share some links that have some relevence:
I am certain there are hundreds of links.... this is where I started this evening.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Relationship Story

Today I am sharing another great relationship story from guest blogger and business networking specialist Jeff Black of McDermott & Bull. Enjoy!

A Tale of Two Companies…and the Big Difference: It was the best of companies, it was the worst of companies…and the difference was very clear.

It’s fascinating to see how different the cultures and priorities can be in different (yet equally successful) companies. With success measured much more in the short term by our fast-paced world, making the numbers is what usually defines a good company. It is my belief that there are two clearly different ways that companies go about achieving similar short-term success, and I believe the "big difference" has deeply significant impacts on long-term success.

Two companies side by side along the highway, Brand X and Brand Y. Both are characterized by corporate achievement and success at making their numbers. Both are short-term successes.

Brand X and Y share some key characteristics:
  • They only want smart people
  • They live by metrics
  • They are process focused
  • They are customer centered
  • They value strong product brands
  • They run lean and smart
However, there are critical differences:
  • Brand X identifies first with intensity and outcome-focus.
  • Brand Y identifies first with fairness and alignment-focus.
  • Brand X tends to be secretive and selective in communicating.
  • Brand Y insists on being open and candid in communicating.
Oh no, here this Jeff Black guy goes again stating the obvious. Of course it’s better to be fair and open. But wait! The Brand X mentality really happens! Some companies pay lip service to fairness and openness, but what really matters is action and behavior, not policy and slogans. I see it all the time. It’s amazing how different cultures can be – and how differently people feel about being in them.

Brand X believes that only intensity will drive the desired outcome. Brand Y believes fairness (I didn’t say wimpiness) and alignment of needs between the company and employees make greatness flow naturally – creativity and ingenuity are not bottled up by the need to look over your shoulder all the time.

Brand X behaves as if people don’t need to really know what’s going on – believing knowledge is power, and leaders need to retain power. Brand Y has a strong enough center and self-image as a company that it wants everyone to part of the knowledge process.

Now come on, tell me you haven’t seen Brand X in practice. You can try to deny that it’s bad, but I don’t buy it.

The center of company greatness is not smart people – they’re a given; it’s not efficiency – good tools make that happen; it’s not innovation – smart people innovate. The center of company greatness is mutual respect between a company and it’s people.

The result for people in Brand Y companies:
  • Less worry, more confidence
  • More passion and less aimlessness
  • More loyalty and positive energy
  • Better retention, no "reasons to leave"
For Companies - The big differences of the "big difference":
  • Easier to attract talent – believe me, it’s hard to "sell" a bad company.
  • Getting the best out of people – people perform better when they’re confident, not scared.
  • Increased company reputation – as Vance Caesar says "the key to a person’s success is how many influential people are telling stories about their ability to build relationships of trust." I believe this is also true for companies.
I have great clients who really believe and behave like Brand Y. I really love working with them…and I think they really get the best out of me as a partner. I welcome opportunities to work with more like them. Please let me know if your company is one, or if you know one you would like for me to know.

Note from Bruce: Jeff Black is a respected member of the Southern California business community and a successful search professional for McDermott & Bull, Inc. a retained executive search firm based in Irvine, California. M&B specializes in recruiting difficult-to-find and critical talent for its clients and is the fastest growing executive search firm in Southern California.
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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Beware of the Switch

As a marketer of people-to-people I search for ways to express good things in different ways. And so does my competition. With so many of us reaching out for attention our audience is hearing and seeing so much its become a white noise they have learned to ignore.

The human psyche does not have a barometer of “bad-average-good”. When it comes to emotional response we are either turned on or turned off. So, if I do not do anything to separate myself from the white noise then I can be pretty certain my audience is already turned off.

An example of this principle is the classic, “We really care…” statement used in ad copy and collateral. That line is used so often its more of a humorous cliché. If I use that line in my copy (even if I really, really believe it to be true about my firm) I will get lumped with all the rest that use it. Since my audience will probably read it with derision they remain turned off.

With this knowledge in mind here are few tips on creating a marketing message:
  • Research the words of your competitors and strike them from the list of words you will use.
  • Research the images and colors of your competitors. You may need to use similar colors (part of your firm identity) but find different ways to display them. Do not ever use the same images!
  • Avoid trends. Understand that your audience is receiving messages and images from dozens, of not hundreds of other professionals and companies vying for their attention. Spend a bit of your time looking at message trends in general.
  • Promote hope with your words. Everyone of us has a part inside that keeps repeating, “It can be better than this.”
  • Be as different as you can, but always do it with class. People associate intellect with class.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Law Firm Marketing Blogs from Justia

Thank you to Justia for creating Law Firm Marketing Blogs and including Marketing Catalyst as one of the initial blogs you are tracking. HUGE honor comes in tiny links. Again, thank you Justia.

Daily Mantra for Law Firm Marketers

What gets you started every day. Not each day, but EVERY SINGLE DAY, early till late, month after month, year after year? For me part of what drives me on is that I like what I do; And am rewarded with a paycheck when what I do feels more like passion than toil. But working at a law firm does have its challenges... Yes? Today I am sharing a mantra of sorts that has been useful for me.
  • Do I have a passion for what I am trying to do?
  • Do I believe (not just mentally) that I can do this?
  • Is this effort consistent with my values in life?
  • Am I willing to take action and put my full energies behind this effort?
  • Is what I want going to assist me in growing and becoming a better person, i.e., in achieving a more fulfilled life? Or am I just indulging myself?
If you begin a path of action with an effort and find a lot of resistance (problems), ask yourself: Do I really want this? Am I committed to the idea or not? What are the consequences, obligations, or energies involved that I may be resisting? Am I investing too much of myself in this idea/effort? Are my actions powerful and appropriate?

What we set out to do each day in our work MUST match the person we believe ourselves to be. When each is a match to the other "work" no longer describes how I spend my day at the firm.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Vendors, Creative, and The Process

Today must have been "vendor" day... at least according to my posts. In a few days we come to another hurdle in the process of refreshing the image of my firm, and the creative talent behind most of what we've accomplished so far is frustrated. I could hear it in his voice as we talked; So I asked. And the conversation was frank.

Too many changes (fussing); Each item is taking too long; Too many art directors. Sound familiar? And I'm not even an attorney (that's not a 'dis on attorneys!). Have I become too focused on details beyond what is reasonable? Am I getting in my own way by being to demanding and detail oriented with the creative talent?

At least for tonight (and this may change tomorrow) here is what I think. The very talented people I'm working with have never worked with a law firm before. The back and forth that usually happens in several days is taking several weeks; Each step an excruciating exercise in patience while we wait for the next meeting of the committees, all the while working behind the scenes to find and build opinion.

This is hard stuff! It is frustrating! Yet, it's not going to change too much too soon. This is how law firms go about the business of change.

I remember when I had my own marcom firm with software companies as clients. We'd travel at light speed from concept to complete. Meetings came daily. Results within hours. At my clients I was blessed with decision circles of one, two, or three people. Approvals came as fast as ordering dinner at Denny's.

That is not how law firms (or any large partnership) work. At my firm there are a minimum of 20 people earnestly interested in being part of the decision. There are many, many more that at least want to be heard. It's a tough process!

So there you go. That's my tale for tonight. Tomorrow we start again... in the middle. I hope the creative talent will find new reservoirs of patience and strength.

In Search of a Balanced Web Development Team

This week I'm focused on selecting the web vendor(s) that will build the new web presence. What I'm finding so far are firms that are either great right brainers (the creatives), or great left brainers (the technology engineers). IS there a company out there with balanced talent from both cranial hemispheres. Oh yes, one more thing... I've been in marketing a long time and don't get sticker shock too often, but some the "you're gonna be my cash cow" pricing I've seen is crumbling the boundaries of credibility.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Matching Mirror to Self

A reminder to self; I cannot change organizations. I can only reveal them to themselves. They may like what they see. Or not.

I imagine that not too long ago it was possible for a person to live months, years, or even decades without physically seeing their own reflection. What if I had lived for 20 or 30 years before I saw myself in a mirror? What a visceral experience that would be! Would I see what I expected? Or would my internal image of self crash with reality?

This is what it must feel like for the people within a firm the first time, or any time they see their (firm) reflection in a “mirror”. "Can this be true?" "Is that us?"

It could be they really like what they see. What a relief! Or the people could cry out in denial and anger. Self-image exists in the individual and within the "self" of a group. I believe great marketing happens when the mirror and self are a match. It is VASTLY easier to market reality!

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...