Monday, January 31, 2005

Content is King

Marketing is all about getting people to voluntarily sit up and pay attention. This article in the Ottawa Citizen points out the breadth of information (good, bad, useful, and useless) available in the blogsphere. Being recognized as a creator of "good and useful" is hard work against a backdrop of such huge volumes of information noise. My reminder to professional services marketers is it's what you say that counts more (you have one message, choose carefully), than where it is said (the vehicles for making your message known are endless). The blogsphere is just one tactic.


Recent Trends / Opportunity is Knocking

The Christian Science Monitor looks at the acceleration of business mergers. Can anyone spell o-p-p-o-r-t-u-n-i-t-y?

Is Your Marketing Strategy a "Me Too"

Branding expert James Archer penned an interesting commentary that should be of interest to 90% of professional services firms. His commentary includes,

"It’s nearly impossible to differentiate yourself clearly and accurately in a newspaper or magazine ad. Coke and Nike and Apple can do it because they’ve got the funding to saturate the world we live in, but for a small business that can only afford to run a few scattered ads at a time, the cumulative effect amounts to almost nothing.

So we need to find alternative ways to stick in someone’s head, and networking is the most powerful way to do that. Talk to people. Help people. Make genuine friends. Rid yourself of the notion of “customers,” and you’ll yourself with a lot of fans who happen to want to pay you."

I wrote earlier this month that too many partners base their marketing knowledge on the practices of their clients, which for the most part, are not professional services firms....

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Helping Clients to Work with VCs

I have a soft spot for any knowledge an attorney can acquire that helps the client get things done. And, having worked so long in the early-stage arena I am particularly aware of commentary and knowledge around raising capital. For that specific activity an entrepreneur gives a lot of credence to the advise of their attorney.

In that light, here is a great exchange. Recently Tom McMakin, a VC at Thrive Capital Partners, circulated a list of ten questions every entrepreneur should ask a potential VC investor. This week, Jeff Nolan, a VC at SAP Ventures, posted his answers. The Q&A has good insights for anyone trying to raise venture money for a startup.

Are Professional Services Firms Doomed to be Passive Aggressive Organizations?

At Law Marketing by Andy Havens Andy offered some thoughts about the lack of participation by partners in firm marketing activities. Unfortunately, this non-participatory attitude is not exclusive to law firms. I have run into this sort of behavior at all types of professional services firms that operate under a partnership structure. The question I ask myself is; ‘Why?’

In researching this tendency I have noticed a lot of similarities between the behavior of partnerships (with regard to marketing participation) and traits of a “passive-aggressive” personality.

The Passive-Aggressive (PAP) personality results from; ‘results from desiring, needing, and delighting in the freedom to do as one pleases; and from fearing, and being distressed by, not getting or losing the freedom to do as one pleases. Further traits of PAP are:

  • Fear of Dependency - Unsure of autonomy & afraid of being alone, fights dependency needs - usually by trying to control those around them.
  • Fear of Intimacy - Guarded & often mistrustful. He picks fights to create distance and maintain control.
  • Fear of Competition - Feeling inadequate, he is unable to compete with others. He may either be self-sabotaging or a tyrant to eliminate power threats.
  • Obstructionaism – Will make promises and intentionally delay delivery or will not comply at all to blocks any real progress to your getting your way.
  • Fostering Chaos - Prefers to leave the puzzle incomplete, the job undone.
  • Feeling Victimized - Protests that others unfairly accuse him rather than owning up to own misdeeds. To remain above reproach, plays the part of hapless innocent victim of excessive demands and tirades.
  • Making Excuses & Lying - Fabricates excuses for not fulfilling promises. Uses information to control and maintain power.
  • Procrastination - Has an odd sense of time - believes that deadlines don't exist for self.
  • Chronic Lateness & Forgetfulness - Inability to arrive on time. By forcing other to wait can dictate the ground rules of the relationship. Selective forgetting - used only when avoiding an obligation.
  • Ambiguity - Master of mixed messages and sitting on fences. Will make statements that fall on both sides of yes or no.
  • Sulking – Feels put upon when unable to live up to promises or obligations and retreats from pressures (sulks, pouts and withdraws).

Many and all of the traits above can be witnessed at most partnerships. And the reason, I believe, is the very culture a partnership structure encourages. Here is my reasoning…

  • First, the type of individual that is successful as an attorney, accountant, consultant, etc. is highly intellectual, typically have high drive, excellent attention to detail and nuance, and are confident about his/her ability to make good choices.
  • Second, a partner is placed in competition within his/her own firm for power and recognition having to compete against a field of equally qualified individuals. This struggle is evidenced by the what successes are rewarded, how they’re rewarded, and the importance placed on political savvy within these firms.
  • Third, partners answer only to themselves or the firm. If a partner does not wish to “play along” (especially if they are a high-dollar rainmaker) they can and will tell everyone that they are going to what they want to do thank you.
  • Forth, agreement among partners often has a political price tag.
  • Fifth, effort is reserved for what is measured – the billable hour
  • Sixth, many non-rainmaking partners have experienced sufficient success without having to demonstrate any interest in external market or network building activities (complacency), and unless something happens to interrupt the flow of work they are being fed they have no reason to change.

Of course, none of this is to say that partnerships are a failure. They are not! This is commentary specific to the marketing capabilities and tendencies within partnerships.

What do I think is the solution? I don’t believe there is one unless partnerships change the power and control structure of their firms. If they were to adopt the organizational structure and principles of a public corporation many marketing issues would disappear with the absolute control of many by a few.

These are just my thoughts. What are your?

Friday, January 28, 2005

Humor for Law Firms

This Jay Leno classic clip from the Tonight Show is always a funny break in the day....

Thursday, January 27, 2005

RSS Feeds: An Opportunity to NOT Be Like Everyone Else

For a while at least RSS Feeds were a blessing. The ability to have news and information come to me without being forced to view every billboard, banner, and popup was just too good to be left alone. As outlined by Rok Hrastnik at Marketing Studies.net the feeds spilling into my aggregator will carry everyone else's idea of what I should buy, and I'll have to begin again to puzzle out where the real content is hiding.

The opportunity for professional services firms is to NOT use their own RSS feeds to push "advertising", but to continue to use the feeds for their designed purpose; keeping an interested audience informed.

Professional services firms live and die by their ability to create and sustain face-to-face relationships. The marketing of professional services needs to create an aura of care that would suggest to people that you would treat them like a person that matters.

RSS is a way to show your concern for their needs while giving you a tremendous return for your effort. When advertising starts to show up in their news aggregators, they'll feel exactly the way you're going to feel; irritated. Soon we will all be more aggressive in filtering which feeds we'll keep, and we won't care what we're missing because, like spam, it's too big of a hassle.

Don't be like everyone else! With some bandwagons it's best to just watch them go by and listen to their music until it fades away.


Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Moral Obligation: Run That by Me Again (#2)

This afternoon Kevin O'Keefe sent a challenge into legal quarters by implying that lawyers have a moral obligation to blog. Excuse me? Yes. A moral obligation.

Just to head some critique off at-the-pass, I am a fan of what Kevin is accomplishing over at Lexblog. He is up front, on point, and a "true believer" in the power of marketing and blogging. And he is an evangelist for community discussion. I just can't get behind his eloquent argument of moral obligation.

A definition I've worked with is: 'By moral obligation we understand some sort of necessity, imposed on the will, of doing what is good and avoiding what is evil.' By that definition I would agree that attorneys are bound to do what is right by the people they serve, to represent themselves and conduct themselves in a manner above reproach. I will hope, with Kevin, that attorneys went to law school with a greater good in mind but also believe moral obligation does not extend quite as far as being a free resource to all.

In a scenario of complete sharing by obligation, anyone with knowledge unknown to others is obliged to share, thereby removing a catalyst for fee-based professional services. On the other hand, using a learned knowledge to accomplish what is right on behalf of another person does fall under moral obligation.

To Kevin's implication; should lawyers blog? You bet. Wouldn't it be great if we all understood the power of knowledge and how we can leverage what we know to be both good advise and good marketing. I support Kevin in promoting the notion that all attorneys should be sharing their knowledge. Kevin believes you’re morally obligated, I believe you’re fiscally obligated.

One way or another, if you’re not blogging yet; What is your deal?

Mission Statements: Run That by Me Again!?

In response to Seth Godin's challenge to send along better or worse examples of mission statements I like to point out this little gem originally unearthed by Ravi Chandiramani in his vignette called, "Talking PR crap? The Village is on hand to help you" posted at TheVillageLimited.com. The mission statement comes from a Swiss ad agency and states:
'Good advertising dramatises the relevant user benefits of products and services in a novel way –rational in its information, emotional in its presentation. Good advertising distinguishes itself from the others in that it is better than they are. Good advertising is something you can expect from us – remarkably good.'
With all of the words written and spoken about creating, destroying, publishing, using, minimizing, maximizing, re-thinking, and re-inventing the mission statement, I hold out hope that at some point actions will become more important than the words we use to posture with.


Monday, January 24, 2005

Authentic Relationships Are Good Business… Machiavelli Was Wrong!

A Lesson About Relationships:
by Jeff Black, Principal Consultant, McDermott & Bull Executive Search

I’ve been fascinated in my consulting experience to observe the power of authenticity. There are a lot of slick people who are successful in our dynamic market, but I believe there is an increasing desire for authenticity, not slickness. Recently I circulated several questions to a large network of executives to test a premise; Do authenticity, integrity, and ethics matter more to people in their work than the conventional Machiavellian-wisdom of our society would suggest? It is my belief that the look in people’s eyes matters to a lot of people.

The questions were: (1) Think of the person or people you like best in your work life. Why do you like them? (2) What do you not like about your work life? (3) Describe the ideal work environment. (Note: answers were limited to 10 words each to gain concise and prominent responses).

While the sample was admittedly not representative of the population, it is a credible reflection of our work-oriented relationships. Scientific or not, the answers were quite revealing. Some of the key results included:

  • People love to be challenged and to have the ability to grow - 55% identify growth and challenge as part of the ideal work environment. Interesting… they don’t complain about their pay – only an amazing 2% mentioned it as an item they "don’t like about my work".
  • While people did not complain about their pay, "feelings issues" mattered a lot. 64% commented about things that hurt them personally – Personal-life sacrifices, conflicts of values, bureaucracy wasting their time. Interesting…far fewer commented about not liking things they have to do – only 26%.
  • People love to enjoy themselves at work. 55% include fun and cooperation in "what we like about others". Interesting…even more – 60% – identified fun and cooperation as elements of the ideal work environment.
  • Integrity, ethics, and trust were included by 52% as part of "what we like about others". Interesting…this was more than the 48% who included intelligence, work ethic, and results, as reasons why they like others.
While challenge and growth are extremely important to most of us, we clearly desire a fulfilling, enjoyable, and high-integrity work life. Success doesn’t seem to be enough. I believe the answers indicate that integrity, ethics, and trust - the keys to authenticity – are more part of our person-to-person relationships than our connections with companies, environments, or jobs. In fact, more than twice as many people mentioned integrity in people they like (52%) than included it in their description of the ideal work environment (22%).

I have observed the power of authenticity and openness that exists in some companies while not at others, and the positive differences in company effectiveness and individual fulfillment that result. This power has been clearly demonstrated in our own firm’s experience with the coaching of Vance Caesar. The potential for our firm’s success and the personal fulfillment of our people appears to be more authentic and real with each passing day.

Right now you may be mentally ticking down a list of people in your work life and determining if they feel authentic to you. Choosing to focus attention on authenticity in relationships is a sure winner if you seek to enjoy the work you do.

If you have a company or group that needs to hear this message, I have adapted these observations into a learning experience entitled "Authentic Relationships Are Good Business – Machiavelli Was Wrong!" I can be contacted through http://www.mbsearch.net/ if you would like to schedule a date.

Note from Bruce: Jeff Black is a respected member of the Southern California business community and a successful search professional for McDermott & Bull, Inc. (www.mbsearch.net) 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.

Friday, January 21, 2005

The Right Reason for "Client Satisfaction"

Seth Godin writes, " Care; That, in just one word, seems to be the essence of good customer service." Later in his vignette he comments, "You could spend all your money and all your time trying to improve your customer service through one fancy technique or another. Or you could just care. And hire people who care."

What came to mind for me was some of the less stellar reasons I've heard at professional services firms for implementing customer care initiatives:
  • "We'll have to do this to keep them"
  • "If our competition is doing it then we should too"
  • "Our competition isn't doing it and we could use it in our marketing"
  • "They're talking to our competition"
  • "This won't cost nearly as much as finding a new client like them"
  • "We'll look good"
  • "I need the firm to show them that "I" care
Certainly I know there are so many wonderful accountants and attorneys totally focused on doing the right thing for their clients and their people. The thinking illustrated in the list above is only an indicator of what your firm cultures are sometimes influenced by. Sincere care for people cannot be taught in schools or seminars. It's learned by example and mentoring. Teach it, evangelize it, tolerate nothing less; The reward continues long after the money is spent.

All Politics is Marketing

It's interesting to see how other businesses and organizations go about their marketing. I have been quoted as stating that, "professional services marketing is equal parts consumer marketing, political campaigning, and relationship development", so I am always looking at each of those disciplines for new ideas.

Here is an interesting article on how political candidates cultivate "brand" during election runs.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Hildebrandt, Hand-Holding, & Driving Directions

Hildebrandt and Thompson are getting married. Congratulations are due to Brad Hildebrandt for being a builder and player in a tough industry! Hidebrandt has been the legal marketing industry's equivalent to the Big Four accounting firms. There is Hidebrandt... and then everyone else. What I have pondered is; If marketing and sales services for law firms are all the rage, how can there be so few superstars like Hidebrandt that have capitalized on the opportunity?

So far my answer to that question is "hand-holding." The task of a marketing firm is to enable its clients with greater recognition and saleability of business and product. And in legal services, business and the product are the same thing. An attorney. (Now don't get all weird on me and go off on all of the other ways to slice this pie. In its simplest form the business is an attorney, and the attorney is the product). Imagine if our "product" was a toy, and this toy could talk to us. The toy would probably tell us things like, "I don't like the colors you're using on my package", or, "When I'm sold from this shelf I can't see people coming and you have me right next to so and so and that's never going to look good for me." And, oh yeah, it's the toy that signs our check.

In other words; when our products have a voice we are influenced by what they want and less by what their clients want. So marketers have to hold a lot of hands as they try to do what is right AND keep their client happy. A marketing business faces real capacity and growth difficulties if the average buyer of its services is inherently high-maintenance.

Should attorneys have a voice in how they are marketed? Yes! Could firms be successful marketing organizations without involving multiple "interested" individuals or committees in every decision process? Yes!

Which brings us to driving directions. The stereotype is men have a built in compass and asking for directions is a violation of their machismo. As long as he gets within a few blocks of the target address, he will troll every street until he gets to his destination. Marketing is often treated in the same way. It does look as easy as getting in my car and driving "over there." What's all the fuss? I got it, I got it....

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Laws of Branding: Immutable or Refutable?

Mike Schultz over at MarketingProfs.com does a good job of dissecting traditional branding maxims with regard to their relevance to professional services firms. As I have stated before, partners and marketers at professional service firms are observing the successful marketing tactics of their clients and trying to duplicate them within their own practices. What they do works in consumer marketing, B2B, etc. Those same tactics (mostly) do not work for professional services.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Get the Look - A Color Resource

If you are color challenged when designing marketing materials then look no further than Adam Polselli's design site. A great resource for determining good color combinations.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Bridging the Sales-Marketing Divide

This short essay discusses the frustration marketers experience at the difficulties in getting their strategic brand message translated into equity-building, price increasing, margin-enhancing results by the sales force. It's also the frustration salespeople feel at their difficulties in getting marketers to understand the real business situation sufficiently to deliver practically effective sales tools. While reading the essay I inserted the title, "partner" wherever "salespeople" where mentioned.

Can Email Marketing Be Saved?

For everyone that believes better email lists and email targeting is the answer to better mass communications with clients and prospects. Email was not designed as a marketing communications tool. Even permission email marketing is very broken and there's little hope for a fix in the near or distant future... (read more)

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Sell Yourself - Five Tips

Hey! Another list! This one is much shorter than 50 items, is a bit more philosophical, and the author actually used the word, "effectuate" in the title (good grief). I too have a love for concise words... but did you know that without regard for level of education, the majority of EVERYONE comprehends text best that is written at a sixth grade level. Remember to write with words you like to read, not the ones you like to say.

50 Tips for Rainmakers

Found this list of marketing and business development tips. I like lists. You can print them, put boxes next to each item and check them off as you discuss or accomplish things on the list.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Huh?


If you a taste for brilliant parody and a sour taste for the antics of some marketing agency's

Saturday, January 08, 2005

The Great Sales Force Myth

Here is an opinion posting on law firm sales trends. The author's thoughts on what works and what won't are pretty decent... if you can get past the venom in the opening paragraph!
http://www.internetmarketingattorney.com/archives/000015.htm

Friday, January 07, 2005

Who Should "Close the Deal"?

The legal community has been buzzing for some time about the growth of sales positions within law firms. I was working on a relationship plan recently when the question arose, "Should we hire a sales force of attorneys so they can close deals, or should we hire non-attorneys and have them focus on filling our pipeline with ready-to-sign prospects?

While hiring attorneys to sell feels like the most efficient choice, my advise to law firms is the latter. Hire non-attorneys and focus them on priming the pipeline.

I believe clients develop emotional attachments to their attorneys, and this "chemistry" begins while they are still prospects. If the law firm sales person is their key contact all the way through the sales process the prospect will develop their bond with the sales person, not with the partner or attorney that will serve them.

It is also true that if the sales person is responsible for closing deals they will pursue prospects that they personally match up with, but might not be a good fit for the partner. And if a large portion of the sales persons earnings are tied to closing deals they will be even less discerning about client quality.

I do think anyone involved in the business development process should have the opportunity to increase their earnings through performance, but the reward program should help people make choices for the firm.

I consider developing the bond between client and attorney to be the most important part of the sales process. A sales force of non-attorneys is able to be matchmakers and enablers by performing many of the tasks around finding prospects and warming them up to your firm and still leave room for the partner to develop the all-important bond. By working together, the sales person and partner will be more able to objectively evaluate each opportunity.


Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Do We Lead Our “Products” or Do They Lead Us?

Companies that manufacture a “product” typically have marketing team members called “Product Managers” who are responsible for the strategy and tactics around a specific product. That job usually includes knowing product capabilities, market penetration, opportunities and gets programs off the ground to support the product in keeping with the overall company strategy.

In law firms the equivalent process is the annual marketing plan developed by each attorney. Unfortunately for law firm marketers the resources do not exist to assign Product Managers to individual attorneys. The closest a law firm can come to that ideal is if they have marketing resources assigned to practice, industry, or office groups.

The practice of having attorneys create an annual marketing plan works on so many great levels for a firm; accountability, goal setting, manpower planning, etc. What I struggle with is that so many law firms begin their planning process at the bottom (individual attorneys/partners) and work up, instead of starting at the top (executive committee) and working down.

I was interviewed by a large firm not long ago and one of the tasks they wanted to start on right away was getting the partners to complete their annual plan so that they could put together the overall strategy.

Did that sound backward to you?

With so many “owners” in law firms, and with so many dotted line reporting structures and leadership trees it’s understandable that some attorneys would resist “top down” direction. Law firm power structures is a study in itself.

A law firm, like a product company, needs to know who they are and where they are trying to go (as a whole firm). Then, they need to look at all of their little pieces and determine the best way to get there. That means looking at existing clients (some may need to go), setting guidelines for what prospects are pursued, and having hard fast rules around what words and images are used to represent the firm right down to the smallest, individual detail. It means that individual attorneys MUST conform, at least as far as the look, feel, and direction of the firm are concerned. With everyone headed in the same direction it becomes easier for the marketing team to get more done.

Having attorneys who insist on “staying their course” is like letting half the air out of the tires of a race car. It will still go around the track, but not nearly fast enough to be a factor in the race. The "stay their course" attorneys detract from marketing resources by insisting that they have help to go their own way.

I’d like to see executive committees and marketers that are strong enough to LEAD their firms; mentor attorneys in new ways and help them to help the firm.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Law Firm Marketing IS the New, New, Thing

How often do "new things" really come along in business marketing. The products may change (and that can be pretty exciting) but the techniques and strategy of marketing remain static. Recently something "new" did emerge. Rather strange, slow and ungainly at first it's just getting big enough that new careers and opportunities abound. It's called "Law Firm Marketing."

In an environment that cries out for more-better-faster-bigger, the law firm community exhausted every business development and rainmaking idea they had to accelerate firm growth in an internet-bubbled world. And so they turned outward and asked for help (hard to imagine an attorney asking for business advise, but it happens).

And by asking for help they enabled a stampede of experienced marketing professionals to enter an industry where few marketers had ventured before.

What we marketers have discovered so far is that marketing a law firm, AND marketing in a law firm is a whole new game... most techniques and strategies are yet to be defined. Is that COOL or what?! We get to do something NEW.

What I've determined so far is that successful law firm marketing tactics borrow bits and pieces of what we know from consumer marketing, political campaigning, consultative selling, lobbying and lessons from teen-angst.

What I hope attorneys have learned thus far is that they are unique. They have created, through their partnerships and client relationships, a special business environment that needs new rules and understandings so that it can continue to evolve.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Do Law Firms Know How to Market?

It is my opinion that most law firms have no real sense of what marketing is, what marketing can accomplish for their firm, or where to begin when they catch the "marketing bug."

The weakness of attorneys with regard to marketing is a product of their education, their high intelligence, and the legal structure and compensation models for most law firm partnerships. Great attorneys are great attorneys because they are focused, knowledgable and action-oriented.... But they're not always open to new ideas, and struggle in areas of expertise outside of their own.

Let's face it, great attorneys are valued for their ability to have and state an opinion, often across broad swatches of the business environment. They're used to forming opinions and having people listen to them. So it is logical to expect that they have opinions around "marketing". But the marketing they observe and build their opinions around is the marketing programs and strategies of their clients; an all-together different type of marketing to an entirely different target audience.

My goal on Law Firm Marketing Catalyst is to observe and discuss the marketing efforts of law firms, hopefully learning a lot and helping others to discover new directions and ideas.