Thursday, March 30, 2006

Finding the Intuitive Law Firm Marketer

It has been my experience that inside every professional services firm is an accountant or lawyer that has a benign talent for marketing. At least at the firms I have worked at it is not the partner that has that vision for themselves. Instead it is the partner who simply speaks from their feelings about what is feeling right and what feels wrong without imagining themselves a marketer on top of being a lawyer or accountant.

If you can, FIND THIS PARTNER! They give themselves away by making a greater balance of comments that are right on. They temper their comments by admitting it is, "just my opinion and I may not be right". They listen to discussion and try to work with all of the fact and feelings yet remain unafraid to voice their feelings on a topic or tactic.

The mark of a great marketer is an intuitive sense of what will work after all of the data, ideas, comments, and facts have been assembled. This innate talent can rest in anyone including people trained as lawyers and accountants.

What makes this partner so valuable is that he/she sees things from within the forest of BEING and attorney or accountant. They live the politics and cultural variances of being a principle; A part of the puzzle I cannot know (yet). This special knowledge can be a wonderful influence on what will work internally as we (marketers) struggle to make the message external.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Getting Your PR Right

Some might think the title of this post will lead them to the ultimate tips for getting media attention. It's not. It's about getting the right attention in words that will not haunt you for hours, days or months after a release is published.

A real-world truth we need to remember is writers and editors at publications we send releases to will not (in almost every case) publish what we send in its original length. They will boil down what we submit to fit the space they have. No matter how eloquent our prose they (writers and editors) have to turn 30, 60, or 100 words into about 25. That's the way it is. The ONLY way it stays just as long or gets longer is if they decide it is "story" worthy; And they are going to write the story. Not us.

So my lesson, my reminder of this truth started last September when I transmitted a press release about my firm's involvement in a very worthy cause that we had joined behind several other firms here in Southern California. In the release it included our participation as one part of many.

This week.... THIS week a publication ran our release (edited of course) and in its (publication writer) edited version it read like we were responsible for what this group of firms had accomplished. NOT GOOD! Now we are dealing with alienated administrators and MP's of other firms around a truly good thing we had all done together. To give credit where due; We didn't lead this group, we followed.

The short fix was to get the publication to issue a correction in the next print. Done. And some phone calls to bruised parties with apologies and telling them how we are correcting the goof in print. Done.

The long fix is to start reading my releases as edited shorts. I even have a reporter friend that I have enlisted (at no-charge thank you) to read my releases in the eyes of an editor. How would an editor take the release apart? What would they use and what would disappear?

When we craft our releases we like to shave the fine line of spin to represent the best messages... That line dissolves in the hands of a writer tasked with creating a 30 word block when we've submitted 120.

Lesson; My releases just got shorter and tighter. You?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Selecting the Right Marketing Team

Related to my last post on the big picture of law firm marketing it could be important to understand how much marketing effort (person hours) and skill sets needed to accomplish either or both.

Creating or Changing the Identity of a Firm
  • A good team needs a leader of the marketing effort that is a visionary. BUT, one that can collaborate a new vision of direction with the unshakable foundation at the core of what the partners believe is possible. Exceed their core beliefs and the vision will never see a successful sunrise.
  • A creative to loose on turning words and ideas into better words and incredible shapes and images. I've had the most success with creatives that need reeling-in often. Someone fearlessly suggesting things way outside the defined box often take projects in great directions.
  • An engineer to worry about details, politics, budgets, timelines, expectations, and deliverables. Without someone to obsess about the little things around large expectations what get delivered is lost in apologies and disappointment over simple things left undone.
  • The right set of external resources (the creative(s) may be one of these) to execute from outside the forest. In the same way that we as marketers suggest attorneys may not be the best choice for all marketing decisions; Marketers on the inside may also get in the way of powerful insight and ideas.
Helping What Already Exists to Work Better
  • The leader for this stage is a visionary. But now, one that understands the big picture is already defined and can envision all of the ways the big picture can be executed. And, the leader needs to be a "true believer"; Unstoppable in wanting a market to BELIEVE!
  • An engineer. Still focused on the little pieces. The details that make things happen perfectly with no constituent left behind, hypersensitive to expectations, and aware that no process requirement can be left undone.
  • Managers to work with groups and individuals to help make the vision come true. Once a firm has a vision everyone wants a piece of it. But it takes caring, mentoring, doing, at the group and partner level to help make that happen.
There are a lot of other critical parts like PR, writers, coordinators, and consultants that can make everything happen correctly but this is only a highest level look at the parts of executing on the two types of marketing effort needed (at least according to me....).
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Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Big Picture of Law Firm Marketing

In the big picture there are two areas that marketers can focus on at a law firm, or any professional service firm. The first is creating or changing the identity of a firm and the second is helping what already exists to work better.

Creating or Changing the Identity of a Firm
This process is about discovering the essence of a firm, creating a brand, and translating it into look, feel, and words; It’s building what has not been built before. The tasks in this process are focused on:
  • Discovering the truth of a firm and its people
  • Creating words and messages that match that truth
  • Understanding what needs to be totally different from anything prior
  • Turning words and messages into color and images
  • Gaining the agreement of many to how the firm is represented
  • Introducing something new to the market
  • Helping the internal audience adjust to major change and keeping the culture calm
Helping What Already Exists to Work Better
The firm is already well positioned within a marketplace with no need to change current messages, look, or feel. What is needed is an acceleration of effectiveness in the marketplace. The tasks in this process ore focused on:
  • Improving relationship networks of partners and business developers
  • Filtering and selecting sponsorships and alliances
  • Mentoring and training of client/market-facing people
  • Fine tuning of marketing materials and processes
  • Discarding unproductive programs and projects
Every firm needs one or both of these things to get from today to tomorrow. Sometimes a firm can’t know which is what they need most just because it (the firm and its people) is too close to its own identity. It is up to the people in marketing roles to step outside the firm and see it as it is seen in the market, and then pick the right area to focus on.
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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Law Firm Branding in Bite Size Pieces

Refreshing the brand of a law firm is a daunting task from the outside. So many parts touching each other… everything is so intermingled it’s hard to determine even where to start. I’ve been fortunate to have done it several times with different firms and companies; A top to bottom brand refreshment. Here are the basic steps, in order, that have produced the best results for me.

  1. Capture in words the essence of your firm – Hold group meetings with your attorneys (partners and associates) and make a list of one-liners that describe the character of the firm. From that list (it will be a BIG one) get them to prioritize and combine until it is under ten one-liners. Then, using those lines write an ‘essence’ statement that captures each one-liner in a congruent and relevant statement.
  2. Create a tag-line – Boil your essence statement down into six words or less.
  3. Create a logo – The logo (word, name, shape, or combination) will be a graphical depiction of the essence statement and tag-line.
  4. Find the right color(s) – Often this step overlaps creating a logo, and again must reflect what is said in the essence statement.
  5. Create the stationery – Here is the first large graphical project expressing the essence, tag, and logo. This stage also refines font choices and the basic look and feel for all communications materials.
  6. Create an advertisement – even if you do not plan on doing print advertising this creative step is crucial for developing larger graphical schemes and nuances to express your essence statement.
  7. Develop you web presence – Using the creative flairs of your advertising and the hard graphical rules of your stationery create the look and feel of your web presence. Here you can explore writing styles for talking about your firm and how your information will fit into the graphical styles you’ve created.
  8. Develop your printed collateral and presentation templates.

While you are developing each step keep a large poster-board of everything you developed so far so that you can look at things collectively and gauge their fit.

There are a lot of little side-trips in this process… these are just the basic steps that have worked for me.

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An Answer to the "Mystery of Connecting"

Today I am happy to welcome back business relationship maven Jeff Black of McDermott & Bull Executive Search with another of his "Relationship Story" insights titled, "Becoming Untouchable in a Flattening World". Here are his thoughts.

I’ve always wondered what the key was to why I connect personally with some people and not with others (besides the obvious - that many people are kind enough to humor me!). Is it "opposites attract", or is it common interests, or something weird that I don’t understand like biorhythms? And then I learned a lot about natural themes of strength in different people, and this helped me understand how combining diverse talents makes an organization strong, but it didn’t help explain the difference in connecting on a person-to-person basis.

"The Likeability Factor" by Tim Sanders (a big author/thinker for me – he also wrote another favorite about networking and relationships called "Love Is The Killer App") offers insights that help with this big unanswered question.

Have you ever noticed how a person can be extremely pleasant, but they just seem invisible? They might struggle with RELEVANCE - nobody seems to pay attention to them.

Ever know somebody who is pleasant and friendly but who always seems to be on a different page than everyone else? Maybe their problem is they lack EMPATHY – they can’t read what’s going on inside others.

Or how about the person who is bright, cheerful, empathetic, and highly relevant, but who feels they need to please others too much? They might have trouble with REALNESS – they may not be comfortable enough with themselves to be transparent and authentic.

And then, of course, you have your basic jerk that just seems incapable of FRIENDLINESS – they may understand what to say, may behave authentically, and may really read others well, but they just don’t seem to care how other people feel.

Each of these scenarios highlights one of the four factors that Sanders believes make up our Likeability – Friendliness, Relevance, Empathy, and Realness. Now I get it! I can see more clearly the differences between people, and can understand the success or struggle in my own individual connections and relationships. Sadly (but maybe not really), I also understand my own flaws in achieving Likeability and being consistent. My grumpiness and intensity is not all that friendly, my love for hearing myself talk is often not very relevant, and I continue to try to overcome a life as "authenticity challenged"…ouch, but the insight is so valuable.

Take a look around you – and take a look at yourself – and see if you may be able to understand a bit better why some connections seem to work better than others. Even it it’s a bit painful, or if it borders on being too analytical for your liking, at least it offers a re-calibration for us on a more damaging trait – Cluelessness! Might be worth spending a brain cell or two on.

Note from Bruce: Jeff Black is a respected member of the Southern California business community, fellow blogger, 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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Friday, March 17, 2006

Keeping Things Above Board

In the spirit of full disclosure I have added a disclaimer in the footer of MarketingCatalyst to clarify that this blog is an independent effort focused on my knowledge and opinion about the marketing of law firms and professional service providers. My employer, Rutan & Tucker, LLP, does not contribute to the posts on this site nor does this site link to their internet properties.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Creating Follow-up Opportunities

If you have been asked to lead a discussion at an executive roundtable here is an idea for creating an engaging experience for the attendees and solid opportunities for extending new relationships after the meeting is over.
  1. Determine the three to five key points of discussion. For each think of one visceral word that captures the essence of what it is like to deal with those key points. For instance, the word, "fear", could be used to define what it is like to have to manage corporate disclosure requirements. The word, "love", might be used to describe employee incentive programs...
  2. Print each word separately on an index card or sheet of paper and hand these out at the beginning of the roundtable discussion (this is your handout). With only the printed words on each card or sheet (words like 'fear' and 'love') your audience is already intrigued. And the cards/sheets will serve as a place to take notes.
  3. During the discussion be sure to reference research, articles, or papers that support the points of discussion and offer to send them to attendees after the meeting.
  4. After the meeting send the supporting information.
  5. About a week later (executives are busy and should not be expected to read anything you send right away) follow up with an email or a call (depending on your level of interest in the executive as a prospect) to ask if they've had a chance to read the information and inquire about any additional questions they might have. If the conversation goes well invite them to breakfast or lunch to discuss further.
  6. As an additional idea for getting new face-to-face time you can also ask to learn from their experience. Schedule a meal to hear about how they are dealing with the issues; What has worked and what has not.
To often we look at these presenting opportunities as a one-shot deal hoping in one brief moment we will impress someone enough that they will call us. Not exactly a recipe for success. With the method above you can create at least three touch points while starting off on an interesting and intriguing foot.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Mentoring Works.... In its Own Way

One of the presentations at the LMA annual conference discussed mentoring as a means of helping lawyers develop their individual practice. In the presentation the CMO stated the assigned mentoring program, though carefully planned, didn't work all that well because the mentorees didn't reach out to the senior attorneys assigned to them. It was interesting that the CMO doing the talking did state the attorneys did use mentors... just not the ones that had been "assigned" to them.

Then there is this brief article by Gerry Riskin on female mentoring. Gerry compliments the use of mentoring as a career building tool and challenges law firms to embrace it beyond a fad or fashion.

Here are my thoughts on making mentoring a viable tool for your firm:
  • The mentoring relationship IS a relationship. It requires a chemistry between two individuals not found in a spread sheet or personality profile. Not every senior attorney in your firm will be selected as one, and not every person that needs one can find it within your firm.
  • Selecting a mentor should be in the hands of the person wanting a mentor. Only they can pick the person they will listen to and honor what is advised.
  • Treat mentoring as a therapeutic relationship where progress is not measured in numbers but in personal growth. A mentor helps someone mature in their profession and it is the maturing process that produces the result.
  • Never ask for the details of what happens between a mentor and mentoree. That MUST remain private.
  • To enable the mentoring process schedule roundtables of mentors to discuss best practices, and schedule roundtables of mentorees to discuss what they are learning.
Mentoring has always been a mostly informal process that works best if it remains as such. Don't try to put walls around it. Instead, look for ways to enable it even though it must remain an uncontrollable tool of success.
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Legal Marketing in its Teen Years

The last time I attended the Legal Marketing Association’s annual gathering it was 1999. Seven years has transformed this part of the legal industry. It’s not unlike watching a child grow from an awkward and uncertain pre-teen to the assured and optimistic young adult ready to get out and make a difference. What has changed for legal marketers is, well… just about everything.
  • Legal marketing has become a profession, not just a position. In ’99 the typical marketer at a law firm was pulled over from administrative staff; Today career marketing professionals are being recruited from other industries and other firms.
  • Legal marketers have their own voice. In ’99 the majority of ideas and strategic thinking came from attorneys and marketers were expected to accomplish support tasks. Today marketers are creating ideas and are offered the room and resources to deploy them.
  • The number of service providers to legal marketers has increased significantly. The greater the competition the higher the quality of original thinking.
  • Marketers speak of the attorneys as peers. This feeling of equal footing as respected professionals might be the grain of sand that tipped things in this wonderful new direction.
One other thing that is different, then to now; And that is the session topics. In ’99 the sessions were about PowerPoint tricks, event planning, survey administration, and other related task oriented topics. This year the sessions included client team building, change management, CRM case studies, and partner mentoring.

In ’99 a few hundred made the trek to attend. This year over 1000 professionals filled the conference center. This is really getting interesting; The future’s so bright I ‘gotta wear shades.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Booth or Billboard: Part Next

Someone asked me a bunch of questions about not having a traditional booth w/table and here are my answers out loud:
  1. Question: Where does the attorney go at the event if they can't hang out in or near their booth. How will prospects find them?
    Answer: Without the anchor of a booth attorneys are freed to move about the conference and be where the prospects are (which is normally nowhere near the "booth alley"). Instead of being tied up answering questions from idle passers-by the attorneys can focus on the flow of the event, making connections, getting introductions, and participating IN the event, not AT the event.
  2. Question: Why do you say (referring to me) that booths are a negative first impression?
    Answer: Think about how you react when you walk by a booth you are not interested in at a conference. There are people in the booth expectantly watching you, wondering if you are a viable prospect, almost willing you to be so that they have something to do; So you focus really hard on getting by unnoticed. How can what I just described be a positive experience? People DO NOT want to be sold at and a booth is a clear signal that you want to be a seller. Whether walking past booths at swap-meets, at home & garden shows, conventions or conferences, a booth is the universal sign for 'salesperson inside waiting to sell.'
  3. Question: How can I distribute collateral and promotional items without a booth?
    Answer: If there is some chachka you just have to get in the hands of wondering herds of disinterested business people get it in the bag before they pick it up at registration. As for collateral; A message printed on slick paper with pretty pictures telling a generic story for a broad audience does not land new customers. Not for business law firms at least. If you must bring it get it into the bag pre-registration as well.
  4. Question: How do we collect business cards to build our mailing lists without a booth?
    Answer: The attorneys and business development professionals collect them one at a time from people they are connecting with while they work within the event. A mailing list of 5 names we've connected with will reap far greater reward than 50 we have never met.
  5. Question: As a marketer (junior or senior) how can I add value at a conference if I don't have a booth to manage?
    Answer: Work the pre-conference, get attendee lists, know the speakers, VIP's; Help attorneys find attendees at the conference, arrange meeting spaces on the fly, keep your attorneys informed of buzz and secondary conversations, talk to other sponsors at the event and find out what is working/not working, check rooms/AV/setups before your attorneys speak on panels and podiums.
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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Booth or Billboard?

I will come right out and say that I definitely do not understand law firms that have tradeshow style booths. They just make no sense.

First, who is the person from my firm who would stand at the booth? A lawyer? That's a terrible waste of $300-$500 an hour in legal talent. And, since first impressions mean so much, I am certain I do not want prospects see a "salesperson" instead of a "counselor".

Maybe someone from the marketing team could be at the booth. NOT! Now the prospect is greeted by someone with no legal knowledge and a singular skill for pushing collateral into their showbag and collecting business cards.

Plus, I believe law firms should act their status. Lawyers and firms are mentors and counsel to senior executives, leaders, and VIP's. People expect lawyers to be dignified and act with class. A booth reduces lawyers and firms to sideshow acts.

My answer to gaining the exposure advantage of large signage without a booth is banner stands. A banner stand is a portable 7 foot tall billboard that can mimic my advertising campaign. They can be placed near podiums, staged in hallways and reception areas, and require no personnel or collateral. They are also significantly less expense than the traditional 8'x10' popup booth. For my new brand program I've ordered three and will spend less than $3,000 (compared to $5K-$8K for one traditional popup).

If my campaign needs adjustment I can order replacement graphics for around $700 per stand.

99.9% of all large displays at conferences are tradeshow booths. When I have used banner stands in the past they've given me tremendous exposure just because they are unexpected, noticed, and appreciated by attendees based on post conference feedback from surveyed attendees.
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Friday, March 03, 2006

Avoiding the Implied Promise

One of the golden rules of advertising for law firms is never making a forward looking statement that might mislead or promise a result. As the CMO at my firm I would imagine I am the person that needs to be kept in check with regard to this issue. You know... the excitement of being creative and going a little too far.

Today I received a wonderful surprise. One of the practice groups, in evaluating copy for their next ad, submitted edits that I had to reject for being too aggressive!

The reason that is a wonderful surprise is that they are excited enough about getting their message out, and confident enough of their capabilities that they were willing to make incredible claims in a public forum. Too bad I can't print their message with exactly their words.

On the back end though, these people are the exact product I want waiting for the next prospect who calls for help!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Feeling Healthy as Law Firm Marketer

A few days ago a post was put on the lawmarketing listserv (you must be a member to visit that post) that contained some harsh words for the desparity between the earnings of partners at law firms and equally skilled marketers (with regard to grasp of profession). The comments were based on seeing a chart noting the significant decline in productive time as partners became more senior, though, as we all know, their income continues to climb. On the other hand, as the commentor noted, senior marketers were still held to hard expectations about remaining highly productive without an equal standing in monetary reward.

I've thought about that commentary a lot, because, for the most part, it is true. But something felt uncomfortable to me about its tone (of entitlement?).

Today I had a meeting with the business development committee (BDC) at my firm. The main topic was the marketing budget and the discussion focused on the large differences in how each practice area could best develop business; And, what is the best way to spend "firm" dollars while preserving the ability of attorneys to pursue individual client development plans.

After the meeting two partners commented that they hoped I knew none of this (discussion) was personal to me (it wasn't and I didn't see it that way even though I am the catalyst of so much discussion).

But it came together for me just then. The post from earlier in the week on the listserv and the role I play in the bigger picture at my firm (or any firm for that matter).

I LOVE being a witness to change. It's my role. That is what I do. Absolutely I would like to make more for doing less; Or, make more for doing more. It does not matter. I make what I make because I wanted to work for this firm at this time. I could've done better, and I could've done worse (with regard to income). There are partners at my firm making a lot of money working not as hard as me... But that is not the point at all.

The point is; I have my deal, they have theirs. I'm not an attorney and I entered an industry at a time of change. Really BIG change. As a marketer I'm doing pretty darn good. I'm going to do better than my father; Better than my brothers and sister; I am going to be a catalyst in the right place at the right time.

If money was my only reason working in the legal industry than I can get myself off to a law school, work hard to do really well, get hired by a fast moving firm and hope for the years ahead (this is not a discussion about what motivates attorneys but commentary on the non-attorney legal marketers who grouse about their lot in life).

Instead I am going to keep doing exactly what I do because I am having the time of my life, making a difference, and creating something in a place it has not been created before. How many people get to do THAT!

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...