Thursday, April 27, 2006

MC Interview on

I read recently on Slashdot that geeks can't resist a questionnaire... So I must be a geek of some sort. Nathan Burke (a fellow renaissance man of design, marketing, development and dog (Toby) lover) sent me a set of interview questions about law firm marketing and asked if I might allow my answers to be posted on his blog; Like I could resist!

In truth his questions were really good and I enjoyed having to dig for my answers. The end result is here. Take a read and let me know how I did.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

How to Use Habitual Behavior for Law Firm Marketing

The Internet is the best proof that we are creatures of habit. At any one point in time I can pretty much name the websites I habitually visit... So can you if you pause to think about it. Over time that circle of sites changes according to where you are in your career, home and life; But it changes ever so slowly. You stop visiting one information site but you find another... Unless you are an RSS feed maniac most of us rely on 5-12 sites in our daily/weekly Internet wandering.

The same holds true in the physical world. Speaking only for the professional side of life now; We develop habitual behaviors around where we circulate, what we read, and who we listen to.

As a marketer I look for these patterns in my target audiences and focus on being inside their circle. What are their key publications, associations, conferences? Who are the key players in my market and where are they hanging out together in groups?

My target might also be companies with more than 100 employees. What are the issues these companies share and where/how do they get/find new information that helps them? Who do the decision makers hang out with? Whom do they consider their peers?

People doing similar things develop similar habits and I just have to figure out what those habits are. Then, become an accepted part of their habitual world. Not to change anyone but to be accepted.

I have heard a lot of marketers exclaim that they NEED to do something totally different, WAY out there to get attention in new markets.

My question for you is this: If you saw a gallon of green milk in the cooler at the grocery store with a "Jimmy Dean" label on it would you feel compelled to try it, or compelled to point it out and joke about it?

Friday, April 21, 2006

THIS is a Brand

Not something that a law firm will be creating for themselves in the near future... BUT, this is branding unequaled (if you run Firefox switch to Explorer to run)... Is there anyone in the known universe that does not know and appreciate this sound? An interview with the creater of "Deep Note" is available here.

Client Development for the Big and Little Picture

Now that I am focusing more on creating a business return on the marketing infrastructure we've been bringing along I need to have a ground level view into how EACH piece of business arrives at the firm. And, I'd like to know how each partner comes to chase or accept new business/clients. By understanding every shot fired on the front line I can continue to be flexible with what is happening in the big picture and help partners and practices fine-tune the business coming through the door.

I started step one in that process this week. Using the 'new matter report" generated by accounting I can see what new matters (and clients) are opened each day by individual partners. I then went to visit different partners to ask about the client.
  • How did you get this work?
  • What was the referral source (if there was one)?
  • What is the business of the client?
  • What is the scope of their operations within California?
  • How comfortable are you to work with this client or on this matter?
  • Do you feel comfortable that this client/matter fits into your overall practice?
  • Would you feel comfortable talking with partners in other practice groups about exploring additional business issues the client might be facing?
  • Would you like to land more clients like this? Why?
Sometimes only a few questions are enough to understand that this particular client/matter is not what the partner would like to focus on.... Partners do take on work as a favor and already know they don't wish to go further than just this piece of work.

But if I get deeper into the questions the opportunity to engage the firm more broadly (and more profitably) will become apparent. And, in this process, I can become more intimately aware of the business development aptitude/attitude of the individual partners. Not everyone works best in big team efforts, and some have just been waiting for someone to ask.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

An Event is No Different Than a Rolodex

Keeping a blawg active while keeping a firm active is a lot tougher than I imagined. But I love to write about what I learn as a marketer; So posting must continue. HAH!

I was at a VC event this morning, passing cards, meeting new people, and creating new relationships for my firm and it occurred to me that, in many years, I have never gone to an event focused on only talking to people I did not know. Instead I have gone to hundreds of events and first looked for people that DID know. I have treated events as a path to new relationships in the same way I have treated my rolodex.

When I know that someone in my firm needs to get connected I look at my rolodex for people I can call to create a 'warm' introduction. I use people I know to get to people I do not. I do the same thing at networking events. I walk into a room and look for people I know before I wonder about who I do not.

How this works for me is that I look for at least one teammate before getting to the business of meeting someone new. By treating every networking event like my personal rolodex I have been able to meet dozens... hundreds of new connections, many that became viable clients and referral resources.

My advise for you; Hang out with who you know and meet the people that know them. Relationships that start with someone in common have a much better chance of success. And on the inverse, someone that you know will be an introduction that your friend (teammate) needs.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Inside the Mind of an Entrepreneur

Whether hype or fiction, watching the stream of consciousness from a true entreprepeneur is illustrative and instructive (did I use enough big words there?). As a law firm marketer a peek at the thinking of prospects is always useful in developing my marketing message. Take a look here at what Mike and Casey in San Diego have to say about living the life of a startup.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

More on Adjusting Plans and NASCAR

Today's race in Texas was a great example of being flexible in the midst of executing a plan. Pole sitter and eventual race winner Kasey Kahne (pronounced "casey cane") went from first at the start of the race, to somewhere buried in the middle of the pack and not a factor, back to first winning the race going away. He did so badly at the start of the race the commentators gave him a zero chance of finishing anywhere close to the top ten.

A couple of things happened. One; Kasey and his crew chief kept talking the whole race and every pit stop they made adjustments to the car while on the track Kasey kept looking for the right path for his car around the tri-oval. Two; the track conditions and weather (temperature) changed the track so that his car kept getting better while others got worse. In the end their plan worked. Not exactly as first foreseen, but definitely intact.

So the question a marketer can ask is, "What, when, and how can I change a marketing plan to be an ultimate winner?" Here is my take on what to change when:

  1. Public Relations – If your releases are not getting picked up rethink what you are releasing and how you are getting it to the editors. Your releases could be too long. They may be arriving at publications on the wrong day. The editor might not like you (no kidding). Get a meeting with the editor(s) to go over your releases and discuss how you might make changes for greater pick-up success. Or hire a PR professional and let them work their magic.
  2. Advertising – If the "street" is not acknowledging your ads, either in direct response or antidotal evidence it's time to do something different. Select new publications, change the frequency, alter the copy, and/or change the layout and graphics. As long as the message stays on track with the truth of your firm you have a lot of choices. Never get stuck on one way to present your firm.
  3. Sponsorships – You've spent the bucks, networked like crazy, but nothing on the backend is happening. In general, sponsorships are easy. Getting one new deal or client will pay for your investment. But if no deal or client is forthcoming; drop the sponsorship and look for something new. Too often sponsorships are driven by peer and industry pressure; Certainly all the wrong reasons. Listen to your clients and put your money on the events that they are attending. If your clients consider an event important, your future clients will be there as well.
  4. Internal Buy-in – It is one thing to discover the inner truth of a firm. It is another thing (process) for a firm to agree on this truth. If you have attorneys fostering a counter-culture it will disrupt what you can accomplish. Focus on gaining internal momentum with one-on-one meetings, group discussion, and leadership intervention.
  5. External Buy-in – If you make a change in your message that is radically different from how the market has previously perceived you, they will most likely kick it back in your face. Period. The market accepts change that feels more like an adjustment. Go too far and they stop listening.

To do any of this your timing is essential. Remember Kasey? Between pit stops Kasey had to race the car he had. Not the one he hoped to have later. In legal marketing I have been at events where I knew from the get-go I’d missed the mark. Patience is the only answer. I have to compete with what I’ve got until a change is possible. Never panic! Take time to really assess what is wrong and understand what needs to change. The answers are there if you can keep a clear head and are willing to accept that adaptation is the secret to ultimate success.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Law Firm Marketing and NASCAR

Anyone that knows me well is quite aware of my passion for NASCAR racing (Go 24!). So it's only a matter of time before I write something about marketing law firms and use racing to make a point. The most obvious lesson NASCAR racing teaches is how to be flexible when executing a plan.

Each week the racing teams go to a new track and after a couple of days of racing come up with their strategy for the Sunday race. It's a complex plan incorporating tack conditions, cars, parts, frames, driver capability, and technology more advanced than the space program. By Sunday each team has their plan for success with more moving parts the world economy.

Much of the same effort goes into creating a 'go to market' strategy for a law firm. Months of listening, measuring, understanding, creating, teaching, and planning before the first competitive salvo in launched. With so much invested we can hope that everything will go just as planned....

What every great NASCAR crew chief knows is that no plan will execute exactly as planned. Some crew chiefs are legendary for their ability to adjust their car, driver, and plan from the first lap to the last lap. It is not uncommon for a car to start a race poorly (lagging behind running much slower than the leaders), but by race-end is unbeatable. Constant adjusting of the master plan while in the heat of competition is the key.

Great crew chiefs, and great marketers, never sit on a failing or faltering result because they have too much ownership of the first thing they tried. Everything and anything can be changed. Success does not reward the best plan; it rewards the best execution.

A plan (absolutely essential) is just a starting place. Being able to see the big picture in the heat of competition, and adjust, is how to finish in front.
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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Decision-Making Styles of Law Firm Partners

This interesting article from Harvard Business School Working Knowledge explains a lot about how leaders at different levels make key choices and decisions. How it relates to law firms is that some partners have leadership roles beyond their own practice within the firm.... And I have seen a difference in their approach to firm choices after that has occurred. I would be interested in your take!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Meeting a Prospect for the First Time

Meeting a prospect for the first time can be intimidating. Check that. IS intimidating. Meeting someone that you do not know, and you would like something from, is intimidating. And being intimidated keeps a lot of us from ever having that first "date". Let's face it; We can't lose if we don't go, right?

But you 'gotta go. New business and a solid practice is relying on it....

So here are a few tips to help your "first date" be a more successful and less intimidating experience.
  1. Make the first meeting a short meeting. Do a lunch, or early morning coffee, or cocktails at a mutually attended event. There is no need for you to map out an entire client relationship in the first meeting; You're just trying to see if there is a synergy. If things go well you can always extend the meeting, but starting simple and short is a great choice. There is nothing worse than scheduling two hours when the first five minutes uncovers all you need to know.
  2. Be punctual. There's no greater sign of disrespect than being late for your first meeting. Get directions to the meeting location, arrive early, and demonstrate that you care about him or her and the plans you made.
  3. Dress appropriate to your prospects expectations. Know the dress code tendencies of the company and person you are courting. Extreme mismatches in attire will have your prospect questioning something about how you practice, maybe what you charge, and at who's expense.
  4. Compliment, but don't over do it. A few nice words makes everyone feel special, but persistent comments about the other person's company, personality, abilities, etc., gets old and will seem desperate.
  5. Balance talk and listening. Pay attention to the amount of time you spend talking versus listening. If the scale is weighing in either direction, look to balance it out. If they talk too much; Bad. If you talk too much; Really bad! Strangely enough, people do ask questions when they need more information. You do not have to try to answer every question before they've even thought it.
Connecting to other people is tough stuff and it is human tendency to try too hard and do too much all in the name of hoping to be liked and needed. Patience and good planning will help you to overcome a little bit of what can be so uncomfortable.
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Graphic Artists are Crazy

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