Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Gossip and Marketing: From the Inside

I believe that gossip springs from hope. Some hope what is mummered is true because it brings something good, while others hope that what is mummered is true because it brings some level of satisfaction (good or bad). And yet others repeat what they hear to garner reassurance. There are so many reasons for gossip and even more for why gossip will always have life.

As a marketer at a law firm I find gossip to be an incredibly reliable barometer for knowing how the firm is doing. I probably hear less than a fraction of what flys about on any day but what I do hear is so telling.

It could be a wave of "did you hear's" about people in the firm. This points at moral and esprit de corps. It could be a "did you hear what he/she/them are saying about...". This usually points at decisions that have been announced. If the gossip starts, "everyone has pretty much agreed", it points at a growing consensus (right or wrong) about things few people can control.

Each may reflect on how the firm is presenting itself (outside of my control), or feeling about the state of things. Each are important when reflecting on what messages I am creating and the reality of what the market might receive.

Now it's true that gossip is... well, gossip. But people do react to it and make choices based on what they hear. As a marketer and champion of the brand (OK, maybe not champion but true-believer to be sure) I want to know anytime the message of the firm might be breaking down, or no longer hold the truth of what we are projecting.

Some gossip is wonderfully silly... but some bleeds to the street. Keep your ears open and gossip can be a great aid in understanding how all of the pieces are fitting together.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Back to Big-Picture Planning

The most common reason offered for not planning is not knowing how to start. Then, knowing what to work on or what to work with. Here is a simple chart for creating your own beginning to strategic planning at a law firm. Notice that everything is in the biggest picture; Details are the quicksand that slowly kill strategic planning.

Now you might argue that without the details (tactics) there can be no plan. I would argue that details will come at the appropriate time. Use diligence in understanding how your markets and clients will change; and understand where the firm would like to go and let that be a guide for the path you choose to take. Once you know you NEED to get there the "how's" will pop right up.

The chart attached does not include everything and everyway to find out the what's and where's (click on chart to see larger image) . It is just a starter. Now start.
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Monday, June 19, 2006

Small World Moments

Spend enough time in one market and slowly the lines connecting relationships gets tighter and tighter. I was talking with one attorney today who mentioned, "by the way, I live just down the street from Jim P. He said to say hello." I've know Jim P. for 10 years in a variety of relationship settings but would have never expected this attorney to have a connection to Jim P. But he does. Cool!

Then I hear through the media grapevine that Trindl R. has moved companies and is doing relationship development work in Orange County again. She was THE rockstar of business developers years ago and moved to another town for a great offer. Now she is back. So we're talking and she says, "Hey, isn't Adam V. a partner at your firm? He's married to a cousin of my husband." Weird. They had all just been at a family gathering a few weeks earlier.

In Southern California there are about what.... 15 cazillion people? As time goes on I am getting these kinds of sideways connections more and more. It feels wonderful! On the other hand... no matter where I go or what I do, somehow it will get back to my circle of relationships. Weird.

Off-Site Meetings: Narrow the Bandwidth

This leadership article at HBS Working Knowledge discusses methods for helping off-site meetings to actually produce tangible results. Hmmmm. I have been to many partner and law firm retreats and they are no different than the off-site meetings of large corporations. They suffer from overstuffed agenda's, not enough time to focus, and too many competing priorities.

The main theme I gathered from the HBS article was that all good things will get their time... just not right now at this meeting. Instead meeting planners should work to narrow agenda's to only the most pressing issues that are effecting the bottom line/pipeline/future of the firm, right now.

I think one area of real advantage law firms have over corporations is higher levels of camaraderie among partners. And camaraderie is what can help firms get past the long lists of "gotta talk abouts" to a narrow list of "must solves". The higher level of trust in tighter organizations means that all know there is always more to do; they will be gotten to; just not right now.
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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Narrow Sight or Tunnel Vision?

I was talking with a new friend today and mentioned that I had an active blog running (well... semi-active according to my recent posting irregularity) and her response was, "I just heard about blogging not too long ago. What is that all about?" Her comments started an interesting conversation; mostly me blathering on and on about all of the wonderful business and personal reasons that a blog is different from a "web site". Now that I think about it I hope I didn't leave the impression that bloggers are a bunch of long-winded techno-geeks wearing blinders to the rest of the non-blog world. In truth she represents a good example of being too immersed within the cocoon of our own marketing bubbles.

Here I am with my firm four months post brand rollout and all of our marketing engines are running at full speed. Feedback from a large portion of our existing audience is tremendously positive and everything says "impact" in a big way. But no matter how big our noise there are plenty of savvy, connected, and important people that may not have a clue about what we are doing. And the reason they have not seen anything yet is simply because they have no reason to see yet.

Until something impacts my 'yet to see me' audience (or blogging has a direct effect or anticipated direct effect) I need to keep remembering that there IS an audience I'd like to reach that does not know me... Yet.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Caution with New Matter Questionnaire

Working in a law firm is interesting because it is filled with people that are constantly thinking about what is right and what might go wrong. Several weeks ago I instituted a "New Matter Questionnaire" which is sent to attorneys whenever they signed a new client. Today I got some interesting feedback that caused me to change what I asked; particularly because questions and answers became part of the written archive of firm communications. I also took the opportunity to make a few other changes based on the existing track record of answers I am getting.

What was eliminated was:
  • How comfortable are you to work with this client or on this matter?
Though the reason for the question is marketing related it could be misconstrued to represent a measure of whether we should have taken the work at all. If an attorney states they are not comfortable with the work could it be because they were not qualified to take it in the first place? Though the many questions that might be asked about this are obscure, when it comes to litigation even the obscure becomes pivotal.

Also eliminated was:
  • Would you like to land more clients like this? Why?
The question was producing no measurable results and was the least answered question.

What was changed was:
  • Do you feel comfortable that this client/matter fits into your overall practice?
It was changed to:
  • Does this client/matter fit into your overall practice/practice goals?
It was changed to tighten the context of the question to be specific to the practice goals of the attorney and not about anything related to the clients action or transaction.

The new survey reads:
  • 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?
  • Does this client/matter fit into your overall practice/practice goals?
  • What is their potential for additional work?
  • Would you feel comfortable talking with partners in other practice groups about exploring additional business issues the client might be facing?
Like any survey, time and application teaches its lessons. So now you know how this survey is evolving.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Bringing Yourself to a Meeting

I had a meeting today with a new player in the Orange County marketplace. Michele Bassett is an executive recruiter who knows how to do her homework about a market, the people in it, and most importantly, how to be a real person in a conversation. This last point is what I like witnessing in action.

I met Michele briefly at a reception a few weeks ago and we set up a sitdown meeting for this afternoon. Within 30 minutes of sitting down she had me talking about things beyond business. We talked about aspirations, personal goals, the difference between men and women in the workplace and semi-personal things around life and living! In less than 90 minutes she had helped our acquaintance become a friendship.

It felt honest and natural; not manipulated. This was exactly how I believe good business relationships should develop. Honest, fun, and open.

The lesson here is that meeting people... and starting a business relationship does not have to be about missions and capabilities or, what can we do for each other? Every great business relationship I have started like a good friendship and if more people understood that there would be a lot less stress circling around business development.

MC Profiled by Orange County Register

The OC Register runs a weekly column profiling people and the jobs they perform in the workplace. This week the column featured me. I am getting a lot of calls from folks that start the conversation by commenting, "I didn't even know that law firms had marketing people!"

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Walking the Floors

In every firm there is an undercurrent of opinion that flows without regard. Attorneys and partners with opinion; staff stating their piece, everyone with something to add. It is the true nature of things.

What I do is walk the floors. Every day I move through the firm, walking and looking in doors and stopping to say hello. In this way I hear what so many might have to say. It is not so important that what they say might say could be dissagreeable as much as knowing what it is that they have to say at all. The current of opinion matters every moment.

If you are not doing this; walking the floors; start doing it know! Knowing the current state of things can only be found first hand.

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...