Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Generation Gap that Will Affect Law Firm Marketing

The "Millennial's" are people born between the early 1980's to the mid-1990's, that are now beginning to trickle into the workforce. What defines this group is that technology has not changed their life experience -- it has defined it. I believe their attitudes and values will create the great generation gap that "baby-boomers" (like myself) have long anticipated but have yet to experience.

This gen-gap was revealed to me while researching the effect of social networking sites like MySpace for a talk I was giving to executives on the impact of social networking on business. While I could write much to illustrate my opinion I'll just highlight the most relevant indicators.
  • The majority of leaders in business today are baby-boomers with values about privacy born in a cold war culture. Everything about us is held to be private. We only reveal what we choose when and where we want to. That right is sacrilege. Millennial's believe that everyone already knows most everything about them individually already. They've been posting and talking online, exposed to the world, their entire life. They do not choose what to reveal; they choose what to hold back.
  • Millennial's consider all knowledge as free. If they ask for data "no" is not an answer they understand. Their first reaction to "no" is, "What! Are you kidding?" There is no power in hoarding knowledge -- only in using it.
  • Millennial's use technology as fluently as oral language. My youngest daughter (23) will multitask all day long on IM's, cellphone, text messaging, posting to a blog, Flickr, or listserv, while meeting with friends and doing her college work. She is not in four dozen conversations in a day... she's just continuing a handful using whatever technology is best suited in the moment. For her the conversations are seamless even as she leaps from one platform to another.
So what does this mean for law firm marketers? Actually, a LOT!
  • We have a generation of fresh marketers coming into the workforce that will challenge, like no other time, everything we accept as normal, competitive practices.
  • We have a generation of fresh marketers coming into the workforce that will challenge most of the information sensitivities that baby boomer partners have grown accustomed to.
  • We have a generation of fresh legal services buyers coming into the workforce that will not be satisfied unless connectivity to their attorneys matches their expectations. That means community connectivity like IM networks, MySpace-like openness, and access to information that is anytime, anywhere.
After my presentation to the group of executives I talked for a moment with a young marketing woman who'd put the gathering together. She is a Millennial of course. She said, "Bruce, I was amazed at the reaction in the room. While you were talking about my generation I could visibly see the visceral reaction of the executive's in the room as they struggled to understand things that I take for granted."

Yes. There is a generation gap of epic proportion barreling at us Baby Boomers at the speed of technology. Oddly enough -- we created the technology. The challenge now is, how to be a Baby Boomer in a world that embraced our changes?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Law Firm Relationship Networks: Business or Social

Question asked: "Isn't a business relationship network the same as a social network. My quick answer: "No."

Longer answer -- A business relationship network in most cases represents the people we network with to advance our business goals. This network is made up of referral resources for business or position. Our bond is that I've determined you can help me achieve a business objective and you've determined that I might reciprocate in some career benefiting way. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this type of networking. In fact I would argue that an attorney cannot succeed without some talent in this area.

A social relationship network represents the people we're connected to beyond the goals of a career or business objective. Our bond to people in our social network comes from feeling like they are someone we can relate to, and our friendship extends into self-image and identity.

It is possible that people from one network or another can move in and out of either.

Business relationship example: I know a service provider who is working hard to build his book of business. I have met with him a few times, compared clients, talked about whom we each know, and discussed how to make mutual introductions. Outside of knowing each others business goals and working that (mutually agreeable) benefit we have no other connection.

Social relationship example: I know a sales executive that rarely travels in my business circles. While he has been of some help with a few business connections and ideas I value him more as being a friend. I know his wife, spent time with his family and we share stories like two Boy Scouts at a campfire. The business benefit of the relationship is definitely less important than the friendship (yet a business and/or mentoring relationship remains).

The question came from someone wondering about the value of creating social networks inside, or outside, a law firm (see my last post). I believe it is part of the human experience to not only feel like we can be in a certain place, but to also feel like we belong. That is what social networking is all about -- to find people we relate to at a level more personal than just business.

When I have been able to enable social networks inside and outside of my firm for attorneys the return has been worth any effort.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Bring Social Networking to Your Next Retreat

Here is an idea that may help your next law firm retreat be a true bonding experience... and most certainly memorable! The basic idea is to use existing online social networking sites to create an "insiders network" among the attorneys at your retreat.

  • Bring to retreat -- laptop for every attendee (if they are not already bringing their own), at least two or three image scanners, and projecting equipment.
  • Request that all attorneys bring current and dated photos of themselves. Preferably photos taken anywhere but at work.
At the Retreat:
  • Schedule a minimum of 5 hours of retreat time dedicated to participation in building the social network.
  • Start with everyone going online and signing up at a social networking site like MySpace or FaceBook. Waling them through the process is extremely helpful. Once signed up walk everyone through all of the different tools and "homepage" options they are offered. Remember that most social sites allow users to only be viewable by "friends".
  • Turn everyone loose on creating their homepage. Have them add photo's (here is where the scanners come in), pick out their homepage "theme songs, an avatar.
  • Have them make at three "diary" posts about themselves. You may even select what they write about. For instance you could have them write about their favorite childhood memory; the one thing they've done that would surprise other people; and their favorite pastime.
  • Once everyone has created their homepage have them go online and register/signup other people at the retreat as their "friends". The idea here is to start letting participants to see what everyone else has created.
  • Let everyone explore, laugh, ask, and talk about all of the different things they will discover.
  • Start a vote. Let people vote on "most popular" (for whatever reason), most original, most weird, etc.
  • Tally votes and start showing sites on a big screen. Believe me, the conversation will border on hilarious fun for as long as you keep putting new homepages on the big screen.
  • When the fun is over don't forget to remind people they can take their homepage down as if it never existed.
The big picture is to allow people to be seen beyond the four walls of a firm environment. Instead of being bound in politics of position or at-work culture everyone is revealed as individuals. Bonding will happen at a personal level like you would not believe.

Are you ready to take your attorneys to a new place?

Social Networking Retreats ©2007 Bruce Allen

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Illustrating Firm Brand vs. Individual Brand

Here is an idea you can use for illustrating the usefulness of individual attorneys to keep their personal brand within the message and vision of the firm brand. It is particularly useful at partner or attorney retreats when you have the attention of a larger group.
  • Slide One: The first slide contains the key elements of the existing or proposed firm brand. Possibly the logo, tag line, a vision statement and words and elements used in electronic or printed media.

    Ask this question: "Does this describe each of you, individually, perfectly?" I suspect the answer will always be, "No." Which will be true.

  • Slide Two-Three: Create key elements for two (or more) of the individual partners in your firm as if they were the whole firm. This will take a little work and creativity, but create a logo and tag line and add some elements that might also express the individuals as if they were a firm unto themselves. Before the presentation check out your creations with the individuals so that they are in agreement on the depiction.

    Ask this question: "Does this describe all of you as a firm?" I again suspect the answer will always be, "No."

  • Slide Four: This slide will contain mock business cards (six-ten) for attorneys at your firm. Each mock card will display the firm logo and a logo specific to the attorney on the card. Each card may also have a different layout and color scheme.

    Ask this question: "If a team of our attorneys were to meet with a prospective client, and each of them offered up cards from this selection, would the client believe he/she is meeting with a unified team?" Once again I suspect the answer will be, "No?"

  • Slide Five: This slide will be a repeat of Slide One (the firm brand) and will include a description of the expertise of one of the attorneys. The message for the attorney will definitely include what makes him/her special but is stated within the boundaries of the firm message.

  • Slide Six: Repeat Slide Five highlighting another attorney. Repeat with additional attorneys as you see fit.

  • Slide Seven: Repeat Slide One just as it was -- Firm message only.

    Ask this question: "Can you see how being an individual within the framework of a powerful brand can create an aura of strength and prestige not available to attorneys who are only promoting themselves?" I believe the answer you'll hear is, "Yes!"
The power of visual aids is awesome! And, the desire to associated with something big and powerful is inherent to the human experience. If you can demonstrate to your attorneys how they can remain an individual AND be part of something bigger, they will respond.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Entertain the Audience You're With

I attended a luncheon at noon today hosted by a local civic association and the keynote speaker was an architect who was going to talk about the many changes happening in this particular corner of Orange County.

Just for background -- Orange County, CA is running out of square acres to advance the suburban sprawl, so instead of building outward, the OC is beginning to build upward. In the last several months multiple high-rise condo projects have started or been announced. Here in the OC, it's a big deal. And three of the announced high-rises are going up in a three block area smack in the middle of the territory represented in the audience of today's speaker. Back to the lunch and lecture....

The speaker had about 30 minutes. He started with a history lesson in the growth of cities showing pictures of villages behind timber walls, then talked a bit on the ethos of man's desire to leave a mark. Next he talked about evolving skylines with pictures of multiple cities around the country stopping along the way with commentary on architectural styles and aesthetics (We're now 20 minutes into the speech). Following our tour of city skylines he arrived in California spending eight minutes talking about the history of Los Angeles and San Francisco. With only a few minutes remaining he finally got to what everyone in the room was really interested in -- the giant towers about to be constructed and the significant changes they would bring.

But wait... we needed a quick history of this little corner of the OC first. ARRGH! At last we see the first pictures of what the buildings would look like. But on the second of these slides he talked for a minute or so about what the view would be like from the upper floors (he was of the opinion that east-facing was more dramatic then west).

By now his time was up and the emcee has stepped to the side of the dais to signal an end. Our speaker, commenting that he was about out of time stated that he still had several slides but would go through them quickly. It turns out quickly meant he stood silently while flipping through the pictures on-screen -- about one second per slide, no commentary. What he flipped through was the meat of what everyone came to see! Double-ARRGH!

Today I learned a lot about the history of high-rises, the technology of building with large glass surfaces, the ethos of man, but next to nothing about the great changes about to happen in my back yard.

Lesson: Play to the audience you are with, not to the audience in your head!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Why Some Luncheons Don't Draw Quality Attendees

I have attended several luncheons and breakfasts lately that drew miserable audiences. I say that with regard to why I want to be at an event. 1. I want to learn what I do not know, and, 2. I want to be in a balanced audience of people that are my peers, people I look up to professionally, people that I'd like to get to know (whether for business or professional development), and people I might be able to help. Many events do not accomplish this instead drawing a weak audience that does not build any momentum for future events.

So how can an event draw a more balanced guest list? Here are my thoughts.
  • Start by focusing on the most desirable attendee. Most events have a speaker discussing a topic. Find speakers that talk about subjects that are REALLY relevant and interesting for your desired attendee. The most common mistake is to have a speaker talking about what every other event is talking about -- or talking on a topic that has been covered sixteen ways to Sunday year after year.
  • Select a speaker that is absolutely credible as the best person to speak on the topic. I attended a luncheon on advertising where all of the panelists, though each in the advertising industry, had no credible experience or success within the topic of the meeting (do you smell favoritism here?). Anyone can have an opinion, but opinions do not make for learned discussions. Give me real world, been there, done that!
  • Make the effort to ask your desired audience what they want. End of luncheon questionnaires only gather the opinions of who showed up. Pick up the phone (use committees to do this) and ask your desired attendees what THEY would want.
  • Promote your sponsors, but keep them off the stage. Period.
  • When all else fails, if you have an event committee, replace all of them. Many organizations suffer by allowing committees to remain intact for year after year. Beyond a few hurt feelings the changing of the "blood" often produce revitalizing results.
I went to an great event this evening hosted by the Association for Corporate Growth in Orange County. The quality of attendees was A+ and then some. Overall the ACG of Orange County has been incredibly consistent about hosting vital events because they are constantly testing their volunteers (committee members) and never settle for lackluster results. When a luncheon or evening activity starts falling short they make changes, being in new blood, and strive to be exceptional. They don't desire to sell tickets -- they want to make a difference.

Follow these simple rules, add some passion, and your events will create the buzz you're looking for.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

An Lesson in the Eloquence of Whitespace

Years ago I was a graphic artist for the LA Times preparing double-truck auto dealer ads. It was a weekly graphic nightmare to squeeze every last ounce of open space out of a two page spread -- 20 new car promotions plus 60 used cars, no problem. I hated doing those ads. It was the same time-frame as when VW was placing one car in the middle of a blank page and eating everyones new-car-sales lunch.

This article at A List Apart states eloquently the reason whitespace is so powerful when creating any graphic element (text, illustration, or a combination of both). The best example of how law firms abuse whitespace is in tombstone ads. Almost 100% of firms using tombstones will line the entire ad space with boxes, inside boxes, inside more boxes in the attempt to list as many transactions as possibly readable. The thinking behind this type of space use is that readers will be terribly impressed with all of the work a firm does. In truth the space is so packed and jumbled to the eye of the reader that nothing but confusion is communicated.

I do like Mark Boulton's point about use of space: Less whitespace = cheap; more whitespace = luxury. Eloquently put Mark.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Lessons from Italy

Italy was a wonderful experience! Spending the holiday with my daughter was really special -- and to spend the time in Tuscany (where she lives as an art student) was a great adventure. Though I mentioned in my last post that I might peek into the legal industry I am happy to report that I thought of nothing even close to work related. Cell phone off; email a distant memory; just relax and enjoy. Yet in retrospect there are some interesting insights that have occurred to me since returning that I'd like to share.

  • Social awareness goes further than enforced law. We witnessed a man urinating in an alley and in typical American fashion we shook our heads and turned away. A young Italian gentleman walking by actually stepped into the alley and berated the man relieving himself in public. He didn't challenge the man but instead simply told him that he was acting shamefully and terribly inappropriate. "Have you no pride?" he asked. The man he addressed was an immigrant street vendor and the young Italian was quite comfortable to confront someone that stepped outside the boundaries of “acceptable”. It felt like much of Italy operates this way – act accordingly or be called out.
  • Look further than your own mirror before walking out the door. Italian’s have a great sense of fashion and personal appearance. While everyone exuded personal expression, in total, they fit in with each other. What really stood out where so many American tourists who dressed like they didn’t own a mirror nor cared about what other people thought of them. Now I can certainly appreciate the value of individualism but, if first impressions state, “dork”, what benefit is derived? Italian’s seem to understand that individualism has to start from within accepted boundaries.
  • Tradition is crucial for creating anything new. The people of Tuscany are building plenty of new things… buildings, businesses, cultural centerpieces… yet everything new feels like it is built on what has come before. Tradition and history offer a stable foundation for exploring new ideas without being too far from what is known. Too often, in America, we think that unless we are totally outside the box it’s not worth trying.
  • Old is beautiful. Instead of razing old neighborhoods to build something grander the people of Tuscany make the effort to renew grand old places without destroying history. The result is of storybook quality.

If you have not been to Tuscany (Florence, Siena, San Gimignano, and more) I heartily recommend at trip for you. It is AWESOME!

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...