Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Helping Attorneys to Rebuild Their Relationship Pipeline

It is a business development challenge of extraordinary proportion that many attorneys face. Multiple years of successful practice and suddenly their traditional pipelines/relationships dry-up or disappear. Their clients have moved to new markets the firm does not serve, they've been on the sell-side of too many transactions, or their clients have retired leaving no legacy relationships. No matter the cause it is a painful time for the attorney and a noble challenge for any marketing or business development professional to take on. There is much that can be done if the attorney is willing (if they are reluctant or unwilling is the topic of a different post to come).
  • Find out who they already know (that are left for them TO know) that can help in a rebuild. Have them set up meetings with these persons and ask the attorney to be honest in those meetings about their situation. "My client base has changed and I am going to rebuild my practice." They will find that with their honesty will come much needed understanding and help (with referrals and suggestions).
  • Look at your own business community activities. What are you doing in the community that you can offer inclusion to the attorney? Take them with you to your own meetings with industry people relevant to their practice. Whom do you know that could be a good relationship for them. Open your rolodex and share.
  • Do they have an area of true expertise that could benefit the existing clients of other attorneys? Talk to other attorneys at the firm and create synergy where you can. Recruit other attorneys to offer inclusion in their industry/community activities.
  • Get the attorney on the street meeting people. Sign them up for events. Go to the events with them and assist in introductions and relationship intelligence. Help them enlist in associations and get on active committees and boards.
  • Be tough if that is what is called for. Some habits and routines become ingrained and change is always tough. When they don't show up, skip opportunities, or are not responsive let them know you're paying attention to these things. While it may feel uncomfortable this is what you must do.
  • Spend private time with the attorney to offer mentoring and understanding. Often the most an attorney needs is a compatriot and a shoulder. They are already successful but need to know someone believes in them now for their success to continue.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Getting a frank, complimentary photograph of an attorney is not always easy. Let's face it, very few people are comfortable in front of a camera, and attorneys in particular have a heightened awareness of "self". Heightened awareness of self is a wonderful quality of great lawyers, but just a bit tougher to capture in a photo. Here are my tips for capturing their quality's on film.
  • Treat your subjects like "talent", which they are. "Talent" is the Hollywood nickname for the people in front of the camera. "Talent" occupy a special place and, within reason, need to be catered to. The moment your attorney steps on the "set" take care of them. What do they need? What can be gotten for them? Do they feel like the most important person there?
  • Put your attorneys at ease by having them pose in difficult positions early. By pushing their natural feelings of discomfort to the edge early everything else feels easier.
  • Keep the camera clicking. Instruct your photographer to snap shots between "official" poses. The digital age makes it possible to capture dozens and hundreds of photos -- both construed and candid. Both have produced remarkable results.
  • Search for a photographer that can adjust on the fly. Some photographers are so focused on their art that they can only work in perfection. I like photographers with news and event experience -- they seem to be able to capture outstanding images in any setting with any subject.
  • Do not let the "talent" see the photos while they are being taken. It will add to their self-consciousness.
  • Use makeup. At a very minimum have some powder around to minimize "hot-spots" on their face or exposed skin areas.
  • Be fussy about their details. How is the jacket hanging. Where are their hands. Is there a scuff on their shoe or a weird drape in their trousers/dress. Fussing around "talent" continues to let them know they are important.
  • Have fun! They're nervous, you're nervous, everyone is nervous. Humor always has a place when nervous people are at work.
I have been getting incredible photos of my attorneys at every shoot. I hope the same for you.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why is Membership Low -- Revitalizing Professional Peer Associations

In this marketplace there are at least 1500 law firms. Of those 150 are based here and have 20 or more attorneys. Also among those 1500 are dozens of satellite offices for larger super-regional, national and international law firms. One might surmise that there might be more than a handful of law firm marketers, business developers, and marketing oriented lawyers in town. In fact, the membership in the local chapter of LMA is only 40 strong! Yup. 40.

I've known many of the local marketers for a long time, and I've known most of the board and LMA members (at least casually) for a few years. I know the local chapter is dedicated to doing a great job and regularly holds lunches to gather the legal marketing community together. But something has happened along the way and most of the community appears apathetic about mingling and learning with their peers. As a developer of relationship networks for so many other professionals I am disappointed by my apathy in building a peer network for myself. I even wrote about the importance of peer networks!

What I am going to do in the next several months, in addition to writing all things marketing, is share on this blog what we do and how we are doing as we try to rebuild the membership of the SoCal LMA. That's right... instead of just offering my opinion I have stepped up to help some really talented people get this thing done. Instead of just being a critic I hope to be a worker.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

More Proof: Entertainment at Events Matters

This evening I returned to the ginormous event I talked about in my last post. Tonight the headliner was the artist that sang the song "Shout" in the movie Animal House. I talked with a lot of people tonight and the overwhelming reason that SO MANY conference attendees were still at the conference in the waining hours of the whole deal was that they did not want to miss anything.

Get it!? The attendees were so entertained that they didn't want to leave! A financial conference!

It does not matter the content. If you make entertainment your number one priority your audience will be in the palm of your hands.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Entertainment Should Always be the Top Priority at a Business Event

Two revealing moments today about entertainment at events. The first came late this afternoon while sitting in an organizing committee meeting for a new awards event launching in Orange County (more news on that in a few months). While discussing sponsor benefits the topic of introductions of award recipients came up and most of the committee was leaning toward the common practice at business events; Introduce a sponsor who in turn introduces the award recipient. Depending on the event you go to that process can last two minutes and more often lasts ten.

I've talked about this process before. Why would we subject an audience to a tedious process that we ourselves do not like to endure when we are the attendee? It is an anti-entertainment dogma that must be stopped. A sponsor on a stage is not a "wow-fun" memorable moment and you should not subject your sponsors to the negative side effects. Instead, find ways to give them the branding they crave, without bringing them to the stage.

Think of it this way -- Would I be entertained? Which brings me to my second revealing moment today. I attended a reception/party for a mid-cap finance conference this evening.

As boring as that sounds from the outside I would venture to say the annual Roth Capital Conference is one of the most popular, gotta-be-there, conferences in the country. The reason? They stumble over themselves trying to find interesting ways to make every day a fun day. Tonight's headliner onstage just won a Grammy for top rap artist. Yah! That guy! I would mention his name but do not need the errant search hits coming here.

Throughout the conference the organizers sprinkle incredible fun into the day and they don't get hung up on procedure. There was no introductions tonight, no speeches of welcome and nothing from the stage about purpose, cause, or sponsors. They just turned everyone loose to do what they came to do -- network and have fun.

I talked with a lot of the sponsors and their unanimous response was, "Heck yah this is worth every penny we spent!"

Next time you are creating an event think hard about the entertainment value of every moment. Would I LOVE to attend an event such as I am creating?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

What Do You Stand For?

Life, many say, is a compromise. It feels that way sometimes with all of the things I must "have patience" to endure. Working as a law firm marketer for many feels this way much of the time -- I want to make a stand on something I feel is important but in the final measure think it wise to let it go.

While some of this type of thinking is quite OK, a marketer does need to make a stand from time to time. One, because they DO know the right path, and two, because if we do not believe in ourselves how can we expect that others will. Here are a few things that I consider worth standing for:
  • The brand of your firm - Someone HAS to be "the firm" as if the "firm" had a human voice. If you have done your groundwork and created a brand that absolutely represents the firm as a whole you need to be ready to stand up to its parts. You see... the brand of a firm is not perfect for everyone -- it is perfect for all. Understand this and you'll have the right armor to defend it.
  • The growth of your people - Being a mentor/boss requires absolute loyalty when they have earned nothing less. People grow because they feel safe to make choices (even poor choices).
  • Relationships mean more than qualifications - Too many times I've been asked to expend extraordinary effort to create a proposal when the principles involved had literally done nothing to know the people they were proposing to. The most successful attorney I have ever known would admit he was at best an "average" attorney. But he was really good at creating great relationships before he ever asked for the work.
  • Truth matters more than emotion - I have heard incredibly passionate arguments for doing the wrong thing... just as I have heard passion for doing right. Be always ready to stand for truth. As marketers the truth may be in approach, proposal, relations, or message. What matters to me is that I stand for knowing what is true and acting on that knowledge.
What are you willing to stand for? Nothing defines a quality marketing person more than their passion for their craft.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Law Firm Marketing Consultants - What to Charge for Services

There are a lot of marketing consultants providing services to law firms of all sizes. There is an equal range of both quality of consultants and prices they charge. One of the most common questions I am asked by consultants I've been privileged to know or mentor is, "How much should I be charging for my services?" Many of the larger consulting firms have established price structures... the question is more common from solo and small shops.

My answer is, "You should charge what you are worth." I realize this appears to be a non-answer, but in fact, it is quite concise. Consider these three items:
  • Charge enough so the work provides a living (if in fact you can develop a full-time level of business).
  • Charge as much as the market will bear. To find that number raise your price until the market starts saying, "No".
  • Charge as much as you can say out loud to a client or prospect without getting the giggles or feeling foolish.
To the last bullet -- I have a consulting friend who has helped two different technology companies skyrocket their sales in short order and is responsible for a ton of incredible campaigns with many other clients. Her top billable rate is $150hr. When I was consulting my top billing was $300hr. I would consider her skills far superior to mine and yet she can't get over a personal hurdle of asking for more than $150.

While some might say there is a lot of science and formula for determining billing/project rates I will argue that it is something totally different... Which would explain why billing rates are all over the board. Use my three rules and see what happens for you.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Law Firm Marketers -- Learn to Be Switzerland

Every firm has a culture -- part politics, part personalities, part skills, clients, staff, life, world... whatever. Within reason I believe it is the mission of law firm marketers to remain neutral within a firm to the ebbs and flow of internal politics! Marketers need to be Switzerland -- the country famous for remaining outside the fray.

Recently I embarked on a marketing project that involved both clients and partners at my firm. I created a list of clients that best represented the message I am targeted at communicating. I based all of my selections on what I believe (through knowledge and studies) the market needed to hear from us (the firm). Once I had this larger list put together my mission became gaining consensus from the partners of the firm on which client/partner teams to finally include.

From my list partners were able to identify trouble candidates. This included clients on the ropes, clients with problems that would conflict with our "image", and attorneys that were currently in conflict with the "norm" of what is accepted within the firm. Certainly this is a touchy area.

My firm in particular is wonderful at keeping attorneys on-board in challenging times. Our success and retention speaks for itself. But not every attorney is perfect at every moment. That's why marketers should remain neutral to internal politics. We need to present the best programs for our markets -- politics and/or culture are best left with those truly in its grasp.

Through their knowledge of the current politics a marketer can arrive at the perfect list for right now. Give it a few months and it might be entirely different. What matters is that by remaining neutral marketing can gain the right result in the right moment for both the firm and the markets we pursue.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Power and Pain of Law Firm Testimonial Advertising

Plenty of advertising studies have shown how influential testimonial advertisements (relative to other types of advertising) can be without regard for industry, segment or buyer.

At first blush, what could be easier -- call good clients and ask them for a nice quote about why they use your firm. In truth, getting those quotes is just a little bit tougher, and not because there are not enough clients with good thoughts about your firm.

First, for some lawyers, asking a client for a quote is pretty close to conducting a client satisfaction survey. "What if I ask and they say they would love to except that last case you handled." Coming right out and asking someone to say something nice is REALLY scary for a lot of people (not just attorneys).

Second, attorneys may not believe that clients would do such a nice thing for nothing. "If we use them in advertising will they want favors in return (discounts, special handling, etc.). For some people everything good comes with a price (or at least that is their perception).

In both cases it is important to recruit "early-adopter" attorneys to offer up their clients for the campaign. Their experiences will speak volumes to those less willing. Make sure to broadcast feedback from early ads to the entire firm.

A third difficulty is getting quotes from clients that are perceived as "influential" among your target audience. Sometimes a testimonial project gets sidetracked by attorneys that demand the use of specific clients for the glamor or business relationship. In this instance decision by committee is particularly effective. Having a committee of attorneys selecting the field of clients will significantly reduce individual influence on final selections. Make sure that your selection committee has a clear understanding of the message of the campaign.

The final difficulty I will comment on today is getting client, attorney, and marketing crew to the same place on the right day. The best testimonial advertisements include a picture of the client, with the attorney, (my preference) in an environment that relates to the business of the client. Often scheduling can prove to be the most disastrous.

When it comes to scheduling I start with the marketing crew calendar (firm marketer, photographer, makeup), feed it to the client, and then work with the attorney schedule. Here is why I do it in that order.
  • The marketing crew will have the most flexible schedule and can offer the broadest range of appointment times. Send a choice of appointments to the client based on the marketing crew schedule.
  • The client will have the (perceived) least flexible schedule in most cases. They will dictate absolute availability.
  • The attorney, based on what the client selects, will then make choices. By allowing the client to select first the attorney will be able to make priority choices with any conflicts.
Getting a client, in print or media, to say wonderful things about your firm is a great thing! Make sure you are ready to take on this challenge.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Advertising for Law Firms Can Never Be "The" Answer

(Written from the context of advertising as a professional services provider to business) Understand this one thing and you have taken a major leap in understanding: "Advertising can never stand alone to produce results."

So often I hear law firm marketers and attorneys stating that advertising cannot be measured and is inherently a waste of budget. With deeper questioning I hear that advertising is expected to stand on its own to produce new business -- as if the firm had deployed a person to be face-to-face with potential customers. That's like saying to look at a CD cover is as good as hearing the music. Not true! Advertising only works if it is an integral part of a larger program with other parts.

Last year I started a high volume ad campaign with a business journal local to a business market I am pursuing. In addition to the paid advertising I launched a PR campaign and sponsorship initiative that focused on the same target market as the readers of the local journal. Behind those direct tactics we engaged in targeting specific people in the business network who could exert influence on our behalf.

Only by combining ALL of the elements of the overall initiative can the advertising have a desired result. Advertising CANNOT stand alone.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Law Firm Marketers: Watch the Details on Sponsored Events

The pace of sponsored events is always daunting and it is easy to just let X or Y association event committee handle the details and only pay attention to the specific sponsorship benefits you've been promised. But not paying attention to how the event is organized and managed may reflect poorly on your brand if the activity is a flop. Consider taking the time to look at these additional details:
  • What is the makeup of the event organizing committee? Are there too many people on the committee with personal agenda's? Are there just too many people on the committee? Turmoil within the organizing committee always signals a bad result. With too many people pushing for their own agenda who will stand up for the event?
  • Look for realistic expectations within the agenda and budget. Do they anticipate how difficult it is to secure sponsors? Can they point at any statistics to support their attendee projections? Can committee members "wear the attendees shoes" and understand how to keep the experience out of the "pain" zone?
  • Are there too many people with the same skill-set on the committee. Too many left or right brain types will only focus on what they know well. If you have a committee filled with "numbers" people they will overlook entertainment value and marketing. Too many marketing types and cost or logistical details will be taken for granted. Try for a committee with an equal and thorough balance of talent so that no discipline takes a "power" seat.
  • Listen for whom the committee is trying to please. If the committee says, "we" (us), more than they say, "them" (attendees), the committee may be too interested in their goals than the goals of their attendees. I have always found that a singular focus on the attendee experience produces all the results I need for my firm.
  • Pay attention to "back-door" politics. Some committee members may try to sway an event to their vision by leveraging opinions outside of the committee meetings. Often people volunteer for committees simply because they're control, position, and power oriented. While useful in some situations these sorts of people could be deadly to the quality of an event.
Finally, it is important to know when to walk away. When all of the danger signals are going off left and right the worst thing you can do is stick it out while saying to yourself, "I won't sponsor this event again." The time to stop is now! Walking away is not easy, but if you are going to be the champion of your brand then you must make decisions like a champion.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Charisma for Attorneys

I found this article at wikihow on how to develop personal charisma. I think the author did a good job of summing up all of the correct characteristics of those with charisma -- but actually changing someone from "without" to "with" is quite a task. Sort of like a leopard trying to change his spots. Nonetheless, the article would be a great outline for discussion at a business development meeting for your partners and associates.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Choosing Between News and Newsworthy for Law Firm Press Releases

The very nature of business at a law firm is to produce results. The larger the firm the longer the list of daily results. Unfortunately most of the results accomplished are newsworthy for the client, but not the law firm. That does not mean that most results have no use to the firm. On the contrary – with the exception of bad news and negative rulings just about everything a firm accomplishes can be marketing fuel for the firm. Here is a short list of how to market firm accomplishments and activities:
  • Transactions and cases - This is news for the client. Unless the result is of epic proportion there will be no traction for a news editor to publish your firm release. Create a one paragraph summary of the activity and publish to your website.
  • Firm news (people, leadership changes, awards, gifts, and hallmark events) - Items that touch your target community or demonstrate your commitment as a member of the community will generally get picked up by localized media. In addition to sending out a press release be sure to post on your website.
  • Firm news (sponsorships, seminars, presentations) – All of these items should make it onto your website under news and/or events. When sponsoring an activity, work with the event PR team to orchestrate mention of the firm involvement whenever reasonable. On the backend of any presentation, look for story ideas within the content that can be pitched to editors.
Some things are worth a mention in local (and national) media. MOST things are not. This is a truth. That does not mean that everything cannot speak for your firm -- just that not everyone is as excited about your results as you are. Use all of it. Just use it appropriately.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Observations from the Law Firm Marketing Partners Forum

I attended the Marketing Partner Forum, hosted by the West Legalworks, in San Diego on January 24-25. All-in-all I was quite pleased with the content and the quality of attendees and will definitely make plans to attend next year. That said, here are my top-of-mind observations.
  • Law firm marketers are more and more sophisticated. Not to disparage those who came before (I would consider myself an "old-timer" as well), but as the professional of legal marketing is maturing the variety and eloquence of initiatives is amazing!
  • Corporate counsels want to minimize the number of outside attorneys they use (convergence). They are much more comfortable having service relationships with 10 firms vs. 40, or 100, or whatever the number is.
  • Law firms that deploy client teams are appreciated by clients.
  • Presentations that actually talk about their published topic are much better than sessions with fancy names and little relevant content. I was really looking forward to the session on blogging and podcasting, but with the exception of Larry Bodine's insights, the session digressed into technical demonstrations of Internet software. I do not wish to take away from the exceptional expertise that each panelist brought to the conference... just a comment on that panel, that day.
  • Law firms need to stop spending so much money on fancy collateral and more time on developing unique relationships. GCs at that conference, and at a subsequent seminar I attended stated clearly that brochure register barely a blip on their radar when making legal services choices.
  • Most marketers I spoke to have a healthy attitude about being competitive. For the most part no one had visions of ruling the world (as if that is possible). Instead they were focused on playing their best game to remain a viable force within their respective markets.
One final thing. I was nominated for the Hubbard One Marketing Director of the Year by my firm (I was quite humbled) but in end the award went to another marketer. OK, so he'd made enough quality noise through legal marketing initiatives that Harvard Business School did a case study. It is hard to beat that kind of excellence! Congratulations! I'm thinking about calling Wharton -- maybe they'd be interested in studying the life and times of a Marketing Catalyst....

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