Thursday, June 28, 2007

Should a Law Firm Have a Trade Show Booth for Sponsored Events?

My quick answer is, "No!" -- it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Whom will staff the booth? A marketing person? He/she can't discuss legal issues, so what value does that serve? A lawyer? He/she bills at some large rate. Standing around waiting for someone to talk with on the lottery sized chance of an opportunity is incredibly unproductive.

Maybe you believe it's a great place to stack literature for attendees to grab. After thousands of events I have yet to witness viable prospects loading up on literature or gotten any feedback that a brochure or cool flatscreen dispay created a need. Most event attendees are looking for ways to get rid of what they are already carrying.

But, you might say, having that big booth up adds to your "presence". There are so many ways to enhance your visibility that do not cost $30K-$60K plus staff plus time and wasted space.

Manage your sponsorship benefits properly and a booth is a useless nuisance.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Planning a Business Seminar that Draws Your Target Audience

This one gets a bit twisted but stick with me. Your task is to create a business seminar to attract, in this example, CEOs of middle-market private companies. For this purpose you have gathered six or seven executives from different professional service firms (your law firm, private wealth management, accounting, business consulting, etc.) to plan and sponsor the event or series.

At the first organizing meeting each of the professional services executives weigh in on what the topic of the seminar should be:
  • The accountant states that everyone he is dealing with is concerned about tax reporting changes. That should be our topic area.
  • The business consultant states that her network of relationships is totally concerned about increasing the value of their companies as they get ready for some type of liquidity event. That is where we should focus.
  • The wealth manager states that his network is all buzzing about distribution of assets. This is the topic that will draw our target audience.
Each sponsor executive will of course be surrounded by people with specific needs, and in turn, believe those special needs dominate the minds of all CEOs. Sound familiar?

The correct way to determine a hot topic is to have each sponsor call five CEOs and ask one simple question. "If someone could teach you about any one topic to help you and your business, right now today, what would that topic be?"

An add-on question could be, "Whom would you like to learn it from?"

Try this little thing and you may be amazed at the number of CEOs that line up to get at a seat at your next seminar.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Selecting a Client and Dating are Pretty Close Cousins

I have always believed that the relationship between an attorney, accountant, or any service provider and their client is more personal than business. From the service provider side; the service we offer is an absolute commodity and our clients can get it anywhere. The choices our clients make about where they get their services from are based almost entirely on personal chemistry and trust for us as individuals. Sounds like dating, doesn't it? Here are a few tips for creating successful, happy client relationships.

Choose a client wisely and well. We are attracted to potential clients for all kinds of reasons. They represent income, shower us with praise, look good in our portfolio, spell defeat for a competitor, or we feel good about working with them. Evaluate a potential client as you would a mate; look at their character, personality, values, generosity of spirit, the relationship between their words and actions, and their relationships with others. Not every potential client is a match nor will you be happy to serve them over the long-term.

Know their beliefs about business relationships. Different people have different and often conflicting beliefs about what are correct expectations in a services relationship. You don't want to commit to a client relationship with someone who expects your loyalty even in dishonesty; or to someone that believes they are now due special favors for being a client. Only work with people that will respect you.

Don't confuse the allure of potential with reality. Especially in the beginning of a client relationship, attraction and pleasure in the potential business often override common sense.

Know your needs and speak up for them clearly. A good business relationship is not a guessing game. Many people (your clients and you) fear stating their needs and as a result, camouflage them. The result is disappointment at not getting what they (you) want and resentment for not having met mutual (unstated) needs. Closeness cannot occur without honesty. Your client is not a mind reader.

View yourselves as a team, which means you are two unique individuals bringing different perspectives and strengths to accomplish one goal.

Know how to respect and manage differences. It is the key to success in a relationship. Disagreements don't sink relationships. A lack of respect does. Learn how to handle the negative feelings that are the unavoidable byproduct of differences between people. Stonewalling or avoiding conflicts is NOT managing them.

If you don't understand or like something your client is doing, ask about it and why he or she is doing it. Talk and explore, don't assume.

Solve problems as they arise. Don't let resentments simmer. Most of what goes wrong in relationships can be traced to hurt feelings which leads people to erect defenses against one another and to become strangers -- or enemies.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Double Anniversary

Today marks two anniversaries for me. Anniversary One -- I have been the CMO at Rutan & Tucker for two years. Considering that the expected lifespan of the first CMO for law firm is 18 months I am pleased to report, I am still here!

Anniversary Two -- I've been blogging for eight years. WOW! Eight years! When I started in 1999 I was just whining out loud about the state of legal marketing -- I am glad the state of marketing for law firms has changed for the better, AND, that I've stopped whining.

The MC blog has been incredibly productive for me. I share ideas, people respond, and I hope, we all learn along the way.

Happy anniversaries to me!

Monday, June 18, 2007

What Do You Do? Think Fast, Answer Quickly!

If someone asks you "what do you do" the best way to respond is QUICKLY -- short and succinct. Entrepreneurs call it the "elevator pitch". Essentially the idea is to deliver an idea for a product or service in about thirty seconds. But as an attorney you are not talking about an idea, you are talking about you. An even BETTER reason for being brief. Remember that the best conversation, for you, is allowing the other person to do most of the talking.

Here is an idea that might help you boil your "what do you do" statement down to a minimum. Answer the question with only one breath. For most of us that means about 10 - 15 seconds. Anything more is too much. If your listener needs more information, they will ask. If you make your answer interesting, your listener will definitely ask for more.

During the dot com boom days I worked with a securities attorney whom, if asked, "What do you do?" could have responded with a whole lot of information about M&A, venture finance, alliance agreements, etc. Instead he always responded, "I am a business attorney and I specialize in making millionaires." Of course his audience would always be intrigued and ask, "How do you do that?" His response was, "It depends on what my business clients need to succeed. Tell me about where you are right now." Ingenious! By asking the right questions he only needed to talk about the specific areas of expertise that would be of interest to his audience.

Remember -- one breath. Let your audience lead the rest of the discovery process.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Tips for Building a Professional Services Career

Thank you to the Maryland Association of CPAs for picking up my series on networking tips. Maybe better for me than the link is finding a blog stuffed full of ideas for building a professional services practice. Their "about me" statement states a ton about their refreshed style of thinking: "Stuffed shirts and bean-counters? Not Maryland's CPAs! The state's most trusted business advisers break the mold. Sure, they know how to crunch numbers -- but they know how to do a lot more, too. They're world travelers, authors, politicians, rock stars, tech gurus, innovators and business leaders -- and they've got some great stories to tell."

AND, in line with their purpose -- KUDOs for tracking the Second Life activities of CPA firms on CPA Island in the SL virtual world.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Turn Practice Development into a Peer Experience

A common question from associates is, "How can I promote my practice to other lawyers at our firm?" A fair question. The logical and sound thinking is that a young lawyer might get more referrals internally if lawyers in other practice areas knew of the skills they could leverage for clients. Here are a few ways you can accomplish the task of internal networking, and one method I recommend above the others.
  • Ask and give a five minute presentation at practice group meetings (other than your own) about how your expertise could benefit their clients if the need arises.
  • Schedule one-on-one meetings with partners and associates in other practice groups.
  • Schedule one-on-one meetings with relationship partners representing specific clients that you've determined have great need for your expertise.
And, my preferred method:
  • Schedule meetings (one-on-one or as a group) with your peer attorneys in other practice areas. A peer attorney is one whom shares significant affinity to you. If you are a fifth-year -- seek out other fifth-year's. If you are being considered for partner track -- seek out others on the same track. You're a single parent -- seek out other single parents, etc.
The people most open to helping you build your network and business pipeline are those that can most relate to your situation. Inside a firm these sort of bonded alliances can be your greatest resource for growth.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Creating Buzz Tip #5: Get Your Name in Print

Creating personal buzz is about consistent recognition. If your name is in print readers will assign you heightened importance. It does not matter where your name is printed as long as it was put there ‘by someone else’ -- it can be as simple as your name listed as a committee member in a program guide. There are SO MANY ways to get your name printed.
  • You can be quoted in a news article
  • Named as the person orchestrating a transaction or deal
  • Listed on web and letterhead of a corporate or non-profit board
  • Write and publish an article (NOT an advertorial)
  • Be listed as a speaker or panelist
  • Collaborate on a project that is published
An important part of getting your name printed is having a PR (public relations) specialist on retainer. It is definitely worth the investment. The right PR person has the connections and savvy to create print opportunities. And, whenever possible, have your picture included when your name is printed (you do have a good editorial picture, right?).

Monday, June 04, 2007

Creating Buzz Tip #4: Hug Your Network

Here we enter an area of personal choice -- but if I might let me suggest a personal habit that will REALLY resonates positively with the people in your network. Give hugs.

People love to be hugged even though most will profess it makes them uncomfortable, but the discomfort does not come from being hugged. Most people I know agree that getting a hug (professional and appropriate) leaves them feeling special and individually appreciated. Most times the people I know state that their discomfort comes from not knowing how to receive a hug in business.

There is nothing that seals a bond between people faster than physical touch. In business, hugs ARE appropriate (in my opinion) if you have met with someone more than a few times, and of course, the friendship is coming along nicely. Maybe you are thinking that hugging is too personal. Well, I agree with part of that; It is personal. Or you might be thinking, there are some folks I am not ever going to hug. Period. OK… so don’t.

I can say from my own experience as an ‘on again-off again’ buzzed about person in my community that I shake a lot hands that turn into hugs. I have a lot of great, warm and caring business friendships. I don’t hug to get attention. I give hugs because it feels good. It turns out that hugs are very good for my buzz (people know you care = people buzz about those they care about).

I think the best example of how much this one thing works is when I meet with a group of business people, one or two that I know well, and one or more that I do not. Here is how it goes almost every time: I shake a hand, shake another, hug another, and shake the last hand. Almost EVERY time someone will comment, "How come I didn't get a hug!?"

Enough said.

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