Thursday, September 27, 2007

Use Holiday Parties for Connecting Relationship Dots

The holiday season is right around the corner -- an excellent opportunity to create incredible goodwill among the business relationships you have who do not know each other. . . yet.

Last year I attended a holiday party were these thoughts I am sharing started to form -- good people gathering to enjoy the season hosted by an executive I know at his home. They (the host and his wife) had invited people they knew from business and their neighborhood -- their Rolodex of relationships. I met some people in the finance community, a gentleman with a small promotions company, a software engineer, an artist, a surgeon, and people I already knew from other relationship circles.

At the party a common question among guests was, "How do you know (the hosts)?" It was incredibly interesting to hear all of the ways the hosts are connected to the people they invited.

But something else was happening too. I was able to create new relationships to people I would not have met but for the season, the party, and a savvy host.

This is important to note: For all of the reasons to attend an event there is nothing like the holiday season to help us disregard our usual "event filters" just to gather in friendship.

My advise for me (and for you if it makes sense): Remember that the holiday season creates the special opportunity to bring together the right people in one place when, at any other time, they would not cooperate.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lawyers, Stop Trying to Cross-Sell!

Cross-selling is DEAD! At least in the way that I have heard it defined for many years. That definition is attempting to get lawyers of one discipline or practice area to pro-actively sell additional firm services to a client.

Certainly a firm would like to work with a client across broad legal areas, but the old-school practice of cross-selling is so backwards. Essentially an attorney is asked to sell a product (another legal specialty) they don't know.

Why not turn the process around and enable opportunity to happen organically between attorneys at your firm.

What does work is "client teams" meeting regularly to discuss the business issues of a client. Team members are attorneys of different disciplines meeting to analyze the business issues of a client and brainstorming real solutions to difficulties that actually exist. Then, the client is offered something USEFUL and relevant to their business.

Cross-selling is saying to the client, "If I introduce someone to you would you consider finding work for her/him?" Client teams say to a client, "I've formed a brain-trust around YOUR business and YOUR issues, and we've uncovered some ideas for your business that could go right to your top-line."

Cross-selling is negative, stressful, and unwelcome. Client teams are fun, energetic, and enabling! YOU PICK.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Promoting a Superstar Lateral

Attorneys move from one firm to another for all the regular reasons any professional makes a move -- better money; brighter future; culture; lifestyle, etc. Sometimes though the attorney is an already acknowledged superstar in a market or niche.

Our desire as marketers, in these situations, is to want to use the move as a promotional opportunity -- high profile PR, maybe advertising, definitely announcement cards and maybe even a personalized letter to key clients and influencer's.

Something to keep in mind as you formulate your promotion plan is not only the positive ways to promote, but the negative fallout that may happen when a superstar makes a move. Consider these things:
  • A lot of clients will feel like they are hanging in limbo. Even after the pre-move conflict checks clear the bar some clients may not like your firm for some pre-existing reason. Some clients may have built a loyalty to the old firm as strong as their loyalty to the lateral. And some clients are really put off by change. The thing to consider is to never cause clients of the lateral to feel like they are not single most important consideration in the choice to move.
  • Do not rub the move in the face of competition. Negative campaigns of any fashion or form have more fallout than favor with clients and competitors alike.
  • Do not promote anything until the lateral has talked with every client and key influencer that is important to their future. Nothing builds resentment faster than feeling like "I am always the last to know."
  • Contact with lateral clients has to come from more than just the lateral. Of course the firm managing partner/CEO needs to embrace the client. And think about what other departments in your firm will be interfacing with the client or the client's support team. A introductory phone call can make all the difference.
  • Don't ignore the service community. The printer, accountant, consultant, etc. are equally important. If they have the ear of the client they can influence ultimate choices.
Never take the lateral move of a superstar for granted. Don't let a "big deal" bite you when you're not looking.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Time at the Podium -- Use it Wisely... and Sparingly!

I went to a large networking event this evening where more than 100 professionals had gathered to... network. Great conversations were happening left and right -- people were getting just what they came for. But then, as the evening was really picking up steam, the leader of the association hosting the event stepped to the podium, "to say a few words." And he didn't run out of words for 25 minutes. I was standing near the door and 10 minutes into his talk I overheard one person saying to another, as they were leaving, "what a buzz killer". Unfortunately, many more slipped out the door before the speaker was done.

Having permission to talk from a podium is an incredible responsibility -- to your audience. We have all experienced the doldrums of listening to someone that is going on long after our patience is exhausted.... So why, when the microphone is in our hands, do we insist on doing exactly what we dislike -- talking too long.

While we long to say the perfect things and search for the words to completely describe our passion or cause, I encourage you to respect your audience in the same way that you wish to be respected. Being brief is far more effective than rambling and preaching.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sometimes There's Just Not Enough Rocks -- Becoming a Stress Free Marketer

A lot of little stresses lead to one big anxiety -- over time burnout and resentment sour anything good we feel about the job we do or the place we work. Law firms in particular can be tough simply because it is a melting pot of such intense, driven personalities. A battle I share with so many legal marketing professionals is to stay free of little stresses that do not belong to me, and to deal with what DOES belong to me in a healthy way. Writing as a non-professional therapist, here are my suggestions:
  • Who owns the mess -- Often lawyers will become a champion of a cause or sponsorship that is of their own ideal, and less appealing to most others in your firm. A lawyer may pass the task of recruiting participants to marketing staff and suddenly you find yourself working to gain support for an unpopular activity. If you have been diligent with your part of the task, LET GO of the responsibility -- that belongs to the champion. Give a thorough report and let it go as job done. Hopefully a lesson has been learned as well.
  • Know where work ends and your life begins -- Many lawyers equate their experiences growing up in their profession as normal for all other professionals in the their sphere. Working 14+ hours a day? Of course. Always available whenever? Certainly. I'm sorry to disappoint but this is NOT normal, and I have no problem pointing this out when expectations get unreasonable. Protecting your time is your responsibility.
  • Stand up to one-off determination -- We are all faced with lawyers that want to do "something special" for an event, prospect, or project. Yet what they wish to do totally departs from the message, image, or direction of anything the overall firm is doing. I've had those moments -- standing my ground in front of a powerful partner as they demand that I "just do what I'm told", or they say, "Who do I have to talk to to get this done the way I want?" If you stand for "the firm" your ground is solid and you can walk away stress-free no matter the ultimate choice.
  • Be free to feel out loud -- Your lawyers will do it and you should too. You will earn their respect even if you loose the battle. And when it is over, let it go whichever way it swings.
  • List your priorities and stand by your list -- Often you will face one-off challenges that may disrupt what needs to get done. Be comfortable to say no to the emergencies (real or imagined) of others if that emergency is not reasonable.
  • Respect your own personal boundaries -- Any time a situation or task becomes uncomfortable you should listen. DON'T put up with rudeness. DON'T allow people to run over you. DO stand up for doing the right thing. DO expect others to respect you -- you've earned it just as they might have.
Taking care of ourselves is the single most important job any of us can accomplish. I hope that you know this as well as I.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Short Introductions from the Podium

This morning I attended a great venture capital event that was a join effort by two associations. Of course, part of the opening comments was the opportunity for each association to do a short commercial on themselves. How this was handled was priceless.

Instead of doing their own commercial the director of each introduced the other. It was... perfect. Both were accomplished in under two minutes, neither rambled on and on, and both were greatly appreciated.

Consider this great alternative next time you are planning an event.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Why Law Firm Marketers Need to be Networking

A marketing professional locked behind a desk and not active externally is a huge waste of assets -- a practice all too common among law firms. I have been a professional services marketer for more than 15 years now, and hands down know that if I was not active in business networking and attending events I could never have realized my own success.

Our business (law firm marketing) is both big picture (doing the block and tackle of marketing to present a firm brand) and little picture (connecting people to new relationships). I do my homework on the big picture stuff -- studying and learning what I can about classic marketing skills -- and I also do my homework on the street to learn about the movers and shakers that can propel my partners forward. That last part is pretty important -- "learning about the movers and shakers that can propel my partners forward."

It requires that I go to events, lunches, etc., check out attendees, ask about opportunities and learn about the different players in the market. This one action of exploring relationship opportunities as a neutral player makes all the difference.

From my neutral position I can gauge the quality of a potential connection and create the introductions that will be the most productive without bias.

Marketers are GREAT as observers and catalysts. If you are a marketer, use this skill to benefit your firm. If you are an attorney, allow your marketers the freedom to deliver this most essential service.

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