Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Marketing Lawyers & Accountants is Much Like Offering a Dating Service

Have you visited or similar site? When you sign up the site will ask you a bunch of questions about whom you are and what you are looking for in a relationship. Next, Match will offer you profiles of people they think fit your needs. Then, you sort through their suggestions in hope of finding some measure of initial trust, chemistry and attraction.

Kind of like looking for a lawyer or accountant -- yes?

Here is a truth; A company does not select a firm. Instead, a person (company executive) is selecting a lawyer or accountant with whom they feel initial trust, chemistry and professional attraction.

So what does this mean? Oddly, I have an answer to the question I pose....
  • Stop being stuffy and traditional with bio's, photos and stories on your (dating service) web site. Help your professionals stand out as individuals and personalities.
  • Promote your firm less -- promote your people more. Unless you are in the branding stratosphere with Nike or Coke individuals will not connect with your grand statements and firm fluff.
  • Stop using stock art in any graphic project (web or printed). Start using images of your "personalities".
  • Allow potential clients to meet more than one professional. The person that brings in the lead may not be the one that can win the relationship.
  • Know when to say no. Without initial trust, chemistry and professional attraction there is no good reason to keep going further.
If you approach your marketing efforts as a dating service you will realize incredible results! Be a matchmaker and your firm will grow....

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Warmth of Belonging in the Herd

I was sitting at the Panera Bread shop in Newport Beach this afternoon renewing a relationship with a business friend from a few years back when another friend from the same era happened along to say hello and restart that connection as well. Totally cool! It must have been the karma of the moment. Just like the other night at Gulf Stream that I wrote about.

I left feeling warm and connected to people I respect, and have missed. And, I walked away feeling secure within the herd.

For me there are two really good reasons for building a network of business relationships:
  1. Relationships create opportunity -- We need relationships to find referrals, to locate mentors, to learn and to grow. The more people we know the better we're connected to our own purpose.
  2. Relationships create safety -- Feeling like we belong and are part of something is often the difference between success and failure. As a herding species we revel in knowing we have a place among many.
Every time I connect with people in my network of relationships (old or new) I get my own little private hug. I can only speak for myself but feeling like I am part of the herd is HUGE for me.

So, do you belong or are you out there all alone?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Building Stronger Business Relationships on the Fly

I got a call from a good business friend early this evening. "Hey Bruce! Troy (Wyatt) and I (Jim Hunter) are hanging out at Gulf Stream. Get on down here!" So I did. And on the drive over I called a few other folks to join us -- it was early evening and I hoped others might like to stop by on their way home.

Once at Gulf Stream our little group of three grew by a few, and since the restaurant is well located in the heart of the Orange County scene we ran into even more friends and connections. By the time I left we'd had at least a dozen great people gathered at our table to meet and greet. It was a total business networking experience.

After spending just a few hours hanging out with friends I'd made several connections, and even came away with a new client. Is that awesome or what!

What I got from this experience is that most people are just like me -- waiting for any excuse to hang out and feel included. It is a great reminder to me that being connected does not have to be planned in length around a grand design. I simply have to be willing to show up.

I encourage you to do the same.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Listening Lands More Clients than Talking

A good friend shared this story with me; "We were invited to sit down with a firm to discuss doing a marketing project for them. Walking into the appointment all we had with us were a couple of legal pads for taking notes and our business cards. At the appointment we asked a lot of questions, took good notes, and thanked the committee for inviting us to listen." My friend stated that the day after submitting a proposal he was informed he'd won the business.

His new client told him he had won the business mostly because he was the only firm that showed up prepared to listen. Each of the other competitors had arrived with lengthy presentations about the wonderful work they had done in the past for other clients and warm thoughts about why they were right for this project.

My friends story is not abnormal. In fact, his story is a not-so-secret truth about how to win new business and relationships. A simple rule to remember -- in a "first meeting" the person that does the most talking is the person that is certain things went really well.

My advise is, next time you or your firm are talking to a potential client leave your presentation at home and arm yourself with a pen and pad.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Law & Accounting Firm Marketing has Evolved

I was a guest at an IGAF conference for marketing directors in Salt Lake City yesterday and I am ecstatic to report that professional services marketing has evolved to new heights! During a round table discussion in the morning I actually got the feeling that maybe I need to go back to school -- not that I ever thought I was a final authority on marketing, but the folks in that room were SHARP! I took a lot of notes!

Years ago professional services marketing was more about execution (organizing and administering). The IGAF professionals yesterday definitely validated that marketers today are helping to guide the strategy of their firms and are eager to accomplish even more. A welcome evolution....

Friday, November 07, 2008

Which "Marketing" Do You Think Your Law Firm Needs?

A statement I hear so often in my circles is, "Every law firm needs marketing." "True," I say, "but not every law firm is in a place to use it or take advantage of it."

I believe there are three attitudes that define the marketing culture of a firm:
  1. "Marketing is not what we need." - In other words, the leadership of the firm really has no understanding of what marketing is even if much of how they find clients might be considered "marketing".
  2. "We need marketing and here is what marketing should do." - In other words, the leadership of the firm has already formed their own agenda about what to do and they would just like someone available to execute.
  3. "We would like a marketer to help us know what to do." - In other words, the leadership of the firm is ready to listen to ideas. They may not go along but are willing to ask for help.
Where is your firm? And which firms around you are really accelerating, right now, even in a churning economy?

I actually believe there is a place in the market for every firm no matter the marketing culture. But I am convinced the firms that are still viable in five years will be, or become, #3's.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Teaching Business Development Skills to Professionals

Your firm needs new business and you are being asked go find some. Except, you have never done this before and you are being forced through rainmaker classes, and it's the last thing on earth you feel comfortable doing! Believe me, I HAVE been there, and sometimes I still visit that place.

The other day an accounting firm partner was describing the training program just initiated at his firm. They had a consultant teach a couple of one-hour sessions on networking to their managers followed by a mock networking session. Now the managers are being asked to get out there and make something happen. YIKES! If anything the managers are even MORE intimidated and resistant.

Unfortunately most of what this firm is doing seems to be an accepted norm at too many firms. No wonder there are so few rainmakers.

Semi-officially, Behavior modification is the use of empirically demonstrated behavior change techniques to improve behavior, such as altering an individual's behaviors and reactions to stimuli through positive and negative reinforcement of adaptive behavior and/or the reduction of maladaptive behavior through positive and negative punishment.

As scary as that description just sounded... it stated; the same way you create good lawyers and accountants from the raw material received out of schools is the same way to create rainmakers. It requires time, effort, accountability, mentoring, teaching and patience. It is not a short process and requires your involvement!

When I was learning to network, talk at receptions to people I did not know and be purposeful about my business purpose (politely and appropriately) I was surrounded by sponsors that related to my discomfort and were willing to stick with me while I stumbled along. They listened to my fears, talked about their own and kept me focused on my success. AND, we made plans we could stick to.

If you are thinking that training a rainmaker can be accomplished with a couple of magic pills (classes) and a pat on the back once in a while, I encourage you to reconsider. Do not believe any program that is short term and does not involve mentored effort will accomplish your goal.

Graphic Artists are Crazy

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