Monday, December 29, 2008

Every Law Firm Needs a Flag to Rally Under

When I was an active Marine we enjoyed an esprit de corps that lived within each of us.

Like any large organization there were thousands performing all form of tasks from highly technical to digging holes. Yet we all believed in our credo, "Every Marine is a rifleman first". This one common belief meant that any job we performed should ultimately result in a single outcome -- a perfectly aimed round (bullet) headed toward an enemy.

I hear from so many firms that are looking for growth and stability but cannot conquer their culture of individualism -- every partner/owner is running like crazy in their own direction and marketing can barely keep up with everyone being all over the map. Does this sound familiar to you?

What these firms lack is esprit de corps -- one flag that all can march beneath.

Any culture promoting that "you" must be successful and not "we" must succeed is a firm without a flag. By the way, "let's all make lots of money" is not a flag. It is a result.

I encourage firm leadership to find their flag, the identity of their firm, and to become hardline about keeping everyone faithful to that purpose.

Authors note: Uuuuurah!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Marketers Lesson in Changing Demographics

As a marketer I have always been hyper-observant -- I tend to notice EVERYTHING and anything taking little mental notes about people, culture, change, influences, and on and on. While I may be a bit over the top on this I am rewarded with incredible moments that others might miss. Today my moment taught me a ton about how much technology is reaching ALL generations.

I was sitting on a porch in an older neighborhood of craftsman homes on a tree-lined street. Sitting there, soaking up the sun on a crisp, beautiful morning I watched an older woman shuffle around the corner of the block heading up my street.

She looked like the stereotypical "old woman" -- short, hunched over and walking slowly like age and arthritis were taking their toll. She wore a long overcoat, dark boots, bright red scarf wrapped around her neck, matching knit cap, and a large shopping bag clutched under her arm (she had probably already journeyed a mile to go to the store and back again).

And as she shuffled along I was rewarded with my moment of the day....

She was gabbing away on a cell phone! Yup. Barely moving along at 0 miles per hour she was talking away with the phone held tight to her right ear. Wow! Technology totally messed with my perceptions!

The lesson is that I should never expect anything to remain the same. Old or young, people change with time, and with the times. As a marketer I should never assume anything except that only this moment matters... Have I done a good job of learning about my audience?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to the Catalyst in All of Us!

I am particularly reminded of the spirit of the holiday season this year.

I must confess it has been a long and tough year for me professionally. Starting a new firm, even with all of the support and encouragement I have received, is not easy.... Duh! I am learning so many lessons about what I can do and what I really need to do better.... OK, a whole lot better.

And in the midst of my challenges, this holiday season, I am receiving so much warmth from so many people I respect and care about. But maybe the best gift I received this year came from someone I did not know at all.

On Christmas Eve I found myself between a rock and a hard place at a Firestone dealership in Orange, CA. I was having a flat tire fixed and the problem quickly became very costly and seemed insurmountable. I explained my financial challenges to the service manager and somehow he came up with the least expensive solution. But the best was yet to come.

When I arrived to pick up my truck, it was fixed and, when he presented me with the bill I will never forget his kindness. He said, "No charge. Have a merry Christmas."

I hope this holiday season is wonderful for you. It has been for me and I am definitely looking for ways to pay this season forward.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Work the Goal, Not the Plan

Having a plan is a good thing, but too often The Plan keeps us from achieving our goal.

I had an interesting meeting with a potential client, and we were discussing his ambitious vision for his company. His comment was, "Yes, we do need to sit down and put together a plan for getting things done..." My sense in that moment was that the process of planning was so daunting for him the "planning" may never take place.

I know this place. I too have seen a goal in my head and never sat down to plan just because it can feel like there was no place to start. If I do start the planning, too often the process becomes its own monster -- a new goal that keeps me from actually moving forward on my original purpose. And I have also participated in planning meetings where the debate is not about reaching the goal but instead is a discussion on how to plan the plan and all of the endless variations of analyzing choices before a single step has been taken (a common roadblock when working with committees).

What I asked my potential client to consider was; "What will it look like if you reach your goal?" This simple question permits me or you to determine (and write down) where we want to be.
  • How many people will be working here?
  • How many projects or clients will you have?
  • What kind of cases or projects will you be working?
  • What will your income be?
  • How will you feel at your goal?
  • Etc.
Then I asked this gentleman, "What if instead of planning from here forward, we work instead from there backward?"

"Why don't we put the goal on the wall and walk backward through all of the little goals that will get us there? And then, from here forward why can't we look at The Goal, and the little goals in between, and for every idea that comes along we throw it at the wall and see if it sticks?"

In action it is like working a case study in success.

Now there are pundits out there that will throw sports and combat analogies at this theory. They can talk about how having a concrete plan in place first is the only method to succeed. But to them I say; here-forward planning for an action that will happen in a brief period in controlled environments is completely different from aiming for a goal that will happen over an extended period of time in a culture and environment that is constantly changing.

I say, if you are aimed at a goal that is months or years out there, don't work it from here to now. Work it from there to here. That way, your next step each day is still aimed at The Goal, not The Plan.

Monday, December 15, 2008

How to Help a Restaurant Work to Make You Look Good

Tonight I was a guest at The Winery in The District in Tustin, CA. A totally awesome experience! It reminded me that nothing is as sweet as entertaining business guests at a nice restaurant and offering a staff the chance to do what they can do so well. While a restaurant cannot help you with small talk, they can make you look great in so many other ways. Try these few things and I can almost guarantee your guests will be impressed:
  • Treat staff like the entertainment experts they are -- As soon as you walk through the restaurant door every staff member should be treated like experts. They know the best seats, they know the best wines, they know the best dishes, because in fact, they do. But don't patronize -- that will quickly earn you a seat next to the kitchen with the bar-back as your host.
  • Ask the host, your server, and the cocktail server/bartender/sommelier for their recommendations, and do not differ with their choices (unless the choice is radically wrong). I have shared with the host the purpose of my evening and been treated to a fantastic experience without having to make another decision except which card to put the charges on.
  • Be sure to tell the staff your budget. They will do everything they can to bring out the best if they know the boundaries.
  • Learn their names, and introduce your guests. It should be no suprise that restaurant staff like being treated warmly. Wouldn't you?
There are so many ways to have a great guest experience at a restaurant -- I am certain you might offer so many more suggestions. The point is that, YOU ARE A GUEST of the restaurant! Act like one and every meal will be exactly the entertainment experience you need.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Rise of Pod Networking

The idea of micro-networking groups has been around for a long time. At one time these micro-groups were referred to as "the good ole' boys". I have written about these private networks before (here and here and I am sure I've mentioned them in other posts) -- and they have evolved. This month the Orange County chapter (ACGOC) of the Association for Corporate Growth has launched a new initiative called A-Pod's.

The concept is simple. Enable the opportunity for 8-12 business development professionals to participate in an exclusive, small circle of trusted referral relationships that will meet regularly to trade leads and market intelligence.

Right now ACGOC has four Pod's already in operation and 100 people signed up to get started.

I like the title "Pod". It completely describes the family-like, codependent nature of these exclusive groups. And I like how the business community is embracing the concept. And mostly, I really enjoy how ACGOC has turned a once, behind closed door activity, into a publicized benefit for ACG members.

We all want to do business with our friends. It is so nice to know there is a business dating service out there to help us find the right friends. If you are in Orange County and need to find a better way to develop business and relationships I encourage you to get involved with ACGOC!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Music: A Fast Path to Being a Better Marketer

A common question to this blog: "Where do you find your inspiration to keep posting?" My answer is pretty simple. "I write about what I observe every day and I use music to bring out the words."

I believe music is a tool every marketer should use as often as possible. It is the universal language that gets us out of our head -- it connects us to our emotions, which is the perfect place for being creative. I jack into my iTunes collection every time I am creating new words or graphics.

Could there ever be a better way to create an appealing marketing message than listening to music for inspiration? Watch the road-trip sequence from the movie Elizabethtown and you will know what I am talking about. Going one step further, here are my suggestions for where you can use music to inspire the passion you wish for in everything you do as a great marketer:
  • Get your own theme song -- Mine right now is "Clocks" by Coldplay. I listen to it everytime I need to feel reinspired and joyful, and it is also my "walk-on" music when I speak from a podium.
  • Find a theme song for your firm --A song that speaks loudly to you about what you want your market to feel about your firm.
  • Create "marketing-mood" playlists -- I use iTunes but you can use whatever platform you're familiar with. I've created my own playlists of songs for "happy", "want to take a chance", "conservative", "ready to rock and roll", "trusting", and "get the heck out of my way" (for litigators). I have more... it's all about the mood I need to feel.
  • Use music to set a tone for meetings -- I take my MacBook with me to every meeting and will play a song as people are entering the room to help establish an opening mood.
  • Have music playing as a background wherever possible -- At a retreat, at a booth, inside a self-directed PowerPoint....
NOTHING speaks to us as clearly and loudly as music. If you desire to inspire or be inspired I encourage you to put music as number one on your list of go-to tactics.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Are Holiday Cards an Obligation Served?

Christmas/Holiday cards appear to be the annual, mandatory reason to say "thank you" to people in our network of important relationships (clients/referral relationships/extended network of friends).

That is so sad.

How is it that we have turned a holiday into an obligation? Why do we push ourselves to say "thank you" only at this time each year? And what does it say about us if the only time each year we reach out in this way is "expected"?

If you have ever been inside a great relationship, or are in one now, you know the most wonderful things happen when you surprise your "other" with a warm and caring moment.

Let's make this a goal: I will review my holiday card list and find a way to connect with each person next year -- BEFORE I send them a card in December.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Speak and Be Heard

We can never know where new business comes from... truthfully. We do all of this marketing stuff and hope for reward, but how business arrives at our door will always be a grey mystery. What is true is that unless we keep putting ourselves out there to be heard we should not expect any reward whatsoever.

I spoke at a gathering of young CPA professionals this evening -- a totally exciting crowd, and I imagine that not much will happen for my firm in the near future from this event. But a seed was planted, and I had one more opportunity to define the future of my firm.

Not everything you do will result in immediate opportunity. This is a big lesson to learn. Patience is so important.

Every time you have an opportunity to speak in front an audience is an opportunity for you. Speak and be heard. There is no downside.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Being Fun(ny) is Huge in Relationship Networking

Feeling like we have nothing interesting to say is excuse number one for being a wallflower at a business networking event. But, as I have learned myself, "interesting" is not just about being serious, smart and focused. "Interesting" could also mean that I am just fun in a conversation.

Look, I am not a lawyer, or accountant, or banker, etc. And in the course of networking in those circles I drop into a lot of conversations with words and thoughts that go right over my head. Often I have no idea what they are talking about -- yet people seem to want to include me in their conversations. Why is that?

I think it's because I always seem to have the right snappy remark or a humorous story to tell. How I do that so easily is my own mystery to solve, but I know first-hand that humor trumps any other social skill in the opening moments of any business relationship.

I found this article over at Readers Digest that could help you develop your humor skills. I encourage you to give it a try. It could be the key to getting you away from the wall and into the crowd.

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