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Legal Marketing Blog

Published: Tue, 08 May 2012 13:35:14 -0500

Last Build Date: Thu, 03 May 2012 15:46:57 -0500

Copyright: Copyright 2012

Read What Your Clients Read

Thu, 03 May 2012 15:46:57 -0500

Pretty simple, huh. And if you don’t know ask them. Your clients’ reading habits will reveal what it is that other potential clients like them (whom presumably you would like to also represent) are reading. That is essentially the message of today’s meditation taken from 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing & Communications Professionals by my friend Larry Smith and Richard Levick of Levick Strategic Communications, to wit:

“What do your clients read? If you don’t know the answer, you cannot know what they need to hear from you. If you don’t know the answer, you cannot know how to reach them with that information.”

As I said, one way to find out is to ask them. Then, seek out the editors of those publications and find out if they accept outside articles for publication. Don’t stop there. Read the publications for content and style, so that you can write on topics that their readers (i.e., your clients and potential clients) are interested in. Yeah, that’s pretty simple.

Good Etiquette = Good Manners = Good Marketing

Thu, 26 Apr 2012 16:10:43 -0500

There is a very interesting article on Inc. magazine online about business etiquette and five suggestions that matter. It starts out by talking about how some consider the mere discussion about etiquette as being stodgy or even old fashion. It is anything but.

Here are the 5 tips:

  1. Write Thank You notes. They are still effective and memorable, because too few people send them anymore. Recently one person I was coaching expressed hesitancy in sending handwritten Thank You notes. He just didn’t think that, with email, that it was necessary. Of course it isn’t “necessary” but I know how I feel when I receive one, and remember for a long time just because they are so rare;
  2. Know peoples’ names. Not just clients and referral sources. But everyone in your own organization – not just your bosses and peers, but the “little” people who make your law firm work. Everyone is integral in some way for making the organization run. If they feel important, they will be proud to speak favorably about the firm to everyone they encounter, and that’s good marketing too;
  3. Observe the "elevator rule." The suggestion is to not “rehash” the meeting you just left until to get to garage level, even if the elevator is empty of strangers. I can’t say that I clearly understand what the author meant here, except possibly to avoid trashing a meeting until you’ve reflected on it longer. I guess I’d understand the rule better if others (or even strangers) were in the elevator;
  4. Focus on the face, not the screen. I remember when Blackberry phones first came out. The few partners who had them were so proud to be able to get messages during department head meetings. Thoughts that popped into my mind at the time included: rude, inconsiderate, inattentive to the discussion, my emails are more important than those present or the conversation, among other things. It is no different today. Turn off the “smart” phone (yeah, don’t try to hide it out of view in your lap as you’re not fooling anyone) and look at the person speaking. Totally agree with this one; and
  5. Don't judge others. This isn’t just a good etiquette rule, but one that can prevent your getting bit in the arse yourself. I like the old saying from the Bible, “don’t judge others, lest you be judged.” I’ve always admired the phase, but not always adhered to it myself, I must admit. In a more secular sense attributed to Cherokee lore “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.” Good advice.

And, pretty simple and straightforward. Stodgy isn’t the right word at all for basic etiquette, common sense is much more descriptive.

As the article points out etiquette is “not about rules or telling people what to do,” but rather, it’s about making people feel good. Now that’s common sense, and good, considerate behavior. And that my friends is good marketing. 

Don't Waste Your Money On The Yellow Pages

Fri, 20 Apr 2012 12:18:58 -0500

There's a great discussion over on LinkedIn's Marketing the Law Firm group about the value of advertising in/on the Yellow Pages. I support most of the ideas or comments made there and suggest you take a look at the discussion.

I have never been big on advertising, period. It does not make my top 10 list of effective marketing or business development techniques. Some claim that the yellow pages still works (mostly those who are selling that expensive service I expect), and if it does for you, great.

I just don't think ads, as a rule, are a very effective way to sell legal services, and less so in the yellow pages. Think about it, ads unlike public relations where you are quoted in the press, are self-serving statements (even if they do have pretty pictures) about what a great law firm you have and the fantastic service you provide to clients. Furthermore, yellow pages are damn expensive and you are just one of tons of lawyers listed in your market. Who really uses the yellow pages today anyway - especially the online version?

Just think about it, how do you look for products or services in 2012. Don't you just type into Google or Yahoo search engines what you are looking for? Or maybe you go to the closet in your hallway and dig out last year's phonebook? Right! Do you - or really think other people - go search for a yellow pages website, and then type in the product or service needed? NOT!

I've never done that! And truly can't remember the last time I even opened the printed version to look up a telephone number. So my advice, save your money. Spend it the type of things that work in today's world. The yellow pages are a waste IMHO.


How to Make Your Marketing Committee Effective

Tue, 10 Apr 2012 12:32:46 -0500

For those who know me, know that I am not a fan of law firm marketing committees. It may have something to do with my many years as an in-house marketing professional. I found that they only get in the way. Not only because some committee members get at cross purposes chasing their own agendas (whether they have a clue as to what marketing is all about or not – often the latter), and often think the committee’s budget is their own personal piggy bank. As you can tell, I have strong feelings about this topic, as pointed out in an earlier post entitled “Does Your Firm Have A Marketing Committee? Too Bad!” 

Okay, enough of that.

For those who do not agree with the above sentiment (or are stuck with such a committee), there is some hope. My friend Stacy West Clark (who I gather is not a big fan of marketing committees either) has an article that can help your condition in life, if you are an in-house marketer or otherwise have a committee to deal with.

She has some really good suggestions as to the composition of the committee, the importance of management’s full backing, the role of its members, and recommended meeting agenda items. Stacy’s tips that I particularly like include:

  • Managing partner should attend as many meetings as possible and participate;
  • Members should publicize the committee’s activities, suggestions and plans to their respective practice groups;
  • Ensure there are meeting agendas, to include:
    • reviewing the marketing tools available;
    • cross-selling opportunities;
    • new targets (clients, referral sources and prospects);
    • significant business development activities and results;
    • discussion about hot practice areas; and
    • reports about any and all marketing and business development successes.

If your firm does have a marketing committee, Stacy’s suggestions are excellent ones and worth your attention, if you want the committee to be effective. 

Consider an Internal Coaching Program to Get Marketing Results

Thu, 29 Mar 2012 09:10:16 -0500

At a presentation to lawyers and marketing people this week at the LMA Triad City Group, I was talking about best practices. I didn’t just suggest tips for those activities that work best IMHO, or planning action items around them, but pointing out that in my experience the biggest obstacle to lawyer business development is the implementation phase. So, I suggested that they engage a coach (or as some refer to the role as a nag).

A lawyer from the host firm approached me after my talk and mentioned that, as a member of the marketing committee, implementation was their firm's biggest problem. So, I suggested he get a coach to help. And I told him that the coach doesn't need to be an outside consultant.

The coach could be another lawyer within the firm. Ideally, someone who has been there and done that. Or the coach could be a colleague who wants to succeed as much as you do, and will agree to be your coach, and you theirs. In the case of solos, you could find another non-competing solo or a friend in a small firm to serve in that role.

The idea is to meet on a set day and time weekly, or at least bi-weekly to share ideas, and for each to report on actions completed since the last meeting. Personally, once a month is too infrequent and results in losing momentum.

On point is today's meditation from 365 Marketing Mediations: Daily Lessons for Marketing & Communications Professionals by Larry Smith and Richard Levick which consists of just four words:

"Discussions are not actions."

Indeed. Discussions about developing business, and developing action plans are not the crucial actions that count. So, get a coaching program launched in your firm to ensure your business development plans are actually implemented.

Does Your Business Card Hurt You?

Wed, 21 Mar 2012 09:06:31 -0500

What does your business card say about you? That is the question posed by Ross Fishman on Ross's Law Marketing Blog. You may not think that a small, simple thing like a business card is very important. In fact, you may not even give it a second thought. That is a big mistake.

Fishman says, and I agree, “first impressions matter…” He goes on: “Your logo and business card are the tangible, physical embodiment of your entire law practice.” That may be a bit strong, but it certainly makes a difference in what a prospective client will think upon looking at it.

Accordingly, it might be a good idea to read his “Nice to meet you. Here’s my [crappy, flimsy] card” post. It can’t hurt and may give you an idea or two that might just counter your (possibly defensive) thought that the his message is “bullsugar.”

Fishman’s suggests changing your card if it is:

  • Mediocre – as in run-of-the-mill stock and look that does not set you apart from what every lawyer has used since Cicero;
  • Cheap – “lawyers sell an expensive, high risk, intangible service,” so why come across as low-priced. You certainly don’t want to compete on price alone (if at all), so why send that message via your Kinko’s business card; and/or
  • Boring – as in BORING.

Fishman’s shows and discusses various samples of cards he picked up at a recent conference, and points out the advantages of using a logo, design, tone and stock that will set you apart.

The point is, most importantly, does your card hurt you to the point that recipients aren’t compelled to visit your website and learn more about you and your law firm? If not, bummer!

Legal Project Management is for Real!

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 12:09:37 -0500

Lawyers have always done project management. They haven't called it that nor done it in a systematic way. But if you've ever managed a legal matter (project) you have done project management, more so if you managed a team, worked within a budget, and on deadline. But, as I mentioned, it's was likely done in less than an ideal or efficient manner.

Legal project management is more important today and needs to be more organized to meet client demands, and to increase value by creating greater efficiency, especially when working on a fixed fee.

The ole curmudgeon, Otto Sorts, tells a story over on Attorney at Work about a client who, – early in Otto’s legal career when he was explaining the many vagaries of practicing law due to uncertainties caused by the judge, court calendars, opposing counsel, and so forth – simply stated: "Son, that's just plain bullshit" and went on to say that "life itself is complex and uncertain, but we live it every day, anyway.” In other words, stop whining and proceeded to show him how to “manage the damn project.”

So, Otto shares with us six logical steps he learned for doing so: (Our terminology is somewhat different at LegalBizDev for legal project management and is in parentheses)

  1. Define the project by identifying what the problem is through to the end result. (that is, what is the scope of the project and the client’s goal for the successful result);
  2. Identify steps from beginning to end. (specify activities with subtasks down to the lowest level resulting in a deliverable (e.g., draft document, complaint, interrogatories etc.));
  3. Determine the interrelationship and dependency for all the tasks and their deadlines. (which tasks could be performed concurrently, and which are dependent on completion of earlier tasks and thus sequential);
  4. What is needed in terms of information and resources (involving the team early in planning process to determine what is needed and to get team buy-in, assigning tasks and scheduling them based on team members capabilities);
  5. Eyeball what effort, expertise, and likely schedule the project will take. (using past experiences and lessons learned on earlier matters, involve your team in planning the timeline necessary for the project); and
  6. Periodically review and update the schedule and tasks due to changes in the circumstances. (watch for changes in scope that may impact the timeline and budget adversely).

At LegalBizDev, we would add a few additional factors; to wit:

  • A greater emphasis on estimating a budget based on the likely costs for each task;
  • More thorough analysis of the potential risks that could impact the project, and how they will be dealt with;
  • Greater communication and consultation with the client at all stages of the project from beginning to end; and
  • When dealing with fixed fees, greater emphasis on quality control.

According to Otto "(E)verybody's talking about project management for lawyers these days. And I think it's about damn time!” Amen, Otto.

Legal project management really is for real.  

Thank You Notes: Is Handwritten or E-mail better?

Wed, 07 Mar 2012 08:32:08 -0500

A post on Thom Singer’s Some Assembly Required blog last Friday challenged in detail the assertion by Jessica Liebman in a post on Business Insider Blog that email “Thank You” notes after an interview are better than handwritten ones. Her reasoning is that the latter:

  • Take too long to get there (and letters could get lost in the mail);
  • A handwritten note “feels old,” even “ancient” to her; and
  • E-mails have many advantages, including:
    • Sent the same day shows how eager you are for the job,
    • “you know it will at least find its way into the interviewer’s inbox” (I wonder if she has heard about spam filters),
    • If the interviewer ever searches for your email, it’ll “just pop up and remind them” about your thanking them (of course, assuming that the interviewer is into searching for thank you emails),
    • “You can easily tailor (thank you note) to the vibe of the interview” (and in a handwritten note you can’t?); and
    • Interviewer might “write back to you” (okay hitting the Reply button is a possibility).

Singer challenges Liebman point by point, and quite frankly makes a much stronger case for the handwritten version. If it is a matter of choosing one over the other, I completely side with Singer. Far too few people take the time and trouble to write a handwritten note, and even hand-address the envelope. That in itself can set you apart, and why it is more memorable and personal than an email ever will be.

However, I see no reason one can't do both, which I have on numerous occasions. I have send a quick e-mail thanking the person for: lunch, interview, their suggestions or comments, the tour of their outhouse….whatever. Then, I would send a handwritten note to take the thank you a bit further. That note can even refer to the e-mail and say “Again, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for ………..” whatever. I look at it as an opportunity for a double whammy, and the chance to be remembered even more. That's a good thing.

So, the solution to my question in the title:  send both.

Marketing Budget: Should be 0% of Revenues for Starters

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 08:44:47 -0500

There is an interesting discussion over on LinkedIn’s Marketing the Law Firm group about how much a law firm’s marketing budget should be. Numbers like 5%, 8% or 3% are being thrown around. I’m not saying that any of those are right or wrong.

What I suggest is that your budgeting process should start with a marketing plan that is zero-based. If you leave out salaries and overhead of marketing staff (which many would argue you cannot really do), then the marketing expenditures should start at 0% until you’ve done the darn plan on how it will be spent and on what.

You really shouldn’t start with a percentage of revenues and then sit around navel staring trying to figure how to spend it. Been there and done that, and as the saying goes that ain’t no way to run a railroad …… or a law firm. Unfortunately, too many firms do exactly that.

That reminded me that I had done a post on the topic a while back (turns out it was in January 2005, the second week of this blog’s existence). Here’s the link. What I stated then I stand by today. PLAN FIRST! Then put the dollars to it. What percentage that needs to be should be based on what needs to get done.

P.S. Unfortunately, Kerry Randall mentioned in my earlier post is now deceased, and the link to his article no longer works.

Building a Network for Success

Fri, 24 Feb 2012 11:56:54 -0500

A referral network does not just happen. Like everything else in legal marketing, it takes work. William Melater, the Dis-Associate contributing author on Attorney at Work, tells us that it doesn't matter where you went to school or your class rank. What does matter, if you are to “be successful as a lawyer,” is that you are able to bring in business. How true when it comes to the real world of law.

Since most business (in my experience at least 80%) comes from referrals, every lawyer needs to develop a referral network. Okay, I agree that that is easier said than done. But, it doesn't have to be difficult. Melater suggests three simple things to do in his article "Building a Referral Network from the Ground Up."  His tips can be helpful:

  1. Try it. By getting out and about. And get over your fear. Look at networking as an opportunity to meet new interesting people and making friends (not initially to get business);
  2. Associate with older guys. Like me for instance -- or better still, with "the more experienced attorneys." Not only can they be mentors, but by getting seasoned lawyers in your network, you could send them work you do not handle. It’s also a good way to connect with those who already have an established network you may be able to hook into. (See my post entitled “Top 10 Marketing Tips: No. 9 - Networking With Super-Connectors.”); and
  3. Be patient. Aah, patience. One of my strong suits I'd tell ya (if I wanted a longer nose). In any event a good referral network doesn't happen overnight.

That is all the more reason to get working harder today at building your network.

Involve your staff in developing business

Thu, 16 Feb 2012 14:55:25 -0500

Lawyers do not have to do all the marketing and business development by themselves. They can and should involve their staff as much as practicable.

Early in my in-house marketing career I got as many non-marketing staff as possible to help with marketing, since I had no departmental staff to speak of. I cajoled and otherwise drafted as many as I could, including our librarian (research and as a source of firm data), paralegal (newsletters – design and drafting), receptionist (mailings), copy room (organizing, copying and binding proposals), to name a few. It sure made my job easier and I was more effective by not trying to do it alone.

I continue to be amazed how few law firms engage their non-marketing staff in the firm's business development efforts. Actually, if you think about it, your staff is already involved in your firm’s marketing whether you want them to be or not; and whether it is in the firm’s best interests or not. If the staff has contact with clients, prospects and referral sources, which certainly receptionists, secretaries and paralegals do, they can help or hurt the firm’s reputation by how they relate to outside contacts. If the secretary is rude with any contact (god forbid a client) or the receptionist blows off a caller (hint: pet peeve to follow) by sending him/her directly into voicemail without another word, for example, such contact (or lack thereof) can be very damaging. Even how staff members act in public can reflect poorly on the firm, believe it or not.

So it behooves law firms to provide staff with some marketing training, or at least guidance on how they should behave toward those they encounter in their role with the firm.

Moreover, the staff can play a greater role than simply treating clients and prospects well, and behaving in public. They can, if instructed and then empowered by their lawyers, actively contribute to the firm's marketing efforts. A few simple suggestions on how non-marketing staff might get involved include:

• Tracking Google alerts for info about specific clients and others,
• Remembering important client facts and dates (anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, etc.),
• Scheduling marketing activities for their lawyer(s),
• Keeping mailing lists up to date, and
• Suggesting regular interaction with their Outlook contacts.

If you respect your staff, encourage them to be an integral part of the team, and reward them for taking a bigger role in the firm’s success, you may just find that they can add considerable value to the firm, beyond their regular duties. 

How To Stay Top of Mind For New Work

Wed, 08 Feb 2012 10:46:03 -0500

It should be patently obvious that when a client or prospect has a legal matter that needs to be addressed, you would want them to think of sending the work to you . If you are not the first lawyer or law firm they think of, you have some work to do.

Ric Willmot has a post in his Weekly Wisdom series on LinkedIn’s Legal Marketing Group that sets out five tips on “Staying front of mind” with clients and prospects. They are: (with my comments in parenthesis)

  1. Understand your prospects and clients. (The best way to do that is to visit or at least talk with them by telephone off the clock regarding their plans, problem issues within their company and industry. A goal is to find out what makes them tick and what keeps them up at night. You can’t understand the client or prospects if you don't spend time getting to know them better, as well as their problems, interests and business.);
  2. Provide value when you do touch base. (When you talk to the clients, prospects and referral sources give them something of value. It could be some insight or knowledge that will help them personally or with their business goals. It might be a referral or just information that brings greater value to the relationship. Don’t make the call about you or how you can gain from it.);
  3. Expand their knowledge of you. (This does not mean bragging about your capabilities or your achievements, but you do want them to know more about who you and what you stand for. Tell stories about your life, interests and dreams. Yes, they do need to know about your capabilities, but that should not come across as selling.);
  4. Bring diversity to the way you make contact. (This is a good idea and, quite frankly, one I hadn't given much thought to before. One contact might be by email, another by telephone, or a handwritten note passing along an article or press clippings, or whatever. Other times it might involve a lunch or invitation to a cultural or sporting event.); and
  5. Build relationships rather than continuously attempting to sell. (This one and 2. above are pretty similar in my mind. Rather than sell yourself, try to figure out a way to help them first. It’s the old “give to get” reasoning where you try to help the other person first, before trying to get something from them.)

All of these tips involve building a meaningful and value-filled relationship. With the right kind of relationship, you will find that you will stay top of mind and get more legal matters from clients, referral sources and prospects as a result. 

Raise Your Profile in 2012!

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 11:37:10 -0500

It is always a good idea for lawyers to focus on raising their visibility to attract clients directly and via referrals. Amy Campbell’s Web Log recently suggested three steps to increase fame and fortune this year that should help in developing business. They include:

  1. Writing more. Whether that is with more articles, blogging, or just increasing meaningful content on your website, the important thing is to make it relevant and interesting to your clients and prospective clients. Also, Campbell suggests considering “video, audio, presentations, lists and more;”
  2. Socializing more online. Share your content utilizing social media, such as LinkedIn and Facebook at least once a week. And don’t hesitate to share and comment on other content you encounter on social media; and
  3. More face-to-face meetings. This I particularly like, because there is a tendency among some lawyers to concentrate too much on electronic networking vs. the old fashion (and trusted) way IMHO. So, don’t forget to pick up the phone, invite a client or referral source to lunch or dinner, or just for coffee.

Not sure how much fame and fortune will result directly in 2012, but it certainly will raise your profile, and that should result in more business for you and your law firm sooner rather than later. 

What Keeps Your Clients Awake At Night?

Wed, 25 Jan 2012 10:28:21 -0500

If you don’t know, you are failing at marketing!

As is the case when I get “blogger's block” I’ll look at some trusty book or two for ideas, as I did today since my RSS feeds aren’t inspiring me. Well, one of my trusty-ist is Richard Levick’s and Larry Smith’s 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons For Marketing & Communications Professionals, which is available on Amazon. Their meditation for today is:

“What keeps your clients up at night? This is the bullseye of marketing. If you don’t know the answer, you are not marketing. You’re just busy.”

There really isn’t much to add to that succinct statement, except it means that you are not talking or listening to your clients. And that is bad marketing!

Don't Look at Networking as Networking

Wed, 18 Jan 2012 14:43:22 -0500

I know that many lawyers are turned off, if not terrified by the concept of networking. The idea of walking into a room full of strangers and striking up a conversation is truly worse than a root canal. I can’t say that I’m overly comfortable with networking myself.

However, I found an article entitled “Bad Networking Ain’t Networking” by John Snyder on Attorney at Work to be quite helpful. When Synder left BigLaw for a solo practice, he was told “you’ve got to network.” His response to that in the article raises two excellent points:

  • Don’t go to networking events to get business. Rather look at it as opportunities to make new friends; and
  • Think of ways to help those you meet.

He sums it up beautifully: “So here is how I would amend that ‘you gotta network’ edict. It’s not about networking – it’s about being a friendly, generous and helpful person…(and those are) the qualities that clients or potential referral sources seek in a lawyer.”

So, attend networking events with the idea of making friends, not networking.  The results may surprise you.