Category Archives: Marketing

It’s Not You, It’s Me (the Market)

I ran across this quote from Andy Rachleff, here (via the Huit Denim newsletter) and it crystallized for me what so many great lawyers and firms are going through right now:

The #1 company-killer is lack of market. When a great team meets a lousy market, market wins. When a lousy team meets a great market, market wins. When a great team meets a great market, something special happens.

If you’re struggling hard to succeed in your practice (as an insurance defense lawyer, for example) it might not be you, it might be your market.  Perhaps it is time for you to find a better one.

A Manifesto Worth Investing In

I’m constantly running across great books written for non-legal audiences that contain amazing advice for lawyers.  Blair Enns’ new book The Win Without Pitching Manifesto (which you can buy or read online for free) is one of those books.  Some examples:

We will not solve problems before we are paid:

Our thinking is our highest value product; we will not part with it without appropriate compensation. If we demonstrate that we do not value our thinking, our clients and prospects will not. Our paying clients can rest assured that our best minds remain focused on solving their problems and not the problems of those who have yet to hire us.

We will charge more:

As our expertise deepens and our impact on our clients’ businesses grows, we will increase our pricing to reflect that impact. We will recognize that, to our clients, the smallest invoices are the most annoying. Through charging more we will create more time to think on behalf of our clients and we will eliminate the need to invoice for changes and other surprises.

There’s also some great advice  about being selective:

Instead of seeking clients, we will selectively and respectfully pursue perfect fits—those targeted organizations that we can best help. We will say no early and often, and as such, weed out those that would be better served by others and those that cannot afford us. By saying no we will give power and credibility to our yes.

And the best one?  Time or Thinking, What Are We Selling?

We sell our thinking but we do ourselves a gross disservice in selling it by the hour. The surest way to commoditize our own thinking is to sell it in units of doing: time. Later in the engagement, when the strategy work has been done and we are deep into implementation work, the client buys our time. It is our thinking, however, that separates us from our competition and forms the basis of our ability to premium price. When we charge for this thinking by the hour we undo much of the work of the previous proclamations. “How much an hour?” we hear the client think. “How many hours?” When we employ commodity pricing we invite commodity comparisons, regardless of the value we deliver. The defining characteristic of a commodity is an inability to support any price premium. If we cannot win while charging more, then we must face the reality that we are selling a commodity. 

I’ve already bought my copy — even though I’ve read the entire Manifesto online — because I expect to open it up again and again.  I hope you do the same.

Don’t be ashamed of serving “small” customers.

I really love this business card.

What do your clients want? Ask mom!

Over at A List Apart, Steph Hay writes about how Being Real Builds Trust.  In her article, she shares an interesting way to get inside the heads of her users (customers):

I start by writing down my assumptions about what my users care about.

Then I ask, “Would my mom ever say these things out loud?”

If the answer is “no,” then my assumptions are probably a stretch. I need to try harder to get at the kernel of beautiful truth. I keep going until my assumptions all sound like something my mom would actually say out loud.

Instead of using some stodgy, cookie-cutter, marketing-speak language about how she offers “cutting-edge services designed to meet her clients’ diverse business goals,” she takes the things her clients want, and puts them in her mother’s words:

  • I don’t want to feel stupid
  • I want to hire people I trust
  • I want to have a say in the final product
  • I want to feel valued
  • I’m nervous about this decision
Next time you’re working on your marketing materials, consider using Steph’s “Mom Test.”  I think you’ll get a better sense of what your clients need when you start using the same words your mother would.

Do your clients see your ads?

I think this pretty well sums up 99.9% of lawyer ads in the Yellow Pages.

“What” is More Important than “Where”

Another reason to update your elevator pitch and law firm bio (from Harvard Business Review):

Ironically, proudly flaunting your affiliations — company, university, or club — will only make you more of a commodity: another banker, another Ivy League graduate, another know-it-all scientist. Instead of just resume-gardening, distinguishing yourself through real, tangible accomplishments shows the world what you’ve actually done while de-emphasizing who accepted you into their organization. The latter is a superficial vanity device designed to boost confidence; the former is a validated, objective measure of your skills and experience. The relentless focus on “what” is how people without bulge-bracket work experience or Ivy League degrees are beating out those obsessed with the glitz, glamour, and false safety of their memberships, associations, connections, and relationships.

See you at AVVOCATING!

I’ll be joining several amazing speakers – including my friends Carolyn Elefant and Ari Kaplan – at Avvo’s AVVOCATING conference on May 3 and 4 in Seattle .

I’ll be sharing ways lawyers can find great clients and serve them better using a mix of new and traditional tools.  I’ll also be moderating a panel on best practices in social media and facilitating the evening’s networking reception (m0re on that later).

If you’d like to attend AVVOCATING, use the code “LexThink” at registration and you’ll receive $100 off the normal price.  I hope to see you there!

Create a 10 Most Wanted Clients List

A simple idea from Jorge Barba at Game Changer:  Create a 10 Most Wanted Client List.  Who’s on your list, and do they know you want to serve them?

A Great Business Card

Absolutely loved this business card:

 

Does Your Website Look Like Everyone Else’s

Ross Fishman has a great roundup of 25 Legal Marketing Cliches to Avoid using on your website, business cards and marketing materials.  His top ten (and the message they really convey):

  1. Globe/Map (We did a deal in Toronto once)
  2. Shaking hands (We’re your partner.)
  3. Building/Architectural detail (We work in a building!)
  4. Skylines (We work in a city!)
  5. Columns/Courthouse (We’re lawyers!)
  6. Gavel (Yup, we’re lawyers.)
  7. Lightbulbs (We have good ideas.)
  8. Chess Pieces (We’re strategic.)
  9. Diverse Conference Room (Stock photo)
  10. Smiling Lawyers (People work here!)

I’m a bit surprised the scales of justice didn’t crack the top ten (they were #11), but agree with his entire list.  Do you see any of these images on your website?

Great Tips on Writing Well

Some tremendous tips from advertising pioneer David Ogilvy (via Brainpickings):

The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well.

Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.

Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:

  1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.
  2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.
  3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
  4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification,attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
  5. Never write more than two pages on any subject.
  6. Check your quotations.
  7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning — and then edit it.
  8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
  9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
  10. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.

David

Emphasis added.

The Race to the Gutter

Wise words about professionalism from Scott Greenfield:

The need to survive in practice is a powerful one.  It takes time to establish a reputation of competence and skill, and when you have hungry children and a school loan payment due, you don’t feel as if you have the time to wait.  And so you use whatever is at hand.  It’s easy to justify at the moment.  Until you realize that you are one of those lawyers, walking down the boulevard in hot pants hoping someone will stop and pick you up.

Go read his entire post.  Now.

Presentation Mistakes to Avoid

Funny, because its true.

Create a Menu for Your Practice

Do you know all the kinds of things your firm does?  Perhaps you should take a page (literally) from the restaurant industry and create a “menu” of your services.  Though you may not decide to use it with clients, merely deciding what goes on the menu — and what gets left off — makes you think a bit differently about your practice and the kinds of matters you regularly should say “yes” to.

And if you’re looking for some menu inspiration, I highly recommend the blog Art of the Menu.  It has dozens of creative menus from around the country, and is sure to give you some ideas if you decide to make your “menu” a regular part of your practice.

I just created a  Menu for LexThink (.pdf) that I’m going to print up on heavy card-stock like an actual restaurant menu .  It is still in early draft stage, so I’d love to know what you think.

Poster-ize Your Firm’sTwitter Policy

Here are some great social media “Propaganda” Posters with messages that reflect more than a few firms’ “official” social media policies.

 

 

 

The Poetic Lawyer

Jordan Furlong has a great post (inspired by me, he claims) on the Attorney at Work Blog site encouraging lawyers to write “legal” poetry, which he defines as “a single poetic expression of legal information.”  Jordan suggests collecting the poems and then publishing them to give to your clients, which I think is a tremendous idea.

Here are a few of his examples:

It can be iambic pentameter:

“Class actions can’t proceed,” the high court found,
“Without an issue common to the class.”
They couldn’t find a unifying ground
Of bias, so they gave Wal-Mart a pass.

It can be a limerick:

A clever young Briton named Max
Thought he lived in a haven for tax.
But some new legislation
Brought much aggravation;
Our update here has all the facts.

It can be a haiku:

The breeze may be free
But you still need a license
For your wind turbine.

And it can be schoolyard doggerel:

If your will don’t have a witness
It’ll fail the test for fitness.

Give it a try.  There’s tremendous value in stretching your creative writing muscles and learning to write in different ways.  It will also give you something fun to share with your clients.

And if you don’t think poetry is worth your time, try this Haiku Elevator Pitch exercise instead.

Improve Your Firm’s Website with the 50/100/150 Rule

This Smashing Magazine article by Brad Shorr identifies five fatal copywriting erros that can ruin your firm’s website.  His first cardinal sin?  Making your firm’s site all about the firm:

Problem is, the rest of the world isn’t interested in your story. Customers don’t have time to admire your greatness. They’re too busy searching for ways to make life better for themselves. A high-level Web page answers one question of the reader above all: What’s in it for me? To illustrate, we’ll stick with products, although this applies to other types of pages as well.  It’s not about you. A well-written category-level product page talks a bit about features, a little more about benefits and a great deal more about the experience.

The author suggests you create a “Word Budget” that limits the number of words you can use to describe the features, benefits and experience your product or service offers.  Given 200 words on your firm’s home page, here’s how you should “budget” them:

  • 50 words on the features
  • 100 words on the benefits
  • 150 words on the experience

Here’s why:

  1. Setting a “word budget” forces discipline. Not only that, it relieves the anxiety over having to determine how to approach each individual product page, thus eliminating one of the biggest causes of delay in Web development projects.
  2. Focusing on the experience forces you to think about the target audience of the page in question. The experience I described speaks to an operations person. If my audience is made up of C-level executives or purchasing agents, then I would need to describe a completely different experience. If I’m writing for all three audiences, I may have to rethink my word budget. In any event, having an audience in mind prevents a Web page from devolving into that cursed, watered-down, “everything for everyone” messaging that says absolutely nothing.
  3. The purpose of a high-level page is to get people interested in the product. Once they’re interested, they may crave more information about features and benefits. Perfect. Tell the long version of your story on a detail-heavy product sub-page. Companies need not neglect features and benefits; they just need to suppress the urge to hit visitors over the head with them the minute they walk through the door.

Here’s how:

 

  • Before you start writing, collect feedback from customers and prospects. Ask them why they buy from you, why they don’t, and how doing business with you has affected them.
  • Start with an outline. Associate every feature with a benefit and every benefit with an experience.
  • Have a customer read a draft and then explain to you why they would want to buy the product. If the customer “gets it,” you’re a star.
  • Do the same thing with a person who knows nothing about your product and industry. If that person gets it, you’re a rock star.

The entire article is worth a read, and after you check it out, head on over to your firm’s website.  My guess is that it makes at least three of the five mistakes Brad identifies.

And if you don’t have the ability to make meaningful changes to your firm’s website, at least start with your bio, and use Brad’s 50/100/150 rule to make it better.

Apologies Necessary

I’ve written before about the value of an apology and how an authentic “I’m sorry,” can strengthen the attorney-client relationship after a mistake or slip up.  However, if a phone call or face-to-face meeting is too hard, consider sending one of these instead:

(from Hugh MacLeod’s new series of “Business Greeting Cards“)

Packaging for Your Practice

If you’re looking for some creative design inspiration for your practice, check out The Dieline, a website that showcases the most innovative  packaging design for the kinds of things you’d find on your grocer’s shelf.

Why packaging?  Because packaging professionals take generic, non-differentiated products (like milk or motor oil) and convince picky consumers — solely through packaging — to pay a premium for the items that are identical in every way to other products on the shelf.

Sounds a bit like the legal marketing business, doesn’t it?

 

The Haiku of What You Do

I’m a fan of Haiku, and have been doing an exercise based upon it for several years now at conferences and law firm retreats.  Instead of the 5-7-5 syllable format, I ask my audiences to answer three questions, using just five words for the first question, seven for the second and five again for the third.

Though I’ll use different questions depending upon the event, I recently spoke to the New York City Bar about in-person networking and gave these three questions as a way to quickly develop an “elevator speech” that responds to the “What do you do?” question we get all the time.

The three questions, which must be answered with the specified number of words, are:

  • Who do I help? (Answer in Five Words)
  • What do I do for them? (Answer in Seven Words)
  • Why do they need me? (Answer in Five Words)

An example response to these questions from a business lawyer could be:

I help small business owners

incorporate their businesses and protect their assets

so they can sleep better.

Another example for a personal injury lawyer may be:

I help injured accident victims

understand their rights and recover medical expenses

from people who are responsible.

Give it a try.  It isn’t an easy exercise, but it will help you answer that all-to-common networking question with something other than, “I’m a lawyer.”

 

Update: Thanks to Gina Roers for the new title for the post.

Use the Right Words in Your Marketing

Found this great tip on Connection Cafe about how to use Google's Keyword Tool to understand what people are looking for:

Explore opportunities for new offers or ones adjacent to what you currently offer.  Go to the Google Keyword Tool.  Enter a single term associated with your organization’s services, products, or offers.  You could also provide a URL to one of the pages that describe what you’re doing today and Google will use that to help with the research. 

The tool will return a long list of similar terms that people are searching for.  It will also tell you roughly how many people are searching for those terms and how competitive the market for placing advertisements on those pages will be.  Sort by search volume or competition.  What do these results tell you people are searching for versus what they’re finding?

 

Great Estate Planning Quote

Found this quote from professional organizer Sue DeRoos that would be a tremendous quote for a firm trying to market to estate planning clients:

Everyone gets organized at some point, they just might not be around for it.

Via Unclutterer.

Is your website for your clients or for your peers?

Inspired by this venn diagram found on Business Pundit,  I thought I’d do one for Law Firm Websites:

What are your Relationship Rituals?

Keith Ferrazzi shares a few simple “Relationship Rituals” that should be on every professional’s weekly checklist:

1.    First thing every day after you turn on your computer, ping one friend and one acquaintance.

2.    Every weekend, invite someone else into an activity that you normally do alone (walks, gym sessions, gardening, shopping trips).

3.    Pick a day for a weekly check-in with a colleague/associate/friend, during which you share a success, a challenge, and make a commitment for the upcoming week.

4.    Every Friday, send a broadcast – status update, blog post, Tweet, etc.

5.    Host a monthly dinner or happy hour.

What are the things you do every week to maintain your client relationships?

 

Should you tell prospects why they shouldn’t hire you?

Jessica Hische, a tremendous print designer and illustrator has a section on her website titled “Why you should not hire me to design your website.“  Some excerpts:

I might seem like a jack of all trades because I do print design, type design, lettering, and illustration, but really I’m a specialist. I specialize in drawing type and illustration. This is what I’m best at and is probably why you found my website in the first place. I find it strange that I get so many requests for web design—I went to school for graphic design, yes, but each subfield of graphic design has its own set of problems, limitations, and guidelines.

Just as you wouldn’t expect any random person that owns Adobe illustrator to be able to draw a decorative initial from scratch, you can’t expect any print designer to be able to really and truly design for web. Web design is not print design, it is so much more complex. With book design, a person that encounters your book knows how to view it. They look at the cover, they open the cover, and page by page they work their way to the end. With web design, it’s (for the most part) not linear. You have to understand how people are going to use the site (and how people use the web changes all the time).

Anyway, to conclude a fairly long rant: Hire people that are best at what they do. It’s not that I (or other print designers) CAN’T do web design, its that you should want to hire someone that will do it best—someone that knows the ins and outs of the web and can then hire people like me to do what they do best: draw ornaments, logos, illustrations etc that will make the site sing.

I’m quite certain many lawyers and firms would benefit from a similar “disclaimer” telling potential clients why not to hire them.  Communicating what you do — and most importantly, what you don’t (and won’t) do — goes a long way towards getting you the clients you want and dissuading the ones you don’t from picking up the phone.

Stretch Your Thinking About Biz Cards

One of my favorite business cards of all time:

Check out the entire post at Creative Bits for lots of other cool, inspirational cards.

What Are Your Clients Afraid Of?

I saw this great over-the-counter medicine packaging (from Help Remedies), and was taken with the simple way each remedy's package focused how the consumer feels before using it.


I wonder if this simple message would work with law firm marketing?  Instead of telling the world what you do, what if you focused your marketing message on how clients felt before hiring you?  Start by answering this question: what are your prospective clients worrying about at the time they need you most?

Looking for a Legal Job, Try YouTube

Here's a brilliant way to catch the eye of that hiring partner who won't take your calls.  Worth a watch if you're trying to catch the attention of someone in a unique way.

Where is Matt Homann?

I've been on the road almost non-stop for the last three months speaking, doing work for law firms and facilitating a ton of corporate meetings.  My summer's shaping up to be a busy one as well, and I'd love to connect with you if I'm in your city. 

Here's my speaking schedule (so far) for the next few months:

July, 2010

  24-27:  ACLEA's 46th Annual Meeting

August, 2010 

  2-3: MinnCLE Strategic Solutions for Solo and Small Firms

  5-10:  American Bar Association Annual Meeting

October, 2010

  28-30: Wisconsin Solo & Small Firm Conference

November, 2010

  18-19:  Utah Bar 2010 Fall Forum

If you'd like to learn more about me speaking to your firm, organization or conference, please contact me.

Some Great Advice from Design Pros

I ran across this article titled I Wish I Would Have Known: Answers From 11 Top Freelancers, where several design professionals share their hardest lessons learned.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  From Steven Snell:

I wish I would have known that clients tend to not take a project very seriously if they are paying low rates. When I started out I knew that learning and getting experience was more important than making money at that stage, so I did some very cheap projects. I worked with several people who wanted a website, but it seemed that since they were investing very little into it financially, they just didn’t take it seriously and put in the effort on their end that is needed to have a successful web presence. Not only did that make it more difficult for me to do a good job, but it really did a dis-service to their business because their websites weren’t as effective as they could have been.

  From Sean Baker:

You’re closing up your meeting with a potential client. Everything went smoothly and you think you’re about to land the job. Said client asks for your hourly rate, in which you give and explain. Unless you’re underselling your talents greatly, their next question will almost always be: “Great, and how long will it take you?” Suddenly you’re in a corner… and you’re panicked. You don’t want to scare them away, so you feel implied to answer immediately, usually shorting yourself on time simply to appease. Congratulations, you’ve just pigeonholed this project. From here you’ll either be doing some free work or you’ll run the client off once they see a higher rate than you originally gave.

  From Brian Yerkes:

You have to ensure that you don’t take it personally, ever. This is the biggest thing that I personally struggle with. When a client emails to tell me that they aren’t happy with a design, it puts me in a bad mood for a few hours. It’s the number one thing that I try to deal with better every time it happens. Fortunately, 99% of the time, my clients are happy with my work, but you can never win them all.

  From Kostandinos:

Don’t be afraid to say “no” to a project. If I could only pass along one small piece of advice to kids starting out, and even to those who’ve been at it for a while, that’s it. Sometimes it’s really not worth it… in more ways than one. Have a bad feeling about a client? Trust your gut and walk away. One more thing: Sometimes the most important and best projects are the ones you do for yourself, including working on your portfolio and re-branding yourself. The devil is in the details… get out your pitchforks.

This advice could have just as easily be given by (and to) lawyers.  Remember, your clients, peers and friends often face the exact same challenges in their (non-legal) businesses.  Engage them, learn from them, and don’t make the same mistakes they have.

Revive Zombie Clients and Other Great Tips

There’s some great, simple advice from the Freelance Folder in Seven Tips to Keep Your Clients Coming Back for More.  The tips:

  1. Offer packages for recurring work.
  2. Give your best clients special treatment.
  3. Revive “zombie clients.”
  4. Mark important dates.
  5. Foster a feeling of belonging in an exclusive club.
  6. Create promos throughout the year.
  7. Ask for referrals.

Go read the entire article.  It is worth your five minutes.

Resolve to Support the Causes Your Clients Do

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If you’ve got a big client, odds are they’ve got a pet project.  Whether it is for a community organization, charity, civic group or volunteer event, supporting the causes your clients do can deepen your relationship with them while benefiting those in need.

That’s why, in 2010 you need to Resolve to Take Care of Clients’ Pet Projects.  For every client, find out what kinds of charitable groups or causes they support (and why).  Armed with this knowledge, here are a few things you can do:

  • Get on the group’s mailing list, so you’ll always know how you can help.
  • Donate money or goods to the cause’s auction in your client’s name.
  • Instead of spending your time entertaining your clients, spend that time volunteering with them in support of their cause.  You’ll get the same one-on-one time with the client, but will be helping out those in need.  As a extra bonus, you’ll probably also get an introduction to several of your client’s peers.
  • Find out what is the most pressing legal issue facing the cause (or its members), and offer to give a seminar to help them understand it better.
  • Donate a percentage of that client’s fees to their cause as your holiday gift the client.

Your clients will not only appreciate your interest in their cause, but you might gain an interest in theirs.  When that happens, everybody wins.

Resolve to Know Your Best Clients Better

IMG_2705
Now that you've identified your worst clients, fired them, and stopped taking more like them, you can now focus your time and energy on building your practice doing the kinds of things you like to do for clients that you enjoy serving.

And the first step to take is to get to know your best clients better.  Identify your seven favorite clients, past or present.  Take them to lunch or dinner in person (or over the phone) and get to know them. 

Make your time together about them. Tell them they're one of your favorite all-time clients and you wanted to catch up.  Learn about their plans for the new year and the challenges they're facing.  Talk about their family and hobbies.  Find out about the charities they care about and the professional organizations they belong to. 

But don't stop there.  The more you know about your clients, the better you'll be able to serve them.  A great list of things to could/should know about your clients is the "Mackay 66" (pdf download here).

And at the end of each conversation, don't forget to ask:

How do I find more clients like you?

Advertise What Matters (to Clients)

If you’re wondering what to put on your website (or in that next yellow pages ad), take a cue from the Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford, Florida.  Instead of trumpeting just how great their doctors are, they’re using a nearby billboard to display a real-time statistic that lots of people care about: ER wait times.

From the Orlando Sentinel:

To find out how long the wait is in the emergency room at Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford, you can check its Web site, send a text, or, now, cruise past a billboard on Interstate 4.

The hospital this week started posting its ER wait times on the billboard, on the eastbound side near State Road 46. It’s part of a campaign to use technology to spread the word about decreasing the wait.

“Putting our wait times to see a physician in real time on a billboard is just one more step in educating the community about our service,” said Wendy Brandon, the hospital’s chief executive officer. The wait times to see a physician are updated every 30 minutes and reflect an average from the previous four hours.

What do your clients want to know about you?  Do they see the answer in your advertising?  They should.

Sell Me This Pencil

Here’s a list of 100 Great Interview Questions, that includes most of the obvious ones, such as “What are your weaknesses?” and “What’s your ideal company?” etc. 

However, there was one “question” that stood out to me above all others:

Sell me this pencil.

Think about that for a moment.  The question doesn’t require an answer, it requires a performance.  I wonder how it might impact hiring by law firms if their interviewers asked it just once in a while…

Introduce Your Staff to Your Clients

Here's a great idea from the London Underground (subway) via the U.K.'s Creative Review.  The Underground hired photographer Maria Cox to visit each of the London Underground's 264 stations and take a picture of someone who worked there. 

The photographs are combined with some information about each person, and then displayed at the station where he or she works.  Here's the profile of John Osborne, a customer services assistant at the Shepherd's Bush Line station:

It makes me wonder how many businesses here in the states could benefit from a similar approach.  I think many clients would be more apt to hire a firm that cared enough about their employees to feature them in this way.  What do you think?

Some Tips for the Suddenly Solo

The fellas at Lawyerist caught up with me in Duluth after one of my presentations at Minnesota CLE’s “Strategic Solutions for Solo and Small Firms” conference. Sam Glover asked me to share some tips for the “Suddenly Solo” lawyers out there.  Here’s the video:

Interview with Matt Homann from Lawyerist Media on Vimeo.

Business Card or Brochure? Both.

I'm headed to the ACLEA conference in Salt Lake City this week. I'm a new member of the Association of Continuing Legal Education professionals (I know, the acronym needs some help) and am looking forward to my first ACLEA event — especially because I'm doing lots more speaking about innovation, creativity, marketing, alternative billing, etc. to lawyers, firms and at CLE's.

Since I'm working on a website redesign (live in August) that helps show visually what I do, I thought I'd use some of the images we've created for the web on new 3" x 5" business cards that double as a kind of brochure. (I'm using a 6" x 5" card folded in half).

Here's the inside of the folded card:

And here's the back and front:


And here are the LexThink cards I've been using. Let me know what you think!  Here's the card in pdf format.

Using Facebook Ads to Find Legal Work

Attention Law Students:  There’s a great post over at One Day One Job abut Using Facebook Ads to Make Employers Hunt You Down that’s definitely worth a read. It recaps an experiment where job seekers used targeted Facebook ads to reach people who worked for companies they admired.  For Katelyn Hill (below), here’s what happened:

Katelyn Hill recently graduated from Abilene Christian University with a degree in Electronic Media. She loves television and movies and hopes to work in the entertainment industry, so she targeted the Walt Disney Company with her Facebook advertising campaign. Her ad received 685 clicks, which garnered 21 e-mails and 4 Facebook messages. She was offered one job interview, but wasn’t quite qualified for the position, so she declined. She also had several e-mails from individuals who offered to forward her resume to their supervisors. Many others offered her general advice on finding a job with Disney or commented on how creative they thought her ad campaign was.

I think this is a brilliant idea.  It isn’t a reach to take this approach and target attorneys and staff at specific firms you’d like to work for. 

It could (though your malpractice carrier may disagree) also work for lawyers targeting specific clients or types of work as well.

One Thousand Dollars an Hour is Dumb.

If you must compete on price, here’s a McDonald’s billboard that might give your marketing people some inspiration:

Found on BillboardomFull Story Here.

A Social Media What-To-Do

Lots of folks are talking about using Social Media for business, including me. When I speak to lawyers, after the “What the heck is …” questions come the “How much time will this take me?” ones. Last week, my friend Chris Brogan published his 19 Presence Management Chores You COULD Do Every Day post on his fantastic blog. In it, he shares 19 “chores” one could do every day (or at least every week) to keep one’s online presence alive and kicking on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Blogs.

Here are his LinkedIn tips:

  1. Enter any recent business cards to invite them to LinkedIn (if you’re growing your network).
  2. Drop into Q&A and see if you can volunteer 2-3 answers.
  3. Provide 1 recommendation every few days for people you can honestly and fully recommend.
  4. Add any relevant slide decks to the Slideshare app there, or books to the Amazon bookshelf.

Nobody knows this growing world of “Presence Management” better than Chris, and I’d highly recommend you not only read his full post, but add some (or all) of his suggested “to-do’s” to your list.

A Legal Blogging Roundtable

Last month, I participated in a legal blogging roundtable for the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis that was published in their subscription-only newsletter.  My partners in crime were Dennis Kennedy (DennisKennedy.Blog), George Lenard (George’s Employment Blawg), and Evan Schaeffer (Trial Practice Tips and The Legal Underground).  Together, we have combined for more than 20 years of blogging experience.

Dennis took our contributions and republished them to his blog as A Blogging Guide for St. Louis (and Other) Lawyers (and Others).  Here’s one of our takes on the future of blogging:

Matt Homann: I think we’ll see the continued adoption of blogs by legal professionals as much by choice as necessity. The next generation of law firm clients have lived their entire lives online, interact with Twitter and Facebook constantly, and read blogs everyday. They may have never used the Yellow Pages, and instead look to the web before making any major purchasing decision. They’ll expect a robust online presence from the professionals they hire, and a blog is one of the easiest and most effective ways to build that presence.

George Lenard: Integration with the surviving remnants of mainstream media into enriched, customized streams of information in manageable chunks for busy readers, plus continuing contributions to the wealth of information available to web users through ever-more-sophisticated search technologies. I was recently told by a web-content distribution company that my posts now have the potential of appearing in a news stream on the Wall Street Journal’s law pages amidst conventional sources such as the ABA Journal, if they match the WSJ search criteria, with no distinction in appearance that would suggest that my content is in any way inferior or less professional than that written by professional journalists.

Evan Schaeffer: I don’t have any predictions about the future of blogging. If you think of blogging as merely a means of publishing one’s writing, which it is, you don’t have to be too worried about the future. Get into the habit of writing, and if you like it, you can always migrate to the next technological platform, if and when there is one.

Dennis Kennedy: Among bloggers, Twitter and microblogging is all the rage. That will continue to affect blogging, but blogging still has great potential, especially to cover niche topics. I remain bullish on blogging. As for predicting the future, I still like what Ernest “Ernie the Attorney” Svenson said in an article on the future of blogging from four years ago in Law Practice Magazine: “Perhaps the biggest question that remains is: How quickly will law firms move to develop blogs? It depends on a lot of internal and external factors. But the clock is certainly ticking. For some firms that sound is just loud and annoying, while for others it is stirring and prompting them to act. So when will your firm create a blog? Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick . . . .”

Meet Me in Missouri

I’m headed down to Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks this week for the Missouri Solo and Small Firm Conference to speak about marketing, innovation, technology and the web.  There will be over 900 lawyers there this year — which makes it the largest solo and small firm conference in the country.

If you’ll be there, be certain to say hello.  If you can’t make it, I’ll be covering as much as I can on Twitter and will be using the hashtag #mossfc

Looking for Cool Ways to Connect with Clients? -(STOP)-

Telegramstop is a company that will send an old-time looking telegram to anyone in the world for under five bucks.  Could be a cool, retro way to connect with some clients or friends.

100 Tweets: Thinking About Law Practice in 140 Characters or Less.

I really like Twitter.  For those who follow me, you know that I try to share lots of legal-themed tips, thoughts and ideas.  In fact, most of my Ten Rules posts started out on Twitter — where I’ll test 15-25 “rules” to see which ones work best before picking the ten favorites.

However, there’s lots of stuff that lives on Twitter now that used to live here on the blog.  And since I don’t expect everyone reading this to follow me there (or go back and read through my 2000+ Twitter messages), I decided to compile a “Best Of” list of my favorite tweets.

So, here (in .pdf form) is a little e-book I’ve titled:  100 Tweets: Thinking about Law Practice in 140 Characters or Less.  It contains my favorite 100 tweets, in no particular order, and should give you a sense of what I share on Twitter that you don’t always see here.

If you enjoy it, and would like to follow me on Twitter, I’ll see you there.

Talk to Me About…

Instead of using name tags at your next event, try this tip (found at The Kitchn blog) to get conversations started:

The idea is that instead of “Hello my name is…” stickers, you give your guess ones that read “Talk to me about…” Guests can fill in their career specialty, their hobby, their passion of the moment, or their favorite meal (just keeping it foodie, here!).

We picked this suggestion up from SwissMiss, who used it at a talk she was facilitating, and we think it’s a brilliant idea for all sorts of social situations. Name tags like these are guaranteed conversation starters!

We think they also take away some of the discomfort factor. Personally, we feel much more comfortable approaching someone who wants to talk about a subject in which we’re interested than we would just striking up a random conversation.

I’d take it a bit further, and give each guest 4-5 name tags.  Every 30 minutes or so, have them switch out their “I want to talk about…” tag with a different subject.

Wonder what my friend Scott “The Nametag Guy” Ginsberg would think?

Get a Life — In Only Two Days

I’ve been spending some time talking to the organizers of the Get a Life Conference, after connecting at Techshow and on Twitter.  It looks like a great event, and I’m really working hard to figure out a way to make it — and perhaps do some cool LexThink-like unconference stuff with them if I do.

Lots of great speakers, including the incomparable Gerry Riskin, are on tap.  Expect lots of talk about practical ways to make your law practice a more profitable business.  From their site:

In this two-day workshop, you’ll learn how manage all the moving parts of a successful law practice and still have a life. But there’s one very important thing missing – you! One of the greatest challenges you have is making time for what’s personally important to you – your hobbies, friends and family.

It happens May 27th and 28th in Chicago.  Check it out, and if you’d like to go, here’s a link to a 25% discount (Enter INSIDER upon check-out).  I hope to see you there!

Now, if it only came in legal size…

If it only came in legal size:
 

Found on Apartment Therapy.

Say My Name!

Here’s a quick and cool idea from a Smashing Magazine post on building a perfect portfolio website:  Tell your customers how to pronounce your name.  Here’s a snippet from designer Chikezie Ejiasi’s site:

If you’ve got a hard-to-pronounce name, tell web visitors how to pronounce it.  You’ll make it a lot easier for them to ask for you by name.  I’d think about doing this with business cards, too.

If you’re designing a law-firm website, you can do a lot worse than to check out the rest of the article for lots more great ideas.

Ten Rules of Rainmaking

I often quibble with the term “rainmaker” because I think it too often describes lawyers more interested in getting new clients than in keeping current ones.  However, because “10 Rules for Business Development,” and “10 Rules for Keeping Clients So You Don’t Have to Replace Them” don’t have the same nice ring as “ 10 Rules of Rainmaking,” I’ll use the term here.  Let me know what you think:

1. You’ll never be passionate about rainmaking until you start searching for clients you’ll be passionate about serving.  Remember, a great client is one for whom you’d work for free, but one who’d never ask you to.

2.  The best way to get new clients is to impress old ones.  Measure the happiness of your existing clients with the same diligence you measure your time, so you can work less on developing new business and more on deserving it.

3.  While there are hundreds of “strategies” to get new clients, there’s only one strategy to keep them:  serve them well.

4.  When meeting a potential client, don’t sell your competence, sell your compassion.  They must know you care about them before they’ll care about you.

5.  The single best way to get new clients is to ask your best ones, "How do I get more clients like you?"

6.  A client will never be as surprised by great legal work as they will by by good service.  

7.  Your new client’s definition of a “great” lawyer is probably far different from yours.  You must understand their expectations before you’ll ever be able to meet them.

8.  Recognize that while it is usually easier to ask for new business from prospective clients than it is to ask for more business from current ones, it is rarely more profitable.

9.  If your answer to “What kind of clients are you looking for?” is “Ones who pay,” you’ll get paying clients.  Terrible paying clients.

10.  The best thing you can promise a prospective client is more sleep.  Ask what problems keep them up at night, and build your practice to solve them.

I'd love your input, and feel free to add any of your "Rules" in the comments.  If you enjoyed these, check out my other posts in the series:  Ten Tweets about TwitterTen Resolutions for the New YearTen Rules for Law Students, Ten Rules for the New Economy, Ten Rules for New Solos, Ten Rules of Legal InnovationTen Rules of Legal Technology, Ten Rules of Hourly Billing and Ten New Rules of Legal Marketing

Also, if you'd like to get more ideas like these in real time, follow me on Twitter.

Use Conferences to Build Your Practice in a Down Economy

If you have a niche practice, you should already be asking your clients what conferences and trade shows are “must attends” in their industry.  If you’re not already a regular attendee (or speaker) at these events, you should be — now more than ever.  Here’s three reasons why:

1.  You Can Increase Client Satisfaction:  One of the first things your clients will cut back on in a down economy is attending these events.  Go in their stead, and promise to report back to them on what you learned.  You can do so in a letter, newsletter, blog or even on Twitter (more on that in a second).  They’ll appreciate you being their eyes and ears at the event and will always remember how you cared enough about their business and industry to attend when they couldn’t.  As a bonus, they’ll likely introduce you before the event to their friends/colleagues/peers who’ll be there.

2.  You Can Meet Quality Potential Clients:  The attendees who will be there are potential clients (but ones who CAN afford to attend) who will be impressed by your commitment to your existing clients and your desire to increase your expertise in their industry.  You’ll also be one of the few lawyers in the room.

3.  You Can Become an Industry Expert:  Your clients aren’t the only ones interested in what’s happening at the event.  Instead of saving your updates for your clients, broadcast them (along with your expert analysis) to the world via your blog and Twitter — especially Twitter.  By doing so, you’ll not only reach other attendees at the event, but capture the attention of others in the industry watching the conference from home.  Depending on the technological sophistication of the attendees, you may be the ONLY source of real-time conference news to non-attendees.

In short, forget legal conferences (except for LexThink, of course) and go to client conferences instead.  You’ll get much more bang for your buck, impress existing clients, meet new ones and establish yourself as an industry expert.

Keep your sandwich to yourself.

Do the tough economic times have you bringing your lunch to work more often than before?  If you’re one of those folks who’s had that lunch “accidentally” taken by someone else, here’s an inspiring design solution to your problem:  Anti-Theft Lunchbags:

Brilliant, don’t you think? 

And if you’re a legal vendor — because you knew there had to be some sort of legal angle to this, didn’t you — and you want to engage your customers in a conversation about privacy, data protection, or (yes) even spoilation, I can’t imagine a better trade show giveaway.

Ten New Rules of Legal Marketing

Legal Marketing has changed.  It used to be enough to keep an ad in the yellow pages and belong to the Rotary Club.  Not anymore.  Times are tough, so I present to you Ten “New” Rules of Legal Marketing.  Let me know what you think.

1.  “My lawyer can beat up your lawyer” isn’t a marketing strategy.  “My lawyer will call me back before yours will” is.

2.  Google tells me there are 337,000 “Full Service Law Firms” out there.  Which one was yours again?

3.  Unless the person who founded your firm 100 years ago is still alive and practicing law, he’s completely irrelevant to every client who’s thinking of hiring you.

4.  Market to a “want” not to a “need.”  By the time your clients realize they “need” you, it’s often too late — for them and for you.

5.  Your “keep great clients happy” budget should exceed your “try to get new clients” budget by at least 3:1.

6.  Thanksgiving cards say you’re thankful for your clients’ business.  Christmas cards say you’re just like everybody else.

7.  Having the scales of justice on your business card says you’re a lawyer — an old, stodgy, unimaginative, do-what-everyone-else-has-done-for-fifty-years lawyer.  Same is true for your yellow pages ad.

8.  Speaking of yellow pages, don’t abdicate your marketing strategy to their salespeople.  They don’t know marketing.  They only know how to sell you a bigger ad each year.

9.  Your future clients have been living their entire lives online and will expect the same from you.  If you’re invisible on the web, you won’t exist to them.

10.  The single best marketing strategy in the world is to find your best clients and ask them, “How do I get more clients like you?”

Look for ten more rules next month.  For hundreds of legal marketing ideas, check out my Marketing Category on this blog.  And if you want to get these in real time, follow me on Twitter.

Pretending to Act Brilliantly

My friend Jim Canterucci interviewed me for his Personal Brilliance Podcast.  He’ll be posting portions of the interviews throughout this month and I encourage you to check it out. I’m not sure how much brilliance there is in my interview, but I always enjoy talking with Jim and I think you’ll find some interesting things in there. 

I’d also encourage you to check out the rest of the podcasts.  I’m working though them right now, and I’ve got to say, so far all of them have been worth a listen!

Pack a house with nervous clients?

Your clients are worried about their financial futures more than ever.  If you do divorce, estate planning, real estate or corporate work, you should be preparing a seminar NOW on the impact of the current situation on your clients. 

Make it “invitation only” and give each client the ability to bring another person.  Make it two hours or less.  Have a handout with the “Top 7 Things You Need to Know Now” or something similar.  Give each attendee at least three copies.  Encourage them to share it with people like them.

Tell it like it is.  Don’t sell.  Your clients (and their hand-picked referrals) will appreciate the information, and look to you as their advisor in times of need.

If Operators are Busy ..

I’ve just started Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by Noah J. Goldstein, Steve J. Martin and Robert B. Cialdini, and can already give it my highest recommendation.  It offers fifty short lessons (2-4 pages each) on persuasiveness, along with the empirical evidence to back them.

One quick lesson from the first chapter in the book:  Simply by changing an infomercial’s call to action from “Operators are waiting, please call now,” to, “If operators are busy, please call again,” resulted in a huge increase in products purchased. 

Why?  Instead of people imagining a room full of operators waiting by silent telephones, infomercial viewers imagined those same operators going from call to call without a break, and assumed “if the phone lines are busy, then other people like me who are also watching this infomercial are calling, too.”

Very interesting stuff.  A highly recommended book!

Want to Buy a Law Firm Brand?

I came across IncSpring yesterday.  It is a marketplace where designers can sell (and companies can buy) “ready-made brands.”  If is a pretty neat concept, and you get to deal directly with the designer.  Not a lot of “legal” brands yet, but if you’re a Texas Lawyer, you can do a lot worse than Lone Star Law:

Billboard-ize Your Next Presentation

Another great post from Presentation Zen on learning slide design from IKEA billboards.   The key takeaway:

Good billboards and other signage, must:

(1) get noticed,
(2) be read/understood,
(3) be remembered, and
(4) we hope an action is taken or one’s thinking is influenced.

The first three in particular apply to presentation slides as well. I am not suggesting that you literally copy the style of the signs outside an IKEA. But you can incorporate the same principles for your displays used in your live talks that designers use for billboards and other ‘glance media.’ 

Most people could not care less about a billboard or the signs outside an IKEA store, of course. But you’re different. So you slow down and you pay attention to “the design of it.” You notice the elements such as color, size, shape, line, pattern, texture, emptiness, alignment, proximity, contrast, and so on.

Reactivate Past Clients

John Jantsch gives us Seven Tips to Dig Out from a Recession.  The one you should focus on today:

Reactivate past customers – Where did I put that customer anyway, I know they are around here somewhere. Sad but true, sometimes we don’t bother to communicate with current customers unless they call with an order. By the time they have decided someone else appreciates their business more, it’s too late. Reach out to lapsed customers and make them an apology, promise to never ignore them again, and make them a smoking hot deal to come back.

Hop on the (VW) Bus and Market Your Practice

From Flickr member Jason B comes this great picture of Oklahoma City attorney Chad Moody‘s “marketing vehicle.” 

Any personal injury lawyers out there using ambulances?  Here’s one for cheap.

Advertise, and clean up!

Via Springwise:

GreenGraffiti creates advertising on dirty city streets and walls using the clean, green power of plain water. Armed with just a template and a high-pressure water sprayer, the company has “cleaned” advertising messages out of the dirt on behalf of clients including Elle, Telfort and Universal Music. No paper, no ink, no printing process—GreenGraffiti’s ads are completely carbon-neutral, it says. They last up to six months, depending on foot traffic, and cost a fraction of the price of traditional outdoor media, the company asserts.

If you are looking to do some advertising, this could be a clean (and fun) way to go. Just make sure they find enough room in the stencil for your disclaimer!

Still Not LinkedIn?

If you’re not using LinkedIn (or not using it enough), check out this Common Craft video that explains what LinkedIn does and why it matters.

Retreat with Me

About a month ago, I had the great pleasure of working with the Subrogation Group of Cozen O’Connor to help them design and facilitate their portion of a firm-wide retreat in Orlando, Florida. Paul Bartolacci, a fantastic attorney and great guy, just sent this testimonial I thought I’d share:

“We worked with Matt to plan and present a half day involving approximately 100 lawyers from a specific department within our firm. We were looking for something a bit different than the traditional law firm retreat program — upbeat and innovative, while at the same time useful and giving us a strategy to move forward. Matt was perfect. He took the time to listen to what we wanted to achieve and understood our goals. He spent extra time with us before the event to really get to know us as a group and what our practice involved.

Matt delivered a speech that was creative and pointed us towards new ideas and a different way to view and analyze problems. Our activities were fast paced and interactive, yet produced concrete goals and results. In short, he “got it”.

This was the last session of a 3 day retreat and people left feeling very positive and focused. Following our session many members of the group commented that this had been the best session of any of the numerous retreats they attended. I would certainly recommend Matt for any law firm retreat and look forward to working with him again.”

If you are looking for a speaker or someone to help you squeeze a bit more fun, creativity and focused results out of your legal event or retreat, give me a call. I’d love to help.

Title Tips for Better Slides

Want to write better titles for your PowerPoint slides (and nearly anything else for that matter)? Frank Roche gives five tips to help you Write the Best Damn PowerPoint Headlines Ever:

Make it good enough to print on a t-shirt. The word Introductions isn’t good enough for a t-shirt. Say hello to my little friend is. Not every headline has to be t-shirt worthy, but that’s not a bad goal.

Make it fit on one line. Hey, what you lack in quality, you can’t make up for in volume. Read the really great headline writers. I like the New York Times and USA Today, but CNN and the New York Post write the killer headlines. They’re short. Often two words. But two killer words.

Say what’s on the slide. Obscurity is great for the CIA, but we’re talking about PowerPoint and communication. If a single word will do, then please be my guest. Otherwise, write descriptive headlines. (And if you violate the “fit on one line” rule, it had better rock.)

Forget headlines. If you can’t think of a great headline, then maybe you shouldn’t have one. Steve Jobs doesn’t need headlines.

If your slide is filled with bullet points, even a killer headline won’t help. You see that little key on your computer that says DEL? Go ahead, push that one. Watch your presentation magically get better.

How many of your titles would look good on a t-shirt? Open up that last presentation and get to work!

Women and Word of Mouth

I’ve been dying to read Michele Miller’s new book, The Soccer Mom Myth. For long-time readers of this blog, you’ll remember Michele as one of the first contributors to my Five by Five series. In the Church of the Customer blog, Michele shares 5 Things You Need to Know About Women and Word of Mouth. Here arethe key two for me:

What can you do to make increase women’s word of mouth?

Here’s the wrong way to do it: “Sign up three friends and we’ll give you a 15% discount.” This feels like you are asking her to sell out her friends. Instead, change the offer to “You and every one of your friends who signs up will get a 15% discount.” Now she has special access to a discount that she can pass along to friends. You’ve made her the hero. She can offer value to her trusted network. She has just increased her trust and standing.

What about asking women for referrals; good idea, or bad idea?

This is tricky. Because women are such great referrers, it seems logical. If you are doing business with her, and she values your relationship, it may seem perfectly acceptable to ask her for a list of friends who might benefit from your services. But that may not be a good idea, even if she thinks you’re the best thing since Starbuck’s drive-thru. She is the gatekeeper of her relationships. She’s not being stingy, she’s being protective. A better idea might be to give her a few of your business cards and say, “if you know of anyone who might benefit from my service, feel free to give them my card.”

Unless you don’t have (or want) women as clients, read her book. I’ve just ordered mine.

Join Me at the LMA Senior Marketers Summit

In two weeks, I’ll be speaking at the LMA Senior Marketers’ Program at the St. Regis Hotel in Washingon, D.C. The event takes place June 19-20, and is titled “Thought Leadership Amidst Relentless Change.” Here’s the brochure.

I’ll also be facilitating several fun, collaborative exercises, including a virtual scavenger hunt, a new rapid-idea generation experience, and a “build a board game” cocktail hour.

I just spoke with Pat at the LMA, and there are a few slots left (and attendance is not limited to LMA members). I’d love to see you there.

LMA Senior Marketers’ Program

I’m please to announce that I’ll be helping out at the LMA Senior Marketers’ Program: Thought Leadership Amidst Relentless Change. I’m going to be doing a new presentation, titled “The Ten New Rules of Legal Marketing,” as well as facilitating several collaborative brainstorming sessions for the entire group. It takes place June 19 and 20 in Washington D.C., and is shaping up to be a pretty cool event. If you are interested (and an LMA Member), check it out.

Great Historical Photos: Free

The Library of Congress is releasing bunches of their historical photos, free of all usage and copyright restrictions.  Some amazing pics, with more on the way.  Here’s the Flickr page.

A “Business Card” for Litigators

Do your clients think you are full of hot air?  Here’s a business card that might just prove them right:

Check out several other cool “cards” here.

25 Ways to Find a Client

OK, so this post from Dumb Little Man is about ways to find a date in the real world, but it has some great advice for finding clients.  Seriously.  I especially liked these success tips (which are in addition to the 25 ways):

1. Have a simple goal of making new friends. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Seek to find a great friend and see where things lead.
2. Commit to saying “Hi” first. Don’t be shy. Perhaps set a goal of saying hi to 5 people a day. Start with one a day and then work your way up.
3. Smile and have fun. Everyone looks better with a smile.
4. Be open to meeting new people anywhere and everywhere.
5. Always be dressed and groomed to meet new people even if you’re just running out to get milk. You just may meet that someone special in the dairy isle!
6. Conversation success tip: Be interested in others and ask lots of questions.
7. Don’t be afraid of rejection. You’ve got nothing to lose!! What’s the worst that could happen? Someone will laugh at you? That’s hardly likely. And even if they do, who cares! Just say “Next!” and move on!
8. Go slow for safety and success. Never rush into anything. Go slow.

Read the entire post.  Just don’t let your significant other catch you doing it.

Got er Done!

Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba share a great idea in this post about a condo development that posts huge “SOLD” signs on the outside of each unit, arguing that the signs “are the best possible evidence” that the condos are desirable.

I was wondering if this idea could also work for lawyers.  Imagine a weekly or monthly full-page newspaper ad that shows all the new business formations, real estate closings, or even “newly single” divorce clients a firm helped (with their permission, of course).  Not sure how this works in some jurisdictions, but it is a thought.  What do you think?

20 Slides. 20 Seconds Each. Pecha-Kucha

How would your next presentation go if you only had twenty slides and could show each one for “only” twenty seconds (for a total of 6 minutes 40 seconds?  A format embracing these very constraints is called Pecha Kucha, and was started by two architects in Tokyo as part of a designers’ show and tell.  It seems like a natural fit for an Idea Market, as a replacement for a panel presentation, or any time a lot of presenters have something to say.

I’m doing a very short speech (nine minutes) on innovation in two days, and am going to give this presentation format a try.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more, check out several examples on You Tube, or this recent Wired magazine article.  If you are in the St. Louis area and want to have a Pecha Kucha night, let me know.

The Mobile Lawyer 2.0

It has been a long while since I’ve been so WOW’d by a business model as I’ve been this morning.  Simply put, this is the BEST template I’ve seen for building a home-based practice from, of all people, a physician.  Dr. Jay Parkinson, MD is building a web-based medical practice.  From his website:

  • I AM A NEW KIND OF PHYSICIAN.
  • I strictly make house calls either at your home or work. 
  • Once you become my patient and I’ve personally met you, we can also e-visit by video chat, IM and email for certain problems and follow-ups.
  • I’m based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  My fees are very reasonable.
  • I’m extremely accessible.  Contact me by phone, email, IM, text, or video chat.  Mon-Fri 8AM-5PM.  24/7 for emergencies.
  • I specialize in young adults age 18 to 40 without traditional health insurance.
  • When you need more than I provide, I make sure you wisely spend your money and pay the lowest price for the highest quality.
  • I’ve gathered costs for NYC specialists, medications, x-rays, MRIs, ER visits, blood tests, etc…just like a Google price search.
  • I mix the service of an old-time, small town doctor with the latest technology to keep you and your bank account healthyl

How much for this service?  According to the "How it Works" on his site, his fee is "far less than your yearly coffee budget but a little more than your Netflix."  His web site also provides "Real Life Examples" that describe, in plain English, how you’d use his service.  Oh, and he’s blogging, too.

Lawyers, if you are looking for a real dose of inspiration (or a glimpse to the future of mobile practice) you HAVE to check this Parkinson’s site and business model.  Simply brilliant.  Great idea, great web site, amazing copy.  If I were still practicing, I’d steal it in a heartbeat.  Look at it now.

Via: Zoli’s Blog.

Lose Your Receptionst’s Desk?

Via Brand Autopsy comes a pointer to the Building Better Restaurants Blog’s Top Ten Reasons to Take a Sledgehammer to Your Host Stand.  I think a lot of these are also good reasons to rethink/redesign/remove your receptionist’s desk:

  1. It accumulates clutter that is an eyesore.
  2. It does not have any functional utility for the guest.
  3. It allows staff to “hide” from the guest.
  4. It forces the guest to come to you, and not the other way around.
  5. It becomes a hub for business other than the business of the guest.
  6. It becomes a leaning tool and not a Hosting [verb] tool.
  7. It will force you to talk to your guests and actually “Host” [verb] the guest experience.
  8. It will force more physical contact with the guest and thereby a more meaningful greeting.
  9. It will allow the guest to take in the whole “show” as they enter and immediately be caught up in the experience more.
  10. Because you don’t have one at your house when you host people there!

Best/Worst Law Firm Song. Ever.

Before it goes down, you’ve got to listen to Nixon Peabody’s theme song.  It will make you feel like a winner, too!

Get Your Clients Home Free

The Springwise Blog has a story on a pilot program in Minneapolis (where I’ll be next week) called Get Home Free.  Here’s how it works:

Launched in eleven Minneapolis suburbs this month, Get Home Free is a flat rate, prepaid cab card that gets its holder home safely. Mainly targeted at teenagers and college students, the concept’s initiators are aiming to help out kids who are stuck with car trouble, have been drinking, or whose ride home has fallen through. Cardholders place a call to the Get Home Free hot line, and a car is immediately dispatched to bring them home, no questions asked.

If your firm is looking for a image-boosting promotion, this one just might work — especially if you regularly represent clients accused of DUI.  Having your firms name and number on the back of each card isn’t a bad idea either.

Grow Your Practice by Asking Clients to Leave

Interesting post on the Church Marketing Sucks blog titled “Grow Your Church by Asking People to Leave.”  It is a point I’ve made before: your practice is often far healthier if you stop serving clients you don’t want to (and who are often unhappy with your service anyway).  From the post:

Craig gives an example where he preached on the church’s vision trying to get everybody on board. If people weren’t on board with the vision, he asked them to find another church. He even offered brochures from 10 other churches he knew and recommended. It was a serious challenge and 500 people ended up leaving. Most people would freak out at that thought. Not Craig:

The next week, we had about 500 new seats for people who could get excited about the vision. Within a short period of time, God filled those seats with passionate people. Many of those who left our church found great, biblical churches where they could worship and use their gifts.

Everybody won!

That’s why I sometimes say, “You can grow your church by asking people to leave.”

Craig focuses on making leaving a church a graceful option and a positive thing and not the bitter experience it often is.

I love it!

Power “Marketing” Tip from Dale Carnegie

Bert Decker reminded me of this fantastic quote from the great Dale Carnegie that I had to share:

You will win more friends in the next two months developing a sincere interest in two people than you will ever win in the next two years trying to get two people interested in you.

PowerPointing Audiences to Death

I’m going to be posting my presentation from the AILA conference later today.  Until I do, check out this video:  How NOT to Make a Powerpoint.

Get Your Message Out

I really like this idea from Seth Godin about how he promoted Squidoo at a trade show:

Here’s what we did: we printed 600 t-shirts with a long, hand-written letter on the front, explaining how Squidoo helps eBayers. And we gave the shirt away to anyone willing to wear it. The incentive? Each day, Megan picked someone who was wearing the shirt and gave that person $9,000 worth of ads on Squidoo.

Within an hour, you saw orange t-shirts on the show floor. By the second day, every single t-shirt was taken and more than 5% of all the people there were wearing the shirts.

Total cost: $3,000. (plus the ads).

I really think something similar could work for lawyers or legal vendors at trade shows.  I’d love to give it a try!

Government Resources for Small Biz

Point your clients to some of these 13 Government Resources for Small Business.  Lots of great stuff!

Back Up Your LinkedIn Profile

I caught this tip over on the My LinkedIn Power Forum about backing up a LinkedIn profile.  From the post, here’s how to do it:

1. Print it as a hardcopy. You can click on the [Print] icon
above your headline and print it. This is the most traditional way
of backup and is also strongly recommended to always keep a hardcopy
just in case all your backup softcopies cannot work at the time of
recovery.

2. Save it as a PDF or Word file. You can either click on the
[PDF] icon above your headline and save it as a PDF or cut-and-paste
your profile and save it as a Word file. The latter will have an
advantage of cut-and-paste back to your LinkedIn profile page at the
time recovery.

If you frequent any other social networking sites, it would make sense to back up your profiles there as well.

As an aside, the PDF printout is a pretty slick (and quick) way to build a resume.  It looks great, too!

PowerPoint Bullets Kill Comprehension

Garr Reynolds has a good summary of the newest PowerPoint controversy started by this article in the Sydney Morning Herald that describes a study suggesting speakers who essentially read their bullet points from their slides are ineffective communicators.  The study’s author suggested:

It is effective to speak to a diagram, because it presents information in a different form. But it is not effective to speak the same words that are written, because it is putting too much load on the mind and decreases your ability to understand what is being presented.

Copying = Advertising?

An idea on how to use free photocopies to advertise:

An innovative Japanese company is offering university students free photocopies. This free love is made possible by printing ads on the back of the copy paper, which is slightly thicker than normal to prevent ads from shining through. For JPY 400,000, advertisers can have their message printed on 10,000 sheets of paper.

How to “Black Out” During Your Next Presentation

Bert Decker has a great (and easy) tip to improve your next presentation:  Use Black Slides.  According to Bert, a blacked out slide (as opposed to justing hitting the “B” key) accomplishes three things:

1. Clear the screen.  Once you’re done with the picture, graph or supporting information, you want to remove distraction, and go to a black slide so you can amplify, tell a story, or make an additional point, etc.

2. Black out the screen.  Simply put, so you can walk in front of the projector. Almost all meeting, board and conference rooms are poorly designed so that they have the projector screen right in the middle of the room or stage. It should be at the right or left, so YOU can be in the middle. After all, YOU should be the center of your presentation, not your slides.

3. Totally change your mindset.  Change he creation and emphasis of the presentation. This is by far the most important of all, and needs it’s own paragraph.

Pay Per Client?

Not sure where the legal ethics gurus come down on this one (I think I can guess), but Google has now rolled out a Pay-Per-Action advertising service, which requires you to pay only if the user completes a clearly defined action after clicking on an add — such as buying something, joining a mailing list, etc.  Pricier than AdWords, but much more bang for the buck.

Is Your Business in Local Business?

Just noticed Google’s Local Business Center.  It allows you to add your business’ name, address, etc. to Google’s listings.  It also allows you to offer coupons.  A must-do for all small businesses — including law firms.

Advertise with the ‘Hood

Roy Williams shares 10 Cheap Advertising Ideas in his Monday Morning Memo.  My favorite:

10. Spray-Painted Signs. In the early 1970s, “Hamp Baker says Drive with Care” was spray-painted on car hoods salvaged from crumpled automobiles, then those hoods were tied with bailing wire to barbed-wire fences across the state. Nobody in Oklahoma had ever heard of Hamp Baker, but his name was soon a household word. When he ran for public office, he won by a landslide.

If I had a personal injury practice — especially in a rural area — I’d think seriously about giving this one a try.  Just make sure you have your state’s disclaimer painted somewhere on the hood too.  ;-)

Take your Client’s Stakeholders to Lunch

Joyce Wycoff suggests taking internal stakeholders to lunch:

Identify all of your stakeholders … the people who are affected by your work, immediately and at a distance.  Your monthly report may only go to 3-4 people but the information in it may get passed along or acted upon by dozens of others.  Start to invite your stakeholders to lunch one or two at a time and just get to know them.

This is great advice, and equally applicable to the stakeholders in your clients’ organizations.  Just make sure they know you are not billing them for the lunch!

Hang Around for Business Clients

Right after I wrote the Sand Imprint Post, I found another clever way to advertise:  Hangvertising.  From the geniuses at Hanger Network come EcoHangers(tm), a recyclable, paper hanger that has advertising printed on it.  Just think, you could find the dry cleaner in the most expensive part of town, and ask them to use the EcoHangers (with your business-appropriate ad) on all business suits they dry clean. 

Dd_1

Brilliant.

Footprints (and a toll-free number) in the Sand

Do you practice near a beach?  Here’s a great marketing idea (hat-tip to Church Relevance) that just might get your firm noticed:  environmentally safe ads that are imprinted in the sand.

Of course, it may be hard to “save” the advertisement for those pesky bar advertising rules.

Branding on the Cheap

Here is a great resource for web startups that has a few gems for lawyers too:  Little Known Ways to Brand on the Cheap.  Just a few favorites:

26. E-profiles: manage your reputation. If a potential customer types in your name into a search engine, what sort of results will they see in the top 10? It’s key for you to secure the top 10 results in Google, Yahoo and MSN for searches relating directly and indirectly (if possible) to your brand. You need to be the one defining what people see when they search for you, not your competition. Start by building e-profiles on authority domains such as MySpace, Squidoo, AboutUs, WordPress, Blogger/ Blogspot, MSN Spaces, TypePad, Newsvine, LinkedIn, Rollyo, Wikipedia, etc. Don’t let someone else define who you are.

28. Get listed on local authority websites. Many cities will have a large, centrally operated online business directory. A link from a local government site (.gov) will boost your visibility and build your search engine rankings. Often that requires no more effort than doing a GoogleSearch for “(your city) business directory” and emailing the webmaster.

36. Design with a focus on MDA. Design your blog with a focus on visitor experience that leads the user to your MDA (Most Desired Action). Test various designs before launch by asking friends and family to go to the site and see where they click and when.

39. Design for scanners, not readers. I know, you’ve put a lot of time into your content, so you want people to read every little word. But the truth is, people online are scanners, not readers. So if you want to get your message across, you need to tell them your unique selling points in a bullet list or in short crisp sentences.

77. Do something outrageous. Or at very least unusual, and document the action itself and reactions others had to it. Randy’s Affiliate Marketing Programs Blog discusses a few of the more famous outrageous branding ideas, from Alex Tew’s Million Dollar Homepage (the original dollar-a-pixel site) to John Freyer’s All My Life for Sale (a wildly-successful eBay project).

91. Guerilla marketing. Head down to your local library and hunt down books relevant to your topic. Then insert your business card or flyer into the book at the very front. This guerilla marketing can work on an individual level, but the benefits can multiply dramatically if your persistent activity starts to create buzz.

94. Be a star. Call up your local public cable access channel and ask to be interviewed. They are desperate for content and may go for it.

Hand-y Advertising for DUI Lawyers

Check out this post from Ankesh Kothari about a Bombay nightclub that stamps a public service message on the hands of entering patrons.  DUI lawyers, you’ve got to see the picture, and think about paying a bar to use a rubber stamp with your phone number on it to stamp the hands of everyone who enters the bar.  When they get pulled over later that night, they’ll know who to call.  Not sure if ethics-safe, but inspiring nonetheless.

The 18 Percent Solution – January 23, 2007

I’ve been working with several great people to develop a small business seminar here in St. Louis on January 23rd called The 18 Percent Solution.  It takes place at the amazing Gran Prix Speedway in Earth City.

The entire event is focused on sharing innovative tips and tricks that help small businesses thrive.  I’ll have a lot more on the event over on my Idea Surplus Disorder Blog tomorrow, including a preview of the creativity and innovation portion of the program I’m running (think UnConference + LexThink + Idea Market + Go Cart Racing).

If you sign up at the link above and add “Homann” in the special instruction field, you’ll save $20 off the normal price ($95 before 1/3 and $125 after).

See you on the 23rd!

Didn’t Get The Client? Here’s Why

Mary Schmidt compiles a terriffic list of reasons why vendors didn’t get her business.  Just a few:

1. You returned my call in which I asked for a price quote…a week later.

4. Your web site looks abandoned. (Copyright 2004? Are you even still in business?)

6. You never, ever answer your phone. It always go to voice mail.

7. You did more talking than I did in our first meeting.

9. You talk about “solutions” but never tell me how you’re going to solve my problem.

13. You treat your employees badly.

16. Your “free education seminar” was nothing more than a sales pitch.

Via Christopher Carfi

Get Your Wills Here, Three for a Dollar!

I was grocery shopping today and found myself buying three pizzas, instead of just the one I needed, because they were on sale, “Three for $10.00.”  Now, I know that really means $3.34 for the first and $3.33 for the other two, but I bought three anyway, falling prey to the grocer’s power of suggestion.  So I though, if it works for supermarkets, it should work for lawyers, right?

This holiday season if you do wills (as just one example) and normally charge $500 each, try a “family special” where three wills will cost $1400 or something similar.  Allow people to buy three wills at once, with the ability to give two to others — think parents doing a will and then giving each of their adult children one of their own. 

Make sure the parents know they have no right to control or see what their kids do, and give yourself an out if there are conflicting interests, but if you market them as a package, you could see a significant increase in your estate planning business.

I need another blender!

I don’t really need another blender, but I want one after seeing this:  Will it Blend?  One of the best viral marketing ideas I’ve seen in a long while.

LinkedIn for Lawyers?

From TechCrunch:

LinkedIn, a social networking website primarily focused on business connections has added a section to their site that allows users to recommend service providers — a yellow pages based on user referrals. From web designers to doctors, users rate service providers in a thumbs up, thumbs down voting system similar to Digg.

Here’s another article article with more:

In the case of LinkedIn’s directory of service providers, users can search narrowly for services recommended by friends, or they can widen their search to friends of friends. Failing that, a global search capability is offered to allow users to search across the full LinkedIn network.

Making the system work will depend on whether LinkedIn users bother to write recommendations for other businesses, building on an existing feature within LinkedIn that encourages colleagues to recommend other colleagues.

It also could draw in new users. Most LinkedIn members currently are executives, professionals, sales people and other office workers. The new directory could attract trade workers.

Are you ready for this?

Are Legal Services Like Vegetables?

Cathy Sierra has another great post on motivating web visitors, that applies broadly to anyone selling anything.  Cathy discusses the two levels of motivation:  “motivation to interact and motivation to do something as a result of that interaction.”  Think of your marketing as the first kind of motivation and your in-person client meeting as the second. 

Just how do you motivate your prospects to hire you?  Cathy first tells us how not to motivate them:

Trying to motivate someone to action by telling them it’s good for them doesn’t… actually… work …  because it doesn’t invoke the right feelings.

In other words, don’t suggest your clients hire you because of what will happen if they don’t.  Instead, as Cathy suggests, citing a great Fast Company article , emphasize the positive things that will come out of your lawyer/client relationship.  Can’t think of any?  Try this exercise: 

Ask your clients to visualize a “best case scenario” conclusion to their matter .  Then ask them what personal or business benefits they’ll reap and how they expect to “feel” if the matter concludes in that positive way.  Keep track of their responses (maybe even suggesting they write them down).  After doing this for ten or twenty clients, you’ll start to see themes emerge.  These are the themes you should focus on when you are trying to motivate your clients to hire you.

Right Way Writing

Dumb Little Man has compiled a list of 50 Writing Tools from Poynter Online.  If you write at all, it is worth your time to check out some of the Poynter articles.  An amazing resource!

Provocative Post Pondering Provocativity

Kathy Sierra posts a tremendous article (even by her lofty standards) about how to be provocative and why it matters.  Please read it.

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

Robert Middleton writes about the benefits of sending three short thank you notes each day:

About two months ago I started sending 2-3 short notes daily to vendors, clients, contractors, colleagues, anyone I came into contact with, however minor the occasion. It’s important to “smile as you write”, as your article suggests, otherwise it will seem like some contrived, dashed off attempt at connecting while trying to do 20 other things at the same time. 

But the exercise has had two effects for me and my company so far:

1) In a very unexpected way, it has made me feel better about myself and my business as a service provider, which bleeds through into the energy I exude all day long.

To anyone who doesn’t think it makes a difference in how you walk, talk, and carry yourself and your expressions, I would say try this for yourself and see. I also find myself following through with clients more thoroughly and attentively, and having better focus and productivity.

I think it has something to do with taking a few minutes to *slow down* and give someone your undivided attention. We all crave feeling listened to and acknowledged.

2) On a more tangible level, I have had two important corporate referrals and increased amounts of business from regular clients to whom I’ve dropped notes in the mail (one of them nearly double).

I have also received expressions of true, bona fide human appreciation from both clients and vendors we work with, whom really will go the extra mile now. Little human touches in the impersonal “we care, but not that much” ocean has an exponential effect on people’s desire to know, like, trust, and do business with you.

Check out The More Clients Blog for more great advice.

Will Your Firm Be Better Tomorrow?

Black Belt Productivity suggests we Be Better Tomorrow Than We Are Today and I agree.  For some reason, the simple question, “How did I get better today?” has given me a productivity boost since I read the post last week. 

I also think it is an appropriate question to ask of your business.  When you have your daily/weekly/monthly “all hands” meeting, I suggest you ask everyone there if your business is better today than it was yesterday.  Despite their answers, I’d also ask them will they make it even better tomorrow.

 

A Lawyer’s Blog Should …

It has been a while since I’ve pointed you towards my friend Yvonne DiVita’s blog.  If it isn’t in your rotation of regular reads, it should be.  If you want to know why, check out her recent post, A Business Blog Should … 

 

Total Information Awareness, for Lawyers AND Clients

Pronet Advertising has a great list of 10 Things You Should Be Monitoring online.  Other bloggers have jumped in with numbers 11–17 and 18–23.  The first ten:

  1. Company name
  2. Company URL
  3. Public facing figures
  4. Product names
  5. Product URLs
  6. The industry “hang outs”
  7. Employee activity/blogs
  8. Conversations
  9. Brand image
  10. Competitors

Good advice, but I’d take it a bit further.  You should absolutely be monitoring these things for all your clients, too.

OK Trial Lawyers, Keep Those Palms Up (not just out).

(Via BuzzBodytalk:

“If you talk with an audience with your palms in an upward position, they not only remember up to 40 percent more of what you’ve said, but they like you.”

Time to shoot new pictures for those yellow pages ads. 

Surprise Your Clients With Lunch

Via Hugh:

One of the crazier PR stunts I’ve seen for a while: Cambrian House, an open-source software company, turn up at Google unannounced and feed them 1000 complimentary pizzas .

I love this idea, but if I were a law firm serving any medium to large business, I’d take it in a different direction:  I’d surprise my biggest/best clients with enough free pizza to feed all their employees. 

If I wanted to create even more buzz, I’d buy pizza for all my business clients’ employees ON THE SAME DAY.  You could surely work a pretty good deal with the local pizza places, and think about how much everyone would talk about you. 

If I had a few thousand dollars I was thinking about spending on that secondary yellow pages book in my town, I spend my money doing this instead.  I’m sure I’d get a much better bang for my buck.

Drive Divorce Clients to Your Practice

Are you a divorce lawyer?  Here’s a great vehicle for marketing your practice:

Cheating Bastard Divorce Lawyers

Thanks to Klaas Oost for permission to use this photo (flickr link), taken in Cape Town, South Africa.

It is never too early to do your client holiday shopping.

Don’t know where you’d find these online, but if you practice criminal law and want a nice gift for your clients, may I suggest this lovely door mat:

IMG_0422

(found on a front porch in the Soulard area of St. Louis)

You Can Call Me “Mr. Homann”

I was out for a walk the other day and saw this real estate agent’s magnetic sign on his SUV: 

IMG_0790

Despite the incredible amount of information on the sign, notice that the one thing it doesn’t have is his first name.  If you wanted to contact him, but didn’t remember the phone number, or even the agency, how would you find him?  Would you search for “Mr. Johnson” in the Yellow Pages or on Google?

Think about your business or firm name.  If someone hears it and wants to contact you later, will they be able to find you? 

Another Way to Impress Potential Clients

Ever think of adding a multi-media presentation to your professional firm’s web site? For a very cool (and different) idea, check out Ganas Consulting’s Declaration of Independence.

Via Presentation Zen

Meet Tomorrow’s Clients

According to this study:

Gen Yers spend 12.2 hours online every week — 28 percent longer than 27- to 40-year-old Gen Xers and almost twice as long as 51- to 61-year-old Older Boomers. Gen Yers are also much more likely to engage in Social Computing activities while online. For example, they are 50 percent more likely than Gen Xers to send instant messages, twice as likely to read blogs, and three times as likely to use social networking sites like MySpace.

“All generations adopt devices and Internet technologies, but younger consumers are Net natives who spend more time online than watching television,” said Forrester Research Vice President and co-author of the report Ted Schadler. “Younger generations live online, reading blogs, downloading podcasts, checking prices before buying, and trading recommendations.”

Movie Marketing Madness

I love to find interesting marketing ideas, even (or especially) if the ideas are not directed to professional service providers.  Mark Cuban has hundreds of cool marketing ideas submitted by readers on his blog in response to this:

So if you want a job, and have a great idea on how to market movies in a completely different way. If your idea works for any and all kinds of movies. If it changes the dynamics and the economics of promoting movies, email it or post it. If its new and unique, i want to hear about it. If its a different way of doing the same thing you have seen before, it probably wont get you a job, but feel free to try.

So go for it. Come up with a great idea that i want to use and I will come up with a job for you to make that idea happen.

There are now over one thousand ideas submitted by Mark’s readers.  Take some time to read them.  You are sure to find a nugget you can use in your practice. 

What Start-Ups Want in a Lawyer

OK, so Andy Lark is talking about hiring a PR agency, but I think he could just as easily be talking about hiring a lawyer:

But I don’t want $15,000 dollars worth of service. I don’t even know what that is!

I want results. I don’t care what it costs or whether an agency has to under or over service to deliver it. I just want results against the agreed budget. You commit, I commit, we all commit together.

What is more troubling to me as a Valley CMO is:

1) finding a great agency is bloody hard work. They are few and far between. At any billing rate. Few CMOs I know get the value of PR or AR, let alone the value of a good agency… I accept we are part of the problem, but…

2) finding an agency that gets your business and has a real enthusiasm for contributing to the growth of the business – harder still

3) finding an agency that understands that great ideas get funded – near impossible. They are caught in the conundrum or belief that ideas require budget prior to being generated. Bullshit. (and I am talking about real ideas, not those regurgitated from the last pitch)

4) finding a team that can explain why they should get paid more and then associate some kind of outcome with the result – well, if you find them, let me know. The most common justification – “we’ve been over servicing your business for six months now, you need to pay us more” – is nuts. Nuts!

5) finding an agency – the word is a bit of an oxymoron. It implies some kind of powerhouse of ideas and execution – the strength of a team. What you generally end-up funding is one very dedicated individual surrounded by some other folks – generally you aren’t quite sure what they are doing but they all arrive for meetings and scribble madly into notebooks.

What is needed is a new kind of agency. One not built on billable hours and 10k budgets. Maybe one built on the power of ideas to drive a startup’s growth curve? One with the courage and conviction to articulate a value proposition that resonates with the CMO of a start-up and ability to explain what the budget should be.

You see, we live less in the conceptual world of brand and reputation and more in the real world of qualified opportunities, pipeline growth and time to sale.

Until then, 10k sounds like a nice round number to start with. Agencies shouldn’t let it end there. We will pay more. And I am willing to put my money where my mouth is.

If you want to serve this market, listen closely to Andy’s complaints.  Make it your number-one priority to contribute to the growth of your clients’ businesses, not to extract the maximum amount of money from their coffers.  Build client-centered teams — and make sure your client meets everyone on the team BEFORE their time shows up on a bill.  Finally, start your representation by focusing on the goals of the client and the results they desire.  Then agree upon a budget (or, gasp, a fixed price) to meet those goals and achieve those results.

Marketing to Small Businesses

If you want to understand the mindset of entrepreneurs, you should read this post from Scott Berkun (thanks, LifeHacker) on two kinds of people …

… people that make things complex and people that simplify.

Complexifiers are averse to reduction. Their instincts are to turn simple assignments into quagmires, and to reject simple ideas until they’re buried (or asphyxiated) in layers of abstraction. These are the people who write 25 page specifications when a picture will do and send long e-mails to the entire team when one phone call would suffice. When they see x=y, they want to play with it and show their talents, taking pleasure in creating the unneccesary (23x*z = 23y*z). They take pride in consuming more bandwith, time, and paitence than needed, and expect rewards for it.

Simplifiers thrive on concision. They look for the 6x=6y in the world, and happily turn it into x=y. They never let their ego get in the way of the short path. When you give them seemingly complicated tasks they simplify, consolidate and re-interpret on instinct, naturally seeking the simplest way to achieve what needs to be done. They find ways to communicate complex ideas in simple terms without losing the idea’s essense or power.

Entrepreneurs and business people want their lawyers to be Simplifiers.  What do you do to simplify things for your clients?  Do they know it?

UPDATE:  I posted this without reading all the comments.  There are some great nuggets in there.  One is Scott’s response to a comment asking for a way to figure out which camp a prospective hire/consultant/etc. is in.  Here is one of  Scott’s ideas:

2) I’d give them a complex, but solvable problem. After they’ve solved it (even with help) I’d ask them to find a simpler solution to the same problem. If they’re a simplifier they’ll be into this – even if they don’t suceed they’ll be self motivated about seeking out a simpler way. If they’re complexifiers, they’ll balk at the suggestion that a simpler way exists and that it’s even worth their time to find it.

Increase Your Social Surface Area

Want a fun tool to measure your networking efforts:  David Seah’s Network Catch-O-Matic.  In David’s post explaining the tool, he talks about “increasing your social surface area,” which is one of the best benefits of networking — and blogging.

Stressless Press

Need an intro on getting good press?  Here it is.  One great suggestion to get in print publications (and blogs) is to:

Get to know your publication: 

Buy three issues of the magazine and read it cover to cover.

    1. Observe which sections change month on month and which don’t.
    2. Make a note of what the cover theme is each month and which words or themes are repeated. Anything that is repeated time and time again on a cover means it’s a core topic for that magazine.
    3. From your own research form a picture of who the reader is.
    4. Create a profile of a typical advertiser and who they are trying to reach – this will help you understand where most of the magazine’s ad revenue comes from – and also who is currently successful in this market.
    5. Imagine your product or service appearing in the mag. Does it fit? Will the readers be interested in it? Can they afford it?

Once you have chosen the publication that is perfect for you and your idea then you are ready to begin your marketing onslaught. First things first: find out who is responsible for which areas of editorial. This may not be clear from the editorial panel so ring the magazine to find out. Speak to the secretary if you can’t speak to the team. The same goes for a newspaper or indeed any other media.

Armed with this information, there are four main ways that you can get the attention of a publication: as an Expert in your field, as an Ideas Machine, by sending a Press Release, or by requesting a Review.

 

Get Down With NLP — Yeah You Know Me

Want an introduction to Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)?  Check out this 12 part series on the Life Coaches Blog:  NLP 101.  What is NLP?

A powerful bag of tricks that allows you to help people change themselves through its mental models, patterns of influence and techniques of change.

Instead of giving you generals, NLP has many step-by-step specifics, which is great when practitioners recognize the principles so they know how not to go step-by-step, and terrible when practitioners don’t know the principles and follow the steps to the letter or bend it all out of shape.

A lot of trial lawyers have been studying NLP to help them connect with juries.  If you are curious, check out the whole series.

One Way to Sell Wisdom

Having a difficult time “selling” your value as an advisor instead of a tecnician?  Here’s an easy-to-understand way to communicate the differences between Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom, from the Across the Sound podcast (via Howard Kaplan):

Data is “the sun rises at 5:12 AM”

Information is “the sun rises from the East, at 5:12 AM”

Knowledge is “If you’re lost in the woods without a compass, follow the direction of the sun to find your direction”

Finally, wisdom is “Don’t get lost in the woods”

If You Can Find a Better Lawyer, Hire Them …

If Chrysler can do it, so can you:  Offer a Guarantee.

I Know Something You Don’t

Here’s one of the best taglines (from the presentation design company Missing Link) I’ve ever seen:

Don’t hire us because we’re fun and interesting.  Hire us because you’re not.

In a blatant rip-off, I’m claiming this line to sell to my next law firm client:

Don’t hire us because we know the law.  Hire us because you don’t. (TM)

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Blogs are Child’s Play

According to this study, 78% of young people have a personal website or blog.  These are tomorrow’s clients and customers.  They will judge you based upon your online presence, or lack thereof. 

What are you going to do about it?

Mom, Dad, I’ve Got Something to Tell You …

A Great Tip from Paul Bennett:

So try this. Buy a train ticket home for the weekend. Not your current house, but home-home, to your parents. Now sit them down at the kitchen table and, in 50 words or less, tell them what you do for a living, what product you make or sell (or if you’re a consultant, what process or deliverable you sell), and what’s good about it. Don’t use weird words or anything with lots of syllables. Don’t quit until they understand you. I told my mother once that I worked in Conceptual Marketing and I swear she thought I had joined a cult.  Remember what you said. Now go back to work, and apply this principle to your job. Simple stories, truths well told, no made-up nomenclature and gilded lilies. It’s more clever to be simple, don’t forget that.

Make Money by Specializing? Bank on it.

In an interview in the New York Times, the Chairman of ING Direct shares explains why his company specializes and avoids cross-selling:

Q. Does the question simply become one of pricing, of being able to offer the highest return?

A. In every country where we are, we have competitors offering higher rates than we offer. But you’ve got to be very careful, because, you know, consumers are smart. We have a product offering that has no commissions, no minimum, no tricks. Does the competition offer any tricks, like ties to something else that you have to do to be there, or a minimum balance, or a minimum usage? We have to be better than the next most comparable alternative.

For us, cross-sell is not what we want to do, because we want to keep it simple. We know that out there, the largest pool of earnings in the retail banking world comes from savings and mortgage — those are the only two things that we want to do. If you try to cross-sell too many products, you confuse the clients about what you are and your costs escalate exponentially.

Here are three questions every small business person should be able to answer: 

1.  What is your most pofitable service or product?

2.  If you focused exclusively on selling that service or product, could you sell more?

3.  What’s stopping you?

I’m not suggesting that small business owners abandon their passions to concentrate on making the most money possible, but I do believe that most business owners — and this goes double for lawyers — don’t even know what their most profitable service or product is.  Answer the first question, then the second, and finally the third, and you may be on your way to a more profitable business.  And if not, at least you’ll understand the trade-offs you are making in your business and your life.

What Color is Your Waiting Room, and Your Business Card, and Your Letterhead, and Your …

Have you thought about what your marketing materials’ color says about you?

In North American mainstream culture, the following colors are associated with certain qualities or emotions:

Red — excitement, strength, sex, passion, speed, danger.
Blue — (the most popular color) trust, reliability, belonging, coolness.
Yellow – warmth, sunshine, cheer, happiness
Orange — playfulness, warmth, vibrant
Green – nature, fresh, cool, growth, abundance
Purple — royal, spirituality, dignity
Pink — soft, sweet, nurture, security
White — pure, virginal, clean, youthful, mild.
Black — sophistication, elegant, seductive, mystery
Gold — prestige, expensive
Silver — prestige, cold, scientific

Market researchers have also determined that color affects shopping habits. Impulse shoppers respond best to red-orange, black and royal blue. Shoppers who plan and stick to budgets respond best to pink, teal, light blue and navy. Traditionalists respond to pastels – pink, rose, sky blue.

 

Who Can Your Potential Customers Call?

Ethics considerations aside for just a moment, can anyone imagine a law firm doing this?

Here are over 100 people from around the world that know our software better than anyone else (except us of course). Feel free to ask them about our software, our service, tech support, anything you like. There is nothing better than getting an answer from someone like you!

Via Church of the Customer.

Edit Your Dictionary

Here are four words to take out of your vocabulary:

I have removed several words from my own “client relations” vocabulary through the advice of friends, colleagues and books I have read over the past few years. These words tend to put the client on edge, and especially for a new client, can form a barrier across the relationship that you are trying to form with them.

The words:  Just, Honest, Simple, and Actually.  Check out the post for the reasons why.  Here’s what the author has to say about simple:

The great thing about the word simple is that it almost always can predict that the future of your statement will be anything but. To say something is simple, implies that it is too small for the client to worry about, but what really ends up happening is that it is usually this item that the client will fixate on because you have tried to downplay it. This word also comes in the synonyms of easy, no problem,and likity split. Yes, I’ve really heard a colleague say that last synonym before!

What words should lawyers take out of their vocabularies? 

Do You Value What You Do?

Sean D’Souza gives some more advice on pricing.  What stood out for me was this quote:

First you must value your own stuff.
Then they’ll value your stuff.

Let me introduce you to …

Ever wanted to introduce two people, but couldn’t figure out how to send an e-mail to both of them at the same time?  Me neither.  But if you want to make introducing two people even easier, with some Web2.0 goodness thrown in, check out You Should Meet.  If anyone out there knows somebody I should meet, give the (free) service a whirl.  My e-mail is Matt “at” LexThink.com.  I look forward to meeting them.

Wanna Get Your Business on TV?

I just found SpotRunner, a web-based service that will help to put your business on TV.  Pick a pre-produced ad, add your name and contact info, choose your network and TV schedule, and go.  Very cool, and pretty cheap too.  From the website:

It used to be difficult – and expensive – to advertise on television. Only big companies could afford to do it because it involved hiring an ad agency to make the actual ads, and a media buying company to make sure they got on TV at the right time. Now Spot Runner does everything for you, and at a price any business can afford. Here’s how:

The Ads: We have a vast library of world-class ads. You choose the ad you want and then personalize it by adding your company name, or images of your products, or details about an upcoming promotion. We charge you for making those personalizations, and for getting your finished ad ready to be broadcast on television.

The TV schedule: Once you’ve chosen your ad, we help you create an effective schedule of TV networks and times to ensure that your ad is seen by the right people. Then we send off your personalized ad and make sure it runs where and when it’s supposed to. Our prices include all the time and effort it takes to do that.

Most ads can only be used by one local business at a time. In other words, once you’ve purchased your ad no one else in your area can use it. There are some exceptions to this, but when you choose your ad you’ll see your options for exclusivity, and you can protect your ad as much or as little as you want.

More Speaking Tips from Bert Decker

Bert Decker has several great recent posts that have been sitting in my “to blog” folder.  I’m going to lump them together here:

The Power of the PausePractice pausing. Non-words are just pause fillers, and extend beyond the typical “um” and “uh” to “you knows,” “ands,” “okays,” “right” and the like. All anyone has to do is practice leaving pauses of two or three seconds after each sentence. In this exercise the speaker will at first feel the pauses are excruciatingly long.

Quick Tip: The Rule of 40: Whenever there are more than 40 people in a room of any size, use a microphone.

Impact with TechnologyRemembering that you are the presentation, develop visuals that enhance your point of view. After all, visuals are important:

      • 55% of believability comes through the visual
      • A 500% average increase in retention occurs when visuals are used in a presentation
      • 83% of what we know is learned by seeing and observing

If you do presentations or public speaking, Bert’s blog has to be on your “must read” list.

Crayon Your Way to Better Presentations?

Here’s an interesting tip from the Sales Presentation Training Blog:

Write your entire presentation out and then get some colored markers. For example, for all the facts that you have written down, highlight them in red. Next, color all your humor in green. Lastly, color all your audience participation in blue.

Ok, now step back and look at your work of art. What, you don’t see any green for humor? Where is the blue, for audience participation? Even if you are giving a sales presentation to manage $50 million dollars for a pension fund, you will be amazed by the audiences receptivity if you make the presentation about them. Red is a nice color but make sure your presentation has some green and blue to involve your audience.

Try the same thing with your marketing materials.  Use highlight all of the sentences talking about you (your technology, your offices, your expertise) in red, and all of the sentences talking about your clients (their needs, their testimonials, their satisfaction) in green. Too much red?  Maybe you need some new marketing materials.

Is it all the same thing?

Will lawyers ever realize that it is all the same thing:

We don’t spend 2 hours every day on marketing, we spend all day on marketing. We don’t spend 1 hour every day figuring out the best way to communicate what our products do, we spend all day figuring out the best way to communicate what our products do. We don’t spend 3 hours on interface design, we spend all day on interface design.

When the edges are blurred, and one thing is many things, you can achieve so much more with less time, effort, and people.

Good work for clients is marketing.  Sending a fair bill is client service.  Returning telephone calls and e-mails is relationship building.  It is all the same thing.  Go read the original post and the comments.  Great Stuff!

Knowledge Arbitrage for Attorneys

Writing about 10 ways to get more ideas, Rajesh Setty shares a gem that should be in every lawyer’s toolbox:

4. Harness the power of association

The more you associate things the faster you will get new ideas. Knowledge arbitrage is one way of associating things. Here is a simple way to develop your association muscle. List all the people that are close to you in your network. Also list their current projects and interests – basically list what matters most to these people. Once you have this data handy, whenever you meet a new person, see if there is a match in the interests of the new person and one of your earlier contacts in your network. If there is a mutual gain possible, connect these two people without expecting a gain.

The hidden benefit from the above mentioned approach: The more you do this, the higher the chances that the power of reciprocation will kick in and more people will be introduced to you. The more new people in your life, more fresh perspectives they will bring into your life. In turn, more new ideas will flow in.

This is one of the best ways to keep your existing clients happy and to get more.  Can you go though your client list and compile your clients’ current projects and interests?  Do you collect this information in your intake process?  You should.

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Price like a Professional

Sean D’Souza gives some advice on raising prices in The Price is Never Wrong.  A comment to the post caught my eye:

Adam Kayce writes:  Darn good point. Every time I’ve raised my prices, not only do I make more money (which is nice), and not only do I seem to get more business (also very nice), but two other things rise, too: what you call “respect”, and “business self-esteem”.

People see me as more of a professional, the more my rates increase. It’s all perceived value.

But also, as I charge more, I give more – and I see my work as more valuable. That’s the business self-esteem rising. I believe it, so I embody it, and the value of the work increases. Great cycle.

I’d never thought about how pricing relates to business self-esteem before.  What do you think?

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Be the Same and Be Second

Found this summary of the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing on Mike Vance’s absolutely fantastic MineZone Wiki, where there are dozens of business book summaries.  Here is one great nugget:

If you’re shooting for second place, your strategy is determined by the market leader.

  • “You must discover the essence of the leader and then present the prospect with the opposite. (In other words, don’t try to be better, try to be different.”

WWJDTMAC – What Would Jesus Do to Market a Church?

Do you think legal marketing sucks?  Then read Church Marketing Sucks, a great new blog focused on — yep, you guesed it — church marketing.  Great blog design too!

Seed your clients for better marketing.

Could a law firm bring in its target clients and ask them for marketing advice?  Here’s an introduction to how it just might work:

Rather than simply offer free samples, previews, test-drives etc to opinion leaders, the idea of seeding trials is to create goodwill, loyalty and advocacy among the opinion-leading 10% of your target market by putting the product or service in their hands and giving them a say in how it is marketed. By involving opinion leaders in this way, by effectively inviting them to become part of your marketing department, you create a powerful sense of ownership among the clients, customers or consumers that count.

The reason this works is called The Hawthorne Effect.  Here’s a fascinating example from the article:

Back in the 1930s, a team of researchers from the Harvard Business School were commissioned to run some employee research for the telecom giant Western Electric (now Lucent Technologies). Conducted as the company’s production plant in Hawthorne, near Chicago, the research program involved inviting small groups of employees to trial various new working conditions before rolling them out to the general workforce. To the researchers’ amazement, whatever was trialed the participants seemed to like, to such an extent that their productivity increased! For example, when researchers invited participants to trial working in brighter lighting conditions, productivity increased. But then when they trialed dimmer lighting conditions, productivity also increased. In fact, productivity kept increasing in successive trials of working under progressively dimmer lights, until the lighting was no stronger than moonlight! In another trial, the research participants were invited to test working shorter hours, and sure enough their productivity increased again. Indeed, subsequent trials showed that the more breaks the research participants were given and the less time they worked, the greater their productivity. But then, when the researchers asked them to trial longer hours, productivity went up again – to an all time high.

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Are You N.A.A.?

Mark Merenda gives some great advice on law firm taglines, and then shares this story:

It put me in mind of the — much shorter — tag line of a young attorney whom I met at a NAELA event at Hilton Head Island, S. C. in May, 2004. His business card read (with a change of names to protect the guilty): Joe Jones, attorney at law, N.A.A. 

I asked what the N.A.A. designation stood for. He said, “Not An A**hole.”

Promotion Progress

Don Dodge hits the nail on the head:

The web, and more specifically blogs, have made it simple and cheap to promote your product. And it can all happen in 24 hours…without ever leaving your computer screen. This is transformational. It has been happening gradually over the last 5 years so we haven’t really noticed how dramatic the change has been. It is huge.

Don’t Just Pitch, Pitch In!

Patrick Lamb passes on a great tip from an article by Charles Green about how a law firm, given 90 minutes to “pitch” themselves to the General Counsel of a Fortune 50 company threw the pitch away — and hit the ball out of the park.  From the GC:

Then came firm three.  They said, ‘We have 90 minutes with you .  We can either do a standard capabilities presentation–which we’re very happy to do–or we can try something different.  We suggest that we get started on the job, right now–as if you had already given us the contract–and begin the job, right here, right now.  After 85 minutes, we’ll stop and you’ll have firsthand experience of exactly how it feels to work with us.’

Consider this approach for your next pitch — and let me know how it goes.

Marketing 101: Know what urgent problem your’re uniquely solving.

Dave Pollard sums up marketing 101:  “Know what urgent problem you’re uniquely solving.”  Dave continues:

Over the years I have advised many entrepreneurs, worked with a lot of consultants, and coached executives. All three groups repeatedly make the same mistake: They try to introduce ‘solutions’ that are really interesting, quite feasible, and well within their area of competency, but which fail to uniquely solve an urgent problem (in the eyes of whoever is paying for it).

Here’s another nugget:

Unless you’re willing to resort to such advertising hype, and burn a lot of bridges behind you, you need to focus on offering products and services that meet real needs. And if you’re wise, you’ll focus on urgent needs before important ones, because to most of us, there is always tomorrow to look after that important need, while the urgent need must be addressed today.

Go read his entire post.  It’s really great.

The Marketing Concept – Ron Baker

The Marketing Concept by guest blogger Ron Baker

There is only one boss:  the customer.  And he can fire everybody in the company, from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.  -Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart (1918-1992)

I miss Peter Drucker.  He was one of the few management consultants who had original insights, could write without making his readers feel like they were watching a fly ascend a drape, and has taught me so many lessons there is no way I can even separate his thinking from my own.  He deserved a Nobel Prize, and it’s a shame he didn’t get one (they are not given posthumously).

One of his lessons was you are not in business to make a profit.  Profit is merely oxygen for the body; it is not the reason for being.  Profit is nothing more than a lagging indicator of what is in the hearts and minds of your customers.

He indefatigably pointed out that “there is only one valid definition of business purpose:  to create a customer.”  This is known as the marketing concept

The purpose of any organization–from a governmental agency, non-profit foundation to a corporation–exists to create results outside of itself.  The result of a school is an educated student, as is a cured patient for a hospital.  For a law firm, a happy and loyal customer who returns is the ultimate result.
 
The only things that exist inside of a business are costs, activities, efforts, problems, mediocrity, friction, politics, and crises.  There is no such thing as a profit center in a business; there are only cost and effort centers.  In fact, Peter Drucker said in a 1997 interview, “One of the biggest mistakes I have made during my career was coining the term profit center, around 1945.”

The only profit center is a customer’s check that doesn’t bounce.  Customers are absolutely indifferent to the internal workings of your firm in terms of costs, desired profits levels and efforts.  Value is only created when you have produced something the customer voluntarily, and willingly, pays for. 

For example, cosmetic companies, as Revlon founder Charles Revson pointed out, sell hope.  What makes the marketing concept so breathtakingly brilliant is the focus is always on the outside of the organization.  It doesn’t look inside and ask, “What do we want and need?” but rather it looks outside to the customer and asks, “What do you desire and value?”

Your firm exists to serve real flesh and blood people, not some mass of demographics known as “the market.”  In the final analysis, a business doesn’t exist to be efficient, to do cost accounting, or to give people fancy titles and power over the lives of others. 

It exists to create results and wealth outside of itself.  This profound lesson must not be forgotten.

Thank you Mr. Drucker.  R.I.P.

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A Different Kind of “Yellow” Pages

Looking for that next great place to … uh … “reach” your male customers?  Decent Marketing may have just the ticket:  Heat Activated Urinal Billboards.  I know, you are wondering how it works, aren’t you?

The heat in a male’s urine will deliver the message and the automatic flush from the toilet will re-set it for the next unsuspecting visitor… A perfect repetitive marketing tactic.

 

Test Your Ideas at the Cafe

If you’ve got something you want to get some feedback on, but don’t want to pay for a formal focus group:

The basic idea behind café testing is to situate yourself at a café, put up a sign to attract participants, and test the people that come to you. Because cafes appeal to a wide variety of individuals, and people at a café often have time to spare, café testing can be a great way to perform a quick litmus test in the marketplace.

Kind of like Rosa’s Coffee Tip.

What Can You Give Away for Free?

Jim Logan has some great tips for making some marketing hay with free offers.  He gives several examples of businesses that have succeeded by giving things away to customers for free.  Here are my favorites:

  • A few consumer electronics companies are letting customers take big screen TVs home for a free 30 day trail, you don’t pay a single cent until the 30 days are over. Delivery and pick-up, if you decide to return the TV, are free. Returns are almost non-existent.
  • A lawn service business cut my grass and cleaned my yard free for one month, before we signed a contract for services. Every week they showed up on time, worked like dogs, and had the place looking and staying beautiful. I signed an agreement at the end of the free service.
  • I was told of a donut shop that gives away donut holes, a dozen free, seven days a week. They report having seen their overall donut sales more than double. The donut holes are a marketing expense.
  • Our carpet cleaner routinely offers to clean one room free, of any size, for new customers. Without obligation to purchase anything, they clean a room and say “Thanks for trying our service. Let us know if we can do anything for you in the future.” The guys told me they almost always are asked to clean additional rooms and are usually called back in 6 months.

The best tip is Jim’s own:

In my own business, I routinely structure consulting projects around defined phases, with payment following completion of the fist phase. It the client doesn’t want to complete the project after the first phase, they don’t pay and we end the engagement. In three years of doing business this way, I haven’t had one client stop a project of fail to pay.

If you are a lawyer and want to set yourself apart, you’d be wise to try Jim’s model with one of your new clients.

Goflockyourselfable Language Test

I’m glad to see Go Flock Yourself is back.  It’s a blog about the absurdity of all things Web 2.0, and pretty funny to boot.  In a somewhat mean-spirited post ripping the use of the term “Syndicatable” in the new book by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, GFY’s anonymous author shared a pretty useful language tip:

The only people to whom the word “syndicatable” is going to mean anything are the ones who already know what syndication is. Think of it this way, in what I like to call the “Room-full-of-middle-aged-suburban-women-test.” In this test, you walk into a room full of middle-aged suburban women, and say “Blog content is SYNDICATABLE.” Take the number of purely blank stares, multiply it by the number of them that get up and head for the coffee table or the bathroom, and you have a direct index of that statement’s failure to convey even a lick of meaning in and of itself.

As lawyers, how often do we use terms in client conversations that wouldn’t pass this test?

Don’t Advertise in the Lawyer Section of the YellowPages

Kevin Salwen of Worthwhile Magazine shares this advertising nugget:

What ads get your attention online? Probably not what you think. A new study of online advertising by behavioral marketing firm Tacoda shows that people tend to look at ads if they are not contextually connected to the rest of the information. In other words, if you want your pizza ad to stand out, put it into a technology story, not a food piece.

First exposures to ads for cars, computers and TV displayed out of context generated 17% more looks than when those ads were shown on pages where the content related to the ads, the research showed. And after the first exposure–when consumers are expected to tune out ads–out-of-context ads generated a stunning 54% more looks than in-context ones.

Still paying for that full page ad in the “lawyer” section of the yellowpages?

Write Your Firm Newsletter on a Postcard!

I came across Chuck Green’s Ideabook site yesterday, and once I found myself adding nearly every page of his to my daily links, I thought I’d devote an entry to this amazing resource.  If you want to see how great design can improve business (and client) communication, you have to set aside some time to check out Chuck’s site.  Just one great example:  a postcard-sized newsletter.  Freakin’ cool!

No Gain Without Solving Pain

Are you a lawyer who’s thinking of going solo?  Take this advice from Joel Spolsky:

Don’t start a business if you can’t explain what pain it solves, for whom, and why your product will eliminate this pain, and how the customer will pay to solve this pain.

 

Wanna Love a Lawyer?

I know, as a married guy, I’m a bit out of touch with the dating scene, but is there an audience for this?  From the website:

Lawyers in Love is the best place to meet successful, brainy lawyers, law students, and other legal professionals for friendship, dating, fun, romance and companionship. If your schedule makes it difficult for you to meet people, if you are still working during happy hours and other social events, if weekends are devoted to writing briefs, you will love this unique opportunity to find romance on the Web.

Benefits are in the Eye of the Beholder.

My friend Jim Logan (who still blogs at JSLogan) is now posting his great business advice to a new blog:  Biz Informer.  Great stuff from Jim, as always, and I highly recommend it.  Here’s a bit of a taste, from his post If Your Market or Customer Doesn’t Care, You Can’t Call it a Benefit:

Assuming you’re not the only company on the planet that provides products and services similar to yours, what is it about your offering that’s unique? As with benefits you offer your customers, your uniqueness needs to be tied to things valued by your customer. Your uniqueness is your ‘orange’…your ‘orange’ as compared to other’s ‘apple.’

Being different only counts to the extent your target customers acknowledge the difference as a benefit. For example, if your difference is that you support 1000+ color choices for your ‘widgets’ however, your target customers only buy or care about 4 basic colors, then your difference in having 1000+ color choices is of no benefit to your customer and has little to no market value.

Your difference shares space with your benefits as the ground you stand on to compete for your prospective customer’s business. The things you highlight as differences are the items you most want to compete on and are in effect ‘traps’ you set for your competition.

Look for difference in your offering that is tied to the use of your product and service. Your difference is your unfair advantage over your competitors. Another way to look at it is your benefits are what your customer gets from your products or services; your difference gives cause as to why your benefits and solution are unique.

Remember…Difference without benefit is of no value to your customer. Be sure to highlight difference that is recognized by your customers as benefits they are willing to pay for.

Take a look at your marketing materials.  What “benefits” do you brag about.  Do your customers really care?

Their Pain, Your Gain

Barry Moltz has a recap of the 10 Lessons his students should have learned in his entrepreneurship class.  The best one:

Every Business is About Solving Pain.  Find the People that will Pay for it.

This should be an easy one for lawyers in particular.  What pain do you solve?

 

Grinders and Drones

There is an interesting conversation taking place between Neil Witmer (via Larry Bodine’s blog) and Gerry Riskin about the ability of legal “grinders and drones” to become rainmakers.

A question that seems a bit lost in the discussion is just how do big-firm lawyers become grinders or drones?  With the tremendous number of billable hours big firms require, might the firms be responsible for their own plight — by turning otherwise social, interesting young lawyers into grinders and drones to get those billable hours in?  I do know this, big firms aren’t complaining when a second year associate ignores his/her family, forgoes a social life, and loses touch with former classmates while clocking 2,417 billables.

If the firms spent more time nurturing the skills that help young lawyers become rainmakers, instead of letting those skills atrophy, perhaps there would be a bunch more rainmaking partners.

UPDATE:  Check out the Greatest American Lawyer’s Post on the same topic.  As usual, he says it better than I did.

New Niche for Lawyers?

Looking for a practice niche?  Mike McLaughlin has an idea for you:

It’s estimated that more than 40 percent of employed workers plan to begin job searches during the next 12 months, and almost 25 percent are already looking.

This study, conducted by Yahoo/HotJobs, is unscientific but shows a noteworthy trend.

Most people are looking for new jobs because they’re not happy with their current compensation. And almost half of the respondents believe their current jobs offer “no potential for career growth.” The news gets worse: One in four people feels underappreciated as “valued employees.”

Imagine feeling stuck in a job, unappreciated and underpaid. That’s a dangerous combination, which leads to unnecessary turnover.

Some employers risk getting blindsided by this trend, so it’s a compelling topic for discussion with most any client. 

With 40 percent of employed workers looking for different work, how about marketing yourself as the Career Change Lawyer?  You could offer a flat-rate package that included review of (and advice concerning) any non-compete/confidentiality agreements, severance packages, benefit issues, etc. 

Heck, you accountants, bankers, and financial planners out there should do the same.

Grab the domain now and start your blog tomorrow!

More Friday Fun

I think I’ll use some of these charts and graphs in my next presentation.  (Found via one of my new favorite blogs: Creative Generalist).

Women-owned Businesses as Clients

An interesting bit from Michele Miller’s Wonderbranding:

Article says women-owned construction companies grew 30 percent from 1998 to 2004, according to a study by the Center for Women’s Business Research.

I’d guess that stat is not that far off for other kinds of businesses in traditionally male-dominated industries.  What are you doing to capture that business?

As an aside, anyone know if there are many women-owned law firms?

What’s the Client Benefit You Promise?

I ran across this David Ogilvy quote in this post at AdPulp:

If you spend your advertising budget entertaining the consumer, you’re a bloody fool. Housewives don’t buy a new detergent because the manufacturer told a joke on television last night. They buy the new detergent because it promises a benefit. – David Ogilvy

What benefit does your business promise?

Personal Brilliance Buzz

My friend, Don the Idea Guy, introduced me to Jim Canterucci, author of the new book Personal Brilliance.  Don is masterminding the blog promotion of the book, and pointed me to some “blogger resources” he and Jim put together to make it easier for bloggers to blog about the book.  I just spoke with the book’s author and he’s sending me a copy to review.  I’ll let you know what I think, when I finish it. 

What Don is doing is pretty interesting.  He’s working with the author to promote (and presumably profit from) sales of the book while he heartily recommends it on his blog.  Does his credibility suffer?  Or has Don built up enough good will among his blog readers for us to assume he wouldn’t recommend a product or an idea without believing in it?  For me, the answer is yes.

I am quite certain this is a question more and more blog writers will be asked as the line between “advertising” and “content” is blurred.  What do you think?

P.S.  I’m not picking on Don here.  I know him and trust him, and frankly, I’d buy the book on his recommendation alone. I’ve just been thinking a lot lately about the intersection of blogs, advertising, paid endorsements, and the advertorial.

P.P.S.  Don is coming to BlawgThink, so feel free to ask him yourself.

Ask for “Sales” to make more.

Lori Richardson shares a great tip for reaching a decision maker in a large organization:

… and one of the best strategies I’ve used is to call in and ask for SALES – you will get someone on the other end of the phone who understands what you are going through – unless they are an admin person, they make calls like you do as well. Determine if you are in the right sales area. Ask them if they have a moment, and then ask about their boss, or boss’s boss. Get enough information to make a direct call or email – then fire it off. You’ll be surprised at the reply rate when you know a little something about your target or about their organization. Don’t forget to send a hand-written thank you note to the person in sales who gave you the inside scoop if you end up with an appointment or had a vaulable conversation – because that will motivate your original contact. It’s about goodwill, and what goes around does come around.

RSS is the new black.

Bill Flitter, Chief Marketing Officer of Pheedo, speaking at the AMA hot topics seminar in Atlanta:

RSS is the new e-mail.

Podcasts are the new webinars.

Blogs are the new whitepapers.

Atlanta Marketing Wonk Meet-Up

I’m in Atlanta this Friday speaking at the American Marketing Association’s Hot Topic Series: Blogs: Marketing Beyond the Website.  Afterwards, the speakers are having a Marketing Wonk Meet-Up at Loca Luna.  If you want to talk about Blogs over dinner and drinks, this is the place to be.  See you there.

Get Good in a Room

I’m at the National Speakers Association’s event in Palm Springs.  It is one of the best events I’ve ever attended, and I’ll be posting my thoughts in a few days.  One of the best things about going to a conference a bit outside your comfort zone is the number of amazing people you meet you’d have never met otherwise.

One person who fits that description is Stephanie Palmer, a former Hollywood executive who “teaches creative professionals how to present themselves and their ideas so their projects get purchased and produced .”  

We’ve just spent a tremendous hour talking and she is definitely the kind of person who should be blogging.  Until I twist her arm some more tomorrow to share some of her great tips with everyone, check out her website, Good in a Room

Advise vs. Serve

Via AdPulp comes this link to Neil French’s Communication Arts Column.  The best piece:

Next time you see the agency credentials PowerPoint, strike out every “serve” you see, and substitute “advise.” You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes to your own self-worth, for a start.

Take a look at your marketing materials and try this change yourself.  I think you’ll notice a positive change.

 

Now That’s a BIG Ad!

And I thought the Law.com ad I used to have on this site was a big ad. Check this out.

Marketing 101 – There are Five Benefits, Pick One

I’ve been meaning to link to a post by Skip Lineberg titled The Five Benefits.  In it, Skip recalls an important lesson he learned from a PR consultant:

… it does not matter what the product is or what industry one inhabits, you have to present your case so that you tell your audience within the first ten seconds of your message which one of the five possible benefits you are offering.  There are five, period. F-I-V-E.

Are you ready for them?  Here goes:

1. Make me wealthy
2. Improve my appearance
3. Help me to be more well-liked by my family or friends
4. Make me live longer
5. Get me laid more often

Money, looks, popularity, health and sex. That’s it.

So, what benefits do lawyers offer?

Comments in Ads?

I love Autoblog, and it is one of my first reads every day.  One thing Autoblog does is serve up a lot of ads, including one at the top of the page.  Today I noticed a “Comment on this Advertiser” link directly under the Suzuki ad.  Sure enough, clicking on the link brought me to a comments page asking me to “Please add [my] comments to inform others and help this advertiser improve their offering.”  

Way cool!   A great way for an advertiser (Suzuki) to get blog-like feedback without actually doing a blog itself.

Thank you, and good night.

Bert Decker has some really fantastic tips for ending a presentation.  Decker suggests that the last three seconds of any presentation are among the most important.  His tips:

  1. Don’t step back.  If anything, take a half-step toward your listeners at the end.  Don’t step back verbally, either, by softening your request to “I surely hope something…” or worse, “There seems to be a need…”  Keep saying “we” and “you” to the end.
  2. Don’t look away.  Some people harken back to the last visual-aid, as if for reinforcement.  Some people look aside, unwilling to confront listeners head-on at the last words, the murmured “thank you,” or the instant of silence that follows.  Stay with them.
  3. Don’t move on the last word.  Hold still for a half-beat after the “you” in “thank you.”  You don’t want to look anxious to get out of there.  If anything, you want to let people know you’ve enjoyed being with them and are sorry you have to go.  Don’t rush off. 
  4. Don’t raise your hands.  In our seminars, we recommend “clean and firm endings” to actually show people you’re finished.  You must “let them go” visually.  If you keep you hands up at waist level, you look as if you have something more to say.  You’re still “holding them.”  (You can see this same phenomenon in on-on-one seated conversations:  the person whose hands are up still “holds the floor” and the listener will not begin talking until the hands themselves are finished.)  In speaking, think of yourself as the gracious host or hostess as you drop your hands with an appreciative “thank you.”  That image prompts you to be warm and natural. 
  5. Don’t rush to collect your papers. Or visual aids, or displays.  Stop and chat with people if the meeting is breaking up, then begin to tidy up in a calm, unhurried manner.  Otherwise you might be contradicting your calm, confident demeanor as a presenter.
  6. Never blackball yourself with a critical grimace, a shake of the head, eyes rolled upward, a disgusted little sigh.  So what if you’re displeased with yourself?  Don’t insult your audience by letting them know you were awful; they probably thought you were pretty good.  One lip curl in those last three seconds can wreck 30 minutes of credibility.

Bert’s blog is one of my new favorites.  It is chock-full of great tips like these.  Add it to your aggregator.  You won’t be sorry.

The Best Business Advice for Professionals

Tom Asacker, guest blogging for Fast Company’s Blogjam shares this tremendous insight into building a business:

Today the game is all about going deep, with highly relevant products and services and particularly information, into a unique subculture. Forget about things like reach and frequency. The future of branding is collaboration with — and for — a passionate subculture of like-minded people. It’s no longer wise to be famous for fifteen minutes. Mass market celebrity is fleeting. Instead, become famous to fifteen people.

I think Tom is right on here.  Because small-firm lawyers, architects, accountants, and other professional service providers will never be able to serve the mass market anyway, it is important for them to take Tom’s advice to heart.  Identify 15 people/businesses you want to serve.  Now, how can you be famous to them? 

Blogher Business Cards

A few weeks ago, I blogged about some cool business card ideas.  Getting ready for Blogher, I realized I needed some more cards.  Since I’ve been using 3×5 cards a lot lately as I implement the Hipster PDA, I decided to try index cards.  Liberally stealing from both Eric Mack and Garrett Dimon, I came up with this design, printed on the front and back of a plain white index card, which Halley Suitt calls the “The Awesomest”:

Business Card Front

Business Card Back

The best part of the design is that I can scribble notes on the front of the card before I hand it to the person.  The back of the card contains far more info about me than I’d be able to convey in a brief conversation.  Though I may change them a bit, I’m really starting to like this format.  I’d love your thoughts and comments.

Buy more advice.

I don’t often link to Seth Godin.  Oh, I’m like the rest of the blogosphere and think he’s brilliant and all, but I figure that if you read my blog, you are probably also reading his.  However, something he said in a post today struck me, and I wanted to throw it in a post to make sure I could find it again.  It’s this:

I think most organizations don’t buy nearly enough advice. They go 97% of the way, do 97% of the work, make all the investments… but then they get too tired and too stuck to actually do the high leverage stuff that works. So yes, buy advice. Buy a lot of it. But most important, understand why the advice is good advice, really understand the dynamic behind it–then you won’t have any trouble selling the idea, because it’s not the advice giver that matters… it’s the advice.

MINI Musical Marketing Magic

Cheskin’s Terri Ducay just bought a MINI:

I knew this car was different the minute I entered the showroom. The environment was hip, stylish and informative. What was emphasized was not so much the car, but me and how I’d experience driving the car. For example, there was a “Test Drive Accessory” display that offered a variety of music CD’s to play during the drive. The music ranged from Soul, Blues, Rock, etc. How brilliant I thought, music is critical to my experience while driving but I don’t carry my CDs with me when looking for a car. I picked The Rolling Stones ‘Hot Stuff’ and was on my way.

Though a MINI is not on my shopping list (can’t get the golf clubs in the back, don’t ya know) I absolutely LOVE the music idea.  Why not keep a selection of CD’s in your waiting room and if your clients must wait, let them listen to their choice of music.

Serve the Rich

Roy H. Williams shares 5 Tips for Reaching the Rich on Entrepreneur.com.  Though Williams is talking about getting your “product” in the hands of the rich, much of his advice makes sense for service providers as well.  His five tips (read the article for explanations) are:

1. Hang out in their hangouts.

2. Become useful to them.

3. Put your product where they can see it.

4. Target through copy.

5. Pull, don’t push. 

At the end of the article, Williams suggests that selling to the rich isn’t as important today as it once was:

Today a middle-income office manager may save her money to buy a single luxury item, like a Chanel jacket, the same one worn by a wealthy woman who has a dozen others like it in her $2.5 million house. While it may feel good to have the truly rich woman as a customer, you don’t want to lose sight of the fact that for every one of her, there are at least 250 of those middle-income managers anxious to buy that same Chanel jacket.

Remember that last sentence.  Are you better off in the long run working your tail off to land that one huge client, or looking at ways to become indispensable to small yet growing businesses?

Blogheriffic!

Only 40 spots left for Blogher.  I’m glad I got mine.

Another Great Business Card Idea

Two days ago, I shared this tip for new business cards.  Here’s another from Garrett Dimon.

Top Tips to Take Tremendous Treasures

JS Logan shares The Best Revenue Growth Tip You’ll Ever Receive.  Well, what are you waiting for.  Go read it.

Ignorance is Bliss?

The great folks at JD Bliss were kind enough to interview me and post my “success story” here.  The interview was done a while ago, and I’d like to think I’d sound much more intelligent and interesting now. ;-) 

More Coffee Talk

Dana VanDen Huevel talks a bit more about marketing with coffee:

We were at a home-town place this morning called ‘Ann’s Sunshine Cafe’ where, get this – there are four shelves of mugs on the wall – all with this Ann’s logo and all with the patrons’ names printed on them. Wow – holy personalization and loyalty.

About $3.00 per customer to wow them and keep them coming back?  Sounds pretty cheap to me. 

Next time you order business cards …

Eric Mack just returned from a conference with a bunch of notes scribbled on the backs of the business cards he received from others.  It gave him this idea, which is worth a look before your order your next batch of cards.

On the other hand …

I ran across Dan Kennedy’s “Official” web site this morning.  Dan is a speaker, author, coach, and marketer.  Here is a bit about working with him:

Kennedy is not easy to do business with. He maintains a grueling schedule of speaking, consulting, copywriting, coaching, producing infomercials and managing his own business. He is never in his office, never takes incoming calls and new ‘private’ clients are asked to submit information by fax before getting a telephone appointment with him. He’s militantly resistant to having his time wasted and has ‘fired clients’ on occasion for doing so.

Not exactly “touchy-feely” is it?  Still, it is honest.  I’m guessing that Dan has gotten a few clients who like his No B.S. brand.  OK lawyers, who’s going to be the next one to add the quote from above to your retainer agreement?

And they’ll tell two friends, and so on, and so on…

Is your firm like shampoo?  In this post from his Confessions of a Brand Evangelist, Aaron Dignan talks about hair, dandruff, and the commoditization of clean:

The funny thing about shampoo though, is that cleaning hair is its purpose, and yet almost every shampoo brand on the planet is building a story around something else.  Head and Shoulders fights dandruff.  Nioxin stimulates the scalp and fights hair loss.  Brilliant Brunette by John Frieda keeps those lovely espresso tones in your hair going strong.  Nobody’s talking about cleaner hair.

Why?  Because the purpose of the category has been commoditized.  Everybody’s shampoo works, so they’ve changed the discussion.  My guess is that if you look at your category, you’ll find that it’s more like shampoo than you’d like to admit.  Everybody’s stuff works.  The real question now is: what’s the something extra that you’re going to talk about on the side of the bottle?

So, even though you may think you have a “distinctive global law firm with a diversified practice that offers a broad range of services and has become a leader in every area of law you practice because of your client focus and legal skill,” you still need to articulate that “something extra” on the side of the bottle. 

If you think I’m wrong here, go to your bathroom and look at your shampoo.  Unless you are using a generic no-name brand that just says “SHAMPOO” on the bottle, you’ve looked for that “something extra” the last time you went to the store.  What makes you think your potential clients won’t as well?

One Way not to “Brand” Your Firm

Why not firm uniforms?

Gertjonnys

Check out this hilarious collection of European band photos.

(Thanks to Law Geek for the tip).

Make a Million Dollars

Marshall Brain (what a great name!) has a cool article titled, How to Make a Million Dollars.  He has some pretty sound advice, but what made me laugh out loud was when he was talking about one way to do it:

Or there is the well-worn path to a lawsuit. The problem is, a lawsuit can take a long time and you have to spend most of that time talking to lawyers. I’m not sure the rewards outweigh the pain.

Brew up some clients

Rosa Say passes on a great way to spend your marketing dollars:

This morning Kerwin and I walked into a Prescott Starbucks and both ordered their strong-brew coffee of the day to then find it was free. The barista at the cash register motioned over to a gentleman sitting in an animated discussion with a group of about six others, and said, “Your coffee is on Mr. Perez this morning.”

As Kerwin stirred cream and sugar into his coffee, we read a poster on the wall right above the condiment station with a picture of Mr. Perez’s smiling face explaining that every Wednesday morning from 8:30am-9:30am he buys coffee at that Starbucks for all his customers and anyone else who wants to talk story with him about investment banking and Prescott’s promising future.

Absolutely, frickin’ brilliant.

If you’ve already bought it, it’s free to you.

Not sure exactly what to make of this quote from Bill Gates, taken out of context from this really good Fortune article on how he and Ray Ozzie handle e-mail:

Q:  What about your open-source rival OpenOffice?
A:  Gates: Well, most people already own Microsoft Office, and so it’s free to them, whereas OpenOffice is not the same quality, not innovating, and doesn’t have all the modules. We compete with our installed base by innovating.

Microsoft is now giving away free software — as long as you’ve already paid for it.  Are the upgrades included?

Quote of the Week

“Fix the holes in the bucket first, and then worry about how to add more water!”  — Howard Kaplan

This quote comes from the author of one of my favorite blogs, A Day in the Life of a Persuasion Architect.  The quote comes from this post talking about a ClickZ article that collected common complaints Search Engine Optimization (SEO) firms have about their clients.  Howard’s take:

It’s pure lunacy to change your site to accommodate the recommendations of a firm whose stated goals are to provide more qualified traffic, when you’ve previously displayed an utter inability to close on the qualified traffic you currently enjoy. 

The lesson for lawyers?  How much “qualified traffic” visits your web site, calls your office, or comes in for an initial appointment yet doesn’t retain your firm?  Until you know the reason(s) why, don’t spend any additional marketing dollars.  Instead, take your marketing budget (you have one, right?), divide it by your hourly rate and spend at least that amount of time fixing the problems.  Once you get your act together, spend the dough to tell other people what a great lawyer you are.

P.S. It seems like the rethink(ip) guys like this quote too.

Taking My Own Advice — Call for Testimonials

I shared John Jantsch’s great advice earlier this week and I figured I’d take it myself, so I’m asking you for a testimonial.  If you’ve found this blog helpful to you in any way, and you feel like taking a bit of time tell me about it, please do so.  E-mail me (matt@lexthink.com) or leave a comment to this post.  Thanks.

Be Prepared for Clients Who Love You

Here is another great client-relationship tip from John Jantsch at Duct Tape Marketing:

… when a client reaches out and tells you that you did a good job for them, they are asking you to take the relationship up a notch. Don’t let the opportunity slip on by. You’ve got to get straight in your head that this is the perfect time to ask for and receive a testimonial, a lead, new business or a referral. You don’t have to fall all over yourself acknowledging how smart you are. You can seize the day tastefully by simply being prepared to suggest that your client might know someone else who would like these kinds of results.

A Quick Conference Tip

I was talking to Matthew Buchanan of Promote the Progress and Rethink(IP) fame about a really cool thing he’s working on with the other Rethink(IP) guys (I’m sworn to secrecy, but the project’s code-name is “Merman”).  Matt told me he was going to a conference and I gave him a tip that makes more sense to me the longer I think about it:

If you write a blog and attend a conference, make sure the name of your blog is prominently displayed on your name badge.

I know more people know me by my blog then by my firm name.  Given the wonderful people you can meet through blogging, isn’t it better to give them an easier way to meet you, and vice versa? 

Have your receptionist read this.

I really like Bert Webb’s suggestion (from his Open Loops blog) to identify hidden messages in your communication.  He has a great example in his post How to Say What You Really Mean:

“Good afternoon, Mr. Webb’s office, may I help you?”

“Yes, This is Bob Smith.  I need an appointment with Mr. Webb as soon as possible to discuss the situation involving the AYP project at his site.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Webb, cannot meet with you until late next week.  His calendar is quite full, I’m afraid.”

With that, my secretary has just told my caller that I am so busy that he is considered unimportant, that his project is not a priority with me, and that, no matter what the topic is, I’m too inflexible to make adjustments in my calendar for priorities that arise unexpectedly.  Get in line, suck it up, and deal with it, Buddy.

Bert then suggests a better alternative:

How should my secretary have have handled the caller mentioned at the beginning of this post?  Let’s listen in:

“Good afternoon, Mr. Webb’s office, may I help you?”

“Yes, this is Bob Smith.  I need an appointment with Mr. Webb as soon as possible to discuss the situation involving the AYP project at his site.”

“I’ll be very happy to make you an appointment; let me look at his calendar.  I see that he has two openings next week, one on Wednesday at 9 AM and the other on Thursday at 2 PM.  Which one would fit your schedule better?”

And with that simple turn of a phrase, 90% of my callers are happy to accept the appointment next week and feel positively about it.  She has said we welcome your appointment, that I am busy but have time for his concerns, and that I recognize his schedule is important, too.  Should the caller still feel that he needs to see me sooner, it would continue like this:

“But that’s too late, our deadline is this Friday.”

“Mr. Smith, may I have a number where you can be reached in the next couple of hours?  I’ll personally speak with Mr. Webb to see if there is a way to work you in more quickly.  I’ll call you back as soon as I speak with him.”

I may or may not be able to accommodate Mr. Smith, but we have added the message that I am flexible and am willing to work with his deadlines as much as I possibly can.  

The final bit of advice:

Begin to look at your word and phrase choices.  Consciously choose the hidden messages in your words and phrases to convey what you want them to.  Even more, train your staff so they, as the front line of your organization, broadcast the same positive hidden messages to your clients and customers.

I’ve been reading Open Loops for a while.  Take a look.  I’m sure it will become a regular read.

Law Firm Branding

Check out Andy Havens’ post answering the question, “How do you brand a law firm?”

Mark Merenda on Client Service

 Mark Merenda has an absolutely fantastic post about the necessity of “great client service.”  Though I was tempted to lift the entire post and call it my own, I’ll give you a few great snippets and suggest you read Mark’s entire blog instead:

The fact is, even if you are very, very good at what you do, that circumstance will not set you apart from, or above, your competitors. Most of them are pretty good, too. And moreover, your clients are not really capable of distinguishing between an A-plus or a C-plus attorney or financial advisor. They aren’t qualified.

But every one of your clients considers him- or herself to be an expert on customer service. They know when they are being ignored, or treated rudely. They know when someone doesn’t return a phone call, or keeps them waiting 20 minutes past the appointed time.  They understand when your office looks like a pigsty and your staff is condescending and your phone answering system is a nightmare.

If your company is a client service firm, the work product of which happens to be legal documents or financial plans, you have an excellent chance of being an indispensable part of your clients’ lives.

But if your office is a document-creation system, well…your competition comes in a box. And the box costs  $34.99

Start Your Blog: A Primer

For a really great introduction to blogging, check out this post from Michael Hyatt’s Working Smart blog, titled (appropriately enough) How to Start a Blog.

Build Your Network, One Entree at a Time.

Next on my “To Read” list is Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone.  Keith has a Blog and has been sharing some of his tips on networking.  If you want the summarized version of the book, check out this post and download the Reader’s Notes. 

I’m off to get the book today, along with another I found courtesy of Fortune Magazine’s The Smartest Books We KnowRemember Every Name Every Time.  Frankly, I’ve grown tired of not remembering people’s names.  It makes me look like an idiot and I’m not going to fail at such a simple task any longer. 

PsychoTactics for Lawyers?

Sean D’Souza has been on a roll lately on his PsychoTactics Blog.  In yesterday’s post, titled First Meeting with a Client? he offers this interesting tip:

When you meet a client always let them ask the first questions. The
client wants control. They’ll ask you to tell them about your business
or whatever. They need to speak first.

This is vital.

Luckily, clients usually speak first because they have questions to
ask. And if they don’t…great.

You take control.

You stop talking and start listening. And the only way you can do that
is to have a series of questions that you ask. At the end of a longish
session, you should be asking dozens of questions and taking notes.

Then you have the client’s full story. You have their needs.

Now they want you to speak.

Really great advice for any professional, but exceptional advice for lawyers.  Read Sean’s whole post, and while you are at it, check out these posts too:

How to Become an Expert in Your Field,  Why Your Business Frustrates You, and  Why the ‘Noise Factor’ Can Kill Your Sale In Seconds.

 

So, What Don’t You Do?

I’m still working on the brain-dump from LexThink, but I had to pass this gem along.  At Techshow, I was looking at a product I’ve coveted for a while, and  asked if there was show special.  One of the people in the booth said no, but suggested that, as an authorized reseller of the product, he could give me a great deal.  He handed me his card, and the name of his business was “Generic __________ Solutions.”  The tagline under the name was “Choices from major manufacturers.”  On the back of the card was a list of over 20 “products and procedures” his business offered.  I took the card, and the snarky marketing guy in me almost asked, “So is there anything you don’t do.”  I’d love to hear his elevator speech.

 

This is what happens when you move across the country.

Jeff Beard beats me to the punch and blogs about a great article on networking.  Read them both.

Low Cost Marketing Strategies

Michael Cage offers seven great Low-Cost, High-Impact Marketing Tools.  Here are my favorites:

#4. Call your clients. Yes, call them. On the phone. In today’s rushed and hectic world, a little human attention goes a long way. If you want to turn spare minutes productive, keep a list of clients who bought from you in the last 30-90 days nearby. When you have free moments, call and ask how the solution you sold them is working. Aside from generating enormous good will (”they actually care about me!”) … some will have new needs or questions that will lead to new sales.

#7. Ask everyone for referrals. People who buy from you? Ask for referrals. People who don’t buy from you? Ask for referrals. Here’s a simple, no-cost way to increase your referrals: Before you deliver a solution, tell your client that you prefer getting new business by referral. Less money spent on advertising means better deals for clients like him/her, and you’d like to work with more people like him/her. Ask them, “after we’ve delivered this and you are thrilled with how things work, would you refer us to your friends/colleagues?” After you’ve delivered, make sure they are thrilled, and only then ask for a list of friends or colleagues who would want the same service and expertise.

Dim the lights, put on some music, and make some dough.

Ankesh has  these great suggestions at Marketing eYe for retailers:

2 very important small changes that lead to big profits:

Lighting: Change the lighting and you’ll increase your profits. If you have a lot of women shoppers, use non-glaring white lights. Direct lighting makes skin look 5-10 years older. Indirect use of soft non-glaring white light makes women look younger.

Restaurants who have changed their lighting have seen profits increase by as much as 20%! Just like that! Indirect lighting changes the context and makes the food more delicious – magically!

Music: Soft classical music makes customers stay longer and spend more in your store.

Classical music changes the context and makes people believe that your store is an upscale one. And thus they spend more time and don’t hesitate to buy even if your prices are higher than the competitor’s.

What does your office look like?  What music is playing?

Mispromise and Desatisfy

Andy from Marketing Genius has this interesting take, on how great advertising can hurt business.  

The next time you create a new, exciting, cutting edge advertising campaign, take out a note card and write down the promise that you have created for the customer. …What are you saying the customer is going to get out of the experience if they do what you want them to?  Ok, now set the campaign aside.  Go and do business with the customer that you created the campaign for (make sure you take the card with you). Visit their store, go to their website, call them – whatever – interact with the client as a customers and see if you fulfill the promise you just offered up to the world on behalf of your client. . . . What if your advertising promises top notch service and a customer receives fair service? . . .Your advertising actually reduced sales in the long run because you prompted trial and offered a promise that wasn’t delivered. . . . Uh! Oh! – effective advertising actually reducing sales.  Now that’s a point to ponder.

Don’t make a promise your business can’t keep.  You could turn an otherwise satisfied customer into an unsatisfied one, only because you’ve raised their expectations beyond what your business can deliver.

100+ Marketing Tips

I am speaking at ABA’s Techshow later this year.  One of my sessions is titled Marketing with Technology.   As part of my materials, I put together over one hundred quick tips, links, and ideas I culled from my blog posts, blogroll, etc.  I thought I’d share them with you (in pdf format) here.

Let you clients sell your service.

Michael Cage has these fantastic tips for "adding proof to everything you do."

  1. Get testimonials – what other people say about you is at least twice as believable as what you say about yourself. When a client is happy with your solutions, ask them for a testimonial to use in your marketing. Most will be very happy to help.
  2. Put written testimonials everywhere – every single written piece of marketing material in your business should have at least one thrilled client testimonial on it. Proof is not a one-time thing; it’s an all-the-time, every-time thing.
  3. Use on-hold marketing – what happens when potential clients call your business and are put on hold? Do they hear music, or worse, nothing? Make use of it. Have your best clients record their testimonials, and play them when callers are put on hold.
  4. Use pictures – a client in the Midwest takes pictures every time they deliver a new solution. He shakes hands with the client, they both smile big and bright, and an employee snaps a photo. The photos are then used to make case studies and testimonials more compelling, and are also put in an album of hundreds of happy clients.
  5. Create case studies – what are the most common problems your clients have? For each problem, create a compelling case study that tells the story of another client who you solved that problem for. It can all fit on a single page. Simply state what the problem was, how it was hurting your client, how you solved it, and what the end result was.
  6. Create an eavesdrop line – put 15 or 30 minutes of recorded testimonials on a voice mail line. Put this “real client eavesdrop line” on your business cards, in your yellow pages ads, and in everything else you do. Even if potential clients don’t call, the fact that you will let them hear real stories from real clients will lend believability to everything else you say

Tear apart your competition.

Another one from Sam Decker’s Blog (attributed to Martin Lindstrom):

Some years ago, an Australian takeout pizza place used the Internet in an attempt to boost sales. Traffic was slow. Hardly anyone visited the site. The need for an increase in traffic was urgent.

If traditional online media planning had been used, banners and links would have been purchased and the URL added to the shop’s phone-book entry. It might even have invested in some traditional ads.

The pizza place went a different route. Instead of spreading money between off- and online ads, it spent the entire budget on radio. The spots were simple but extremely effective. So effective, the restaurant’s increased business caused most of the local competition to shut down.

How’d it do it?

Instead of offering discounts or merely promoting its URL, the pizza place’s radio ads asked listeners to tear out all the pizza-restaurant pages from their yellow pages and bring them in. In return for the pages, customers received a free pizza of their choice and a sticker with the restaurant’s URL.

Decker on Growth

Sam Decker has just written 7 Keys to Company Growth.  Really great stuff and worth the complete read.  Here are the basics to his P.A.S.S.I.O.N:

 Push the organization with big vision.

 Account for big goals.

 Seek out new ideas.

 Show wins along the way.

 Ignore distractions.

 Ownership must be clear.

 Neutralize negativity.

Try to be Bob

Genius Hugh MacLeod has another gem (I’ve collected so many, I might add them to my garage sale).  Hugh writes about his favorite cab driver, but he could be writing about any service professional he uses:

About once a week, I have to catch the late train home. Bob the cab driver always meets me the station and drives me to my house.

Bob’s got what Seth Godin calls “The Free Prize”. He’s got what Tom Peters calls “The Wow! Factor”. He’s got something I like that no other cab driver has. It might be his jovial manner, it might be I like the fact his car is colored red. It might be the fact that he’s very reliable. The reason doesn’t matter so much. Regardless, Bob gets my business 100% of the time. When he can’t make it I let his brother pick me up instead, but that doesn’t happen too often. I call no other cab service but Bob’s. There are a lot of cab companies where I live. Cab driving is a pretty commodified business. But I call Bob. Every time. I like Bob.

The minute he pisses me off for whatever reason I’ll find another cab driver I like just as much.

Don’t forget that last sentence when you are dealing with clients.  The biggest mistake lawyers make is to overestimate their client’s loyalty and tolerance for inattention.

Real Estate Lawyers — Pay Attention!

Two from Michele Miller in the same day! Michele links to this white paper authored by Real Living, a growing nationwide real estate company. The paper is a must-read for any real estate lawyer. Here are some excerpts:

Historically, consumers relied on real estate professionals for almost all information concerning the buying and selling of a home – a transaction model which positioned real estate professionals primarily as information disseminators. According to Real Living, women now rely on the Internet to gather information upfront, often before contacting a real estate agent. However, women who are short on time and long on needs place a high value on the agent to guide them through the home buying process once they have used the Internet to educate themselves and narrow down their home search criteria. This shift in behavior now positions real estate professionals as negotiators, time-savers and efficiency experts – demanding that brokers and agents find new, innovative ways to serve consumer needs for convenience and control.

Real Living advises that brokers and agents of the future must fully integrate technology into their normal course of business in order to maintain a competitive edge with today’s increasingly connected consumer. Key suggestions outlined in the white paper include:* Offer anywhere, anytime access to robust listing information (such as property details, virtual tours and mapping) to drive efficiency, convenience and control for consumers

* Deliver online customer communication, comparables and transaction forms to add value to the agent-consumer relationship.

* Leverage the Web as a real-time-marketing medium to provide home buyers with immediate access to all homes available for sale on the market.

* Target female decision makers through integrated, robust Internet marketing strategies supplemented by traditional advertising mediums such as print, radio and television.

* Meet consumer needs for efficiency and convenience by serving as a source for one-stop-shopping referrals for related services such as mortgage, title, relocation and home warranty services.

These tips are not only for real estate agents. This is sound advice for lawyers too.

Still Not Marketing to Women?

Michele Miller of Wonderbranding points to two interesting statistics she saw in this Business Journal article. The amazing stats:

85 percent of women will at some point in their lives be solely responsible for their homes,

and

90 percent of women will be solely responsible for their finances at some point in their lives.

Now, how are you tailoring your services to help these women? For some great advice, go here, here, here, here, or here.

Why is customer service so hard?

I closed a few bank accounts yesterday that were left over from my solo days. The accounts were in the bank where my parents and I have banked since 1968. Then, it was the local “Farmers and Merchants Bank,” but in the last twenty years it has gone through four ownership changes, becoming first Eagle Bank, then Landmark Bank, then Magna Bank, and now Union Planters. The beautiful downtown building is nearly empty, with two tellers and a bank manager in the space that once housed almost fifty employees.

While I was closing my accounts, a woman in her mid-forties came in and asked the teller if she could cash a check for a hundred dollars. She said she was from out of town and visiting her mother-in-law, who was too ill to come to the bank herself. The teller told her that unless she had an account there, “bank policy” said she couldn’t cash the check. When the woman said her mother-in-law banked there, but was too ill to come herself, the teller apologized but told her she would have to go elsewhere. I observed the exchange while sitting with the bank’s manager, who watched the entire episode unfold but did nothing.

All afternoon, I tried to answer the question, “How many accounts will this bank lose over a single $100 check?” Certainly the mother-in-law’s account. If the ailing woman has any family in town, those accounts too will likely move elsewhere. Friends, family, and neighbors may move their accounts as well. I know I’m glad to have severed my relationship with the bank.

All for a hundred bucks. As for Union Planters, are its policies so inflexible that they can’t accommodate the visiting relative of an ailing customer? Are the managerial employees of this bank so afraid of breaking the “rules” that they are willing to jeopardize thousands of dollars in deposits? Do the employees get any customer service training at all?

How many little interactions like this do you have with your clients or customers? How many times has a “firm policy” kept you or your employees from doing what is right? I was almost sick when I saw how upset this woman was when she left the bank. I hope I don’t have clients leaving my office with the same feeling.

Jeff Bezos on Legal Advertising

Well, not really, but Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com CEO, was recently interviewed (registration required) in Business Week Magazine. When asked about Amazon’s (lack of) advertising, Bezos replied:

We don’t do any television advertising, and we take all of the money that we would put into television advertising, and instead put it into things like free SuperSaver shipping [free shipping on most orders over $25], lower product prices, category expansion, and invention of new features. We take those funds that might otherwise be used to shout about our service, and put those funds instead into improving the service. That’s the philosophy we’ve taken from the beginning. If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.

What if lawyers took their money away from the yellow pages, and instead spent that money improving the service they offer. At my firm, beginning next year, our “advertising” budget will become our “client appreciation” budget. Apart from a single line listing in the yellow pages, we’re putting all of our advertising money (for us, nearly $1,000 per month) into improving our client experience. We’ll be finding new office space with room for clients to use as kind of a “business center” with free wi-fi, coffee, etc. We are also bringing our client concierge on board to coordinate our client service initiatives and surveying new and existing clients to determine how we can serve them better.

Working with the Older Client

David Wolfe writes a fascinating post in his Ageless Marketing Blog about the differences in marketing to older vs. younger consumers. I work with a lot of older (65 years and up) clients and found his tips very interesting:

Older consumers’ more inner focused decision processes pose challenges to marketers who are more accustomed to pitching to the objectively biased minds of younger consumers that favor direct, unambiguous marketing statements. Brain scans in fact have shown that younger minds struggle more with clarifying ambiguity than older minds generally do.

In fact, older minds are more quickly repelled by black-and-white marketing claims. The ambiguity implicit in saying something “could be” or “perhaps is” is less likely to challenge the older person’s need for feeling independent in making decisions about the worth and meaning of what a marketer says.

One of the biggest differences between younger and older consumers in how they make buying decisions can be boiled down to the fact that younger consumers want to be told what something is worth and means while older consumers are more like to make that determination for themselves.

Something to think about when working with (or marketing to) the older client.

Positioning your Firm

One of the (many) struggles lawyers have is carving out a niche for themselves in their firm or community. I ran across this post by Laura Ries in her new The Origin of Brands Blog titled, ”Positioning is Alive and Well.”  She gives several ways to position a product (or service).  Her examples:

1. The Open Hole. Price is the easiest hole in the mind to understand and it’s one of the easiest holes to fill. Haagen-Dazs’ decision to introduce a more expensive line of ice cream set up the “premium” ice cream position for the brand and made Haagen-Dazs one of the enduring marketing successes of the past several decades. What Haagen-Dazs did in ice cream, Heineken did in beer, Rembrandt in toothpaste, Evian in water, Orville Redenbacher in popcorn, Rolex in watches, Mercedes-Benz in automobiles. High price is only one of the open holes in the mind. Low price is another. What Haagen-Dazs did at the high end, brands like Wal-Mart and Southwest Airlines are doing at the low end.

2. The New Category. Sometimes there are no open holes in the prospect’s mind and you have to create one. We call this positioning strategy, “create a new category you can be first in.” Gatorade, for example, was the first sports drink. PowerBar was the first energy bar. Red Bull was the first energy drink. UnderArmour was the first in performance workout clothing. Zima was the first … well, what was Zima the first of? The label said “ClearMalt,” but nobody knew what that meant. The television announcement ads were no help either. “What’s in it?” asked a bartender. “It’s a secret. It’s something different,” replied a mysterious pitchman in his white suit and black hat.

3. The Number-two Brand. Consumers like choice. Sometimes you can build a powerful brand just by giving consumers an alternative to the leading brand. But what strategy can best deliver the No. 2 position? “Maybe if we can produce a better product than the leader,” goes the thinking, “we won’t necessarily overtake them, but we will wind up in the number two position.” This is the worst possible approach. Why is this so? Because the leader in your field already has the perception of producing the better product. Then how do you become a strong number two brand? You become the opposite of the leader. Coke was for older people, so Pepsi became the cola for younger people. Listerine was the bad-tasting mouthwash that killed germs and odor in your mouth. So Scope became the good-tasting mouthwash and a strong number-two brand. Home Depot is the leading home-improvement store, but its crowded aisles and jammed shelves appeal more to men than women. So Lowe’s became the home-improvement store for women with clean layouts and wide aisles.

4. The Specialist. Every coffee shop in America sells coffee, but they also sell hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, apple pie, donuts and dozens of other foods and beverages. So Starbucks specialized in coffee and became a very successful brand. So did McDonald’s which specialized in hamburgers. And Dunkin’ Donuts which specialized in donuts. And Subway which specialized in submarine sandwiches. Enterprise Rent-A-Car specialized in the “insurance replacement” business and became the largest car rental company in America.

5. The Channel Brand. Sometimes you can position a brand to fill a channel hole. L’eggs, the first supermarket panty-hose brand, became the largest-selling panty-hose brand in the country. Today there are opportunities to create Internet channel brands. Amazon.com, eBay, Monster.com and Salesforce.com are just some of many successful “Internet-only” brands. Paul Mitchell became a $600 million hair and skin-care brand by focusing on the professional hair salon channel. Ping did the same in golf clubs by focusing on the pro-shop channel.

6. The Gender Brand. Sometimes you can build a big brand by focusing on half the market. Marlboro because a big brand by positioning itself as the first cigarette for men. Virginia Slims became a big brand by positioning itself as the first cigarette for women. Curves became a big brand by positioning itself as the gym for women. Secret became a big brand by positioning itself as the first deodorant for women. There’s a lot more to say about the subject of positioning. I suggest you get yourself a copy of the 20th anniversary edition of Positioning. You can’t go wrong if you simply take your mind off your product, your brand and your company and focus instead on the mind of the consumer. Since it is in the mind of the consumer that the real marketing battle is won or lost.

What position is your firm in? Where do you want it to be?

Laura has a lot of other great stuff at her blog. Check it out.

How to get Ink and Links for your business.

I’m proud to announce that this weblog has been named to the EDDix 50 – a list of the top 50 legal weblogs. I’d like to thank my parents for raising me the way they did, my lovely wife, my beautiful daughter, my agent, my producer ….

Really, I’d like to give kudos to the folks at EDDix, a new company in the Electronic Data Discovery business (get it, EDD). With a significant amount of work, they’ve managed to get most of the top “blawgs” to link to their new business site without paying a dime in advertising! Don’t get me wrong, I think my inclusion on the list is really cool, and Michael A. Clark and the others at EDDix have taken a lot of time to compile a great guide to legal weblogs, but I’m most impressed with the sheer brilliance of the marketing behind it. And like any list of Top 50 anything, there will be a bit of controversy — all to generate more links and traffic to the site.

What kind of thing could you do to get your clients or competitors talking about you? For lawyers, how about beginning a “Top 10 Small Businesses” award? Accept nominations from the public, have a panel of “experts” pick the winners, and invite all of the nominees (with their staffs) to a banquet you sponsor to honor the winners. Have a keynote speaker talk about a unique issue facing small businesses. Make sure your marketing materials are front and center and that you meet and greet every nominee. Arrange for photographs of the winners accepting their awards (with a firm member in each one), and send the pictures to the local paper along with a press release, or ask the paper to cover the event with a reporter. Total cost — a few thousand dollars. The ability to meet and interact with dozens of your target clients (and their families and staffs) — priceless.

I like this idea so much we’ll work on “The Silver Lake Group Award for Small Business” and see if
we can get it up and running for next year.

Satisfy the Unexpected Wish

Designer Rick Landesberg gives some great advice in this article on the HOW Design web site. Landesberg writes about taking a lowly job and making it into a meaningful project. His tips:

First: Don’t think about the money. Not your fees, not the budget, not the print costs. If the solution answers the need in a way that delights and surprises, the money often works out.

Second: Be sure to also present a solution that responds to the client’s request. If you disregard what he specified, your client might take offense. Do what is requested and do what it ought to be.

Third: Don’t presume your brilliant solution will be accepted. If it never gets out of the gate, your client will appreciate the extra effort nonetheless.

And finally: Cultivate a mindset that constantly goes beyond the client’s stated needs. Listen carefully and critically, and dream on your client’s behalf. Satisfy the unexpressed wish.

Great advice for lawyers, too. HOW Design has some more great articles on creativity here.

Creating Client Evangelists

Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba, authors of Creating Customer Evangelists, have authored a FREE new e-book titled “Testify, How Remarkable Organizations are Creating Customer Evangelists” with additional profiles of companies that have made their customers fervent evangelists for their businesses. There are just too many great examples to list them all. The e-book is a 50 page PDF. Download it and read it today.

Googlize your Firm

Anyone who is anyone has been given several G-mail invites to hand out like exclusive backstage passes(I don’t have one yet, so that confirms my belief that I am not anyone). Google has gotten people talking about their service (that is going to be free anyway) for months before its official rollout.

This got me thinking about what my firm could give away to build buzz and get our new name out there. I don’t want to just give away trinkets, mugs, calendars, etc. Instead, weve been thinking about doing small business incorporations for free. No strings attached. Of course, we’d pitch our monthly service pricing package to each small business and hope they’d retain us as their counsel. We might even pay the $150 filing fee to the Illinois Secretary of State out of our own pockets.

Why do I think this might work? Well, not everyone gets the deal. We limit the number we do every month to five or so, and businesses that want their free incorporation must apply by giving us a business plan or some other evidence they are likely to be around for a while. So, even though we are doing the work for free, we are getting to pick the applicants most likely to succeed and become long term clients. Mirroring the G-mail plan, current clients will get anywhere from 1-5 “invites,” and anyone who is referred by an existing client automatically gets one of the free monthly slots.

All of the month’s clients will have to come to a seminar where we cover the basics of incorporation, so we don’t have to cover the basics with each one individually. We’ll even bring in a CPA to cover tax issues with them.

Assuming we can cover ourselves from a malpractice standpoint, we will essentially be paying $150.00 (plus the time, of course) to acquire a new client and build goodwill. I’d love your comments.

Evangelism from Evangelicals

Scoble has this great post summarizing a meeting he had with Brian Bailey, Internet technology manager for Dallas’ Fellowship Church. Scoble summarized the ten evangelizm and IT lessons that have contributed to the church’s success:

One: make it easy for everyone to learn about you — on their terms.
Two: make it easy to experience your product’s special attributes.
Three: to get word-of-mouth advertising you need to be remarkable.
Four: use IT to efficiently get close to your customers and take care of their needs.
Five: if you want to be better, make sure you’re better from the first minutes of someone’s experience.
Six: if you want to be seen as bleeding edge, invest to be bleeding edge and do so throughout your company.
Seven: extend the usefulness of your plant.
Eight: design your systems so they never go down and can expand for future growth.
Nine: don’t be religious about technology, choose what gets the job done best for the least amount of money and staff time.
Ten: when you become successful, bottle up what got you there and sell it to others.

The lessons are great, and Scoble elaborates on each. Read the post, which I think is Scoble’s best ever.

Good News for Small Firms

Thanks to Arnold Kling at EconBlog, I found this paper from William J. Baumol that explores why independent inventors and entrepreneurs contribute disproportionately to breakthrough inventions. This is good news for small firms and solo lawyers. Pull out the study whenever you are competing against a large firm for business:

The evidence shows that there is a rather sharp differentiation between the contributions to the economy’s technological innovation that are provided by entrepreneurs and those that are offered by the large internal R&D laboratories of established businesses. Large business firms, which account for nearly three-quarters of U.S. expenditure on R&D, have tended to follow relatively routine goals, slanted toward incremental improvements rather than revolutionary ideas. Greater user-friendliness, increased reliability, marginal additions to application, expansions of capacity, flexibility in design—these and many other types of improvement have come out of the industrial R&D facilities, with impressive consistency, year after year, and often pre-announced and pre-advertised. In contrast, the independent innovator and the independent entrepreneur have tended to account for most of the true, fundamentally novel innovations. . . . It is a plausible observation, then, that perhaps most of the revolutionary new ideas of the past two centuries have been, and are likely to continue to be, provided more often by these independent innovators who, essentially, operate small business enterprises.

What are your revolutionary ideas? Come on, small firm lawyers, we’ve clearly got the advantage here, so use it!

Law Firm Naming (Again)

Wordlab has a great post on law firm naming. From the article:

As today’s law firms grow or downsize, merge and emerge, keeping the letterhead, website, and collateral marketing materials current with the legal partnership name can be a regular challenge. And maintaining consistent brand awareness in a firm’s marketplace can be frustrated by a naming strategy that is focussed on the partnership roster, and not on the firm’s brand from the customer’s point of view.

Business-minded lawyers name their law firms with their customers in mind–not to assuage the partners–and thereby protect their investments in the business. Better to have a partnership interest in a law firm with a strong brand than to have one’s own name listed with many other partners on a “shingle” few customers can remember. The classic parody of traditional law firm naming is Jerry Seinfeld trying desperately to remember the name of the firm where the beautiful lawyer, Vanessa, works; repeating the mantra “Simon, Bennett, Robbins, Oppenheim & Taft” over and over.

Wordlab is a free naming thinktank that’s worth a look. Some really fun things there, including my favorite, the Band Name Generator. Thanks to Abnu for the heads up.

So, what do you do?

Don the Idea Guy’s Brain Blog posts a link to a site called 15SecondPitch.com. From the site:

“So, what do you do?” It’s one of the first questions people ask. Your 15SecondPitch lets you answer with confidence and get them interested in learning more. Enhance all your relationships, business and personal, by marketing yourself more effectively.

The site also helps you craft an elevator speech with the help of a “Pitch Wizard.” You can put the result on a business card purchased from the site — which I think is a great idea. I’ve been working on my pitch for quite some time. As a general practitioner who also mediates, it has always been very hard for me to answer that very question, “So, what do you do?” But here is my best effort so far:

My name is Mathew Homann and I am an attorney and mediator. As an attorney, I help individuals, businesses, and organizations cope with day-to-day legal issues and plan for the future. As a mediator, I help those same kinds of people resolve their personal and business conflicts in a peaceful and cost-effective way. My firm, the Silver Lake Group, constantly strives to improve the way we work with our customers and we guarantee they will be happy with our service.

I’m still not 100% happy with it, but if you don’t start somewhere, you’ll never get anywhere.

Word of Mouth for Lawyers

In this post, Creating Customer Evangelists author Ben McConnell comments on the recent Time Magazine Article on the new movie Troy. From the Time article:

Before a movie opens, studios can generate inauthentic signals by securing a star and advertising heavily, creating the impression of a phenomenon. This puts butts in seats on opening weekend and gets the competition out of the way. “You can orchestrate an opening,” says [economist Arthur] De Vany. “What you’re doing is briefly dominating supply. That’s not demand. The long-term demand necessary to sustain a blockbuster is still dependent on the authentic signal, word of mouth

Ben’s take:

In other words, you can advertise the hell out of a movie, or a product, and create artificial demand, but it’s still word of mouth that drives long-term, profitable success.

We lawyers already are at a disadvantage when it comes to this kind of customer evangelism. Our profession is so maligned that we must first convince our clients/customers/prospects that we are, “not like other lawyers.” Once you get past that barrier, however, good “buzz” or word of mouth will be your best measure of success.

Naming, Again.

I came across this post at Scobleizer, a blog by Microsoft employee Robert Scoble, about naming products.  Here is an excerpt:

One thing I’ve noticed about Microsoft. We come up with boring names for products. Yesterday I gave Peter Loforte, an exec on the Tablet PC team, heck for the naming of the latest Tablet PC software: Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005. 

Can you imagine Starbucks coming up with a name for its latest coffee drink like that? "The Tastes Like Last Year’s Coffee, But Is Sweeter, And Is This Year’s Version."

Compare the official Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, 2005′s name to the code-name for the same product: Lone Star.

Lone Star is so much cooler. And doesn’t try to communicate marketing information in the name. All of our code names are cooler than our product names. Whidbey, Longhorn, etc.

Let’s go over to Nike. Do they try to name their shoes something like "Mike Jordan’s technology, updated for 2005." No, they come up with wacky names like "Air Huarache" or "Zoom Generation" or "Shox."

Why does this matter? Because of word of mouth. Because of how our brains remember things. Be honest. Without looking at my previous posts or up above, tell me what the official name for the next version of the Tablet PC software is. Did you get it right? I didn’t. I had to look it up on Web.

Now, without looking up again, tell me the name of a Nike Shoe. Get it right? I bet more of you did.

If you tell someone your law firm’s name, can they repeat it to you five minutes later?

LegalMatch Comments

I was going to write another long post about LegalMatch, but, frankly, am getting tired of the whole conversation. One thing I did notice was that a comment I received here from LegalMatch user “Marty S.” was very similar to a comment Jerry Lawson received here several months ago on the same topic on his eLawyer Blog from LegalMatch user “Adam.”

The funny thing is that both “Marty S.” and “Adam” had the same e-mail address. What’s more, when I tried to thank “Marty” for his comments, my e-mail was returned as undeliverable because the yahoo account was canceled. Why would Adam and Marty respond to LegalMatch posts in almost the same way with different names from the same invalid e-mail address? Are they really satisfied LegalMatch users — or LegalMatch insiders? Things that make you go Hmmmm…..

What business are you in?

Mark Cuban (outspoken owner of the NBA’s Mavericks, technologist, and blogger) persuasively argues that the NBA is not in the business of basketball, but of entertainment.

There are those around the NBA who think the business of the NBA is basketball. They seem to think that there are enough basketball junkies and purists out there, that if we “let the game of basketball alone”, we would fill arenas, the games would be more enjoyable and TV ratings would skyrocket. They probably also think that the tooth fairy is real.

Reality is that basketball is not the business of the NBA. Entertainment is the business of the NBA. Every single night of the week we battle movies, books, restaurants, TV and Cable programs, talking a walk, everything and anything that is an alternative to going to or watching an NBA game.

What is your business? Is it law? Trust? Peace of mind? Are your competitors other lawyers, accountants, business advisors? As a business lawyer, my competitors also include electricity, transportation costs, employee salaries, and rent. In other words, I am competing for my clients’ business dollars against the other things they spend money on. Unless I can articulate the value that I can give them and persuasively show them how I can save them money, time, frustration, or worry, I am just another line item in their budgets that they will cut in hard times.

More on Naming your Business.

This five-star standard of business naming comes from Naseem Javad at the Wisconsin Technology Network (via David Young at the Branding Blog):

A five-star standard of business naming: To qualify, a name must pass each of the five following criteria to get a star. If it fails at any point, then your name is in serious naming trouble. Anything less than five stars is really a liability wasting valuable branding. Is your name: 1) Very distinct and very unique? 2) Short, simple with attractive alpha-structure? 3) Highly related to the business? 4) Globally trademarked and protected? 5) With an identical URL?

My new firm name, The Silver Lake Group, gets at least four of the five stars. “Silver Lake Law” seemed a bit hard to say, though it did a better job of identifying what the firm actually did. I hope to take care of that with a tagline that will accompany our name and logo. I’m meeting with a graphic designer tomorrow to narrow down the field of logos, and I’ve already reserved www.silverlakelaw.com as a domain name. Trademark applications are next on the agenda. The name, logo, and tagline will all be unveiled here first on May 1, 2004.

LegalMatch doesn’t get it.

I have posted here, here, and here about LegalMatch.  This e-mail just came from Randy Wells, a LegalMatch executive whose prior e-mail I posted here.  Randy says:

In response:

In the early days of the dot.com existence, much was expected from the net.  It has taken years to change habits of the American public.  We now have literally thousands of clients coming to us each and every week in search of a competent attorney who is willing to take some time with a client prior to physically seeing them.  I am sorry if our practice of helping people find attorneys is somehow offensive or deceptive to you. 

We are the dominant space on the net, and our major focus is on helping people, not the attorneys.  We know if we truly provide service to the general public, then our attorneys will be happy.  Most other "models" on the net try to "sell the attorney" on some "future promise" of direct referral clients. 

Our focus is on helping clients and giving them a choice of professionals.  True, in the beginning stages, we had trouble getting enough traffic to support the model.  I’m proud to say, that no longer is an issue.  We are not a referral service by any means.  Our attorneys, and our client’s, names and contact information are kept confidential until the client chooses the attorney.  The client’s choice of representation is based on the attorneys response to the perceived problem, and the attorney profile page (which outlines background reference checks, and personal mission statement).  This allows a level of scrutiny that some lawyers are not comfortable with.  We know that legalmatch is not for every attorney.  We applaud the attorneys that have recognized that the internet is here to stay, and that helping potential clients by a methodology of getting background checks and dialogue, is a meaningful service for the public.

Randy Wells, Vice President
Membership

Randy, I applaud your company’s focus on "helping clients and giving them a choice of professionals," and I agree that the more a potential client knows about their lawyer, the better for all involved.  Oddly, neither of your e-mails has even touched upon my only complaint about your company — your sales tactics. 

You apologize to me by saying, "I am sorry if our practice of helping people find attorneys is somehow offensive or deceptive to you."  I don’t take issue with your business model at all — instead, I take issue with your sales model.  It is your practice of "helping" attorneys find Legalmatch that is offensive and deceptive to me.   If you want to sell me something, tell me so.  You would be surprised just how interested I may be in a company with "thousands of clients coming …  each and every week in search of a competent attorney who is willing to take some time with a client prior to physically seeing them." 

If you have a good product (and you seem to think that you do), don’t be afraid to openly sell it.  Evangalize it.  Make me excited about buying it.  Your sales pitch left such a bad taste in my mouth that I don’t know if I’ll ever use your product — no matter how good it is.   Also, your claim that you "are not a referral service by any means," and that your service is different from, "Most other "models" on the net [that] try to "sell the attorney" on some "future promise" of direct referral clients," doesn’t ring true when I look at these statements on your website:

The goal is to get you clients in your preferred specialty that you judge of high value, so that you work reasonable hours while maintaining or increasing your revenues.

If in your judgment we don’t provide you enough clients to more than pay for your membership within your membership term, we’ll extend it for free for up to 12 months until we do!

Therefore, we believe that we will have met our burden under this guarantee if you at least were engaged by enough clients via our service, by the end of your membership term, so that your expected revenues when and if collected, would more than cover the membership fee you paid.

The Value of Social Networking.

Saw this article today by David Maizenberg titled, “A Lawyer’s Guide to Reed’s Law and the Power of Networks.” According to Maizenberg, “Reed’s law simply states that the value of a social network (an open peer-to-peer information exchange) scales exponentially with the size of the network. Straightforward and intuitive, Reed’s law explains why allowing people to interact and group-form freely benefits everyone, eventually.” The author continues:

Why does all this matter to lawyers? Well, with all the various forums and groups everywhere beckoning for attention, some lawyers might be asking themselves: Is it a worthwhile use of my time to participate in volunteer, uncompensated knowledge sharing? Reed’s Law suggests that the answer is yes. Of course, one still needs to be selective. Network peer groups with no real purpose, or groups with weak participation, or groups that simply become too large, may not necessarily return maximum value. Nevertheless, here’s a good rule of thumb: don’t be stingy. If a peer group or forum is interesting and useful enough for you to follow on a regular basis, then for the health of the group, as well as your own standing within it, you should probably contribute as well.

I belong to the ABA’s Solosez discussion group and can vouch for the truth in this statement. Solosez has over 1000 lawyer members from around the world. Nearly all practice alone or in a small-office setting. I have received an unbelievable amount of value from the list.

LegalMatch Part III

This LegalMatch thing has taken on a life of its own. Recall that I posted here and here about my experience with a LegalMatch marketer and the company’s reply. Since then, Rick Klau and Carolyn Elefant have continued the discussion on their blogs.

I have never used LegalMatch so I can’t vouch for their service. I’m sure they have dozens (hundreds, thousands?) of satisfied customers. My only complaint was that their sales pitch, which I felt was less than honest, offended me as a potential customer. Not the way to get the relationship off on the right foot.

The point I wanted to make in the original post is that you need to be very careful about first impressions when communicating with potential customers. Don’t overpromise, don’t pressure, don’t brag, don’t deceive, and don’t talk down to your potential clients. Articulate the benefits of hiring you with humility, and let the prospects decide on their own timetable if you are the right attorney for them.

Interesting Stats on Women vs. Men Business Owners

I have made it a point to focus much of my marketing on women-owned businesses. For some of the reasons why, take a look at this study from the Center for Women’s Business Research comparing woman-owned businesses to man-owned businesses with more than $1 Million in revenues:

Women are more likely than men to have been the founder of the business (73% to 60%) rather than have purchased, inherited or acquired in another way.

Women are less likely than men to use commercial loans or lines of credit (56% to 70%).

Women are less likely to have raised money from outside investors (4% to 11%).

Women were ahead of men in their adoption of the Internet and ecommerce as a business growth strategy (58% to 35%).

(From the Rhonda Report at The Planning Shop)

LegalMatch, Part II.

The other day, I titled a post, Why I’ll Never Use LegalMatch. Today, I got this e-mail from Randy Wells at LegalMatch:

I read your commentary with interest. It is important to understand that we uphold our attorney relationships in the highest regard. Our “start up” days are over, and we are respected throughout the legal community. We never contact an attorney unless we have more clients coming to us for help, than we have attorneys in our system. This system has proven to be very sucessful for our members. We do not use “high pressure” sales people. In fact, close to half of our attorney allocation managers have their J.D. and many have been in practice.

Our process is simply to interview attorneys that have responded to our call to help clients. We don’t quote pricing until we have a very clear understanding of the geographical area of practice, the preference within the specialty, and the years of experience. Quoting a fee schedule prior to understanding the needs of the attorney, and the practice of law they are involved in, would be akin to going to see a Doctor and asking he/she for a procedural price before even having an examination.

We are approaching this process responsibly, and reasonably, for the people who have asked us for help. Some Attorneys don’t like to be interviewed and have their records scrutinized. The public trusts us, and we will not betray that trust. You can’t “buy” your way into LegalMatch. We reject many attorney applications due to past disciplinary problems, but even more, due to NOT having a client flow that can support the Attorney practice. It sounds like you haven’t reviewed the site thoroughly. Please go to www.legalmatch.com, and go into the Lawyer join section. Our company history, press releases, and testimonials should give a fairly clear picture.

My response: I wouldn’t have posted at all, had the call from Legal Match been something like: “I”m Randy Wells from LegalMatch and I think you might be interested in joining our referral service because we regularly have potential clients in your area who may need a lawyer like you.” However, to call me and not identify yourself as a salesperson, but instead masquerade as an attorney with a specific client in need of an attorney immediately is dishonest — especially if you require me to join your service to get the referral.

I can’t imagine having a client come into my office with an out-of-state problem (let’s say it relates to her divorce in Montana) and I tell her I’ll call a few Montana attorneys to see if they can help her. To each attorney, I leave a message on their voice mail saying, “I have a client in immediate need of your services in Montana, call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX.” When they call, I tell them they need to pay me before I’ll give them the client’s name — whether the client hires them or not. I could never imagine doing that, and I doubt that it would even be ethically permissable. That is my complaint. Your sales pitch immediately makes me want to not use your service. And if your sales pitch angers me enough to write a two posts about it, think about how much other business you must be losing from lawyers who feel the same way.

Don’t learn from your competitors.

David Young, in his Branding Blog, takes issue with the suggestion that small start-ups can learn the most from their competitiors by hanging out with them at the places they “schmooze,” like industry trade shows. In this post, titled, “When you seek differentiation and innovation, don’t expect to find it by sniffing around at your competitors,” David writes:

Don’t expect to find ideas for innovation or differentiation from people who are attempting to do the same thing as you. If you copy from them, are you differentiating? No. Are you likely to get fresh ideas? No. The best you can hope for is for some ideas on processes and practices that might make you more efficient. But, ideas to make you stand apart from your competition? Forget it. They won’t be shared.

You’d be much better off seeking the convention of an entirely different industry that shares some characteristics with your own. If you’re a chiropractor, look for a service industry that shares some characteristics with yours. How about a plumber’s convention? We only call plumbers (and chiropractors) when we need them. Most of the time we need to see them right away. And the plumbers will be delighted to share information with you, because you are NOT a competitor.

Henry Ford did not get the idea for the assembly line from visiting with other automobile manufacturers. He visited a meat processing facility and witnessed an un-assembly line.

David’s final piece of advice:

If you’re a small, entrepreneurial business looking to differentiate yourself from the competition, focus on the ONE asset you have that NONE of your competitors have: YOU! Do YOUR best. Be the greatest YOU can be. And, make sure your customers know that you care about them. Let the butt-sniffing dogs have their meetings.

I think David’s advice is right on. Model your practice on your competitors’ if you want to work just like they do. If you want to grow and innovate, look outside of the legal profession to find out what others are doing well. Who is the most successful accountant in your town? What is the most popular restaurant? Who runs that little store you love to shop in? Take them to lunch. Learn from them. They will be willing to share their secrets of success with you and may even end up hiring you as their attorney.

Don’t Sell Like This.

Yesterday, I received two after-hour voice mails that went something like this, "Hi, I’m Bill Johnson and I have some clients in your area in urgent need of a matrimonial lawyer.  Please give me a call as soon as you can at XXX-XXX-XXXX."  The number is not toll-free, but a long distance number on the west coast.  I’m not calling it this time, but I’ve fallen for this ruse before.  The caller is not an attorney seeking to refer a client, but rather LegalMatch, a for-pay lawyer referral company.  They don’t have a client in "urgent need of my services," but want me to sign up for their costly service to have them send me prospects.  Many lawyers I’ve spoken to don’t think highly of the company’s claims.  I can’t vouch for their services, but their deceitful telephone pitch really pisses me off.   If they are trying to sell me a product, tell me so. 

What is your purpose?

Tom Asacker has a wonderful post on his Rebel with a Cause weblog. Tom starts, as he almost always does, with a quote, this time from Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Tom writes about “branding” and “marketing” in his blog, but read the rest of his post and imagine he is talking about being the perfect lawyer:

The same is true of business and of work. Because after all, it’s still life isn’t it? And I’m talking about purpose . . . not mission. Not vision. Not money. Purpose. I keep coming back to this critical aspect of one’s brand, because it seems to differentiate the best from the rest.

1. Useful – Is you business helpful? Is it enjoyable? Does it improve the lives of your customers and employees? Or are you simply filling the world with more noise and more stuff and lining your pockets in the process? If you’re not sure, take a good, long look at the faces of your constituents. Are they smiling and serene? Do they feel good about themselves and their decisions in your presence? No? Then wake up! This is your big shot at making a difference in people’s lives and in the world.

2. Honorable – Are you honest, straightforward, trustworthy? Do you play fair? And if not, whom do you think you’re fooling? I’ll tell you who. You’re fooling your kids! You are not doing them a favor by providing for their financial security through your Machiavellian methods. That’s simply more b.s. self-talk to make you feel good about yourself. What they need during these chaotic times is a role model to teach them what’s truly important in life. So for their sake, get real!

3. Compassionate – If you think compassion is a wishy-washy concept in business, think again. Compassion is the deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it. Isn’t that the key to innovation? Developing a deep understanding of the problems people have with their present life situation and developing products, services and business models to eliminate those problems? Of course it is. The days of make and sell are SO over. Sense and respond is the new branding mantra.

Now, reread #2 and go home and play with your kids.

Thank you, John Porcaro

John knows why. Check out his blog.

Are you marketing to women?

I have really enjoyed reading Michele Miller’s Wonderbranding weblog. In this post, Michele points to a Consumer Electronics Association report with these alarming statistics:

Nearly three-quarters of women surveyed by the industry group complained about being ignored, patronized or offended by sales people when shopping for electronics.

Forty percent of the women said they were treated better when accompanied by a man.

More than half said advertisements for electronics were confusing — though half the men surveyed felt the same way.

A meager 1 percent of women surveyed thought manufacturers had them in mind when creating products.

Michele has this to say:

Note to consumer electronics executives…. have you looked at your numbers lately, beyond the bottom line? Are you creating a memorable experience for your most profitable customer, not to mention building a relationship with her?

I have spent the last several months “auditing” my legal practice. One area I have focused on is how women view me and the services I provide, as I am trying to better serve woman-owned small businesses. I have spoken with many women I know in this process and each woman has had similar experiences with lawyers as the women surveyed above had with electronics salespersons.

I challenge you to do a similar audit of your practice. The following questions are in no way an exhaustive list, but think about: Is your office woman-friendly? How do women feel when greeted on the telephone? Do you have woman-themed magazines in your waiting room? The last law office I visited had the following magazines: Car and Driver, Golf Magazine, and Sports Illustrated. Is there a place to play (or at least a place with books or other kid-friendly activities) for children who accompany a parent for a meeting? Can you name the two biggest civic organizations in your community whose membership is primarily made up of women? Have you spoken to these groups? Who are the three most influential women in your community, and do you know them? Do you send bills and correspondence to, “Mr. and Mrs. John Doe,” instead of including the wife’s name? Does your office sponsor charities women support? How does your firm entertain clients? Do you do more than the traditional golf outing or handing out tickets to sports events?

I would love to hear from the women (and men) in the blogosphere with comments. What other questions should I be asking myself in my law office audit? How can women be served better by male and female lawyers? What can we as lawyers do to make sure our profession doesn’t marginalize women like the consumer electronics industry apparently has?

Hello.

Great tip from Frank Kautz on MyShingle.com:

Does your secretary answer the phone, “Law Office?” When is the last time you heard a major restaurant answer the phone “restaurant” or a hotel answer the phone “hotel?” Not a chance. They understand the value of name recognition or branding. So why do you let your employees answer the phone with “Law Office?” Your name is one of your biggest assets, don’t waste it.

Promoting for Pennies

“Promoting for Pennies” is the title of this article at Entrepreneur.com. Lots of great ideas here. My favorites:

7. Stickers: They’re not just for preschoolers. When Rosenberg launched her tax consulting business and Web site, she bought 100 red heart stickers that said, “We love referrals.” “We plastered them on everything that went out of our office, and business poured in,” recalls Rosenberg. “Simply telling people we wanted referrals made a big difference.” Cost: $7.50 for 100 stickers.

10. Occasion cards: Send birthday cards, Thanksgiving cards, congratulations cards—they’re great ways to let customers know you care. Cost: about $1.50 per card, plus postage.

11. Employees: Empower employees to solve customers’ problems and motivate them to bring customers back. Ratner says, “I make each employee sign a piece of paper stating, ‘I understand that my number-one job, no matter what I was hired for, is to make the customer come back.’ This lets my employees know that we’re serious about customer service.”

18. Referral bonuses: Inspire customers to act as your sales force by giving them an incentive to bring you new customers. This may include a discount off their next service or a small gift or credit on their account. Be sure to ask new customers where they heard about your business so you know when a customer has made a referral. Cost: a few dollars.

These are all great ideas you can use to market your firm.

Come back Larry.

Larry Bodine is the author of the Professional Marketing Blog. His tag line is, “News, opinions and insights into professional marketing.” I look at the site every day because Larry posts some interesting things — mainly about marketing large law firms. The problem is Larry hasn’t posted at all since January 28th. Does this mean he has had no opinions or insights since then? In his last post, Larry writes:

I’ve gotten calls from reporters who phone me up and say they saw my blog. They found me by doing a Google search, and the next thing I know they’re interviewing me for quotes in their story. If you’re a professional looking for more attention from the press, start writing a blog.

I would change that last line to, “keep writing a blog.”

Now, I don’t mean to be critical of Larry — I just want him to get back to blogging because I like to read his stuff. Is that so selfish?

Ten Secrets of Business

Via The Nub is this post with the “10 Secrets of Business” from Stuart Craner and Des Dearlove:

1. Money is a by-product: purpose and values come first.

2. Culture is the differentiator: it’s what makes you unique.

3. The customer comes first – and co-creating value with the customer brings an edge.

4. Talk the walk: communicate, communicate and then communicate some more.

5. Rules stifle: values are more important.

6. Distill it down: so the message is clear.

7. Kill complacency, don’t let it kill you – and evolution is better than revolution.

8. Lead by example: credibility is important.

9. Best beats first: originality is not always enough.

10. Keep it simple – because business is fundamentally simple.

Sounds about right.

21 Ways to Bring in the Business

Good article here titled “21 Ways to Bring in the Business” from Entrepreneur.com.

Be who you appear to be.

Thanks to Tom Asaker for this post from his weblog about a BearingPoint, Inc. study of the state of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) in the financial services industry.

From the study:

Among the survey findings is that fewer than a quarter of the executives interviewed said their customers promote their financial institution enthusiastically to family and friends. After spending more than $20 billion in 2002 alone on CRM systems to help them get closer to customers, financial institutions still yearn for the brand loyalty and rich relationships enjoyed by carmakers and clothiers. Why do people not feel as attached to the place they entrust with their money as they do to the vehicle in the garage or the jeans in the closet? The answer is not that CRM technology has failed. CRM has put powerful tools in the hands of the enterprise—new processes, integrated systems and rich stores of information—that improve service and take out costs. The problem, rather, is that these huge investments have focused not on building a bond with the customer and enhancing the customer experience, but on deploying technology to manage the customer relationship.

The study advocates a focus on “CEM” or Customer Experience Management, and gives three keys to implementing it in the financial services industry:

Adopt the customer’s perspective. By putting themselves in their customers’ shoes, financial services executives will avoid mistaking customer inertia for loyalty and forbearance for acceptance. They can then identify more easily what their institutions must do to win and keep customers and to inject more enthusiasm into their relationships.
Create mutual value. For many firms, customer strategy has long hinged on maximizing marketing effectiveness to increase sales. Financial services companies need to commit to creating value for customers at each point of interaction, rather than merely to operational excellence or fiduciary duty.
Guarantee transparency and trust. Financial services providers must build a comprehensive picture of customers that matches the picture customers have of themselves, and then organize their business and technology architectures to match. Only then can they reward customers for the totality of their relationships, provide a consistent and integrated experience across multiple points of contact, and infuse much needed transparency into relationships that many customers currently suspect are one-sided.

Some great stuff here. Registration necessary to read the study.

Naming my new firm.

After several months of thinking about naming my new firm (see posts here, here, and here), I have finally settled on a name: Silver Lake Law Group (Silver Lake is my town’s large lake). Still working out the details on corporate organization (LLC vs. LLP vs. PC), but should have the new identity ready for a formal unveiling in about three weeks. In the meantime, keep an eye on Eric Heel’s efforts to rename his firm Clock Tower Law Group.

I’m Back.

I know, you probably didn’t miss me. I just finished a long weekend as a faculty member for a mediation seminar at Washington University Law School in St. Louis, where I serve as an adjunct professor. To take the seminar, participants had to have prior mediation experience, and I think I learned as much (or more) from them as they did from me.

Though I participated as a coach for the multiple mediation sessions, and contributed throughout the program, my primary segment of the program was entitled “Marketing Your Mediation Practice” and had to be given at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday because in Missouri, “marketing” does not qualify for CLE credit. However, if I would have titled it “How to Ethically Market Your Mediation Practice,” it would have qualified. How silly.

Branding done right.

I just finished a nice conversation with Chan Stroman at Landlord Counsel, LLC. She incorporates a great blog in her firm website. Check it out.

Yoga and the Law Firm

In this post in her Wonderbranding weblog, Michelle Miller says that, “Today’s women are looking inward for balance, strength, and focus.” She points to the explosion in yoga programs at fitness centers thoughout the country, and asks:

So… women are not only connecting with each other but are looking for personal ways to enhance their lives. What does your business or service do for these women that would serve a similiar need?

Good question.

How “Unique” is your law firm?

Jeremy Blachman, a 2L at Harvard Law School, in Jeremy’s Weblog compiles this list of “unique” statements from law firm web sites. Jeremy has removed the law firm names and shortened sentences, but assures his readers that these are accurate:

The nature of our practice and our unique firm culture sets us apart from the rest.

What makes our firm unique are its fantastic people.

Our attorneys and staff have created a unique firm culture which nurtures mentoring and the exchange of ideas.

We possess a unique combination of experienced lawyers with backgrounds in various legal fields.

Our clients appreciate our unique combination of specialized expertise and broad experience.

Our firm’s culture is a unique blend of the conservative and entrepreneurial.

Our exciting practice and unique collegial ambiance distinguish us from other law firms.

We have a unique ability to offer our attorneys unlimited opportunity for personal, professional and financial growth.

We have a unique Pro Bono Policy that demonstrates the Firm’s support for pro bono.

There is a unique spirit at work here, a collective “can do” attitude that empowers every member of our Firm.

At our firm, your first reward is the unique opportunity to explore your interests and build your practice.

Our attorneys and staff have a passion for justice and a unique commitment to the needs of our clients.

We don’t think you will find another law firm anywhere that has such a unique combination of excellent lawyers, challenging and diverse practice opportunities, decent people, and a genuine sense of community.

One of the things that makes us unique — and uniquely effective for our clients — is that our people live in the real world, not inside dusty law books.

A law student or graduate should be wary of a firm that is one-sided and does not present a balanced mix of quality legal work, people, and lifestyle. We believe we have succeeded in achieving such a balance, which makes us unique in today’s legal community.

If the unique firm we have described here is one that appeals to you, we encourage you to contact us about career opportunities.

What is your strategy?

Thanks to Paul Williams at Brand Autopsy for this post about a marketing agency satire website. I think their strategy could have been written for lawyers:

Our main strategy is to convince people that we do stuff they can’t do themselves, and that we deserve lots of money for it. The best way to do this is to always look good, and always sound like we know something you don’t. If you’re still not convinced, we’ll show you lots of market research and cost analysis and global positioning strategy reports to confuse you and hopefully convince you that we’re so knowledgeable you couldn’t possibly succeed without us. Because you can’t. So don’t even try.

I personally like their take on solutions:

When we deliver your new business strategies to you, they’ll be in really snazzy binders that look nice sitting on big, round meeting tables, so you’ll know you got your money’s worth. When your project has been completed, we’ll give you several follow-up phone calls to give the appearance that we even remember who you are or what we sold you.

And client satisfaction:

Our clients are always satisfied with our service. If you knew who any of them were, you could confirm this for yourself, but, since you don’t, you’ll just have to take our word on this one too. Client satisfaction is always our first priority. Well…actually…maybe something like third or fourth. But we really do take care of our clients. More or less, anyway.

Business insight from drug dealers?

Fascinating series of posts here and here at Brand Autopsy about what drug dealers can teach us about marketing and business.

Before you automatically dismiss this as outlandish and ridiculous – think for a second. Drug dealers must design their business in the same ways that legitimate businesses do. From procurement of product to making strategic real estate (location) decisions to acquiring customers … the parallels between street corner selling and running a legitimate business are endless.

Lessons come from the book Dealing Crack — at popular booksellers (and street corners) near you.

Trading Up

Ran across the Business Evolutionist Blog today and found this post on Trading Up, the book by Michael Silverstein and Neil Fiske. John Strande highly recommends the book and has gotten me to order it. I’ll let you read his post, but one of Strande’s readers suggests that the lessons in the book seem equally applicable to selling both goods and services. I’ll post my thoughts on the book (and applying its ideas to legal practice) once I finish it.

Naming Law Firms (Again)

I have spent a lot of time talking about naming law firms because I am still struggling to find that perfect name for my perfect firm. I have posted here and here about naming strategies. In this article, Jeff Wuorio adds his naming suggestions. His seven tips:

Don’t make up a name. “It’s good to be creative when considering names for your business. But don’t bend the English language to a point where you’re cooking up a purely ersatz title. Verizon and other big companies can get away with it because they have the muscle of name recognition. But calling your coin-operated laundry Cleanacopia, Sudsadelphia or some other like concoction is not merely confusing, but it also conveys nothing to a customer with sacks of muddy clothes and jingling quarters at the ready.”
Avoid forced alliteration. “If your name is Smith and you sell highly seasoned breakfast foods, then Smith’s Spicy Sausages may be a perfectly appropriate name. But, it’s generally a good idea to avoid alliteration for the sake of alliteration. Again, unless it occurs naturally, you may confuse prospective customers about what it is you do.”
Never say “aaaaaa,” or even “aaa.”“We’ve all seen this at the very front of the phone book — business after business naming itself AAA, Aaaabracadabra or something like it in hopes of elbowing its way to No. 1 in the listings. Sure, it’s fine to be first but, once again, a hollow name that sacrifices information and persuasion for numerical order is likely to be a loser.”
Wuorios need not apply. The author makes the point that having a name that is difficult to spell or pronounce (like his) is rarely a good thing.
Keep it short. “Unless you’re a law firm with a dozen partners, it’s rarely a good idea to have an unduly long name. Keeping things short and to the point makes your name easier to remember, easier to look up if need be and visually less obtrusive on everything from signs to business cards.” (Author’s note: I think that these rules should apply especially if you are a law firm with a dozen partners.)
Don’t limit growth. “Surprisingly enough, a poorly chosen name can actually hinder your business’s development. For instance, Jim’s Stereo Repair might seem like a perfectly suitable name. But the trouble comes when Jimbo wants to move into televisions as well. So make sure that your name is sufficiently broad to encompass whatever direction your business may take.”
Make sure it’s for the taking. “Once you’ve settled on a name, check to make certain you can, in fact, use it.”

Saw this on the Viral Marketing Blog about a New York restaurant offering a $2,500 prize to the person who submits the best name for the new venture. Would that work with a law firm? I’ll see if I can come up with an extra $500 or so and maybe do the same thing. Look for details next week.

Meaningful Marketing

Every once in a while I find a book I can’t put down. I don’t know if I have gotten lucky with the last two books I’ve read, but after reading The Brand Gap, I picked up Meaningful Marketing by Doug Hall, and realized that I’d just gone two-for-two! The author is the founder of Eureka! Ranch, a well-known business idea thinktank. Hall, with his co-author Jeffrey Stamp, looked at over 2,000 business studies and distilled the results into 100+ “Data Proven Truths” set out in the book. Each “Truth” is accompanied by two to four practical ways to apply the truth to your business.

When I read books, I fold down the corner of the pages that contain pasages I want to review later. Looking at my copy of the book, I am certain that more pages have folded-down corners than pages that don’t! To be sure, many of the studies upon which the book is based relate to the retail industry, but I gleaned dozens of great ideas. For example:

Do one thing right. Meaningful Marketing is about building a trust between customers and your brand. Trust is built on the belief that you and your company have a higher-than-normal level of expertise in a specific area. This trust results in greater customer loyalty and less price sensitivity. A customer’s trust in yor expertise is dramatically enhanced when you focus on doing one thing better than anyone else. Analysis of over 901 new products found that when the marketing message was highly focused on one benefit, the brand was 60 percent more likely to succeed in the marketplace than when the message was unfocused. . . . Think hard aobut your offering. What is the one element that, above all others, defines why someone should become your customer? What is the one Meaningful difference that is most Meaningful to your customers?

Doug Hall has this to say about naming your business:

Your brand name defines who and what you are. The more your sales and marketing message offers a Meaningful difference that aligns with the suggestive nature of your brand name, the more likely customers will recall and remember it. . . . Your brand name is a clear and overt declaration of what you offer. The more related and synergistic your name is whith your message, the more effective your marketing will be. A[n] analysis of some 901 new products found that the odds of long-term marketplace survival were 34 percent greater when the new product’s brand name evoked the benefit instead of being an absract or unrelated name.

My favorite idea comes from the section titled, “Keep it Simple, Stupid,” where the authors cite a study that found that brands with messages written at or below a fifth-grade reading level were 25% more likely to survive than those with more complex messages. The authors suggest explaining your sales and marketing story to a fifth-grader, and asking him to repeat what he just heard — and correcting the difference between what you said and what he said.

The book comes with an audio CD that I haven’t yet listened to, but it is going in my car’s changer tomorrow.

Market your law firm like Harley does.

In this MarketingProfs.com article, Sean D’Souza looks at how Harley-Davidson’s Harley Owner’s Group (HOG) has energized the brand. The community of Harley riders that is probably Harley’s best salesforce cost Harley next to nothing.

In 1997, Harley Davidson spent just $1 million on advertising. Before you say, “Oh, I don’t have a million,” look at Harley’s advertising budget for 1996, 1995, 1994, 1993, 1992… all the way to 1984. Zero. A big fat zero. All their money, squillions of dollars, went into creating an absolutely top-notch product. And then creating a community that would buy into the brand.

You don’t have to be a big company to build a community of your customers. The article gives the following example many law firms could implement:

Katrina runs a little dress store in a town that boasts of less than 15,000 residents. Business can be cutthroat, especially with the big mega-stores within small business gobbling distance. Yet, Katrina’s done a “Harley.” Every month, Katrina heads out for coffee. And she’s not alone. In the quaint little cafe down the road, there’s a hubbub of excitement. Katrina’s customers are having a whale of a time. They’re laughing, chatting and tucking into cheesecake—while Katrina picks up the tab month after month. Do you see the word advertising anywhere? Printing of glossy brochures? Hundreds of dollars spent on publicity? All it costs is $2.50 for a coffee. Per customer. Per month. That’s all it takes. And Katrina’s community builds one customer at a time. Customers bring friends, friends bring friends and the dresses fly out of Katrina’s dress store.

If you are going to build a customer community, you don’t have to spend a lot of money, but you will have to spend some time. Institutionalize the event. Make it like Southwest Airline’s chili cookoff. I am planning my new firm’s first customer appreciation event — an outing to a Minor League Baseball Game. My cost is about $10.00 per person, which will include transportation and tickets. My dad and I will BBQ before the game in my office parking lot and we’ll all take a bus to the game. I will invite fifty or so clients (and ask them to bring their family members, friends, and business associates) and one will be able to throw out the first pitch. For the cost of one yellow pages ad, I hope to have 100+ people talking about what a fun time they had because of my firm. What is your firm’s signature event?

Speaking of Southwest Airlines, David has this post up on ethicalEsq about a law firm with Southwest Airlines-like focus on employee hapiness.

Branding vs. Naming Part III.

In my previous post, I discussed Marty Neumeier’s advice on “branding” a business from his book “The Brand Gap.” The author also sets out seven criteria for a good name:

1. Distinctiveness. Does it stand out from the crowd, especially from other names in its class? Does it separate well from ordinary text and speech? The best brand names have the “presence” of a proper noun.

2. Brevity. Is it short tenough to be easily recalled and used? Will it resist being reduced to a nickname? Long multi-word names will be quickly shortened to non-communicating initials.

3. Appropriateness. Is there a reasonable fit with the business purpose of the entity? If it would work just as well — or better — for another entity, keep looking.

4. Easy Spelling and Pronunciation. Will most people be able to spell the name after hearing it spoken? Will they be able to pronounce it after seeing it written? A name shouldn’t turn into a spelling test or make people feel ignorant.

5. Likability. Will people enjoy using it? Names that are intellectually stimulating, or provide a good “mouth feel,” have a headstart overt those that don’t.

6. Extendability. Does it have “legs”? Does it suggest a visual interpretatiuon or lend itself to a number of creative executioins? Great names provide endless opportunities for brandplay.

7. Protectability. Can it be trademarked? Is it available for web use? While many names can be trademarked, some names are more defensible than others, making them safer and more valuable in the long run.

As I discussed in this previous post I have been thinking seriously about renaming my new firm. My present name: Homann Law and Mediation fails criteria 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 set forth above. Wow, what a stupid name that was.

What are your favorite law firm names? Mine is Competition Law Group.

Branding vs. Naming, Part II.

Just finished Marty Neumeier’s “The Brand Gap” this weekend. It is a wonderful (and really short) book on branding. Neumeier defines a “brand” as

a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. … When enough individuals arrive at the same gut feeling, a company can be said to have a brand. In other worrds, a brand is not what you say it is. It is what THEY say it is.

The author suggests every company should be able to instantly and unambiguously answer these three questions:

1. Who are you?
2. What do you do?
3. Why does it matter?

This is a really hard exercise for lawyers. Go ahead, try it. I admit I get hung up on the second question before I even get to the third. I am (and have been for nearly 8 years) a “general practitioner” — that kind of small-town lawyer who tries to be everything to everyone. In the past week, I’ve worked on a divorce, filed three evictions, drafted five deeds, and prepared two contracts for a client selling his business. Neumeier argues that “focus, focus, focus” are the three most important words in branding. He says that it is often better to be number one in a small category than to be number three in a large one. And if you can’t be number one (or even number two)? Redefine your category. Being a general practitioner runs counter to Neumeier’s advice to focus one’s business. As I build my new law practice, I clearly have some work to do.