Tag Archives: marketing

No Good Deed Goes Unrewarded

“For it is in giving, that we receive.”  Saint Francis of Assisi

The “no good deed goes unpunished” adage got its roots from those experiences in life where the good deed done appears to unfairly backfire on the do gooder.  No doubt there are times when the person doing the good experiences a negative reaction.  But does that mean good deeds are to be avoided lest they go unrewarded?  In the least, there is the reward and self satisfaction that comes from knowing you did the right thing, regardless of the outcome.

But what does that have to do with marketing?  This is after all, a legal marketing and business development blog. 

It is common knowledge that joining organizations and meeting people can be an effective networking strategy to help you promote your services and generate business.  But if you have tried it, you also know that many times when you attend a function at some sort of industry, charitable or social organization, you will find that a large percentage of the participants are people just like you, hoping to make a contact or generate a lead for business.  Something that does not go unnoticed by the group.  So how do you distinguish yourself, get noticed, and not come off like some parasitic leech?

The answer?  Good deeds!  Real life charitable service for the organization.  Performing voluntary services for the organization demonstrates not only your organizational skills, talent and expertise; it also demonstrates a genuine interest in the group and its mission.  Nothing is more attractive to group members than other group members taking an active interest in the causes of the group and doing things to further their plans and purpose.  That is how you get noticed and how you build relationships.  Trust is a critical component to hiring decisions in the legal profession.  Proving your interest goes a long way toward building that trust, and in the end, getting their business.

So if you choose to join an organization as part of your marketing plan and want it to really pay off, be prepared to participate.  Understand that if you give first, you are more likely to get back.  If you don’t have the time, then this may not be the strategy for you.  You could get lucky just by showing up, but most likely you’ll just be waiting in line. 

 

How About a Joint Venture? A Twist on Referrals for Small and Solo Law Firms

 “Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success.”    ~Author Unknown

A very old and common technique for building business is to ask for and give referrals.  Every year I get at least a handful of letters and brochures from law firms seeking referrals on their areas of expertise.  I also know many lawyers, solo practitioners in particular, that refer business that comes their way, when it involves areas of expertise or resource commitment they are not comfortable with.

If you are a small or solo firm and would like to get more out of case referrals, there is an alternative to sending them out the door.  Consider joint venturing cases you might otherwise refer.  There are more solo firms in Texas than any other size firm.  The areas of practice for these firms vary widely.  Why not ask someone to work with you on a case instead of just farming it out?  Here are six reasons why this option can be beneficial:

  1. It allows you to earn fees on a case you might not otherwise be able to handle.  When I get a case in the door that I may be reluctant to take on because I either lack the resources (i.e. money and staff) or experience to handle it properly, but I would otherwise be very interested in taking, I will usually look for a lawyer with the expertise or resources I am lacking to join me in the representation on the case rather than just refer it.  Most solos, even very successful ones, will be very open to taking a case on a joint venture if the case has the financial potential to justify it.
  2. If you refer a case, you still need to stay sufficiently involved to protect your referral fee and satisfy the requirements of the code of professional responsibility.  If you joint venture the case, although you will likely be committing more time and effort to the case than with a referral, you will also earn a higher portion of the fee.  If you are trying to grow your business, keeping more of the fee can be crucial.
  3. If you refer a case because you do not feel you have enough experience to handle it on your own, you reduce your opportunity to ever acquire that line of experience.  If it is an area that you receive frequent inquiries, or would like to handle more of, a joint venture can be a great alternative.  You work closely with someone who knows the area of law while you earn a higher-than-referral fee, and eventually you will be qualified to handle that type of case on your own.
  4. If you have experience in an area that because of the customary fee structure, requires substantial financial investment (i.e. the firm covering expenses), consider asking a firm with adequate resources to invest and joint venture the case with you.  If the case is a good investment, most firms with the financial resources will still be interested in taking the case on a joint venture.  You provide a bulk of the man hours, while they share their knowledge, expertise and finances with you for, let’s say, half the fee.  When I’ve had the opportunity to take in such a case, I have never had trouble finding a joint venture partner to split the fee based on their financial backing and second chair legal support.  A good investment is a good investment.
  5. If you joint venture a case instead of refer it, you are more likely to be in a position to receive additional business or referrals from your client.  When you send a case to another firm, assuming that firm does a reasonable job, that client may be more inclined to go to refer that firm in the future rather than your firm.  A good lawyer will develop a bond with their client throughout their representation.  Unless, you already have an otherwise very strong relationship with that client, the relationship that client develops with the referred lawyer will likely be more vivid in their mind than the previous relationship with you, so when the client has additional needs or an opportunity to refer, chances are the lawyer you referred will get the new business or referral.  Many experts on the subject of marketing agree that the best way to develop business is first through your existing clients.  The more clients you can keep in the fold, the greater potential for repeat business or referrals from them.
  6. By pulling another lawyer into a case, you also increase the likelihood that the lawyer you joint venture with will reciprocate by asking you to joint venture with them on one of their cases, or possibly even out right refer cases to you.  It is a win/win for both lawyers because it expands the work for both firms by providing the benefits of shared skills and experience while maintaining separate practices.

Of course there is the down side to joint ventures.  As with any joint venture, you then become responsible for the actions of the lawyer you are venturing with as you would be in any partnership, but that responsibility is limited to that one case.  If you choose your joint venture partner wisely and stay active on the case as you would your own, that risk of additional liability should be minimal.

Also, be sure that if you think you might want to joint venture with another lawyer on a case, you include that possibility in your contract with your client.

While a joint venture will not be the answer for every case, it is a valuable alternative to referrals that can produce greater revenue for your growing firm.

 

Should I Blog? A Two Prong Test.

“A great resume can only deliver confidence in your ability to deliver solutions, but it never provides the solution.”

You’ve heard the advice. Keep your website active. Add new material. Blog about topics of interest to your clients. Be the “go to” resource for cutting edge information. Sounds good, but it also sounds like a lot of work. So is it worth your time? Ultimately, will it bring in business?

Whether you should blog depends on two primary areas of consideration: First, do you like writing and are you good at it? Second, what impact would it likely have, if any, on the buying decisions of your targeted clients?

While most lawyers have at least a reasonable level of writing skill, being able to draft pleadings, motions or briefs does not necessarily equate to being an effective blogger. Effective blogging isn’t just about putting a decent sentence together. It requires identifying topics of current interest to the targeted client, and providing useful or interesting information presented in an easy-to-read and at least semi-entertaining style. If you find yourself spending hours on end writing a marginal, half page blog post, chances are it is not your thing. And of course if you do a poor job, it could actually do damage (although damage is unlikely for most lawyers making a reasonable effort). In short, you have to want to do it, enjoy it and be pretty good at it.

Once you determine that you can be successful writing blog posts, you next must consider whether blogging has a reasonable chance of generating business with the clients you want. To meet this prong, there has to be some measurable benefit or return on your investment of time. So how do lawyers benefit from blogging?

First, and most obvious, blogging can demonstrate your expertise and knowledge on subjects of interest to your targeted client and may actually provide value added services on the spot. Nothing demonstrates expertise better than, well, demonstrating it. Prospective clients expect that your firm bio will be written in a way to make you look qualified. Having a list of references or successes can help too. But to actually see the expertise in action can be the most powerful proof of your knowledge and experience. Also, a well written blog provides instant useful information and possibly even solutions for your targeted clients. Ultimately that is what they want, solutions. A great resume can only deliver confidence in your ability to deliver solutions, but it never provides the solution.

Second, regular blogging can improve your visibility on the Internet, possibly driving valuable traffic to your website. If your site has quality content on the subjects and important terms relevant to your business, it will improve your placement with the search engines on those topics. Likewise, if your website enjoys a significant traffic flow, it will also improve your site’s placement in response to search engine queries. One feeds off the other. Content leads to traffic, which leads to more traffic.

But will the benefits turn into business? It all goes back to basic marketing principles. Who is your target, where do they get their information, and how do they make their purchasing decisions? Clients seeking attorneys for personal injury plaintiff’s claims, criminal law or family law matters commonly use the Internet for locating potential lawyers. Therefore, high placement in response to search engine queries will help lead prospective clients to your site. They may not read your blog, but your blog may still be responsible for the business if the blog delivered the high placement that brought them to your site.

On the other hand, commercial clients are much less likely to use a search engine to find a lawyer, but instead are more inclined to rely on personal referrals. However, even if they don’t begin their search on the Internet, they will likely use the Internet to research a referred lawyer. Once under consideration, they will go to your website to answer one question: What is the likelihood this lawyer can successfully provide the solution I need? If your blog answers that question, it will benefit you. Your blog might not bring them to your site, but it might sell them on your qualifications.

So, should you blog? If you are good at it, and your analysis of your client’s decision making process suggests it will positively impact their decision, then it is a viable option. Once you meet these first two prongs, then it is a matter of how this particular marketing strategy weighs against the other marketing strategies available to you. Most lawyers have a very limited amount of time to market. Choosing the strategy that best fits your skills and your client’s needs is the key to effective marketing. But if you don’t meet the first two prongs for blogging, then don’t blog for business.

 

Social Networking; Bah! Humbug!

 “Once a new technology rolls over you, if you are not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.”        Stewart Brand

Social Networking, bah, humbug!!  Or is it?

As a marketing consultant, one would not expect me to be slow to the punch on social networking as a marketing tool for lawyers, but admittedly, I have been somewhat skeptical of its strengths, particularly on the heavily social leaning sites like Facebook and My Space.  It’s not that I doubt the power of any opportunity for networking, whether traditional or in the cyber world, it is really more a matter of time as a limited resource.  Networking is a critical component to any legal practice.  But with a limited amount of time to allocate towards marketing, lawyers need to choose their venues for networking well, so as to get the most bang for their buck.  What venue is right for you depends on who the clients are that you seek, and where they spend their time. 

If you are looking for business litigation clients, Facebook or MySpace are not likely to be prospect rich environments for you (not yet at least).  That’s not to say that you couldn’t get a business litigation client through Facebook, but the question is, if you have a limited amount of time to network, where should you spend that time?  If you want an alternative to the traditional networking venues, there are cyber options on networking sites with more of a business culture like LinkedIn.  So if you want to build your business prospects and want to give the cyber world a try, LinkedIn may be a better use of your time. 

On the other hand, if you are hoping to increase your family law business, ensuring that all your Facebook friends keep your family law practice on the tip of their tongue is probably a pretty good use of your time, since much of that business is built on people seeking attorneys through referrals from family and friends.  Again it is all about who your prospective clients are, where they hang out, and where they get their information.

But if you are wondering if networking sites are worth the trouble, in the long run, the answer is a resounding yes. Check out this video on youtube if you’re having doubts.  And if you are one of those who shudder at new technology, don’t despair.  You will not have to spend your days and nights “tweeting” or posting on Facebook.  Traditional marketing still wins the day.  It’s still about picking the right prospect rich venues and spending your time, resources and money there, to get the most out of your time and efforts.  The networking sites are simply another venue option, and the good news is they can make good ole fashioned elbow grease go a long way!

 

Back Off! Taking the Boor Out of Selling

“The secret of man’s success resides in his insight into the moods of people, and his tact in dealing with them.”
J. G. Holland    

I recently attended a conference on business development that included a panel of general counsel offering suggestions to attorneys seeking their business.  The moderator asked whether they preferred “hard sale” or “soft sale” techniques.   Not surprisingly, they all preferred a “soft sale.”  Who likes being subjected to a “hard sale?”  Certainly no attorneys I know.  

But understanding the difference is a little more complicated and in reality more subjective than objective.  It reminds me of that famous quote by former US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart when attempting to define what constitutes obscenity:  “I shall not today further attempt to define [what constitutes obscene material]…  But I’ll know it when I see it.”  Defining boorish behavior can be just as difficult, but there may be a more objective way of ensuring your techniques don’t turn off your prospects.  Here are some ideas for creating boorish-free communications: 

  • Always offer new information in each and every call or correspondence.  Your prospects are not likely to be annoyed by your call if you have something new and valuable to tell them.  Likewise consistently offering new and valuable information will increase your prospect’s interest in communicating with you.
  • Be prepared.  Know what you are going to say and anticipate the questions so that you have a better chance of providing all the information the prospect may be interested in.  Not being prepared with easily anticipated information not only calls into question your competence and qualification; it can signal a lack of respect for your prospect’s time.
  • Get to the point.  Say only what is necessary to communicate what you want to say.  As you prepare, think about what you want to say and find the shortest way possible to effectively communicate it.  When writing correspondence, read your draft and make sure that each sentence has an important purpose.  If it does not add value, get rid of it.  Getting to the point in a succinct manner demonstrates that you respect your prospect’s time and schedule.      
  • Say it with style.  Your communication should include an appropriate tone and personal touch to build on the relationship.  In fact, tone and personal touch can be as important as the point you are trying to make.  However, it doesn’t need to dominate the communication.  Again, find the most efficient way possible to effectively color the communication with a warm personal touch without wasting your prospects time. 
  • Don’t assume that your prospect is enjoying your social chatter.  I once had a boss who famously engaged in lengthy personal conversations with clients and prospects.  They would politely answer his probing social questions and would even appear to enjoy the conversation.  I later learned that most of these clients and prospects were not really interested or motivated by the conversation, but were simply being polite.  Relationship building is critical to a long term association, but it requires understanding when you are wasting someone’s time.  Lesson to be learned?  Just because they are laughing at your jokes doesn’t mean that deep down they don’t just want to get off the phone.    
  • Maintain a list of sales techniques and tactics that you have found to be offensive.  When you prepare for a phone call or draft correspondence, check it against your list to make sure some of the undesirables have not snuck into your communication.  Even though we all say we don’t like boorish sales behavior, we can all be guilty of it.  It takes more effort to deliver sales information with just the right finesse than it does to just throw it out there.  My list of undesirables includes things like repeated phone calls with no new information; obviously false deadlines as closing techniques; questions that come off more like cross-examination designed to lead you to a purchasing posture, among others. 

Offensive sales behavior can be avoided through diligent preparation and practice, but there is always an on-going risk of it slipping in.  Only persistent efforts to minimize the instances will ensure an overall sales program that is both affable and effective.