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5 posts from October 2006

October 25, 2006

Get more results from networking

Is this your top priority?

It is extremely valuable to know and be known by a wide group of potential customers. Some people are natural networkers, and others learn to love it. But you must be committed to this as a long-term strategy, because networking can take significant time to produce business. And it’s easy to waste time doing it with the wrong people.

The business goal

In the book Endless Referrals, Bob Burg says that the Golden Rule of networking is “All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, people they know, like, and trust.” Therefore the purpose of business networking is to increase the number of potential clients who know, like, and trust you.

Help them first

Beginners often think that they should use networking events to ask people for help. But if your goal is to get other people to like and trust you, this does not seem like the best way to start. Instead, help other people find customers and more. If you help enough people, in time some of them will return the favor.

Questions to ask at a networking event

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Sooner or later you will find yourself in a room with a lot of strangers who are all trying to network. Most are as uncomfortable as you are. Your goal in these meetings is to meet as many people as possible, and find an excuse to follow up with each. You do this by asking questions and listening up to ninety-nine percent of the time. Here are five questions to get the conversation started:
Who is your ideal client?
How did you get started?
What do you like most about ____?
Who do you compete with?
What’s the hot trend in ____?

Your benefit statement

For the one percent of the time when you will be talking, you need a five to ten second elevator speech about the benefit you provide. For more on elevator speeches, see the Free resources section of our web page.

Follow-up

Maybe somebody somewhere once got business at a first meeting, but that’s rare. To build relationships, you need to follow up consistently. Look for an excuse to contact people within a week of meeting them, such as providing the name of a book or a professional contact.

Take the first step today

Identify a group that is likely to be a good source of potential customers. Go to their next event and get involved.

This material was adapted from my new book Legal Business Development: A Step by Step Guide

October 18, 2006

Will lawyers listen to non-lawyers?

That was one of the key questions posed to a panel of experts at an October 11 Washington DC session on How to Get a Seat at the Table: Building Your Own Clout in Your Firm.

The event was jointly sponsored by the Capital chapters of the Legal Marketing Association and the Association of Legal Administrators. The published description spoke to the frustration many law firm employees feel that “no one outside your department is listening to you” and noted that “Hard work and good strategic ideas don't do much for a firm if no one is paying attention.”

Over 100 professionals turned out to learn how to increase their impact. The discussion was moderated by Cindy Weber, Managing Partner at Sughrue Mion. Two of the panelists were Chief Marketing Officers: Jose Cunningham of Crowell & Moring and Kim Perret of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan. The other two were Executive Directors: Jim Leary of Akin Gump and Barry Strauss of Wiley Rein & Fielding.

Participants and audience members talked frankly about their firms, both positive and negative. In fact, some spoke so frankly about “the last bastion of medieval guilds” that I’ve decided it would be best to keep the sources anonymous. All of the quotes below came from the session, but I refuse to name names.

One person who attended the meeting said that lawyers will indeed listen to non-lawyers “when you have something to say… but listening and agreeing are two different concepts. 95% of the time the first reaction to an idea is no.” Then, within a few days, the same ideas may reappear from the lawyers themselves. Several speakers noted that “you need to check your ego at the door… Lawyers will not do this, but you must.” “The lawyers own the firm, so they must be out front.”

What do you need to do to get listened to? The very same things lawyers do when they become trusted advisors to their own clients: provide value, be well prepared, and actively work to build relationships and earn respect. Lawyers are skeptical by nature and by training, so “You must be prepared to sell your ideas, and to deal with other positions.”

How does one measure success in this type of environment? First, you need annual objectives which are based on the firm’s agenda rather than any personal agenda. Then you need to measure results, manage expectations, and honestly report both successes and failures. Business development experts can track new engagements, meetings with prospects, client satisfaction ratings, and the number of RFPs analyzed and responded to. Marketing professionals can count speaking engagements, the number of web hits, requests for competitive intelligence, and more. The important thing is to set realistic goals, relate them to firm goals, and achieve results.

“Working with laterals is a great place to make your mark,” according to one expert, because when new lawyers come to a firm, they need help. Many will welcome advice on what you can and can’t do in the new culture. And later, they will remember that you helped them.

The session ended with the question: What is the one piece of advice you would give to non-lawyers who want to influence their firms? The answers:
“Whatever your position, you must articulate a long term vision of what you want to achieve.”
“When you build a team, hire the smartest and best people you can.”
“Be flexible, and be prepared to chase a lot of bad ideas.”
“If you respect others, they will respect you. But don’t be afraid to tell lawyers what they don’t want to hear.”

October 11, 2006

How to succeed as a one person marketing department

When I gave a speech at the Legal Marketing Association Southeast conference in Savannah two weeks ago, the session I enjoyed the most was called “Flying Solo: How to Succeed as a One-person Marketing Department.”

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To be honest, the speaker caught my eye before the topic did. Betsy Huntley is the Director of Marketing at Choate Hall & Stewart, and a former president of the Legal Marketing Association. Although she has a staff of four in her current position, over the last 18 years she’s worked for several other firms as a one woman band. So I thought I’d hear some interesting stories about life in the trenches. Especially since the audience included nearly twenty people who themselves are currently working as “one person marketing departments.”

Betsy started by asking how many lawyers each “one person marketing department” served, and the answers were all over the map, from a low of 14 lawyers to a high of 95. That’s right: 95 lawyers, one marketing person. And in case that does not sound difficult enough, many of the people in the room also had other responsibilities, such as event planning and recruiting.

Many worked under the direction of a marketing committee. Half said that working with the committee was a good thing; their lawyers supported the mission, and enabled success. But the other half felt it was a bad thing: their marketing committees often led to slower decisions and more frustration. This is a very interesting phenomenon; somebody should do some research to figure out how a marketing committee should be structured to maximize the chances of success.

There was also a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of working alone. The disadvantages included few surprises: not enough time, not enough money, and not enough everything else. But there were also some very significant advantages: you get to do things your own way, you don’t have to spend time managing other people, and you can become a close advisor to the managing partner.

Betsy ended the session with a list of 25 pieces of real world advice for solo marketers. My favorites included:
• Keep track of your time like the lawyers do. This makes it easier to track and record your successes, and it may make you aware of some activities that are taking more time than they should.
• Make face time a priority.
• Keep a “success” file.
• Memorize the firm’s top 15-20 clients and keep up with them.
• Don’t dismiss ideas from larger firms – adapt them to your circumstances.
• Know who’s hot and who’s not among the partners and know who is buddies with whom.

And my personal favorite piece of advice: Splurge where it counts. (For more information on the best place to splurge, see my book or call me at 800-49-TRAIN.)

For the complete list of Betsy’s 25 pieces of real world advice for solo marketers, Download solo_tips.pdf

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October 04, 2006

The top ten ways to make clients very very happy

If you want to develop new business, there’s a world full of excellent books and free advice on the web. But who’s got time to act on it, or even to read it?

That’s why my new book argues that in legal business development the keys to success are prioritizing and following up. And for the vast majority of lawyers, the top priority should be to devote more time to making your top clients very very happy.

Here are my top ten ways to start turning clients into “raving fans.” Pick the one that best fits your top clients and get started:
1. Schedule a visit to the client’s office to discuss trends in their business. Explain that it will not be billed, and you would just like to get some background to serve them better.
2. Conduct a formal or informal client satisfaction interview.
3. Tell clients how to control or reduce legal costs.
4. The next time you meet with a client about a new matter, estimate the percent of time you listen. If it’s less than fifty percent, plan how to get clients talking more.
5. Do a better job of communicating the value clients receive before, during, and after every engagement. Demonstrate the benefits of your work in terms of savings, quicker transactions, reduced liability, or other benefits that the client will recognize and understand.
6. Show how you understand the client’s legal requirements in a commercial context.
7. Identify the top clients who are responsible for most of your revenue and/or profits. Give them special treatment—such as regular calls from a senior partner or your home phone number—and make sure they know that they are in a special category.
8. Create a “Stop the Clock” program of regular unbilled meetings with top clients, to keep up with their changing needs.
9. At the beginning of each new matter, establish communication protocols that specify what types of information will be sent, to whom, and how often. Consider weekly email updates or monthly reports that can be forwarded to their management.
10. Ask your partners, and yourself, what has worked with similar clients in the past, and repeat your success.

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For more, see my new book Legal Business Development: A Step by Step Guide.

Tom Kane and the LegalBizDev Network

I am thrilled to announce that Tom Kane and I are founding a new group to train and certify coaches to use the LegalBizDev process. The LegalBizDev Network will apply proven systems to assure consistently high quality for programs that are too large to be conducted by a single coach.

Tom_kane
Tom has been writing and speaking about law firm marketing for nearly twenty years, and is the author of one of my favorite blogs, The Legal Marketing Blog.com. Before founding Kane Consulting Inc., he was chief marketing officer at a 450-lawyer Philadelphia firm, where he managed a staff of 12 marketers responsible for training, coaching, market research, public relations, advertising, client feedback programs, and more. Tom is a former practicing attorney, and is the author of Letters For Lawyers: Essential Communications for Clients, Prospects, and Others, Second Edition published by the American Bar Association.

In the past, when clients asked me how to use the LegalBizDev approach with a large number of attorneys simultaneously, I have talked about my company’s 21 years of experience developing and managing programs with dozens of trainers and thousands of participants. Now I can add that I have been joined by one of the pioneers in the legal marketing movement, who has spent many years in the trenches, learning what really works in large law firms, and what does not.

Tom and I believe that the pace of change is increasing in the legal marketplace, and that law firms will need to continually improve their business development coaching just to keep up. The LegalBizDev Network will help us to maintain a leadership position in this rapidly changing environment. Together, Tom and I will insure that every program leads to immediate and practical results, in a way that fits each firm’s goals and culture. For more, see today’s post in Tom’s blog.

As Humphrey Bogart put it at the end of the movie Casablanca, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”