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3 posts from March 2007

March 28, 2007

A legal marketing satire on YouTube…

I missed last week’s Legal Marketing Association Conference in Atlanta, but Adam Severson of Dorsey told me I should see the satirical video Truth, Justice & Credibility which opened the conference. You should too; it’s on YouTube.

Normally I try to stay away from YouTube, because I am afraid of spending too much time there. But if you want to know how frustrated marketers get working with lawyers, this short video from EventStreams is an eye opener. And it made me laugh out loud.

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The tone is set in one of the first scenes, when the Chief Marketing Officer of a fictional law firm stands in her managing partner’s office waiting for a meeting to start. The manager is reading the New Yorker, pointedly ignoring the CMO. She fidgets, she clears her throat. He makes a face, sighs, and turns to her. The subconscious message: he's willing to work on marketing, but it's about as important as reading the cartoons. Maybe less.

The video ends at the partners’ annual salary review meeting. The managing partner is standing at a large conference room table saying: “We had an excellent year, and business development and marketing are responsible at least in part for the large revenue increases we have.” Then all the lawyers in the room start laughing hysterically. Someone yells “Yeah, what did they do?” When the managing partner proposes a small raise for the chief marketing officer, the partners groan.

To learn about the background of the video, I called Terri Pepper Gavulic of Hildebrandt, one of the chairs of the LMA Conference. The idea for the video started when she and Jennifer Manton of Loeb & Loeb, the other conference chaiperson, decided that they needed something fun and a little different to kick off this year’s conference. Most of the scenarios in the video came from Terri’s professional life, and the actor who played the managing partner was another committee member, Jeff Reade of Cole Valley Software. EventStreams of Atlanta shot the video for free, and Powell Goldstein donated the use of their offices and conference rooms. Terri directed and made a cameo Hitchock appearance. (If you watch the video, Terri is the person who hands a file to the data steward.)

The video was a huge hit with the 1,000 people in the audience for LMA’s opening session. According to Terri, it was “a great way of putting people at ease, especially the 400 members who were attending their first conference. It helped them understand that we are all working hard to overcome the same barriers, and we are making progress.”

I hate to quibble over such a professional and entertaining production. Then again, that’s what blogs are for.

In the first draft of this post, I mentioned that I was struck by the large number of marketing examples and the small number of business development examples in the video. There are vignettes on branding, shortening the firm name, holiday cards, letters and party planning. But there was much less mention of the business development activities that I think will make the most difference to increasing revenue, such as coaching lawyers to increase client satisfaction and to find new clients.

I think this imbalance accurately reflects the job roles and priorities that still apply in some law firms, but I hate being reminded of it. I think lawyers will remain grudging in their acceptance of the profession until they see more direct results from their investment, and I think the most direct path is through business development.

When Terri read my first draft, she emailed this explanation: “The video was intended to take a look at where we've been as a profession - to show how far we've come. The emphasis on business development and sales is a fairly recent focus and evidence of our progress… this was a look back… and we were constrained by our time limits… Hmmm, maybe there's a sequel in the making!”

Warning: The lawyer characters are a bit over the top. So if you are a thin skinned attorney, you should probably skip the video and spend your time on something billable. But if you are the type that enjoys a little exaggeration in the name of satire, the next time you can spare nine minutes, take a look.

If you’re like me, you’ll watch this video a few times. And as you think about all the implications between the lines, you may squirm a little.

March 14, 2007

Get more results from writing

Where to publish. The marketing purpose of any article is to establish and extend your reputation as an expert. Therefore, you want to write about topics that decision makers care about, and publish in sources they respect. The most important thing is to get published someplace quickly, so you can start sending out copies of the article and get back on the phone.

Consider the web. Generally, it’s much better to appear in print than on the web. On the other hand, writing for the web is a whole lot faster and easier. Use Google to look for items written about your specialty on websites that accept outsider articles. If your firm’s website includes white papers and articles, that’s the easiest place to start.

Network through writing. Do you want to meet somebody who is hard to reach? Consider writing about their work, or writing something with them. This can backfire if you try to sell too soon. But if you are patient about building the relationship, it can be a great way to get someone’s attention by doing them a favor. Just make sure you show them your draft before it is published, and give them the right to edit it before you submit.

Your bio. A short bio appears at the end of almost every article. Study other people’s bios in the same publication to see what’s standard, and then include something that makes you sound like a credible expert and an interesting person. Include the name of your firm, and your email.

Your most important audience. The most important audience for every article you write consists of the people you already know. Use your articles and web publications as an excuse to keep in contact with clients and prospects. Send reprints of your articles with handwritten notes. Email links to your web publication, and say something about how it relates to each person. Even if few people read the article, more people will know that you are publishing, and they may think of you at just the right moment.

Take the first step today. If you’ve published something recently, send copies to at least five people you know, with a handwritten note to each. If it’s on the web, email a link. If you want to publish something new quickly, see the section above “consider the web.”

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For more information, see Legal Business Development: A Step by Step Guide.

March 07, 2007

What do women need to know to develop new business?

Wherever I go lately, I keep hearing about initiatives and planning committees for groups of women lawyers who are interested in learning how to increase new business. So when I got an email from the Legal Sales and Service Organization (LSSO) about a survey of women rainmakers, I dropped everything to read the results.

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After analyzing the results of an online survey of 426 women lawyers, Marcie Borgal Shunk of BTI Consulting Group and Catherine Alman MacDonagh of LSSO and Day Pitney described “four guiding principles of success” for female rainmakers:
1) Have the right attitude: “a certain optimism, an element of persistence, and an ability to be resilient.”
2) Take the lead: women lawyers with leadership positions inside the firm and in outside organizations generated more new business.
3) Invest time wisely: “Every hour dedicated weekly to developing existing clients and attracting new business yields female attorneys nearly $30,000 in additional origination revenue, regardless of category (equity partner, non-equity partner, counsel or senior associate).”
4) Know the power of client service: Women lawyers who agreed with the statement “client service has no impact” on new business reported far lower annual originations (less than $600,000) than those who believed that “client service differentiates” (over $800,000).

Interpreting these results takes me back to my days in academia, where critics dissected the causes behind every correlational survey. Did the fact that lawyers put in more hours result in more new business? Or did they put in more hours because they are more successful? Or did a third critical underlying factor – such as a personality trait of persistence – increase both the hours and the results?

In all my years as a psychologist, I never saw anyone fully resolve one of these arguments. But as Tom Snyder of Huthwaite likes to say “this is marketing, not a science experiment.” If your goal is to bring in business, you just have to take your best guess, give it a try, and hold a party when you win.

I believe that Shunk and MacDonagh are right: In today’s legal environment, there IS a causal link. If you put more time into business development, you will have a good chance of getting more new business. But I believe you must do it soon, because this is a temporary phenomenon in a rapidly changing competitive environment.

I do not think that more time produces more business for sales pros in other industries. It’s easy to find insurance salespeople and financial planners who put in longer hours selling than their competitors, but don’t produce more results. Why is that different from the law? Because insurance and financial services sales techniques have been perfected for the last 100 years, and the level of sales competition is much higher.

When I speak to groups of lawyers, I often tell the story of the first lawyer I ever coached who got a multi-million dollar engagement by offering a one hour free meeting. In all my years working with sales pros, I never heard of this working in another industry. Would you be impressed if your insurance agent offered to meet for free? How about your lawyer?

To win at selling, you just have to be just a little better than your opponent. Every time she learns something new, the bar goes up. So the sooner you start, the more low hanging fruit you will be able to pick.

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And when you do, work on that “right attitude” that Marcie and Catherine found. Many lawyers are better at pessimism than optimism, because their primary job is to anticipate and prepare for all the things that can go wrong. But researchers have consistently found that optimism is linked to sales success. (For more on this, see my post If you can’t be optimistic, pretend.)

Is optimism more important for women than men? I don’t know.

When I talk to female rainmaking groups, they always seem to ask about female coaches. The salesman in me believes that I should sell what people are buying, and that the client is always right, so I immediately start describing female LegalBizDev coaches. But the psychologist in me would like to know: does it really make a difference whether female lawyers are taught by a man or a woman?

When I asked Marcie and Catherine what they think about male/ female differences, they replied: “Whether there are real differences between males and females is just the question on our minds and where we hope to take the next phase of our research. Our hypothesis is that from the perspective of what makes a rainmaker, the differences really are not that significant. That is because proven business development techniques work for both men and women. As far as whether firms could be doing more to support female attorneys, we'll let you report on our next article due out in an upcoming issue of Law Journal Newsletter.”