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4 posts from October 2011

October 26, 2011

Should you use social networking to develop new business? – Part 2 of 2

The internet is full of testimonials and case studies from lawyers who have had marketing success with social media (online tools for sharing and discussing information) and social networking (groups of people with common interests mixing together on social networking sites to build relationships).  For example, in an article in Law Practice, Ernie Svenson (author of the widely read blog Ernie the Attorney) explained how he used internet tools connect with a large network of other lawyers:

Now I have at my disposal a very broad range of lawyers whom I can call on whenever I want to brainstorm an issue. In fact, my network of “colleagues” is bigger now in my solo practice than it was when I worked at a law firm. And a number of the clients that have come to me recently are people who would never have found me if I hadn’t had an online presence. I no longer think of my professional profile as something static that gets periodically updated, like a resume. My professional profile is now something highly dynamic and easily accessed by anyone in any part of the world. I think the online social networking tools that are freely available to everyone can do the same for other lawyers.


The questions to ask about case studies like this are:

  • How much time was invested in this activity, and how many sales did it produce?

  • If you invested the same amount of time, how many sales would it be likely to produce for your practice?

  • Is this the best, most effective use of marketing time? 

Only you can answer those questions.  And after you do, it will be important to measure your results every quarter or so, to see whether you are correct.

There are plenty of differences of opinion about marketing value.  When the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled “Young Lawyers Building Buzz Tweet by Tweet,” one of the people they quoted was criminal defense lawyer Scott Greenfield who has a blog and more than 1,500 Twitter followers. He said he loved the way it gave him an opportunity to “Say my piece,” but, “to be honest, I don’t think it’s done a damn thing for me.”

If you do decide to invest time in social networking, there are many excellent sources of additional information on the internet.  If you want an introductory overview, see Jayne Navarre’s book social.lawyers: Transforming Business Development

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Become a source for news and insight in your practice area

  • You will probably find that the best referrals and connections come from your network rather than followers

  • Remember the difference between sharing insights about cases and real legal advice (which is something you can’t post)

  • Find a good balance between sharing personal information and sharing too much

And whenever you use Twitter, write a blog, post on Facebook, or make connections on LinkedIn, be sure you understand the rules of each medium and most importantly, the privacy settings.

Don’t talk about specific cases, clients, or judges. And lawyers must adhere to the same advertising standards as they do when creating an ad for the newspaper. As NYU Law School legal ethics professor Stephen Gillers put it, “Many of the rules are at a high enough level that they can be applied to new technology without revision.”

Rules that prohibit law firms from advertising themselves as specialists in certain types of law also apply to lawyers’ blog posts and even LinkedIn profile pages.

And whatever you do, don’t friend the judge.

This post was adapted from my Legal Business Development Quick Reference Guide.

October 19, 2011

Should you use social networking to develop new business? – Part 1 of 2

Of all the topics discussed in my new book on legal business development, the role of social networking in legal marketing is the most controversial.  Some experts believe that social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogging and more are transforming the way lawyers develop new business, and that people who ignore the role of new media are making a huge mistake.  Others feel that the hype for these media far exceeds the evidence that they help lawyers to bring in new business. 

From a hard-headed marketing point of view, one of the biggest problems with social networking is that it is way too much fun.  It is easy to spend hour after hour catching up on the lives of old classmates and new online “friends” without ever coming close to closing a sale.

Whether you are a skeptic or a believer, there is one thing that almost every lawyer should do.  If you have not already signed up for a free subscription to LinkedIn, do it now.  This may not be as important as having a business card yet, but it is getting there.  Depending on the nature of your practice, people you know may look for you in LinkedIn and be surprised if you are not there or if your profile seems weak.  If you are not a fan of online tools, your marketing department may be able to do much of the basic work for you.

Being on LinkedIn will simplify staying connected with law school classmates and former colleagues, and that can be useful in marketing.  For example, at one social networking panel discussion, legal career coach Robin Hensley reported that:

One of her lawyer clients found out through LinkedIn that a law school classmate he’d thought was at a firm in Chicago had gone in-house at one of the companies on his target list. Another client, the local managing partner of a large law firm, discovered that the CEO of an Atlanta-based paperboard company he wanted to pitch was his old law school roommate. But her client hadn’t been in touch with his old friend in a decade and worried that attempting to reconnect would appear “cheesy.”  “He’s on LinkedIn, so he wants to connect,” Hensley told him. “Just send him an email…What’s the worst that could happen? Could you get less business?”

You may decide to limit your social networking activity to the simple step of creating a profile and using LinkedIn to keep in touch with people you know.  But if you decide to go further, there are a wide variety of resources available on the internet about how to use this tool more effectively, ranging from Amy Campbell’s LinkedIn for Lawyers: Top Ten Tips  to Five LinkedIn Tips for Lawyers,  and 100+ Smart Ways to Use LinkedIn  to How to use LinkedIn to build and expand your professional network.

An analysis of how to use social networking in your practice must always come back to three core questions:

  1. What is your marketing goal?
  2. How much time will you devote every week to pursuing that goal?
  3. Is social networking the best way to spend some or all of that marketing time?

If your primary goal is to enhance the business relationships you already have, you can stop reading about social networking and turn instead to the chapters in my book on Defensive Marketing  and Current Clients.  However, if you are looking for new clients, you have already read my book’s section on New Clients – Twelve steps to find them, and you have decided that social networking may play a role, read Part 2 of this series next week.

This post was adapted from my Legal Business Development Quick Reference Guide.

October 12, 2011

Everything you need to know about legal business development (in seven words)

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post called “Everything you need to know about legal marketing and sales, in nine words.”  (The nine words were: identify prospects, get meetings, listen, get advances, don’t stop.)  But lawyers don’t have time for nine words, so I then cut it to seven: meet the right people, advance the relationships.

Think first about the clients you already have.  These are the people who pay for your office, your car, and your kids’ shoes.  If your clients are taken away by a hungrier, more aggressive competitor, things could get ugly fast. 

I know that the quality of your legal work is exceptional, and that your clients love you.  But sometimes that’s not enough.  There may be other lawyers out there who are almost as competent as you, who will offer your client something cheaper, better or maybe just something new.  If a trophy lawyer comes along, it will be hard to recover.

As Steve Barrett, formerly Chief Marketing Officer at Drinker Biddle (and now a Principal at LegalBizDev), put it, “Once you lose the trusted advisor role, you are on the outside, and it could take five years to get back in.”   You need to protect those relationships with every tool in your belt.

It is also much easier to expand business with your current clients than to find new ones. 

With current clients, you already have the first four words covered—you’ve already met right people.  So “all you have to do” is to advance the relationships.

Failing to focus on your current clients is marketing malpractice.  If you do nothing else:
1.    Hold a free meeting at your client’s office to learn about their business needs.
2.    Listen 50% to 80% of the time.

For new clients, selling is like dating, and anyone who has ever gotten discouraged about romance has heard that you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince.  Most lawyers have time for just a few frogs, so they must focus on the best prospects before puckering up. 

Success in business development demands prioritization, and it is easy to spend too much time with the wrong people.  Too often, the prospects who have the most time for golf and lunch are the ones with no need of your services, and no budget to pay for them.

Therefore, in the qualifying stage, lawyers must focus on the prospects who are most likely to engage the firm within a reasonable period of time.  In essence, they try to answer three questions:
1.    Will they buy?
2.    Will they buy soon?
3.    Will they buy from me?

When the answer to any question is no, the lawyer must move on to the next candidate.  This can be hard to do, because after one has invested time in building a relationship, the natural inclination is to be optimistic this will lead to new business.  This is further complicated by human nature: when you develop a genuine liking for someone, it can be hard to cut back on a business relationship even after it becomes clear that they are not likely to buy.

But hard-nosed prioritization is an important step in any successful marketing campaign.  Once it is clear that a person is not going to buy within a reasonable period of time, they must be demoted from the short list of people who get face-to-face marketing time, and moved to the long list of people lawyers stay in touch with in a more efficient way such as emails and birthday cards.

Meeting the right people starts from a vision of ideal clients and referral sources, and continues with the discipline to focus on the few who are most likely to produce results.  Since many lawyers prefer analysis to action, there is a risk here that they will spend so much time analyzing the possibilities that they don’t have any time left for meetings. If that happens to you, remind yourself that this isn’t a science experiment, it’s business.

If in doubt, pick up the phone and arrange a meeting.  Yes, you must meet face-to-face.  Clients hire lawyers whom they trust and like. You don’t build trust by reading brochures, and you don’t build liking from a web page. The best way to build trust and liking is by sitting face-to-face and listening.  (Notice that I said listening, not talking.) 

Then it’s time for the last three words: “advance the relationships.”  The word “advance” has a technical meaning to sales professionals, grounded in Neil Rackham’s research on over 35,000 sales calls.  An advance is a specific action taken by either party that moves the sale forward, such as scheduling another meeting, getting introduced to someone new, or providing a list of references.  Most lawyers love this concept, because it is so specific, concrete, and logical.

Rackham found that great salespeople succeed because they plan every sales call, and strategize how to get the largest possible advance. His SPIN Selling Fieldbook provides examples and guidance on how to brainstorm possible advances before a meeting, and then select the one that is likely to lead to the greatest progress. This takes effort and practice. But the ability to get advances is often the difference between success and failure.  When you consistently find that you cannot get an advance with a particular prospect, it may be time to move on to someone else.

As Rackham (p. 171) summed it up: 

“If there was just one piece of advice we could give to people to improve their selling, it would be this: Plan your calls….Do you know exactly what outcome you hope to achieve? Plan what to ask, not what to tell.”

This post was adapted from my new book, The Legal Business Development Quick Reference Guide.

 

October 05, 2011

Legal project management tip of the month: Break work down into small tasks

As Eric Verzuh put it in one of my favorite project management books (The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management):  “This is the secret of successful project management:  Break the project into small, meaningful, manageable units of work.”  Bottom-up planning (which is interactive and iterative) is more effective than top-down planning (which is linear and one-way).

The first Wednesday of every month is devoted to a very short and simple tip like this to help lawyers increase efficiency and provide greater value to their clients.