February 18, 2009

I Might As Well Have Been Speaking Venusian....Why We Need Social Media Sherpas

http://www.drwill.com/wp-content/uploads/alien.pngThe other week I had the distinct pleasure of being invited to guest speak at a small and intimate gathering of established small business owners and others (each one nicer than the next!) who sought me out specifically to address the subject "How to Attract Clients in a Down Economy."  I was flattered because only a third were lawyers, the rest in the financial field including trust officers at larger banks. This issue crosses professions. 

But a funny thing happened.  Somewhere along the way they started hearing Venusian. Let me explain.

If you are reading this blog then you are (maybe) already conversant in what a blog is, how to comment, have possibly explored Twitter and are trying to understand about differentiation and everything else I and others speak of on a regular basis. But those who are constantly engaged in social media get caught up in their social media bubble talking with others who use these tools.  As a result they forget we are a very, very, very small and distinct, yet progressive, minority within not only our profession but others. And to some degree we create an elitism with our 'knowledge' and quite often with our attitude.

The rest of the world just ain't talking our language....yet. And, as I keep learning, most are very timid and intimidated about learning the language of the internet and social media on their own.  They are looking for others who are reputable to help educate them.

As part of my responsibility to this group, it was requested I facilitate conversation on the topic. So I went around the room and asked each their business, their individual responsibility for attracting clients and if they had created a defined marketing plan to bring in new clients? Three quarters did not have any marketing plan, just felt a vague unease and mild concern knowing they needed to get new clients because they were seeing changes in their business.  They really weren't 100% sure if it was due to the economy.  But they still understood they needed to do something different, just did not quite know what. 

About two thirds had a static website, some were business card style.  One person had a website with a built-in blogging component which allowed updates but no commenting. He was the most advanced. Another was more creative and hands on attending trade shows and handing out a newly created educational pamphlet.  It was a very good educational marketing piece. They all understood the concept of education-based marketing.

When I asked if anyone used social media they looked at each other and asked collectively, "what is social media?"  This is the truth. And that's when I might as well have been speaking Venusian.  When I asked if anyone was on Facebook they suppressed some giggles. No one was on LinkedIn.

Only one younger lawyer was a little more familiar with social media and was actually on Facebook. I know this because when she heard I was going to speak she connected with me on Facebook and said she was looking forward to meeting me.  She is slowly easing into Twitter, too.  The person she works with showed evidence he is actively receptive to creating a blog and utilizing other social media platforms. He, while clearly intrigued by the concept, did not impress me as someone who would design his own blog and then spend the countless hours first figuring out the rules.  It simply would not be cost-effective for his business. He would hire a reputable sherpa.

But here is the other undeniable truth.  Most simply didn't know anything about blogging or tweeting or Facebook or LinkedIn and those who did were holding back because they were terrified of making huge and costly mistakes walking into an arena they simply have no familiarity with. 

The internet truly scares those who haven't learned how to use it beyond searching for a bookstore on Google. They understand it is about providing education to attract clients, something a yellow page ad can't do. And their goal is to attract clients, not entertain the masses with their witticisms or criticisms and sensational posts to drive traffic. They are the ones who seek out blogging and social media sherpas. 

Their goal is not to learn how to game the system, but simply to learn how to get in the game meaningfully without destroying their reputations or making huge missteps.  There is a difference.

Yesterday, a 10 year veteran solo practitioner who has an antiquated website told me he was ready to investigate pay-per-click programs to get his practice visible on the internet.  He then told me he and his wife didn't understand this 'fad' that is Facebook.  Is he 85?  No. He's 35 and stuck in the 20th century.

So, to all my new readers, who may not realize I was once a blogging newbie a very short while ago even though today I may seem to present to you as a veteran, I apologize. I've crossed the river with guides who helped me.

This is my advice if you are interested.

Do not be afraid to engage reputable sherpas who can guide you through the use of social media so you do not make costly professional mistakes.  Do not listen to people who tell you it's easy simply because it happened to be easy for them, or more interesting to them, or they are gifted writers and tripped over the finish line by happenstance and intuition.  Yes, some things come easier to others.  Separate fact from someone's personal opinion.  And know your own needs, where you want to go and then find the best way to get there that works for you.

Social media can be a minefield but to not get involved sooner rather than later can be costly in time, money and lost opportunity. Learn what you don't know from those who clearly do.  If you think hiring a good and reputable guide to make the journey a little easier is a smart move for you then do so.  Check around.  It is certainly easy enough to separate the wheat from the chaff. There is no shortage of people to ask. You still have to be the 'social one' in social media regardless the platform.  But at least you will learn how to do so with someone looking over your shoulder to make sure you are doing it correctly.  That's spending money wisely.

(And in case you didn't see, check out our recent faculty announcements at Solo Practice University.

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe to my RSS! If you would like to be part of a new educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students why not subscribe to the RSS for Solo Practice University.

And you can always follow me on Twitter :-)

January 26, 2009

Create Your Network Before You Need Them

http://www.smsconnectors.com/sms_connectors.gif This is a paraphrased title from a great blog post by Jeremiah Owyang called "Build Your Network Before You Need Them" and he says it best here:

Those who ignore the party/conversation/network when they are content and decide to drop in when they need the network may not succeed. It’s pretty easy to spot those that are just joining the network purely to take –not to give. Therefore, be part of the party/conversation/network before you need anything from anyone. Start now, and continue to build relationships by giving now: share knowledge, help others, and become a trusted node and connector, not just an outlying ‘dot’ of a comet that swings in every 4 years or so.

When we build a network of connections, if you just join as a taker, you will be exposed as the opportunist you've been flagged to be.  This is not what networking is about.  Why do so many people get this wrong?  No wonder networking is viewed as an intimidating chore by some, those very people who see it as 'asking'  or 'begging' for something first rather than offering genuinely and generously first.

Networking is about letting others know what you can uniquely offer to them and sharing freely, positioning yourself as a resource, a sphere of influence or one who can direct others to those who can provide the information or services they seek.  We are remembered best for those things we give freely without asking for anything in return.  And without fail, the rewards come when we least expect it.

When you think of your next social and/or professional networking opportunity position yourself as a giver.  Think first of what you can bring to the party rather than what you can take home in a doggie bag. The experience may be less intimidating because you are not asking for anything.  This philosophy will not only help you to enjoy those 'networking events' but also make you a better professional and a better human being.

Related Links of Interest:

Do You Have A Social Media Strategy?  The Good, The Bad & The Time-Sucking

Social Media; The Good, The Bad & The Time-Sucking (Part II)

(And in case you didn't see, check out our recent faculty announcements at Solo Practice University.

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe to my RSS! If you would like to be part of a new educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students why not subscribe to the RSS for Solo Practice University.

And you can always follow me on Twitter :-)

December 08, 2008

Social Media - The Good, The Bad, and the Time-Sucking (Part II)

This post is a follow up to my previous post: 'Do You Have A Social Media Strategy? The Good, The Bad, and the Time Sucking".

http://www.amamasrant.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/01/10/j0403204.jpgI'm a relative newbie in digital media (what most call social media).  I won't pretend I can give you the macro and micro education on all of this, either.  I, too, can only journey with you through this galaxy of new ways to 'converse' with others and share information.  Because that is what social media is - media that allows you to interact and converse with others.  Online relationships formed then have the ability to convert into offline personal and business relationships.

The art of marketing, connecting and converting those connections into opportunities and business for your law firm through the effective use of social media is a whole other discussion.  But one thing I can assure you - you must start feeling your way through it now.  It is that important to your business.

There is no way to know it all because it is all too new.  I've seen others self-proclaim themselves as experts and even a novice can see the claims must fall flat. No one fully has their head wrapped around the power of social media or the endless ways to utilize it.  What I'm going to discuss here are some ground rules you should follow when getting started because it can be overwhelming and addicting. Or as some refer to it - a 'time-suck.'  Why?  Because like any addiction it will suck away your time and impact your personal and professional life.

First, regardless of whether or not you plan to use any social media platform, register and protect your personal name and your business name on all sites you can think of:  LinkedIn, Facebook, Pulse, Plaxo, Tagged, Friendfeed, Plurk, Twitter.... and the list goes on and on and on.

Second, ask for recommendations for the social media sites where the 'cool kids' hang out.  Why?  Because the cool kids may be on to something even if you haven't quite figured it out.  Lurk if you must. But lurk and learn.

Third, do not spread yourself too thin.  Any online group or social media site where you benefit based upon the level of your participation translates into a required minimum time spent in that group or on that site. Participation means you have to commit valuable time in order to do it right.  If you don't have the time to do it right...don't do it.

Example:  I've been invited to join multiple groups and social media sites, some established; some just starting out.  But I don't join.  It's nothing personal. I just don't have the time and certain sites just don't interest me.  However, if I agree to participate and then don't or do it thoughtlessly this can actually work against my reputation and business building efforts. 

Imagine it this way.  You are invited to three different events on a Friday night, a barbecue, a political rubber chicken dinner and a concert. Each costs you $100.00 You can't do all three (unless you spend an hour at each and at a total cost of $300.00) so you pick the one that feels right for you and politely decline the other two. You've spent $100.00 for an evening you enjoy and are fully engaged in the experience. You really can't be fully engaged in three places in the real world. And it's costly to try.  You end up offending the others if you only show up for a few minutes and you don't get to fully engage in and enjoy the event. It's no different in the virtual world.

Fourth, only participate in the social media site(s) you truly enjoy.  If you don't enjoy it, like anything else, you won't do it well and this will work against you. Yes, one can argue until you fully engage how can you know if you like it or will benefit from it?  See 'Second.'

I still haven't figured out the value of LinkedIn other than acting like a directory of people.  There are some who use it to establish enormous groups.  But, again, the jury is still out for me. Yet with LinkedIn's powerful ranking, a listing on LinkedIn can help you be found by potential clients and referrers of clients except profiles may not be seen by those who aren't 'linked' to you.

Facebook is a little better but 'marketing' seems intrusive to me on Facebook.  It seems much more intimate in nature with family photos, etc. so I'm less comfortable discussing business there although I will still feed my posts from BSP and Solo Practice University because it is another outlet for my friends unrelated to my business to know what I am up to.  Where I feel most comfortable is Twitter because it is speed-marketing in a very social way and everyone knows everyone else is marketing but they are having a lot of fun doing it in a fast-paced sharing of information.  And friendships are definitely created for both business and pleasure. But then that's my personal preference.

Fifth, no matter what sites you choose to actively participate in, allot a certain amount of time per day or week and that's it. You don't need to be on social media sites night and day, though some are very tempting and it is easy to get sucked into the computer screen like the little girl in Poltergeist who got sucked into the TV.  So, allocate your time judiciously and remember why you are using social media sites (at least from the perspective of a solo practitioner) - primarily to build relationships to enhance your business.  It is still just one more marketing tool even though it is quite powerful when used correctly.

(And in case you didn't see, check out our recent faculty announcements at Solo Practice University.

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe to my RSS! If you would like to be part of a new educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students why not subscribe to the RSS for Solo Practice University.

And you can always follow me on Twitter :-)

December 01, 2008

'Marketing' Defined - It's Not a Dirty Word.

"If a young man tells his date she's intelligent, looks lovely, and is a great conversationalist, he's saying the right things to the right person and that's marketing. If the young man tells his date how handsome, smart and successful he is -- that's advertising. If someone else tells the young woman how handsome, smart and successful her date is -- that's public relations."S.H. Simmons

In the past week or so the great debate in the legal profession - legal marketing - has reared its head, again.  And it has brought out the zealots on both sides. Within the profession legal marketing is a hot button issue like abortion, gay rights and stem cell research.  There are extremists on each side of the debate and the majority who reside somewhere in the middle.

The problem is everyone talks about marketing as if they know what it really is.  The reality is most don't but they have strong opinions, nonetheless.  While the above is illustrative and done with humor, here are some definitions which might help enlighten and provide you some intelligent dialogue when someone starts the 'great debate':

The Philosophy Marketing and the Marketing Concept.

The marketing concept is a philosophy. It makes the customer, and the satisfaction of his or her needs, the focal point of all business activities.

Marketing is not only much broader than selling, it is not a specialized activity at all. It encompasses the entire business. It is the whole business seen from the point of view of the final result, that is, from the customer's point of view. Concern and responsibility for marketing must therefore permeate all areas of the enterprise.


This customer focused philosophy is known as the 'marketing concept'. The marketing concept is a philosophy, not a system of marketing or an organizational structure. It is founded on the belief that profitable sales and satisfactory returns on investment can only be achieved by identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer needs and desires.


The achievement of corporate goals through meeting and exceeding customer needs better than the competition.


Implementation of the marketing concept [in the 1990's] requires attention to three basic elements of the marketing concept. These are: Customer orientation; An organization to implement a customer orientation; Long-range customer and societal welfare.


From the Marketing Teacher

Another popular definition is:

Marketing consists of the strategies and tactics used to identify, create and maintain satisfying relationships with customers that result in value for both the customer and the marketer.

Therefore, it is fairly obvious that true marketing is all about the customer or (in the legal profession) the client and client-orientation is the cornerstone to client satisfaction which results in profitability (hopefully) for the lawyer. If done correctly it is positioned as a 100%/100% win for client and lawyer.

To say in any way shape or form that lawyers, new or old, should not market, shows a lack of understanding about what marketing is.  It is my experience that those who claim lawyers 'shouldn't market...it's not dignified' are not really talking about marketing at all.  We all market in everything we do intentionally or not.  What they are talking about, in my opinion, is less the actual concept or philosophy of marketing and more the manner in which a marketing plan is 'executed'.

Strategies and Tactics - Strategies are best explained as the direction the marketing effort takes over some period of time while tactics are actionable steps or decisions made in order to follow the strategies established.

And this is at the heart of the great debate.

When one lawyer says, "that type of marketing drags down the profession" they are passing judgment less on the marketing philosophy and more on the 'tactics' they find distasteful. But is it to the benefit or taste of that lawyer's potential client?  If the goal is 'customer orientation' and 'an organization to implement a customer orientation; long-range customer and societal welfare' we have to look through the eyes of the client.

Strategies and tactics that would appeal to me or make me feel repelled or ashamed in many ways is irrelevant unless I'm the client purported to be served.  Is it geared towards the needs of the client and societal welfare and does it reach them in the manner they need to be reached?  In order for the service provider to achieve these goals that's what matters.

If your client is an urban immigrant who takes the bus and speaks poor English, distrusting of lawyers for a myriad of reasons and your goal is to reach and educate that consumer on legal services they require, what is the best strategy devised and the best tactics to implement to get the message across to help them? It clearly isn't bar association lunches, public speaking engagements at the chamber or high-profile articles in a national law journal (unless you have also developed a secondary strategy to cultivate professional referrals or some other goal.)

In this regard, the legal profession is no different. If you, my potential client, don't know I exist, how I can help you?  If the lawyer can't overcome identified barriers for a successful client/attorney relationship through relevant 'tactics' how can a potential client decide to utilize the lawyer's services and by extension, how will the client's legal needs be met?

I'm a purist.  I believe in the marketing philosophy.  I believe all solos, especially, need to understand why 'marketing' is not a dirty word in the legal profession. As stated above, "it is not a specialized activity at all."  It includes among other activities networking, social media, public speaking, educational seminars, pro bono work, joining bar associations, traditional advertising, appropriate pricing and packaging of legal services.  It is not a 'thing'...it is a philosophy.

Let's take it a step further.  Not every solo can nor wants to utilize every strategy or tactic.  Not every activity is suitable for every lawyer's personality or professional mission nor can every strategy or tactic achieve the goal of reaching the client they seek to serve.  And many lawyers simply don't know how to assess their skill sets appropriately, nor do they know how to cost-effectively and efficiently reach the clients they want to serve. If the message can't be delivered, both the legal provider and the public are harmed.

Do some lawyers choose marketing strategies and tactics which make me cringe?  Absolutely.  But I am also not their targeted client. If their behavior is egregious, I'll leave it to those who govern the profession to take proper action.  If those governors overstep their bounds, I leave it to the lawyers to sue to protect their rights and in doing so protect all our rights.

So, before people disparage those who would teach lawyers to create a client-driven solo-practice and the strategies and tactics necessary to reach their client base, remember, everything you do is marketing whether intentional or not.  If I were starting out today, I would seek the help of someone who is knowledgeable to devise a marketing strategy to reach my clients while I created a client-centered practice.

It would be executed in a manner which reflects my ethics and morality and taste and be within the professional guidelines governing such activities.  But I would be out there marketing my ability to serve clients with legal needs.  And so should you.

(And in case you didn't see, check out our recent faculty announcements at Solo Practice University.

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe to my RSS! If you would like to be part of a new educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students subscribe to the RSS for Solo Practice University.

And you can always follow me on Twitter :-)

November 03, 2008

Do You Have A Social Media Strategy? The Good, The Bad and The Time-Sucking

Not too long ago I  wrote a post discussing the term Technoshock. And in it was the following quote:

By way of a blog post from The Great American Lawyer quoting Dennis Kennedy's popular blog comes a very valid statement:

"by the end of 2007, we will be talking about a clear and growing digital divide between technology-forward and technology-backward lawyers and firms and a subtle restructuring of the practice of law." (original post here) 

This post is nearly two years old and it is fair to say this prediction has come true.  If you are a solo who has not embraced technology you are definitely behind and it can be argued you are in a down position in the marketplace as well as financially because of your overhead and because of the demands of your clients.

In my original post, however, I did discuss technology overload, the need one feels to grab every new gadget, then learning and integrating into ones practice. Feeling technology overwhelm..or what is called 'technoshock' is inevitable.  And for good reason.  It is just plain overwhelming and the overwhelm can be both intimidating and debilitating.

Now we are facing shock and overwhelm with the proliferation of social media sites and the push towards becoming social media savvy in order to stay competitive and meet the demands of clients.  Yes, the demands of your clients.

According to Cone Strategy and Communications Agency:

Sixty percent of Americans use social media, and of those, 59 percent interact with companies on social media Web sites. One in four interacts more than once per week.

(All statistics below are discussing the 60 percent who use social media)

“The news here is that Americans are eager to deepen their brand relationships through social media,” explains Mike Hollywood, director of new media for Cone, “it isn’t an intrusion into their lives, but rather a welcome channel for discussion.”

When asked about specific types of interactions, Americans who use social media believe:

  • Companies should use social networks to solve my problems (43%)
  • Companies should solicit feedback on their products and services (41%)
  • Companies should develop new ways for consumers to interact with their brand (37%)
  • Companies should market to consumers (25%)

Hard-to-reach consumers
Men, a much sought-after target in the online space, are twice as likely as women to interact frequently (one or more times per week) with companies via social media (33% to 17%, respectively).

“The ease and efficiency of online conversation is likely a draw for men who historically do not seek out the same level of interaction with companies as women,” says Hollywood.

Likewise, of younger, hard-to-reach users (ages 18-34), one-third believe companies should actively market to them via social networks, and the same is true of the wealthiest households (household income of $75,000+). Two-thirds of the wealthiest households and the largest households (3 or more members) feel stronger connections to brands they interact with online.

It really isn't very hard to extrapolate this data to lawyers and specifically the solo practitioner.  The questions one must ask are:

  • What is my brand? (how do you distinguish yourself)
  • Who is my target client?
  • How do I create a social media strategy which promotes my brand and reaches my target client?

And it's just not as simple as creating a Facebook and LinkedIn profile.

Fortunately, this Thursday we will introduce to you one of the most highly regarded social media experts in this country when with great pleasure we announce her faculty position at Solo Practice University. 

So, stay-tuned. And in my next lengthy post I will discuss some social media strategies to avoid what I call 'time-suck.'

(And in case you didn't see, check out our recent faculty announcements at Solo Practice University.

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe to my RSS! If you would like to be part of a new educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students why not subscribe to the RSS for Solo Practice University.

October 22, 2008

A Possible New Advertising Venue for Lawyers?

Not too long ago I posted about what we all could learn about marketing from the presidential elections.  Because it focused on Obama's marketing campaign, its laser-focus on a specific demographic and its successful execution, I got some flak as it being a thinly veiled attempt at political persuasion.  It wasn't and it still isn't. It is purely about creating a marketing message which resonates with its intended audience and careful execution and delivery of that message through the venues the intended audience uses, something which has been the focus of news commentators of late.

WarningIf you don't want to read another brilliant marketing lesson from this campaign - an idea we will see used more and more by advertisers of products and services - do NOT read further.

That being said, the other day I saw another brilliant marketing/advertising gambit by the very same campaign to reach their target audience and to get them to register to vote specifically in swing states.  The Obama campaign contacted the distributor of the popular X-box game and had a virtual billboard taken out within the game itself (the billboard was on the road as the driver zoomed by) with Obama's name and his marketing message promoting change but inserted and distributed only in those swing states.  In another game which simulates basketball, you can see his message courtside like you would see at an actual basketball game.

I don't care who you are voting for.  This is just brilliant targeted marketing and exemplifies what I have talked about: marketing your message in the venue where your client is.  If 18-35 year olds are your audience and they are the very same ones buying these games, games they spend hours on and games in which they will repeatedly see your message...and their family and friends, too...it is big bang for your buck directed specifically at your potential audience.  And because it is in states still in play it was very shrewd and very focused.

This type of marketing reminds me of the very first time I saw a bag of Doritos and a can of Mountain Dew as a reward on the hit reality show Survivor.  This was a direct response to the latest VCR phenomenon where the target audience could fast forward through commercials.  Advertisers paid big bucks to have their target audience eliminate their commercial via the latest technology - the VCR. Therefore, how could they get their audience to see the product?  Make it part of the television show.  Just as Coca Cola has paid to have the judges on American Idol drink from Coca Cola cups during the show. This is no different.  Make your message and service part of the game.  Of course, this concept isn't new as cigarette companies have been promoting their product and brands in movies while stars have puffed away for more than half a century.

With the popularity of Wii games, DS and Xbox many opportunities exist.  Ironically, I have an acquaintance who has a company who puts advertising in these types of games but it never clicked until I saw the Obama ads.  Of course, now, I'm going to have to talk to him about this when I see him.

It is also my understanding, this type of advertising is cheaper than TV commercials and considerably more effective but please don't ask me pricing.  I have yet to inquire.

(And on that same note, advertising in movie theaters is relatively inexpensive and while the economy is stressed, the active participation in staycations has seen an increase in theater going.)

So, how does this impact you, the solo.  Honestly, I'm not quite sure other than to get you thinking outside the box.  At this point in time, I could see larger statewide firms who handle Personal Injury work taking out virtual billboards in Xbox games with car crashes.  DUI lawyers taking out virtual billboards, too.  Class Action law firms looking for members of a class. Depending upon the game and the targeted audience, who knows. (I find this no different then traditional TV ads, Yellow Page ads, billboards or bus placards so please don't suggest to me this type of advertising will now demean the profession.  That argument was and lost years ago.)

It's also an opportunity for lawyer networks in a given practice area to be creative.  I'm just blue-skying here, but wow. 

Is it affordable for solos?  I don't know.  But I did want to bring it to your attention to get your creative juices going.  What opportunities are staring you in the face if only you would connect the dots?

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe to my RSS! If you would like to be part of a new educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students why not subscribe to the RSS for Solo Practice University.

October 16, 2008

Lawyer Directories are Proving Worthless

With advertising/marketing dollars scarce you may want to reconsider any paid (and some unpaid) lawyer directories as the return on investment (ROI) is stunningly only 3%.

Larry Bodine, in a post titled " Only 3% of Legal Work is Influenced By Directories" states:

There are three ways that law firms can waste their money:

   1. Shoveling bales of cash out of the back of a moving pickup truck.
   2. Starting bonfires with wrapped packs of $100 bills.
   3. Buying a listing in a directory of law firms.

Speaking at the recent Chief Marketing Officers' Forum in New York, Peter Columbus, the Director of business Development for Kaye Scholer and Mark Messing, Chief Marketing Officer of Weil, Gotshal Manges, presented research showing that directory listings are worthless.

There are now 950 surveys and rankings of law firms, including Martindale-Hubbell, Chambers, Leading Lawyers, Best Lawyers, Super Lawyers, 204 Best, Super or Top lists, 175 largest law firm lists, 122 “Rising Star” lists, 103 Diversity-focused surveys and 90 Workplace satisfaction lists, according to research by Jaffe Associates. And all of them generate little to no new business for law firms, Messing said.

Directories are published primarily as profit-making ventures that appeal to lawyer egos, and to help publications increase their readership, according to Columbus.

While one can argue a free legal directory doesn't cost anything...well, if it costs time...or you must update constantly so as not to lose credibility or ranking...my only advice is be wise about the choices you make.  There are better ways for solo practitioners to make their mark and get far better return on their investment of money and/or time.

October 14, 2008

How Do Your Clients Find You - Or Do They?

If you are reading my blog chances are you have a certain comfort level on the internet, do searches through popular search engines such as Google, Yahoo and others, maybe book airline flights, order from Amazon, joined Facebook and/or LinkedIn.  My readers run a range of ages but they all have one thing in common - they found me using the internet as I do not market myself any other way. My target audience IS on the internet primarily.

Do you know how your potential client will find you?  Have you done a survey of your existing clients or studied secondary information if you are just starting out to determine the best marketing/advertising vehicles to reach them?  With money tight, the scatter shot approach is foolish and wasteful of scarce resources.  The old approaches may just not be effective at all.

Here are some interesting statistics for you.  And given we are living in an aging demographic (meaning the mean average age of the American is getting older) this collection of information should hold some interest for you:

Jay Foonberg spoke at the National Solo and Small Firm Conference in Santa Fe the first week of October and stated the following:

As of 2006, 22% of blue-collar Americans and 11% of middle class Americans find their lawyer in the yellow pages. (H/T Lisa Solomon for the Tweet)

This statistic is two years old.  It's fair to say this number has most likely decreased as more homes include computers and training on computers. Anecdotally, look at your own personal increased computer usage and those around you these past two years.

In the September/October 2008 edition of AARP, the editors compiled statistical data from surveys by Focalyst and Dynamic Logic, and the Pew Internet and American Life Project:

Think technology is just for the young?  Thing again.  A significant number, 37.6 percent to be exact, of Americans 62 and older are now logging on and taking advantage of the World Wide Web.  These 'Connected Matures' - a whopping 17 million individuals - spend an average of 44 minutes a day surfing the Net. (That totals almost 750 million minutes each day!) And despite the commonly held stereotype, this group is doing a lot more than just e-mailing their grandchildren and looking at family photos.


52% of Americans 62-71 years of age are online


Who's Doing What?

  • 59%  - using search engines
  • 59%  - keeping up with family and friends
  • 43%  - checking out news, current events, and weather
  • 38%  - getting health - related information
  • 23%  - paying bills
  • 21%  - playing games
  • 13% -  accessing education and training

Here are some broad characteristics of 62-plus individuals who are online, compared with those who aren't connected.

Attended college           75%    Online             42%  Not Online
Employed                     26%                          13%
Married/Partnered          70%                          48%
Annual Household        $55, 000                     $27,000

If you look at your practice areas, this type of information can help you direct your marketing/advertising dollars from blogs to Google adwords, Yellow Pages to particular magazines, newspapers, targeted mailings and more.  But you must know who your audience is and their uses of various media.

US adult Internet users surveyed spent an average of 21 hours per week online, according to a study conducted in May 2008 by Illuminas for Cisco Systems.

Average Weekly Time Spent with Media by Adult Internet Users in Select Countries, 2007 (hours)

And, not surprisingly, the group who uses the internet the most is the affluent:

The researcher found that the average number of hours logged weekly increased with income, and that users in the top income tier spent nearly 6 more hours online per week than those whose incomes ranged from $100,000 to $150,000.

Average Time Spent with Select Media According to US Affluents*, by Household Income, March-July 2008 (hours per week)

Based upon some of this information, you should now look at the vehicles you are using to present your services to the world.  Does it jibe?  If you are doing immigration in blue-collar, urban areas with high unemployment are you using a state of the art website with flash as your only vehicle?  Wouldn't make sense.  If you are doing complicated trusts and estates for the affluent in Miami are you using Yellow pages and billboards?  I hope not.  You may be the best at what you do, but make sure you are focusing your marketing/advertising dollars and efforts in the vehicles your potential clients are using.

October 06, 2008

Law After the Boom - It's Over For Big Law...But What About Solos?

In his inaugural post for American Lawyer and now appearing at Law.com, Paul Lippe, founder and CEO of LegalOnRamp (catering to Big Law) discusses why Big Law must recognize the Boom is over and rethink how they are going to approach the future.

The boom in the legal industry, sustained by the boom in financial services, is over.

Welcome to the future.

For those of us who've spent most of our careers as clients, it seemed pretty obvious that the legal business was in an unsustainable boom. Consider: In a country where most people's incomes have been flat or declining over the last eight years, and most companies face increasing global competition and flat profits, partners in big law firms generally saw their income double every four to six years over the last 15 years. And the firms have generally grown in profits, staffing and revenues faster than most of their clients.

Many folks in law firms have come to believe that the law business operates according to a different set of economic rules than their clients' businesses, but the truth is much simpler: When you're inside a boom, you always think your industry has achieved immunity from the laws of gravity, because it's the only reality you can see.

And this is the history of Big Law these last two decades.  And you can read all about the legal news, layoffs, crunches, de-equitizations, etc. Surprisingly it's not too long after we were reading about the astronomical first year associate salaries.  Kind of reminds us of the real estate boom...skyrocketing home values before the bubble burst  Yes, the boom is over.  And Big Law will be on the verge of another implosion. The difference is they are being blind-sided because " When you're inside a boom, you always think your industry has achieved immunity from the laws of gravity, because it's the only reality you can see."

What struck me when reading the article is this:  Progressive solos have always known the reality.  They knew this six or so years ago when the 'boom' was just starting.  And this is why I'm bringing it to your attention.  Solos have always been so far ahead of the curve, more nimble and able to make decisions quickly, with less baggage. But they often forget they are much better positioned in most economies because of their solo status.  I've written about this before, not because I'm prescient but because I pay attention to the world around me, not just as a lawyer but as a consumer, too

In my opinion, how world issues impact me as a human being, American, mother, wife, homeowner, investor, tax payer and more should determine the structure of the services the legal community should be providing to me.  This includes the method of engagement and delivery of those services and at what price points and payment methods.  To ignore your personal circumstances when marketing to and engaging with potential clients is to be out of touch with your potential client base, your business and marketing plan.  You are setting yourself up for unnecessary struggles, or much worse, failure as a solo practitioner.

Sound simplistic? It is...and it isn't.  Most solos do not practice Securities and Exchange law or Mergers and Acquisitions law.  They practice law for the every day person.  This includes bankruptcy, family, trusts and estates, real estate, criminal, personal injury, small business incorporation, landlord/tenant or a combination of two or three of these practice areas.  As such, your clients are very much like you and I in that we could all end up needing one or all of these types of legal services at some point in our lives.  When we have to hunker down for this long, cold economic winter which is coming sooner rather than later, so do they.  We are heading into tough times. And that is the key to surviving after the boom....understanding those we serve are no different then ourselves when it comes to being able to afford services.

So, ask yourself the following: if you were to get a divorce what would you expect to pay and what terms would you want?  How tech-savvy, creative and considerate of your economic reality would you want your lawyer to be?  If you were declaring bankruptcy or looking to save your home how stressed would you be thinking about legal bills even though you realize you need an attorney?  Therefore, how are you encouraging clients to contact you knowing this is weighing heavily on their minds especially since pro se status is an option in most of these areas?  What message will you deliver which will resonate with them and encourage them to hire you instead?

Everyone can't service the ultra-wealthy.  So, those that talk about premium pricing and focusing on the uber-rich are limiting your options. Plus, not everyone wants to service the gilded class.  There are many more people who you can serve by reaching out to main street America, those who will be impacted by the economy and the everyday stresses of life which will hit most of us.

The only way to do this effectively (and I know the horse is already dead but I'll keep beating it anyway) is overhead.  The more you can reduce your overhead while delivering services through effective use of technology, the more you have the flexibility to accommodate your clients while still turning a profit with creative pricing structures (as the law permits). And this should also extend to your personal life, not just your professional life. There is no way around this today. The market demands it. The economy demands it.  When you learn to live on less it doesn't stop your opportunities to grow.  It does, however, create a habit of smart versus excessive spending and therefore allows you to profit with a limitless upside.

As solos, we don't have to worry about de-equitization, layoffs or working in law firms who believe they live in another economic reality.  We know the reality.  Always have. This gives us a leg up in shaky economic times.

What strategies have you implemented to deal with our 'new' economic times?

Related links of interest:

In A Weakening Economy Will Clients Trade Big Law For Innovative Small Firms?

If You Think The Economy is Troubled, What Are You Doing to Help Recession Proof Your Business

Put Yourself In Your Client's Shoes - Is It A Good Financial Fit?

High Demand and Growth Areas In the Law - Opinions

You Ask...I Answer - How Does One Start A Solo Practice in the Midst of Seeming Economic Crisis?

October 03, 2008

What Lawyers Can Learn About Marketing from the Presidential Election

(Update: 11/8/08 - Entrepreneurs can learn social media strategy from the Obama campaign.  I feel vindicated for those who thought I was just stumping for Obama.)

(UPDATE: 11/3/08 New York Times article on how technology has changed election (marketing) strategy...great lessons for solos.

(UPDATE: I wrote this post in February, 2007 to highlight brilliant marketing, not to endorse one candidate over another - at that time he was vying for the democratic nomination against Hillary Clinton.  However, the Obama campaign has show marketing genius to reach its desired demographic and done it, again, with an Iphone application.  The genius of his marketing gurus cannot be denied.  They are in touch with those who would see him elected.  10/2/08)

In marketing it is known that the "client doesn't care how much you know until they know how much you care...about them and their problems."  This cornerstone of marketing wisdom was made famous by the founder of the National Speaker's Association, the late Cavett Robert, who said it not only first but best. Yet we talk about our inability to effectively reach our potential client base and then we search out the 'marketing gurus', primarily those who are in the legal community as if somehow they alone hold within their professional hands the secret to all that is holy in the legal marketing world. (Am I poking some fun at myself, too?  Of course.)

The reality is there are universal marketing principles, universal human needs that must be addressed when marketing to "human beings" regardless the product or service.  Once you understand them, then they can be redefined, redesigned, manipulated, massaged, reworked, reworded and applied for your intended audience and their specific problems. 

However, in my opinion, never has an example of "the essence of marketing" been produced that lays bare the core of this universal wisdom, shucks the oyster, gets rid of the slime and exposes that perfect 10mm pearl, until this powerful grassroots campaign launched by presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

    • Whether he is your new president of choice is irrelevant. 

      In one fell swoop he has defined his targeted demographic as those who feel disenfranchised and powerless in this country and penetrated the soft underbelly of each one of them with surgical precision.

      His message to that demographic is:

      "This Campaign is About You."

      Message: "You have felt disenfranchised during the term of this last administration, helpless, on the sidelines, your voice not heard. I am your man and I will help you to help yourself.  I will give you the tools to help you empower yourself and by empowering yourself you will put me in office so you are no longer disenfranchised."   

      Logic:  I want something. So I am going to help you get what you want so you give me what I want.  And in turn I will continue to give you what you want....and the cycle repeats itself over and over, again. It's not a 50/50 win, either.  It is a 100/100 win...the perfect win.

      Call to Action: "It's your job to put me in office if you want to retake your country and be heard and here are the marketing tools to help you put me in office."

      "The Obama Principle." He is hoping to achieve his goal of becoming President by helping identified potential voters to achieve their goal of no longer feeling helpless and disenfranchised.  This is the heart of his campaign.

      To date:(2/2007)

      • 70,000 members signed up;
      • 4,000 blogs started
      • 3,000 fundraising pages started
      • 2,400 groups started

      He identified the "problem" of the disenfranchised in the current administration.  He is turning each and every one of them into his personal ambassador or evangelist.  If every one of them knows 250 people and he already has 70,000 people signed up on this site, over 4000 new blogs created spreading the word of Obama, that's 17,500,000 possible voters right there.  And with the power of effective blogging, the spidery web woven reaches even more potential voters. He is giving each potential voter both the tools and the manual on how to empower themselves and effect change, to solve their problem of feeling helpless within the current Administration.

      He is involving each and everyone of them in a grass roots campaign through the use of technology, using technology to address their overwhelming need to be empowered, again, to not feel so helpless. And in his blog posts are newsy anecdotes about John and Mary Doe taking charge of their own campaigning efforts, reinforcing the newsworthiness and value of self-empowerment. He publicizes their efforts, encourages them to submit photos to his blog of their campaigning efforts.  From a marketing perspective, it's a beautiful thing to watch.

      Now the creators of his marketing campaign are the real gurus and we should be taking lessons from them because they loaded that bow and shot the a bullseye straight into the heart of these voters and it will have profound results.

      How do we utilize this lesson in our own practice?  Start by defining the real need of your client.  And don't make the mistake of thinking slick, cute, "play on words" nonsense.  When you are talking and manipulating you can't be listening. Listen to your potential client's words, their word choice, the tone and emotion conveyed when they discuss their problems that need solving and then serve their words back to them consistently in every form of communication you utilize helping them to repeatedly identify your services as the only solution to their problem.  Applaud their efforts, then give them the tools to help them tell others how you are the only solution to the next person's problem.

      I'm going to dub it "The Obama Principle" because never has this marketing principle been so readily observable to those hungry to learn the essence of brilliant marketing....and a textbook lesson in the power of language as a tool.

      My favorite language lesson is one taught to me by a friend from Australia.  He was gifted gabber in any crowd.  No matter what type of group we were socializing with he always fit in and I noticed the manner in which he spoke subtly shifted, too.  Finally, I said , "how do you do that?  You are almost chameleon-like and no one is the wiser for it.  You can blend in with any crowd."  His answer was "language is like clothing.  Don't wear a ballgown to a picnic and expect to fit in."

      It's the same with word choice.  Whether your website, blog, literature or conversations with your clients. You don't have to dummy down or inflate yourself with bloated verbiage. Just speak the language of your clients.

      And continue to watch the "The Obama Principle" in action regardless of your affiliation.  It is a very expensive Ivy League education offered to you for free courtesy of the internet.