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.

      October 02, 2008

      Buy Your Law Firm Domain Name NOW ..and Trademark...Before Someone Else Does

      I've written on this before but it never fails to amaze me that lawyers don't buy their internet real estate now before it's too late.  But here's the twist.  If you haven't purchased it and are using a name you wish to trademark, better trademark your name, too, if you want a chance to get your domain name back from a cybersquatter.  Using it on letterhead, business cards and communications is not enough to stake a claim and win.

      Have you trademarked your law firm name? If not, it's a big mistake and invites cyber-squatters to buy a domain, hijacking your firm name. Just because you've been using your law firm name on stationery and marketing materials may not be enough to create a common-law trademark for you. 

      Larry Bodine talks about a 65-lawyer firm which just lost their suit to get their domain name for their firm transferred from a cybersquatter because they failed to trademark their firm's name. 

      Look what happened to GableGotwals, a 65-lawyer firm in Tulsa, OK.

      A National Arbitration Forum decision denied the law firm's demand that the domain name gablegotwals.com be transferred to them, and refused to take it away from Schlund+Partner Ag, a cyber squatter based in Naples, FL. The ruling was Gable & Gotwals, Inc. d/b/a GableGotwals v. Dave Jackson, Claim Number: FA0806001212305.

      The law firm had been using the GABLEGOTWALS mark in commerce since January 1, 2006, by using its name on letterhead and marketing materials.  The firm demanded that the domain name be transferred to it. Yet the law firm lost even thought the cybersquatter failed to respond to the complaint!

      The squatter registered the gablegotwals.com domain name on August 26, 2006 and has a placeholder site online, saying that a real web site is "coming soon."

      However, the decision said, '[a]lthough it has been held that there is no requisite showing to establish common law rights, common sense dictates that something beyond mere proof of business establishment is necessary.' I

      Cybersquatting is big business and this case is illustrative of what's to come for many unsuspecting law firms and solo practitioners who don't do so.  Here is an interview with Enrico Schaefer about the law and how to go about trademarking your business name. 

      And here is another great post on this topic called 'Define Yourself" authored by Brett Trout who tweets,

      "Yes. Lawyers need to define themselves before the internet defines them & sends new business packing"                

      Do it today.

      Related Links:

      Who Owns Your Website?

      August 03, 2008

      "Tip of the Week" - Phone Tag (Voicemail to Text)

      Finis Price of TechnoEsq turned me on to PhoneTag, a voicemail to text service that eliminates the hassle of having to listen to voicemail.

      Phonetag (formerly Simulscribe) simply converts your voicemail to text and lets you 'read' your voicemail on all mobile devices like your Iphone or Blackberry and you can even receive it via your e-mail with both readable text and the audio file attached. It's now integrated into Grand Central, too. 

      It's not a free service ($29.95 unlimited, $9.95 for 40 transcriptions or $.35 per message).  But there is a free seven day trial.   Sounds like the best of both worlds to me!

      May 21, 2008

      "Twitter" - The Rules of Engagement

      Grant Griffiths of Home Office Warrior, Blog for Profit, G2WebMedia and Home Office Lawyer has taken the time to write a very informative piece called, Twitter - The Rules of Engagement.  It is a worthwhile read, candid, to help you decide if Twitter is a tool you should add to your arsenal of networking/marketing tools.

      Some rules to consider:

      Key rules of engagement you should strive to follow.

    • Add something to the conversation. Don’t tweet just for the thrill of posting something.
    • Giving is better than receiving. Don’t start out expecting to receive right away. Be willing to give before you receive.
    • Network with the “thought leaders” and “opinion shapers” within your niche or industry. In twitter terms, follow them and watch what they are doing and reading.
    • Don’t be afraid to join in on a conversation. If you have something to add, say it.
    • Don’t over do it on tweeting on a particular topic. If you have a lot to say, do a blog post and use twitter to pint to the post.
    • Do share with your followers what you are reading and include a link to the article or blog post.
    • Do use tinyURL or is.gd when you post a link
    • Do continue a conversation with someone “off twitter” by email or other communication methods.
    • Don’t post about what you had for lunch or the fact your toddler pooped in the potty.
    • Don’t feel like you have to follow everyone who follows you and don’t follow everyone, you only have so much time. (I generally don’t follow someone unless they provide a link to their own blog. And I don’t follow someone that has a large number of those they are following compared to the number of followers.)
    • Do use the block feature in twitter. That is your right as a tweeter.

      Twitter is just a tool…nothing more, nothing less.

    • I can describe my experiences to date:  Phenomenal.  Why?  Because it is casual, quick and provides instant connectivity with people you surely would never meet otherwise.  Since I've started tweeting I have connected with marketing legends, CEOs, legal up and comers, social media gurus, blogging experts and more and this has led to business connections, faculty for Solo Practice University, and in-person meetings.  The best is the 'online to offline' relationships.

      If you want to follow me on Twitter you can do so at: http://twitter.com/scartierliebel.  If you want to follow Grant you can do so at:  http://twitter.com/grantgriffiths. And if you want to follow David Carson, Solo Practice University's technological genius go to: http://twitter.com/davidtcarson.   

      Have fun. Network. Keep your eyes open for opportunities and watch what happens.

      If you are already on Twitter and have a great Twitter story, please share it here.

      May 10, 2008

      Cramming 31 Hours in a 24 Hour Day - Solos Do This

      This is a fascinating ABC news report showing us how technology allows us to cram 31 hours into a 24 hour day.  Is this a good thing or not?  I know it took me 8 days in to a 14 day vacation to actually relax.  I'm not so sure this is a good thing.

      (ABC Video link has expired.)

      I know I would rather have more time than money.  And you?  As a solo are you finding you need to create 31 hours in a day?  Do you have to or just feel like you have to?  Good time to review your time management skills, how you delegate repsonsibilities, how you create your priority lists.

      Let's get back to 24 hours in a day...and a good night's sleep.

      April 09, 2008

      I'm Officially 'Twittering. ' Come Join the Fun

      There is a lot of social networking sites out there, Facebook, LinkedIn, Naymz, Tagged, Pulse and on and on.  I'm on some of them and I enjoy the connections I've made but I know I have not fully utilized all of their potential.  But for some reason, they all seem like a chore to me.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not knocking their potential. I do have trouble, however, with all the parlor games on Facebook....sheep throwing, etc.  I only have so much time in the day and by not being able to participate fully I'm sure I come across as aloof or snobby and that defeats the purpose of Facebook.  I'm officially apologizing to all my connections on Facebook.

      However, Twitter is very different.  And I've been twittering now for almost two weeks. It's fast, easy and fun and I find I'm on it quite a bit.  It's kind of like really cool idiot-proof instant messaging to those who feel like 'following' your thoughts but not necessarily in real time. 

      I also like the terminology 'following' better than, say, 'friends' on Facebook.  Facebook connections are really acquaintances or possible future acquaintances for the most part.  Twitter doesn't have that pretense.  If you want to follow someone else's threads you can.  They are not obliged to follow yours. You don't even have to really converse, just follow if you want. As a result of following some new people, I've uncovered blogs I would never have found. You can also block people from following you if you feel you must.

      And I like the concept of 140 characters maximum per message, public or private.  Just quick conversations. You can also automatically upload feeds from your blog to Twitter through Twitterfeed.com or other programs you may uncover. You can see a really informative video here. thanks to Kevin.

      From a networking and conversation perspective it is, in my opinion, far superior because of its ease of use, lack of pretense, and the ability to connect to people you would otherwise never really have an opportunity to connect with. 

      Anyway, if you decide to check out Twitter look me up http://twitter.com/scartierliebel.

      April 02, 2008

      All-in-One SaaS Solution for Solos - Rocket Matter

      ( Periodically I post about products or have guest posts about products or services  or books I believe are intriguing and worth exploring by solos.  I derive no financial benefit for doing so.  Nor do I do paid advertising on Build A Solo Practice for an important reason (although I am solicited constantly).  I only want to discuss the concept of these products or services I think would be really beneficial to new solos, different, exciting, cost-effective and forward thinking so readers can explore on their own and make the best decision for themselves.)

      What I find intriguing about Rocket Matter is its time and cost-efficiency for the solo.  Instead of patching together different products, accounting software, time management software, file management software, the training on each, the different customer support departments for each, etc...this is one service and product which does it all, one training, one customer service department.  This saves time and money and endless frustration for an overwhelmed attorney and this is a concept worth exploring.

      Guest Blogger:  Larry Port, a software developer specializing in web applications and a Founding Partner of Rocket Matter, LLC. 

      A little over a year ago, my business partner and I began noticing the trials (no pun intended) and tribulations a number of our attorney friends were encountering with automating their firms.  They were in small and solo practices, and required some way to keep their practices in order, track time, bill clients, maintain their calendars, manage to-do’s, and organize clients and matters.

      At the time, there were a couple of options.  The first was to string together a hodgepodge of software the firm already owned, such as Address Book and iCal for the Mac, or Outlook for the PC. Then, a time and billing package would have to be added to the mix.  And then one would have to try and wedge their matters into a project manager like Basecamp. But having to switch between these multiple applications seemed like a sure-fire way to lose time—in a business where time is a commodity.

      The second option would be to invest in a practice management solution that ties these functions together in a legal software package.  But the problem was that none of these programs available at the time had the clarity or simplicity we like to see in user-interfaces.  They all had more buttons, screens, and tabs than any software we had ever seen.

      Worse yet, both options presented the following expensive challenges:  How and where would data be backed up? How would security be managed?  What would the disaster recovery plan be if the office were destroyed or unusable? How should the office be configured so data can be accessed from anywhere?  What about applying security patches and paying for and installing product upgrades?

      So, after studying the software options available to lawyers, my partner and I then researched and examined the activities of local small and solo law firms. We learned what they would really want in their dream system.  Our answer for them was to design and engineer Rocket Matter, a hosted, web-based practice management solution. It’s an all-in-one application designed to manage a small law practice, soup to nuts, built from the ground up with the sole purpose of optimizing our client’s time, money, and productivity.

      Initially, we integrated contact management, matter and client management, calendaring, and to-do’s.  Then we realized most firms desperately needed a total solution, so we rolled in time and billing as well.   We like working on Macs, so we wanted firms to be able to have a choice of which hardware to use.  Web-based access makes Rocket Matter usable from a Mac, PC, or Linux machine.  And it also allows for access from mobile devices, fully functional from an iPhone or Pocket PC with SkyFire.

      We came to understand the singular importance of time, and witnessed how too many lawyers were losing their billable minutes and hours due to inefficient systems.  The math is alarming: If a lawyer earning $250 an hour loses even .1 hours of time a day, over the course of the year that comes out to $6,250.  So we built a technology that actually traps time as you go about your day, to prevent you from losing this precious commodity.  We call this “Bill-as-you-Work”.

      Our design emphasizes simplicity, so that the learning curve is minimal and usage intuitive, reducing training expenses and encouraging staff to actually want to use the product.  The web-based access eliminates up-front and continuing IT expenses, providing expert security, intraday backups, and an instant disaster recovery plan. 

      Question: “If I have my data locally, its security is my problem. If you have it, to whom do I complain if it is compromised? Are you saying that online banking is completely safe? What about the customers of online access services whose information has been compromised?“

      Security is a very serious issue in the practice of law. Confidentiality is key. The security measures we included in Rocket Matter are comprehensive. Every request is encrypted with 128-bit secure SSL, the same encryption used by many major banks and financial institutions. Passwords are hashed (stored in an encrypted format) and known only by you. Threat Modeling, which is the practice of identifying and countering attacks, is a fundamental part of our development process. There are a host of other security measures we have taken to lock down and isolate a firm’s data, and will be conducting ongoing audits with independent security specialist firms.

      You should be aware that there is risk to any system and should base your business decisions accordingly. The odds of your data being compromised from a well-designed web-based application are lower than less sophisticated security breaches, such as data being physically stolen from your premises. Consider that if you do not take appropriate security precautions, whether on a server in a remote location or in your office, a computer can be vulnerable to attack. Another thing to think about, especially when running Windows machines, is maintaining up-to-date security patches.

      Not all web applications are created equal, unfortunately. Ultimately, it is up to the consumer to ask questions to find out how seriously the software firm considers security. A responsible SaaS firm will incorporate security design as a fundamental part of their design process. They should be able to answer your questions about security, and specifically, have answers about data isolation, encryption, and threat modeling.

      So if you’re ready to finally find that one system that works, take a look at Rocket Matter

      A few things I would like to point out, as law firms move to paperless offices which imply a significant amount of their files and work product will be digitized as well as hosted off-site, it is becoming increasingly obvious one will have to purchase cyber-insurance.  As you construct your business plan and determine how you will build your solo practice include this insurance in your insurance package.  And for those who remain skeptical remember, even if you have files on your premises and own a fireproof safe, one still gets insurance for loss, right?   In my opinion, hosting off-site through a trusted provider with the added security of cyberinsurance is no different.

      What I would suggest is discussing with your clients the way your office functions if it is or is going to go paperless, the security protections in place and have them initial their approval within the body of your retainer agreement.

      If you would like to read more about Rocket Matter from legal tech gurus across the blogosphere you can do so here.

      March 22, 2008

      "Tip of the Week" - Check out ABA Tech Show Summary from Law.com

      I wasn't able to go to the ABA tech show this year but I have every intention of going next year.  While many have posted on their experiences this piece from Law.com gives you a good (if not all inclusive) round up as well as the links to many of the speakers and blog postings. You can also find a nice write up from Allison Shields of LegalEase Consulting about the value of attending (the right) conferences to help with connectivity here which includes more links to fellow attendees who are well known in the blogging world for their particular areas of expertise.

      March 13, 2008

      E-mail is a Dangerous Tool - Beware! Beware! Beware!

      Law is Cool discusses the ridiculous behavior of inexperienced and experienced lawyers (I have no doubt it extends to all professions) when it comes to the inappropriate use of e-mail in this post "Legally Rude Jerks of the Web".  While  the actual story is an older one, the message remains relevant today as more and more people are on the internet.

      In this e-mail exchange, a law job recipient chooses to decline a job offer via e-mail and the exchange is incredibly embarassing on both parts.  What's worse?  I think the new lawyer declined the offer to go solo and this introduction to the legal community is digitzed in perpetuity. Not a way to enter the legal world in general, certainly not as a solo.

      You can read my thoughts on the perils of e-mail here and here.

      February 29, 2008

      Jordan Furlong - Great Information on E-Mails in the Workplace

      Jordan Furlong, current Editor-in-Chief of the National Magazine of the Canadian Bar Assocation, authors an independent blog called Law21 in which he has this great post titled "The Last Days of E-mail."  It is chock full of great links, too.  Check it out.