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Viva Las Vegas!

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Looking for a sure bet? Put all your chips on LMA! This year’s LMA Annual Conference will be held at the Aria Resort  in Las Vegas from April 8-10.

Unlike blackjack, the LMA Annual Conference guarantees big dividends for novices and long-term professionals alike. With courses and speakers who will address every facet of the industry, LMA has made a commitment to dynamic, relevant programs designed to facilitate personal and organizational growth.

In addition to popular offerings such as SMORs (Smart Marketing on [Limited] Resources), QuickStart program and CMO Summit, LMA has divided 2013’s breakout sessions into five categories – Business Development, Innovation, Marketing Communications/PR, Professional Development and Marketing Technologies. We’ve been poring over the event brochure, and have added quite a few sessions to our wish list. Each week, we’ll be highlighting breakout sessions from one category – starting today, with Innovation.

Be sure to visit the LMA conference page for official news and materials, and check back with us for updates, previews and information!

Course:  Featured Discussion – Response to the State of the Industry and What Lies Ahead
Date:  Wednesday, April 9, 11:00 a.m.
Speakers:  Kim Koopersmith – Managing Partner, United States, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP; Bruce A. James - CEO/Managing Partner – Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP; Steven R. Lowenthal – Chairman, Farella Braun + Martel, and Moderator, Professor David B. Wilkins, Harvard Law School – Lester Kissel Professor of Law, Vice-Dean for Global Initiatives on the Legal Profession and Director, Program on the Legal Profession.
Inside Track: On Wednesday morning, Professor Wilkins speak on the key challenges facing the 21st century law firm.  At this session, he will moderate a discussion among law firm managing partners, addressing such questions as: What are the major factors driving the market for legal services? Why are these factors leading clients to seek “more for less” from even their best law firms? How are these factors shaping the market for talent at both junior and senior levels? What can firms do to respond to — and, even more importantly, to anticipate — these challenges? Professor Wilkins will expand upon the advice offered in his morning presentation, and will engage law firm leaders on concrete steps that marketing professionals can take to help their firms succeed in today’s challenging business and economic environment.

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MLF 50 Highlights Top Marketing Strategies in 2012

American Law Media’s Marketing the Law Firm (MLF) recently published its 2012 MLF 50 list, recognizing the most innovative law firm marketing departments in the U.S. According to feature stories about the top five firms on the list—Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC, K&L Gates, Adams and Reese, McGuireWoods LLP (tied for No. 3), Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP, and  Goodwin Procter LLP—law firms’ focus on collaborative business development plans and integrated technology strategies have only increased over the past year.

Not surprisingly, all six law firms reported that they have enhanced their business development and client development plans in 2012, while MLF also highlighted five of the firms’ improved website interactivity through their use of video, blogs and client alerts. MLF also noted the use of social media as a continued trend among law firm marketing departments, citing the firms’ unanimous emphasis on Twitter and LinkedIn, with still secondary use of Facebook, YouTube and Google+.

While various areas of marketing, such as media relations, event planning, mobile websites and branding proved to be critical components of the top law firms’ marketing strategies, their emphasis on improving client service and business development seems to have been the top priorities across the board in 2012. To that end, here are some of the innovative business development initiatives that the top law firms successfully implemented in 2012:

Coaching: Business development managers, chief marketing officers and partners are collaborating on various levels to host one-on-one and group business development workshops that help associates grow their practices through marketing and cross-selling, enhance leadership skills, build their reputations as industry thought-leaders, talk to prospective clients and improve networking skills, deliver elevator speeches, develop pitch materials, strengthen client relationships, and perhaps most importantly—better understand their clients’ needs, businesses and industries. MLF noted one department’s collaboration with their firm’s human resources department and hiring committee to formally introduce marketing and business development onboarding initiatives so associates and lateral hires are immediately positioned to maximize their business development efforts.

Research: Marketing departments have bulked up their research capabilities to assist lawyers with researching and developing comprehensive reports on business trends, clients’ present and future legal needs, corporate and executive profiles, financials, business strategies, industry news, lawsuit developments, and other client-related information. These reports are critical to preparing for client pitches, meetings, cross-selling, and growing existing business.

Direct client feedback/communication: Some of the top law firms have enlisted their chief marketing officers and firm chairmen to participate in meetings with clients to solicit candid feedback on client service and to generally strengthen client relationships. With a wide-spread push to deliver clients practical industry-focused materials and resources, engaging in more frequent direct communications with clients helps to give law firms a competitive edge.

For more information about the MLF 50, click here.

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New Year’s Resolutions

new-year-s

More than two weeks into 2013, I’m pleased to report that I haven’t entirely abandoned my New Year’s Resolutions – fifteen days of being cheesecake-free! In addition to dessert-related goals, I’ve made some professional resolutions: I resolve to be more strategic in my thinking, to delegate responsibilities when appropriate, and to take a business writing course. So far, so good. The ABA Legal Rebels compiled a list of “13 Resolutions for Improving Client Service” – ideas that apply equally to how lawyers deal with their clients, how legal marketers work with the attorneys at the firm, and how legal marketers can help attorneys provide great service to their existing clients. Some of our favorites from the list (and thoughts on how they can be applied to the lawyer-client, lawyer-legal marketer and legal marketer – client relationships) are below.

Resolution: I will experiment with something new this year to see if the “buzz” is warranted instead of merely dismissing the idea because it’s not the way I do things.
Lawyer – Client: Have your clients asked for information on legal project managers or management software? Information on alternative fee arrangements? Spend a few minutes looking at what clients are talking about and work with your firm’s support staff to determine whether it’s the right fit for you.
Legal Marketer – Lawyer: Buzzwords and new products fly around constantly – content marketing! Twitter! LinkedIn! SEO! Maybe your lawyers have come to you and informed you that they want a blog (because everyone else seems to have one)…Take the time to think strategically about which hot new services or tools are actually appropriate for the commitment and capabilities of your attorneys, firm and market.
Legal Marketer – Client: What’s likely to happen when a client issues an RFP that focuses on alternative fee arrangements? You’re the one who will lead the charge on the response. Before diving into a project, driven by looming deadlines and exclamation point emails, do a little digging into the needs of the client. What sort of matters do they need help with? Has their General Counsel given any interviews or presentations on what the company looks for in an outside counsel partnership? An extra hour spent learning about what a client is actually asking – and sharing that information with your attorneys – can be worth its weight in hourly fees.

Resolution: I will ask my clients to define unacceptable, acceptable and outstanding outcomes before I bill for any work on a matter.
Legal Marketer – Client and Lawyer – Client: Pretty straightforward all around, right? Many clients have instructions on how they approach billing, budgets, fees and their relationships in their outside counsel guidelines, but have your attorneys established best practices for communication, reporting and results with their key clients? If not, it’s time. (Note: Knowing what not to do is just as important…)
Legal Marketer – Lawyer: Discussions of boundaries and expectations are tough, but well worth a little squirming. What do your attorneys view as a “final” product? How involved do they want you to be in terms of sharing information about clients, legal marketing trends, team news, etc.? Establishing the norms and best practices for how you provide services is a way to ensure that you’re anticipating needs and working strategically instead of reacting to each new email that pops up on your screen.

Resolution: I will read books that help me evaluate the way I practice. I will start with Michael Eisner’s Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed.
Legal Marketer: I will also look into books such as The Tipping Point and Look At More Stuff, and sign up for the Virginas Chapter Book Club.

Resolution: I will make less use of email in dealing with my clients and spend more time talking to them on the phone and visiting them personally.
Legal Marketer – Client and Lawyer – Client: We think client visits are important – and the ACC agrees. A small investment in time and travel costs allows for discussion, expression of appreciation and the opportunity to look a client in the face and ask how you’re doing. Some tips for client visits can be found here.
Legal Marketer – Lawyer: I know. Your desk chair is so comfortable, and you can keep track of your new emails and maybe check Facebook while you’re at your desk…I’m as much of a deskbody as anyone, but in the past year, I’ve realized the value of picking up the phone or going directly to a lawyer’s office to touch base. Not only do you get points for responsiveness, a personal call or visit gives you the opportunity to have a real discussion about a project or request, as opposed to a one-way conversation.

Now that they’re public, we’re stuck with our resolutions.  What are your professional New Year’s Resolutions for 2013?

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Why Lawyers Hate Marketing, Vol. 3

In our recent posts, “Why Lawyers Hate Marketing (Vol. 1 and 2)”, we’ve explored some of the reasons why some lawyers are uncomfortable with – or even detest – the concept of marketing themselves. Pain-points range from not having enough time to dedicate to marketing to believing a lawyer’s code of ethics inherently precludes them from marketing themselves…And the list goes on.

In an article published by ALM’s Careerist,business development consultant K.C. Victor, principal at Victor Legal Solutions, debunks common misperceptions about what it takes to be a rainmaker.  She offers seven more reasons why some lawyers hate marketing:

It feels rude and maybe arrogant to pitch clients who already have lawyers

I hate selling

It’s too overwhelming. I don’t know where to start

I can’t call and ask for business!

I’m afraid they might tell me “no”

I am not a smooth mixer

I feel out-of-place, perhaps even sleazy, offering unsolicited business advice

More importantly,  Victor provides advice on what law firm marketers can do to redirect attorney mindsets; astutely advising, “One need not be gregarious to build or increase a book of business. No particular personality is required for rainmaking, but lawyers should first make sure that they are going into it with the right attitude.”

Her advice to overcome the various walls lawyers may throw up– such as “I’m afraid they might tell me ‘no’”, “it feels rude to pitch clients who already have lawyers”, or “I can’t call and ask for business,”—boils down to communicating with clients, not selling to them. In other words, clients are unlikely to hire you if they think you don’t care about them or worse—they have forgotten you exist.

Victor advises, “People like attention…People like to talk about themselves and conversations evolve.” She recommends that lawyers simply pick up the phone to say hello or see how their client’s business is doing. Of course, these calls are most effective when tthe lawyer has done their homework and already knows how their client’s business is doing.  This background knowledge, supplemented by the client’s insight, allows lawyers to take the ”just checking in” call a step further by creating a “need” or reason to follow up with their client. Perhaps they have read, seen or heard something interesting and they are calling to share the information with their client. Or they could call to invite or introduce their client to something or someone. Having a purpose behind the call will bridge the communication gap while also giving the client an incentive to speak with the lawyer.

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Rumors of the Death of Direct Mail Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

I do not have the following: an alarm clock set for Friday morning/Thursday night, a map of my local stores offering Black Friday specials, a battle plan for taking advantage of said deals or ANY intention of camping out in front of a Target to get a $3.00 iPad

I do, however, have something I’ve never had before:  a whole stack of coupons from my favorite retailers – each offering at least 20% off of my purchases.  So what gives?  Have I been a very good girl this year?  (Dear Bosses, if you’re reading this: YES)  Have I spent so much money at these retailers in 2012 that I’ve reached some sort of elite status? (Dear Economy, if you’re reading this: NO. Thanks, by the way.)  Have I moved into some new age-bra demographic that indicates that I’m more prone to using coupons?  (Dear Dermatologist, if you’re reading this: we’ve got work to do.)

According to Forbes, direct mail is back.  While direct mail isn’t for every law firm, there are a number of benefits to a targeted, well-planned strategy.  Here are some tips from Kern Lewis:

“Be focused: Take the time to profile your most desired customer, and work with a list vendor to find only those people.”   Legal marketers frequently talk to lawyers about determining which contacts are the most valuable and worth pursuing – use your firm’s CRM program or client “wish list” to develop an appropriate list of targets.

“Be generous: If you are going to mail someone, make them an offer that is very hard to refuse. Assume you are going to treat them so well that they become a customer for life, and use that lifetime customer value to calculate the response you will need to make the mailing worthwhile. A well-conceived, relevant offer ups the chance that your mailer is kept and reviewed (the famous long-tail concept exists in snail mail response rates, too!”  In the legal marketing context, this may mean offering a client/prospect a loss-leader bit of advice, a complimentary CLE, or a dinner to discuss their goals/needs.  Think of ways to differentiate between your letter and the one next to it – a good starting place is adding value.

“Be smart: Start by testing, track relentlessly, and nurture each and every lead as if it were the gold that it is. Resist the urge to escalate the budget based on one great result. Expand steadily and deliberately. Mail each list multiple times before assessing its value. The cumulative response rate is the key performance “metric” to track.”  Treat a direct mail campaign like you would an e-communication.  While the same click and open rates aren’t available, there IS data to be found in direct mailings.  Work with your colleagues and attorneys to develop effective tracking mechanisms and benchmarks.  And remember, starting smaller may be better.  Never underestimate the power of data.

Even Legal Marketing Reader is jumping back on the direct mail train.  John O. Cunningham recently spoke with Rachel Hayes, senior director of communications and community engagement for Oxfam America and former vice president and principal consultant for Wellesley Hills Group, a management consulting, marketing and lead generation firm that serves professional service firms.  She says, ”Direct mail is a form of advertising that can be aimed precisely at your targets, and it can create a favorable impression even when it does not generate a response.” Here are more tips from Hayes and Cunningham on how law firms can use direct mail to generate business:

Choose your objective, whether it is raising awareness of your firm, qualifying your lawyers as experts in a field, building trust, or providing a forum for closing sales.

Design your strategy and tactics to fit your objectives. If your law firm does work mostly for individuals (such as estate planning or personal injury litigation) then you need a business to consumer strategy (rather than B to B) and/or a strategy for reaching out to likely referral sources.

Design your mailings and the content in them so that your intended messages are clear, readable and uncluttered. Make it easy for people to answer the call to action, or to find an event, and avoid three-page registrations and big data collection forms.

Integrate your direct mail campaign with other marketing tactics as part of an overall strategy toward accomplishing your goal. Direct mail works best in conjunction with your other campaign tactics — such as social media, PR, advertising or branding campaigns — calling attention to them while calling targets to specific actions.

Get the right lists and work them regularly. By reaching out periodically to your targets, you will reinforce their awareness and you will be able to refine your list so that it casts just the right size net to catch the fish you want. But don’t make the net too tight, or you will let some prizes get away.

Further Reading on Direct Mail and Legal Marketing

Holiday Marketing - BtoB Magazine

Make Mail Part of Your 2013 Integrated Marketing Plan – Chief Marketer

How To Make Direct Mail Work for Professional Services - RainToday

Direct Mail Isn’t Dead - It’s Reincarnated by Big Data - Business2Community

Is Mail Dead? – Seeking Alpha

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Monday Musings: Online Info

Lawyer Biographies Are The Most Popular Website Content – Lawyerist.com

Marketers Look to Video for Greater Brand Visibility – Brafton Marketing

How Can A Law Firm Use Social Media to Deliver Client Service? – Real Lawyers Have Blogs

New LinkedIn Features Helpful for Lawyers – Lawyerist.com

How Lawyers Can Put Social In Their Social Media – Real Lawyers Have Blogs

 

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Building A Brand Through Website Bios

As online branding becomes an increasingly significant factor in law firm marketing strategies, so too are lawyers’ online biographies. Legal marketers often assist lawyers in writing their website bios,  while also conforming to their firm’s style guidelines regarding consistency, length and content—a nearly impossible task. Some lawyers prefer a mile-long list of client matters and accolades dating back to the 1970s, while other lawyers are hesitant to add any detail that might reference sensitive client matters. So where do you begin?

Legal marketer Larry Bodine shares five tips to writing lawyer website bios as recommended by Chicago-based marketer Doug Stern.

1)       Provide assurance. Display case histories.

2)       Be brief. 250 words of anything on a law firm web site is plenty.

3)       Avoid jargon and business speak.

4)       Humanize yourself with a little description of your personal side.

5)       Write web-friendly text.  Use bullets, subheads and short sentences to make your bio easy to read.

But on a strategic level, how do you decide whether to market lawyers’ vast experience or highlight only their strengths? In a recent article by Adrian Dayton, the law firm marketing columnist for the National Law Journal, he advises against what he calls the “fruit basket” approach in which law firms market their lawyers as go-to service providers in every practice area under the sun.

Dayton writes, “Potential clients aren’t searching for a firm that can do it all; they want experts who can solve their unique problems.”

Of course, the dilemma of deciding what details to include can be challenging from a marketing perspective. Dayton notes a common, yet limiting fear of focusing a lawyer’s brand on a particular area. “What if someone is looking for a specific type of transaction, and it isn’t in my list?” “What if one of my real estate clients is turned off by my focus on health care?”

While these concerns are understandable, Dayton cautions that most experienced lawyers have similar lists of client matters, so positioning your lawyers as yet “another list” won’t help them. He asks, “What looks better to a potential client, a list of mergers and acquisitions or that in 2011 you closed the largest merger in the state?”

Highlighting the significance of a few key matters is often more compelling than simply listing endless case wins. The same advice applies to writing successful award submissions, as discussed in a recent blog post.

Dayton assures, however, that lawyers don’t have to do away with the list entirely, but he recommends that it simply come later in the bio.

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