Take Charge of Your Law Practice Brand

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A challenge many lawyers face is finding the balance between client work and growing a legal practice. How do you find the time to do both effectively?

One solution is to focus on attracting better clients, not just "more" clients.  This requires marketing from the inside out and resisting the temptation to begin marketing activities without first clarifying your personal brand.

A strong personal brand defines who you are, what you stand for and what differentiates you. It is the foundation for building your reputation, visibility and attracting the right clients

A good way to get started on clarifying your personal brand is to answer the following questions:

–        Why are you in business?

–        Who are your best clients?

–        How do you provide value/differentiate yourself?

–        What do you do?

The following is an example from one of my clients, an estate planning attorney:

 Why: To make the future more positive for businesses and families.

 Who: Clients who want to plan for the continuation of a family business, and the transfer of wealth  and property to the next generation while keeping families intact.

 How. To guide decisions that benefit all of the stakeholders while securing the estate and the  future.

 What: Unequaled depth in estate planning and administration, and corporate law.

As result of defining his personal brand, the estate planning lawyer differentiated himself from other estate planning lawyers. He is known as the "go to" lawyer for high asset family owned businesses who value the successful transfer of wealth and keeping families intact. 

His personal brand augments his law firm brand for helping business owners and families to protect important relationships, preserve wealth and plan for the future.

By first defining and then communicating your brand, you will attract clients who value what you do best (your core competency), pay your bills and tell others about how satisfied they are with your service. 

Why Your Online Lawyer Bio Matters.

Sometimes it is the little things that can make a big difference in growing a law practice. Often, lawyers will avoid marketing because it will take too much time or it is an activity outside of their comfort zone. 

Today I consulted with a lawyer who has avoided marketing for the past couple of years because he did not think he should have to market his practice. He is an established lawyer, has an excellent reputation and has been practicing law for 25 years. I challenged him to reframe his concept of marketing from "pushing" his service onto people to "attracting" clients who could benefit from what he does best.  
 
I also showed him how we could leverage his excellent reputation to create a marketing plan.
 
The first thing we did was type his name into Google and review the search results. We discovered that his LinkedIn profile had the wrong title, two of his bios from lawyer lists were outdated with old addresses, and his Avvo profile was incomplete. On his web site profile page, there was no information on how to contact the lawyer. Most important, none of his bios or profiles answered the question, "why should I hire you?". There was no mention on the value he provided clients or the client problems he excelled in solving.
 
The first marketing strategy was not to schedule 5 lunches or send out letters asking for referrals, rather it was to research how clients were finding him online and update and revise all online bios to communicate a consistent, relevant, and compelling message targeted to his ideal client.
 
Revising and updating your bio is a simple, effective marketing strategy every lawyer can take to increase their on-line presence and reinforce their reputation. Last week, I received 3 calls from lawyers who attracted clients as a result of updating and promoting their bios.
 
The following is one example:
 
"Interesting - I just got a call from a new client who, when asked how she got my name, said she found me on line and that she really liked my profile and how I relate to clients as people."
 
Updating your bio and profile may seem like a small thing, but it can deliver significant results.
 

What Does Law Firm Branding Have To Do With Law Firm Marketing?

One of the greatest challenges lawyers face in building a law practice is time. I have yet to meet a lawyer or work with a law firm where time is not a scarce resource.  Billable hours, client demands, law firm management and administrative responsibilities are top priorities.  
 
As a result, many lawyers question the value and need for defining a law firm brand. " What does branding have to do with law firm marketing? "
 
To answer this question, I want to start with what branding is and is Not.
 
A brand is NOT just :
 
• a logo
• a tagline
• a web site
 
A brand IS:
 
 
An effective  law firm brand will communicate your uniqueness, express your  value, tell your story and create a memorable presence in your target  market. Your brand will not be for everyone.
 
A brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined 
cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.
                                                                               –  Michael Eisner
A strong law firm brand will send the message about who you are and drive how you are perceived by the market and clients. Internally, it will set the agenda and create a common purpose behind your strategy.
 
Successful law firm marketing starts with exceptional value and service to clients. A common "brand promise and commitment" helps align everyone in the firm to deliver a consistent message and more importantly to provide a consistent level of service and value to clients.
 
In summary, your law firm brand has everything to do with marketing and is the foundation for an effective marketing strategy. Your brand should answer the following  questions:  
 
1. What is your firm's value proposition? 
2. How does your firm differentiate from other firms?
3. Who are you? 
4. Who are your clients?
5. What is your firm's voice? 
6. What is your firm's consistent message?
7. What is your firm's promise and commitment?
 
The answers to these questions will help you to leverage the synergy of your firm's expertise and talent. By clarifying and internalizing the answers to these questions, you will have the foundation for creating a marketing plan that produces extraordinary results.  On the other hand , if you begin your marketing plan without knowing the answers to these questions,  you may end up spending your valuable resources, including time, on a plan that produces average results.
 

The Value of a Law Firm Retreat- Don't let the "urgent" take over the "important"

 Last week, I received an email from a managing partner of a successful firm. He had just received an invitation from a legal education organization encouraging him to enroll in a CLE. Included in the invitation was the following list of what lawyers should worry about:

Things to worry about:

  • Worry about courage.
  • Worry about integrity.
  • Worry about efficiency.
  • Worry about whether you're a good enough listener.
  • Worry about whether you're honing your skills.

Things not to worry about:

  • Don't worry about popular opinion.
  • Don't worry about the past.
  • Don't worry about the future.
  • Don't worry about triumph.
  • Don't worry about failure unless it's your fault.
  • Don't worry about satisfactions.

 Things to think about:

  • How thorough is my legal knowledge?
  • How good am I as an analytical thinker?
  • Do I really understand people, and do I get along with them?
  • Are my skills better this year than they were last year?

His question to me was:

"How can you not worry about the future – that is what we are trying to improve!"

I believe the answer to his question can be found in the following quote from management guru Peter Drucker:

" The best way to predict your future is to create it."

I think every great lawyer wants to deliver exceptional value to clients, be part of a successful and innovative law firm and have security about the future.

The key to achieving these goals is to have the discipline to not let the urgent get in the way of the important.

You can accomplish this by taking a strategic pause from the "urgent" day- to- day activities and focus on the "important" long-term strategic activities.

Give consideration to an annual law firm retreat. In the retreat, focus on thinking critically, anticipating, deciding, aligning, learning and following up on breakthrough strategies that will move your firm in the direction you want it to go.

We are experiencing change faster today than at any other time in our history. Instead of worrying about the future, create the future you want.

The following are a few questions to ask the leaders in your firm :

Where is your firm today? ( Who are your clients? What is the culture of your firm? What are the firms critical issues and success factors? Assess and synthesize multiple sources of information)

Where does your firm want to be in the next 3-5 years? ( Look beyond the periphery of your current business)

What is your plan for achieving your goals? ( What needs to change? How are you prioritizing key strategies? What will you start doing more of/less of? )

What do you worry about? How do you take a "pause" from the urgent and focus on the "important"? What challenges do you face when trying to align your partners around a long-term vision?

Reinvention Is The Key to Survival For Law Firms

This morning CBS news featured a story on the demise of iconic American companies including Hostess and Kodak.

What are the factors contributing to this defeat and how do businesses and law firms protect themselves from becoming obsolete? 

Factors that contribute to the downfall of business include, not staying in touch with rising costs, changing tastes or new technologies, not evolving and maintaining the status quo. 

Kodak originated the technology for photography and in the 1970's held 90% of the photography market, yet has lost market share by not leveraging this technology in a digital world. Hostess, the creator of Twinkies, was slow to adapt to the changing tastes of a new market.

Scott Galloway, marketing professor at New York University's Stern School of Business, said reinvention is the key for the struggle of survival.

Businesses and law firms that find ways to reinvent themselves are the most successful. Apple is an example of a company who understands the power of reinvention.

What is your law firm doing to reinvent your law practice?  The following are a few questions to consider;

* Do you use LinkedIn to build your network, make a contribution and stay connected or do you think LinkedIn is a waste of time?

* Does your web site provide updated content and value to your target client or do you have pages on your site that have been unchanged for 5-10 years?

* Do you stay informed on what is happening in your market by reading  high value blogs, following thought leaders on social media sites including Twitter, and participating in targeted LinkedIn group discussions, or are you too busy?

* Is your bio updated and informative about the value you provide clients and what distinguishes you or is it chronological description of your educational background and dates of employment?

* Does your service to clients include collaboration with other professionals or are you going it solo?

* Does your search engine strategy include writing relevant blog posts, informative web site content, useful YouTube videos and on-line press releases or are you relying on “key word stuffing” and outsourced “link building” and content writing to increase your on-line visibility?

* Are you listening to your clients, conducting client evaluations, and providing remarkable service or are you doing what you have always done?

* Does your firm hold law firm retreats to review its strategic vision and target market annually to align marketing activities with your most important goals or are you winging it and hoping you will meet financial and billable hour targets?

The above questions are not inclusive and are meant to stimulate your thinking about how you are reinventing your law practice to maximize your success for prosperous and continued existence.

What additional questions would you include in the list above? What strategies have you implemented to reinvent your law practice?
 
 

Creating a Unified Law Firm Vision- Is it worth the effort?

Last week I received a question from a mid size law firm with 65 partners that I felt may be a familiar question for executive directors, managing partners and law firm CEO’s. The question was:

“The partners have a common mission, but not much of a unified vision for the future or a clear sense of what we value. Do you have suggestions?

Upon further investigation I learned about the firm’s situation and source for concern regarding the lack of a shared vision.

The firm was experiencing significant growth and acquiring smaller firms in the same area of law. Although the acquisitions were profitable, the lack of cohesion among the partners was causing internal conflict, delaying important decisions and limiting the firm’s growth opportunities.

Without a common goal for where the firm was headed, it was difficult to bridge the gap between differing opinions on where the firm should devote valuable and limited resources.

Creating a shared vision for law firm’s often falls on the back burner and is not viewed as a top priority, especially when resources and time are in limited supply. However, lack of alignment around a shared vision is at the root of reduced productivity, decreased profitability and diminishes the opportunity for attracting top talent.

The following are strategies for creating a shared vision:

  • Schedule a law firm retreat. Require all equity partners to attend.
  • Prepare in advance for the retreat. Clarify the retreat purpose and most important goals.
  • Assign homework prior to the retreat to identify the firms critical issues and commonalities. 
  • Create a safe environment for unfiltered dialogue in the retreat.
  • Follow up on the goals and initiatives defined in the retreat.
  • Educate all employees on the firms shared vision and their role in achieving success.

My recommendation is to take a step back from the day to day demands of urgent/important activities and ask yourself the following questions:

  • When was the last time your partners came together to dialogue about your shared vision for the firm’s future?
  • How is your internal structure aligned to support your most important goals? What does success look like?
  • How are you leveraging your firm’s vision to attract top talent and to differentiate your law firm in a competitive legal market?

Let me know if spending the time creating a shared vision is considered a valuable use of time. If so, what are the challenges your firm is confronted with to create a shared law firm vision?

Family Law Marketing to the LGBT Community- Putting Strategies into Action

In my last blog post, I wrote about maximizing your law firm marketing ROI, in this post I would like to share an example on how to put these strategies into action.

Yesterday a family law firm called me because they wanted an ad for a LGBT magazine featuring families in the upcoming fall publication. They were on a tight time-line and needed the ad by the end of the week. The original plan was to do a one-time ad in the special feature on Families for the publication.

Before moving forward with the one-time ad, I wanted to learn more about the firm’s bigger picture goals. One of the goals for the firm was to be recognized as a family law firm knowledgeable about the important family law issues facing the LGBT market. Instead of putting an expensive one-time ad in the publication, limiting the firms return on investment, we created an integrated and targeted campaign to position the firm as a thought leader on family law for LGBT families. The campaign included the following strategies:

  • Write and submit an informational press release to the  editorial staff. Focus the release on a single topic relevant to the target audience and provide helpful, practical and valuable information. Note: Substantive and current information on gay marriage and divorce is a strong hook for the media given the recent change in gay marriage laws.
     
  • Develop a series of 3 advertisements targeted towards the interests of the magazine’s readers. Maintain a consistent ad for 6-12 months.
     
  • Include a call to action in each advertisement.
     
  • Create a relationship with the publication as an expert in family law issues related to the LGBT community.
     
  • Identify social media opportunities to leverage the campaign including re-purposing the press release for a blog post and putting the blog post on Face book, LinkedIn and Twitter.
     
  • Leverage LinkedIn groups to spread the word to the local LGBT community. Include a link on LinkedIn to the editorial article in the LGBT publication.
     
  • Update web site to include a section on LGBT partnership agreements.
     
  • Promote the firms focus on Collaborative Law as a beneficial option for gay marriage and divorce.

In summary, a one-time project with questionable “ROI” value was transformed into a targeted marketing strategy positioning the firm as a thought leader in the LGBT community. Your firm can increase your marketing ROI by executing the following key elements:

  • Align all marketing activities with the firm’s most important goals.
     
  • Implement an integrated marketing strategy to reinforce your message.
     
  • Avoid a generic “all thing to all people” approach and target your message to a specific audience.
     
  • Provide relevant content that makes a contribution to your intended audience.
     
  • Focus press releases, blog posts and articles on current, substantive, newsworthy topics verses self promotion, announcement-oriented content. 

If you have questions on how to maximize your marketing investment, email me at eferris@ferrisconsult.com  

Maximize Your Law Firm Marketing ROI

144Many lawyers are frustrated with law firm marketing activities. Often I hear lawyers complain about the time and cost of marketing and the uncertainty on the return on investment (ROI) for these activities. So where do you start AND what activities will afford you the highest return on the time and money you invest in law firm marketing?

The following are four strategies designed to give you direction when deciding “where to start” and how to maximize your marketing ROI.

1.       Before embarking on any marketing activities, define your goal- what do you want to achieve? Clarify how the activity is in alignment with advancing your firm in the right direction (firm’s vision). This will require time, however, the effort you put into this step will be repaid later.

2.       Whenever possible, never do a marketing activity in isolation, i.e. a onetime advertisement in a publication or magazine. Instead focus on an integrated plan that leverages your effort, i.e. article and repeat advertisements in a publication intended to target your ideal market.

3.       Always maximize the effort you invest in marketing activities. Consistently repurpose your marketing activities, including the article you wrote or the speech you gave. Your article can be repurposed into a blog post or an article for your firm newsletter or local community magazine. Your speech or seminar can be given to multiple markets. Reinforce your brand by writing quality content describing your firm’s unique differentiator on your web site home page. Repeat this message on all your press releases, announcements and social media biographies.

4.       Effectively utilize social media to create a viral buzz about your area of expertise. Listen to the conversation going on in your LinkedIn groups, twitter followers and industry blogs. Make a contribution to the conversation by commenting on a topic and adding a link to your blog post or article. Write about the solutions for the most relevant problems your social media groups talk about.

In summary, to maximize the effort you put towards marketing, always start with a plan that answers the question… what is our goal and how will this activity advance our firm in the direction we want to go?

Marketing with a purpose will help you to focus your marketing activities and maximize your marketing investment.

For more information on how to maximize your marketing efforts, email me at eferris@ferrisconsult.com

 

Four Strategies For An Effective Lawyer Bio

A recent analysis of activity on my clients’ websites showed the most read section was attorney bios.  Even more interesting, another client of mine recently revised her bio and retained a high-asset client for her firm because her client liked her bio.  These examples are consistent with studies showing that lawyer bios are the most-viewed pages on a law firm’s web site. 

A well written- client focused attorney bio is an effective marketing tool for attracting desirable and profitable clients.

What are the components to a successful bio?

The first is starting with the right focus. Many lawyer bios are focused on answering the question, “How can I impress you?”  rather than “How can I help you solve your problems?”

My suggestion is to look at your bio like an inverted pyramid. The large end of the pyramid answers the question, “How can I help you?” The smaller end provides information about your experience and credentials. Too often, lawyer bios start with facts such as graduation dates, memberships, years in practice, awards received, etc. But raw facts don’t resonate with clients, nor do they effectively communicate who you are and why you are the best lawyer for solving their problems.

The fundamental goal of your bio is to convert on-line searches into telephone inquires about your practice that lead to new clients.

The following are four strategies for writing an effective bio for your law practice:

1.      Communicate your personality: What is your approach to your work? What is your philosophy on how you work with clients? What are your strengths? What are you passionate about in your chosen practice area?

2.      Differentiate yourself: Who is your ideal client? Define your target audience, then speak to their interests and goals. Describe what makes your practice unique. What client problems are you good at solving? Avoid trying to be all things to all people.

3.      Create a dynamic bio: Update your bio, include recent articles and links to on line press releases, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media sites.

4.      Make it easy for client’s to contact you: Include your email address and direct phone number as well as your mailing address and fax number.

The bio you provide on your website is one of your most important marketing tools. Invest the time to refine your bio and communicate the value you provide for your clients. The more that clients know who you are and what you can offer to solve their problems,  the greater opportunity you have for converting on line searches into new clients.

What are your challenges in updating your bio? Send me questions or call me if you are finding it difficult to refine your bio.  

What Are Your Reasons For Work?

Like many business owners, one of my favorite blogs is Seth Godin’s blog. In today’s blog, Seth defined the Eight Reasons to work:

Reasons to Work:

  1. For the money
  2. To be challenged
  3. For the pleasure/calling of doing the work
  4. For the impact it makes on the world
  5. For the reputation you build in the community
  6. To solve interesting problems
  7. To be part of a group and to experience the mission
  8. To be appreciated

Review the above list and think about how you feel with each reason. What ignites your energy? Is it to be challenged, to be part of a group and to experience the mission or is it to solve interesting problems?

Once you identify the reasons for work that resonate with you. Begin to create a business plan that is in alignment with the work you want to do.

Resolve to do something every day that moves you toward your major goal. By focusing on the reasons behind your plan, you will be more focused and disciplined in achieving your goal.

I would like to hear from you. What are the barriers and challenges that keep you from doing work that is in alignment with your most important reasons for work?

Law Firm Branding: How It Helps You Grow In A Down Economy

The recent economic crisis has had significant impact on the competitive environment for lawyers and law firms. Clients are more discretionary with their financial resources and a larger number of lawyers are competing for a smaller number of clients. 

To excel in a competitive market, lawyers and Law Firms need to separate themselves from the pack.

Successful firms differentiate themselves and leave a memorable impression in the minds of their prospective clients and referral sources. This is achieved through an effective law firm brand.

For many lawyers, the term law firm brand is synonymous with logos and tag lines, symbols that are an outcome of a brand but are not the brand.  An over reliance on a tag line, developed without a brand focus, can result in a generic, over used and undistinguishable message such as “experienced, caring and hard working law firm.”

Your law firm brand is your reputation and distinguishes you in the mind of your prospective clients and referral sources. A strong law firm brand will allow you to establish a significant and differentiated presence in your market that will attract desirable clients and referral sources.

Not creating a law firm brand can result in the following problems:

-       Other people will create your brand for you.

-       Your firm will not be distinguished in a competitive market

-       You will not attract clients who value what you do best

-       Marketing efforts will not be focused resulting in a lower ROI

-       Members of your firm may not be communicating a consistent message

-       Partners may be working on different strategies that drain resources and minimize results

Look at the above list. Do any of these themes sound familiar? If so, it may be time to take a step back from working in your business to working on your business. This will allow you to clarify who you are and what makes you unique so your target clients, employees and colleagues know what separates you from the pack.

Is Your Law Firm Advertising Helping to Attract your Best Clients?

In my last post I wrote about the importance of being relevant to the clients you want to attract to your practice. Relevance means evoking an emotional response from your prospective clients because they see themselves in your message,“This is me, this is how I feel.” Once prospective clients have an emotional connection with your message, there is a heightened interest in who you are and what you do.

If prospective clients don’t experience this emotional hook, chances are your message will not achieve its goal of attracting desirable clients to your practice.

You can be relevant to prospective clients by having clarity about the kind of clients you want to attract. Your message will be lost if you try be all things to all people. Alternatively, you will attract the right clients by knowing who your best clients are and  communicating what matters most to these clients.

Recently, I helped apply this strategy to Quaid and Quaid, a family law firm who wanted to separate themselves from their competitors in a special D Magazine advertorial on Dallas Divorce.

The firm wanted to appeal to clients who put a high value on minimizing the destruction of divorce. All the partners in the firm were trained in Collaborative Law and passionately believed in the value of helping clients to divorce as amicably as possible. 

The following is the D Magazine advertisement:

(For a larger view of ad, click on continued reading at the bottom of page)

The advertisement was unique for the following reasons:

1.    The ad featured an image of what prospective clients want to avoid versus a large photo of  lawyers. 

2.    The ad focused on the client’s goals and problems not the expertise and talent of the lawyers. 

 3.    The ad targeted a specific audience, clients who wanted to move into the future with integrity, versus targeting a general audience of clients who wanted a divorce.

Keep in mind while creating an ad or writing content for your web site that a client will connect with you at an emotional level when they believe you understand how to help them avoid their greatest fears or achieve their most desired goals.

Distinguish yourself in your market by focusing on the clients you want to attract to your practice.

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What Bruce Springsteen Can Teach Lawyers about Law Firm Marketing

On a recent trip to Cleveland, I had the opportunity to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with my 19-year-old daughter. I was there to learn about and enjoy the history of Rock and Roll, but I became intrigued with the artists who were able to maintain their Rock and Roll legend status 35 years later. How did they do it? How can artists be as popular today as they were 35 years ago? And would it be possible for lawyers to apply this strategy for success to law firm marketing?

I found the answer in a quote from Bruce Springsteen that was on display at the exhibit. When asked how long he thought he could remain a Rock n’ Roll legend, Bruce replied:

"I believe the thing called rock and roll will last as long as you look down into the audience and can see yourself, and your audience can look up at you and can see themselves, and as long as those reflections are human, realistic ones."

At the core of successful marketing is your ability to be relevant to your “audience” (prospective clients). This means your prospective clients are able see themselves in your marketing story. Your marketing story, in turn, is the value you communicate about your services to prospective clients and referral sources.

A good example of a lawyer who has mastered this approach is Kevin Fuller, senior partner with Koons Fuller in Dallas. Kevin knows who his client’s are: high-net-worth families and businesses who want the best possible results, and he consistently communicates his understanding of their problems and how to solve them. 

In an article titled, Nasty Divorces Mean Trouble for Businesses,  Kevin successfully spoke about a problem many of his clients want to avoid: Destroying their wealth:

This article is consistent with Kevin’s marketing story and speaks to the core of what many of his clients care about:

"It's about getting the business through the divorce without destroying it or the owner."

Your marketing efforts will produce results if your marketing story is relevant to the goals and interests of the clients you want to attract.

Before you spend any more time and money on marketing communication, follow the philosophy of a rock star legend and make sure your prospective clients — the clients you want to attract to your practice — can see themselves in your marketing story.

Should Lawyers Build Their Personal Brand?

 

Is building a personal brand an important strategy for growing your law practice or is it merely “an oxymoron, for a corporate practice, not a personal one” as  written by blogger Doc Searls in his post, The Unbearable Lightness of Branding.

In Telling Lawyers to Build a Personal Brand May Be a Big Mistake, Kevin O’Keefe responded to Doc Searls by  stating, “Today it's "Building trust and maintaining a reputation matter. Calling both 'branding' is a categorical error.”

After reading both posts and having worked  with lawyers for ten years on branding, I passionately recommend that lawyers  focus on both their personal and law firm brands. My suggestion is to re-frame the question from:

“Should I build my personal brand?”
to
“What distinguishes me and my practice, what do I stand for, and who is my ideal client?”

The answer to these questions define your “story” that is, how you express your value to potential clients. Your "story" will establish  the foundation for defining your personal brand.

Personal brands fail for the following two reasons.

  • When the brand starts outside of yourself.  Too often lawyers focus more on their external persona verses who they truly are and what they stand for. This can lead to disastrous results.(Think Tiger Woods, Tony Hayward, the recently demoted CEO at BP and Elliot Spitzer.)
  •  When the brand is about self promotion verses an authentic commitment to making a positive contribution to your clients, colleagues and community.

A brand is not a persona or a “logo.” It is about building a reputation and doing remarkable work, living your values and consistently delivering on your brand promise.

One example of a successful personal brand is Don Schiller of Schiller DuCanto & Fleck LLP, who has created a brand as A Gentleman in a volatile practice area.

His brand enhances and is in direct alignment with his firms brand for unparalleled excellence. It also  distinguishes him as the “go to” family lawyer for  high profile clients among  the influential, wealthy and famous in Illinois. 

In a recent article, titled The Gentlemen, Don was described as:

“In the field of divorce law, it’s hard to escape from name-calling. The amazing thing about Don Schiller is that even at the top of the divorce field, the name he’s most regularly called is ’gentleman.’

Don Schiller has successfully built a personal brand: He knows who he is and  who his clients are, and he delivers on his brand promise every day.

A strong personal brand is about being authentic, knowing what you stand for, and consistently delivering on your brand promise. This includes building trust and maintaining a reputation in alignment with your brand.

The more defined your brand, the more you will distinguish yourself in a competitive market and attract the clients who value what you do best.

 

Law firm Marketing-Lessons Learned from a Successful Real Estate Guru

I often tell my clients that Law firm marketing requires a different approach than commercial product or service marketing. Lawyer marketing is about top of mind awareness, reinforcement of credibility and expertise, and becoming recognized as the “go to” lawyer in your practice area and geographic location.

It is true, lawyer marketing is different, however I just read a post from Success Magazine on Selling Like John Lennon by Darren Hardy that is extremely relevant to lawyer marketing.

In the article, Hardy tells a story about his successful real estate agent, John Lennon (not the famous Beatle), who has sold more than 15 billion dollars in the past 15 years in South Miami. The key to Lennon’s success is transferable to lawyers who want to accelerate their business. 

What separated Lennon from other real estate agents was his focus on finding out what was most important to the prospective client and then focusing like a laser on how to assure their most important goals or fears were addressed.  

The following is an excerpt from the post by Darren Hardy:

“One time, the building developer called me to ask what I had sold that day. I said, ‘I sold a $4 million parking space, a $2.8 million gym and spa access pass and a $6 million closet. And each came with an apartment included. The developer was perplexed, ‘What do you mean you sold a $4 million parking space?’ I explained that I had discovered that was what was most important to that person. He had vintage cars and had a bad experience in a previous building. I spent an hour explaining the security, safety and cleanliness of our underground parking and he couldn’t write the check fast enough.”

How does this relate to lawyers? Too often lawyers work too hard at marketing and spend too much time giving prospective clients too much information, offering too many options and never really communicating their understanding of the clients concern and their ability to solve the problem.

Just like the Realtor who goes on and on about the beautiful view when the client is more interested in the home security system, I have heard lawyers talk for an hour about the features of a specific process without communicating to the client how the features solve the clients problem. 

You can accelerate your practice by following the same success strategy that John Lennon used to sell 15 billion in real estate. The success strategy includes, asking questions, listening, observing and focusing on what is most important to your prospective client.

Tips for Talking to the Media About Your Law Practice

 You provide a high standard of service to your clients and produce positive results. Clients and referral sources benefit from your experience and expertise and often times tell you how much value and peace of mind you have provided them during a difficult or challenging time. You want to educate the public on your legal services and attract more clients who want what you do best. Unfortunately, in your community not enough people know about you and your law practice and the value it can provide.

A key strategy for increasing awareness about your law practice is media relations. Clients listen to and are influenced by what they read in the newspapers and Internet, see on the television or hear on the radio. A notable story about you or your legal service in a reputable publication can significantly increase the visibility and credibility of your law practice in your community.

How do you attract the media to notice your law practice?

You have two opportunities to attract the press. One is through initiating the story though a press release that you create or pitching a specific story concept to a reporter. The second is responding to a call from a reporter for a comment.  

The following tips will assist you in talking to the media for both opportunities.

1.    Speak to the interests of your audience. Focus on what your audience wants to hear verses what you want to say. Avoid talking about the features of your law practice.  You will increase your opportunity for success if your story is on the benefits (verses the features) of your law practice, is newsworthy and has a hook. Example

 2.    Provide a real life example of how your expertise has benefited clients. Reporters want to know, “how has it helped people?” What is working? Example

 3.    Know the media source- Research the reporter’s web site, publication or radio station. Who is the audience for the publication? What is important to this audience? Pay attention to the tone and view point of the media source. Is the view point consistent with your message?Example

 4.    Research the reporter- What is the reporter’s style of writing? A simple Google search will provide relevant information on the type of stories they have written before. Be careful when talking to a “gotcha” reporter. This type of reporter may be looking for a story that conveys a completely different message than you intended. 

 5.    Ask about the reporter’s deadline and agenda.  Clarify the reporter’s deadline and the focus for the interview. Call the reporter back before the deadline and take a few moments to organize your thoughts and write down talking points. Try to avoid “spur of the moment” interviews without advanced preparation. Remember everything you say can be quoted.

 6.     Avoid legal jargon. Try to stay away from too many academic terms and industry jargon. Journalists like to hear human interest stories that tell a story verses an institutionalized description about process. Example

 7.    Control the interview. Make a list of the points you want to make.  Try not to have more than three key talking points. Find every opportunity to deliver your key messages. Think in headlines and respond in quotes. Don’t just answer the reporter’s questions

Almost every one of my clients has a story to tell that is worth listening too and provides valuable information. Take the first step by telling your story through on-line press releases, calling your local media or writing articles for local and national publications.

By being media savvy you can maximize the opportunity to increase awareness of your law practice and position yourself as a leader in the industry.

 

How to Build Your ADR Practice?

This weekend I spoke at the17th Annual Northwest Dispute Resolution Conference in Seattle on how to create an ADR marketing plan.

I observed highly passionate professionals who wanted to build their practice and attract more clients so they can use their skills and expertise to help clients.  I also observed frustrations about marketing and building an ADR practice, including:

    • Not enough time
    • Lack of clarity on what to do first
    • Not sure how to identify their best clients or how to attract them.

Do these sound familiar?

The following are six tips for getting started on an effective marketing plan for your ADR practice:

1. Ask yourself, “What is my vision for my practice; what kind of work do I want to do? Why is this important to me? Write down the answer and then commit yourself to doing something every day to meet your vision. Commit yourself to excellence in your ADR practice, involvement in your community and confidence in how you communicate your brand.

2. Be selective about the work you accept. If you are constantly busy with work that is not consistent with your vision for your practice, it will be difficult to find the time or energy to grow the kind of work that will allow you to achieve your goals. Decide who your ideal client is and proactively attract this type of client to your practice.

3. Nurture and grow business from your top referral sources. Referrals come from people who know, like and trust you. The best way to gain trust is to develop a relationship with those who already know about you. This will require scheduling the time to get to know your referral sources and learning about their businesses and interests.

4. Provide remarkable service to your clients. Word-of-mouth marketing is by far the best marketing strategy for any service. The only way to get people talking about your service is to make the experience for clients remarkable -- then they will want to tell other people.

5. Have a web site that educates people about your law or ADR practice. Offer information that is of value to your prospective clients. Your message should connect at an emotional level with your target markets’ desired outcomes.

6. Share your success- help others learn and grow. The more you share your success and knowledge with other ADR professionals, the more they will learn and spread the ADR message.

I am interested in your success stories and challenges. I will blog about them and help you spread the word about your practice.

Effective Lawyer Marketing - Begin with Clarity on Results

If you want to motivate your team, firm or organization to achieve extraordinary results, read Seth Godin’s recent blog post, Achievable avalanche opportunities. In the post he writes what is required in a organization to get people excited to achieve remarkable results.

The two critical components to motivating a group include:

  1. Have clarity on the outcome ( results) you want to achieve.
  2. Select an outcome that is perceived as achievable.

He said it is highly difficult to get a group excited about “amorphous and ethereal” goals or about an outcome that is vague.

These components are nothing new and make complete sense once you read them. The key is to internalize there importance and put them into action.

How does this relate to effective lawyer marketing?

If you want to achieve break-through results in growing your practice or attracting desirable clients, your first step is to define the results you want to achieve.

Often times, this is the most difficult step in creating an effective lawyer marketing plan.

To answer this question, I recommend taking a step back from your day-to- day routine of serving clients, meeting deadlines and responding to urgent tasks to give deep and meaningful consideration to what defines success for your practice?

Gaining clarity on the results you want to achieve is the "proactive" work that allows you to build the kind of practice that gets you excited and helps you to motivate your group, firm or team to achieve extraordinary results.

Tell the world About You

One of the most effective approaches to growing your law practice is to apply the 80/20 rule or the “Pareto principle” to your marketing activities.

Knowing what the 20% high return activities are that will bring 80% of your results, is especially important for lawyers who are constantly struggling to find time to grow their practice. 

I was reminded of this principle as I read David Meerman Scott’s blog post today called About You. In the post Meerman talks about the lost opportunity of not having a well written bio or About Us page.

I'm amazed when someone writes a terrific blog or has a great Twitter feed (or a presence on some other social networking site) but fails to say who they are. Don't they want to stand out from the crowd?

Your blog's "about" page, your Twitter bio and the other places you interact on line are a great opportunity to say who you are! It is an essential element of personal branding. Don’t ignore the opportunity to tell the world about you.

Not only is a biography or “About “page important on your blog, LinkedIn or Twitter profile, but your biography page is one of the most frequently visited pages on your law firm’s web site.

What does you biography page say about you?

Your biography page should effectively communicate to prospective clients and referral sources:

• Who are the clients you serve?
• What is the value you provide clients?
• How do you differentiate your practice?
• What are your credentials and experience?

Answering the above questions will take time and can be challenging to summarize into a short synopsis. However the time you spend creating a biography that tells people "who you are"  and more importantly how you can solve their problems, will be a 20% high payoff activity that can produce 80% of your results. 

 

Marketing your law practice starts with charisma

In a recent blog post by Nick Morgan, Nick talked about the two critical elements to increasing your charisma.

The following are Nicks tips:

First, increase your authenticity.  And that means being absolutely aligned in what you say and how you say it – content and body language.  You can’t be authentic if those two modes of expression are not aligned.

Second, increase your passion.  Focus in yourself on how you feel about the moment, the people you’re with, the situation you’re in, and then express that (see #1).

 Working on these two steps will create a virtuous cycle that will increase your charisma quotient as you get more and more practiced at expressing emotion authentically.

Nick has simply and succinctly named two approaches that will not only increase your charisma but also increase your effectiveness to grow your law practice. Research shows that over 90% of what you communicate is non-verbal, this means that you must first be convinced about what you are saying before you can convince anyone else.

Assess you personal passion and belief in the value of your work. What can you do to increase your alignment between what you say and how you say it?

Seven simple and effective approaches for building your law practice

Building a successful law and collaborative practice does not have to be complicated or require you to give up your social life and the things that you enjoy.

The following is a list of simple and effective things you can do to grow your practice:

1. Routinely ask yourself, “What is my vision for my practice; what kind of work do I want to do? Why is this important to me? Write down the answer and then commit yourself to doing something every day to meet your vision. Commit yourself to excellence in your field, whether it is family law, finance, employment law,collaborative practice, etc.

2. Be selective about the work you accept. If you are constantly busy with work that is not consistent with your vision for your practice, it will be difficult to find the time or energy to grow the kind of work that will allow you to achieve your goals. Decide who your ideal client is and proactively attract this type of client to your practice.

3. Nurture and grow business from your top referral sources. Referrals come from people who know, like and trust you. The best way to gain trust is to develop a relationship with those who already know about you. This will require scheduling the time to get to know your referral sources and learning about their businesses and interests.
 
4. Provide remarkable service to your clients. Word-of-mouth marketing is by far the best marketing strategy for any service. The only way to get people talking about your service is to make the experience for clients remarkable -- then they will want to tell other people.

5. Have a web site  (and blog) that educates people about who you are, including what differentiates you and what is your "unique selling proposition" . Offer information that is of value to your prospective clients. Your message should connect at an emotional level with your target markets’ desired outcomes. A good resource for learning about creating a Blog is Lex Blog.

6. Share your success- help others learn and grow. The more you share your success and knowledge with other professionals, the more they will learn about you and your expertise.
 
7. Begin doing something towards building your practice today. The small events you do today will result in Big change for your practice in the future.
 

Strategy before tactics

I recently met with a partner at a law firm who asked me to assist him in placing an article he had  written.  He said a few of his partners had recently published articles in various publications and he thought he should be doing the same.

I asked, "what do you want to accomplish by writing and placing the article?" After a short conversation, he defined the results he wanted to achieve -he wanted to increase his visibility among targeted referral sources.

Once we clarified his objective, we formulated a strategy for increasing his visibility among targeted referral sources. We developed three tactics for achieving this goal. One of the tactics included writing and placing articles in targeted publications.

Strategy defines the results we want to achieve and tactics are the actions taken to achieve the strategy. Tactics can  include, launching a blog, attending networking events, creating a brochure, advertising, revising a web site, social media ( twitter, Linkedin, you tube, etc.) etc. See Kevin Okeefe's post Law firms mistakenly focus on social media tactics over strategy .

Clearly there is a difference between a strategy and a tactic and the key to achieving optimal results is to start with strategy before tactics. We all understand this basic concept yet, the majority of people will start with tactics before strategy. Why is this?

In this mornings post, When tactics drown out strategy Seth Godin lends great insight into answering this question. 

Most of us are afraid of strategy, because we don't feel confident outlining one unless we're sure it's going to work. And the 'work' part is all tactical, so we focus on that. (Tactics are easy to outline, because we say, "I'm going to post this." If we post it, we succeed. Strategy is scary to outline, because we describe results, not actions, and that means opportunity for failure.)

Lawyers and collaborative law practitioners are great at executing tactics. You know how to get things done. By starting first with strategy, you will achieve your desired results.