Monday, September 29, 2014

The Managing Partner’s Nightmare: Leaving Money on the Table

In our over 20 years of marketing law firms, one of the most often expressed concerns by managing partners is a fear that they are leaving money on the table.  By this, they are usually referring to the fact that clients are associating the firm and/or individual attorneys with specific areas of focus, rather than as a resource for resolving any of a number of legal matters.  This is typically seen in the client who contracts with a law practice for one legal matter and then walks down the street to contract with another regarding a different legal concern.

Part of this may stem from compensation arrangements that do not reward internal cross-promotion and part may simply be a function of internal politics and territoriality.

So how does the growth-inclined law practice avoid the dreaded “’shoulda’s’ ‘woulda’s’ and coulda’s?’”

The answer lies first in creating a culture in which the firm moves from a practice area orientation to a problem-solving one. Such an orientation often requires re-educating personnel that the firm’s major focus really is on just helping people. Administrative and human resource matters should be approached with that mindset and compensation should, in large part, be based on each attorney’s capacity to do just that. That means rewarding individuals not just for the work they bring in or the work that they do, but also for the work, internal or external, that they can bring to another member of the firm’s staff. Further, in some cases, an interdisciplinary team approach to client problem-solving should be considered. And processes should be put into place that allow firm attorneys to regularly be made aware of the legal matters in which their brethren are involved. 

Second, law firms must do a better job of educating both prospects and clients as to the full range of their legal services. This means developing the kinds of materials – both online and off, which easily convey the many ways in which the firm can be of service. Specific areas of the firm’s legal expertise that are buried deep inside a firm brochure or web site do little in communicating how the firm can help an individual or business in more ways than they might have otherwise thought. Instead, law practices – particularly those with disparate areas of focus, should consider development of collateral materials that highlight its portfolio of services upfront. Ditto for the firm web site.  Often, it is not enough for such content to be place under some “Practice Area” button. That’s because the individual looking for assistance on a family law matter may never even bother to see whether the firm can also help him on his pending bankruptcy. Ditto for the corporation seeking help with transactional matters, but not knowing (or bothering finding out) that the firm can also handle matters of litigation as well.

One way in which we have seen law firms address such issues is through the development and dissemination of e-newsletters. Here, what matters most is not the actual content (though it should still be well thought-out and well-written), but rather the subject line on the address and the title of the main article. Recipients may never actually even read the content, but even in rejecting it, will nonetheless still be exposed to other services the firm provides. The goal here is not to drum up business immediately (though its been known to happen), but to plant the seeds among the firm’s database for that day when the need for a particular service does arise.

Finally, in an age where everyone is (or should be) self-publishing, it is easy to communicate the individual skill sets of specific attorneys. What is mandated however, is ensuring that the ways in which such messages are disseminated, show a consistent regard for the firm at large. This means incorporating the firm’s logo, tag line, contact information (and possibly even practice areas) into individual  online communications. Ultimately, it is the sum of all communications that serves as the face (and even the essence) of the organization.

This is the first in a 5-part series on the concerns most often expressed by managing partners and legal marketers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Marrying IT with the Legal Marketing Function

Businesses of all kinds have historically had a difficult time reconciling the respective roles of those in the marketing and in the accounting/financial departments. It has always been understood that marketing should “pay out,” yet those who performed that function had difficulty articulating how each element of their program contributed (for better or for worse) to the company’s bottom line.

Now however, that “fuzziness” of respective roles has carried over into the IT department as well. Marketers of all kinds (and legal marketers in particular) might well ask where marketing begins and ends.   More often than not, in today’s information driven society, it begins and ends at the desk of the firm’s technical guru. 

For proof, one need look no further than the importance CRM software plays in the business development process.  If attorneys (particularly at larger firms) had to procure, understand, implement, train and then utilize such applications on their own, it is doubtful this technological advance would be as widespread as it is today. Same holds true for the marketing guys who may well understand how to develop a message, place an ad, disseminate a press release or even create a pay-per-click campaign, but who at the same time, would have difficulty recognizing the compatibility of one legal application with another.

So much of legal marketing today revolves around online activities. Yet it is the IT folks who understand the benefits (and limitations) of the various social media outlets, the changing algorithms involved in search engine optimization, the capabilities of online dissemination services, and the potential of the firm’s web site to convey everything the firm wishes to convey.

The law firm that places too great a distinction between marketing and information technologies runs the very real risk of inefficiency, but even more important, is almost certain to miss out on opportunity.  A much wiser approach is to promote the full integration of the IT folks into the marketing decision making process.

By doing so, law firms are almost certain to discover ways in which to efficiently stand out from competitors through both substance and style. And even in the information age, “standing out” is still what marketing is all about.

Don’t agree? Or maybe you do. Either way, I’d like to hear from you. Very interested to hear how your firm has or hasn’t integrated the IT and marketing functions.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Legal Marketing: How to Engage Your Prospect

Years ago, legal marketers only had to concern themselves with communicating the firm message to as many qualified prospects as they could, as many times as they could.

My, how times have changed.

Today, simply reaching prospects is no longer enough. Law firms now need to interact with them. By interaction, we mean any activity that begins to establish a relationship between the firm and the potential new client, thereby reducing the individual’s perceived risk. There are any of a number of ways in which to promote such interaction, among them:

  • Personal Networking
  • Posting on Social Media Sites
  • Participating in Online Groups
  • Offering Free White Papers
  • Webinars
  • Offering E-Newsletter Subscriptions
  • Requesting Survey Input
  • Offering Survey Results
  • Seminars

Each of these activities has inherent advantages and drawbacks depending on the type of practice area and the unique situation of the firm itself. For example, personal networking is probably the most effective, but requires a great deal of time and limits the number of prospects one can reach.  Similarly, a seminar provides a terrific means for conveying expertise and gaining the trust of potential clients, but usually costs considerably more than its webinar counterpart. In implementing the latter, most of the logistical issues of time, place and location are moot. Yet webinars lack the opportunity for face-to-face interaction that a seminar provides.

Determining which method or methods for promoting interactivity is best for a firm is not difficult.  Much more challenging is making the actual commitment towards some type of such initiative – particularly when each carries with it inherent costs of time and/or dollars. Nevertheless, today, where we live in such a cynical age, it is important that legal marketers do all they can to minimize that perceived risk and thereby lower the hurdles of turning prospect into a real, live, paying clients.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Leveraging The Media Coverage You’ve Already Received: How To Keep It Going

Last week we discussed how to recognize whether the new case that has come across your desk is “PR-worthy” -- whether it offers a story that might interest editors and producers, thus generating publicity for you and your firm?

But what happens after that case has made the news? What happens after you’ve been interviewed, filmed or videoed, and asked every silly question under the sun?  How do you leverage that experience to enhance your visibility?

The answer lies in understanding the very nature of public relations. When it comes to publicity, the more you have, the more you’ll get. And when you think about it, that actually makes a lot of sense. Just as your legal credentials allow potential clients to feel comfortable in your ability to represent them, so do your media credentials allow producers, editors and reporters to feel comfortable using you as a source for a story or as a respected “expert.” If you have been a central figure in a major event, have been articulate in presenting facts or opinions and have proven to be credible, the perceived risk of using you for future stories is dramatically reduced.  That is why we always suggest that our law firm clients be willing to speak to anyone, anywhere – even if that media outpost is a small hometown paper or radio station. They provide the foundation for bigger and better media “hits” in the future. The strategy is to build up enough of such hits so that, just like a resume, the reader is persuaded about your knowledge in a particular subject area. Keep in mind also, that the media watches the media. There is nothing that prevents them from reaching out to an individual that they have seen interviewed or written about elsewhere.

The notion of “particular subject area” is also important. Yes, you are an attorney, but that does not make you the ideal person to speak with on every aspect of the law.  You know your niche. Focus on it.  If, for example, you previously handled a big pharmaceutical liability case that generated a large amount of media attention, then anything that involves similar matters (be they new cases, new statutes, new research, etc.) becomes an opportunity to further highlight your expertise. Send pitch letters to the media that describe your story idea or opinion. And be sure to highlight your involvement in that previous “big case” along with the associated media coverage you received.

Once you have established substantive media credentials, (i.e., you’ve garnered quite a few articles, interviews, stories, etc.) it is not a bad idea to trumpet such in ongoing media pitch letters, on the firm’s web site and/or in online or offline media kits disseminated to a carefully developed list of media contacts.

In summary then, the notoriety you’ve gained on the “big case,” should be augmented with whatever additional exposure you can create – big or small.  Eventually, you will have enough mass to become the media’s “go to” guy on a particular subject.  And at that point, you won’t have to worry too much about reaching out to the media. They’ll be chasing after you!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Recognizing PR Opportunities

It happened! It finally happened!

It’s the “big” case… the one you always dreamed about when you imagined yourself as part of L.A. Law or if you’re a bit older, when you pictured yourself out-litigating Perry Mason.

The “big” case can be great for the ego and it can potentially be even better for the pocketbook. But as important, the “big” case represents a unique opportunity to shout to the world all that’s great about yourself and/or your firm.  Unfortunately, the “big” case doesn’t come around all that often, so when it does, it is critical that the growth-conscious law practice be prepared for how best to leverage this moment in the spotlight.

The first step in this process is to recognize if and when you are or are about to be working on the “big” case. Sometimes, this is done for you. When hordes of media folk are knocking down your door, you can be sure you’ve landed the big one. For anything less than the “sexiest” of stories, it will probably be you reaching out to the media, not the other way around.

There are times however, when the opportunity in front of you may not be as obvious. This requires a careful assessment of every case that comes across your desk. Try to think like a producer or editor. Will this case excite their viewers or readers? Some things to consider:

  • Is the case breaking new legal ground? 
  • If it’s not setting new legal precedent, is it the kind of case that’s setting “cultural” precedent? For example, we recently got one of our attorney clients on the Today show for a case she was handling that involved cyber-bullying via social media. 
  • If it’s not setting “cultural” precedent, can it perhaps play off another case that’s already in the news?  If, for example, a new pharmaceutical made the news because it was recently found to be responsible for consumer deaths, then case involving other dangerous drugs may also make for a good augment to this story.

Other ideas?  Obviously, sex always sells. As do cases involving celebrities.  During the manslaughter trial of basketball star Jayson Williams, one of our attorney clients was interviewed on a regional radio station for his take on the proceedings. This would not be so unusual were it not for the fact that this attorney was a family law practitioner who did not practice criminal law.  Yet he was the “go to” guy because he had been in the news many times before and had established a reputation for himself as an articulate subject for interview and a credible “expert.”

That example then begs some further questions… Once you have obtained that big case, how do you leverage it? How do you use that experience to boost up your media credentials?  And how does this exposure help your practice’s bottom line?

And those are exactly the questions we’ll address in our next issue.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Practical Application of “The History of Client Origin.”

Since the beginning of the year, we have focused on a new, and we believe, more accurate way of assessing the effects of disparate marketing vehicles and strategic approaches. By tracing the origin of its clients, today’s law firm can harness a wealth of information on the effectiveness of each and all of its marketing initiatives. By accessing this data, it can thus make informed decisions as to the short and long- term benefits future marketing endeavors may or may not provide. Application of this model can also help marketing decision makers determine which practice areas to emphasize in promotional efforts and which attorneys to assign the task of business generation. Tracking this history allows firm decision makers to compare non-linear marketing activities (e.g., image advertising, brochures, web sites) with more direct and more easily measurable activities. Finally, this methodology takes into account the powerful role referrals have in the overall health of a law firm and thereby also provides a gauge as to the perceived quality of the firm itself.

Nevertheless, to conduct such an analysis by hand is neither practical nor realistic. Consider for example the law practice that has been in business for over a century, that has served thousands of clients, hundreds of which have come through referrals and all of which have helped to build the firm to its current state. The pathways and permutations thereof could well venture into the millions -- not the kind of analysis of which even the most ambitious of marketing decision makers would most likely be willing to undertake.

The problem of practicality is easily addressed however, through technology that can track the path by which every client came to the firm and thus the relative ROI and Aggregate ROI for any marketing activity over any period of time. Hence, the problem is not with having the capability of obtaining the output for such analyses, but with obtaining the proper input.

Etiometrix, LLC just announced the launch of RainGauge, the first application that utilizes the History of Client Origin methodology to track law firm marketing ROI. (Full disclosure:  We have been working with the technical software people to develop this application.) It limits the intake process to a single question, asking new clients to select from a list of activities by which they have read, seen, heard or learned about the firm. It even captures referrals. Most important, the program provides legal marketers with the opportunity to view their firm’s marketing and business development initiatives from the most detailed to the most holistic perspective possible.

If you would like more information on the RainGauge application, visit or call 856-810-2127.

And we certainly welcome your comments, questions and general feedback on this recent series of posts regarding the proprietary methodology History of Client Origin.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Which Marketing Activities Are Most Influential in the Decision to Hire an Attorney or Law Firm?

At A.L.T. Legal Professionals Marketing Group, we wanted to know what types of marketing activities (including referrals and personal networking) influenced the people who, in the past, have actually had to decide on which attorney or law firm to hire.

Hence, we conducted an online survey, the objectives of which were two-fold:
  1. To determine which marketing and business development activities played a role in individuals’ decision to hire or contract with a particular attorney/law firm
  2. To ascertain the level of influence each of these activities had in the decision-making process