When it comes to business development, the legal profession isn’t known for teamwork. It could be described more as track and field, rather than football. Each lawyer in the firm does what he or she does and at the end of the year they add up the score. Seldom is there strategy to leverage the skills of all the players. BUT… when there is, it’s a beautiful thing! The velocity of success is remarkable.

How can legal business development teams work better for the greater good? There are interesting examples in the digital world. Walter Isaacson, author and CEO of Aspen Institute writes an article on Linkedin… Why Steve Jobs Obsessed About Office Design(And, Yes, Bathroom Locations) that has a few insights for legal business development teams.

Isaacson writes…

Creativity is a collaborative process. As brilliant as the many inventors of the Internet and computer were, they achieved most of their advances through teamwork. Like Robert Noyce, the founder of Intel, some of the best tended to resemble Congregational ministers rather than lonely prophets, madrigal singers rather than soloists.

Twitter, for example, was invented by a team of people who were collaborative but also quite contentious. When one of the cofounders, Jack Dorsey, started taking a lot of the credit in media interviews, another cofounder, Evan Williams, a serial entrepreneur who had previously created Blogger, told him to chill out, according to Nick Bilton of the New York Times. “But I invented Twitter,” Dorsey said.

‘No, you didn’t invent Twitter,” Williams replied. “I didn’t invent Twitter either. Neither did Biz [Stone, another cofounder]. People don’t invent things on the Internet. They simply expand on an idea that already exists.’

He goes on to explain…

There is something special, as evidenced at Bell Labs, about meetings in the flesh, which cannot be replicated digitally. The founders of Intel created a sprawling, team-oriented open workspace where employees all rubbed against one another. It was a model that became common in Silicon Valley. Predictions that digital tools would allow workers to telecommute were never fully realized. One of Marissa Mayer’s first acts as CEO of Yahoo! was to discourage the practice of working from home, rightly pointing out that “people are more collaborative and innovative when they’re together.” When Steve Jobs designed a new headquarters for Pixar, he obsessed over ways to structure the atrium, and even where to locate the bathrooms, so that serendipitous personal encounters would occur. Among his last creations was the plan for Apple’s new signature headquarters, a circle with rings of open workspaces surrounding a central courtyard.

Another key to fielding a great team is pairing visionaries, who can generate ideas, with operating managers, who can execute them. Visions without execution are hallucinations. One of the great visionaries of the digital age was William von Meister, a flamboyant entrepreneur who launched a dozen companies and watched all but one flame out. The one that succeeded became AOL. It survived because von Meister’s investors insisted he bring in two people to execute on his vision: a former special forces commando named Jim Kimsey and a young marketing whiz, Steve Case.

“Visions without execution are hallucinations!” So true. A business development team has a much better chance to succeed than a single lawyer trying to get people to do what he or she needs done to land a new client. That’s a painful process.

Teamwork… contributions by all team members. Big and small. Results celebrated by all. This mentality will lead to a whole new level of success.

Give me a call today if you’d like to discuss how you can build a business development team that gets results.

Results! Let’s face it… why take on a business development initiative if it doesn’t produce results? What’s the point? Results include everything that gets you close to: increased visibility, increased credibility and increased business development. These are the bricks that create a solid foundation for your practice to grow.

It is my privilege to work with smart, committed lawyers… the key word here is COMMITTED. These lawyers have produced results because they are committed to growing their practice. Business development is not just something they do occasionally. They work on it every day, every week, every month. And we meet once or twice a month to monitor their progress, address issues and uncover new opportunities. I would like to share a few of the results that my clients have produced in 2011…

1. Doubled her revenue over the previous year (and plans to double it again in 2012.)

2. Became comfortable with blogging; found their blogging voice, followed through on their commitment to a schedule AND generated business.

3. Found passion in a new area of the law and is developing their practice around it.

4. Was recognized by his firm to be one of the firm leaders in his practice area.

5. Appeared on TV talk and news programs more than 6 times this year.

6. This lawyer stopped saying "I’m not good at networking!" Now realizes that she is GREAT at developing one-on-one relationships. She no longer dreads it but gets excited to have lunch with a referral source.

7. Was elected President of a local bar association… we created a plan and focused on winning.

8. Turned a casual agreement to have a conference call with a major player in a major out-of-town organization into a face-to-face meeting. Flying to Washington D.C. resulted in a deeper relationship that could not have been possible on a conference call.

9. Placed an article with a bar publication and positioned herself as "easy to work with, reliable and fast". Now she’s writing a regular column.

10. Named a "Lawyer To Watch In 2012."

11. Reached the 1st page of Google when one searches terms associated with their practice area.

12. Several small firms have forged relationships with other like-minded firms for the purposes of business development. Work is now flowing.

13. Made a firm commitment to business development… EVERYONE contributes in his or her way. Yes, EVERYONE from receptionist to managing partner.

These results could be YOURS! Commit to doing something every single day. Stay focused. Find your mentor, accountability partner or give me a call. In 2012 what do you want to achieve?

 

 

Last week I read a blog post by Seth Godin that has been on my mind for days. It’s sort of like that song you can’t get out of your head. Why? Well… first here is what Seth wrote…

"Dancing faster then ever, but why?

I just read a relentlessly snarky profile of the brilliant chef Charlie Trotter. Charlie is one of the pioneers of modern cooking, a gracious host and a perfectionist as well.

The Times is disappointed that he hasn’t opened chains of restaurants, made a fool of himself on reality TV or decamped to a more expensive building in Chicago. All he’s done, it seems, is mentor an entire generation of chefs, consistently create amazing meals and also donate once-in-a-lifetime, multi-course dinners for rising high school students in Chicago (150 times a year).

There will always be someone telling you that you’re not hip enough, famous enough, edgy enough or whatever enough. That’s their agenda. What’s yours?

Shun the non-believers."

Seth’s comments got me thinking. How many times have you minimized your accomplishments because someone made a comment about what they thought you should do… making you question your path? I would guess that it has happened more than once. Having a plan and a vision for where you are headed will insulate you from what Seth calls the "non-believers". 

There are a million and one paths to follow when it comes to marketing and business development… find yours and stick with it.

Expectations and results . How do you define them when you are embarking on a marketing and business development initiative? It’s not easy because the tendency is to define results as cases in the door. That is like judging success only by a million dollar check. And we both know that is unrealistic. 

I work with several clients on creating blogs and here is what I tell them to think about as their initial expectations and results…

1. Find a niche and write compelling posts… people will find you.

2. Be conversational and informative… people will want to return time and time again.

3. Post frequently on "Hot Topics"… Google will find you.

4. Be consistent and reliable… the press will recognize you.

5. Be patient… you build it and they will come.

CASE IN POINT

My client Miami attorney Rosa Schecter of Eckstsein Schecter Law saw her blog results hitting number one in a Google search (above big names such as ABC News and Bloomberg) on a recent hot topic after only one month of being live. Her blog, Florida Commercial News, which covers "Land, Development, Building and Business," in Florida, has also been picked up by Google under a general "commercial real estate Florida" search and turned up on page one (again beating big names) under the hot topic of home owners suing to get their foreclosed homes back. And last week Rosa got an email from a reporter at the Wall Street Journal requesting comment.

I call those RESULTS! Wouldn’t YOU? Have they turned into a case? No… not yet. But everything is falling into place so cases can’t be far behind.

Once you’ve answered Tuesday’s questions (and hopefully a few more of your own asking), you’ll be better able to rework and rethink your marketing plan to see even more results in the coming year. For instance… if you went the entire year without writing a single article but managed to reconnect with 5 old clients, it’s clear where your interest—and therefore—your strength lays. So increase your goal to reconnect with 8 old clients in 2011 and reduce your article goals. Another area that’s easy to rethink is that of referrals. How many did you give? How many did you get? Who were they to and from? Then alter that section of your marketing plan accordingly. It’s really that easy.

Black Pearl: In case you need a quick refresher in writing a plan, click here to browse through previous posts dedicated to the topic. And here’s a great—and short—thought on tactics versus strategy article from Jeff Berman at Law Marketing Monitor.
 

This week we asked you…
Where are you spending your law firm marketing budget?

Most of my legal marketing budget goes to:
1. Firm events – 42%
2. Advertising – 7%
3. Public Relations – 18%
4. Pet Projects/Community Organizations – 21%
5. Entertaining clients (lunch, dinner, sporting events, etc…) – 12%


My Thoughts:
As I mentioned on Tuesday, I usually advise clients to allocate about 3 to 4 percent of their gross revenue towards marketing and business development. But I always stress that firms and individuals spend cautiously, there are many traps that even the most marketing-savvy lawyers fall into. Here’s a quick rundown of my thoughts…

  • Events—a great way to build relationships (think seminars, open houses, political events) but be sure to keep it small and follow-up is a must if you want to see results.
  • Pet Projects—make sure to differentiate between sponsorships and contributions that fit into the firm’s strategic plan and those that simply take up time, resources and serve a small percentage of the firm.
  • Advertising—hold on to your cash unless you plan to devote significant planning to design, messages, and most of all, frequency.
  • Public Relations—Set a course and stick to it! It can build credibility if done right (see my Black Pearl below).
  • Golf, Lunch, Etc.—make sure you’re devoting that money to the people who make decisions… either to hire you or refer you business. As my friend likes to say, “Random acts of golf” are not marketing initiatives.

The key once again is to plan and stay true to that plan. It’s the most important piece of advice I can give.

Glenn Callison of Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harrs looks at his budget this way:

We have a zero-based budget approach that allows for special requests from individual lawyers. We start by asking, ‘Okay, how many exposures do we want out there and where do we want to be?’ We pull that information together, develop a media plan, and then look at sponsorship opportunities and event marketing. Then we pull all that together and analyze where we are as a percentage of total revenue, compare it to what we were doing in the prior year, and then plug it into the budget – knowing full well that there will be special requests from individual lawyers throughout the year that need to be accommodated.

Black Pearl: Need a little help with your public relations initiative? Here’s a great article I found on JD Supra by Jordan Furlong to help you get in the right mindset to write powerful articles about your cases.

The most important step in nurturing your referrals is figuring out who they are. Once you have a solid list it will make it easier to cultivate…

This week we asked you…Where are your referrals coming from?

1. existing clients –32%
2. former clients –15%
3. other lawyers –33%
4. business leaders –9%
5. friends –11%

Just as we thought, a total of 65% of your referrals come from your existing clients or other attorneys with another 15% from former clients. The remaining 20% seems to be about evenly split between business leaders and friends. Now that you’ve identified where the referrals are coming from, let’s talk about your plan to keep them coming!

My Thoughts: In my opinion there are two specific plans of action that all lawyers need to have when it comes to referrals. The first is how to generate them. Remember the basics when it comes to client service. Meaning: listen to their needs; respond quickly; avoid e-mailing and talk to them; inform them of interesting news relating to their industry or situation; develop a personal relationship; and manage their expectations by communicating your timelines and processes.

The second phase of the plan is to have a strategy in place when a referral comes in. My advice? Pick up the phone immediately and thank the referrer, then follow up with a card or small gift. Keep your source updated on any meetings with the new client and, when it turns into actual business, send another larger token of appreciation. Finally, send business back. Reciprocation counts for more than you might think.

My colleague Leslie Lott of Lott & Friedland says:

Lawyers refer their clients to attorneys who send work to them. Years ago, a good friend in New York called to send litigation work to our firm. He had worked with local counsel in Miami for many years. That lawyer was excellent, but had never referred work back to the New York lawyer. We had a client with a problem in New York and had sent the client to our friend. That was the catalyst for his sending his next case to us instead of the lawyer he had previously worked with who never sent him work.”

 

Black Pearl: For more on building your relationships you might want to take a look at Mark Maraia’s Relationships Are Everything! Growing Your Business One Relationship at a Time.” Highly recommended!

Relationships are the base of most successful marketing and business development efforts. If you make your interactions meaningful it will make your business development even easier…

This week we asked you: What aspect of your client service could you work on?

Results:

I could work on:

  1. More phone, less e-mailing – 30%
  2. Keeping up with my client’s industry news and trends – 7%
  3. Going to their place of business – 27%
  4. Asking for feedback – 16%
  5. Connecting on a personal level – 11%
  6. Giving them something for nothing – 9%

Not surprisingly, 30% are guilty of phone neglect! Another 27% need to work on going to visit your clients at their place of business. See a pattern? In order for client service to truly make a difference we need to abandon technology once in a while and get in front of our clients. On the other hand… bravo to all of you for being on top of client industry trends and news–a great way to keep in touch and show your interest and dedication.

My Thoughts: Though you may not recognize it, every time you interact with a client you’re marketing yourself. Take advantage of it. Here are a few of my tips for making the most of your client service:

  • Get in front of them! Nothing can replace face-to-face meetings.
  • Show an interest! Send them interesting articles that relate to their industry.
  • Prove you’re an expert! If a law that effects their business changes—let them know.
  • Take notes! It shows you’re paying attention and gives you a reference point for later.
  • Get feedback! Be direct and ask them what they think of your client service.
  • Pick up the phone! Take an e-mail break and let them hear your voice.

Lee Thuston of Burr & Forman shared this story:

In the end analysis, it’s all about relationships. I had a young lawyer that made a mistake with one of our clients. She was upset because she let something get by that was going to cost the client some money (but not a great deal). I called up the general counsel and said, ‘Hey Joe. I’m sitting here with Mary who tells me she let this deadline get away from her.’ I quantified that it was going to be about X-thousand dollars and that I’ll take it off next month’s bill. He said, ‘Okay, I really appreciate you calling.’ I looked at her and said, ‘That’s called having a good relationship.’ First of all, I called the client and brought the situation to his attention. He might never have known about it, but it’s better to tell him up front. That keeps our integrity intact. Was he happy about it? No. But was he really upset? No.

Black Pearl: For a daily dose of client service commentary stop by Patrick Lamb’sIn Search of Perfect Client Service” blog.

When it comes to legal marketing the name of the game is visibility and credibility. There is no better place for you to be than the first page of Google…

The Question of the week was: When you Google your name… of the ten links on the first page… what percentage are yours?

Results

  1. 0-20% – 67%
  2. 30-40% – 28%
  3. 50-60% – 4%
  4. 70-80% – 0%
  5. 90-100% – 1%

My Thoughts: 67% of you have less than 2 links on the first page of Google… NOT GOOD! Owning your name on Google’s first page is an extremely important asset to have, since we have all become very impatient when we are searching… if we can’t find things INSTANTLY we move on. So, we have to make it as EASY as possible for people to find us. And that does NOT mean via all those useless directories that don’t  have your information complete or accurate. YOU need to drive this information… your credibility is at stake.

If you are fortunate enough to have a very unusual name you don’t have to work as hard as Dan Harris, who posted a comment on Tuesday’s blog post. He has the exact same name as an ABC News Reporter/ Anchor. Dan I Googled you and found three links on the first page. Good for you, you have found a crack, and have proven that it CAN be done. Articles can be the hammer you use to break through even more.

As I like to tell my clients: 50 articles online makes you a prolific writer, 50 articles online about international law makes you an expert. Also look closely at WHERE you are posting. Sites like JD Supra are great since they cater exclusively to the legal profession and can lead to referrals. In addition, they feature their authors in their newsletters, which is added exposure.

Here’s some advice from Bud Clarke of Clarke, Silverglate & Campbell:

Publish articles in specialty publications likely to be read by people who can refer you business. Then make sure those publications are referenced and easily accessible on your website.


Black Pearl: Do you want to own your name on Google as I have done? Then I have a gift for you… my E-Book "Be A Celebrity In Your Own World" and it’s FREE for you to download. It’s a quick read… 10 minutes and It details my four step strategy.

Welcome back… On Tuesday we asked the questions… How have you spent your marketing time in the past and how do you plan to spend it in 2010?

Results

Question #1: In the PAST I spent time on: 

  1. my referral base – 33%
  2. client service – 20%
  3. blogging – 0%
  4. social media – 0%
  5. Bar involvement – 43%
  6. industry organizations – 0%
  7. not much – 4%

Question #2: In 2010 I PLAN to spend time on: 

  1. my referral base – 29%
  2. client service – 25%
  3. blogging – 5%
  4. social media – 10%
  5. Bar involvement – 30%
  6. industry organizations – 1%
  7. not much – 0%

My Thoughts: It is understandable that in the past 43% of your marketing time has been spent on Bar involvement since that is the comfort zone for lawyers. In 2010 let’s breakout of the comfort zone. Hats off to the 4% who were honest and marked NOT MUCH.

Now for the breakdown of  where you PLAN to spend your time, I was pleased to see the balance shift a bit to client service since that is a great source of new business… and the interest in blogging because I think it can be a valuable tool.

This list will help you focus while considering what to include in your plan. If you start with too much you’ll just end up spinning your wheels. Your goals and strategies must be realistic and achievable… you can always add to the plan later. As a rule I like to tell clients to state strategies and tactics that are specific, measurable and achievable within one year.

Simon Ward of Piper Alderman sees it like this:

Don’t aim too high in your marketing strategy—bagging elephants is a Herculean task—but select small, reasonably achievable targets and chip away at them. Small successes can build to bigger things.

Black Pearl: For more in-depth information on personal brands you may want to look into Tom Peters’ book “The Brand You 50: Or: Fifty Ways to Transform Yourself from an ‘Employee’ into a Brand That Shouts Distinction, Commitment, and Passion!