In today’s TechnoLawyer BlawgWorld post, the editors point to an article appearing in the Arizona Republic that details how a pair of Phoenix personal injury lawyers are using tablet devices to improve communication with their clients.
Improving client communication, from telephone and email messaging to document collaboration to invoicing and bill payment, have long been topics of discussion by attorneys and legal vendors alike. For more than 25 years practice management vendors have heralded their products as a solution. Claims such as ‘having all of your client’s information at your fingertips…’ had been made ad nauseum, but having the information is not the same as using it. And now finally, attorneys are beginning to appreciate the necessity of good client service.
iPad and smartphone applications are making the transition from traditional computing to mobile computing fairly seamless. As legal technology product and service providers, we need to take a hard look at our offerings and determine how we can help our legal clients become part of the ‘communication revolution’.
On a separate and personal note, I’m glad to be back to blogging after a long silence. For those of you that sent your condolences, I want to thank you for your support following the death of my father. He was truly a role model and source of inspiration for me. These have been dark days and it has been much harder for me to focus on business than I ever expected. The good news is I’m excited to be back.
In the previous posts, I focused on how being too close to the business and how time/priority limitations both pose serious challenges for many legal service providers. In this final post, I’ll concentrate on the infrastructure necessary for measuring results.
Marketing is more science than art. In the legal vertical it’s not about winning awards for the best (read pretty) artwork, nor the company that throws the biggest party at a conference, it’s about strategy, executing the strategy, and the end-of-the-day results. Knowing what’s working (and doing more of it) and what’s not (and doing less of it) is the key to marketing success.
Why is it so difficult for DIY marketing to succeed?
1. Failing to build a proper foundation
Creating an integrated marketing strategy that is appropriate for your market segment is commonly overlooked by DIY marketers. Looking down the road through to an exit strategy makes good sense even for the earliest of start-ups. After all, how many races are won by runners who haven’t studied the course? Whether it’s a sprint or a marathon, you have to have a clear vision of where you’re going in order to get there in the shortest possible time.
Identifying the mid-points helps you keep a check on the results and adjust both your goals and strategies. Knowing what you want to achieve and when gives you the tools to analyze and improve your results.
2. Lacking the time and/or proper tools to measure results
One of my early mentors taught me to measure, measure, and measure. It was invaluable advice then, and it’s even more valuable now. Most DIY marketers I speak with have little or no knowledge of or access to the metrics they need to make sound marketing decisions. Without them, how do you determine what is a cost-effective investment, and what’s not. Understanding customer acquisition costs, customer lifetime values, and how those costs impact your marketing efforts is critical to reaching your goals.
You don’t necessarily need expensive or sophisticated tools, but you do need a clear understanding of what you’re trying to achieve. How many leads do you need to get one sale? What are the best tactics to achieve your goals? How does branding fit in to the equation? All are important questions to ask and answer before you spend another marketing dollar.
The science of marketing doesn’t have to be a full time job, but it does require the focus and market knowledge of an experienced marketing professional. If you don’t have the qualifications, it may be time to find one. Your company’s success depends on it.
This is the second post in this series. The previous post can be found here.
If you’ve got plenty of time on your hands to develop and implement your marketing strategy, this information doesn’t apply to you. But, in my experience most company executives and entrepreneurs suffer from a common malady…there’s only 24 hours in a day.
How does this limitation negatively impact your DIY marketing?
1. You’re not leveraging your resources
Building and managing a successful business is about leveraging resources. Many executives make the mistake of thinking that their college Marketing 101 course qualifies them to do the strategic analysis necessary to properly position their offerings. Or worse, they hire a low-cost recent graduate with no real-world or legal specific experience.
Marketing can become a revolving door. Executives hire a marketing person, expecting them to know their product and service offerings and ‘hit the ground running’. Most often the honeymoon period ends early and the company is back to square one. Marketing to the legal vertical is different. Using a legal marketing specialist to validate strategies and positioning and help create a logical plan is a wise investment in your business.
2. You can only handle so many #1 priorities
Most executives I meet are flooded with multiple priorities. They’re wearing lots of hats, filling several roles, and let’s face it; they haven’t got the time to dedicate to developing, implementing, and analyzing a successful strategy and plan.
Marketing planning is an intensive discipline. I personally recommend to my clients that they ‘start at the end’. By determining upfront what they want to accomplish over a given period, we are able to develop strategies and plans to reach their goals. Having specific goals allows us and them to monitor progress.
3. Your marketing becomes reactive rather than strategic
It’s easy to get sidetracked with marketing:
• Sales are off and you need to do something to fix it now
• A call comes in to sponsor a new event
• Your competitor is speaking on a panel or exhibiting at a conference
and you need to be there too
Now you’re reacting. Instead of developing a strategy, creating a plan, implementing the plan, and measuring the results, you’re all over the place. You need help filtering the noise and figuring out what actually fits into your overall strategy.
To be successful at DIY marketing you need to make it a priority, find the time to dedicate to marketing, and have the expertise and discipline to create and follow a strategic plan. If you can’t make these commitments, you’ll be hard-pressed to succeed in fulfilling your goals.
If you’re using email as part of your marketing strategy, you need to be aware that Canada has enacted a significant new Anti-Spam Law. The legislation, now known as Canada’s Online Protection Legislation (CLOP) is significant in that:
- It contains an express affirmative opt-in condition. If you’ve got a form with an opt-out, it needs to be changed to a specific opt-in if you’re marketing in Canada.
- Large fines may be imposed (up to $1 million per violation).
- The legislation applies not only to email, but also to a number of other communication methods, including SMS, IM, and social media.
Enforcement is scheduled to commence this fall. Marketers would be wise, at a minimum, to start scrubbing lists to eliminate addresses that have not expressly opted in, and review their marketing forms. In addition, privacy policies may require review…your legal and/or compliance teams will be able to assist.
A good high-level review of the the new law and a link to the full text of the legislation appears on ClickZ.
This post is the first in a series.
For nearly 10 years I’ve worked with companies that sell products and services to lawyers. In that time, I’ve spoken with many executives that decided they either couldn’t afford outside marketing/business development assistance or they knew enough to continue tackling their marketing challenges internally.
Early in our conversations, when discussing their goals, they most often cited a desire to build their revenues to a size that would allow them to attract acquisition partners, or they wanted to increase profitability. And yet today, most of those DIY companies continue to struggle to grow or survive. They do so without a plan, and often market by the ‘seat of their pants’.
So, here are 3 reasons why DIY doesn’t work in the legal industry:
1. You lack objectivity
Let’s face it. For many legal entrepreneurs, your product or service isn’t just your business, it’s your baby. You’ve developed it because of a void you identified in the market…and if it works for you, it must be good for others. But successfully marketing and building a business takes more than good ideas and passion. It requires the ability to evaluate market forces with neutrality
2. You’ve become your own focus group
You’re the expert; nobody knows your product/service as well as you. Time and again, I’ve encountered companies that are so convinced of the benefits of their product/service that they fail to listen to their market. Plus, in an ever-changing communications landscape you may not be connecting with your prospects using the channels they prefer. Successful companies find a way to involve their customers and their prospects in both their product development and their communications.
3. Your personal preferences
An early mentor taught me that the only personal preferences that ever matter are those of your customers and prospects, not your personal preferences. Everything from messaging, to marketing channels, to imagery, to the use of color and type style must be geared to your buyer persona(s). Take yourself out of the equation and put yourself into the shoes of your prospects. Will your marketing appeal to them?
To summarize, DIY marketing won’t work if you’re too close to your business. You’re the expert at what you do, but can you honestly stay abreast of all the changes to the marketing mix? And can you afford to take your own advice?
In the last month Charlie Sheen has been grabbing headlines and airspace at a dizzying speed, and not necessarily for the best of reasons. Yet, his stock has likely never been higher. Consider that Mr. Sheen logged a Guinness World Record for amassing more than one million followers on Twitter in less than 24 hours. No less than a week after starting to post, @charliesheen already has exceeded two million followers.
It’s no matter whether you agree/sympathize with him or not, he is yet another example of how our society continues to become more and more social. In fact, I doubt he cares one bit whether his followers agree or disagree with his outlook or life style.
What Does This Mean for Legal Vendors?
Communications and marketing as we’ve known them for decades (including the evolution of email) is changing faster than we may want to accept. Mr. Sheen’s motivation/strategy for joining the Twittersphere isn’t important, but you can be certain that his future/former employers are absolutely taking notice of his following. I for one won’t be surprised to see his sitcom return to production.
The message here…if we don’t get onboard, we’ll be left behind. While it may feel comfortable to doubt the validity of social communication, particularly in the legal community, the world has changed and lawyers and the companies that provide products and services to them need to change with it.
If you haven’t yet embraced social communication, you need to join the new world order. But do so with a strategy…you can bet Charlie Sheen has one.
In all of the years that I’ve worked in the legal industry, I’ve repeatedly heard how slow business is in December. While nobody likes a party or down-time more than me, I’ve found December presents a few unique opportunities:
1. Take Advantage of the Impulse Buy – If your product or service is appropriate for impulse buyers, develop an offer that takes advantage of end of year-end tax spending. Small firms often look to increase deductions at this time of the year. Create a special offer that expires before December 31st and send it to all of your unconverted leads. You just might be surprised at the uptick in sales.
2. Its Not Too Late to Plan – If you’ve been too busy to worry about a ‘plan’ for next year, now’s the perfect time. With the activity slowdown, this is an excellent opportunity to get some quiet, thinking time. Start big, with your overall goals, and ask yourself this question “what does success in 2011 look like?” Once you’ve got that answer, start breaking it down into the pieces and the timing. Whether you’re starting with revenue, users, clients, or income per customer/client, identify the goal and then work backwards to incorporate milestones and build your plan. Write it down…if the plan exists only in your head, the chances of success are significantly reduced.
3. Learn Something New/Do Something New – Social marketing is more than just buzz. Failure to incorporate a social strategy into your marketing program is certain to result in a negative impact on your business in 2011. But where to start? A website update, a blog, SEO, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are all viable options. Pick one…they each have their own strengths…and commit to it. Incorporate it into your plan and set aside some time to learn the benefits and figure out how to make it work for you. There’s a wealth of information (much of it free) online to help you get started.
At this point it isn’t what you do that’s important…it’s doing something! Use your ‘down-time’ wisely and when next December 2011 comes around, you’ll appreciate the results. That’s how I’m planning to spend my December slow-down.
A recent post on BtoB Online reports that despite an initiative by the CMO Council to close the chasm between sales and marketing, it continues to exist. For example, a senior VP of product marketing at one financial software company was recently quoted as saying:
“Sales and marketing are typically out of sync or—at worst—are undermining each other. Even at very senior levels where there is a deeper ownership, there can be a less-than-collegial environment.”
It’s the same old story, marketing complains that the sales team isn’t doing enough to close good leads, and sales complains that marketing’s efforts result in poorly qualified leads or inadequate materials/support. Even in smaller companies where the organizational lines are blurred the tendency is for one group to lay blame on the other.
In BtoB’s article, it is suggested that marketing staff accompany salespeople on sales calls. I couldn’t agree more…there’s nothing like live interaction to help define not only the prospect’s needs, but also clarify in the marketer’s mind the supporting information the salesperson needs.
And What About Those Leads?
Are the leads produced by your marketing efforts the right ones? It’s not about the quantity, it’s about generating quality prospects for the sales team. It’s all about working backwards, starting with results:
- How many ‘qualified’ leads must you produce to generate the desired close-ratio?
- What is the persona of a qualified lead?
- Where can you find qualified leads?
Are the numbers realistic and achievable? If not, revise your projections…don’t pad the numbers with inappropriate leads just to make the first part of the equation work.
After days, weeks, and months of developing a new or updated web presence most of us think we know exactly the message we’re sending to our visitors, but do we?
Typically, internal groups are so involved in the process that it becomes difficult to maintain perspective. And then there are the other influencers (including senior management) that want to be certain their opinions are incorporated. What if you had a low-cost method for validating your messaging?
In a post last week, Entrepreneur Daily Dose identified a new app that allows you to get the input you need to verify visitors are receiving the proper messages. This new app, called Clue, lets you quickly set up an interactive test, creating a unique URL that you can share with customers, clients, employees, and other influencers. It’s simple and easy for everyone. You’ll ask them to take a 5-second test, you’ll receive valuable feedback about the site…and best of all, it’s Free!
I tried Clue on the LVS website with a very limited sampling just to make certain it worked, and it does. The test is live for 24 hours, and takes just seconds to set up. You’ll be assigned a unique URL for both the test and the results. Simply send the test link to a group of contacts and monitor the results. One caveat, the test captures a static image, so if your page contains flash or other animation, only the initial image will be included in the test.
While Clue can’t help you develop your messages, it can certainly confirm whether or not they are being received by your target audience.
Creating or updating a website is often the catalyst for an in-depth analysis of your positioning.
Earlier this year, we wrote about our experience updating our website. Take a look at When is a Website More Than a Website? for the process we used (we treated ourselves as if we were clients) and some of the issues we faced. If we’d known about Clue then, we could have used it to help speed our efforts.
Planning for LegalTech New York is in full swing at many companies. The 2011 event promises to kick-off a year full of innovation as the legal industry continues to grapple with changes to its business model.
Practice efficiency, alternative billing, and cloud computing are just a few of the topics on the table. New technology companies are teeing up their product launches and long-time industry leaders are revisiting their offerings to assure they remain competitive. Where do you fit in?
Something for everyone
With 50% of the attendees representing small and mid-sized firms, and the balance large and mega firms, there’s plenty of attendees for everyone. Small and mid-sized firms are receiving more attention from companies that just a couple of years ago were chasing large law firms or corporate legal department clients.
Will you be ready?
Every year, I hear a handful of exhibitors complain that LegalTech is too expensive and they just didn’t get enough value from their participation. Inevitably some of them drop out and don’t return. Almost without exception, they are the companies that show up, set up their booths and wait for an onslaught of new business…that’s their mistake. Like any marketing effort worth doing, planning needs to go beyond designing and shipping your booth and ordering ‘chotchkies’. The most successful companies start at the end…defining success. They ask themselves:
- At the end of the show, how will we quantify our success (i.e. # of new prospects, # of meetings, client meetings, new business partnership opportunities, etc.)?
- What pre-show activities do we need to undertake to assure success? Plan your outreach to accomplish your goals…don’t expect LegalTech to do all of your work for you.
- What’s our post-show plan? Know before you board the plane exactly how you’ll follow-through on your new business opportunities.
There’s no better time than now to start working on LegalTech 2011
If you haven’t started your LegalTech 2011 planning, or you haven’t committed to your space yet, there’s no time like today! January 31st will be here sooner than you think.