Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Next Top 5 Marketing Mistakes

More from Larry Bodine...

6. Why is a written plan necessary? Because it can be read by other lawyers, who can align their activities with your firm's overall goal. Writing also forces your 2firm to develop answers to questions such as: What makes us different from other firms? Why do clients hire us? Who are our target clients? What are the most profitable practices we should be promoting? What are our strengths? Weaknesses? What opportunities can we pounce on? Which competitors pose the biggest threats?

7. Don't get feedback from your clients. A recent survey by Boston's The BTI Consulting Group revealed that only 42% of firms have conducted a formal client satisfaction survey in the last two years. This means 58% of firms don't really know whether their clients are pleased with them or are about to fire them.

The only way to truly find out is to ask. Client feedback can take the form of an endof-matter survey tucked into the final invoice, or a questionnaire mailed to chosen clients, or a personal interview by the managing partner. All these approaches are good and will reveal a wealth of information.

Most clients like being interviewed, and, in fact, get feedback from their own customers. But firms often get tripped up in getting feedback because a partner may not want anyone else intruding on his or her relationship with the client.

Firms also are deathly afraid they might hear something negative. These are all bad reasons that get in the way of an extremely potent marketing approach.

8. Run Million-Dollar TV advertising campaigns. Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison did this with splashy commercials on CNN. Bad idea. Other variants include hiring an ad agency to design gorgeous ads that say nothing, or creating an effective advertisement, but running it only once or in a publication that is not read by target clients. Just like prescription medicine, advertising is very effective when used properly and in the prescribed dosage. Advertising is an art and science and people spend their careers learning it. Lawyers cannot master it overnight. That said, here's a 73-word tutorial: You can use advertising to buy your way into the consciousness of clients, but the ad must have a particular message. It must carry the firm's unique selling proposition. The frequency that the ad runs is also important, because it takes seven to 10 viewings by a reader to make a lasting impression. Finally, the firm should identify target clients and publish its ads in magazines that they read.

9. Use a compensation system that discourages marketing. At many firms, marketing is a distraction to lawyers, because they get compensated based on billable hours. At these firms, very little marketing happens. The rule is, "What gets rewarded gets done." You cannot run a marketing program based on lawyers being "good citizens" and voluntarily doing their part to market the firm.

The worst compensation systems are "Eat what you kill," rewarding lawyers only for new business they bring in. This is death to firmwide marketing. Most firms reward origination, giving a partner a lasting percentage of the fees generated from a new file she opens. But this rewards instant results--a lawyer is compensated only when the matter is opened. Marketing takes time and rarely shows immediate results. It can take a corporation two years to change its legal representation, and it may take dozens of meetings, seminars, mailings and RFPs. Firms should reward marketing 3activity, not just results. Marketing activity must come up during compensation reviews; no marketing, no reward.

10. Keep your marketing impersonal. Many firms buy advertising, put up a Web site, mail out newsletters, write articles and broadcast e-mails. But the firms fail to mix in any personal interaction. As a result the marketing is impersonal and gets few results. It's no good if all of a firm's marketing is done by remote control. Marketing is a contact sport, and lawyers must get out and visit clients, referral sources and prospective clients in person. Lawyers must be visible, give talks, appear on panels and be visible at trade shows. The more personal, the more effective the marketing.

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