My latest LPM tip in the MBA’s Lawyer’s eJournal.
If you are willing to take a more objective look at how Obama and Romney have conducted themselves during the first two debates (to the extent that this is possible), there is a lot that is worth emulating. There are also more than one or two cautionary notes. Here are my top 6:
1. Your level of enthusiasm matters a lot when you are trying to sell yourself. In the first debate, Obama looked like he’d rather be anywhere else. He looked down at his notes and he did not project good energy. In the second debate, he seemed much more engaged and interested in getting reelected. When you are out speaking with prospective clients and referral sources, project interest in what you do.
2. Resilience is key in selling. Being able to recover from your marketing mistakes is the difference between ultimate success and failure. Prior to the first debate, most pundits were already writing Mitt Romney’s political obituary. But his performance in the first debate clearly had a big impact on the polls. It is too early to know how the second debate will effect the polls; but after his first debate drubbing, Obama demonstrated a lot of resilience and came back with a much stronger performance.
3. Getting lost in the weeds does not help your messaging. If you want a prospect to understand what you do (and more importantly, if you want to be memorable), distill your message down to shorter phrases and stay away from intricate detail. Several times during the second debate, Mitt Romney’s message became much weaker when he started getting too deep into the details.
4. Preparation is critical. The lawyers who are best at marketing their services spend a lot of time preparing before they meet with prospects, give a presentation, etc. Both candidates did a lot of preparation for the second debate. They knew what questions might come up and they had well prepared answers that they could adapt to the actual questions. It showed.
5. Listening is just as important as speaking. If you want to learn how you can be helpful to your clients, let them do more of the talking. It is only by listening that we learn what really matters to our clients and referral sources. If your body language says that you are formulating your next thought rather than listening to what the other person has to say, you will lose some credibility. In the second debate, both Obama and Romney talked over each other and at times, seemed to be bursting at the seams to say something. While the Democrats were looking for a more engaged and forceful President, I don’t think either Obama or Romney were at their best when they were trying to interrupt.
6. Don’t be afraid to tout your successes. Many lawyers consider it bad form to brag about their accomplishments. But if you have an accomplishment that illustrates why a client should hire you, you should make sure to bring it up. Obama failed to do that in the first debate. But clearly, his advisers explained to him the importance of touting his accomplishments and in the second debate, we heard much more about what Obama had done.
The words you choose to describe your practice are of course important. But we communicate a lot more through our facial expressions, tone and demeaner. More in my latest LPM tip in the MBA Lawyers e-Journal.
In deciding what companies may be good targets for your legal services, should you avoid companies that have established relationships with outside counsel? Not according to new research reported in the American Lawyer. There are plenty of ways to “unseat the incumbent” including competing on price, something which until recently did not seem as important in the legal sector.
Why do attorneys find it difficult to sell? Is there something intrinsic in a lawyer’s personality that gets in the way when they try to market their services? What are some of the ways that lawyers can improve their sales effectiveness and overcome these natural barriers?
I was recently interviewed about these topics on the Legal Talk Network by Jared Correia of MassLOMAP . In the interview, I discuss with Jared some of the ways you can get past your own natural obstacles and build the practice you want. Click here to listen to the podcast or subscribe to this and other LTN podcasts through iTunes.
A big marketing challenge for law firms is to figure out how to speak with one voice. Unlike businesses where the products or services are easily described, a law firm may offer a broad mix of intangible services. So even a partnership with five attorneys might have the expertise to handle over two dozen types of matters.
In reality, however, there is no effective way for five lawyers to communicate two dozen services to the legal marketplace. A successful marketing strategy needs to be considerably more focused. Rattling off 20 things when someone asks what you do is simply not effective. It does little to differentiate you from any other law firm; and it ensures that you will be completely unmemorable.
A better strategy is to do some assessment and planning and decide where you might get the most return on your marketing investment. In other words ask yourselves:
Businesses in most other industries (including accounting firms and other professional services providers), understand the importance of taking the time to do this kind of planning periodically.
Unfortunately, many law firm partnerships never take the time to have these discussions. A lot of law firms operate more like an association of service providers who share expenses. Each lawyer stays in his or her own silo and not much is decided on a firm-wide or even practice group level.
But a group of lawyers can market much more effectively as a firm. By focusing on the “best opportunities” and by getting every partner on the “same page”, a firm can increase the likelihood that its message is getting through the noise. And with the increased competition in the legal marketplace and the explosion of email marketing and social media in the past decade, this is no easy feat.
So how does your firm measure up? Have you taken the time to survey the partners in your firm and come up with a consensus about where the firm should focus its marketing energies? Do you all describe the firm in the same way? One place to start is to use a marketing audit tool that appeared in Law Practice Magazine several years ago. If that doesn’t move the conversation forward, then maybe it is time to get some outside help.
Highlighting risks for your clients is an important part of effective lawyering. But clients want more than a laundry list of risks. They want solutions so they can sleep better at night. Click here to read more.
I presented a seminar to a group of elder lawyers in the spring. In this webinar, I discussed why in general, selling is difficult for attorneys. I also provided some tips for making the sales process easier. You can now watch the webinar in full by clicking here.
It is important to have a plan if you want to build your law practice and having a written marketing plan will greatly increase the likelihood that you will actually follow through. But for attorneys, there are many obstacles that get in the way of marketing. Most lawyers are more comfortable doing actual legal work than spending time on marketing activities. Then there is always the lure of the billable hour (how can I spend time on non-billable work when there is still billable work to be done).
Probably the biggest challenge that attorneys face is that they are trying to change their behavior. They are not accustomed to spending time building their reputation or on business relationship building and some of these activities do not feel either natural or comfortable. So even if a written plan is put in place, executing that plan can be difficult.
One way to increase your odds of success is to focus on one new thing at a time. If you try to execute on too many new things at once, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed (and as a result, unmotivated to follow through). Instead, start off slow. If meeting potential referral sources for coffee is on your list, focus just on that for a month or two. If you prefer to focus first on building your reputation, get going on that article you have been meaning to write. Or join a trade association and get active so that you can start meeting people in the industry you are targeting.
There are many paths to marketing success and where you start is not that important. You are investing in your future and some of today’s activities may not bear fruit for years. So the important thing is to get going on something. You can always add more activities to the mix once you are comfortable with one new activity. In contrast, if you try to do it all at once, you may find yourself doing nothing at all. Instead, you’ll have a nice marketing plan sitting on your computer and nothing to show for it.
Lawyers should always focus on finding ways to give value to their clients and prospective clients. Trying to close business all the time is likely to backfire because pressure does not build trust. For more on this, my latest tip in the MBA Lawyer’s e-Journal.