Friday, June 7, 2013

The One, Golden Question Every Firm Should Ask its Clients

Do you know what your clients think of you? You don’t have to engage market research companies to get an answer. In fact, you simply have to ask one simple, golden question to find out almost everything you need to know.

The golden question? On a scale of one to five, how likely are you to refer the firm [or attorney] to your closest friends or peers?

Call it the 'Likely to Refer' question. You can also call it pretty darn accurate in terms of telling you what your clients think of you and your services. The beauty of this question is in its simplicity and accuracy. No other question cuts to the heart of what drives new and repeat business. And by it being a single, simple question, it takes no effort or time to check the radial button. Plus, you can put this question in numerous places to capture lots of feedback including on closing letters/e-mails, on the website, in client correspondence and many other places.

'Likely to Refer' gives clients the ability to choose from several levels of satisfaction from 'Highly Unlikely', 'Somewhat Unlikely', 'Neither Likely nor Unlikely', 'Somewhat Likely' and 'Highly Likely'. Most firms will find their scores in 3.0 to 4.0 range. That's not that great of a score but probably to be expected in the current environment. Law firms that can deliver consistent service and earn averages above 4.8 have differentiated their firms in their ability to satisfy clients.

An added benefit? By suggesting the idea of referrals, you subtly suggest your client make referrals.

Adopt the golden question on all closing matter documents, bills, on the website and in blogs and other materials. Not only will it say that you are concerned about client service, but you may find your referrals begin to increase.
If I can help you increase the number of referrals to your firm, Call Eric Dewey at 502.693.4731. You'll find that I am an eager resource and that it costs nothing to talk.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Teach Your Partners How to 'Sell' You

One of the under-utilized cross selling marketing tools can be found walking past your office door on a daily basis: Your partners.

Most training programs explain the importance of communicating your specialty to the partners and professionals in your firm. However, simply sitting in on a practice group meeting to tell your partners what type of legal work you do isn’t enough. You need to give them the tools to convincingly explain how you create value for your clients.

There’s a fundamental assumption in most cross referral efforts that inhibits effectiveness. That flaw is the assumption that other attorneys understand what you do and, more importantly, know how to sell what you do. You must first sell your capabilities to your partners before they’ll sell your capabilities to their clients. Simple additions can help others refer your services more effectively. It is as simple as explaining what your partner should tell her clients about you, which clients need your services, how she can identify opportunities to refer you and why her clients should want to meet you.

Consider the difference in these two scenarios. Which one would you rather present to your clients?

1. Attorney A is an IP lawyer who handles trademarks, copyrights, patent infringements and patent prosecutions. He has been a partner in our firm for years and is very well respected. I think he’ll have some great ideas for your company and he’d be a good resource to know. I’d like to introduce him to you.

2. Attorney B is an IP lawyer who recently won a $2.6 million verdict against B.I.G. Company for an infringement on a chemical component of their bug spray. Two other firms were unsuccessful in winning an infringement decision on that same issue. She also recently re-organized OTHER BIG Company’s international trademark monitoring portfolio saving them 35% and speeding the renewal process by six days while insuring there’s no lapse in fillings. She is a former Patent Office regulator and chairs the ABA’s IP section. I think she’ll have some great ideas for your company and she’d be a good resource to know. I’d like to introduce her to you.

The second example demonstrates to clients how the attorney can help the company, shows how others have already benefited from her expertise and sets the attorney up as a valuable resource for the client.

Here is some of the information you will need to effectively broker your partner’s services:

·        The profile of the best clients

·        The recent successful cases or matters

·        The clout and influence the attorney has

·        Their areas of specialization, and

·        The added value services they provide.

And some questions to help identify value:

·        What technologies have you used to improve service delivery or communications?

·        What value added services do you offer?

·        What processes do you have in place to shorten the time to deliver results?

Firms, practice groups and attorneys which are serious about cross selling should focus first on promoting other professionals in their firm. The ability to be a broker of services is critical to each attorney providing the best value to their clients while generating traction in cross selling in the firm. Learning to promote another attorney’s capabilities is an important part of strengthening your own referral and cross promotional network.

If I can help you teach your partners to sell your services, give Eric Dewey a call at 502.693.4731. You'll find that I am an eager resource and that it costs nothing to talk.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Proposed Methodology for Identifying M&A Prospects

Business Development Directors are charged with identifying the most likely prospects for practice areas. In some cases this can be a relatively easy endeavor. In others, it is difficult, if not nearly impossible. Take mergers and acquisitions, as an example. They are cloaked in secrecy for good reason. The opportunity to handle a representation of either the acquirer or acquiree tends to come through relationships among the existing client and referral base, when they come. For the largest corporate law firms with a track record for handling the most complicated of these transactions, their reputation often produces the work. But for most mid-tier and smaller law firms and M&A practices, one has to work hard to land a new client or transaction.

Dialing in on likely prospects.

To land M&A work, it's best to be in a position in which you know beforehand about the deal. But this requires trusted relationships in either the acquiree or acquiror companies. However, what if you could predict which companies were likely to be acquired or were positioned for acquisitions? Like a quarterback anticipating yards ahead of his sprinting receiver there is a simple analysis that you can perform to narrow the field and anticipate the likely participants in M&A deals. The following research method which I developed can be helpful in narrowing the universe of prospective companies that may either be ripe candidates for an acquisition or companies which may be in an acquisitive position.

Here's how:

To begin, pull a list of companies within a specific industry in which the Firm does a significant amount of work. Preferably, your firm does M&A work for multiple companies within this vertical. The more narrowly defined the industry and the more work performed in this industry sector, the better. You can pull a list using Dun and Bradstreet / Hoovers to identify companies in the segment, among other sources. Constrain your company search on D&B/Hoovers by size until you get a manageable sampling of companies, 15-25 companies is a good number.

Next, pull each company’s 'book value' (an indicator of the company’s size) and its 'market-to-book ratio' (an indicator of its performance). For this analysis, I’d suggest pulling these numbers using the three year average in order to smooth out circumstances which might otherwise distort the numbers too much, such as an acquisition, sale of a division or other significant event.

Plot each company on a chart putting performance (market-to-book ratio) as the vertical axis metric and size (book value) as the horizontal axis metric. Divide the chart into four quadrants at the median for each metric. Adjust the high and low measures for each metric so that the range encompasses the universe of companies within the four quadrants of the chart.

In reviewing the position of each company, you will see companies dispersed throughout the chart. Some companies will be larger and with strong performance. These will be situated in the upper right hand quadrant of the chart. Small companies with slow growth will sit in the lower left hand quadrant of the chart. Small companies with strong performance metrics will be found in the upper left hand quadrant and big companies with slow growth will be found in the lower right hand quadrant. The likely acquirers will be the larger companies who need to goose their performance through the acquisition of smaller companies whose growth is being driven by a new technology or product.

A quick review of your client mix can tell you whether you do work for any of these companies. Hopefully, you do not have too many that are in the lower left hand quadrant of the chart. But clearly, several will show up somewhere on the chart if you selected a segment in which the firm does a sizable portion of work. Regardless, reviewing each company for its proximity to the firm, other financial metrics, existing contacts and relationships and recent media reports will enable you to narrow the list to the ones in which there is a chance that they will be acquired or an acquirer in the foreseeable future.
It’s then simply a matter of developing a sales plan and working that plan consistently to build the relationships necessary to represent the company.

If I can help you target M&A prospects more effectively, call Eric Dewey at 502.693.4731. You'll find that I am an eager resource and that it costs nothing to talk.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Before you go Social, Ask These Questions

Social media gets a lot of buzz these days. Most conversations presume a strong rationale for engaging in social media channels. The conversations seem to jump past whether it makes sense and instead argues for engaging in social media as though it has already been universally established prudent for every lawyer, in every practice regardless of other marketing tools and options available to them.

Not so fast.

Social media is nothing more than any other channel for your marketing efforts. You wouldn’t presume the merits of a direct mail campaign, a VIP Cocktail party or a full page advertisement, would you? You should apply the same types of analysis to social media that would apply to any marketing opportunity. You should always know what you are doing, why you are doing it, and whether it is the best and highest use of your marketing funds and time to do it.

First, what do we mean by social media? I include in social media some of the most frequented sites on the Internet including Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Google +, Foursquare, blogs and other sites. ‘Social media’ also includes sites such as JD Supra, Legal OnRamp, MH Connect and several other directories and legal industry sites which provide a means to build relationships, exchange information and showcase experience.

What can social media sites do for you and how can they fit in to your marketing program? There are five general marketing strategies that can be accomplished, at least in part, via social media.
Through social media, you can:

1. Distribute content. Content is King and helps build reputations

2. Connect with others to maintain top of mind awareness, build relationships and produce referrals

3. Gather intelligence for cases, competitive positioning or other uses

4. Improve search rankings to enhance your visibility to prospective clients

5. Provide value added services for existing clients and demonstrate client service to prospective clients

For many lawyers and law firms, social media makes a lot of sense. For many more, it is little more than a distraction. How do you determine in which group you and your practice falls? And, how much time and money should you spend mastering the social media techniques in pursuit of greater marketing efficiency?

The following set of questions will guide you through the process of determining the relative value of a social media marketing program to your practice.

1. What do you want to accomplish? What are your specific business goals and how will you know when you have achieved them. In addition to new clients, what other objectives do you have to better position your practice, improve client satisfaction or reinforce the decision your clients have made to use your services?

2. What does my ideal client look like? Can I describe the profile of my best clients? How detailed can I be? Do I understand the size or length of time in business? Do I understand the issues they face? The budget they have for my services. Are my clients individuals or businesses? Are they local or do I draw clients from across the country? Do I get most new work through referrals or directly from new clients? The more detailed your understanding of your clients, the better able you will be to determine which marketing channels are the most effective in reaching your ideal clients.
3. To what extent are my ideal clients using social media?
Are clients who need the services of my practice, using social media sites to evaluate lawyers? To what extent are these sites weighted in these evaluations? How else are they using social media sites?

4. What alternative channels besides social media are available to you?
If you are trying to raise your name recognition, do you have other mediums through which to do this? To what extent do these channels have more or less credibility in the minds of your target clients?

5. How well do you understand the Internet?
What is the level of your knowledge in social media, internet marketing and search engine optimization and what is the cost to obtain this knowledge and put it into practice? Would the knowledge be easy to maintain or will you constantly need to refresh your knowledge due to rapid changes in technology or emerging trends? Can you buy this knowledge from someone else and do they have the kowledge of your business to direct you effectively?

6. Considering all means available to accomplishing your objectives, is social media one of the most efficient and effective means to accomplish these objectives?
What do you estimate the cost is (in both time and money) as a percentage of new clients landed? Is this a better return on your investment than are the other options in your marketing arsenal?

While these questions may not assure success in social media marketing for you, they will, if answered with brutal honesty, help you determine whether social media marketing is worth your investment of time and money. There’s no doubt that social media, like traditional advertising serves an important and growing role in legal marketing. What’s more, social media is a dialogue that engages people in the issues they are most interested in. It can’t hurt to be a part of the discussion. However, before engaging in a social media strategy, this writer argues that you must have clear objectives, understand how it fits into your marketing mix, know the costs and investments required and know how you to determine whether you are gaining or losing ground through its use. Just like you should any other marketing initiative you undertake.

If I can help you determine your social media needs, please call Eric Dewey at 502.693.4731. You'll find that I am an eager resource and that it costs nothing to talk.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Can I Get a Courtesy Read?

There is a lot of talk about blogs in the legal world. I'd estimate that blogs and Linked In are the two most talked about Internet marketing channels. I bet if you took some time to look around that you'd find a half dozen blog authors that you know personally, either within your firm, among your referral sources or maybe even among your clients. 

Now, how many of you have signed up to receive automatic e-mails or RSS feeds of their blog posts?

Raise your hand if you have.

Someone? Anyone?


I suspected that.

Blogs are tough. They are a mammoth commitment. You have to produce interesting, relevant and informative content on a fairly narrow topic area consistently over time in order to reap the benefits of blogging. It's not easy.

So, knowing this is an intensely challenging commitment that your [friend, peer, partner, client] has taken on, why haven't you signed up to see what they are writing about?

Signing up to read the regular posts of bloggers you know is a simple and easy way to express interest in that person. In some cases, for instance when it is your client, you will likely read about  issues that are particularly important to them. (hmmmm. That could come in handy!)

The vast majority of professionals approach the marketplace looking for what others can do for them. But someone truly interested in doing for others appreciates the challenges people take on in their jobs and personal lives. Signing up to get their posts is a small but visible way of saying 'I care about you'.

Bloggers periodically look to see who has signed up to get their posts. And, when they do, you will be glad that your name is on the list. I'd go one better by encouraging you to comment occasionally on their posts. Comments go a long way to showing your interest in them and the issues or opinions they have.

So take a moment to figure out which of your partners, peers, friends and clients have blogs and sign up to get their posts sent to you. It'll show you are interested and, more importantly, that you care.

If I can help you get more people to care about you, call Eric Dewey at 502-693-4731. You'll find that I am an eager resource and that it costs nothing to talk.