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Marketing Brain Fodder

Perspectives on Strategic Marketing, Communication and Values in Today's Marketplace

Closed Circuit To Legal and Professional Service Marketing Teams: Clarity Is As Close As The Matrix

Posted in Leadership, Marketing, Strategic Planning

Full disclosure — Allen Fuqua is a friend as well as a respected colleague. He ushered me into the legal marketing arena, and I had the pleasure of being a member of his team for 7 years. He takes seriously his skills as both a mentor and strategist. Allen is currently the CMO at Winstead, and he has developed a construct for legal marketing professionals (it applies to all professional service marketing teams) that simply but eloquently offers a solution to the greatest challenges of the role. I asked him to share the thinking behind his Smart Work Matrix in this Guest post. If you’re part of a marketing team, heads up — here’s Allen.

It’s Monday morning. And your list of projects includes the following:

• Client appreciation event

• RFP for a prospective client

• Holiday card

• Support for a growing Client Team

• Your Chairman’s pet project

• New attorney integration

• On and on . . .

Each item has a unique due date, and includes reporting to one or more attorneys.  Some of the work may help generate revenue; some may be little more than a vanity project.

For some of the items on your list you can help determine the quality of the work product and/or the client experience. For much of it, there is no way you will impact the ultimate deliverable.

And as you sit at your desk looking at the list, a growing sense of overwhelm and stress builds in your gut. This is going to be a tough week.

How do you set priorities, allocate time and energy, gain clarity, and make a difference?

Is your job just one of endurance? Or is there is a way to approach the myriad roles, responsibilities and tasks with clarity? Is there a professional approach that ensures the work gets done appropriately, gives you a chance to make a difference, and represents progress in your career?

If you are part of a marketing team in a law firm, you have an incredibly difficult job.  It requires a killer combination of the ability to do turn-key execution with little supervision, all the while handling changes, additions and deletions (okay…they rarely have deletions). Combine this with your true stock in trade — the ability to form and manage professional relationships with attorneys. This extraordinary duo of strengths is the key to your success in almost any organization.

Meanwhile, you are what I refer to as terminally sincere – always optimistic, wanting to do your best and looking for a way to improve everything you touch.  This lethal combination of positive attitude and high energy causes you to see every task as something you can make a difference with.  Even improve.

Well the great news is that you are special and incredibly capable. The bad news is that the approach you are currently using condemns you to chase your tail, do the same thing over and over, and end too many projects in disappointment and discouragement — knowing it could have been much better.

Enter The Matrix — A Different Approach

The Smart Work Matrix provides a structure and gives insight into how to professionally approach and execute any role, responsibility or activity you have. This tool will help you maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses . . . and do the same for your organization and your attorneys.

This relatively simple matrix takes your fate out of the hands of others, and gives you control of your work . . . or at least how you will approach your work, set appropriate priorities, and do what you most wan to do — make a difference.

(If you’d like the nitty gritty on how to use the Smart Work Matrix, click here.)

Eric’s Postscript:

If you lead a team in the professional services arena, and Allen has whetted your appetite, you’ll want to check the Managing Law Firm Transition blog where another friend and colleague, Roger Hayse, puts some meat on the bones of the Smart Work Matrix.

Smart Targeting: Does Your Business Development Begin Here?

Posted in Uncategorized

(Note: This is an update of an early 2012 post on one of the cornerstones of effective business development.)

If you wrestle with knowing where to begin, and then actually executing on a strategy designed to develop new business (you’re not alone!), very few things will bring the clarity that comes with a focus on Smart Targeting.

From no target at all (hoping your market identifies you as its service provider of choice), to a target that is so large or nebulous as to make it impossible to discern a bulls-eye, to not having enough — target identification seems anathema to many professional service providers.

In an effort to change the conversation, here are 5 ideas that, when incorporated, will have dramatic (and positive) impact on business development planning.

  1. Get strategic. The “S” word may be one of the most over-used in our planning vocabulary; but it is important to understand in this context. Targets are not created equal.  Smart targeting:
    • defines a universe, providing focus for all efforts;
    • plays to a strength, building on expertise and understanding;
    • factors the metrics, so that you’re not aiming at unprofitable targets;
    • incorporates affinity, to keep the imagination engaged.
  2. Think names. Identifying an industry is (a little) better than having no target at all; a company is a bit more relevant; but when it comes to the development of business, an individual almost always occupies the bull’s eye.  The axioms are familiar, but nonetheless accurate – people hire people; relationship trumps everything.  While it may be necessary to start at a macro level, success hinges on the identification of individuals.  This is where to invest time and resources.
  3. Target outside the box. The smart target list is constructed with a relational (or connected) approach, and includes at least three categories:
    • those able to hire you
    • those who, based on relationship to one making hiring decision, will refer you and recommend your work;
    • those who will advise (coach) you and/or provide the business intelligence necessary for a winning pursuit.
  4. Suspend disbelief. Business development is about the pursuit of relationship and the recognition of opportunity.  It requires time, tenacity and vision.  Once you’ve gone through the smart targeting process, don’t talk yourself out of a pursuit prematurely. Commit to a solid plan of action, and stick with it long enough for a relationship to begin to take root.
  5. Grow your network. One of the toughest business development hurdles is working with a target list large enough to keep a pipeline full of new business opportunities, even in the slow seasons.  And we all know that when there are clients to serve, business development moves down the list of priorities. So constant focus on target identification provides the formula for growth and stability.

The premise is that smart targeting is one of the cornerstones of an efficient and rewarding business development plan.

For a quick primer on Smart Targeting, check the entry into our 90-Second Notebook, below.

Five Keys to the Role of Marketing and Business Development in Today’s Law Firm

Posted in Art of Listening, Branding, Business Development, Communication, Strategic Planning

When marketing first inched its way into the legal industry, the mere announcement of capabilities seemed to serve a firm’s needs.

As competition increased, the function evolved to include advertising, public relations, the new media, and the support and tools associated with a business development capability.

As we deal with what seems to be constant, not to mention unprecedented change in the industry, where do Marketing and Business Development fit? What is the role of its leadership?

Here are 5 Ideas offered as fodder for the discussion.

1. Marketing has two roles within the law firm. Everything we do, and each investment made should be tested against these two areas:

  • To protect and enhance the value and integrity of the firm’s brand; and
  • To instigate, facilitate and support strategic business development.

2. The services of a marketing department can be plotted in a pyramid:

  • At its baseare the products and services that provide a foundation, and must be available to every professional in the firm. These include (but are not limited to):
    • state-of-the-industry web site
    • up-to-date profiles for professionals
    • descriptions of services
    • collateral marketing materials
    • a presentation and RFP capability
  • At the top of the pyramid are activities associated with highly targeted business development pitch and pursuit opportunities. These include (but are not limited to):
    • target identification
    • strategic architecture
    • business development coaching

Between the foundation and the top of the pyramid fall scores of activities typically overseen by marketing leadership within the firm. As the pyramid narrows, the activities become more focused, strategic and typically provide a more measurable and higher return on investment.

Highly productive organizations find innovative ways to put a strong foundation in place, and leverage and align this foundation with a strategy that invests heavily near the peak of the pyramid — resulting in solid and sustainable growth.

3. Consistent with the two roles / areas of responsibility, every product or service delivered by the marketing / business development team must stand the market’s test of excellence. Mediocrity reflects on the brand, diminishes return, and should be viewed as unacceptable.

4. In great firms, everyone markets in one way or another. The essential roles of technology, finance and human resources demand that the marketing team tear down silos, resist turf wars, and leverage every asset. Marketing leadership must embrace and facilitate collaboration with every discipline within the firm, providing support, energy and leadership by example.

5. In terms of organizational “personality”, the Marketing organization is bridge-builder, educator, strategic architect, coach and administrative assistant. Success in each of these roles requires accomplished and authentic listening rooted in an understanding that relationship trumps everything. This is what we advocate among the professionals with whom we work; and this is what characterizes the successful Marketing / Business Development team. We listen first.

Five ideas. Please join the discussion with your thoughts and additions.

Why I Blog (And A Free Webinar Invitation)

Posted in Communication, Marketing

According to Brandon Gallie, someone in the world creates a new blog every half second. So, if you stay with me to the end of this post, there will be a couple hundred more entrants into the blogosphere. At the moment you’re reading one of more than 150 million blogs in existence.

Most who, through the years have asked me, haven’t been armed with these statistics, but the numbers certainly serve to add exclamation to the question: why do I blog?

More than a dozen years into the experiment, here’s my response. I blog because I believe:

  • in the value of community (the ultimate network);
  • Relationships are the lifeblood of a network;
  • Conversations are the fabric of Relationships; and,
  • Blogging instigates, stimulaters and facilitates conversations. 

That First Post

When I hit PUBLISH for my first post, I was blogging for one reason: an idea was burning a hole in my consciousness. I needed to articulate it — or see if I could articulate it in a way that connected with others.

I needed to be part of a conversation.

There was no thought to what Post number two might be. Certainly no strategy around personal branding. And the ideas of building a network and developing new relationships were nowhere on the radar.

Far from a well-thought-through strategy. But it was a natural byproduct of my professional interests and aspirations.

Participate and Instigate Dialogue

When published, that initial post was read by two individuals. I know, because I sent it to them, knowing they would pass it on if it resonated. In its original form the post was eventually read by no more than 25 or so. Not exactly viral.

But the post instigated new conversations within the group that shared it. Critical conversations. And an important reality began to dawn: this blogging thing offered an avenue for thought leadership.

Change The Arithmetic

In those early days — late 2002 — Wired Magazine reported approximately 500,000 blogs in existence as the medium began to gain traction in the business arena.

Today my network is (a little) larger than that group of 25. But the valuable numbers are the hundreds — probably thousands — of conversations, debates and collaborative exercises that can be traced back to the decision to write that first post.

Put another way, blogging has been the basic building block in the creation of a robust and rewarding network of relationships.

One such relationship is with my friends and colleagues at LexBlog.

And this is your invitation to participate in one such conversation — particularly if you are a lawyer or legal marketer. It is a free webinar, Wednesday, March 26. I’m honored to be co-hosting with Kevin McKeown, President of Lexblog, and author of one of my favorite blogs — Leadership Closeup.

Here are the specifics.

DATE: March 26, 2014

TIME: 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Eastern

WHERE: Register here

 (The event will be recorded and the slides will be made available. Even if you can’t make the date/time, register anyway and we’ll be sure to send you the recording afterward.)

 Lawyers (and other professional service providers) and marketers,  I hope you’ll join the conversation.


Kodak’s Moments of Change — A Post on Leadership CloseUp

Posted in Leadership

I am biased — but in my opinion one of the more innovative looks at issues of leadership is authored by my friend and colleague, Kevin McKeown. His Leadership CloseUp Blog adds perspective, humanity and real-world chops to the conversation of leadership. So I was honored when Kevin invited me to do a Guest shot under his masthead.

Published earlier this week on Kevin’s site, here is fodder for a leadership conversation – A Kodak Moment and The Consequence of Organic Change.

Begin 2014 Facing Business Development Truths

Posted in Business Development

Countless hours are about to be spent in meetings, on conference calls, and in early morning or late night hand-wringing sessions among law firm and professional service leadership. The focus? Identifying strategies and creating plans that solve a glaring deficit in business development progress.

Risking sounding negative this early in January, here is what will happen.

The focus will be on tools and tactics. In a never-ending-quest for that silver bullet, the grand ideas of 2013 will be dismissed (along with resources invested) in deference to a new flavor-of-the-day solution.

Plans will be critiqued. Goals will be reset.

Old ideas will be recycled, repackaged and become new again.

In the throes of first-quarter-fears and doldrums, new responsibilities and commitments will arise.

And if history is an indicator, a similar deficit in measurable progress will be the subject of another round of meetings, conference calls, and strategic sessions a year from now. If not sooner.

Break The Cycle of Business Development Disappointment

First — in this discussion the issue is rarely the tools.

An arsenal of tools can enhance or detract when it comes to successful law firm and professional service business development. A solid website, quality content marketing, top-line media and public relations, advertising — all can be important. All can play a role.

But no matter how much we invest here, the arsenal of tools is not the key to success.

Those firms that achieve consistent business development and marketing successes begin with a calculated, strategic investment in relationships that change the arithmetic. And wise investments here begin with crystal clear target identification.

Target identification gives shape to the arsenal of tools — resulting in a website that speaks the language and addresses the concerns of your best prospects. It leads to the content for advertising, PR, blogs and social media that instigates conversations and is part of a relationship map. Clear target identification is the first step toward a productive plan.

And here’s the toughest part. Effective targeting begins with a clear understanding of who you are, and how that relates to market direction and needs. This provides the framework and direction for a truly strategic BD effort.

Want to break the cycle? Begin with a strategy that is:

  • Based on a clear understanding of the market;
  • Addresses a specific market need you are positioned to meet;
  • Identifies specific targets / prospects.

With targets clearly identified, the investments you make in an arsenal of tools and specific plans will be more than a one-year one-off. And the meetings a year from now can focus on taking full advantage of bridges built to new opportunities.

An Abundance Of Joy: A Holiday Note

Posted in Communication, Values In Today's Marketplace

Seth Godin’s post on December 23 hit a nerve.

In an abundance of caution highlights a question: what might be the result if we were to act out of an abundance of joy?

The difficulty?

Seeing the downside is easy. Few things go exactly as we expect. Fewer still, the way we’d like them to go. Better to adjust expectations, and be prepared to identify what went awry.  We might even convince ourselves that the ability to spot what is wrong is insight or intellect.

But make a habit of always looking at things through one lens, and this view may morph into a window through which everything is seen and interpreted.

Joy, on the other hand, isn’t so easy. It is creative in nature. It calls on us to discount a perspective based solely on hindsight.

Joy is about creation, and possibility.

Thankfully, a season rolls around that re-calibrates our focus. For a moment we become more positive. Even see more good. (When we’re not racing to that open parking space or jockeying for position in a checkout line, of course.)

What might a new year look like if daily perspective grew out of an abundance of joy?

I buy what Godin is selling — that our perspective, to a great degree, determines what we see. That we tend to experience what we expect to experience.

So it is out of an abundance of Joy that I celebrate the season, that I am grateful for family and friends — relationships that trump everything.

I believe each day is a gift, with new opportunities for exuberance.

And I’m thankful for all who frequent this forum — contributing in significant ways to the thoughts and ideas we offer as fodder for creative, productive conversations.

Merry Christmas. May your holidays be peaceful and bright.

Winning The Debate or Collaborating Toward Success?

Posted in Art of Listening, Business Development, Leadership

There are few things we value more than winning.  From t-ball to spelling bees to the professional sports franchise we adopt, nothing matches the thrill of finishing on top.  It impacts (some might suggest, disproportionally) self-image, the way we relate to those around us, and commerce.

While it’s tempting to go off on the relative value of a distorted or misguided definition of winning, let’s leave that conversation for another day.  For today, here’s the suggestion:

To the degree conversation, collaboration and compromise are critical to innovative solutions, the need to win and our view of what constitutes victory may be the reason progress is so slow.

The Question of How We Keep Score

Where collaboration — never mind compromise — is critical to an ultimate win, is either likely when everyone at the table is dedicated to claiming victory on each point in a respective agenda?

No matter the venue — political, personal or business — when winning an individual conversation is the ultimate measure of stature or success, interactions resemble more an effort to convert than a commitment to collaborate.

When the craft of debate is relegated to who can yell louder or talk longer, meaningful dialogue is no longer a part of the equation.

And in the context of differing but unwavering agendas, real compromise is impossible.

Wherever there is community or team, long-term success — the kind that builds a legacy — almost always turns on leaders that see beyond one debate or issue-of-the-moment.

Any of us hoping for compromise, not to mention sincerely wishing to collaborate and innovate might do well to take a quick look at the definitions of compromise and collaborate. And then check that drive to win today’s conversation at the door.

Want ROI From Marketing Communication? Shift Your Focus From Message Delivery To The Rules Of Engagement

Posted in Art of Listening, Client Feedback, Communication, Marketing, Social Media

Here’s the problem: we act like once we’ve delivered a message — transmitted it, produced it, hit “SEND” — that we have Communicated.

Or, at least that we have done everything within our power to make communication possible. The rest is up to the audience.

In practice we have come to equate communicating with the act of messaging. The gifted articulators, writers and poets, designers — those able to produce a message that inspires and stirs — these are the great communicators.

So focused are we on message delivery that we judge communication prowess by how effectively a politician or CEO delivers a message that has been carefully crafted by a professional writer.

Meanwhile, in personal relationship and commerce, in the classroom and boardroom, our own attempts at message delivery fall short. If only we could employ an actor to deliver our lines!

Don’t misunderstand. Delivery is important. Excellent writing skills are essential. Words have the power to tap the canvass of the imagination. To this day, the poetry of Lincoln’s second inaugural gives me chills and conjures images that transcend any ability I have to describe.

But each time we relegate communicating to the act of delivering we diminish the art.

The Missing Ingredient

Poetry aside, the power in Lincoln’s words resides in a measure of understanding — albeit a tiny measure for most of us — that is shared by all who heard the speech live, and all who read his words today.

And as we explored in this post, shared experience is born of intentional listening.

Whether the topic is the next business development presentation, ad campaign, public speaking assignment or perhaps even the complexities of communicating with family and friends, great communication begins with an understanding of shared experience.

Success hinges less on message delivery, and more on understanding shared experiences.

To that end, here are three ideas central to connections that engage.

1. Build communication around one goal — to keep the conversation going. This is one of the threeads of dynamic relationship — the kind that can pick up the conversation tomorrow without skipping a beat. Keep conversations going — longer than one email, ad, speech or pitch — and you change the arithmetic of return on your investments in communication.

2. Avoid monologue; instigate dialogue. What this ends up looking like will depend on the venue and tool; but conversations generally seek to understand as opposed to win a debate. The more conversations in which you engage, the more opportunities for connection you’ll identify.

3. Spend more time listening than you do dispensing your message. When I really listen, I learn. (And when I really listen, I’m not busy composing my next point.)

Three ideas. I’d appreciate hearing yours.

Imagine an approach to social media — or an entire marketing strategy built around on-going proactive listening. Imagine conversations that revolve around the concerns of those with whom you seek to connect. No telling how the marketplace might change!

For A Message That Motivates, Begin With Intentional Listening

Posted in Art of Listening, Communication, Marketing

NOTE: This post on Intentional Listening originally appeared at MENGOnline.  With thanks to the MENG folks for the Guest Shot, we now re-post here.

Name the venue — sales and business development, marcomm, public relations — take your pick.  Often the single greatest impediment to success is the failure to begin at the beginning.

The foundational principle of communication theory is that connection — the kind that precipitates (or even demands) action — is born in the context of shared experience.  Any marketer can recite the reasons behind the rationale; language, values, fears and aspirations in large part emanate from experience.  They shape the translation and interpretation of message.  And predict action.

But the identification of shared experiences requires a brand of research that transcends focus groups.  More to the point, in order to identify common language, values, fears and aspirations, the initial focus of a marketing enterprise should be on listening.

The Challenge

Mention great communication and what do we think of?  Likely, the words of stirring orators or poetic writers come to mind.  We tend to think award winning advertising is all about the creation and production of the message — with memorable tag lines and catchy songs or jingles.

Organizations focus on web copy that describes capabilities in tedious detail.  Sales and business development teams hone an elevator pitch focused on what we do.  Pubic relations efforts create, rehearse and recite quotable sound bites.

So focused are we on messaging – often what we do and how we do it — that the first question when considering Social Media is often, What will we post on a Facebook page?; or, What can we possibly say in 140 characters?

If communication is falling short, maybe there is a better place to start.

For Meaningful Connections

Message is, of course, critical.  This is not to slight memorable content or excellent production and delivery.  It is to suggest that the best content emanates from a clear understanding about that which the audience cares most deeply.  Wherever communication isn’t delivering appropriate ROI, we may be slighting the basic principle of quality connection.

What might be the result of an approach that is intent on listening?  How much more rewarding might our communication efforts be if we focused as much on identifying shared concerns, hopes and dreams as we do on the creation of a tag line?  (It should be noted that those messages that resonate are either the byproduct of a masure of intentional listening, or are profoundly lucky.)

Intentional listening is bigger than focus groups and satisfaction surveys.  It is a process rooted in on-going dialogue, as opposed to singular monologue.  It has as its objective the identification of common ground.  It is more about responding than dictating or evangelizing.  And it is based on the knowledge that listening is the path to the creation of the most effective message.

Marketers intent on listening find themselves engaged in the kind of conversations around which communities are built, concerns addressed, and the future envisioned.

And for every marketer or organization interested in long-term ROI, shared aspirations trump fans, followers and even satisfied customers.

Incentive enough to begin with listening?