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Marketing Brain Fodder

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

An “Aha!” Moment In Law Firm Sales

Posted in Business Development

A Guest Post by professional services sales innovator and law firm sales & marketing leader, Steve Bell.  ______________________________

A correspondent recently asked me: “When did you have your first ‘Aha!’ moment about law firm sales?”

It’s a great memory, and it actually occurred long before Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice became a pioneer in the legal profession and asked me to serve as director of sales.

The Real Beginning — An Accidental Volunteer

The path that led me to professional service (and eventually, legal) sales goes further back than I care to admit. I was an Associate National Director of Marketing at Price Waterhouse LLP — long before the merger with Coopers & Lybrand.

The legendary Price Waterhouse Vice Chairman of Tax, Pete Hart, was – appropriately — asking revenue questions of International Tax partners, who had put together many elaborate marketing brochures, staged numerous wonderful educational sessions, and traveled abroad with international tax planning concepts. (Any of this sound familiar?) But, in spite of great investment and much activity, the group wasn’t “connecting the dots with the cash register” as well as Pete would have liked.

“Who,” Pete asked, “will follow up with the people who attended the seminars to meet with them face to face? Who will make phone calls to the people receiving the fancy brochures to see if they have any questions?”

In old World War II movies, there are scenes about the unwilling volunteer.  In these scenes, a commanding officer asks for volunteers to step forward.  Inevitably, a newbie stands still while the wizened hands all take steps backward.

Those scenes remind me of how I “volunteered” to make the move from professional services marketing to sales; I “volunteered” by not declining to do so.

Fortunately, I’d had some professional services sales experience prior to joining Price Waterhouse, and, in addition, at Price Waterhouse I was able to participate in Miller-Heiman’s “Strategic Selling” courses.  So, when the opportunity presented itself, I was ready.

The focus of our fledgling sales effort was to “connect those dots”, and we began scheduling follow-up meetings with potential clients.  Thankfully, my training had equipped me in the art of connecting, and the science of keeping opportunities on track. And, over time (the sale of professional services rarely occurs overnight), we were able to achieve some of the conversions Pete Hart knew to be critical to success.

“Sales” began to develop some strong roots at Price Waterhouse as well as other accounting firms, as the accounting profession caught wind of the possibilities. Sales became a critical competency in the professional services arena — eventually (albeit, with reluctance at many turns) the idea has crept into legal.

By Any Name, It Is About Connecting The Dots

Each of us at some point in a career faces the very practical questions Pete Hart posed to the Price Waterhouse Tax Partners — who is going to take the steps necessary to connect with prospects?

Whether marketers, business developers, strategy architects, accountants or lawyers — few, if any of us can afford to wait for the market to come to us. If you’re reluctant to lean on the “S” word, think of it as simply connecting the dots between the needs of your prospects and the service and counsel you can deliver.

When it comes to efforts that hit the bottom-line, that’s the “Aha Moment”.

Steve Bell is the Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of the law firm of Womble Carlyle. He has deep experience in professional services business development and sales, and previously led the sales efforts at Grant Thornton and Price Waterhouse. He is a legal marketing thought leader, innovator, speaker, and also serves as Marketing Vice Chairman, Americas of Lex Mundi.

Follow Steve on Twitter. And find him on Linked In, here.

3 Keys To An Authentic Voice — The Building Block of Social Media Marketing Success

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

Dispute its reach if you like. Bemoan its shortcomings. Even refuse to participate (if you dare). But Social Media has exploded. And the reason should capture the imagination of anyone marketing a service or product.

How so? Because for all the hype, falderal, misuse and criticism swirling about, Social Media is, simply, about the dynamics of community.

Hence some confusion. And the challenge.

Is it community? Or is it media?

If media, complete with the prospect of reaching the masses, we immediately focus on the message. (A mistake in its own right; but that is another discussion.)

Community, on the other hand, is about neighbors, conversations and collaboration. It is about building relationships.

Social Media is both. And (this is one of those good-news-bad-news notes) it gives everyone in the community a voice. This is the reason for the explosion. And the source of difficulty.

The Challenge of Authenticity

The universal availability makes the social community a noisy place.

So if you aspire to communicate and market using Social Media, the first job is to develop a voice that will rise above the noise, and resonate with the target audience.

This is not unique to Social, of course. Students of speech will remember the story of Demosthenes, the orator of ancient Greece. To overcome an impediment that made it difficult for his audience to listen, he practiced achieving clarity of speech with stones in his mouth.

Then along came tools that could broadcast a message to the masses — which often only serves to amplify the challenge. Recall the story of King George VI, popularized in the 2010 film, The King’s Speech.

The fact is that not even pivotal moments or profound content can guarantee a message will connect. Or be received.

And now Social suggests we deliver a message 140 characters with millions of other messages swirling about. Or via a Vine or an Instagram. And who knows what a “Like” or “endorsement” really means?

Top 3 Keys To An Authentic Social Voice

If you spend time in any social community you’ve likely encountered the social broadcasters — the messengers too busy dispensing canned content to be bothered with conversation or collaboration.

You also know it when you encounter an authentic voice.

What is the difference?

I recently had the pleasure of doing a guest spot on the popular weekly Twitter program for marketers, MMChat. (If you’re a marketer, you might enjoy participating — check it out every Monday evening at 8:00 PM Eastern, using the hashtag #MMChat.) The topic was the Keys To Developing An Authentic Social Voice. It was a lively exchange, and here are three ideas to emerge from the conversation.

1. Listen Intently. As opposed to an initial preoccupation with what you will say, begin with a focus on listening. Pay close attention and your market is likely to reveal precisely what it takes to become relevant, what resonates with them, and what is dismissed as noise.

2. Engage With Your Market. This is the DNA of social communities. And one of the most dynamic forms of engagement is to participate in the dialogue and agendas most important to your market. This is the most basic form of collaboration. And supporting other authentic voices allows you to leverage their resonance and credibility.

3. Deliver Value. This is about more than the service, product or solution you’re marketing. Social is about building and nurturing relationships. Relationship is about trust. Trust has roots in giving. Seek to understand your Targets’ needs; then provide a solution. This is the ultimate in delivering value. And by the way — the value you deliver may have little to do with the product or service you ultimately provide. Value is defined by the community. Want to be part of the community? Understand what it values.

Social Media presents challenges, to be sure. But the more voices vying for attention, the more authenticity differentiates, and rises above the din. Practice these three keys with consistency, and your voice becomes more and more authentic. And this is the beginning of a marketing message that connects.

The Legal Service Value Conundrum: Who Is The Beholder?

Posted in Art of Listening, Business Development, Client Feedback

A Guest Post, by lawyer, law professor and process consultant, Larry Bridgesmith

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” — Margaret Wolfe Hungerford , Molly Bawn, 1878

Our son was born with orthopedic challenges which required him to be in thigh high casts from the day he was born. He was also born “sunny side up”, or face first. As a result, his bruised and swollen face and both legs in casts made him look like the loser from a brawl in the nursery.

What surprised my wife and me was the worried and sorrowful glances our friends cast in our direction when they first saw him. In our eyes he was as handsome as our own Prince George. (Which is exactly what he turned out to be.)

The question of value pricing is all the rage in legal services circles today. As is the case in the determination of beauty, the issue is – who gets to decide what constitutes “value”?

The Client’s Perceptions

Long before the Great Recession of 2008, client dissatisfaction with the price of legal services was mounting steadily. It has not slowed.

Globally, the realization rate for billed legal invoices stands at 83%. In other words, despite the rate reductions  and discounting that law firms have implemented, 17% of all legal bills remain unpaid. That is an enormous economic loss or “unappreciated value”.

If we require tangible evidence, the metrics tell the story; the client determines value.

Like beauty, the determination of value is largely subjective. What’s missing is the means of agreeing upon value between client and attorney.

How is this possible in law when outcomes and the steps needed to achieve them are so unpredictable?

Defining Value in Legal Services

It requires conversation, listening and reaching agreement.

  • Conversation – Every legal engagement begins with the lawyer/client conversation.  This is not earthshattering.  What might be novel is how much depth is required to determine exactly what clients want and need to achieve their goals. The lawyer who can take time to determine with clarity “what’s the problem we’re trying to solve?” and “what does success look like?” has gone much further than most to explore how the client determines value. Helping the client answer these critical questions provides the lawyer with a road map to assure a successful outcome measured from the client’s perspective. Advice and counsel, the lawyer’s stock in trade, comes to bear to help the client understand the obstacles and options to better define the journey to achieve the client’s objectives. A significantly different beginning point has been achieved: one with the end in view.
  • Listening – We lawyers are notoriously urgent.  Cutting to the chase and getting to the bottom line are characteristics in our DNA, and often a great skill set to possess. However, at the outset of an engagement this innate urge must be throttled. It has been said, the greater the ego need, the smaller the ears.  That’s why elephants have such big ears.  What do they have to be afraid of? By learning to listen to our clients, their stated and unstated needs, fears and expectations, we significantly improve our ability to satisfy them.  We need to be secure enough to listen to the answers. In spite of a tendency to make quick assumptions about what is best, only the clients are able to ultimately define need. We must learn how to become the master of the question.  Not interrogation or cross examination, but open ended inquisitive questions designed to learn what our clients need and expect. Our clients are our colleagues; and we need to understand, as best we are able, what they need from the engagement. If they are corporate clients, who are the internal clients (stakeholders) they must satisfy and how would they define success? This listening process leads to the all-important engagement letter which defines the terms of the engagement, the scope of the project (and what is out of scope), the terms of payment and the means by which changes in scope are to be negotiated going forward.
  • Agreement – As simple as the above process sounds, it is difficult and contrary to the basic nature of most legal engagements today. The collegial, collaborative relationship established at the outset of each engagement defines value as the client and attorney determine it to be (not simply as assumed by the lawyer). Most importantly, it is not a static contract, it is a living agreement which matures over the course of the engagement. Done well, the agreement between lawyer and client results in the pre-negotiation of each invoice before it is received by the client. There are no “45 day surprises”, or invoices which lead to refusals to pay for unexpected legal fees. The original scope of the engagement only changes through conversation, listening and agreement. It’s a cyclical process. The process defines value.

The practice of law should return lawyers to the role of trusted advisors.  Our business cards can label us “Counselors at Law” again. Realization rates can approximate (but never fully achieve) 100%.  Less waste. Less unrealized income. More value.

Legal services value is neither binary, nor exclusive.  It is the collaborative and mutually agreed upon outcome of great lawyer and client engagements.

It is not rocket science.  It is just good customer relations.

It can be beautiful.

Larry Bridgesmith has practiced law for over 35 years. He is a conflict management professional, a professor of law at Vanderbilt School of Law, and a consultant to businesses and law firms in process improvement and profitability enhancement.  He is a co-founder of ERM Legal Solutions which provides legal pricing and planning software solutions to legal departments and law firms, and he brings deep experience and credibility to the discussion of the business of law.

Connect with Larry on Linked In here, and follow him on Twitter here.

Marketing, Business Development, And The Pursuit of Better Conversations Online

Posted in Business Development, Marketing, Social Media

You might be able to reach everyone.

That’s the siren-song of the digital innovations that turn everyone into a publisher or broadcaster.

Perpetuated daily by something new gone viral — video of a pet, or a baby, or a stunt — it is a fantasy that slowly morphs into — hey, maybe this is possible.

We watch with analytics-envy as the Like, Share and View numbers mount. And — admit it — in spite of our skepticism, we begin to scheme.

What would it take to create something that might go viral?

It is insidious. Not because it can’t happen; but because each time we are seduced into reaching for the masses, we take our eye off strategic targets. Never mind the fact that we likely settle for an irrelevantly low common denominator.

If More Is Better, It Is An Easy Game To Play 

In order to rack up views, the editors of a respected professional service firm’s blog actually began creating the most provocatively searchable titles possible. The goal? Supposedly, the buzz might generate valuable media attention. (Want to pile up clicks? Figure out a way to use the words “wet t-shirt contest” in your next blog headline. Your analytics will never look the same.)

But in our guts, we know that Page Views are not the measure of success.

As an old marketing guy I can appreciate a touch of P.T. Barnum at the right time; but when we begin to artificially manipulate content to accommodate search strings, never mind the inclusion of salacious tags solely because they will garner “views,” we have one or both of the following problems:

  • we’re not sure how to create content that instigates conversations around a value proposition; or,
  • we’ve completely lost sight of the target.

In a recent post — In search of meaningfulSeth Godin had a message for anyone creating content for the purpose of marketing:

If it’s not worth subscribing to a particular voice or feature or idea, if it’s not worth looking forward to and not worth trusting, I’m not sure it’s worth writing, not if your goal is to become meaningful.”

For the professional service provider, turning a connection into what Godin terms a subscriber is about having a series of better conversations. Better than price. Better than data on a CV. Better than the guys across the street.

In case I need to say it — this is not to suggest that depth of experience and other curriculum vita are not important. Nor is it an argument against the value of key words and quality SEO.

It is to suggest that the instant the content that really speaks to your target gives way to a contrived phrase created for what amounts to fake “optimized” search results, we may be in danger of missing the point. Further, content that does not deliver a measure of value does little to differentiate — hence, little to really market the services of a firm.

Highly effective marketing messages transcend analytics, connect with strategic targets, and deliver something of value.

Why do we value content? Because it is the DNA of conversation. And better conversations are the lifeblood of thriving relationships.

Digital has torn down walls and changed the arithmetic, to be sure. Social media presents real opportunities. But when it comes to business development for the professional services firm, the challenge is still about smart targeting, and an investment in the stuff of relationship. Because one relationship is worth more than a thousand page views.

Professional? Or Poser?

Posted in Leadership, Values In Today's Marketplace

We can talk about it until we’re blue in the face. We may write about it, speak on it, and build entire initiatives around it. If we have enough juice, in some circles we might even be able to insist we be called one.

But when it comes to what it really means to be a professional, as is always the case, titles, labels, and all manner of verbal branding have little to do with reality.

What we do speaks much more eloquently than what we say. (Or what our business card says.)

Professionalism is a characteristic. It is the sum of a set of traits that form the foundation for behavior in defining moments — whatever the venue might be.

When And Where Professionalism Is Defined

The truth is the only thing most of us are able to control with respect to this discussion is our own personal pursuit of the traits we deem central to professionalism.

The temptation is two-fold:

  • To believe that defining moments come with high visibility — are heralded in some way; and,
  • To believe that the right response to such moments is punctuated with bold exclamation in the form of title or label.

In fact, professionalism is defined daily — in scores of moments that are often more private than visible. There is little fanfare.

And, as we all know, simply calling someone (or something) professional, does not make it so.

In the interest of a productive pursuit, and with acknowledgment of personal blind spots, here is a six-pack of some of the traits I believe to be present in the consummate professionals I have had the opportunity to know.

  1. Professionals accept responsibility. They don’t whine or shrink in the toughest moments. Nor, it should be noted, do the best of the best demand the spotlight for sustenance.
  2. The professional possesses crystal-clear self-awareness, and is constantly honing the ability to identify personal limitations. This trait is manifest in honesty, intentional listening, and a big-picture perspective.
  3. Professionals don’t engage in meaningless turf wars, and do not tear down others. Rather, they build bridges, and are apt to deflect credit.
  4. The professional doesn’t avoid difficult moments, conversations or problem personalities.
  5. Professionals follow up, and follow through. Always. No matter what.
  6. The professional is always professional — without respect to position or title.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list. Have thoughts and/or additions that might be instructive for anyone aspiring to professionalism? Please contribute.

Five Keys To A Highly Productive Marketing Culture

Posted in Business Development, Marketing

Your marketing team is bigger than you think.

Recognized or not, and without respect to title or placement on the org chart, your firm is investing mightily in the human resource side of the marketing equation.

Doubt it?

When guests encounter the receptionist, a marketing message is delivered.

Every time a billing clerk, administrative assistant, IT or finance manager has a conversation with a client, vendor or allied professional, the firm’s brand is being enhanced. Or diminished.

And yes…even the partner that puts as much distance as possible between her/his profession and the marketing staff is a reflection on the brand of the firm.

Protests aside, in today’s enterprise everyone is a marketer.  Whether this extended force is delivering a message and experience consistent with an over-arching go-to-market strategy depends on the marketing fabric of your firm’s culture.

Zappos has it. The Ritz-Carlton has it. A couple of airlines seem to try hard…and get partial credit. The same is true for one or two unnamed big retailers. You may have a favorite restaurant that looks for ways to connect from the moment you walk in.

And it should be a watermark of your firm.

But you can mark this down: wherever fights for credit, perpetual turf wars, or disparate goals and objectives occupy attention and energy — not to mention, wherever there is a pervasive CYA mindset — your culture is at odds with the potential you otherwise possess.

Building Blocks of a Marketing Culture

A marketing culture is not at odds with the decorum of a dignified profession. Nor is it about one department being more important than another. This is not a provincial discussion.

Rather, a highly functioning marketing culture is rooted in a firm’s mission and vision. It connotes a mindset that maximizes every intersection with the market. It seeks opportunities for interaction with targets and clients. It is about seeding and nurturing strategic relationships.

In the best organizations, it transcends department, and is embraced by all.

In his book, Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit, Jim Stengel documents a decade long study of the world’s 50 leading businesses. According to the study, businesses that invest in culture experience a growth rate 3 times that of other companies.

Adapting Stengel’s findings to the professional services sector, here are five ways in which leadership can cultivate a culture that leverages human resources for, growth and business development.

1. Share the vision.

Most firms establish business goals. But culture is about two things that transcend goals, action plans and budgets. These are:

  • what brings you together — what consultant Roger Hayse of Hayse LLC refers to as shared aspirations; and,
  • communication — the kind that gives rise to the relentless pursuit of a clearly understood vision. This pursuit becomes the framework for initiatives, the test for opportunities, and the foundation of a pervasive marketing perspective.

2. Define the language.

Every culture shares a vocabulary that reflects what is valued. It is easily accessible, and resonates inside as well as outside the firm. Far from marketing fluff or spin, it is the lingua franca of priorities, principles and even big hairy audacious goals.

3. Build for the pursuit.

A firm’s vision is as unique as its makeup. The pursuit of that vision calls for a set of unique capabilities. The highly productive and profitable organizations maintain a laser-like focus on what is required in pursuit of the vision. This focus shapes growth and investment.

4. Establish the highest standards.

Visions that stir are seldom second-rate. The standards for the performance of everyone in the firm should be no less aspirational. An insistence upon excellence taps into the best that a team has to offer. And it is a cultural hallmark of organizations that win.

5. Recognize and reward.

Reinforce the culture you value by putting recognition where your mouth is. It need not always be an economic reward; HR and behavioral scientists have long extolled the virtue of a spectrum of recognition. But make it real. Recognize those that embrace the pursuit of the vision.

Culture communicates. It becomes its own eloquent and memorable message. When aligned with aspirations and vision, it underscores and instinctively supports strategically targeted business development efforts.

It does not supplant the highest caliber counsel and service as a firm’s chief deliverable. But a culture of marketing — a perspective that seeks the opportunity to connect with the market as a tangible representation of the firm’s commitment to serve — might be one of the most significant investments in growth and profitability a firm can make. It is certainly a key to empowering a legion of (oft times reluctant) marketers.

What Went Wrong When Marketing Failed To Deliver

Posted in Art of Listening, Business Development, Marketing

Where did marketing miss the boat?

Attendance was half of what was expected. The new website didn’t make the phone ring. The new tagline or logo or color combination hasn’t made the development of new business any easier.

You’ve tried LinkedIn and micro-sites. Maybe even Twitter and (gasp) Facebook.

You’ve revised profiles, and have great new photos.

You’ve written brand-spanking new practice descriptions (carefully modeled after what the successful competition uses). And you’ve invested in high-priced SEO.

You speak and sponsor regularly.

Still, no one comments on (or even seems to know about) your blog.

And the revenue needle has barely budged.

What went wrong?

One Possibility

Maybe things went awry when we decided to invest in everything except the identification of what our target audience cares about most.

Somewhere, somehow we began to equate marketing with messaging, publicity, events, and — at its best — the employment and execution of creative genius.

Maybe things went a bit wrong when we started to plan and invest as if simply articulating who we are, what we offer and all that we’ve accomplished is all that it takes to move a target in our direction.

Don’t misunderstand: I firmly believe creativity in all of its manifestations is a critical piece of the puzzle. Great copy, killer production value, insightful and innovative media plans scarcely scratch the surface of essential creative components.

But if the message doesn’t emanate from the kind of listening that precisely identifies the point of connection experiences, concerns, aspirations — we should not be surprised when the market barely moves in our direction.

What If We Listened First?

What might happen if, for a season, we invested in innovative listening? What if we found a way to lend an all-hearing ear to our clients/customers/targets? (Caution: perfunctory satisfaction surveys do not count.)

This isn’t half-listening-half-scheming; it isn’t something we fake, while believing we already know what is best for the market.

This is Intentional Listening.

It employs the creative (and opportunistic) resources of the mind’s ear, with one objective — to learn. This kind of listening is a relentless quest for common ground and points of connection.

Call it market research if conventional labels are more comfortable. By any label, this is the seed of success for our marketing and business development efforts.

And here’s the payoff. Your targets highly value intentional listening. Build it into your efforts, and the market will reveal what it cares about, what it is searching for, and what it takes to sew the seeds of loyal, enduring relationships.

Armed with this kind of baseline information, we might surprise even ourselves with the impact creative and innovative marketing and business development efforts have on the bottom-line.

Before Benchmarks Define Direction, Be Certain To Measure What Matters: Reprising a TEDx Talk

Posted in Leadership, Values In Today's Marketplace

We measure everything. The length and weight of a newborn. The speed of an eleven year old’s fast ball. IQ and EQ. And complex algorithms measure everything from personality type to areas where one is likely to succeed. Or fail.

In a recent post — Speedometer ConfusionSeth Godin speaks of the challenge of measures in his own eloquent style.

“Campbell’s Law tells us that as soon as a number is used as the measurement for something, someone will get confused and start gaming the number, believing that they’re also improving the underlying metric, when, in actuallity, they’re merely making the number go up.”

And measures give way to defining labels.

In business, quarterly projections and earnings reports become the ultimate measure of growth. Faster is better, and shortcuts are invented. Bigger is stronger. And, for a season at least, we might be fooled into believing that today’s numbers represent long-term stability and security.

But what if the measure is lacking?

This is the underlying theme of The Missing Metric — my talk from TEDx San Antonio. I share it here (with apology for the personal reference and tone) as cautionary fodder when we’re tempted to wholly rely on metrics and benchmarks for ultimate direction.

4 Flaws That Sabotage The Average Business Development Effort

Posted in Business Development, Marketing

There is no shortage of talk on the topic of business development planning. It is embedded in the agendas of retreats and strategic planning sessions. Management teams circulate the latest forms and templates in hopes of finally finding a silver bullet.

And when results fall short of expectations, we’ll recalibrate, recycle and completely start over in a few months.

For anyone serious about less talk, more action — not to mention, measurable results — here are four tactics that sabotage efforts, along with an idea or two on how to break the cycle and realize some success.

Flaw #1: Planning on the market finding you.

There was a time when hanging a shingle, having business cards engraved and installing a phone line would get things rolling. Do some speaking, sponsor the theater, help underwrite the right events, and potential clients would seek you out when they needed you.

Those were the good old days. And they’re gone.

In a competitive and volatile marketplace, not even the best mousetrap guarantees anyone will care — much less, beat a path to your door.

Business development begins with the strategic identification of those with whom you’d most like to work. And strategic means there is a solid business reason a given target’s name is on your list. For some idea-starters on target identification, see here and here.

Flaw #2: Think, act and talk like business development is all about what you have to offer.

Finding and developing new business is about doing what it takes to connect with viable targets. If your approach is to rare back and come up with the best way to talk about all the services you offer, you’re about to invest in an effort that will be disappointing.

Begin with a focus on the target  — on identifying and understanding what the target cares about. This is about research, listening and competitive intelligence. It is about a focus on things that might fall outside your practice.

What is top-of-mind for those with whom you want to work? Connection here is what will drive targets to your figurative doorstep?

The bonus is that a focus on what your target cares about is the basis for messaging and offerings that resonate and differentiate.

Flaw #3: Bank on a Broadcasting and Visibility play.

“If we could just get our name out there…”

We believe visibility will drive the market to our door because we are surrounded by brand names that have staked out mindshare. The logos conjure entire stories. Apple, Nike, Coca Cola.

It is easy to overlook the fact that those known brands were once unknown names. Apart from pure luck, today’s ubiquitous market leaders began with the hard, unsexy work that comes with market research, target identification and the strategic development of offerings.

B-school curriculums contain countless case studies of businesses that went to the market with a well-funded bang; then, visibility and name recognition notwithstanding, disappeared with scarcely a whimper, having failed to connect with something the market cares about.

Flaw #4: Assume. And take a client for granted

Most of us are intimately familiar with what happens when we assume.

Take for granted that all is well with existing contacts and clients — that they represent satisfied and loyal relationships, and that you know exactly what they need in terms of work product and service —  and you’ll find these clients leaving for greener pastures.

The plan that includes a platform that listens closely to the voice of the client:

  • taps into some of the best market research available — the kind of intelligence that can help hone delivery and identify new trends and opportunities;
  • leverages every resource already invested in marketing / business development.

A robust dialogue with the client is central to long-term (and deeper) relationship. If your marketing strategy does not proactively solicit and digest ideas and feedback from clients, you miss opportunity and greatly diminish the ultimate return on your marketing investment.

(At a more philosophical level, a functioning client feedback platform is indicative of a culture that is focused on the market, and what it takes to remain relevant. This kind of culture possesses a critical success factor.)

Before we blink again, this year will be half over. If you’re wondering why your business development strategy hasn’t gained any traction, ask whether one or more of these flaws might be sabotaging your efforts.

Business Development Lessons En Route To The Legal Marketing Conference — Courtesy of George the Taxi Driver

Posted in Business Development, Customer Experience, Marketing

Confession: I often forget how much I can learn if I simply shut up, and observe (intentional listening). The marketing acumen of George is an example. A group was huddled in front of the LexBlog booth at the Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference. Two or three friends were stumbling over each other, enthusiastically spreading the word of a local taxi driver’s service. I asked one of those evangelists – Cynthia Voth, Marketing Director at the law firm of Graham & Dunn PC in Seattle, Washington to share the story. Here, in this Guest Post, are her observations. 

Traveling to Orlando for the 2014 LMA conference, I shared a cab with three fellow legal marketers, and the experience turned out to be a surprising 7-point lesson on exceptional business development.

1. Developing a relationship begins with (preparation and) the first Hello

Our driver’s name was George and he began establishing his relationship with us as soon as he arrived. Because we were a group of four, we had waited extra time for a taxi-van. Despite the fact that we were four Seattleites thankful to be in the sun, the muggy weather had us sweating and George knew that we had been waiting. His hello, responsiveness, and disposition were an expert blend of friendliness, humor, and get-it-done efficiency.

2. Be attentive, get to know your prospect, and find ways to help.

When you help others and show that you care, remarkable things will happen. In this case, it began with a basket of chocolates. George passed it back, and with enthusiastic (but not too much) encouragement, offered each of us a chocolate bar or two. One of us quipped that what he really wanted was water. He had noticed a partial case on the floor, picked up a bottle, and asked how much for one. George brilliantly waited a few seconds and then replied that my friend could not have that bottle. As we sat there wondering whether our initial impression of our driver’s client service sensibilities was incorrect, George removed a towel from what appeared to be an arm rest next to his seat. He opened the lid to a cooler filled with ice-cold water bottles. “You should have one of these instead,” was George’s well-timed reply—and there was no charge. He passed back bottles until each of us had one.

3. After you have offered your help once, don’t stop there. 

George’s hospitality continued. He offered us gum and Sunny D in the minutes that followed. While none of us took him up on these, he had our appreciation and we knew that George was a master at taking care of his clients.

4. Articulate the ask, without the feel of a “sale.”

George knew that each of us would be flying out after the conference, and asked how and when we planned to return to the airport. There were four potential future fares. George pointed out that the cabs at the hotel would add a resort charge, but he wouldn’t. All of us agreed to give him a shot. He had all but ensured that our answer would be yes with his practical and appropriate helpfulness, and his reasonable proposal.

5. Confirm the deal after the answer is “Yes” and continue to demonstrate your expertise.

When the first of us had agreed to book a return, George (not missing a beat and, more importantly, being prepared to respond to an opportunity) had a notebook and pen at the ready to write down our information. He let us know that he would text a confirmation before he picked us up. George demonstrated his expertise by offering a recommendation of a pick-up time to ensure timely arrival at the airport, based on the time of day. Most importantly, he was careful to ensure that we agreed with his suggested timing.

6. Follow through on all promises made, and communicate well, and often. 

I shared George’s biz dev example at a presentation I made the following day and included this slide, along with George’s phone number:

My lead-in bullet was, “Know how to articulate the ask.”

At least three people from my session told me they were planning to call George. If you are keeping track, one ride from the airport had generated seven potential additional fares — the result of a combination of service savvy, an effective ask, and the power of referrals.

At 9:22 p.m. the night before my scheduled pick up, George texted to confirm, and provide an opportunity for me to adjust my timing. Within seconds of my reply, he sent a thank you to confirm that my confirmation had been received. Excellent communication makes all the difference in establishing trust.

7. Just because the deal is done, don’t stop communicating. And be sure to express gratitude.

George was ten minutes early, texted that he had arrived, and encouraged me to take my time. His demeanor was as pleasant and positive as it had been three days earlier. The chocolates and water were offered again, and I had plenty of time to get checked in. While in the security line, I received a final text from George to thank me and wish me a good trip. Spelling notwithstanding, it was very nicely (and expertly) executed from start to finish.

I am not sure when I’ll visit Orlando next, but I would call George again, and would recommend him without hesitation. Solidifying relationships with new clients and building trust and loyalty is an art that George has mastered. While each professional should put their own individual stamp on how they develop business, there are fundamental steps that will help ensure more effective relationship and business development. Legal professionals can draw their own parallels to the lessons above. We can find great success by adapting a page from George’s playbook.

And, if you are travelling to Orlando, give George a call at 407-361-7606.

Cynthia has nineteen years of marketing experience that spans working with law firms, large financial institutions, small businesses, and non-profits. She serves as 2014 president of the Legal Marketing Association Northwest Chapter.