Archive for May, 2011
I attended Legal Tech West in Los Angeles this week and tweeted for the first time during a CLE session.
Shortly after I did, I got a direct message from Kevin O’Keefe of LexBlog, Inc. He was attending the same session as me and suggested we meet. It was a great opportunity for me to get a perspective on social media from someone who has pioneered its use in the legal community.
Later, as I was walking into another session I saw a face that looked vaguely familiar. I realized it was Scott Preston, CIO of Fulbright & Jaworski. I recognized him from his Twitter photo. Because we “follow” each other and frequently retweet each other’s comments, it made it easy to walk up and introduce myself.
When I created my Twitter account a year ago, I didn’t “get it.” Everyone was talking about it, but I didn’t really see its impact in the world of law firm business development. I wasn’t convinced it would be applicable to lawyers who are still grappling with the basics of lead generation and branding.
A year later, I see Twitter as one of the most valuable business development tools available to me and to every lawyer out there.
There is no magic to it. Twitter is about good old fashioned networking.
Any good lawyer knows the secret to business development is relationships. Lawyers build relationships in a variety of ways. They participate in bar events. They join industry organizations. They attend trade shows and conferences. Their goal is to meet people they like and to build relationships that will turn into referral sources or new clients. The good ones choose their networking options strategically. They identify who they want to meet and find out where they hang out.
Twitter is no different.
You find people to follow on Twitter with whom you share interests. I follow people who do similar things in business that I do. I follow my clients. I follow people I would like to have for clients. I follow people who talk about things I am interested in outside of work — be it politics, or sports or other special interests.
In exchange I try to share things that I think my followers might find interesting. I retweet things they say to help them get their message out to a larger audience.
Some of these conversations turn into direct messages. Some turn into coffee or lunch.
Twitter has helped me expand my professional network. It has helped me understand my clients better. It has helped me stay abreast of industry trends. And it has even led to new friends who I count on as referral sources.
Aha… I finally get it.
“[INSERT LAW FIRM NAME] is a full-service law firm with market-leading strengths in the energy, financial services, real estate, technology, pharmaceutical, and [insert industry] sectors. Our multidisciplinary teams handle business transactions, M&A, intellectual property, corporate governance, complex litigation and anything else that could come your way. In other words, we do anything for anyone.”
With the exception of the last sentence, this description or a near facsimile could be found on any of hundreds of law firm websites around the globe.
Well-intended writers — usually at the direction of attorneys — often try to appeal to the widest possible audience of existing and prospective clients. The impact is just the opposite. The description ends up so broad that the message appeals to no one.
Buyers of legal services are more sophisticated than ever. They don’t have time to waste. And the competition for their attention is fierce. Too often law firms fail to reach their target audiences because they try to be everything to everyone.
Through market segmentation, law firms can gain greater insight into what drives the unique audiences they serve to buy legal services.
Simply defined, a market segment is a group of people who have similar demands and needs based on common characteristics, such as a shared demographic, geography, psychographic or behavior. As a result, the way a segment makes buying decisions is typically the same.
With an understanding of what drives and motivates a segment, you can create messages and identify specific marketing tactics that will allow you to get the attention of your audience.
A simple exercise to better understand a market segment is to consider the following:
1) What are the unique challenges facing this segment?
2) What specific benefits does our firm offer this segment?
3) How does this segment communicate?
Do this with two-to-three different segments and compare the results. Then look at the key messages your firm uses to market. Do they apply to the segments you’ve identified?
The reality is one-size marketing usually fits none.
What do you get when you cross a firm unaccustomed to pursuing business strategically with the internal announcement of a major business development initiative?
Many firm leaders coming out of the economic downturn realize that “random acts of marketing” are not going to see them into the future. They are adopting disciplined marketing and business development plans to grow their businesses.
For lawyers who were trained that business development is a way of life, a firm focus on driving revenues with a disciplined and strategic plan is common sense.
But there is a whole generation of lawyers — associates and young partners — who have spent the bulk of their career billing hours rather than building books of business.
This same group of lawyers has witnessed three years of law firm closures, layoffs and a decline in demand for legal services. It’s understandable that many live in fear of what their future holds.
As a result, an unintended consequence of a new strategic initiative may be that some attorneys actually perceive it as a sign of an underlying problem at the firm.
This shouldn’t deter firm leaders. Rather, it reinforces the need to craft clear messages that don’t assume everyone in the firm immediately understands why change is taking place.
Communication should happen globally and be reinforced in one-to-one communications with individual attorneys on an as needed basis.
An effective communication plan can take time as not everyone embraces change at the same pace. Ultimately, solid communication can clarify understanding and avoid otherwise unintended consequences.