Starbucks Gets It With Relationship Tweets

I follow Starbuck on Twitter. This afternoon I received the following tweet:

Starbucks CoffeeWhiteStarbucks
Seattle-ites: Check out Hot Java, Cool Jazz tonight: 5 Seattle area HS big bands http://bit.ly/WY0HI … these guys are good!

By using Twitter they enhanced their brand with nearly 110,000 followers for virtually no cost. The bio on Twitter says its “Brad at Starbucks in Seattle, WA.” It could easily be a barista from one of there stores and not even be affiliated with the corporate office. I’m sure it’s not as the person twittering on this account also handles relies to incoming tweets on product info, complaints and favorite barista compliments.

Folks that follow Starbucks get quick, short answers to their problems and praise. This allows them to feel as if they know Starbucks. That even though they are communicating back-and-forth with short text messages, they are still “communicating.” There IS someone at the other end who is listening and responding. You don’t get that with emails that disappear into a bulk inbox somewhere. Or from a voice response phone program.

So how can an attorney leverage this concept for business development?

First, you need to get connected to the right folks that are on Twitter. And if you have contacts that are not but are tech savvy, call them and talk it up. Get them to agree to sign up and follow up with an email with instructions.

Second, you need to send tweets. Don’t send tweets about brushing your teeth or buying coffee (unless you’re sending a reply to Starbuck). Create tweets about the work you are doing. Re-tweet incoming tweets from news sources like AmLawDaily. Follow them and reply to their tweets. Remember that the whole world can see your tweets, so DO NOT tweet anything confidential or too personal.

It’s challenging to be pithy, clever and bright in 140 characters. But you don’t have to be all in one tweet. You are working to establish a relationship.  That means that your goal is to develop a body of work over time. Some of your tweets will be strictly business, while others will have a personal flavor. The Starbuck tweet about a band playing tonight in Seattle has nothing to do with selling coffee. But then again, it had everything to do with selling coffee.

A Tale of Two Tweets

A recent article on Cnet News, Nielsen: Twitter’s growing really, really, really, really fast, reports that Twitter is growing at a phenomenal rate of 1,382% over the past 12 months. I have to confess that I am one of the new users adding to that calculation.  This post relates the stories of two separate tweeting experiences that help demonstrate the potential power of social networking through Twitter.

The first experience was a Altman Weil webinar for law firms on managing RFPs starts. Tim Corcoran (tcorcoran), a Senior Consultant for Altman Weil, was sending tweets of highlights from the event. He wasn’t relaying a transcript of what was being said, rather he was commenting his observations of the proceedings.

“An RFP is oppty for lawyers to demonstrate problem-solving skills. Why do many see it as fill-in-the-blanks exercise to delegate? #AWRFP”

These tweets remind me of the types of notes I might have taken had I attended the event, little nuggets of information to take back to the office. That’s a nice benefit. But more importantly from Tim’s perspective is that I now have a connection in my brain that he is knowledgeable about the subject of legal RFPs. That may be important to him someday should I ever be in the position to need such help or if I am asked if I know of someone as a referral.

It also points out what I feel is a highly overlooked aspect of Twitter and Facebook type of Social Network apps. You are socializing. A single tweet on its own will not win over a new client. But the cumulative effect over time creates an ongoing conversation of sorts that eventually develops into a relationship, and decision makers are more likely to do business with you if they have a relationship.

For example, I have met Tim a few times at LMA and LexisNexis events. And he knew of me through common contacts. But I really have never had an opportunity or need to reach out and communicate with him. My relationship with him is not close enough that I would ever send him an email just to maintain my “network.” We are not that close.

But if we follow each other through Twitter, we’ll  start to become more aware of each other and begin to develop a relationship almost as if through osmosis. And it doesn’t even have to be through tweets between us. Tim responded to a Tweet from a colleague who was visiting in Chicago and wanted to know of a good restaurant near her hotel and because I follow Tim I saw the tweet (it’s like eaves dropping in a way). Tim recommended she try Heaven on 7. That happens to be one of my favorite restaurants too!  Suddenly we have a point in common that I can save in my CRM so that if the opportunity arises I can leverage that information. (Tim, if you’re reading this, let’s grab some great Cajun food for lunch the next time you’re in Chicago!).

Over time as we build up a relationship via these incidental tweets and replies, he and I will develop a familiarity, a relationship with each other to the point where I don’t have to fabricate an excuse to reach out and touch base with him if needed.  I’m no longer that guy he met at a conference two years ago. I’m now the fellow tweeter he follows. He knows me, has a sense of my personality and opinions, and it won’t be out of the ordinary nor awkward if I contact him with a direct message (DM) or e-mail. 

And the effect isn’t limited to Tim. It has this same effect to all of the folks that see my message. Everyone following me will read my tweets. I’m building relationships with many people at the same time with a single 140 character message. Talk about efficiency in communications.

The second tweeting experience was part of Legal PR Chicago luncheon where they hosted a discussion panel on social networking. I found out about the event accidentally from a tweet of one of the tweeters I follow. I did not know anything about the event but was intrigued as I wanted to see how Twitter worked at another conference, having just experience the Altman Weil webinar. (This also points out that Twitter can be a useful channel to promote your events to folks not on your mailing lists.). What I really learned from this experience is that your tweets can be seen by people that are not following you.

I simply posted a quick reply to another twitter’s comment. It had not dawn on me that I was communicating to a much larger group other than folks that follow me. Afterwards, my office neighbor came by and said, “We saw you at the luncheon!” What I did not now is that when they decided to live tweet the event they also projected the event tweets on a large screen in the room. So everyone in the room saw my post along with my Twitter ID and profile picture! This is not the norm for events but it did suddenly make me aware that there were many folks following the tweets that did not know me and that by participating I was introducing myself to them. If they think that my contribution was particularly pithy, they can click on my Twitter ID to view my profile, and from there click the button to follow me. These events represent and opportunity to expand your network and reach new contacts.

So get involved and explore Twitter.  It’s one of those tools you really need to dive into to fully understand. It won’t be long before you figure out how to apply it  to your business development needs. And then you can rewrite your own ending to “A Tale of Two Tweets.”

“It is a far, far better tweet that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better network that I build, than I have ever grown.”

Facebook as a Business Development Tool

facebook_pic1Facebook is social networking tool that is quickly outpacing MySpace, one of the original social networking applications. While MySpace appeals to a younger audience, pre-teens to young adults, Facebook aims to attract a larger audience, including adults of all ages. Facebook is essentially a communal homepage where you post a profile and other users you have connected to as “friends” can follow your postings, such as a status update, photos and videos. Your friends can contribute comments to your postings so you have some resemblance of a conversation.

It’s a very social environment and many people use it to keep up with friends and family. It is therefore not particularly well suited for business purposes. The personal nature of the wall writings and deluge of requests for little green plants and sea monsters are not conducive to presenting a professional presence. But many of your business contacts may be on Facebook and not other applications, so it’s possible that this may still be the best social networking platform to manage your relationship with them.

Facebook, like MySpace, has the capability of letting people connect and stay in touch with friends and family. I have connected with old friends I haven’t seen for years. As they post status updates to their “wall,” I get a chance to follow what’s going on in their life. Sometimes this is a bit more intimate than one would experience via other communication tools; e-mail, telephone and even face-to-face meetings. Your friend’s posts to other users appear on your wall and if that person is not part of your friends list, you don’t see the their side of their conversation. This stilted form of conversation can be awkward and you sometimes eavesdrop into some very personal comments that don’t make sense because of the one-sided conversation!

I quickly learned that I had both colleagues and business contacts in my friends list and that I need to be circumspect in my comments as my postings would appear on their walls. So I created a second Facebook account for my business colleagues. But this has proven to be cumbersome to manage. It was tricky to set up as I needed a second cell phone number to validate the account. And you must log out and login to switch identities depending what you want to say and to whom. And I have received friend requests on my personal account from business associates. Instead of accepting these I log out of my personal account, login my business account and send them a friend request. This is an extra hassle and time consuming and I’m not sure it’s worth the effort as Facebook does not have a huge potential for generating new business.

Facebook also supports groups. I created the Legal 1-to-1 group in support of this blog. The group provides two main features. One, it has a discussion board where you can post topics. This is an opportunity to collect information from your followers to see what topics are of interest to them, as well as their opinion on topics you have opined on a blog. Blogs to offer the ability to comment but a discussion board is far more flexible and dynamic. Two, as administrator I can broadcast a message to the group members. This turns my group into a list. My main purpose of broadcasting a message is to send alerts to them when I’ve updated my blog. Again, the goal is to bring readers to my blog where I can establish a rapport

So far I have been unable to entice any comments to the forum. But the group membership has limited numbers right now and I haven’t spent any real effort to promote the group so I would not expect much participation at this early stage. But that does raise another issue, you must view your social networking strategy as a campaign. You are basically marketing yourself. Therefore you should put together a marketing plan on who you want to target, how are you going to reach them, and how to you intend to qualify and convert those contacts into work.

My overall impression on Facebook is that it can be a useful tool for some business development activities but it’s social and entertainment bent relegates it to more an ancillary tool. Much of what you want to do accomplish in Facebook can be done with LinkedIn, which is more business oriented. There may be opportunities for connecting with prospects and clients that may not be on LinkedIn, but be forewarned that if you use Facebook for personal reasons, such as connecting to friends and family, that information you post can be easily seen by your business contacts as well. So I would restrict connections to only those with whom you already have a personal comfort level.

If you receive a friend request from a business contact with whom you do not have that comfort level, ignore the Facebook request and send your own LinkedIn request in response. You are under no obligation to accept everyone’s friend request. And by sending your own LinkedIn request your are still being social and remain connected to the contact. If the contact questions why simply explain that you do have a Facebook account but don’t really use it much but that you do follow LinkedIn more closely so you’d rather stay connected using that service instead.

I believe a tool like LinkedIn is better suited for a personal business development campaign than Facebook. Since we all have limited time to manage this effort its very difficult to manage a social networking communication strategy on multiple platforms. So it makes more sense to focus on LinkedIn because it has a broader reach in the business-to-business arena, is a more acceptable social networking platform to your target audience, and has the tools you need to drive contacts to your blog. Use Facebook sparingly for only those business contacts with whom you have a personal relationship as they will have access to your posts to friends and family that will provide them with a glimpse into your personal life.

Defining Legal 1-to-1

My first awakening to the term 1-to-1 came from the Peppers & Rogers book, Enterprise Marketing 1-to-1. They examine multiple case studies and examples where companies leveraged their database knowledge and power to customize messages targeted to a market of one. The key is to collect data relevant to your market and product or services, and the use that data to craft your offering for the relevant segments, each with a unique message that resonates to their needs and desires.

In truth, you are not creating thousands of unique messages. Rather you are leveraging database technology to merge your data to make it appear that the target is receiving a unique message. For example, if you make widgets and you have collected prospect’s data on their widget preferences, you use that data to drive your offer.

Widget Data

NUMBER

NAME

COLOR

SIZE

USE

1

Bill

red

1

home

2

Fred

blue

2

work

Your letter with merge fields could look like this:
     “<NAME>, today you can own your own <SIZE> inch <COLOR> Widget for use at <USE>.”

Customer one would receive:
     “Bill, today you can own your own 1 inch red Widget for use at home.”

And customer two:
     “Fred, today you can own your own 2 inch blue Widget for use at work.”

This is the basic database marketing strategy direct marketers have been employing for over ten years. You see it every day in the offers you receive in the mail, email, and custom magazine inserts. Package goods manufacturers have this strategy down cold. They conduct research to identify their market and what drives their purchase decisions, then they collect the relevant data, and finally they the data to craft their offers. Using the data is the key to 1-to-1 marketing.  But marketing legal services is different than selling soap so it’s more difficult to develop a 1-to-1 strategy.

I have noticed two very important characteristics in law firms and many other service industries that set them apart from most other markets.

1. The attorneys are both the product and the sales force.
2. A strong sense of entrepreneurship

Attorney Sales Force
Although many attorneys may cringe as being classified as being in sales it’s a simple truth. You can dress it up under the euphemism “business development” but it still is sales. The attorney needs to listen to the client or prospects needs, identify where he or she can address those needs, present the benefits of their service to the decision maker, and then close the deal.  So if you view sales as part of the attorney’s job description, then the firm needs to employ a marketing strategy that allows the marketing staff and its resources, including the CRM database, to integrate within the sales pipeline in support of the attorney’s efforts to bring the sale home.

In this environment you are not going to be sending out form letters merging in widget colors. But your database still needs to collect and present relevant data in support of the personal selling process. Legal CRM products provide the foundation of this support.

A Firm with a Thousand Solo Practitioners
Attorneys have a strong sense of individualism. Even in a firm with hundreds or thousands of attorneys, each one still views their contacts as their own book of business. Their contacts are their life blood, their assets, their future. Technically, the contacts are assets of the firm, but I’m not going to enter into a debate on that issue. What is relevant and important to this discussion is the attorney’s reluctance to lose control of their contacts for fear of being raided or of another attorney’s incompetence soiling the relationship they have work to develop and nurture. I believe the key to solving this delemma is the word “relationship.” If an attorney does have a strong relationship with their contacts, the risk of being raided is lessened. Sure it will still happen. And raiding will happen even if the contacts are not in the CRM as most of the information a raider needs is readily available online.  Legal CRM is a vital tool to provide attorneys a competative advantage over their counterpart who rely solely on their memory. 

Managing the Relationship via CRM Software
The key to 1-to-1 marketing with entrepreneurial attorneys is to teach them how to use the CRM as a tool to help manage their relationships. The first step is to get in the habit of collecting critical data relevant to the relationship and keep a journal of key communications (touchpoints). CRM software allows attorneys track this critical information and journalizing activities. Finally, the attorney recalls the information either in advance preparation for a call, meeting or email, or as a way to identify which contacts to reach out to that may have a need in response to a current event, ruling, etc.

Collect, Store & Use Relationship Data

Collect, Store & Use Relationship Data

Collecting Data & Journalizing Activities
You want to record bits of information that will help you establish and maintain a rapport with the contact; where you first met, spouse name, favorite restaurant, skills, areas of responsibility, etc. Some may be able to do this in their head for their critical contacts but it becomes impossible to do it with all of your contacts. I have seen attorney’s whose contacts number in the thousands. If you take good notes you can easily reconnect with old contacts whose fate brings them back across your pass.

Likewise, logging a contact’s critical activity provides insight to the progression of the relationship. It’s a record of all of the critical touchpoints between you and the contact so you have a historical record of the relationship. Emails you’ve sent or received, phone calls, meetings, lunches, and letters are logged with pertinent comments or notes. Over time you will have a journal you can call upon at a moments notice to refresh your memory on any discussion or corrispondence.

Storing in a CRM
Attorneys are very good at keeping track of those key contacts they deal with day in and day out. But you cannot remember everything for everyone when the you get beyond the first tier of contacts. I have seen attorneys with 2,000-3,000 contacts. Truthfully, most of these are not business development prospects. But the point is that all attorneys have a large number of contacts that reach out to periodically. Keeping pertinent data in your CRM is critical for managing these contacts that may move up to become key contacts at some point.

In a team environment where multiple attorneys are either involved with a pitch, or in a client situation where multiple timekeepers have interaction with multiple client personnel, tracking and journalizing helps ensure the team is on the same page. A CRM tool is more effecting than broadcast emails, a common practice used by attorneys to carbon copy team memmebrs, as it keeps a permanent record available on demand by any team member even those who were not with the firm at the time the corrispondence or incident. Emails tend to get forgotten and lost. The CRM data has permanence.  And the CRM data will also incorporate marketing’s touchpoints: newsletters, alerts, invitations and RFPs. So you have access to a more complete relationship picture that includes all communications, not just your own. Of course this is dependent on everyone on the team participating. A system is only as good as it’s weakest link.

Using the Data
So let’s tie the concept of a law firm CRM to direct marketing 1-to-1 scenario. Instead of a merging of preference data into a widget offer, the attorney “merges” the CRM data in preparation of a meeting or a call. This is the “use the data” part of Legal 1-to-1 that drives the sale process, the attorney as a salesman. You pull up the record in your CRM software and review your notes and your most recent communications, look to see if anyone else has been in contact and why, and find out what recent marketing communications have been sent and/or requested. The attorney “merges” the data into their communication strategy to make the touchpoint more relevant and therefore more valuable to the receiver.

The other use of the data is to use it to target specific contacts for services as market conditions or the political landscape create opportunities. This data is different than recording spouse and children’s names. It requires a deeper understanding of the contacts needs and role in their organization. The firm’s marketing department can be instrumental to help identify and track this information. I’ll discuss this in a future posting.

The bottom line is that using a CRM software allows you to track and monitor critical data that helps you create and maintain a business relation with your contacts. It becomes a 1-to-1 relationship when that data is relevant to your target markets needs. But only becomes truly valuable if it’s used as part of your relationship strategy.

So in order to get started an attorney needs to answer three questions:

“What information do I need to track?”
“How do I track or record this information?”
“How do I use stored data to establish a 1-to-1 relationship with all of my contacts?’

These will be the topics of my next series of posts

NextGen_Law Magazine

A copy of the premier issue of NexGen_Law magazine came in the mail today.  It’s rather thin put out by Daily Journal Publications, although there is no reference to the magazine on their website and the magazine has no web presence of it’s own. That’s seems rather odd for a rag positioning itself as cutting edge. Anyway, I’ll post more info later when I learn more.

Of note to this blog is a piece titled Facebook for Lawyers.  In short, it comments on how Facebook is long on social interaction and short on business development. It likens it to an electronic cocktail party. I think this is a pretty fair assessment. It also mentions that you lose a fair amount of control over contacts. Although the article focuses on lack of control over ad placements. I don’t think that’s a big deal as potential clients and prospects are likely savvy enough to recognize them for what they are, especially if thet are familiar with Facebook already.

The cocktail party analogy is interesting because I think it’s not only accurate but a useful observation. In my limited experience in testing a business Facebook account I’ve come to find that there’s not a lot of direct business development functionality but there are opportunities for building relationships.

For example, one of my friends is a lawyer at my firm.  I really do not know him well and we connected as friends on Facebook based solely on our shared employment at the firm. But I noticed in several of his postings that he has an interest in wine, which is actually very common among attorneys I know. While on its own this information is not earth shattering, it can be a useful tidbit that one would store in their CRM notes on an individual, especially if the individual is not particulay close to you.

It could provide a nice intro if you need a social talking point at a meeting. Or if you were to plan a lunch or dinner meeting you could make sure your restauarant choice has a good wine selection. Or maybe you see an related news item or magazine article that you can share via email, or send a clipping in the mail.

Whatever shape the touchpoint takes the key is that you use the information to establish a relationship. It may not seem like much, but little friendly touches like this do make an impression (as long as they’re sincere).

So a key lesson I’ve learned so far is that a business development Facebook account can be helpful to glean useful personal insight on your contacts. This alone may not generate business leads but may help you develop a 1-to-1 relationship. My next post will cover this in more detail as I give my definition on legal 1-to-1 marketing

Does Teenager E-Mail Trend Foretell the Future of Marketing Communications

A recent Computerworld article “Is e-mail for old fogeys?” explains that while e-mail remains the killer app for most adults, usage among teenagers is dropping. Instead they rely on instant messaging, social networking sites and blogging. I’ve seen this with my own kids. I actually have to remind my son to check his email account for messages I’ve sent him. He and his peers are attached to their cell phone texting back-and-forth, they rarely use it for voice communications.

 

I see interesting social implications since the act of texting almost turns them into zombies, oblivious to conversations or the world around them. In a way “Social Networking” applications is an oxymoron as I see were it can actually retard true social interaction.

 

This trend as little impact for using these tools today for business development. However, it has serious implications for the future as it foreshadows a mind set of incoming attorneys. The report defines teenagers as being between the ages of 12 and 18, so no need to panic. But it would be prudent to look ahead. It will be curious to see if their behavior continues as they age and the way we communicate adapts, or if their behavior modifies as they age and enter the work force. E-mail is still the dominant internet application with 90% of adults using it (what are the other 10% doing???)

 

The next age group, 18 to 32 years-old, spend their internet time watching videos, downloading podcasts, using social network sites and creating profiles, and are likely to seek jobs online. This demonstrates their acceptance of applications beyond e-mail and simple web browsing. The use of podcasts and social networking sites is more germane to legal business development. But they are still not usually the age group of decision makers. It does perhaps have implications on how firms and their client’s teams work and communicate. Associates and their client counterparts may create and develop social interaction via Facebook, MySpace and other tools. It’s easier to post a status update or end a tweet than it is to schedule a lunch and break bread together,

 

But it’s my opinion that we will see a new phenomena with social networking tools. I believe that instead of the younger generation aging and pulling the adoption of these tools with them as they move into positions of power, that we will see the age bands above 34 start to adopt them as their own and pull the usage up into their work life. The incredible success of President Obama’s campaign to incorporate social networking to reach out to their constituency caught everyone’s attention. And his hard-line insistence on maintaining the use of his Blackberry will serve as a role model to all who wish to emulate his success and cast themselves in his image.

 

For better or for worse I sense that we are on the edge of a cultural change. The use of Internet 2.0 social networking apps as a mode of communicating will become the norm rather than an oddity. And I believe this change will fall upon us faster than most realize. I can still remember the speed in which e-mail permeated our workplace. Do you doubt this can happen? I can still remember the unbelievers saying it would never happen.  But it was only a few short years, months really, that the internet craze led by the killer app e-mail changed the way we do business forever.

 

It will be the same with social networking tools so we had better understand and incorporate them now as it’s much better to be ahead of the curve with business technology as it provides a distinct competitive advantage to those who lead.

Define your Community

The key to any marketing effort is to define your target market. Developing leads through social networking applications is no different. The folks you add to your Facebook, LinkedIn contacts or Twitter’s tweets constitute your target market for business development. Since we are discussing social networking instead of direct marketing, I refer to these folks as your community. Most people, myself included, make a conscience effort to expand their communities by inviting as many people to join their network or to be their friend.

But the problem with this approach for business development is that your communities are not focused and you’ll have a mix of family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, client and prospects all sharing the same interface. So you’ll have your clients looking at posts from Uncle Joe, your high school buddies, mom and ex-girlfriends. Not only will your business contact see inappropriate comments at times, but more importantly, your message will get lost in the clutter and noise of social networking unfettered.

Step one is to create two separate identities. Set up new business only accounts using a separate email address. If you used your personal address for your accounts, then you can simply use your business address. If you already used your business address then you need to sign up for a new email account at any of the available services, such as Yahoo, Gmail, Google, etc. Most email services allow you to set up an automatic forwarding for incoming mail. This lets you route any incoming messages to your business account automatically. It also provides portability should you move on to another firm, simply change the settings to forward to your new business email address.

Step two is to populate your community with business contacts, If you are just starting out you just simply invite them. But it gets more complicated if you already have a blended mix in your existing communities. You’ll need to send them another invitation to your new account. Include a note explaining the purpose of the request, that it’s designed to provide a more business like community separate from friends and family.

Does it work?

I don’t know yet. Right now my “communities” are blended so I have to create a business identity. I will start with Facebook and set up a second business oriented account. Some of you that are already my friends in Facebook may see an invitation from me in the near future inviting you to my new account. (Of course you’re perfectly welcome to remain on my personal account if you are interested in seeing posts from my friends and family!)  I’ll post a follow up on any problems or complaints. I’ll also explore the problems with having two separate Facebook accounts, if any.

Next: Once you’ve created your business oriented community you need to generate business oriented communications.

Coordinated Attack

Implementing a social networking strategy for business development requires coordinating the management of several applications with the ultimate goal of funneling interested prospects into the sales pipeline. Most attorneys and firms abhor the terminology of “sales pipeline,” but that’s what business development is all about. You want to create a relationship with your audience and ultimately connect with those in need of your services to generate new clients and matters.

 

All of the basic social networking tools have strengths and weaknesses, mostly weaknesses, when it comes to business development. That’s because they were not developed to be specifically a business tool, they are social networking tools. The strongest application for generating leads is your blog. A blog is your soapbox. It’s the medium where you can stand and espouse your opinion and demonstrate you skills and expertise. This is the electronic equivalent to a face-to-face meeting without actually meeting, or the phone call with out the phone. The blog is the centerpiece of your social networking strategy.

 

The other tools are your feeder applications. There purpose is to create a web of contacts that you can reach out to when you have something important to say in your blog. After all, you are not going to convert any one with a short Twitter tweet or a Facebook super poke. But you can get their attention with these applications and then point them to your blog where you  have the space to write with more detail. (These other applications, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, also have other marketing type functions that I will cover in later posts.)

 

The final component in your social networking strategy is your firm’s website. A blog by design is not a comprehensive white paper or treatise on a subject, rather it’s more akin to a conversation, an introduction of your opinion or understanding. The advantage is that your reader gets a chance to know you, your personality and style. By contrast, the content on the firm’s website is more detailed and extensive. You cite and reference documents, videos and events within your blog to support you theme. If the topic and your presentation of it interests your readers who are at this point anonymous to you, they will follow the links to delve deeper. Here they can learn more about the issue you introduced, become acquainted with the firm and its totally offering of services. It is also at this point where they may sign up for newsletters, alerts and event invitations and enter into your marketing department’s database system. The firm’s marketing communications keep them abreast of the breadth and depth of services, and their continued monitoring of your blog provides them with a personal contact. At some point your blog reader may reach out to you directly.

 

At some point in this process the reader is likely to have reached out to you via a direct message.  It’s important to enter these contacts into your CRM so you have a mechanism to track your contacts and journalize the conversations. Prior to this point you were communicating with an anonymous audience. Now you are in a position to develop a more personal 1-to-1 conversion with your prospects.

 

Using the new social networking applications to easily promote yourself and your capabilities is a great idea. But it’s equally important to do so with a strategy in place that maximizes your effort with an end goal to capture leads and feed them into your sales pipeline.

 

Next Post in the series: Define your Community

A Beginning

I’ve always been a fan of the opportunities of incorporating computer technologies into marketing strategies. There is an elegance to the resulting system that produces a sense of beauty and satisfaction much as an artist achieves when he or she creates a strong image or haunting melody. Most cannot see the beauty in a computer system, in fact, most are intimidated or afraid of technology. So to them I may seem odd when I get excited when software and functions support marketing business processes “like a glove.” And the more simple the solution, the more elegant the system, the more satisfying I find the process.

 

The legal marketplace presents several challenges to implementing a 1-to-1 methodology.

 

First, the attorneys are both the product and sales force. Tradition legal business development practice places the focus on the attorney as being ultimately responsible for qualifying leads, developing the pitch and closing the deal. Marketing’s role in the process varies from firm to firm, from one end of the extreme of simply producing and mailing brochures to the more advance role of authoring RFPs, developing presentations and even coaching or role playing preparation for the attorneys.  Still, the ultimate sales responsibility lies with the attorney. The challenge is that attorneys do not have a formal marketing or sales background. Their preparation in school and in practice is centered on being the product; excellence in being practitioners of the law.

 

Second, attorneys are possessive of the book of business. To the attorney, their contacts are THEIR contacts. It’s the life blood of their value to the firm, and leverage to future positions if they chose to move to another firm at some point in their carrier. So anyone’s attempt to secure a copy of their book is tantamount to a threat to their livelihood. Of course what most do not recognize is that their book of business is just a list. And lists can be built from many public sources these day.  However, what brings true value to their list is their relationship, the bond that they develop and nurture with their contacts.  The irony is that it is in this task that the technology can be leveraged in terms or CRM applications (Client or Customer Relationship Management).

 

There are many more issues that I and others can identify and discuss, such as how some attorneys view marketing as an unnecessary expense that’s simply sucking the profits right out of their own wallet. All of these issues are obstacles we must face as we work towards bringing modern direct marketing techniques to the legal industry.

 

And now the world, and more importantly the next generation of Associates, are embracing the Internet 2.0 social networking paradigm on the web. Applications embracing the net such as blogs, social networks, RSS and more are commonplace among a large portion of the population. These technologies have the potential of taking relationship building to the next level of 1-to-1 marketing. Law firms and attorneys have the ability to target specific groups of clients and prospects with their message, and the targets are raising their hands to receive this message.  And a targeted message of value transmitted to a receive who requests and desires the content brings true value to the transaction. That transaction has real value and creates the foundation to build a long-lasting relationship.

 

Oh, what fun we can have!

 

If only we can overcome the issues that block acceptance and use.  That will be the subject for future posts on this site; how to leverage the internal and external technologies and build a law firm business development methodology that works and can be accepted by the attorney.

 

I welcome and ideas, comments and suggestions as we embark on this discussion. I will incorporate them into our future conversations.