I’m No Longer Two-Faced

Previously I reported on how I created two separate Facebook accounts; one for my personal social network and a second for a more business related social network. But after months of neglect I have decide to deactivate the business account. I found that it was just too much of a hassle to maintain two separate accounts, and I tended to gravitate to my “personal” account almost exclusively. With other social networking tools competing for face time (pun intended) I just stopped managing two different personas.

Throw In The Towel?

But I haven’t given up on the concept of Facebook being a valuable business development tool. But you must be very selective on who you friend and what you post. I would reserve Facebook to only those contacts you already know and have a strong comfort level that they will accept your personality. Because even if you are very cautious about what you post, you cannot escape the likelihood that some very personal information will eventually make it’s way to your home wall or someone else’s wall.

It could be as innocent as an old high school or college buddy posting and tagging pictures of you from some frat party. (Tagging is when thy click on your image and enter your name so folks viewing the picture know it’s you!). Or perhaps you and you family share comments about a birthday, graduation or other family oriented life event. There is nothing inherently wrong with that information, it’s just that it opens your personal life up to business contacts that you ordinarily wouldn’t share. There are some security settings where you can restrict what information is visible, but sometimes these settings can create a false sense of security. If you post a comment on a friends page, and then another person who is not your friend but shares your first friend comments on the same thread, he or she can see you comments. So you had better think twice before you post comments.

So Why Should I Use Facebook Anyway?

But the same issues that may lead you to be leery in “friending” business contacts can also be the exact reason why you want to friend them. You will gain insight into their personality. Collecting birthdays is an obvious benefit. But you can easily start to pick up on facts about family members, spouse & children’s names, school events, extra-curricular activities, likes and dislikes. If you pay attention you can harvest a wealth of information. Now you can leverage this information to initiate conversations or use to deepen relationships as you blend personal information with business conversations. Good salespersons are expert at this technique as are experienced rainmaker attorneys. That’s why lunch meetings, sporting events and other social gatherings are used to strengthen business relationships. With Facebook you can gather this information on contacts without expending the time and money on lunch or golf.

Enter What You Learn into Your CRM

Be sure to leverage your CRM as you gather this information. At the very least you should be entering bits of information in your email address book notes so you can refer to them when you plan a call or meeting. Ideally you should condense the most pertinent details in a shared notes field so that your colleagues on your team have good data when they make or receive calls. You don’t need to share everything as that may tend to be spooky if it isn’t worked into the conversation properly. You may have a valid conversation entry point as you can say “I noticed on your Facebook status that your daughter just graduated, congratulations!” But a colleague who is not on the contact’s friend list should never use  that type of data. But you could add data such as A favorite sport team or hobby. Then your teammate can lead with “John tells me you’re a big Notre Dame fan…” This also highlights the importance of identifying the source of your notes in the CRM, even your personal notes. You should always make note of the date and source of the information. This let’s you frame it’s use properly, such as referring to Facebook in the first example, or by allowing others in shared notes to cite their source of the information.

For example, for a personal note the entry may look like this:

 “5/27/09 From Facebook: John commented on his daughter’s graduation from Notre Dame with a degree in sociology. He graduated from ND and is a booster of their basketball program”

Whereas the shared note may look like this:

 “5/27/09 from Bill Vannerson: John graduated from Notre Dame and is a boster of their basketball program.”

Documenting shared notes like this allows the reader to refer back to you if they have questions or need clarification.

Alsonote that you can also learn valuable tidbits by looking at the contact’s profile for what Facebook groups they are “fans” or “friends.”  Again, take the time to convert this knowledge into CRM notes so you have access to them in one central application.

At all times you should respect the privacy of your contacts and be extra careful with sensitive information. Misuse of this information, even if it’s made public on Facebook, can be disastrous you your relationship if the contact is offended or even scared by your approach.

Facebook has a valid business development role for attorneys, but you must

  • be very cautious on what you share about your life,
  • select your friends very carefully (some things never change),
  • be alert and pick up valuable relationship building clues, and
  • record what you learn in your CRM software.
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So What’s Your Social Media Strategy?

By now most folks have heard the buzz on the streets about social media and social networking, and many have been jumping on the bandwagon in order to capitalize on the latest Internet craze. But why are you updating your Facebook status, sending tweets and adding entries to your blog? The ultimate goal is to develop and maintain relationships with those who can either provide you with business or provide you with referrals that can lead to new business. But as is often true with any new technology many folks are using these new tools like taking scattered shots in the dark without a clear sight on their target.

Most long-term profitable work comes from culturing a relationship with the client or prospective client where he or she has a high degree of comfort and confidence with the attorney’s ability and, equally important, their commitment to serve their needs. Traditionally attorneys cultivate these relationships via face-to-face meetings, phone calls, and e-mail. These tools still exist and are not replaced by the new social networking tools. Rather the new tools should augment these tools by:

  • Extending your reach to create new relationships
  • Extending you capability to deepen existing relationships

Think back to your Marketing 101 class and you may remember the acronym AIDA that stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. This is referred to as the Model of Consumer Behavior, also called the Hierarchy of Readiness. This model can be applied to business–to–business marketing as it describes a basic behavior exhibited by all decision makers. The objective is to step the decision maker from the first stage, Attention, up through the final stage, Action.

AIDA

AIDA Flow

 

 

  1. First your communication strategy needs to cut through the clutter to get their attention. No one his going to become a client unless they know you exist.
  2. Once you get their attention your message needs to get their interest. You can yell, “Hey, you!” and get someone to turn their head, but you then need to get their interest so they will listen to your message.
  3. If you’re successful and have their attention and interest, your message now needs to create desire. This is where you communicate where your skills and services match their needs. And it’s convincing enough that they can envision themselves working with you.
  4. Finally, your strategy must include a call to action. You have expended your time and resources to get the prospect’s attention, raise their interest, and develop a sense desire so make sure you have a call to action in your strategy so you can take advantage of the primed situation.

Applying AIDA

Let’s apply the AIDA model to your social networking strategy. Remember, the objective is not to adopt social networking tools just to jump on the bandwagon. That would be like firing of random shots in the air without aiming. You need to evaluate each component and decide how to use them as part of your overall strategy to move the prospect from one end of the model to the other. So let’s plug in the various tools that are available and see how they might be used to develop business relationships.

Social Networking Functions Organized by AIDA Step

Social Networking Functions Organized by AIDA Step

Step One: Get Their Attention

Twitter tweets and Facebook & LinkedIn status updates are useful tools for getting folks attention. People add you to their for selfish reasons. Either they are curious about you and what you are doing or they want to build their network. Either way, you should leverage this behavior to your advantage and provide them with information that induces them to read what you have to say.

And what do you say? Many people using these tools put too much personal information on almost every aspect of their day. Your target market doesn’t really care what time you get up or that you are brushing your teeth. But they will be interested if you are attending a business related conference, or if you are passing along a bit of news that’s important to their industry, or if you are sending a link to your new blog topic on a subject that interests them. These are the types of short, headline type messages you need to send. In fact, they play the very same role in your strategy as a headline does in traditional advertising. Your objective is to get their attention to move them on to the next step, desire.

Step Two: Generate Interest

Creating interest may take more time and is difficult to achieve with tweets alone. After all you only have 140 characters and even if you are succinct and pithy it’s not likely that you are going to get someone interested with a single message. Instead you need to rely upon a cumulative effect of your tweets and status updates, what I refer to as your message halo. The combination of a body of tweets, your public bio, profiles, etc. and by tactful linking to external web pages establish your reputation and cultivates a following. This is the beginning of a relationship.

As you continue to send out your message, you are developing a body of work, you’re message halo. Multiple impressions over time in a given discipline impart a sense that you are an expert in the field, provided your tweets and status updates are accurate and of interest. After a time your audience will anticipate your tweets and updates as the content they lead to has value to them. There are two important issues regarding your message strategy to this end.

One, you need to have a regular flow of content, not too much and not too little. You need to spend enough time that your name is in front of your audience but not so much that you are simply flooding them as that dilutes the impact of your message.

Two, you must restrict your message to content that matters to your business or relationship. Do not tweet that you are brushing your teeth. No one cares and it does nothing to drive the audience towards taking an action, which is your ultimate objective. That doesn’t mean that non-business related content should be banned. Business development is dependent upon creating relationships and allowing certain aspects of your personal life to come through your messaging helps build a sense of camaraderie. In fact, one of the most overlooked aspects of social networking tool is that you can become more personable with a large group of people at the same time, many of whom you may never have met. That is a powerful tool. So be careful and very thoughtful on what impression you make through your messaging.

Other tools hat help include leveraging the features of the social networking tools such as completing profiles, joining groups, uploading bios and photos. As the audience sees this information, they begin to develop an impression about you and your interests. All of this works towards establishing a relationship. So be careful to not be too personal if such information may be detrimental to developing a business relationship. This is particularly important with Facebook where you may let your guard down and post information that could offend or turn off business contacts.

Step Three: Create Desire

Now that you have their attention and they are interested in hearing what you have to say, your strategy needs to move the audience to where they desire to hear what you have to say. Tweets and status updates cannot do this so you must now leverage other aspects of your communication strategy to elicit this response.

You should take advantage of the firm content but you also need to personalize the subject matter. After all, your goal is for them to develop a relationship with you. Passing along a firm newsletter or an alert on a timely issue have value to your contacts but they do not reflect totally on you and your ability. To build a relationship you must demonstrate your knowledge and expertise. Traditionally attorneys do this by presenting at events, writing articles & white papers and making presentations at conferences and firm events. These are still valuable tools and you should use social network tools to drive interested contacts your material. Your tweets and status updates should include links to these materials and registration information.

Another social network tool you need to incorporate is blogging. If you have your own blog you now have the freedom and flexibility to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise with less constraints associated with firm resources. But beware! If you do not have the writing skills or the dedication to provide timely content, then the use of blogs could backfire and have the opposite effect and drive folks away from you. You also must still conform to all legal ethical standards.

But if you are committed and possess decent writing skills, then blogging is were you can truly personalize the message and express yourself. You can demonstrate your knowledge but also connect with your reader on a more personal level working towards establishing a relationship. *There’s that “R” word again!) A blog has an advantage over the other channels in that it’s your blog and you are communicating directly to an audience.

Step Four: Stimulate Action

So the objective of your social networking strategy is to culminate in some sort of call to action that leads to either

  • Extending your reach to create new relationships
  • Extending you capability to deepen existing relationships

Typical responses would be to create an opportunity for a meeting, such as lunch, a telephone call, or an exchange of emails, sort of electronic conversation. In order to do this you must provide a means for the reader to contact you and specifically ask for them to participate. Salesman are taught to always ask for the sale and this is no different, ask for a response. The goal is to elevate the relationship from a non-qualified group of followers to a personal conversation that will lead to a business relationship. It’s these relationships that will eventually lead to new clients and increased business with existing clients.

Make sure you provide a business email or a link to your professional bio. Most blogging software provide for comments or even discussion boards. Discussion boards can be quite useful because in addition to elevating the relationship you are receiving feedback on a given subject matter from the contact. You are engaged in a dialog where you gain insight into their issues and problems, which you now have the opportunity to display that you understand their issues and can help solve their problems. One technique is to pose questions to your audience with the sole intent of inducing them to respond with a comment or add to the discussion thread. The purpose is to engage them in a conversation and develop a relationship.

Finally, a note about using social networking tools as a means to extend your reach and develop new relationships. Messages sent via Twitter or posted to groups on LinkedIn or Facebook are reaching an audience beyond your traditional in-house lists. Twitter also extends your reach if folks following you retweet your message to folks that follow them. So your message can reach thousands of folks who you don’t know and do not have a traditional means of identifying.

Social Networking tools alone will not get you a new engagement or expand the business you do with an existing client. They are useful marketing tools with some very unique attributes that should be melded into your complete arsenal along with the traditional firm resources and your personal, face-to-face selling. The goal is to leverage them into your mix and using the AIDA concept may be a helpful way for you to develop a comprehensive communication strategy. At some point if your social networking message catches their attention and raises their interest, and it just happens to be for on a topic that’s important to their organization and they desire help, then your call to action may get them to reach out to you so you can establish a business relationship.

A Call To Action

I’m very interested to hear from you your ideas and thoughts on this topic. Especially if you have worked with attorneys to incorporate this or similar methodologies into their personal marketing techniques. You can add a comment here or contact me directly at wvannerson@foley.com.

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.