Archive for the ‘legal marketing’ Tag

Why Can’t We be More Like Amazon.com?

Yesterday I used Google to search for model and pricing information for a K-cup brewer. The search results pulled up various vendors, both brick and mortar and web only retailers. Amazon.com was one of the vendors that came up in the results with several of their partners offering products that caught my interest. So I ended up visiting 2 or 3 Amazon.com pages in my research. But I wasn’t ready to buy yet as I was unsure of what model I wanted, so I didn’t make a purchase.

This morning I have an email from Amazon asking if I am interested in something from their Coffee, Tea & Espresso department. The email includes images, pricing and links to several of the models I looked at as well as a few extra models I hadn’t considered. And the prices appear to be the best price available for each of the models presented. Amazon’s database tracked my interests as represented by the products I looked at and put together a custom offer for me. I have to admit that as a marketer I am impressed with how effective Amazon demonstrates an integrated database marketing strategy.

Database marketing is fundamentally about collecting relevant information about your target market and then using that data to drive the sales cycle. Leveraging database technology in sales was developed by catalogue and direct mail marketers in the eighties. The PC revolution provided a flexible and affordable platform for innovative direct marketers to capture, process and analyze large amounts of customer data. Direct marketers used this data to identify which segments were profitable and to customize offers to separate segments based upon their psychographic profile and/or previous purchases. Amazon has integrated this philosophy into their web storefront technology.  Based upon my viewing habits they identified what products I may be interested in purchasing. They then took this data and automatically constructed a custom offer and sent it to me via an automated cast email.

So why can’t legal service marketers be more like Amazon?

I think we can.

In our business our potential clients browse our website for two reasons; credentialing and education. Those interested in our credentials are browsing pages on our practices, locations, experience and attorney biographies. And those looking for education they will seek out articles, white papers, blogs and events on the subjects that interest them. All of these elements can be turned into data points that could be captured and recorded in the CRM database.

In order to accomplish this you must first identify which elements are important to the sales cycle. For example, is it important when a contact visits your Real Estate practice home page? What if they also click on a few real estate attorney bios? And then visit your experience section looking up what your firm has done with REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts)? Such behavior would tend to make one believe they have an interest and perhaps a need for real estate legal help with regards to REITs. If your website were to track and record each of these hits and record them as marketing touchpoints, you could process and analyze the data to identify individual needs that match your offerings.

The most important step – use the data to drive the sales cycle

This is where the Amazon email is so exciting. They tracked my interests, recorded my touchpoints in their database, identified their product offerings that best matched my needs. then they used this data to send me a custom offer. Granted the selling legal services is very different than a coffee brewer, but law firms could do this too for their product offering.

In the legal environment example above the equivalent would be tracking the contact’s interest in REITs. Based on this single touchpoint you should at least add the contact to your REITs mailing list to make sure they receive future marketing communications on the topic. But if your data collection strategy is robust you may have additional data points that could trigger other actions as well.

  • Is the contact an employee at a current client company or a targeted prospect company?
  • Does the contact have an existing relationship with one of your attorneys?
  • What’s the contact’s job title?
  • Has he or she attended any of your Real Estate related events? How many?

The answers to these questions could trigger specific actions from your firm just like my interests triggered a response from Amazon. For example, if the contact has an existing relationship with an attorney that attorney should be notified of the interest so he or she can reach out to the contact if appropriate. Or if the contact is an employee of a targeted prospect company the record should be added to a VIP list for the practice

Your response depends on your objectives and business development strategy.  The point is that there are data point that you should be collecting and then leverage that data to drive your marketing program.

By the way, I did make my selection and purchase as a result of the Amazon email. So I know first hand that the strategy works.

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Tracking Referrals in your CRM

Referrals are one of a law firm’s key sources for new clients and tracking them in your CRM provides a useful tool for creating networking opportunities as well as collecting valuable data for analysis. There are two types of referral data. First there are the people or contacts that are part of the referral network. These are the relationships that you map out in your CRM. Then there are the actual referral transactions. Track these as inbound and outbound referral activities.

 Relationships – The Referral Network
The contacts in your database that are part of a referral transaction or potential referral transaction comprise your attorney’s referral network. Each referral transaction has three relationships. There’s your attorney and his or her referral contact. Then there’s the relationship between the referral contact and the party in need of service. This as the referred contact. Finally, once the referral has been made, there exists a knows relationship between the attorney and the referred contact. If it’s for an outbound referral, chances are your attorney already has a knows relationship as the referred contact is part of their contacts. If it’s an inbound referral, then the attorney will add the referred contact to their PIM and establish a new known by relationship.

Mapping these relationships takes effort but it’s worth the effort. It will improve your Who Knows Whom search capabilities as your CRM now has additional connection points to calculate possible relationship maps. And it provides the base data for creating referral network reports.

Referral Network Relationships

Referral Network Relationships

It’s important to remember that these relationships are connecting people contacts and not companies. This may not be obvious at first but consider this scenario. If an attorney has a referral connection at ABC, Inc. and that person takes on a new position at XYZ, Corp., The attorney no longer have a tie at ABC, Inc.. But as the contact’s employment relationship link gets updated to his or her new employer the attorney now has a referral relationship at XYZ, Corp.

 There are several referral reports that leverage the referral network relationship data, such as a listing all of the referral contacts by attorney by office. But one the most useful reports lists referral contacts and the attorneys that know them by the referral contact’s company. This can be useful to evaluate the strength and depth of your referral network.

 Referral Activities
There are two types of referrals; inbound referrals which an attorney receives from their network, and outbound referrals they give out.  Track each with a separate activity type in your CRM. Set a standard syntax for entering your referral summary. This makes the list view in the CRM and your reporting data meaningful. The summary should at least provide the nature or area of law, and the referred contact’s such as, “Labor negotiations for Whatchamacallit, Inc.” Most of your reports will already include the attorney’s name and the referral contact’s name and company. So having this information in the referral activity summary completes the transaction’s key elements at a quick glance.

It’s also important to add all contacts that are party to the referral to the activity. Each referral activity should have five contacts attached.

  •  Attorney Name
  • Referral Contact
  • Referral Contact Company
  • Referred Contact
  • Referred Contact Company

 Note that attaching the company record to the activity is a change over the process for recording the referral network. The referral activity is a snapshot of the transaction at the time it occurred. So adding the referral contact’s company at the time of the referral records the actual history. Lets take a look again at the ABC, INC. vs. XYZ Corp scenario but from the point of view of the referral activity. . An attorney’s referral contact gives the attorney an inbound referral when he is employed at ABC, Inc. He later changes jobs and takes a position at XYZ, Corp. Having ABC, Inc. attached to the activity accurately records the transaction as it happened.

 The importance of this is evident when you produce your referral reports. For example, one of the most powerful reports lists all referral activities by referral company (referral contact’s associated company record). Since the activity has the referral contact’s original employer record attached, it accurately displays all referrals received or given by it’s employees. This report is very useful when meeting with strategic referral partner companies as you are able to demonstrate what referral business has been given and received . This lets you discuss your relationship with the company in very specific terms.

 Managing the CRM Data
Setting up a system to capture and report referral data is useless unless there’s also a process for entering and managing the data.  The best model we have discovered is to assign a main referral contact within an office to whom the attorneys can route all their referral data. A central contact eliminates the need to rely upon all of the attorneys or their assistants doing their own data entry. And since it sometimes can be challenging to decipher the information they forward, this contact point needs to understand the business well enough in order to translate the information into the appropriate CRM relationships and activities.

 The reports also become an important tool. As the data grows in your CRM the reports will show who has been active with regards to referrals. Attorneys that are active but have not been participating by submitting referral data to the contact point will be excluded from the report. I have seen an office partner meeting where the office managing partner distributed a referral activity reports and attorneys who had not participated to date immediately pointed out that they also had referrals, to which the managing partner instructed them to provide the details to the central contact for data entry. So the managing partner used the report internally to improve data collection and the completeness.

Summary
There are two referral data types to track in your CRM system; the referral network and referral activities. The network describes the relationships between the attorney, his or her referral contact, and the referred contact that’s part of the lead. Each referral transaction is recorded as either an inbound activity or an outbound activity, depending on whether the attorney is receiving or giving the referral. Be sure to record the referral and referred contact’s company records to referral activities to create an accurate history of the transaction. And the most effective approach to managing the data is to have each office managing partner assign a central contact point to receive and enter the office’s referral data.

Searching for Companies Using CBSA and CSA Codes

One of the most basic search criteria we often use to target companies for our marketing communications is geography. This is especially true when promoting a local event at one of our offices. You want to reach out and draw clients and prospects that work within a reasonable distance from your office as they are most likely to travel to your location to attend the event. Many folks will create a mailing list based on the company’s address using city names or zip codes as part of their selection criteria. But this is inefficient as most major urban areas are so large that these criteria are too unwieldy to manage. It is much better to take advantage of the governments coding system for defining your target geography.

The federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) creates and maintains a code standard to define cities and urban areas to enable consistent reporting from all of the governmental agencies. Marketers can take advantage of this coding system as a way to identifying geographic target markets that is much easier than building a long list of zip codes or city and neighboring suburbs. They define the urban areas  by evaluating not only the proximity of neighboring cities but also the social and economic connections of nearby cities and counties.. Socially you can imagine that for a city such as Chicago that you will find Bears football fans in communities well  beyond the city limits. The number of surrounding suburbs and “collar” counties where locals will turn on their TVs Sunday afternoons and root for the Monsters of the Midway would be considered part of the Chicago urban area. And economically you can easily imagine a similar broad geographic band around the Chicago area where businesses will recruit employees or find local suppliers for goods and services.

For years the two types of codes we used to define these geographic areas were the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area (PMSA) codes. But these are now obsolete as the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) replaced these with two new designations in 2003. We now use Core Based Statistical Area (CBSA) and Core Statistical Area (CSA) codes. The CBSA is the basic code that’s used to defined urban areas and the CSA code is generally assigned to the larger urban areas. CSAs are comprised of multiple CBSAs that have grown together to create a larger metropolitan area. The dark green border around Chicago on the map bellow shows the extent of the Chicago CSA. Notice that it is made up of three CSAs; Chicago-Naperville-Joliet IL-IN-WI  CSA, Kankakee-Bradley IL CSA and the Michigan City-LaPorte IN CSA. These are marked off by a slightly thinner green border.

Chicago CSA in Northern Illinois

Chicago CSA in Northern Illinois

 

Source: State-based Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas Maps November, 2004
http://www.census.gov/geo/www/maps/stcbsa_pg/stBased_200411_nov.htm

Using CBSA & CSA Codes in Your CRM

In order to create searches in your CRM based on CBSA and CSA codes you first need to load the codes as part of your company contact record or as part of its address data. Which one depends upon on how your system manages address data and how you use your address data. For our system we decided to load these codes as additional information fields on the company records based upon the location (zip code) of the primary mailing address. The codes are readily available online from the OMB website, but we license a monthly update from Zip-Codes.com. It’s very inexpensive and saves time. They provide us with a monthly update file that we run against our database. The codes  themselves don’t change but there are frequent changes in the included zip codes, which are maintained by the USPS. There will be some major changes soon once the government completes it’s work on the 2010 census.

 We don’t append this data to the individual people records in the database. Instead we modify our searches so the we find the people who work at companies whose code matches the target area.  For example, the logic of a search for inviting folks to a seminar in Chicago sounds like this:

           All people whose associate company’s CSA is 178

You may want to consider appending the codes to individual records if you plan on targeting people for individual tax or estate and trust practices.

Naturally the Chicago query would be a little more complicated as we would further refine the search with demographic criteria such as company size or industry codes. We append that data in a separate process with data we license form Dun & Street.  I’ll discuss that concept in another future article.

 References

Combined Statistical Areas and Component Core Based Statistical Areas, November 2008, with Codes

Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas Wall Maps, November 2008

State-based Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas Maps, November, 2004

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.