New Survey: Client Acquisition is the Biggest Challenge Small Law Firms Face

Most attorneys who practice on their own or at a small firm will tell you they love the freedom and close relationships with their clients. Many lawyers leave big firms specifically for these reasons. But every rose has a thorn, and at small firms, that thorn is having to be a business owner in addition to being a lawyer.

Thomson Reuters’ annual State of U.S. Small Law Firm Survey shows that the majority of small and solo firms face the same challenges that all small businesses do, but they aren’t always handled successfully. Whether due to a lack of support, knowledge or time, many lawyers said they had no plans in place to deal with their most significant challenges. For example, 75 percent of respondents said that acquiring new clients was a “moderate or significant challenge,” yet less than 30 percent of firms said they’d done something in the last year to address it. Pretty alarming.

Finding solutions to these challenges can feel overwhelming. But to improve your small firm and ensure its long-term success, you have to start with a plan (even a small one) and work from there. To get your wheels turning, here are three common challenges from the survey and tips to handle them.

  1. Finding new clients
    Survey respondents ranked client acquisition as their number one challenge, and it’s not hard to see why: there’s no foolproof formula for success. If this is a challenge for your firm, start by analyzing where your current clients are coming from. If most of your clients find you through Google but you haven’t gotten any clients by speaking at conferences, it’s probably best to invest in SEO and improving your Google ranking rather than filling your calendar with conferences.
  2. Spending too much time on administration
    This was the second most common challenge, with 70 percent of attorneys saying it was a problem for their firm and less than half doing anything to address it. Many firms are woefully behind on the technology front, which plays a big part in time spent on administration. Technology can help with transcription and document drafting, practice management and digital note-taking. Just ensuring that your firm has the most up-to-date software can make things run more smoothly. Upgrading your technology may be a financial and time investment up front, but it really does make a difference in the long run.
  3. Clients asking for more for less
    59 percent said they struggle with clients demanding lower costs, yet only 42 percent had a plan in place to deal with it. You may be able to keep costs to clients in check (or at least prevent them from increasing) if you streamline your administrative tasks by outsourcing them, investing in technology or simply cutting or reducing anything unnecessary. Also, the problem might not be that your costs are too high, but that your clients don’t recognize your value—in fact, 56 percent of survey respondents said they struggle with this. If clients aren’t seeing your worth, it may be time to adjust how you think and speak about your firm and, therefore, tweak your marketing plan.

Law Firm Public Relations Is Like Baseball – Find Out Why

There are lots of lessons to be learned from baseball — even lessons about law firm public relations. Baseball and public relations have more in common than you might think. Baseball players and public relations professionals both know how to perform under pressure and the baseball diamond is the perfect road map for a foolproof public relations campaign. If you need to hit your next campaign out of the park, look no further than America’s favorite pastime for inspiration.

Follow along with our Why Law Firm Public Relations is Like Baseball Infographic.

The Pitch. In baseball, the game is centered around the pitch. Same with public relations. Without it, you have nothing. Your pitch is anything that people should know about: a large verdict or settlement, a major lawsuit, an impressive new hire or anything else that’s newsworthy. The trick is knowing what your audience will care about — or at least knowing how to make them care. Your pitch is what launches you to first base and eventually all the way home.

First Base. Once you have your pitch, you’re ready to go to first base. Swing at your pitch and send it out to targeted media outlets with a press release.  (In this analogy you’re playing for both teams, but work with me here.) A well-written press release is an important step in getting media coverage, but you’re still pretty far from home plate. Once you’ve made it to first base, it’s up to you to keep running.

Second Base. Steal second by leveraging the press release that got you to first. Don’t wait for journalists to report on your news — you have plenty of owned media channels where you can share it yourself. Your press releases should always go on your blog, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, at the very least. If it’s particularly big news you can find even more places to share it, such as sending an e-alert to your email list. Even if the media hasn’t reported your news (yet), make sure the important people — your clients and followers — know about it.

Third Base. Slide into third by repurposing your news. Once everyone has seen your release in its original form, it’s time to do something else with it. The good news is that you don’t have to start from scratch. Take the content you already have and turn it into something else: an article, a whitepaper, a video, a blog post, a presentation … the possibilities are endless. Now, you have fresh content that you can share with reporters, add to your website and post on your social media channels. Repeat as necessary.

Head for Home. Before you get ready to run for home plate and score that big media placement, you have to prepare yourself. Get some media training to refine your talking points and get comfortable speaking with reporters. Remember, you’re an expert in your practice area — make sure you come across that way!

Safe! Make it all the way home by following up with reporters, responding to inquiries and tracking your efforts. With a solid pitch, diligence and follow-through, you’ll be rewarded with your own trophies: media placements. And like any athlete, practice makes perfect. Building a successful public relations strategy comes from years of consistent efforts. Winning one game is good, but winning the series is better.

Download our Why Law Firm Public Relations is Like Baseball Infographic.

Four Ways to Take the Leap from Writing Briefs to Writing Blogs

To be a good lawyer, you must be proficient in the English language and understand the essentials to writing legal briefs. Lawyers who are trying to make the shift to writing blog content should be relieved to know that as masters of the English language, there are steps to create a great blog post.

To make the leap from a brief to a blog, go beyond the essentials and keep in mind a few tips that can spruce up any piece of writing.

  1. Capture Attention with the First Sentence

The first sentence of any post is tricky to master. It should hook the reader and at the same time encapsulate what your article is about. Typically, the first sentence is the most challenging to write, but often you can start with a statistic, a story or a bold and direct statement. Avoid using clichés or overly descriptive introductions – you might lose the reader instantly.

  1. Keep It Relevant and Throw in Some Pop Culture References

A key rule for any writer is to find ways to make your article or blog post relatable, and likeable. Including references to pop culture will add a timely and interesting twist, but do so with caution. Remember who your audience is. Adding too much pop culture flair could be a negative.

  1. Use Shorter Sentences + Precise Words + Analogies

We all have picked up a book, opened the first page and spent 10 minutes just trying to get through the first paragraph – rereading the same sentence trying to decipher the jargon. From experience, the likelihood of never picking up that book again is 10 out of 10. Unnecessary words, or using words to sound smart, will ruin the reading experience. If no one can understand what you’re trying to say, why keep reading? Shorten your sentences and use simpler words to convey your message – it is much more appreciated. Show the reader that what you’re saying is interesting and meaningful – and using analogies is a great way to engage the reader and make your content memorable.

  1. Find a New Angle if Your Idea Isn’t Unique

Coming up with an original blog post is not easy, and chances are it has already been written on many times before. Taking a topic that has been covered and offering a unique take is all you need. Perhaps it’s offering the reverse perspective – instead of “why” it’s “why not.”

For the bonus tip – end your blog post with a flourish.

Craft your final sentence to be powerful or punchy. It might just be a simple rearrangement of words to make your ending much more impactful. The beauty of the English language is that there many ways to write the same sentence – so take a moment to rework that last line. Maybe switching a word will do the trick.

LMA Think Tank: Top Three Business Development Challenges at Law Firms

A recent think tank discussion hosted by David Ackert of The Ackert Advisory for LMA-LA examined the latest market research on business development challenges faced by law firms. The results detailed many findings, but the top three challenges identified by participants in the think tank, comprised of legal marketers from a range of law firms in Los Angeles, were:

  1. The lack of business development follow-up from lawyers
  2. Obtaining lawyer participation in business development events
  3. Lack of clear marketing and business development strategy

Through a series of exercises, the participants divided into three groups to tackle one of the challenges that was most relevant to their firm. Then through discussion, the participants identified possible solutions that could be customized and implemented.

Let’s take a look at some of the solutions offered to the three challenges identified.

Lack of Business Development Follow-Up from Lawyers

The first group identified several factors that contribute to lack of follow-up, including: lack of accountability, lack of time, lack of incentives and cross-promotion, location of the office in relation to the marketing team and lack of celebrating firm successes. How could these issues be addressed?

The participants developed an action plan that would:

  • Promote inclusivity via firm-wide newsletters, emails or meetings
  • Promote successes across geography
  • Clearly identify incentives to encourage cross-promotion
  • Hold monthly meetings with the attorneys to address business development initiatives
  • Develop a pilot program with high-performing attorneys and share their successes with the firm

Obtaining Lawyer Participation

Another challenge legal marketers identified during the think tank was obtaining lawyer participation in networking and business development events. Many of the legal marketers noted unwillingness by attorneys to attend networking events, not because of insufficient opportunities but because a lack of commitment and accountability. The discussion group put their heads together and identified the following actionable solutions:

  • Obtain commitment from the attorney upfront and in person prior to registration
  • Develop a marketing plan that tracks activities and measures participation within the firm.
  • Tout attorney participation, provide incentive to attend and create competition among attorneys

Lack of Clear Marketing and Business Development Strategy

This challenge was identified by several participants and was determined to stem from a lack of training and lack of resources available for business development, including internal coaching and customer relationship management (CRM) technology.

Participants identified several solutions to this problem, including:

  • Implementing ongoing dialogue between marketers and attorneys to discuss goals and challenges and to identify 1-2 objectives
  • Support open dialogue with technology-based resources, including CRM, webinars and e-learning, to facilitate proper business development training.

Overall, a key takeaway from the think tank was that engaging in open dialogue with other marketers, listening to their unique challenges and discussing actionable solutions can lead to more creative problem-solving that can be adapted to fit any firm.

Five Tried-and-True Tips to Make Your Real Estate Twitter Profile More Engaging

More than half of Twitter’s 317 million users have discovered a new business through the platform, and 94 percent of users plan to purchase a product or service from the brands they follow. There is a huge opportunity to connect with potential clients on Twitter — if you know how to engage your audience.

It’s not a far jump from “engaged Twitter follower” to “loyal client.” The real question is how to engage your followers in the first place. Though there are lots of opinions out there about how to make your tweets more engaging, it’s not as difficult as it seems, and it doesn’t need to be a huge undertaking. A few simple changes might be all you need to see an improvement.

If you’d like to see an increase in your engagement, here are five simple tips that will get you more followers, favorites and retweets.

  1. Use photos and videos
    Twitter (and pretty much every other social media platform and website out there) is dominated by photos and videos. There’s a good reason for that: Tweets that contain images get 150 percent more retweets. If you want to see a dramatic uptick in your engagement quickly, just start sharing photos, videos and GIFs of open houses and real estate tips. You don’t have to become a professional photographer, either. Stock photos, cell phone pictures and any relevant  YouTube videos you come across will work just fine.
  2. Don’t be a robot
    You might be using Twitter to advance your real estate business goals, but you don’t have to sound that way. Don’t be afraid to crack a joke, use slang or talk about your other interests on social media. Clients and peers like to follow, learn from, and — most importantly — work with people who are friendly and interesting. There’s no need to overshare, but let some of your personality shine through your tweets. Chances are, someone in the Twittersphere will relate to you and appreciate your authenticity.
  3. Set your profile’s tone
    Before hitting the follow button, people are going to look at three things: your cover photo, your profile photo and your bio. Beyond just making these elements look and sound nice, you can use psychology to influence how followers perceive you. A smiling profile picture with open body language is warm and inviting, and a witty bio about your real estate firm tells followers the tone to expect in your tweets. Colors are also important. For example, using black on your profile conveys sophistication (although it can come across as intimidating), while blue says you’re trustworthy and loyal.
  4. Make conversation
    If you’re not having a conversation with your peers and followers on Twitter, you’re just shouting into the void. How can you expect followers to engage with you if you’re not engaging with them? Create a conversation by tweeting at followers and responding to them in a timely manner, whether it’s positive or negative. Search hashtags and follow accounts across the spectrum to see what different groups are talking about. And since you’re an expert on the community you serve, stay on top of the news and join the conversation on local comings and goings.
  5. Create your own niche
    There are hundreds of real-estate-related Twitter accounts, from individual agents to property management companies to industry publications. What makes your voice different? Maybe it’s your sense of humor, your informative videos or your expertise on REITs. No matter what your signature is, refine it and use it to carve out your own space in the conversation. When followers know what you’re all about, they’ll look to you for your unique perspective.

Lessons from LSSO: Persuasive Business Presentations – Forget “Best Practices”

We’ve all been in the situation when we’re tasked with creating a PowerPoint presentation and have been instructed to do it a certain way, or follow a certain template. Whether it’s to pitch a new client or present findings from market research, we tend to approach building a presentation a distinct way. But why? We might respond, “Because it’s best practice to do it that way” or “We’ve always done it that way; its best practice.”

LSSO presenter Adam Stock says forget best practice, especially when it comes to design. According to Stock and his presentation, web data has shown that many of the best practices taught – whether in school or in the workplace – are wrong, and the way we present information in business has evolved dramatically. In order to develop a persuasive presentation, the PowerPoint must tell your audience why they should care, why a topic is important or relevant, why they should be involved and what’s at stake – common sense, right? But so many presentations miss the mark.

When people think of presentations, TED Talks typically pop into mind. While engaging, TED Talks are not suitable for business presentations. Business presentations need to be able to weather challenging and often contradictory conditions, so…

  • They need to be designed so that they can be easily shortened
  • They need to stand on their own without explanation
  • They need to be non-sequentially accessible and adaptable

To build a persuasive presentation, we have to understand brain processes. Working memory is the most important function, but very limited, and to optimize working memory, presentations need to include better graphic and instructional design. Working memory can process both words and pictures at the same time, and our visual learning system is 100 times more efficient than our hearing. Stock points out that we should use verbal and visual channels, including pictures with word-based explanations, and place labels as close as possible to the corresponding graphics.

Presentations should also follow these rules of thumb:

  • Remove all marks that don’t support your idea
  • Provide a consistent format so people know where to look
  • Don’t use decorative fonts
  • Break information into manageable chunks – one concept per slide, four bullets per slide
  • Begin presentations with your recommendation or point
  • Ensure that your message is clear on EVERY slide
  • Slide titles should be phrases that communicate your message
  • Use simple, straightforward language
  • Use charts to communicate quantitative information
  • Each chart should have a message (not a topic)

Data has shown that 30% of the time we’re not focused, so creating the most effective and visually stimulating presentation will help get your message across effectively and memorably.

Lessons from LSSO – Common Sense Should Be Common Practice

At this year’s Legal Sales and Service Organization (LSSO) RainDance Conference, there was no shortage of memorable takeaways. Keynote speakers dove into diverse topics, from how to be distinctive in order to win business to how to master a PowerPoint presentation. Over two days, a common thread was woven throughout the presentations: “Common sense” is not always “common practice,” but it should be.

For legal marketers, business development is often a pain point, and strategies to win new business often become confusing and jumbled. As Rick Davis discussed in his presentation “Are We Distinctive? Creating Compelling Experiences to Win More Business,” a good question to ask ourselves is “Does our business development approach reflect the way we serve?” The answer more often than not is no. So, how do you showcase who you really are to make your business distinctive from all others?

Davis mentions several key factors that clients are looking for when it comes to decision-making and what firms need to know when pitching their work. Potential clients want to be “wowed,” to know you are ahead of the curve, and to know why they should choose you. If your firm doesn’t answer any of those questions, then it’s time to change the way you play the game. Here’s how:

  1. Be Distinctive – This requires at least three characteristics: chemistry fit, relevant perspective, and collaborative style. Not all are necessary at once, but being able to identify a common thread will get your foot in the door.
  2. Get in Early –The notion of getting in early is common sense, but knowing what “getting in early” actually means and how a firm can accomplish this is not common practice. Understanding the client decision cycle is the first step. Put out receptors and listen to what the firm is saying or feeling. This may not yield concrete needs at first; maybe the firm hasn’t identified those “needs” yet, but understanding that there’s “motion” going on is the first step. This is the time to get in early, set up coffee or lunch to talk with a member of the firm, and start listening.
  3. Give a Glimpse – When you get in early, you have the luxury of forming a rapport within a potential client. They may not be able to articulate their exact needs, but at this stage they have probably articulated what is wrong. This is where you step in and show them what you can do for them. Address what is isn’t working and give examples of what you can do. Giving a glimpse will allow a potential client to visualize things, and help build an experience. An experience is much more memorable.
  4. Get their Fingerprint – You need to get a fingerprint on a client. All of the steps above will open the doors to a dialogue. What do they need? What is their pricing? What is their engagement approach? You also need to determine what your value-add is, and this can only be understood by asking! Ask what they need and what they are looking for – don’t assume.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Persuasive Business Presentations – Forget “Best Practices”

You Get What You Pay For: Penny-Pinching on Your Website May Cost You in the Long Run

The cliché “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” couldn’t hold truer when it comes to your website. Your website is typically the first point of contact prospective clients have with your offerings, which is why it is critical to make a good impression.

Websites that are not user-friendly, are not optimized for mobile devices, are outdated, or that look cheap will certainly make a lasting impression – but not the one you want. So, what are the earmarks of a strong website? Below are some tips.

  • Easy to digest – Visitors should not have to search through layers of content for the information they need.
  • Easy to read – Trying to be overly unique by choosing a creative font or contrasting colors will only result in visitors struggling (and then giving up) on reading your site.
  • Easy to navigate – Less is more, so stick to a few main tabs.
  • Cleanly designed – When you over-design, your message gets lost.

Here are some other indications that it might be time to update your website: there is poor conversion of visitors, the site runs slow, your brand or message has changed or evolved, or worst of all, you are embarrassed to have people visit it.

How Much to Spend on a Professional Services Website

If your site only needs content updating, then paying a professional for a quick fix is perfectly fine. But this should be limited to minor updates, such as revisions to content, updating new team members’ bios and minor changes. If you need big changes, trying to make them on the cheap is penny-wise and pound-foolish.

While you don’t want to break the bank, failing to invest in your site will almost certainly cost you more in the future. We’ve seen this happen far too often. In an effort to save money on the front end, too many businesses attempt to go with the aforementioned quick, Band-Aid fix. Time and again, businesses end up paying more on the back end to fix early mistakes than they would have paid to have it done professionally from the start.

There are no hard and fast rules for how much you need to pay for your website, but there are some general guidelines which can prove helpful when considering your budget. Developers may break their fees down in a myriad of ways depending upon factors such as setup fees, monthly maintenance/updates, number of pages, functionality, whether it’s a custom or template-based site, if Search Engine Optimization is included, and other considerations.

Finding the Right Developer

Don’t be afraid to ask for bids from multiple developers. A good rule of thumb is that if a price seems too good to be true (meaning it’s significantly lower than other bids), it probably is. It’s also highly advisable to ask for referrals to developers from colleagues, peers, or other professionals who have a site you like.

Getting Value Out of Video: Dos and Don’ts for Law Firms

According to the National Law Review, people watch nearly 5 billion videos online every day. Videos are no longer optional—they’re an important part of any marketing strategy. However, it can be difficult to determine whether an investment in video is worth it, especially since it tends to be expensive. When done well, video can be an effective tool for converting leads. Done wrong, it’s a waste of money.

If you’re embarking on a video project and you’re not sure where to begin, start with these basic dos and don’ts to get the most value out of your investment:

Do keep it brief
Even though videos are wildly popular, people aren’t willing to watch them for more than a few minutes at most. Condense and simplify your message as much as possible. When you’re in the storyboarding process, keep in mind that there are a billion other things that your viewers can click on and it takes mere seconds to lose interest. It’s crucial that you get the most important point across almost immediately.

Don’t be a talking head
Videos can and should be engaging and dynamic. Don’t waste an opportunity by sitting behind a desk and talking at the camera. Think about how you can show your firm in a creative way, whether that’s through humor, interesting camera shots or an emotional connection. If you must talk to the camera, try standing up or walking around to create some action.

Don’t skip the fundamentals
No matter how well-thought-out your story is, if your video quality is low it will undermine your message. Good lighting and sound are key. If you’re making a video in house, you don’t have to spend a fortune on professional equipment, but you should do a test run to make sure that the lighting is good and the sound is clear. If you’re working with an agency, check their portfolio before you hire them and ask to see footage in the editing stage, before you’re surprised with a sub-par video.

Do keep it lighthearted
Video is a fun, creative medium, so tell a story to match. People hire people, not robots or slick salespeople, and younger generations especially are skeptical of any overt advertising. Formality does not come across well online, so ditch the self-promotion and allow your firm to show a bit of its fun side.

Do share videos with decision makers
According to Forbes, 65% of senior executives say that watching a video prompted them to visit a vendor website. Well-done videos can be very persuasive—in fact, many professionals say they prefer watching a video to reading. Get your video in front of the people who need to see it by any means necessary, whether that means boosting it on social media, adding a link to your email signature or bringing it on the road to conferences and speaking engagements.

Berbay Marketing & PR