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The Attorney/Marketer Relationship Is Better Than Ever – Here’s Why

Lawyers and marketing professionals don’t always see eye to eye. Thankfully, this seems to be changing. According to a recent study from the Legal Marketing Association and Bloomberg Law, both marketers and attorneys agree that their relationship has improved over the last two years, characterizing it as “respectful, collaborative, supportive and collegial.”

Why the improvement? Survey respondents said they’ve cultivated credibility and trust, and attorneys are more accepting of and interested in the insights marketers can provide them.

It’s clear that marketers have gained a renewed respect from the lawyers they work with. So, what does that mean for the future of legal marketing and business development? Here are five key takeaways from the survey:

  1. Marketers are specializing. Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and Chief Business Development Officers are being joined by a new colleague: Director of Pricing. Even marketers at firms without a pricing specialist in the C-suite reported spending more time on pricing, as well as competitive intelligence, and practice and process improvement. Traditional marketing activities, such as attorney coaching and public relations haven’t gone by the wayside, but these new specialty areas may represent a shift in the marketing department.
  2. CMOs have more say. Two-thirds of respondents said their firm’s senior marketer participates in the strategic planning process. Almost 20 percent of respondents reported that marketers drive strategic planning at the practice group level. Marketers are increasingly getting a seat at the table, and lawyers are recognizing the value that marketing and business development insight can provide.
  3. Marketers are crossing over into business development. Firms also depend on marketers for business development: 60 percent of marketers surveyed say they engage in business development activities on some level. Senior marketers are also increasingly involved in business development throughout the client lifecycle, starting with client pitch meetings (which 52 percent of respondents said they participate in) and ending with client feedback interviews (which 36 percent are involved in).
  4. Attorneys are letting marketers do what they do best. Compared to two years ago, attorneys are more likely to ask marketing professionals for help with business development, marketing and competitive intelligence tasks. Lawyers said they’re doing less client relationship management and strategic planning, and they’re spending less time responding to RFPs, managing client teams, and applying for rankings and awards. Instead, they’re letting the pros in the marketing department handle these tasks.
  5. Attorneys could still use more help. Although lawyers are leaning on marketers for help, there are still some areas where they’d like more assistance. Respondents cited public relations, competitor intelligence, industry research and branding as the top areas where marketers could provide additional support. Lawyers also reported an increasing need for writing/blogging and event planning, signaling that marketers should be prepared to offer help with these areas.

Where Smart Legal Marketers Are Investing Their Money

Good news: law firm marketing and business development budgets are growing. According to the Legal Marketing Association and Bloomberg Law’s survey, “Where Are We Now? Revealing the Latest Trends in Legal Marketing and Business Development,” 63 percent of firms say they anticipate increasing their marketing/business development budget over the next two years.

Law firms are recognizing the importance of investing in the health and longevity of their practice – or at least, they’re feeling the pressure to generate revenue. That’s the number one reason why survey respondents said they’re adding funds to their marketing budgets, followed by corporate counsel reducing the number of firms they’re working with and pressure from competitors that are marketing pros.

Having more money to play with is always exciting, but that money shouldn’t be spent on just anything. Spend carelessly and you won’t get the results you’re looking for – but allocate your budget wisely and you’ll see a significant return on investment.

Survey respondents named the following as the most impactful marketing and business development tactics to invest in:

  1. Events: Historically, in-person events and client visits haven’t been go-to business development tactics for law firms. But not only are more firms hosting events, nearly 70 percent of marketers said that events are one of the most effective initiatives they’ve implemented. It’s no wonder why: events allow attorneys to connect directly with potential clients in a low-pressure environment. Although events can be high cost, they’re also high value, and you should expect to see more firms taking advantage of them in the coming years.
  2. New technology: Just after events, marketers said that investing in new technology was the most important thing they’ve done in recent years. Attorneys and marketers alike cited email marketing, social media tools and litigation analytics tools as the most helpful tech they’ve purchased. Marketers also love Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software – 73 percent said that it’s helpful – although lawyers didn’t share the same opinion, perhaps because they aren’t always the ones using the information.
  3. Social media: From attorneys’ perspectives, they’re getting the most bang for their marketing buck with social media; 52 percent of lawyers surveyed said it’s one of the most effective strategies they’re using. Although marketers were slightly less enthusiastic about it (maybe because it’s old news to them), they still agree that a strong social media presence is important. Compared to other strategies, social media is low cost, and with new features and algorithms constantly being rolled out, there’s always an opportunity to experiment and improve.
  4. Hiring more staff: Lawyers and business development staff agreed that a lack of time is the biggest obstacle preventing them from reaching all of their marketing goals. Maybe that’s why respondents also said that hiring more marketing and business development staff was one of the best things they’ve done with their budget. The survey also notes that some firms have found success by adding more marketing professionals within specific practice groups. Sometimes the answer to a marketing challenge isn’t to change your strategy, but to hire a marketing rock star to take the reins.

Making the Leap: In-House to Agency Public Relations

There’s a stigma attached to public relations agencies. I was given the impression that, regardless of the type of clients, large agencies churn and burn their young talent (leading to most fading out and few rising), and that boutique agencies lay off their newest talent in the event that they lose one to two key clients.

There’s a stigma about working in-house, too. My sense was that there’s a cap on your potential when working in-house, only being able to climb so high within an organization before the opportunities for growth flat line. Too, the term “pigeon-holed” was often used whenever someone expressed their concerns to me about working in-house. Of course, stigmas exist because these situations do happen, but it’s not fair to definitively state that they apply to working at any agency or working in-house at any company, or that one is better than the other. Like many things in life, it depends.

Hats off to you if when faced with this conundrum, your solution was to start your own PR firm. Despite my bold personality, I was certainly not an entrepreneur looking to start my own company fresh out of college, so alas the choice was mine: in-house or agency.

For nearly two years I was a Communications Coordinator on the public relations team at an international law firm, and for the past two years I’ve been an Account Manager with Berbay. So what’s my advice to anyone thinking of making a switch from in-house to agency or vice versa? Even if you’re familiar with the industry, in-house and agency positions are different in so many ways; you should be prepared to face some challenges when transitioning.

The Bigger Picture

Transitioning from in-house to agency was overwhelming at first – namely the shift from having essentially one client to … well, more.

Whether working in-house or at a boutique PR agency, being able to see the bigger picture and understanding your role in working toward an overarching goal can be a challenge, as these things can often change. The biggest difference for me was going from a more structured position on a team, where each person had a defined role in achieving these overarching objectives, to the role of managing several clients, each with their own objectives, and being the one who calls the shots and is responsible for managing every aspect of each client’s PR efforts.

That’s right, be prepared to juggle. Depending on the industry and the agency, you may be expected to handle a much broader range of services. As daunting as that may seem, you’ll be all the better for it.

What to Expect

I did expect my relationship with “clients” to change. At the international law firm I was working for essentially one client: my law firm. If I needed to speak with an attorney and they weren’t picking up their phone, I could just pop into their office (at least the attorneys located in the Los Angeles office). I was used to having direct access to attorneys and their matters and, more importantly, the attorneys were eager, or at the very least, required to participate in marketing and public relations.

With shifting to an agency, I knew that the “outside” aspect of being a law firm’s outside marketing and public relations firm would drastically change the “client” relationship I was used to having. No matter how strong your relationship is with a client, there will always be limitations to your ability to access things you need, such as  information on a case, successes or even scheduling a meeting. It can be more challenging to obtain these things working externally. The best advice is to figure out who the gatekeepers are for each client and establish relationships with those people; as an overall goal, do your best to strengthen your partnership with each client so that even though you aren’t a part of their firm, you know their business well enough that you could be.

The unexpected change that required me to adjust my expectations was the realization that not all firms or even all attorneys within a firm believe there is a need for marketing and public relations. It is our job to forge a partnership with each client and to be a trusted advisor. At times we encounter resistance, but being able to adapt quickly to change and actively listen to what each client wants, is what makes Account Executives great at their jobs.

Additionally, thick skin is an absolute necessity for working at an agency. Whether you’re pitching new business or pitching a new idea to an existing client, you cannot be so afraid of the word “No” that you avoid making the pitch in person. Agencies are tasked with constantly proving their value to their clients, so phoning it in isn’t really an option.

Another reality is that sometimes client engagements just don’t work out. If I had been fired from my in-house position, I would have been extremely hurt. Being fired from your job while working in-house is a lot less common than being fired as an outside marketing and public relations firm.

There are many reasons why client engagements don’t pan out. From budget cuts or internal politics, to the firm jumping ship for another agency or even being adverse to PR altogether, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Some clients are short-term project clients and sometimes clients are simply unable to justify an ROI at the time. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re bad at your job or that you didn’t deliver a successful PR campaign. You invested time and resources with this client and you’ve gotten to know the attorneys – their practice, their accomplishments and even about their family – so it’s normal to feel a sting when a client engagement ends, but statistically it is a reality for anyone in the agency industry. In most cases, it’s best to not take it too personally and continue to approach every client engagement with the same enthusiasm and determination for success.

Having experienced working in-house and at an agency, I have come to believe  that each person and each company is different, and every job experience will have its unique challenges. What’s important is finding the best fit for you, and the only way to truly know what you like/dislike is by trying it, and who knows, you might surprise yourself. Don’t let an industry stigma keep you from potentially advancing your career.

Finding Time for Marketing: Time Management Strategies for Lawyers

For law firms, marketing and business development are non-negotiables. If you want to ensure longevity, they just have to get done. So why do we struggle so much to make time for them?

When a brief is due tomorrow, or a client is calling asking for an update, it’s so easy to put marketing on the back burner. The “it has to be done yesterday” tasks always seem to take priority, not to mention the fact that marketing doesn’t count toward your daily billable hours. If you’re like many lawyers, you’re stuck in a cycle of marketing getting pushed further down the to-do list.

You may recognize that updating your website or connecting with leads is important, but these kinds of tasks rarely become emergencies, so they continue to get put off. Not making time for marketing is a bit like having a cold that never gets bad enough to go to the doctor. Sure, you can function — but you’re not operating at your best, and there may be long-term consequences.

When compared with something like trial preparation, marketing may not seem like a priority. But, truthfully, it’s just as important as your client work. No business development means no new clients, and no new clients means no new business. High-achieving lawyers recognize this and devote a sizeable portion of their time to ensuring their firm’s success.

It’s up to you to commit to getting marketing on your calendar. To help you prioritize business development, we’ve compiled some of the best strategies for managing your time.

Use a system that works for you
There are a ton of time management and to-do list ideas out there: the Pomodoro timer, the 1-3-5 to-do list, the Getting Things Done method. It doesn’t matter what your system is as long as you use one. You need a clear idea of your top priorities for each day. When you take time to review them, you might realize that the “urgent” tasks aren’t as urgent as you thought and can be rescheduled. This frees up time for tasks that need to get done eventually but never do — like, you guessed it, marketing. Having a go-to system helps you avoid jumping from task to task without a clear plan.

Focus on one thing at a time
You may think that multitasking lets you get more done faster. Unfortunately, our brains disagree: forcing them to switch constantly between two or more tasks only means that you’ll get less done with a lower-quality result. Don’t try to squeeze in business development activities while you’re busy with other work — they deserve your full attention. The best way to get your marketing activities done is to schedule them, and only them. Try a weekly “power hour” or monthly batch day, where you shut out all distractions and work on business development goals.

Make it good enough
Business development isn’t rocket science. It doesn’t need to be complicated or perfect, so don’t act like it has to be. Just do it. If it takes you an hour to write a pretty good blog post, stop there rather than spending another hour making it perfect (which is impossible anyway). If you don’t have time to go to every networking event, network online through LinkedIn. Don’t build business development into a massive, time-sucking task. Do what you can, and stop when you can sit back and say, “good enough.”

Guard your schedule
Be greedy with your time and make no exceptions. This goes not just for business development work, but for all your work. If you need an uninterrupted hour to work on something, take it — and let coworkers and clients know you mean it. Eventually, people will learn that you mean it when you say you’re not available, and they’ll learn to work around it.

Tie it to something else
Maybe you avoid doing business development because you don’t feel confident in it, or it’s just not your cup of tea. The tasks we’re dreading often get put last on the to-do list, which we rarely get to the bottom of. But you can’t avoid marketing forever. One motivating strategy is to tie it to something you enjoy. Perhaps you can write an article over a cup of coffee at your favorite café. Or make it a rule that every time you check your email you send a quick note to a lead (this might have a double benefit of increasing your connections while forcing you to stop checking your email every 10 minutes). If all else fails, you can eat the proverbial frog and do business development first thing in the morning, so it’s done and over with.

Outsource it
Finally, one good thing about business development and marketing tasks is that they don’t require a law degree — they just take time. If you don’t have that time, perhaps someone else does. If you have the resources, and at the risk of seeming self-serving, hire a public relations and marketing firm. Have a digital firm manage your website and social media or hire a writer to draft the speech for that conference you’re speaking at. Even people within your firm might be able to help. Outsourcing is one way to take a whole lot off your plate and ensure that your business development and marketing don’t fall by the wayside.

Five Tips for a Productive Marketing Budget Season

The holiday season is upon us, which means it’s time to give gifts, celebrate with loved ones and…plan next year’s legal marketing budget. Yes, as the year comes to a close, law firm marketers need to wrap up their projects, reflect on what worked (and what didn’t) and decide how to spend their money next year.

Budgeting isn’t the most exciting activity, but it doesn’t need to be a burden. If you follow these five tried-and-true budgeting tips used by top marketers, you’ll ensure that budget season not only runs smoothly, but also sets your firm up for success in the New Year.

  1. Start early.
    The worst budget is one that’s thrown together without proper care, so you need to account for unexpected roadblocks and ensure that your team has enough time to create a budget that’s thoughtful. According to Marketing Profs, it’s typical for budget approvals to take at least two months, but it can take up to six, especially if the budget needs to be approved by a board. Plan for this. It’s not too late for this year, but get started ASAP.
  2. Work from the top and bottom.
    Some law firms plan their budgets from the top, starting with the CFO splitting dollars up into a few general pools that are further refined. Others have the boots-on-the-ground employees create wish list items that are added to the budget based on what’s realistic. Jennifer Cracklen, an education consultant at Marketing Profs, says that for many firms, a combination of both is best. This allows leadership to set goals while allowing lower-level employees to have a say as well.
  3. Brainstorm with control.
    Any marketer’s brain starts churning with ideas when they hear the phrase “unlimited budget.” Unfortunately, that’s far from reality for most law firms. So, while it’s perfectly fine (and fun!) to think outside the box when planning your marketing activities for next year, make sure you keep track of the estimated cost of each of those activities before you get too attached to any of them. Be creative, but be realistic in your plans.
  4. Ask the hard questions.
    After you’ve allowed yourself to dream a little, it’s time to analyze, analyze, analyze. If the paid advertising you did last year was a flop, it’s time to cut it (or at least rethink it). But if you’re seeing results from your social media campaign, maybe it’s time to put a little more money behind it. Don’t do anything simply because it’s easy or because you’ve always done it. Take an honest look at your law firm’s marketing activities, and don’t shy away from pulling the plug when something’s not working, no matter how much you want it to.
  5. Keep good records.
    Finally, it’s critical that you’re basing your budget on accurate financial information. And don’t forget about the nonnegotiables that tend to be overlooked: subscriptions, prepaid plans and annual retainers need to be included in next year’s budget, too. Make sure that contracts and receipts are easily accessible and noted in your budget spreadsheets. That way, you won’t have to scramble when a renewal notice sneaks up on you.

Four Tips on How to Add Texting to Your Marketing Mix

Americans spend 87 hours a month on their smartphones, and texting is by far the most-used function.  This stat should make every marketer’s ears perk up – including lawyers.

Although text message marketing hasn’t quite hit the mainstream in the legal industry, some experts are declaring it the next big thing. Being able to reach prospects and clients anytime, anywhere through their mobile devices is a huge opportunity for attorneys in many practice areas.

For lawyers who are working with limited marketing options, SMS could open a world of possibilities. If your firm is considering text message marketing, here are four reasons why you should take the plunge.

  1. It’s personal. Most people carry their phones with them everywhere, even sleeping next to them at night. Not only is it easier to reach people through their mobile devices, it also feels more intimate. Texting creates familiarity and trust with clients, and it opens a new channel of communication that lets them know you’re available when they need you.
  2. Bar associations are giving it the go-ahead. Lawyers are (rightfully) cautious about the ethical concerns that texting raises. But the Florida Bar recently decided that SMS is acceptable because it’s comparable to email and acknowledged that texting could be useful for people accused of crimes. Their decision points to a growing acceptance of the trend. Of course, it’s important to understand your state bar’s guidelines before you embark on a text message marketing campaign.
  3. It will help modernize the industry. Let’s face it: law firms tend to be a few steps behind other industries when it comes to technology and marketing. Most lawyers aren’t known for being risk-takers, either. Texting, on the other hand, is widely accepted, easy to use and relatively inexpensive. It isn’t a huge leap for most attorneys, and it’s a simple way for them to modernize their practice.
  4. It can be adapted to work for anyone. Although using SMS to market to leads may not be suitable for all practice areas, almost every attorney will find text messaging useful to schedule meetings and exchange nonconfidential information quickly and easily with clients. Texting is a part of daily life for virtually everyone with a phone, regardless of age, income or location. It’s how most of your clients are communicating anyway, so why not meet them where they are?

Stage Presence

While growing up, how many times did our mothers tell us to “Sit up straight” or “Don’t slouch”? Probably hundreds! And while it undoubtedly annoyed us at the time, it’s actually great business advice…especially when participating on a conference panel or making a speech or presenting your firm’s abilities to prospective new clients.

You’ve probably heard the axiom “act as if.” It’s equally important to “look as if.” Your posture, your mannerisms, the neatness of your attire, and the interest you show in what you’re talking about all play a major role in establishing your credibility in front of your audience.

Many people don’t like public speaking, but for service professionals it’s an important part of your business development activities. So the next time you’re asked to speak publicly, don’t shy away; just remember all the good advice your mother gave you and you’ll do a great job!

Best-in-Breed Website Bios

You have about eight seconds and 150 characters for your prospects to decide if they are going to continue reading your attorney biography or click to another page. In an engaging LMA conference presentation, Anne Heathcock and Mary Trice of Winston & Strawn reported on what works now in biographies.

 Your Photo

Make your photo shine so that it immediately engages the viewer. It should be relatively large and not just your standard head shot. You want your photo to show personality and warmth, i.e., trustworthiness, and to convey that you’re someone the prospect wants to work with. The fact that so many lawyer headshots are still point ‘n shoot gives you the opportunity to strongly differentiate yourself.

 Scan-ability  

Your bio needs to be a fast read. This is so the reader can get a quick snapshot of who you are and your area of expertise, and then determine what else they’d like to learn about you and your firm. That doesn’t mean short; it just means use headings to break the copy into sections so that it is scan-able.

 Extended Profile

A quick read gives people a sense of who you are and what your firm is about. When prospects want to learn more, you can have them click to an expanded version. Remember not to repeat anything people have already read in the quick-read version; don’t waste those precious 150 characters and don’t waste their time. And no more “Mr. Smith” or “Smith.” Today, we’re on a first-name basis.

 The Story

You want to keep in mind that people are not necessarily going to come to your website through the home page, especially when they are doing a search on a particular lawyer or a particular area. They’re going to come in directly to your bio. So to some degree, your bio has to tell your firm’s story as well as your story.

Print Version

Think in terms of how your bio will look when it’s printed out. Prospects often print out several bios and compare them side by side. They may be comparing education, areas of expertise, experience, etc. You don’t want to lose the beauty contest because of poor readability and graphics.

Visuals

Visuals are one way to make your bio stand up well against your competition. Whether headlines, graphics, icons or even colors, think about how and where you can incorporate visuals; for example, add school logos to your education section. They’ll make your bio (and website) more interesting, easier to scan and easier to communicate your information.

 

Twitter Tips for Attorneys (Yes, You Should Be Using Twitter)

There’s often the misconception that social media is only for millennials or hotshot corporate lawyers, but regardless of your age, practice or ranking, social media such as Twitter is a useful tool that should be harnessed. You’d be surprised by how you can benefit as a lawyer from typing 140 characters and sending it off into the “Twitterverse.”

Twitter is a great way to disseminate information, demonstrate expertise and build relationships with lawyers and existing or potential clients who are active on social media. Regardless of your practice, your potential and existing clients are most likely looking into your social media presence, and it is important to show that you’re up-to-date on the most recent laws and regulations and showing an active interest by engaging in conversations about hot topics and trends in your industry. Twitter is also a great way to make connections with other lawyers: A few tweets back and forth, and before you know it, you’re at the same networking event or grabbing lunch and you’ve secured a referral source.

Keep in mind that social media isn’t necessarily intuitive, and there’s certainly an ineffective way to approach Twitter. So, we’ve compiled some tips for using Twitter below, including a few from attorney and co-author of “Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier,” Nicole Black.

Here are some tips for using Twitter:

  • Take it slow – Don’t jump in and start tweeting 20x a day. Lie low for a while, start following people and learn the customs of other users.
  • A tweet is a 140-character message/statement sent out into the Twitter universe, often called the “Twitterverse.”
  • You can share photos, videos, articles, or just make a statement.
  • You can start a conversation by replying to another user’s tweet, or you can simply share a tweet by retweeting.
  • Your profile consists of all of your tweets, replies/conversations and retweets.
  • Your news feed consists of all of the tweets and retweets of the users you follow.
  • Searching for hashtags like #SCOTUS can be a great way to either join or stay abreast of the conversation being held in the “Twitterverse,” and a great way to find people worth following.
  • Follow other attorneys, journalists and publications that write about the law and organizations you are or want to be involved in.
  • Follow ideas as well – search for specific areas of the law you’re interested in and you’ll be able to find great content and the people who share that content.
  • Provide news about your field, such as breaking news in cases, published decisions, your own successes at the firm, seminars/events you’re attending, etc., but try to avoid merely echoing content with a string of retweets.
  • Join conversations related to your field, but focus on the critical issues – remember you only have 140 characters in each tweet.
  • Download Twitter’s mobile app – You’ve finished reading the paper and there’s still 8 minutes left in your morning commute on the train; that’s plenty of time to check your news feed, share an interesting tweet and maybe even start a conversation.
  • Try the 50-30-10-10 formula: 50 percent sharing other people’s content, whether that’s retweeting or posting a link to other articles; 30 percent interaction with other Twitter users; 10 percent your own promotional content; and 10 percent your personal interests, which makes you more approachable and relatable.
  • And remember that anything you tweet is public and hard to erase, so be mindful of who your clients are and who will be viewing your posts.
Berbay Marketing & PR