April 2009 Archives

April 29, 2009

Updates on Previous Topics

As I did a few weeks back, here are a couple of updates to topics that I covered previously:

For Twitter, which I posted about here, there are two great blog posts on usage.  At Law21, Jordan Furlong focuses on Twitter as a business tool, while Steve Matthews of Stem Legal shares the most comprehensive list of dos and don'ts that I've seen to date.

Meanwhile, relevant to my earlier post on eBooks is a classic by marketing guru Trey Ryder explaining education-based marketing.  Since eBooks are a great example of education-based marketing, Ryder's post may give you added motivation to try an eBook campaign.
April 28, 2009

Tips for Delegating Marketing on the Cheap

Many lawyers find themselves in a catch-22 situation in the economic downturn.  On the one hand, they realize that they need to step up their marketing efforts to attract more business.  On the other hand, feeling cash-strapped, they're loath to spend money unnecessarily.  And when business finally comes through the door, lawyers are more inclined to jump on it to earn some money and relegate marketing to the back burner.

Large firms have long dealt with the problem of yo-yo marketing efforts by maintaining professional marketing staff who can keep the machine running even while lawyers are busy.  But few solos have the resources to invest in full-time marketing staff, or even to hire a part-time marketing professional.  Moreover, many solos run a strong independent streak and are loath to delegate any tasks, including marketing.

Truth is, there are few tasks that are easier and more cost-effective to delegate than marketing.  Below, identify those marketing functions that lend themselves to delegation and find some affordable ways that lawyers can outsource some of those tasks.

1.  What you can delegate and what you can't.  Delegation can help lawyers with their marketing, but there are some functions which can't be outsourced.  For example, if your marketing strategy includes lunch or coffee dates with prospective referral sources, clearly, you can't send an assistant in your stead.  However, as I'll discuss below, what you can do is ask your assistant make the initial contact with referral sources, with you following up personally to issue the invitation. 

Some tasks fall in the middle of the line.  For example, you could hire a ghostwriter to write articles or a blog for you, or use a social media guru to Twitter on your behalf.  I don't recommend delegation in these circumstances because it's not genuine -- I prefer my readers to hear my voice in my writing because it conveys a sense of my personality.  Though there's nothing wrong with asking an assistant to help identify blog topics, edit posts, and every so often put up a post under your name during a busy spell, ultimately, you should avoid having someone acting as "the man behind the curtain".

Finally, as a lawyer, you alone are responsible for compliance with ethics rules governing advertising.  If you outsource preparation of an advertisement or marketing campaign, you need to review those materials thoroughly to ensure that they don't run afoul of ethics rules in your jurisdiction.

2.  Tasks suitable for delegation.  Now that we've covered those tasks that lawyers shouldn't delegate, what's left?  Plenty, as discussed below:

For seminars, delegate room reservation, set-up of online webinar software, scheduling, registration, marketing, materials reproduction, mailing campaign, registration and surveys.

For articles or e-books, delegate research of potential topics, potential publication sources, supporting research, editing, formatting, and distribution.

For blogging, delegate blog set-up, topic collection, gathering resources, editing and formatting posts, monitoring blog statistics, and blog publicity.

For cold calls, delegate organizing contact lists and numbers, making initial contact and scheduling the followup call.

For social media, delegate the setup of accounts or profiles (based on information provided by lawyer), identifying potential followers (on Twitter) or connections (on LinkedIn), sending requests for testimonials, and monitoring lawyer's online presence.

For general marketing, delegate identifying growth areas, preparation of white papers and surveys to support marketing efforts or circulate to potential clients, graphics and logo preparation, contact management, and sending news items in clients' newsletter.

3.  Who to delegate to?  There are plenty of professional marketing companies that can handle all of these tasks for you, but they can also be costly.  Instead, try working with virtual assistants, many of whom have experience marketing their own businesses and are highly skilled when it comes to social media and online tools.  Professionals students, such as law students or business students, can also help out on most tasks, particularly those requiring more specialized marketing or legal research.  Don't overlook your family either -- your spouse, parents, or kids can help fold or stamp fliers, or register attendees at a seminar.

As for cost, virtual assistants and students provide fairly cheap labor, while you can often consign friends or family for free! 

4.  Change your mindset.  Ultimately, to succeed at delegating, you need to change your mindset and build it in to all of your plans.  Start breaking down marketing tasks into lists and specifically identify whether you or an assistant will handle a particular matter.  Once you formally list an assistant as responsible, you'll be less inclined to take on the work yourself.

Just like yo-yo dieting, on-again-off-again marketing efforts aren't particularly effective or healthy for the growth of your firm.  By delegating marketing tasks, you can ensure that they continue to move forward even during those times when you're too busy to pay attention.
April 13, 2009

Is Bad Publicity Better Than No Publicity? Not Necessarily in an Internet Age

You've probably heard the saying that bad publicity is better than no publicity.  But that's not necessarily true in this cache-and-carry-on-forever Internet age, where Google continues to shine light on your darkest hours long after the controversy has died down. 

As a result, more than ever, lawyers must be vigilant about our online profiles -- in an an Internet age, our online reputation invariably precedes us.  Increasingly, clients are turning to the Internet to find lawyers.  And even those clients who locate lawyers through offline sources like newspaper ads or personal referrals routinely turn to Google to ferret out additional information.

To complicate matters further, there's now myriad ways for disgruntled clients or colleagues to disseminate unflattering information.  From lawyer rating sites to individual blogs to newspaper articles that remain online and uncorrected long after an unflattering incident has passed, it's never been easier to drum up dirt on anyone.

So what's a lawyer to do?  We're all familiar with ways to harness the power of Internet to attract business; indeed, I've posted on many of those techniques here in my blog.  But today, I'll focus on the flip side: how to use the Internet to avoid losing business as a result of rumors, criticisms, or other negative information that resides online.

1.  Guard Your Reputation As Zealously As You Represent Clients

Perhaps the most important step that lawyers can take to avoid fallout from negative information is to continuously and vigorously monitor their respective online reputations  If that sounds time-consuming, it doesn't have to be.  Over at Hubspot, you can find out how to monitor your social media presence in just ten minutes a day.  Tips that apply to lawyers include:
  1. checking Twitter for chatter about your company and using search tools like TweetDeck or TwitterSearch to monitor conversations in real time
  2. setting and then checking Google Alerts for your name or those of cases or client matters you're working on
  3. looking for questions to answer on LinkedIn (answering questions can increase positive search engine visibility), and
  4. using Google to track other social networking sites and, in particular, blogs, where a colleague may have criticized a posting or commented negatively on the way in which you handled a case. 
In addition to these general social networking sites, lawyers should regularly monitor sites like Avvo which allow clients to post ratings and opinions, and other similar sites where clients are permitted to comment or review lawyers.  And don't forget to keep an eye on sites like LinkedIn, where colleagues can post testimonials.

2.  If You Find Something Positive, Reinforce It

Of course, lawyers are most interested in dealing with negative information and I'll get to that issue in a moment.  However, even when you find positive comments, you should respond with a thank you.  Clients and colleagues who take the time to praise something you've done can serve as your greatest allies if you ever need to undertake damage control against unfair criticism or unflattering commentary.  Take the time to cultivate your own personal vigilante group who can go on the offensive for or with you.

3.  Dealing With Negative Information

So what can you do if you uncover negative or unflattering information about yourself?  First, depending on the information and the site where you found it, ignoring the information might make the most sense.  As this Freelance Folder post suggests, when the comments are clearly from a source that's not credible, you are probably best off ignoring them rather than drawing further attention. 

Continue reading "Is Bad Publicity Better Than No Publicity? Not Necessarily in an Internet Age" »

April 13, 2009

Updates on Posts

Since the world of Internet marketing and social media changes so rapidly, I've decided to offer routine updates on earlier posts so that you can stay current on the latest and greatest.  So without further fanfare, here's the first round-up:

1. Two weeks ago, I posted about how lawyers can use eBooks for marketing.  However, as Amanda Fazani points out at this April 6 post at BloggingTips.com, eBooks are also a great tool for building traffic to your blog, which in turn can generate business for your firm.  If you can't come up with topics, Fazani suggests several ideas, including:

  • Collect your 10 most popular posts and repackage with a little extra commentary.
  • Expand on the concept of your most popular blog post.
  • Create a directory of resources which are useful for your target audience.
  • Write an FAQ to answer popular questions from readers of your site.
Fazani also recommends using a Creative Commons license for your eBook so that you can retain some control over the way in which the book is redistributed by others. 

Also,  if you're looking for ways to broaden distribution of your eBook, consider the options for distributing articles discussed in this blog post at Stephen Fairley's Rainmaker Institute. Fairley explains that you should submit articles you've written to re-distribution sites like  Article Marketer, isnare.com, or SubmitYourArticle.com and there's no reason why you couldn't also submit portions of your eBook to gain further visibility.

2.  About six weeks ago, I posted here about
how lawyers are using Twitter.  Last week, Simon Chester asked that question of his readers at Canadian law blog Slaw.com and some of the responses are illuminating.  Also at Slaw.com, I learned that Jim Calloway, Practice Management Advisor of the Oklahoma Bar offers his own take on Twitter in this article,  Twitter: The Good, the Bad and The Ugly.

In the meantime, whether lawyers are using Twitter or not, there's no dispute that this social media tool is gaining traction.  According to this recent Mac World article:

Twitter traffic is up 700 percent over last year, and it's all thanks to the old-timers. That's according to the latest numbers from ComScore, which says Twitter drew almost 10 million visitors worldwide in February 2009. In the past two months alone, Twitter traffic has grown by 5 million worldwide visitors, while U.S. Twitter traffic accounted for 4 million visitors in February 2009 -- a 1000 percent jump over last year.
What's most interesting is that the average age for Twitter users is in the 25- to 54-year-old range, with the over-45 set comprising the bulk of users.  So if you're in that age category and previously considered other social media tools too childish, you may want to explore Twitter some more.