May 2011 Archives

May 27, 2011

Let the Message Match the Medium - Legal Marketing Blawg Update

For those who follow me here at my perch at Nolo's Legal Marketing Blawg, you may have heard my webinar on niche practices, or read my post on specific niches such as representing Baby Boomers or African Americans or Latino business owners. Interesting enough, but how do you pitch your niche? In other words, how do you reach your target market of prospects that is most likely to hire you?

I can't answer that question specifically. depends on what your niche is and who your target clients are. In my case, I represent small renewable energy developers who find me online through blogging or hear me speak at conferences . For landowners whom I represent in siting cases, I've found online e-books highly effective because they objectively educate landowners about a complicated regulatory process, and in doing so make me a trusted information source.

Increasingly, though, smart phones are becoming an important tool for targeting certain populations who rely on mobile devices more than the average. I've noted that evidence shows high use of mobile devices by African Americans and moms. Now, a recent study shows another group - English-speaking Hispanics -who are more inclined to use cell phones than non-Hispanic whites. According to a Pew Study referenced in this CNN piece, not only do Hispanics use their cell phones more often (87 percent own cell phones versus 80 percent of non-Hispanic whites), they also use their cell phones more often and use more features. In fact, in Nevada, a cell phone text messaging campaign was used to organize an Hispanic voter registration drive. Based on these examples, lawyers targeting Hispanic clients might focus on mobile-optimized websites, delivery of information by text and phone apps.

As lawyers, we're natural communicators but often, we focus on what we say. But when you target a niche practice, how and where we communicate our message to clients - whether it's through a blog or an ebook or a smartphone - is just as important as what we say, perhaps even more so.
May 25, 2011

For Conferences, Nothing Beats Tweets

Ah, poor Twitter, the chronically misunderstood, black sheep of the social media family. And it's no wonder. For starters, many social media gurus who advise lawyers don't know how to use it themselves; focusing on quantity of followers rather than quality of contacts. Other lawyers dismiss Twitter because it didn't work for them, or worse, because they simply assume, without direct experience, that it won't work for them.

I'll admit, it can be tough to get the hang of Twitter - partly because the platform itself is as mercurial as its 140-character mode of interaction. Since my co-author Nicole Black (@nikiblack) and I published our book, Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, Twitter has morphed from a platform for sharing status updates (what are you doing now?) to serving many other functions: a traffic-driver for blogs and other online publications, a source of current events, a way for users to make themselves indispensable to followers with interesting news tidbits and a way to keep in touch with, or joke around with friends.

I use Twitter for all those purposes (don't ask me my ROI but I'm certainly having fun) - but it's probably been most useful for a very narrow and specific purpose: conferences. So for those of you who can't figure out how to get value out of Twitter, this post is for you.

But first, let's back up a bit and talk about conferences generally. I don't know about you but for me, conference attendance represents a huge cost. Even if the conference admission isn't particularly expensive, there are opportunity costs. When I'm at a conference, I'm out of the office and I'm not working. So if I don't make contacts at a conference, I'm not just out of pocket the cost-of-entry but foregone billable hours as well.

At the same time, getting the most out of conferences requires advance work (finding out who will be at the conference and setting up meetings) and follow-up (sending "nice to meet you cards or emails" and keeping in touch). Moreover, if I'm able to speak at the conference, I'm likely to have more visibility and make more contacts than if I simply attend. Pre and post-conference legwork can be time consuming, while snagging a speaking engagement is a crap-shoot. But Twitter can help with all of these activities. Here's how.


*Use Twitter to let others know that you'll be attending a conference and to find out who else might be attending. If you learn that one of your followers will be at the conference, DM (direct message) them and make arrangements to meet face to face. Or organize a Tweet-up for conference attendees and others you know at the conference destination.

*If you're able to get a list of attendees before the conference, start following a few of them before the conference. What you learn about other attendees through their tweets can serve as an icebreaker if you bump into them at the conference.

*If you're lucky enough to be speaking at the conference, try to arrange for someone to attend you session and tweet it. You'll get extra exposure from your talk.

*If you haven't been chosen as a speaker, or the conference is outside of your budget, approach one of the organizers and propose to tweet the conference sessions in exchange for complimentary or reduced-free admission. Most conference organizers would appreciate the on-going exposure provided by a stream of tweets. And you'll get to attend the conference for less, plus gain visibility by serving as one of the conference's real-time reporters.

During the Conference:

*If you decide to tweet the conference, first determine whether a "hashtag" (#) has been assigned to the conference. A hashtag is used to mark a topic so that all tweets about that topic - no matter who posts them -- can be easily located simply by following or searching the hashtagged term.

*If you're tweeting at the request of conference organizers, keep your tweets professional. Don't insult or criticize speakers or other attendees. By contrast, if you're tweeting on behalf of yourself, you can take more liberties in expressing your opinion or making jokes.

*Keep an eye out for other attendees tweeting the conference and track them down at the break. A great icebreaker.

*Though I can't say I agree, at least one of my colleagues has suggested giving out your Twitter handle (e.g., @carolynelefant) instead of a business card at conferences. At the events that I frequent in the energy industry, no one would have a clue what I'm talking about (I've met colleagues who still don't have email), but depending upon your target audience, it may be worth a shot.

*Don't limit your Twitter usage at the conference to business only. Use Twitpic or another similar service to post photos of the venue and surrounding location. If you're away from your home turf, tweet out questions seeking tips on not-to-be-missed bars or restaurants or the best way to get from one place to another.

Post Conference:

*Follow all of the new contacts you've met at the conference - and check in every so often with a DM or a phone call. It's a great low-key way to keep in touch.

*Throughout the year, look for opportunities to meet face to face with contacts you've met at the conference.

If you're going to go to the time and expense of attending a conference, you might as well get your money's worth. Twitter can help you do that - and it won't cost you anything at all. Though it may not work for all types of marketing, for conferences, nothing beats tweets.

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May 18, 2011

YouTube video for Nolo's Lawyer Directory

We wanted to let you know that we've created a YouTube video that describes Nolo's Lawyer Directory.

The two and a half minute video explains our company's mission, takes you on a quick tour of our website (and how visitors come to, and describes the various member benefits for lawyers who join the Directory.

After watching the Lawyer Directory video, we hope you'll be inspired to contact us and become a member.  See what Nolo can do for you!

May 16, 2011

Seven Marketing Mistakes Most Start Up Law Firms Make

A recent Geekwire post by Matthew Heinz describes seven marketing mistakes that most start ups make. But the overall advice dispensed in the post applies just as readily to start up solo and small firm practices.

According to the article, one mistake common to start-up companies is hiring a PR firm too early. Not only is a PR firm costly for a nascent company, but it's not as effective as enlisting employees, investors and customers to spread the word directly through blogs and social media. Because the company relies on its supporters to build its brand, it has no choice but to remain engaged and responsive to their needs, which in turn lays the foundation for future success.

Put another way, there are no shortcuts. And the same lesson applies to new solos and small firms. Most lawyers don't enjoy marketing but at the same time, they're hungry for business after hanging a shingle. So they drop a few thousand dollars on a marketing expert only to discover that the expert can't improve the lawyer's reputation with his referral sources. If lawyers spend the early days of their practice focused on their clients' needs and assisting and building relationships with their colleagues, the work will follow. Though building relationships requires in person face time, lawyers can also blog and interact on Twitter and Facebook to get to know their colleagues and to educate potential clients. As a lawyer, only you can build these relationships and establish a reputation. A marketing expert can't help you there.

A second mistake made by start-ups is over thinking brand. Lots of new companies spend time and resources figuring out the right color of their logo, rather than "empowering the sales team." As Heinz points out,"if you can't drive revenue and grow the business, the [brand] won't mean a thing." So too for lawyers starting out. I've seen some new solos held up for months creating a perfectly designed website and blog. Yet in the meantime, they lose out on business that an online presence could be generating. To be sure, your website and blog should be both reliable and professional, which is easy enough with today's tools. But leave the refinement - and the fancy design - until money starts coming in and you can afford it.

Interestingly, the third start up mistake identified by Heinz is starting with a marketing budget. Heinz explains:
Startups should have to earn their marketing budget. They should operate with the assumption that there's no money for marketing, and instead focus initially on the scrappy, organically-generated ways to drive customer awareness, demand and closed business.
Likewise, there are plenty of ways for lawyers to attract clients and referrals at no cost. They can get together with other lawyers in their practice area or take advantage of blogs, listserves and other social media tools. They can even create their own video on their own. As Heinz points out,
You may eventually start spending money to accelerate your opportunity. But if you start by spending money, there's little incentive or motivation to first figure out what can drive the same performance and results with far less investment.
Finally, start-ups should not try to follow lock-step with their competitors. What works for a competitor may not work for another company - plus the focus on what others are doing will distract start-ups from devoting time to improving their companies.

Lawyers are notorious copycats. In my industry, as soon as one firm sponsors a table at a conference, the following year, I'll see ten firms doing the same. Yet as Heinz points out, keeping up with the Jones isn't productive. For starters, your competitors may earn more revenue than you - and you'll jeopardize your firm's financial health if you burn through money as quickly as they do. In addition, lawyers' practices are very different, as are lawyers themselves. Sponsoring a table at an insurance defense dinner is not going to help a family law attorney. Likewise, attending an organization's weekly happy hours may not be effective if you have a shy personality and are constantly overlooked. You might be better off attending the happy hours monthly, and use the rest of the time to write articles or engage in other activities where you'll be portrayed in the best light.

Heinz lists three other mistakes - letting interns drive the social media plan, allowing adversarial relations between sales and biz development within the company and impressing the board instead of customers. Though these mistakes are not necessarily relevant to new solo or small firm lawyers, they make for an interesting read - so be sure to click here to read the article in full.
May 9, 2011

Expanding Your Networks for Business, Part II

Two weeks ago, I posted about how good old fashioned networking never goes out of style. This week, Business Pundit shares a list of 25 best places to network. The list is diverse enough that you're guaranteed to find at least a handful of activities that will serve your practice area, allow you to meet clients and referral sources in a comfortable environment and, most importantly, fit into a lawyer's busy schedule.

For example, joining a Meet Up group works well for lawyers who serve consumer populations as well as those who represent businesses and corporate interests since MeetUp groups are so diverse. Through Meet Up, you can also find speaking opportunities - which is another recommended networking activity.

There are also non-traditional networking opportunities for lawyers who feel awkward promoting themselves at a professional event. Volunteer activities - such as serving on a non-profit board, participating in a bar association's pro bono program, getting involved in religious activities or helping out with non-legal charitable work at soup kitchens or fundraisers - give others a chance to see your legal skills and work ethic in action in a non-pressured environment.

Of course, lawyers are also very busy, and may resent sacrificing personal time to network. However, many recreational activities - exercise clubs, pet clubs, music groups and Toastmasters - give you a chance to enjoy yourself while building relationships with others who may refer cases or hire you directly. Most people want to work with those whom they like and trust - so getting to know people in a relaxed, enjoyable setting can lay the foundation for doing business together.

Take a look at the full list of activities - because you're sure to find at least one that will fit your needs.