Lawyers, do you have a game plan for your business?

Nicole at NAL

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have a daughter that for the last 16 years has been in the equestrian world of show jumping. My husband and I have great respect for her ability to enter the show ring always having a plan for how she will ride the course. In show jumping, your goal is to complete the designed course, which consists of a number of jumps or obstacles, in the fastest time, staying on course and without knocking down any rails. It requires a clear vision, a plan, and a strategy with the ability to execute and adjust when things go awry and still complete the course. Before she goes into the ring to compete, she has evaluated the competition, the course and the best path to ride. Simply put: she and her horse have a game plan.

So how well are you doing with your plan to grow and manage your law practice?

Whether a solo, an associate or a partner within a firm, you have to always have that mindset of being a business owner. A partner today may be a solo tomorrow. To grow your business, you have to focus on how to get business, deliver services, get paid and make money. This focus leads to developing clarity around what you do and how you ride the course.

While most lawyers want to have more business and grow, it is amazing how many I talk to that have not taken the time to develop even a simple business plan. As a result, the business is without a focused direction or clear strategy. And businesses without clarity about what they do, will not be as successful as a business with a game plan. Just like a rider going into the show ring without a vision and strategy will most likely fail at completing the course.

So, much like our daughter preparing for the show ring, the answer to questions like “How can I get more clients?” or “How can I find better clients?” or “Am I profitable?” begin with having a game plan. In the business world, these components are cleverly disguised as a business plan. Do you have one? A great business plan is not some pie-in-the-sky document full of impressive prose. A business plan can be as simple as a one-page document outlining the actions you will take to be successful. The key is does it provide clarity and serve as a guide for future actions and decisions.

You see, the trouble with most business plans and the reason people don’t want to create one is they are often written for someone else – a banker, an investor, or a potential partner. Instead, I say write it for yourself. It’s your chance to think through the challenges you are facing and commit to a plan of action. Form doesn’t matter.

This short article is not here to tell you how to write a business plan, but instead, to get you thinking about how clear or unclear your own business strategy may be. Maybe the end result will be that you decide to develop a game plan to help guide your business on a course for growth.

Whether just starting out or if you have been practicing for a few years, why write down your game plan? Continue reading

Lawyers: Managing Your Online Presence and Directories

Tagul - Gorgeous tag cloudsOne of the wonderful things about the internet and social media is that it’s a great way to create and build an online presence without the investment of a lot of money. It can be time consuming but managing your time can be much less expensive than managing a marketing budget.  A powerful tool for accomplishing this creation and growth of your internet presence are directory listings.

Directory listings, are in short, like an online version of the yellow pages but much more powerful with the addition of profiles, links, video and reviews. There are hundreds of them and deciding which ones you want to be listed in can be overwhelming.  For example: Avvo, InfoUSA, Google+ Local, Bing Places, Yahoo Local, Lawyers.com, MerchantCircle.com, Yelp.com, plus many more. I see many lawyers with incomplete profiles on a number of directories. Why do you have to worry about these online directories?

Directories have risen to a level of importance  because Google moved its local search returns to its main page with the introduction of Google+ Local (formally Google Places). How Google determines which local business listings should be on the first page of Google’s search results depends a great deal on directory listings. So if you are in 5, 10, 15 or more directory listings, you are going to look good to Google’s ranking algorithm. And having reviews with your listing makes you even more popular in Google’s eyes.

While you want to be in many directories, deciding which ones to be in and entering and managing the data can be time consuming. Plus, doing it wrong can ruin your online presence. You will want to make sure you do not have duplicate or incorrect listings and you want to use keywords in each directory. Here is more information about online directories
 in an article by the folks at Get Noticed Get Found.

If you would like help creating and managing your online directories, adhering to the ethical rules, please give me a call. I can provide this service to you at  nominal one-time charge. I am also available to do in-house CLE on the  “Your Social Media Presence – Adhering to Ethics Rules While Being Social.”

Peggy Gruenke, Owner/Consultant LegalBizSuccess

Specializing in Law Firm Practice Management  and Business Development solo and small firm attorneys. Peggy can be found on Twitter @PeggyGruenkeLinkedIn and at www.legalbizsuccess.com.  (5130 315-5750

 

LinkedIn Tips for Lawyers #1: Specialties, Summary, Skills Expertise Sections

Samll LinkedIn_logo_1Have you taken the time to really look at your LinkedIn Profile after all the changes LinkedIn phased in during 2012? Did you notice that your Specialties Section is missing from your LinkedIn Profile?  Did you notice that if you had a Specialties Section defined in your old profile that LinkedIn has added it to the bottom of your Summary Section.

In 2012, LinkedIn decided to phase out the Specialties Section in favor of the Skills & Expertise Section. For lawyers, I think this is actually good news because of the ethical pitfalls around using the words “Specialized” or “Specialties” on any site where you advertise yourself as an attorney. According to the ABA Model Rule 7.4, claiming yourself as a specialist requires special certification by an approved, accredited authority.

Under Rule 7.4 (e) of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney must not state or imply in any communication that they are a specialist, certified or specialized in a particular field of law, unless:

    • The lawyer or law firm has been certified as a specialist by an organization that has been approved by the Supreme Court Commission on Certification of Attorneys as Specialists; and
    • The communication clearly identifies the name of the certifying organization.

When LinkedIn added the Skills and Experience Section, it built your section based on keywords in your Summary and Specialties Sections. If you had a Specialties Section in your profile at the time LinkedIn converted your Profile to the new format, it left the heading Specialties in the bottom of your Profile Summary. If you were cautious when you first built your profile and did not include that section, then you will not see the heading Specialties in your Summary Section.

My suggestion is to check your Summary Section. If you see Specialties listed at the bottom of your Summary, replace this word with Practice Areas. If you are a Certified Specialist, then list it as such following the guidelines of Rule 7.4.

Specialties Section left over in Summary Section.

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Other things you may not know:

  • From time to time, LinkedIn pulls keywords from other sections of your LinkedIn Profile and asks if you’d like to add them to your Skills & Expertise Section.
  • Other people can add a Skill to your profile.
  • LinkedIn changed how they calculate a complete profile by incorporating the addition of 3 skills as a requisite for a complete profile.

Thanks for your interest and comments. Next post will be about how to remove or hide Skills you have been endorsed for but don’t think you are qualified to list on your profile.

Peggy Gruenke | www.lawbizcoo.com | Helping Lawyers Succeed | Like me on Facebook 

Thinking About Blogging – Just do it and here is some advice from successful bloggers

I started blogging about 6 months ago and have tried to maintain a consistent schedule with meaningful topics.  What I have learned is that it takes passion, time, commitment and a bit of creative thinking to come up with relevant topics.  I also witnessed the power of blogging for building your community. It does work. Blogging is habit forming and as with any habit, they are easy to break once you get out of the cycle. So I am guilty of breaking my blogging habit and need to get back on track.

So for today’s post, I am going to share with you a great article by Ernie Svenson who wrote the book Blogging in One Hour for Lawyers. Ernie has been running a great series called “Five Questions for a Law Blogger“.  He asks some successful bloggers five questions. Read here and get your blogging mojo started or back on track: Fascinating Insight From Successful Bloggers.

Enjoy!

Peggy Gruenke On Twitter @peggygruenke On LinkedIn  and my Blog LawBizCOO

History of Social Media – Infographic via CopyBlogger

Thought I’d share this cool Infographic. I see 2 things missing – Skype and Linked In. Anyone else?

The very purpose of the Internet (every blog, website and virtual gathering place within it) is to let people connect, communicate, and collaborate. Check it out – we have become and are a very social community. Via CopyBlogger

A History of Social Media [Infographic] - Infographic
Like this infographic? Get more content marketing tips from Copyblogger.

In the Stands or On the Track: Your Business Development Advantage

It’s fall and the height of football season. Our city is crazy about high school football games. Serious rivalries exist. Parents are actively involved attending games and tailgating.  It’s just the place to be on Friday nights.

One might ask – How does a Friday night football game relate to business development? I enjoy watching people and seeing how they interact. The next time you’re at a game look around and you’ll notice that high school students are naturals at this networking thing, without even realizing they are doing it. At the game, people are either sitting in the stands (the parents) or walking around on the track between the stands and the field (the students). Being in the stands you are passively involved in the game with the handful of people sitting around you. But the students are actively involved, meeting, talking and making plans with everyone they meet. Walking along the track, they are interacting with people while still being able to see what is going on in the game.

What if you moved  out of the stands and onto the track? On the track you would be interacting with a lot more people compared to the handful sitting next to you in the stands.  Either way, you get to see the game, but how much more could you accomplish if you moved out of your comfortable seat in the stands?

BTW  – a little shameless self-promotion is OK. Wear that logo shirt, jacket, hat, umbrella with the sole purpose of increasing awareness about your firm and what you do. Have a handful of business cards on hand as well.  Here is a great article about how lawyers can be more proactive with their business cards.   You just never know when they will need an attorney.

Peggy Gruenke, Chief Operating Officer and Business Development, pgruenke@lawbizcoo.com More articles available on my blog LawBizCOO.

One simple change to create a WOW factor every day.

Marketing Voice Mail Messages

Everything you choose to do, or not do, has an impact on marketing your business and your client relationships. Here is a simple way to make a memorable impression every day. Have you listened to you voice mail greeting lately? Listen to it. Then have a friend or co-worker listen.  Ask them how they felt after hearing it. Does it leave them feeling energized, disappointed, hopeless, unimportant or confident their message will be treated with the level of importance they expect?

I know client service is an important part of your culture.  It has to be in order for you to be successful. Here are more tips: Marketing Tips for Getting and Keeping Clients. Have you ever thought about the impact a voice mail greeting may have on your clients – current and prospects. I was working the front desk the other day – something as the administrator of the law firm I find very valuable to occasionally do. Sitting there, taking calls, you really get the pulse of the business.  In today’s world, many client calls end up being placed in the attorney’s voicemail.  The clients are OK with leaving a message and I assure them that the attorney or paralegal will follow-up with them in a timely fashion. Then towards the end of the day, I see a pattern being revealed. The clients that called early in the morning are now calling again expressing disappointment and frustration because their attorney has not called back.

So why not build a WOW factor into your voice mail messages?  Rethink your voice mail greeting and make it memorable. Leave them with a WOW moment. I recently changed my greeting to the following:

“Hello, this is Peggy. Thank you for you call today and taking the time to leave a message. It must be important to you and I will certainly treat it as such. Our firm is committed to providing great client service. Please leave a message and I will commit to following up within 24hrs or if I am unable to, someone from the firm will follow-up with you. Have a great day.”

The comments I’ve received were quite positive and genuinely appreciative.  They find it quite refreshing and I am living our culture of great client service with every phone message I receive.

Peggy Gruenke, Chief Operating Officer and Business Development, pgruenke@lawbizcoo.com More articles available on my blog LawBizCOO.

Attraction vs Retention Marketing – A Two-Part Process

Attraction vs Retention MarketingDoes your firm have a marketing strategy?  If you do, it probably isn’t being carried out. If it is, you’re pretty rare. I am not sure what word or phrase I prefer when talking about marketing but whatever you call it, I have realized you need a strategy in place to help guide your success. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, but it does need to be targeted, measurable and consistent.

I first tested this strategic marketing approach as Director of Membership at the Cincinnati Bar Association. Managing the growth of membership is very similar to managing client relationships in a law firm. My theory was that if the process was targeted and measured, I could figure out the most successful methods for recruiting new members and retaining existing members.  I developed and implemented  strategic membership recruitment & retention campaigns which included a two-part process:

  1. Attraction Marketing: Campaigns to attract potential members;
  2. Retention Marketing: Ideas/strategies for retaining happy, satisfied members who renewed, stayed involved and became my best recruiters.

Now working in the law firm world, I can draw parallels between membership retention/recruitment and client/business development. It costs more to get new clients and you need to learn how to retain before you focus on getting new clients.  If you don’t have the plan to retain in place, you’ll never gain the enormous financial benefit of new work from former clients or referrals from past clients.

Identifying the Steps:

Identify touch points which are ways to consistently be marketing. In Ann Guinn’s book – Minding Your Own Business – she identifies 4 steps with the majority of the time/money focused on retaining the clients you already have.

  1. Attraction Marketing, the pre-hire phase to increase firm visibility and get new clients;
  2. Retention Marketingto focus on your current clients who will come back for other legal services and refer you:
    • Initial consultation – marketing to potential clients acquired from your attraction marketing strategies;
    • During representation – marketing continually to demonstrate the value of your services to your client;
    • After representation – identify and implement ideas that keep you in front of them for more work or for referring you to a friend, relative, co-worker.

So you are marketing to your clients before you meet them and continue to market to them during and after the engagement creating a full circle, a continuous flow.

Creating the Process to Track Success:

You need to be able to track the success of a recruitment campaign and measure your return on investment. The only way you will be able to effectively accomplish this is by capturing the data. In the end you should be able to answer:

  1. What was the most effective tactic implemented – which one yielded the most new clients;
  2. How much did it cost and how much revenue was generated from these new clients.

It’s essential to educate everyone in the firm on what you are implementing and why. Your receptionist will be a key piece to your success in collecting and tracking your marketing campaigns. Your ability to track and measure is only as good as the data you collect. Here is a simple Excel spreadsheet showing a coding/tracking method. These fields can be added to your client database system also.

Start small, identify one or two targets areas, write your plan and do something really crazy – put it to work.

Sample

Peggy Gruenke, Chief Operating Officer and Business Development, pgruenke@lawbizcoo.com More articles available on my blog LawBizCOO.