How to Make Clients Smile

Group of happy business people

We connect with our clients and contacts in many different ways telephone calls, emails and by sharing on social networks. The quality of those interactions determines how we make our contacts feel. If we do it well, we make them happy. Compare this to gift-giving.

Consider two scenarios: One Christmas morning years ago, the one gift remaining was for me, and it was from my little brother. I tore the gift open and was a little crestfallen to find “The Simpson’s Fun Book” a kids’ book that he clearly wanted for himself.

Fast forward almost 15 years. I was enjoying Christmas with my soon-to-be bride. “Are you ready to open your present?” she asked. I tore open what looked like a giant picture frame to find a map of the world carefully mounted on cork-board. It came with a plastic container of red pins. “Everywhere we travel together, we can mark with the red pins,” she said. It was a perfect gift she had anticipated exactly what I wanted.

When we share articles and information with our contacts, are we too self-serving? Do we share information in tune with their needs and struggles? Or do we share self-serving material clearly designed to get people to hire us?

Just as I could tell the difference between two gifts, so can your clients.

Barger & Wolen marketing director Heather Morse tells a story about the firm’s founding partner, Richards Barger. He could often be found at the photocopy machine, running off articles to send to contacts, clients and other attorneys within the firm. Didn’t you love it, she asked attorneys during a marketing session, when he took the time to send something of interest to you?

LinkedIn can work the same way. Sure, there’s no handwritten note. But you can still personalize your message.

A lot has been said and written about the impersonal nature of social media, but the problem isn’t the technology it’s the way we use it. We can blast our network with every article we write, never taking the time to read what other people post or to answer their questions, but that isn’t the highest and best use of tools like LinkedIn. The best use is to facilitate both sharing with a large number of people and personal engagement with individuals. No more trips to the copy machine now you can copy and paste a link, add a personal note and send the article off via email or post it via your favorite social network.

This is not marketing, at least not in the traditional sense. It is truly business development. You are working to build stronger relationships with people who you already know.

Take the time to share good information. Make thoughtful decisions about the information you choose to share. That will make your clients and contacts smile for years.

 

Of Soccer Balls and Social Media

Perfekter Fußball auf Reinweiß

What do lawyers and Pakistani factory workers have in common? More than you think. Especially when it comes to innovation.

Columbia University researchers looked at how innovation spreads in a seemingly simple area the manufacture of soccer balls. They identified a far more efficient way to cut out the fake leather used to make the balls. This basic design improvement increases profits by 12 percent at factories that use it.

To help spread this innovation to factories in Pakistan, the researchers provided the design and specific instructions to more than 100 soccer ball factories. A year later, only six had actually implemented the change. Why was the number so low?

Compensation.

The factories were all in favor of this clear improvement in the process, but the factory workers were highly resistant. A factory in Siakot, Pakistan, for example, pays workers for each piece of leather they cut. Learning the new process meant they would have to slow down in the short term, so they resisted. It seems very shortsighted, but the truth is the goals of the bosses weren’t in line with the workers’ goals. At other factories, however, managers gave bonuses to the workers willing to learn the new process, or provided some other incentive.

What does this have to do with lawyers and law firms? For more than two decades, law firms have had opportunities to benefit from major innovations in project management that would drastically reduce the costs and increase the effectiveness of litigation, yet most still haven’t adopted these practices. More recently, new customer-relationship management software can exponentially increase the value of the combined networks of law firms, yet most lawyers either don’t share their contacts or are unwilling to take the time to learn the power of the tool.

Take a look at LinkedIn and other social media finally, every member of a firm can take control of his or her own business development, but at most firms fewer than 5 percent of the lawyers actively use social media.

In short, firms preach the benefits of these practices, but almost none of them ties compensation to their use. The message sounds a little like this: “Please use all these new innovations, but we will only reward you for doing things the old way.”

Law firms are filled with workers who instead of getting paid by the piece are getting paid by the hour. Where is the motivation to provide better service, more efficiently, at a lower cost? It isn’t there, and until firms provide a carrot in the form of compensation, lawyers will keep cranking out the hours. Innovation isn’t easy, but firms that make it a priority can make more money and provide superior service. That should be all the incentive they need.

 

The Magic Bean Strategy Will Fail

beans

“I’ve been on LinkedIn for five years, but nothing good has ever happened as a result.” That is repeated by at least one lawyer in every group I speak to about LinkedIn.

I call this the “Magic Bean Strategy.” You remember the story Jack planted the magic beans and climbed the stalk into the clouds? It worked for Jack, but it won’t work for lawyers. They need to use LinkedIn to further their ­specific business-development goals.

Here are five simple ways lawyers can get more out of LinkedIn:

Share an important piece of news or information to your network as a LinkedIn update. This is the easiest thing to do on LinkedIn simply copy and paste an article you think is important or helpful to your clients and hit “share.” You are already reading the news why not share the good stuff with your network? Research by Bufferapp.com reports that if you post 20 times each month, 60 percent of your network will see at least one of your posts. It’s important to remember that LinkedIn doesn’t email your updates to anybody; they are available to anybody logging in that day.

Add one new connection every day. You can go the “People You May Know” section to find people worth reaching out to because of a common personal or professional connection. You also can search for specific individual former classmates from college or law school.

Upload a recent article or PowerPoint presentation to your LinkedIn profile. I’m not talking about sharing these as updates (although you should do that as well); I’m suggesting you permanently add these media to your LinkedIn profile by selecting the “Profile” tab, then “Edit Profile” and, under the “Summary” section, select the box with the plus sign on the right to upload your PowerPoint or video interview. Anybody can add media to their LinkedIn bios, but in my experience vanishingly few lawyers take advantage of this simple way to set themselves apart.

Use LinkedIn to set up a meeting. LinkedIn makes it easy to work your list of prospects. Shoot them messages and schedule lunch, ­coffee, breakfast or golf. Do it once each day.

Schedule 10 minutes each day for LinkedIn. Put it on your calendar. Don’t tell me you don’t have 10 minutes, either. You eat, don’t you? You drink coffee? Schedule 10 minutes and take one of these suggestions every single day. It’s not that hard.

The lawyers who bring in business via LinkedIn have a process, and by repeating this process over and over they eventually find success. Great status updates or brilliant comments won’t make LinkedIn work for you, but rather consistent, deliberate efforts to advance your goals. It isn’t complicated, but it requires more than planting magic beans and waiting for something awesome to happen.

And an Associate Shall Lead Them

handshake

There’s no point in connecting to the other lawyers in your firm on LinkedIn, right? I mean, you already know them.

Wrong. LinkedIn.com, the premier social network for professionals across the world, isn’t just about connecting with people you want to do business with; it’s also about being connected.

Let me explain the difference. You may know the 10 lawyers who work down the hall, but do you know the 250 connections each of them has? Do you know the approximately 62,500 connections those 250 people have? I didn’t think so.

LinkedIn isn’t just about direct connections; there also is real value in connections that are one degree removed. Have you ever played the game, Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon? Pick any actor and connect him or her to a movie in which one of their co-stars was in a different movie with Kevin Bacon” in seven steps. Adept players can do it in three or four moves.

This same game is playing out for professionals on LinkedIn. Here’s an example: Last year, I worked with a large law firm with offices on the West Coast. One of the partners planned to pitch a major technology company in Silicon Valley, but didn’t know anybody who worked there. He asked the other partners in his office and searched the firm’s client -management software, but came up with nothing.

Then he searched LinkedIn for a couple of the people he would be making his pitch to. Surprise! It turned out that an associate in the firm’s Orange County office had a personal relationship with the target company’s general counsel. An associate!

You may think you know everybody in your firm, but you can never predict whom they know.

Does this mean you should make sure that every lawyer in your firm is connected to every other lawyer? There is certainly an argument to be made for this extreme stance. Firms pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for client-relationship management systems that are not nearly as dynamic as LinkedIn. What do I mean by dynamic? When someone changes jobs, you have to manually enter it into the client -relationship system. LinkedIn is completely web-based when any of your contacts updates his or her profile, you see it automatically. This free software in many ways runs circles around the clunky software most firms pay for.

I don’t expect law firms to stop using client-management systems, but lawyers should be extremely liberal about who they connect with via LinkedIn inside their firm. You just never know whom the other lawyers know.

Cross-selling doesn’t have to be painful; sometimes it can start with a simple step like accepting that LinkedIn invite from the associate down the hall.