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♫ Well, rave on it’s a crazy feeling
And I know it’s got me reeling
I’m so glad that you’re revealing your love for me…♫

Lyrics and music by: Shaun Ryder, Paul Richard Davis, Mark Philip Day, Paul Anthony Ryder, Gary Kenneth Whelan, recorded by Buddy Holly.

bus

 

In the prior two posts on lawyers and pricing, we have been discussing the issue that price is but one part of the 7 components of the legal marketing mix. Part 2 discussed the product mix and how you can change your legal product mix to better meet the needs of your clients in a way that distinguishes your services from those of the competition. In this post we are exploring how important the people who deliver your legal services are and how this can be a distinct competitive advantage.

All of us have experienced situations where your first contact with a business is with someone who just makes you feel like looking after you is the most important thing for them to do in their day. I had that experience today – I called a law firm and spoke to an assistant who, when I asked to speak to her principal, said in the most caring voice: “Well, he isn’t in his office right now but let me go out and round him up for you.”  This was my very first contact with this firm and this wonderful lady didn’t know me from Adam. The way she made me feel was simply amazing.  She made me feel valued and important. I  recognized her exceptional people skills and thought about how she was a tremendous asset to the firm.

In Good to Great,  Jim Collins said that the most important factor applied by the best companies is that they first of all “Got the right people on the bus, and the wrong people off the bus.”   In other words, your ability to select, recruit, train and retain the best people with the skills and abilities to do the job right is more important than everything else put together.

The Spectacled Marketer says:

If a customer feels their expectations of your business are exceeded, then the chances of a referral are exponentially increased because their loyalty to your company is exponentially increased as well!

You need to strive for your clients to feel exceptionally satisfied so that they rave about your services.  How do you exceed your client’s expectations? The first step is …hold on now…ask them!  Yet lawyers and law firms *shudder* at the thought of asking clients three simple questions:

  • What did they like about the firm’s services,
  • What didn’t they like, and
  • How could the firm firm do it better.

If you find out that there is someone on your bus that shouldn’t be there…you have a decision to make. If you find out that you have someone on your bus who is simply exceptional and is a tremendous asset to your firm, make sure you recognize and reward them accordingly!

In considering the marketing of your practice, consider how the people in your business can either make your clients rage on, feel indifferent, feel satisfied or preferably, rave on about your services.  Your client service can be a strong distinguishing factor as compared to your competition. In terms of your marketing mix, strive for having very satisfied clients showing their “love by raving on about you!”

-David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver, BC.

 

Legal Tube logoThis edition of Practice Tips is inspired by last week’s launch of LegalTube.ca, a new online portal showcasing videos by Canadian lawyers on a wide range of law-related topics and practice areas.

Is it time to release your own law firm’s inner Cecil B. DeMille?

Or more directly, should your firm be creating online video content as an educational and marketing tool?  An October 2013 Globe and Mail article by Lisa Ostrikoff makes a strong business case for doing so:

The Content Marketing Institute’s 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report shows the majority of North American small businesses and big brands are focusing on video as a critical content marketing element. Enterprise marketers use it more than any other approach, with 71 per cent of small businesses incorporating it into their strategies

Fuelling the fire of the online video content marketing revolution is the increasing use of mobile. A recent Invodo study discovered mobile consumers are three times more likely to view videos than laptop or desktop users. Simply put, videos are quicker and easier to digest than text-heavy content. Video also enables your brand’s content to stand out from the online clutter. The data backs this theory up: ROI Research reports users interact with content that incorporates video at twice the rate of other forms of content.

What does this mean for your business? Video content marketing is all about creating a memorable visual representation of your brand. For it to be most effective, you need to learn how to use this storytelling medium effectively and incorporate it into your content strategy, much as you would with blogs or articles. While not all video needs to be heavily produced, it does need to be polished to a level at which it aligns with your brand and its messaging.

As daunting as it may seem at first, the technological revolution has blessed us with many tools to self-produce and broadcast law-related video at minimal cost.

High-definition video cameras that connect via USB to your laptop or computer are readily available in the $100.00 range. Free video-editing software, like Windows Movie Maker, can be used to snip superfluous raw footage and take your video to completion with the addition of digital zooms, effects, titles and credits.

For the DIYer in a hurry, most smartphones and tablets are equipped with high-quality cameras that allow your firm’s video-selfies to be created and published to YouTube or Facebook in mere minutes.

And of course, numerous options exist to have your firm’s video offerings professionally produced. Google “legal marketing video production canada” for some of the contenders.

However you choose to get there, consider adding video content to your firm’s website and blog.  Your audience awaits.

In subsequent posts in this series, we’ll have some tips on:

  • choosing topics for your firm’s videos
  • production do’s and don’ts
  • on-camera presentation hints
  • editing techniques, and
  • publishing and promoting your law firm videos.

See you at the movies.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto (@wiselaw on Twitter)

 

♫ Keep moving, never stopping sharks
Keep moving…♫

Music, lyrics and recorded by Further Seems Forever.

shark

 

In the first column in this series we dealt with the issue that price is but one part of the 7 components of the legal marketing mix. Unfortunately many lawyers (and clients) tend to overly focus on price and not appreciate the other 6. The theme of this post will be to look at the product mix and the role that it plays in marketing (and pricing!) of legal services.

One law firm is different from another in terms of the mix of services that they can provide. My colleague and friend Bob Denney produces a “What’s Hot and What’s Not” report several times a year that I repost on my blog Thoughtfullaw.com with his kind permission. This report shows what services are in demand, what are staying neutral and which are declining. The importance here is that if you can be nimble, you can change your mix of legal services. Staying with the same mix of services can result in stagnation. In fact, Woody Allen in one of his movies once said:

“A relationship, I think, is like a shark,  you know? It has to move constantly move forward or it dies.  And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark”

The one thing that you don’t want to be as a law firm is a dead shark.

So survey your clients – do external reviews of what services are in demand, look at what industries are on the upswing in your area and think about how you can provide needed legal services to them. Compare your marketing mix of services to your competitors and see how you stack up. Eventually what you are doing will grow old in the eyes of the consumer – you need to change things up – complacency is the enemy of success.

If you can offer a unique mix of services that are more closely aligned to the needs of your clients, then you have moved from competing solely on price to being able to distinguish your services from those offered by the competition and show to the clients that you are doing a better job in terms of meeting their needs than the competition.  The clients could say “Yes we could move to Dewey Gottem & Howe, but they don’t do what Werk, Worke and Wourke do for us…” You have moved from competing on price to competing based on the perceived value of your services from the viewpoint of the client. You have become a moving, never stopping shark…

 David  J. Bilinsky, Vancouver, BC.

 

 ♫ Zoom Zoom Zoom ♫

A Capoeira song performed by Jibril Serapis Bey.

price

 

When it comes to legal services, it seems that many law firms see price as the sole basis for competition.  However from a marketing perspective, price is but one of seven criteria that make up the ‘marketing mix’ for services.  Since legal services are ‘intangible economic goods’ lawyers have to sell the perceived benefits of their services and see how they match up against the needs of the clients.  All other things being equal, clients evaluate services on price.  But this assumes that you are delivering commodity-like services that are largely indistinguishable from those offered by the competition.

If you can distinguish your services from the competition and come closer to meeting the discerned needs of the client as compared to the competition, you are now engaged in a differentiation marketing strategy.  This is based on Michael Porter’s work at Harvard Business School.

michael porter strategies

michael porter strategiesmichael porter strategies

From this matrix, you can see that there are two major determinants of how you market your practice.  The first is whether you appeal to a large target market or a smaller one.  The second criteria is whether you choose to compete on price or on differentiating or distinguishing your services from the competition. The focused differentiation strategy seeks to market niche legal services to a target market.  There is another factor at work here.  Distinguishable legal services have a higher margin as compared to cost-focused strategies.

As you start to think about how to distinguish your services from those of the competition you move from thinking about the ‘reference value’ of your services  (your price compared to the price of competing services) to the ‘differentiated value’ of your services (how the quality and method of delivery of your services compare to the competition).

When you start thinking of how this is done in other markets, for example in the automobile market, you see that autos can take you (and others) and transport them to new locations – that is their function and on this level they are commodities.  Every auto sold does this.  What distinguishes one auto to another can be neatly summed up in the phrase used by Mazda: “Zoom Zoom”….

In subsequent columns we will explore each of the 7 components in the service marketing mix and what they mean for lawyers.

–David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver, BC.

 

♫ All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I’ve been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don’t mean anything
When you’ve got no one to tell them to
It’s true… I was made for you

Oh yeah, well it’s true… that
I was made for you…

Lyrics and music by Phillip John Hanseroth, recorded by Brandi Carlile.

story

 

The beginning of September is always the start of the new year for me.  Perhaps it was so many years spent in school and the inevitable association with the start of the newly-minted school year.  Perhaps it is coming back from a summer vacation refreshed and invigorated and with new energy for projects.  Perhaps it is because I have been talking to many people who have plans for when they get back in September in terms of branding and setting a new strong strategic direction for their firm.

Either way, I believe that September is a wonderful time to refocus, regroup and decide the future direction of your practice.  What changes would you like to see?  Over time law firms can lose their focus on their core services – what do they do best. They can also lose touch with their core values and their strategic direction as they take on new files and clients that pull them in new directions.  September is a perfect time to sit back with your colleagues and think about where the firm is going.  Do you wish it to explore new opportunities?  Or are you being pulled into areas that no longer represent the reasons you formed the firm in the first place?  What is gnawing on you about the firm?  What would you like to change from both a firm-wide and personal perspective?  Start a list..and have your colleagues do the same – and arrange a time (on a weekend) to hone in on all this and come to a consensus on where all of you would like to go.

Come together and discuss the firm..its direction, focus, what makes it special and distinct – and what should be the future direction of the firm.  What is your story?  Have you been drawn away from the clients, activities and associations that drew all of you together in the first place? What is your marketing focus for the next while? What would you like to change regarding the management of the firm?  What about technology?  Have you fallen a bit behind in this area and need to incorporate plans for upgrades and new ways of doing things? Are there categories in the finance area that you would like to tighten up, such as the collection of old accounts receivable and the tightening up of credit extended to clients? How about looking at your budget and seeing if  the expenses in the group “we have always been paying this” should be looked at again if for no other reason to see if there are other vendors who might be less-expensive?

Personally I think one of the important measures is whether you have remained a ‘client-focused firm’.  My late colleague and friend Milt Zwicker’s acid test was whether what was done in the firm provided value to the clients  - or not. If not he would change or modify the policy or procedure so that it benefitted clients as much as possible.

I think focusing on the story of the firm and how it carries you into the future is also important.  This is the culture, the invisible bond that draws all of you together and forms the backbone of the belief system of the firm. Organizations can change their culture and focus, but the story is the glue that connects the past with the future and tells why you are where you are. It is important to connect with the story of the firm, since after all, the firm was made for you to be able to provide value and meaning to your clients.

-David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver, BC.

 

 

♫  Get on your boots and visit the North Pole
Try every sport until you score a goal
Follow the path of a butterfly
Go to Ground Zero and do nothing but cry
We don’t know how much time left we got left in this world
This beautiful world…♫

Lyrics and music by  Nelly Furtado, Rodney Roy Jerkins, Rodney Jerkins, recorded by Nelly Furtado.

ground zero

Having just returned from my summer vacation, I came across an article on Lifehack.org that struck a resonate chord deep within me.  The article is entitled: The Ultimate Bucket List: 60 Things You Should Do Before You Die.  Perhaps it was the all-too tragic death of Robin Williams.  Perhaps it was my visit to Ground Zero this summer.  Perhaps it was just the sense that life is passing by all too quickly.  I do know that I wished I had written this article as I think that Thomas Mondel has done an excellent job and he should be justifiably proud of what he has crafted.

What is on the list of things that he has compiled? Here is just a sampling:

Forgive the people who treated you poorly.  Thomas states that there is nothing more refreshing than to sincerely forgive someone. Just forgive then and move on – it gets rid of the anger and it frees up your mind.

Be curious about people.  Thomas observes that the people who are interested in others are the most interesting people themselves.  Learn to listen and learn something new from everyone you meet.

Swim Naked.  In the best case this is under the crystal clear sky. Yahoo!

Email one of your heroes and Meet up with one of your heroes.  Try to reach out to the people who you value or you feel inspired by.  As Thomas notes, how awesome would it be if your hero actually responds?

Witness the birth of a child.  I totally agree with Thomas – it is kinda magical! Thank you Lauren for being my magical moment!

I hope you read the entire article by clicking here.  The time to start on our own bucket list is now…we never know how much time we have left.

-David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver BC.

 

David Bilinsky and I are going to take our own advice about work-life balance, and will thus be taking a short summer break from our Practice Tips posts.

We will return in mid-August with our usual musings each Thursday.

Wishing all our readers a safe and happy summer.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto (@wiselaw on Twitter)

 

D-Link1320Do you have wireless dead zones in your office or home where your signal weakens or even drops? Well, good news is on the way.  You can breathe immediate new life into your Wi-Fi coverage with a wireless range extender.

They come in various shapes and forms. Some plug into your electrical outlets and use your internal electrical wiring to carry signal, while others simply plug-in to your wall outlet, and connect wirelessly in a snap to your router.

We have had a difficult corner where our wireless signal has nearly always been compromised. The product I chose to solve our problem was the D-Llnk DAP 1320 wireless range extender.

By locating the wireless extender strategically in a location where signal was strong, we were able to carry the signal around an L-shaped corner, and presto voilà, problem solved, with three healthy bars now showing on my iPad’s wireless signal indicator.

By far, the DAP 1320 is the best reviewed product it its category for its ease of installation and superior performance.

About the size of an old iPhone 4 charger, set-up on the DAP 1320 couldn’t be simpler. To get started, you simply press a button on the wireless range extender, then press another button on your router, and the 1320 essentially does the rest.

As a final step, quickly configure the 1320 via your web browser to set your new wireless network name and password, and you are done.

At a cost of $39.95 it is pretty hard to argue with.  Once installed, the expanded netwoprk hub will appear as a discrete network when you are searching for available WiFi signals.

Choose the extended network you have named, enter your password and you will be up and running.

So today’s tip is: Breath life into your wireless network – use a wireless range extender to inject new vigour and strength into your  Wi-i-Fi networks.

 - Garry J. Wise, Toronto (@wiselaw on Twitter)

 

♫ So go on, indulge yourself,
that’s right, kick off your shoes, put your feet up,
lean back and just enjoy the melodies.
After all, music soothes even the savage beasts.  ♫

Lyrics and Music by Dexter Holland, recorded by Offspring.

Canada Flag

There is a time to work …and there is a time to kick back and take it easy.

We happen to be in that magical time between Canada Day and Independence Day for our cousins down south.

So our post this week is – seize the moment and take the time …to relax…to detune…to enjoy the company of friends and family.

Turn off the office. Leave the smartphone on the desk.. take a deep breath….and feel the tension easing away.

The work will be there …what is important is to get away ..mentally, physically……realize that the summer lies ahead…and to make time to spend that time with those near and dear to you.

Life is not something that can be banked or rewound.  We have to live it going forward. We can’t go back and rebuild bridges that have been burnt.

Take the time.. enjoy your friends and family …relish the fact of being alive and being with those who are near and dear to you.

Most of all cherish those close to you.  Lean back and just enjoy…

-David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver.

 

 

 

♫ Through the fire and the flames we carry on! ♫

Lyrics and music by: Herman Li, ZP Theart, Sam Totman, Vadim Pruzhaniov, recorded by Dragonforce.

Flames

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jo DeMars, of NetNeutrals (www.netneutrals.com)  spoke at the 2014 Online Dispute Resolution Forum at Hastings College of Law at the University of California in San Francisco.  This post is based on her most excellent presentation on Wednesday June 25, 2014. While her comments were presented in the context of resolving disputes that arise in e-commerce, her advice applies to virtually any consumer complaint, including client complaints regarding legal services.

She stated that most, if not all, people who have a complaint regarding a product or services are looking for five ‘psychological currencies’ from the provider.  These are:

  1. They want a chance to tell their story;
  2. They are looking for a reasonable explanation of what went wrong;
  3. They are looking for assurance that their complaint will be dealt with;
  4. They wish to be thanked for their business; and
  5. They hope to receive an apology.

Her advice is that any provider should not hesitate to offer as many of these psychological currencies to people who are unhappy with your services.  Why? Simply, it costs much more money to attract a new client vs. the cost to keep an existing client.

She explained that people who are feeling caught in this process typically go thru the same process: First they Feel; then Think, and lastly they Do/Behave.

She stated that when clients are feeling strong emotions, they are incapable of hearing you.  You need to take care of the emotions before you can take care of the problem.

Accordingly she advises keeping calm.  At the outset, your tone is everything and sets the stage for all that follows. Anger defusion is job #1. Once that is taken care of then the client is moving into a mindset where they can start dealing with the issues at hand.

She stated that many individuals or businesses hesitate in offering an apology.  Jo stated that they should take time to master the Art of the apology:

  • Clearly and completely acknowledge the problem
  • Offer an effective explanation

Be honest with your clients and in particular, offer an honest apology to the client for how things transpired and the effect that this has had on them.  Just hearing that a person or organization truly regrets what has happened to someone is a powerful message to help resolve a client complaint.

She also stated that it is important for the person or organization to tell the appropriate story.  There are several components to this:

  • own the problem,
  • find allies if possible,
  • take responsibility for making it right,
  • follow thru, and
  • tell the final chapter.

Her final advice was taken from firefighters:  Run thru the flames – not away from them.  It is easier and better to run to the problem thru to the other side than to run away from them.

 -David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver (written in San Francisco), BC.