Why is it that the arena of online marketing and PR often reminds me of one of those old-time carnivals? It’s almost impossible to navigate along the online midway enjoying your cotton candy without falling prey to the multitudes of self-proclaimed “gurus” and “leaders” in your path, all of them promising that there’s nothing easier than to follow their advice, knock over the three milk bottles and win the biggest prize.
David Meerman Scott
And yet, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some legitimate leaders in our brave new world of marketing and PR, and I’m able to say with confidence that David Meerman Scott is one of the few. Over the course of a successful career in corporate marketing and public relations, David saw that the traditional practices that had long been used in these two disciplines were being discarded for a new set of rules, and he saw this long before many of his fellow practitioners were convinced. Based on what he saw happening, three years ago David wrote what became a phenomenally successful book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR.
In a field that sees countless new titles on a continual basis, this work was the bestselling public relations book on Amazon for nearly two years, has sold hundreds of thousands of copies and has been translated into 24 languages. And it’s telling that the term “social media” didn’t even make it into the first edition, which was published less than three years ago, in June 2007. When David was writing the book in 2006, Facebook was still only for those with an .edu email address and Twitter had barely caused a ripple.
So, it’s an indicator of just how fast social media has become the 800-pound gorilla in marketing and PR that the newly-released second edition prominently features “social media” in the revised subtitle, “How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly.”
Yet, the main message of the book hasn’t changed. And therein lies the beauty of it. The New Rules of Marketing & PR has been successful for many reasons, but here’s a big one: Instead of focusing on numbers (e.g., how many people are on your email list, tips and tricks for improving your Web site’s SEO or getting your press release into as many hands as possible), David knows that content is still king. His sine qua non of online content is that it must be customer-focused and compelling. This theme is found in one of his favorite mantras: You must earn the attention of the public.
I like that word, “earn.” It implies honesty and integrity. But it sounds kind of like work, doesn’t it? It means that you need to focus on creating authentic, compelling content that will: 1) appeal to your prospective clients and customers, 2) provide them with something of value, and 3) keep them coming back for more.
In our unbelievably busy, fragmented and distracted world, that’s not easy to do. How do you get yourself heard above the noise? How do you get people to watch your show more than once? This isn’t just work, it’s hard work. This is knowing what your prospective customers are interested in, addressing their needs and interests, and putting yours on ice. This is being a journalist and a thought leader. This is the opposite of spending your time figuring out how to game Google.
Does this mean that David is not a believer in the importance of SEO? No, that’s not a fair criticism, for he fully understands how useful SEO can be in helping your customers find you and your site. And that’s quite important, given all the noise and distractions out there.
But on a recent podcast, David put search engine optimization in its place. He emphasized that if he were making a recommendation to a company that wanted to increase visitors to its site – and the firm had a budget to hire someone to help – he would suggest hiring an SEO expert only after first hiring someone who had experience as a professional journalist. (He even suggested that after the journalist was on board, he’d hire a copywriter next, before hiring an SEO expert.)
Why is that? Because it’s all about having engaging content, and there’s not much use in driving traffic to your site if there’s nothing there to engage your visitors.
So, focus on your customers. Address their interests, not yours. And you will earn their attention.
You may be familiar with the time-honored marketing maxim that it’s eight times more difficult, time-consuming and expensive to find a new client than it is to get additional business out of a current client.
So, given the compelling opportunities waiting to be targeted in and around your current clients and harvested through exceptional client service, why do so many of us, when we’re thinking about biz dev, focus only on those with whom we do not have a current business relationship? That is, why do we spend valuable time in the inefficient pursuit of a 12-point elk that we just know is somewhere out there in the wilderness, even as we refuse to make a priority of returning our current clients’ phone calls in a timely manner or otherwise making their client experience as positive as possible?
This behavior makes even less sense when we consider that by taking for granted our current clients, we increase the probability that they eventually will tire of what seems like a one-sided relationship and decide to look for someone who treats them better.
In fact, that’s exactly what happens all the time in the world of legal services. As Sally Schmidt says in Business Development for Lawyers: Strategies for Getting and Keeping Clients, there’s a big difference between client satisfaction and client loyalty.
Schmidt describes a Harvard Business Review-published study entitled, “The Loyalty Effect: The Hidden Force Behind Growth, Profits and Lasting Value.” Its authors found that between 65% and 85% of customers who had left a particular service provider reported that they did so despite being either ‘very satisfied’ or ‘satisfied’ with the services performed by the firm.
And why should this be important to you? Because it means that you need to focus on more than just satisfying your clients. Your clients are looking for more than simple satisfaction; they are looking to be delighted.
Delighted. That’s a strong word. Or maybe it seems like a weak word, one that perhaps you would never use. How often does anyone use the term ‘delighted’? Yet, isn’t that how you feel when you’ve had an excellent dinner out? Not only was the meal delicious, but there was something else – maybe several things – that together made for a delightful experience. The ambiance, the attention to detail, the customer service that went above and beyond the expected.
So, how would you describe your client service? Better yet, how would your clients describe it? Do you know? We’ll discuss the importance of client audits another time – and in future posts we’ll examine some of the essential steps to building excellent relationships with your clients – but for now, think about the ever-increasing competition in legal services and what that means to the future of your business.
How are you differentiating yourself and your firm from your competitors? Exceptional client service can be a decided advantage to a law firm, because it can mean the difference between clients who are merely satisfied and those who are truly loyal. You want clients who are both. Delight them.
Do you still think that writing blogs is just for people with either an axe to grind or too much time on their hands? And that Twitter is just an inane waste of time with absolutely no possible positive ROI?
As Kevin O’Keefe describes in a post this week, Peter Horrocks, the newly appointed director of BBC Global News, recently told his news reporters that they should use social media as a primary source of information. You read that right: BBC reporters are now required to use social media.
And you also read this correctly: we’re talking about the British Broadcasting Corporation. For the record, the company was founded in 1922 and it’s safe to say that the BBC has never been known as a group of impulsive kids randomly jumping on the latest fad. No, this is the ever-so-reliable, familiar and comfortable “Beeb,” as its devoted fans across the world have fondly referred to it for decades. But perhaps this really says it all: the BBC is an 88-year-old British institution with its own coat of arms.
The takeaway here is that perhaps you should give a good listen to what the BBC Global News director has to say about social media. In an internal newsletter earlier this month, Horrocks said, “This isn’t just a kind of fad from someone who’s an enthusiast of technology. I’m afraid you’re not doing your job if you can’t do those things. It’s not discretionary.” And he later says, “If you don’t like it, if you think that level of change or that different way of working isn’t right for [you], then go and do something else, because it’s going to happen. You’re not going to be able to stop it.”
So, erase that image in your head of the doddering old Beeb, for we see that the BBC is actually wide awake and energized in these Twitter-infused times. In fact, the organization is operating with a keen understanding of the truly revolutionary changes that have occurred in how information is aggregated and disseminated.
And what does this mean for you?
Well, John Schwartz, the National Legal Correspondent for the New York Times, recently spoke to O’Keefe about just how popular RSS readers have become with reporters everywhere. These reporters use RSS to follow particular blogs, in addition to following keywords and key phrases in Google Blog Search. The great thing for you about that last point is that these keyword searches can lead them to new blogs that they hadn’t known about, including, perhaps, yours.
O’Keefe, who as the founder of LexBlog, Inc. has helped nearly 3,000 attorneys build their blogs, continues:
If you’re covering timely legal issues in your blog, you’ll get seen by reporters. Reporters aren’t stupid and looking to waste their time Googling search terms looking for an old article or even being sillier yet, waiting for your PR person to turn them on to experts at your law firm.
The point he’s making is that you’ll likely mention cases, regulations, and companies in your law blog, and when one of those subjects becomes newsworthy, your blog post will be instantly picked up by the RSS readers of reporters covering that subject. Ultimately, there is a good probability that you could get a reporter’s call, or that something you wrote may be cited in a reporter’s article. Either one would be fine with you, right?
The only problem is that neither of these great things will happen unless you do the work to put yourself out there in the blogosphere. The good news is that there’s still time to catch the train. But you’re going to have to run.
I hear you say that you weren’t born to blog or tweet. Fair enough; none of us were. And none of us has the time to do it, either. But I’m pretty sure I heard Horrocks say to his reporters, “Change or die.” It’s being said a lot these days. In fact, in a small, flat world, it’s the new mantra.
Do you like big challenges? Do you really like big challenges? If so, how big is your glass?
We all know that attorneys are trained to be risk-averse. And that that is a necessary element of being a good attorney. Your clients want to be able to describe a business deal or other opportunity to you and have you be the one person who says, “But have you thought about this?”
Yet, there’s another side to that propensity for risk aversion. Frankly, it just gets in the way of taking risks.
In Marketing the Legal Mind, Henry Dahut suggests that it’s not just whether your glass is half full or half empty, but that the size of the glass is equally important. For it’s the size of the glass that determines how much opportunity there can be in a given situation. And it’s the size of glass that determines the amount of risk that you’re willing to take.
If we choose to take on small challenges, the risks will be small, but so will the rewards. As Dahut says, this is the proverbial dilemma of wanting big things, but thinking too small to get them. Which is a fundamentally inconsistent type of thinking.
So, don’t box yourself in. Get a bigger glass.
Do you consider yourself someone who welcomes new challenges? And are you willing to take on the commensurate risks? Even if you nodded affirmatively to both these questions, you nevertheless may be in need of a larger glass.
We all know that attorneys are trained to be risk-averse. And, of course, a degree of risk aversion is frequently a necessary element of being a good attorney. Your clients want to be able to describe a business deal or other opportunity to you and be able to count on you to be the one person who says, “But have you thought about this?”
Yet, there’s another side to that propensity for risk aversion – simply put, it gets in your way when you think about taking risks.
In his entertaining and thought-provoking book, Marketing the Legal Mind, Henry Dahut suggests that it’s not just whether your glass is half full or half empty, but that the size of the glass itself is equally important. For it’s the size of the glass that determines how much opportunity there can be in a given situation. And the size of the glass therefore determines the amount of risk that you’re willing to take.
If we choose to take on small challenges, the risks will be small, but so will the rewards. As Dahut says, this is the proverbial dilemma of wanting big things, but thinking too small to get them. Which is a fundamentally inconsistent type of thinking. And that doesn’t sound very lawyer-like, does it?
Yet, how many of us do this? We choose the safety and comfort of success – even on a relatively small scale – rather than taking risks and exposing ourselves to defeat. But these days, there are much greater risks in not taking risks. Those who choose to stay where they are because it is easy and comfortable are those most likely to be carried off by the fast-moving current to someplace hard and uncomfortable.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Now, more than ever, her words resound with the truth. We must move outside our comfort zones. What does this mean to you? Only you know. But you’ve probably been thinking about it for some time. Is it finally putting together a marketing and business development plan that works for you? Is it becoming a rainmaker and a leader in your firm? Maybe it’s taking the firm you manage to the next level – or in a new direction? Or could it be venturing out on your own?
Whatever it is, don’t limit yourself. Get a bigger glass. And choose a challenge worthy of your ambitions.