What does the future hold? To quote Nobel laureate Niels Bohr, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” And given all the ongoing change in both the legal profession and the marketing world, it must take a certain level of foolhardiness to attempt to tackle the subject of the future of legal marketing. And yet, there are sufficiently strong indications of where things are going that I felt I was on solid ground in my recent presentation, “The Future of Law Firm Marketing and Business Development.” Of course, I wasn’t predicting the imminent end of the world, or even The End of Lawyers (although I did mention Richard Susskind’s excellent and thought-provoking book of the same name).
The theme for the June 9 presentations at the Denver Bar Association was The Future of the Law, and the format was in the style of the tech-industry’s fast-paced, five-minute Ignite presentations. Obviously, it’s absurd to try to address such a complex topic in such a superficial way. But it did make it fun. And even given the mandated 15-second limit for each slide, and the speaker slip-ups and the lack of time to correct misstatements, some points worth considering can nonetheless emerge within the Ignite format. But don’t just take my word for it; see what you think and share your thoughts.
If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.
– Yogi Berra
It must be the end of the year already, because all the articles and blog posts about setting goals and planning are starting to appear. And guess what: This is yet another one.
Hey, I heard that groan. And I see how you’re beginning to turn the virtual page to find some other article or story that you feel might actually teach you something.
But wait. This could be the most important and even life-changing blog post that you’ll ever read, if it encourages you to take action. Because – as study after study has shown – goal setters are significantly more successful than everyone else. (By the way, that’s not thought to be coincidental.) And yet, if you’re like an estimated 97% of the population, you’re not a goal setter. And that’s too bad, because here’s what goal setters do:
1. Write out specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-sensitive goals for the year ahead,
2. Break them down into tasks and sub-tasks, and plot out on a calendar how they’re going to achieve each one,
3. Revisit their plan on an ongoing basis to measure the progress they’re making, and
4. Review their goals throughout the process to ensure that they’re still the right ones.
By now, it’s fairly well understood that we are living through a period of great change and uncertainty. As Peter Winick proclaims in a recent post, uncertainty is now permanent. While I tend to be somewhat hesitant about calling anything permanent, it appears that for most people in the workforce today – and for almost anyone in the legal profession – uncertainty driven by growing competition will be an increasingly large part of our reality going forward. In fact, Winick notes that business guru Jim Collins – not someone prone to exaggerate – recently stated that “uncertainty is now the rule and not the exception.”
Fair enough, but what does this mean to you? What does it have to do with the challenges you’re facing in running a law firm? And what does any of this have to do with marketing?
First, this means you need to assume that change and uncertainty will be with us for a long time to come. Second, much of that change is going to involve increased competition, which will come from across town, from across the world and from technology – as well as from various combinations of these sources. Third, an environment of continually increasing competition should be sufficient incentive for every lawyer and law firm to focus on figuring out how they’re going to stand out and succeed.
“In retrospect, all revolutions seem inevitable. Beforehand, all revolutions seem impossible.”
— Michael McFaul, National Security Council
We are in the midst of a true revolution in the delivery of legal services. And upon reading that, it’s likely that you will fall into one of two camps: those who have already heard the guns firing and who are nodding their heads in agreement, and those who dismiss all the warnings of imminent change as excessive and overwrought.
If you’re part of the first group, I look forward to hearing your reports from the front lines. If you’re part of the second group, and it strikes you as hyperbole that anything could really change the legal industry in this country, in our lifetimes, please read on. Because many of those sounding the alarms happen to be more Paul Revere than Chicken Little.
Take Bruce MacEwen, for one. If you don’t know Bruce, you should. He is the talent behind the thought-provoking Adam Smith, Esq. blog, which looks at far-reaching trends in the legal profession. As the name of his blog implies, he is interested in the business and economics of law. Forgive me for stealing from the old E.F. Hutton ads, but when Bruce speaks, people listen.
And so, when Bruce said, “Outsourcing is here to stay” in a recent post, it’s worth paying attention. He was not talking about software development. He was talking about legal services that have always been provided by top-tier law firms to their corporate clients. But now there’s a new vendor of legal services in the room and it’s not a traditional law firm. It’s another animal altogether that some have labeled Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO).
Bruce continues, “Whatever you call it, and whatever you think of its quality, clients have tasted the fruit of the forbidden tree and they’re not going back. If document review can be conducted by Ivy League law school grads…for $50/hour instead of $350/hour, what’s not for a client to like?”
“There are no second acts in American lives.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald
“As you get older, it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary.”
– Ernest Hemingway
Who are your heroes?
I’m a firm believer that heroes are not just for kids. Everyone should have heroes – and the more, the better. All of us need that inspiration they can provide, whether our hero is a decorated war veteran, a champion basketball player, a boss, a parent or someone who has surmounted great odds in life.
So, let me tell you about one of my newest heroes. Her name is Libby James and a few weeks ago she ran the Bolder Boulder 10K in 49:19. That’s a 7:56 pace for 6.2 miles, which would be quite good for almost any of us, but did I mention that she’s 73 years old?
If you’re not a runner, it may not jump out at you just how amazing that is. Maybe this will help: She was the 822nd finisher out of 25,851 women of all ages. And just so you don’t have to do the math, that’s in the top four percent of all women finishers. At age 73.
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.
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.