I started this year off wiping down my white board and getting ready to plan my year. IMG_9184 So much white. So much potential. So many ideas. I am not a huge fan of large and intense marketing plans; they usually just end up buried in some drawer somewhere, only to be pulled out at the end of the year to be revised for the next year. I prefer A Daily Resolution:

By setting daily resolutions and having daily goals, I am setting myself up for success. By doing this, day after day, I will achieve something wonderful over a span of time (could be one week or one year). The end results might not be exactly what others expect, or what I expected myself, however, the flexibility will allow me to alter my plans as to best accomplish what needs to get done today. Flexibility will allow me to adjust my sails to the changes in the economy, in technology, in my personal and professional relationships. By focusing on what can and must be accomplished today, I can set aside worrying about things that I have no power or control over (yet). I’m not saying, implying or inferring in any way, shape or form that you should not have, nor should you abandon, long-term plans and goals. I am just saying, break those action steps into daily activities, actions and resolutions. Focus on what can and must be done today.

In other words, you do need a plan, but you don’t need a complicated one. What I do, and suggest to the masses, is to focus on three to five larger ideas (buckets) that you can rattle off the tip of your tongue. Under each bucket fall the specific tasks. Those become your daily resolutions. So here’s my white board now. IMG_9185Eventually all the white will disappear filled in with ideas, tasks, notes, and more. I continue to manage my tasks through Get it Done, and am spending time this week cleaning out all my emails (work, personal, Girl Scouts) to make sure I am good to go. So Happy New Year to everyone. I look forward to a productive year, and look forward to the new experiences and good things to come.

Learning to chart her own course. (c) H. Morse 2012
Learning to chart her own course. (c) H. Morse 2012

Well, here we are. First day back in the office after a holiday break. We have 363 days of potential ahead of us.

What are we going to do with all that potential?

How about start by thinking a bit about 2012. How’d it go?? Here’s a post I wrote last year, So how was your year? to aid you in doing a quick reflection.

I’ll tell you one thing, for me and the Sport’s Dude, there were some bumps in the road and surprises we just never anticipated as I sat around and wrote my first post of 2012, Where’d ya go??

Some of those surprises were welcomed; and others sent us for a loop and really impacted our lives and careers.

While everyone knows I am not a huge fan of multi-paged marketing and business plans (A simple marketing plan for 2010 and A Daily Resolution), I do think you have to have a good idea of where you are headed so that when you are broad-sided by life, you can course correct as quickly as possible; or when the winds of change take you in a new direction, you can make an easy adjustment to your sails for smoother sailing.

There is no one right or wrong way. It’s what works for you that counts. You just need to figure out what works for you.

I wish every one of you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

I also wish you the flexibility to traverse those bumps in the roads and detours, which you will surely face, with patience, humor and curiosity.

I don’t know where my life will be on December 31, 2013, but I know where it is today.

So, just for today I will:

  • clean out my in-box;
  • follow up with that partner on his conference;
  • finish that proposal;
  • draft that blog post;
  • hit the gym.

That seems like a good plan for today.

 

Image via www.designscollage.com

The end of the year is quickly approaching, and you know what that means?

Year end billing, collections, reviews, trying to get some holiday cards out (don’t get me started), do some shopping, enjoy some family time … and create a marketing plan and budget for 2012.

But before you bid adieu to 2011, take 5 minutes, review your year and ask yourself a few questions:

  • Any new clients of note?
  • Any new matters of interest?
  • What about decisions (published or not)?
  • Any big wins for the client (Not necessarily trials. What about settlements?)?
  • What about interesting or complex deals?
  • Did you establish new case law? Or impact your client’s industry?
  • What did you do that caused the client to pick up the phone and call? (good or bad)
  • Did you exchange business cards with anyone interesting (reporter, head of an industry trade group, a potential referral source)?
  • Did you speak anywhere? Provide any client CLE courses?
  • Did you join anything (social media networks, trade associations, industry groups, bar associations, new clubs – personal or professional)?
  • What conferences did you attend?
  • Did you write any articles or have something published?
  • What did you turn down or refer elsewhere?
  • Where did you go and what did you do there? Could you have done more with that time?
  • What did you mean to do but forgot, or ran out of time?
  • What did you do that was a waste or time, money or resources?

So, you answered the questions above. Now what?

  • Share them with your marketing director (if you have one).
  • Update your bio where you can.
  • Use the information to guide you in creating your marketing plan for 2012.

Use your experience from THIS year to write NEXT year’s marketing plan (here’s a link to a simple one I created if you don’t already have a template), and set a budget. If you didn’t accomplish everything you wanted to, no big deal. If it’s doable, plug it into 2012. If it’s unimportant and won’t drive your business or personal marketing/branding, cross it off the list.

Marketing plans should be achievable. By seeing how much you were able to accomplish in 2011, you can see how much more you can do in 2012 by being strategic and deliberate in your actions.

It’s summer. People are on vacation, and for those of us who are not, we have either taken advantage of the quiet, or are panicking and wondering “will the phone ever ring again?” The news is not good out there. Markets are crashing. Questions about double-dipping recessions. Riots in the streets. Didn’t we just get through all of this? Wasn’t the economic outlook looking up as of late? Now is not the time to pull the covers up over your head. Now is the time for those who are “panicking” to take advantage of those who are, well, taking advantage of the quiet and might have a calmer perspective and outlook. But where to begin? As Dorothy was shown in the Wizard of Oz, every path has a beginning, and when it comes to legal marketing and business development I like to begin with brainstorming. Brainstorming is great. It’s fun. There are no wrong answers. You get to throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks. You get to come up with 30 ideas, knowing you’ll only implement one or two. There’s nothing better to pull you out of the morass of what cannot be then thinking about all the things that can be. Brainstorming can entail the hiring of a consultant, and the use of the large conference room for the day. Or it can be on-the-fly with a friend. And everything in between. I had a great brainstorming session with my college roommate yesterday. While back in college our brainstorming was most likely limited to which club we should start our hopping at, yesterday we spent an hour discussing her legal practice, the economy and where she can make an impact for her firm. Husbands, kids and families were a footnote. She now gets to take what she got out of our brainstorming session back to her partners and look really smart. She has ideas. She has a perspective. She has the beginning of a marketing plan. She has some spaghetti. If you’re not sure where to begin, start with a brainstorming session with a friend on the phone, or walk down the hall to a trusted colleague and shut the door. Then go and brainstorm with someone outside your practice area, perhaps a colleague on a different floor. Then brainstorm with your colleagues within your practice. Partners. Associates. The, ahem, marketing liaison for your practice group. Varying opinions count. Outside perspectives are valuable. Write things down. When the right “ideas” come together, you have the beginning of a plan. Put some “to dos” and deadlines next to those ideas, with measurable outcomes, and you have a marketing plan. If nothing else comes out of this, you’ve pulled those covers back and had a peek at what’s going on outside of your realm. And while it might appear scary and uncertain, you now have some actions you can take to control your destiny (until the next holiday break).

Thank you to guest blogger  Gail Lamarche for recapping today’s Lexblog webinar, Making — Not Finding — Time for Client Development, featuring Kevin O’Keefe and Cordell Parvin.

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With 36 years of law practice behind him, Cordell Parvin now coaches attorneys in all aspects of legal marketing, client development and blogs at lawconsultingblog.com. When he just started his career as a young construction lawyer, his peers mocked him when he wanted to have a national practice from Roanoke, VA.  That is until the Secretary of Transportation for the State of Washington called him when the bridge collapsed. How did that call happen?  It was from writing articles and being known for a construction litigation law niche practice.  Cordell shared his best practices and tips during the webinar which was recorded and can be found here (UPDATED LINK).

  • 500 hours.  That is how many non-billable hours a lawyer should spend on client development per year or 20-30 per month.
  • Have a plan in place for not only non-billable time but personal time as well.  Review the plan every 90 days.  Plans should include:
    • Time for client development
    • Organizations to join
    • Networking events
    • Articles
    • Blog posts
    • Pro bono activities
  • Feeling overwhelmed with billable work, personal responsibilities and marketing?  Set priorities.  Start a journal.  Document your non-billable time and you will be able to figure out what worked and what didn’t.
  • Split your development time in two categories:  one for reputation building (writing and speaking); and one for relationship building (getting out and meeting people).
  • Tips for young lawyers:
    • spend time your first few years developing your skills to become a great lawyer
    • learn about your clients
    • learn people and communication skills
    • read books
    • attend seminars
  • Write articles:
    • Not sure what to write about?  What questions are your clients asking?  Take the memorandum of law and turn it into an article or blog post.  Every matter you work on can take a wider angle.
    • Create how-to guides for contracts, design builds.  Post the e-books on your website so clients can download.  Take what you learn and re-use it.  Provide valuable information to your audience and raise visibility and credibility.
    • Review the Encyclopedia of Associations for your state.  Every association has newsletters or publications.
  • Develop a niche practice, be focused.  How?  What are you passionate about?  Used great examples of lawyers who stepped outside the box, developed a niche practice and moved full steam ahead.  Staci Riordan incorporates blogging, Facebook and Twitter for the fashion law blog.  Alison Rowe with her Equine Law Blog and Kevin O’Neill started a weekly podcast Capital Thinking.

Cordell and Kevin also shared some great blogging tips:

I don’t like marketing plans. For the most part, they’re too long, too complicated, too detailed, too focused on what you think someone else expects of you. They are too easy to forget, toss into a drawer and ignore. I do believe that they have a place, but I think they need to be as simple as possible if they are to be lived (see A Simple Marketing Plan).
I feel the same way about New Year’s resolutions. They too are too big, too complicated, too focused on another person’s ideals (anyone resolve to lose 10 lbs this year???), too unattainable, and too easily broken.

However, I do believe in daily goals and daily resolutions. Come on, I can do anything for just one day. Just for today:

  • I can clean out my in-box of today’s messages before I leave the office
  • I can call a client (in my case, an in-house attorney at my firm)
  • I can write a blog post
  • I can return the phone calls on my list
  • I can prep the ad for the magazine
  • I can schedule the ad placement for that conference
  • I can participate in networking (online or in person)
  • I can make plans for an in-person meeting with a fellow legal marketer
  • I can go to the gym and follow my trainer’s food plan
  • I can give more than I take

Just for today I can set goals and achieve them. By setting daily resolutions and having daily goals, I am setting myself up for success. By doing this, day after day, I will achieve something wonderful over a span of time (could be one week or one year). The end results might not be exactly what others expect, or what I expected myself, however, the flexibility will allow me to alter my plans as to best accomplish what needs to get done today. Flexibility will allow me to adjust my sails to the changes in the economy, in technology, in my personal and professional relationships. By focusing on what can and must be accomplished today, I can set aside worrying about things that I have no power or control over (yet). I’m not saying, implying or inferring in any way, shape or form that you should not have, nor should you abandon, long-term plans and goals. I am just saying, break those action steps into daily activities, actions and resolutions. Focus on what can and must be done today. Yeah, it does sound easier said than done, but, then again, I can do anything for just one day.

Marketing plans should not be complicated. They shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to put together. If there are more than five bullet points, you’ll never live it because you won’t remember it.

Oh, you can wrap numbers around what this all means – dollars, percentages, billable hours, revenue billed, received or realized – but those are the reports that end up in the drawer never to be seen again until it’s updated for 2011.

For most lawyers, you only need to concern yourself with a few things. And, if you’re like me, you never know where to start. So, here’s a starting point for you:
1) Current clients. What are you going to do to keep them happy so they keep sending you work?
a.
b.
c.
2) Referral sources: What are you going to do to keep them happy so they keep referring you new clients?
a.
b.
c.
3) Potential new clients & referral sources: What are you going to do to get their attention, and convert them into a current client/referral source?
a.
b.
c.
4) Reputation management: What are you going to do to get the word out about the services you provide?
a.
b.
c.
5) Communication: How are you going to communicate points 1-4?
a.
b.
c.
Now, it’s up to you to fill in the sub-bullets.

Oh, it’s that time of the year. Budget and marketing plan proposals are being drafted.

My friend, colleague and Legal Watercooler contributor Jayne Navarre published on her Virtual Marketing Officer blog a 2010 Law Firm Marketing Plan that I can highly support.

It’s short, memorable, and something that can be lived, even if tossed into a drawer and never shown the light of day once approved.

2010 Marketing Plan for My Law Firm

Goal – Own the first 3 Google results for my law firm; important practice keywords and individual attorneys.

Objectives – Fill the first 3 pages of any related search engine results with relevant “all about me” stuff.

Tactics – Social media, social networking, search optimization.

Obviously, you might have other “goals” for your firm, or your practice. For each of these, I highly suggest following this simple format of Goal, Objective and Tactics. BUT, BUT, BUT keep it short (five or fewer), memorable and livable.

A week ago I wrote about my New Year’s Resolution. I wrote about my plan.

Well, people, the first week is over. What did you accomplish?

Did you make a short list of your 2009 goals? If so, did you move the plan forward at all?

Did you make a list of your key 2008 clients, and call them to say “thanks” for giving you business last year?

Did you call and thank those who wrote you personal notes in their holiday cards?

Did you make those phone calls that you swore you’d make when you returned to the office?

Have you identified conferences you would like to attend this year? Any great topics that you’d like to write/present on?

Did you take a few moments and update your bio, making certain that you have added your recent articles and speaking engagements from 2008? Is the work you’re doing today, for the clients you want, reflected in your bio? Did you update your representative matters list?
Come on people, get moving. The week isn’t over yet. You’ve got time to get your marketing on! Even for those of you on the East Coast, there are a few hours left in the day!

Don’t let this first week drift by without taking control of your job and your career. No one else is going to do it for you.

Me, I signed the paperwork for our first blog on Tuesday and have already had the “creative brief” call with LexBlog. I’ve been asked to speak on a panel for the ABANet on social networking. I got approval for our second blog yesterday, and I’m going to meet with a partner about a third one right now.

I’m planning three client events/seminars for the Spring, and have a lunch scheduled for today to map out our client interviews for the first quarter.

And I actually bought the birthday card for my dad and am sending it out today.

I hate marketing budgets, marketing plans and anything that limits my ability to move forward, and move quickly.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t have a budget or a plan, it only means that I want my plans to be fluid enough to allow me to change course and act quickly when necessary.

In October 2007, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average was hovering around 11,000 points and going up, and when most of us were planning our 2008 budgets, how many of us were forecasting the collapse of the worldwide financial markets, government bailouts, the collapse of Lehman Bros., law firm layoffs and dissolutions?

How many of us projected the rise of Twitter, and what might be the beginning of the collapse of print journalism, as we have known it?

Seth Godin had a great post today, Do ads work?, where he asks why have a budget for ads, if the ads work?

So, why, precisely, do you have an ad budget?

If your ads work, if you can measure them and they return more profit than they cost, why not keep buying them until they stop working?

And if they don’t work, why are you running them?

Can we not extrapolate this for most marketing activities? If it works, if we can measure the return on investment (ROI), or return on objective (ROO), should we not continue to do more?

How often do you hear the marketing person say, “that’s a neat idea, but we
don’t have the budget this year”?

Shouldn’t she say, “We have an unlimited budget for ads that work”…

In no way am I advocating the spending of money with wild abandon, but I am also not advocating the closing of the purse strings. I have a 2009 EMP (Evil Master Plan). It is driven by four key components:

  1. “Face Time” w/ clients, prospects & referral sources
  2. External communications driven by social media
  3. Internal communications
  4. Prepare to rebrand firm for 2010 anniversary

The details … well, that’s what they pay me to do.