Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Eliminate Expensive and Ineffective Marketing

Are you keeping track of where your business comes from? Every individual who answers your phone, responds to an email or fax inquiry, or greets visitors to your office needs to make it a routine habit to ask something similar to, "And how did you hear about _________?"

The answers to this question then need to be recorded (along with the person's name, contact information and the nature of the inquiry) preferably in a database such as Act or Microsoft Access. Any record-keeping system, however, is better than none, so use whatever you are comfortable with and will use consistently.

Without this information, how will you determine which, if any, of your marketing efforts are effective? If you have spend thousands of dollars advertising in a certain directory for the last three years and can look back at your records and see that not one single call resulted from it -- you can then redirect that money to a tactic that has been more effective.

For example, if you see that you received several calls from the three targeted mailings you sent last year and engaged four new clients as a result, you can schedule additional mailings with a fair amount of certainty that you are effectively apportioning your marketing dollars.

Keeping track of this information can also provide data on not just how best to allocate your budget but your time as well. Did the chicken dinner association meetings and networking hours you attended provide you with any good contacts? (Note: Unless you followed up, you can't know for sure.)

When you do not collect and maintain records of where your business comes from, how do you know what to do to get more business? You risk wasting time and money and can frustrate your own efforts to establish an effective marketing plan and a consistently successful and growing practice.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Are Your Rates High Enough?

If prospects never turn you down because of your rates -- you may not be charging enough. Rates are often an indication of value in the eyes of your prospects, so low rates are not necessarily a competitive advantage or the best way to engage more clients.

When questioned about your fees by prospective clients or even opposing counsel in the courtroom, be poised and unapologetic about your income. You have paid your dues in your profession. If you are new to expert consultant work, I personally assure you that you will earn every dollar you are paid in the legal arena. Litigation support is always stimulating and challenging, occasionally inspiring, and potentially lucrative. It can also be stressful and perplexing and make you wonder whether justice can ever really be accomplished. Take pride in the fact that you are contributing to that goal and charge for your efforts.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

It WILL Come Back to Haunt You

I freely confess to being guilty of repeating myself, but this apparently can never be over-emphasized (as recent conversations with experts have demonstrated) - Everything is fodder in the legal community when it comes to attempting to discredit expert consultants!

ALL of your writing, speaking, prior testimony, published commentary, etc., is discoverable and can be cussed and discussed with you and about you in qualification proceedings, deposition and in court.

Be careful.

Be consistent.

Investigate, verify and cross-examine your facts.

Proofread, proofread and proofread again.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Phone Stopped Ringing!

On occasion an expert will contact us in a panic because, seemingly inexplicably, the phone has suddenly stopped ringing and no work is coming in the door.

While we advise our clients on strategies to prevent this 'feast or famine' cycle, the expert making a call like this needs help NOW.

Rosalie recently assisted one such caller with this recommendation:

During the famine, start every morning by calling five people -- former clients, prospective clients such as those who called you and didn't use you, associates (but don't hang crepe together), former employers/employees/co-workers (just to outflow communication, which always creates inflow of some kind). Shoot the breeze, ask what's happening, act positive (don't sing the blues), and say to clients and prospects that you are finishing up several jobs and have time to take on some more in the next month, so are checking to see if they have something coming up.

The unspoken premise is that you are normally so busy that new work might have to wait, but (Hey, they lucked out!) at the moment you are able to schedule new work right in. "That will probably not be the case come March, but for right now, my schedule is more flexible."

If you are questioned by a secretary or gatekeeper, "And what is this regarding?" answer along these lines, "I worked with John on a case last year and I'm touching base." Light and easy. Don't take offense at the question -- she needs to know whether the call is urgent or, as in this case, general communication that can wait until after important things like court dates, etc. Be friendly and warm. Many people give her a bad time, so by your warmth, etc., you can make her your ally.

Contact five people every morning (and make some of them phone calls, don't just rely on email!) and I guarantee if you do this every day for one or weeks when things are slow, you will see results.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Top 10 Tips for Marketing Your Expert Practice

This is the time of year when we are inundated with the Ten Worst Soundbites, the Top Ten Trends in Hair, Ten Ways to Keep Your New Year's Resolutions. So, to jump on the bandwagon and hopefully jumpstart your year, I present the Top 10 Tips for Marketing Your Expert Practice.

1. Create your marketing for your public, not the public. Lawyers are not attracted to and do not respond to gimmicks and other devices that consumers sometimes do. Legal industry standards also preclude results-oriented advertising ("I can help your side win"). Anything with your name on it should be professional and conservative.

2. Determine your target prospects, and focus your promotional activities. Not all attorneys are your prospects.

3. Branding matters. People remember things subliminally as well as directly, so be consistent and easy to recall. State your name and tagline (the explanation of what you are or do) the same way on all of your materials. It is your identity.

4. Repeat engagements and referrals are indeed the ideal sources of business, but word-of-mouth business rarely occurs passively. Well-planned and consistently executed efforts can result in apparently "effortless" client development.

5. Writing and speaking, both within your professional or trade group and for attorney organizations, are the most beneficial marketing activities you can perform. They provide an opportunity to showcase your communication skills and establish you as the authority in your field.

6. Make it easy for prospects to locate you, with listings and possibly advertising, but also mix with attorney groups and individual attorneys in person. Nothing can communicate your value better than you.

7. Proofread, fanatically, everything you write or design--CV, card, stationery, brochure, fee schedule and other forms, correspondence and, certainly, your expert report. Errors make you look sloppy or careless and can come back to haunt you.

8. Hone your communication skills. A well-written report and effective testimony can result not only in additional cases from your retaining counsel but also in future business from opposing counsel.

9. People with whom you have some level of relationship--clients, previous inquirers, referral sources and professional associates--are more valuable than new prospects. They are "the golden goose," which should be groomed. Frequent communication with people in your personal database is more of a profitable investment than a cost.

10. Public relations is the creation, shaping and nurturing of your image in the minds of your public. Marketing is the communication of that image. Success does not just happen--it is planned. Create your impression deliberately and thoughtfully, and devise a strategy with a mixture of marketing activities for your desired results.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Be a Better Expert in 2006

Last week we sent an email to our newsletter readers Be A Better Expert in 2006 . We received several responses with the same theme: "I appreciate the ideas, but where would I find the time? Between holding on the phone with my Internet provider, going to the Post Office, paying bills, etc., I barely find time for billable work! When would I attend classes or read books!?!"

Rosalie responded to one such inquiry in a way that really hit the nail on the head, in my unbiased :-) opinion. Here are her thoughts:

"I totally understand! It is the core -- how well a self-employed consultant conquers this challenge determines whether or not he or she makes money.

"I am taking 30 minutes a night to read, right before I go to sleep, as I don't really have time for self-improvement reading either. But, "If you keep doing what you're doing, you'll have more of what you've got." I don't know where I heard that many years ago, but it's total truth, and I remind myself of it when the problem seems circular, as in, 'I can't change things because I'm too busy coping with the problems caused by the way the things are now!'

"That's the bottom line -- no matter how challenging it is to solve the problem, it has to be solved, or next year at this time, you will be right where you are now. That makes it worthwhile to DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

"I wish you good courage. Changing things takes it." - Rosalie Hamilton