Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Generic Marketing Material

Consistent communication with your clients, prospects, associates and referral sources is a crucial component of any successful marketing strategy. This communication can be phonecalls, postcard announcements in the mail, letter campaigns, emails, etc. Newsletters, print or electronic, are one form of communication that, if done right, can be a great marketing tool. They can provide valuable, timely information, increase your visibility and branding, and establish your credibility as the go-to expert in your field. (Are you sensing a big "BUT" coming?)

That said, I'm struggling with the concept of 'generic newsletters'. With increasing frequency, experts are asking about the effectiveness of using pre-done marketing materials provided (for a cost) by their professional association or organization. The prefab newsletter part of this package seems to be popular with many experts, and, as one who puts together a monthly newsletter myself, I can definitely see the attraction - doing it from scratch each time takes a lot of time, research, and plain old work!

This morning, I received an email with thoughts about this issue from Trey Ryder, a marketing consultant who specializes in education-based marketing for lawyers. While his advice was specifically geared to attorneys, much of his wisdom is applicable to marketing efforts by experts as well. In an article he titled "Canned Marketing Programs Almost Never Work" he cautions:
"To be effective, marketing must be customized to your specific situation...must emphasize specifically what you do...Specifically why you are qualified...

Some generic materials may work. But usually only in a vacuum, when they are the only materials your prospect receives. When prospects get both generic and specific materials, the specific message wins every time...if you buy them, make sure that you can return them for a full refund. Because once you see how generic they are, you'll see that the information has almost no value to you or your prospects."

Ryder continues and cites an example of my main concern in using these mass distributed materials:
"My accountant told me he receives the same newsletter from four different financial planning firms -- with only one difference: Each newsletter has the name of the financial planning firm on the masthead, implying that this firm wrote the newsletter. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth."

And obviously, the receiver of your newsletter will clue-in on that fact. Where do you stand on this issue? Have you used 'pre-fabbed' newsletters or other marketing materials? What has been result? Please leave a comment on this blog or send me an email and let me know. I will compile the answers (anonymously or attributed at your discretion) and share them with you in a later post.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Expert Witness Industry Getting Media Attention

We've known that we are becoming a more litigious society, but with the recent high profile lawsuits and trials such as Enron, all aspects of our legal system are getting more attention from the media and the average American.

In an article in Saturday's Star-Telegram, Barry Shlachter writes, "With eye-popping jury awards and seismic corporate scandals, attorneys aren't the only ones getting rich from American's lawsuit frenzy. Expert witnesses are reaping rewards too."

He cites statistics such as "The expert-services industry was estimated by one insider to be reaping $6 billion to $8 billion a year," and interviews experts in various fields about their per hour fees, lifestyles, and their "other" careers. It's a well-written article worth checking out.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Don't Give Away Your Hard-Earned Expertise

An expert who's been working with attorneys for 30 plus years shared some fascinating stories with me this week. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the best stories can't be told : )

But one tale about handling the initial inquiry from a prospective client really struck me because it is a hazard I frequently encounter myself. In one of his "if I'd known then what I know now" vignettes, he lamented sometimes giving out too much information in that very first call from an attorney regarding a specific case. "They call you, give the basics of the case, then proceed to pick your brain for half an hour or more. Then, at the end of the phone call, it's, 'Thank you so much. I'll be in touch.' And you never hear from them again."

Too often, in an effort to demonstrate competence, credentials, and overall expertise, consultants 'give away the store' on that initial contact. Usually, you hear a distant warning bell indicating this, but the desire to close the prospect and work on the case prevails, and you keep talking, especially with encouragement from the attorney, who of course is encouraging - he's getting valuable information!

The best way to avoid falling into this trap is to compose a set of standard responses to choose from so you do not have to scramble on the spur of the moment. For example, after you've heard the basics of the case -- "Mr. Smith, based on the information you've given me, it sounds as though you have a legitimate claim of liability. To fully and completely evaluate the specifics of this case, I would need to see the documents, evidence, etc." You could then add a statement such as, "How would you like to proceed?" but I find that silence is truly golden. Wait for a response.

If you continue to feel pushed to provide free consulting, don't hesitate to say, "Mr. Smith, the fee for my expert consulting services is $XXX an hour. I can fax or email an agreement if you would like to retain my services on this case."

Play around with possible scenarios, responses you might get back, and different things you could possibly say to create goodwill with the prospect while not giving away your services and expertise.