Friday, November 29, 2013

Cool Things My Friends Do: Laura Beck celebrates 3 years in business with

Each Friday on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their personal and professional lives.

Today is the day my friend Laura Beck is celebrating three years in business with her apparel company, stripedshirt.  She launched the company on Black Friday in 2010 and has been putting people in stripes ever since.

Before stripedshirt, Laura led the Austin office of Porter Novelli, a global PR firm. Her specialty was PR for tech startups and she continues to do PR consulting (she is one of the best PR people in Austin!!), which, as her husband says, "pays for her stripedshirt habit."

Laura started stripedshirt as kind of a mid life crisis, as she says. She was quitting Porter Novelli and full time PR work on the brink of her oldest daughter starting kindergarten.  She was committed to making a career change up when her kids became school age so she could do the drop off, the pick up, the classroom volunteering, girl scout leading, etc. Knowing she wasn't cut out to be a Full-Time Mom, and on the brink of turning 40-years-old, she decided to give stripedshirt a go. It was a business idea she'd had since the early 90's.  As a female sports fan in Boston she did not like wearing man-sized shirts to Boston College games or have some guy's name on the back of her shirt at Red Sox games.

Laura says the best part of stripedshirt is learning so many new things every day, like a second chapter in her business life. She was well versed in the details of public relations and marketing, and had worked with and supported start up clients for a long time. But this company is her own start up, and with it comes many lessons, victories, and defeats. She's also learning about the fashion and apparel industry, which she knew nothing about before launching the company. However, she finds learning something totally new to be very energizing (and if you know Laura, you know she is already high energy!!!).

What is coming in the future?  Laura will continue to work to grow stripedshirt, and with the increased sales of the current 15 color combos, she will be adding colors. She also has a whole product roadmap beyond the current "Signature stripedshirts" (which are short sleeved striped shirts), including scarves which she's adding to the line now, and then long sleeved shirts and tanks.  Following that will come other products that will be striped in school or team colors to let women, kids and babies support their favorite teams (think beach towels to water bottles to flash drives).

It has been fun to watch Laura grow her company.  I know first hand that her shirts make a great gift, as I got one for my wife last year!   

I admire Laura, and congratulate her on the 3rd anniversary of stripedshirt.

In honor of Black Friday (today), and Small Business Saturday, (celebrated tomorrow, November 30), stripedshirt is running a special, 25% off all orders, for a week, expiring Saturday December 7. Simply enter "3YEARS" at check out for the special 3 year anniversary pricing.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Being Thankful on Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States.  

Thanksgiving is full of positive family memories from my childhood.  Growing up we spent most holidays with my mother's large extended family, but Thanksgiving was always celebrated with my father's only brother (and his wife and four children).  My cousins and brothers were all a decade or more older than me, so there was no "kids table" (I was right in the mix, often with olives on the ends of all my fingers).... and these dinners of 12 or more were always lively gatherings.

The concept of "giving thanks" is one that I appreciate and try to take seriously.  In our busy world we are often too self-focused growing our careers and meeting our goals to remember to show gratitude (to one's higher power or other people).  While one day a year is a good start, we should express "Thanksgiving" all year round.

10 things that fill me with gratitude:

1.  My wife and kids.  I know that I am fortunate when I see them smile.  Sara and I are very blessed.  

2.  My parents.  I had really good parents who showed unconditional love for their family.  (My mom died 29 years ago, and my dad is currently 99 years old --- but they did a great job all along the way).

3.  My brothers and their families.  While we live in various parts of the country, and do not get together often enough, I cannot be around them without having fun.  I looked up to them as a kid.... and still do.

4  Our extended families.  Sara and I are very fortunate that our families are full of interesting people.  From her parents and sister (and her sister's family), to all of our uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.... these people have made our lives richer.

5.  The Morris family.  Our friends and business partners in New Year Publishing are as much a part of our family as anyone who is related by blood.  I met Dave the first day of college (29 years ago) and we have shared all the good times and bad times along the way.

6.  The friends who have passed through my life.  I have been blessed with some great people who have touched my world all along the journey.  I have kept in touch with many and even those who have drifted in different directions have left their mark.  

7.  My friends in the National Speakers Association.  I stumbled upon a group of people who have helped me build a successful career as a speaker.  I do not think most people have a peer group of "competitors" (although they are not, really, competition) who are also part of their advisory team.  These people are in my corner and I could not have found success in this business without my speaker buddies.

8.  Austin, Texas.  We moved here 23 years ago and had no idea that the next two decades would be lived in one of the best cities in the country.  The economy in Austin has remained strong, and the people in the community are wonderful.  It is a great place to raise our family.

9.  Living in this place in time.  I think with all the ongoing problems, the world and society are as interesting now as at any point in history.  Plus, by living in 2013 I don't have to grow my own carrots or shoot a turkey to celebrate Thanksgiving.

10.  Those who visit this blog, follow my social media posts, read my books, or participate in my live presentations and training classes.  I am fortunate to have a career as a speaker, author and trainer.  The people who have supported my efforts have been many, and I appreciate all of them.

The more I think about gratitude, the more I realize this list could go on forever.  I challenge all who read this post to look at their own lives and discover the joy of being grateful.  

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The ABC's of Legal Marketing - K is for Keywords

In the world of internet marketing a priority is placed on "Keywords".  With regards to websites, blogs or other online properties these are words that are assumed important to those conducting searches for products or services.  The right keyword can make the difference between  being noticed or being passed over in online searches.

But keywords are not just for the internet.  How you talk and the words you use will make you stand out and be noticed.  Selecting keywords that resonate can lead to people having a better understanding of what it is you actually do for a living.  

Search engines often give the most attention to the headings and the first 200 words on a webpage.  Therefore search experts advice that you use these ever important words appropriately up front.  The same is true in when you speak.  People will tune out if you do not grab their attention.

Overused "buzz-words", non-descriptive descriptions, and industry slang will have little meaning to those who are not attorneys.  However, simply saying "I am a lawyer" is far too broad to give any context to the services you provide or the types of clients with whom you work. 

In the same way that SEO consultants prioritize the words for your website, you should pay attention to how you speak and the words you use.  Be intentional in your descriptions of your business. Integrating keywords and phrases into the dialogues you have with other people in your business community will make you memorable.  Being too general is wasting your time.  An internet search engine can only work with what is typed in, and the brains of people can only go with what you tell them.  The rest is left to assumptions, and that can take people down the wrong path.  

We all want to be top of mind with those who can hire us or refer business.  In the same way everyone wants to come up on the first page of a Google search in their area of expertise, you want people to remember you in their minds when they need legal services.

Think about the words you choose and the stories you tell about how you impact clients.  Creating an "elevator pitch" that you memorize and blindly recite is not the best plan.  You need to be flexible in how you talk in different situations and with different people.  How you describe yourself to a potential clients should be unique from how you speak to a referral source, vendor, or past client. 

If you have not given any thought to how you present yourself, or the words you use when you describe your services, you may be missing a valuable opportunity to increase the reach of your brand in your community.  Invest the time in hearing how others talk about their practices and learn from those who do it well (and from those who fail to clearly express themselves).  

Choose keywords that make sense and matter to the people who are listening. Words have power and can paint lasting images that will impact how others judge your business.  

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

This is what "Busy" looks like in my world

In the last eight weeks I have been in a lot of places.  I enjoy my career as a speaker and trainer, and while the travel can be nutty at times.... it is also a lot of fun (and very rewarding).  I have had the chance to be with audiences large and small, and over the course of the past year I have presented 74 times for companies, law firms, and association/industry conferences.  

When I began this journey working for myself I wanted a full calendar of serving great clients.  I cannot complain, but I do now understand what it looks like to be at capacity.  If my whole year was scheduled like the past several weeks I could never maintain the pace.

I have also developed a stronger appreciation for people who are crazy busy (I mean really, really, nutty, nutty busy).  Many have moments where they cannot keep up with everything, and I am much more understanding in those times when others seemingly drop the ball (and / or I am not their immediate priority).  Being busy is a good thing, but there is a point where people can only do so much... and my vantage point of how others manage life in these times of overload has been adjusted.  I think this helps me as a business professional and gives me additional patience with others, and respect for the reality of their lives in many situations.

The real credit goes to my wife and kids -- who were amazing during this year's "busy season".  For our lives to run smoothly everyone has to be a participating member of the business team.  I try to make sure that all are part of the business, as I know that my being gone is not easy for anyone.  They make it all work and are so amazingly supportive of my career. 

Here is a short recap of places I have been to speak (or for other reasons) since October 1st:

San Antonio
New York
Washington DC
Boca Raton
Kansas City
San Jose
San Antonio

I am looking forward to a lighter schedule in December and some quality time with family and friends.... as it all starts over again in January.  I am excited about the new and repeat clients that are coming into my life in 2014.  My seat belt is fastened, it will be a wild ride.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Friday, November 22, 2013

Cool Things My Friends Do - Kate's School Play

Each Friday on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their personal and professional lives.

Once again today's "Cool Things" post features one of my kids.  It is always cool to see your children push themselves into new experiences.... and thrive.

It was fun to watch my youngest daughter in her first school play.  Kate is very excited about her theater class and in her first middle school production she landed one of the larger roles (as a 6th grader). It was cool to see her embrace this opportunity and to see her shine on stage. 

She had rehearsals after school for most of the fall semester and never complained about the long hours, later bus ride home (her school has a "late bus" for those who have activities- but it makes for a long day), and then having to get her work done.  She always beamed her big smile when she talked about the play and enjoyed all parts of being in the play.

I was in the audience and was a very proud dad.  She was great.  I found it extra cool to watch this, as I was in theater in junior high and high school.  My own experiences in drama classes were very positive.  While I never became an actor (a childhood dream that I did not pursue), I do use the stagecraft skills I learned in my career as a professional speaker and corporate trainer.  I am confident that Kate's experiences in this time of her life will have positive impacts on her life no matter what career paths she chooses.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Value From Your Trade Show Sponorship

In my travels I meet a lot of people whose companies sponsor trade shows and conferences.  Some of them question the value they get from their investment of time and money in exhibiting.  Those who are unsure of the ROI from participating often surprise me, as the events where they are vendors are often overflowing with A-Level contacts in the industries they desire.

Whose fault is it when a company does not find value in their trade show sponsorship?  Depends on the situation, but often there is finger pointing when the problem is within.

The responsibility can rest with the people who are there to "work the booth".  Too often they waste the opportunities to make connections with other people.  They spend their time talking to co-workers or other vendors and they do no nothing to engage the people who are walking around the trade show floor.  They are hoping the "big fish" will just fall into their net as they juggle the stress balls and read Facebook posts.

Too many people from the sponsoring companies fail to attend the keynotes, breakout workshops, and other conference activities. If someone misses the shared experiences at a conference, they are not part of the event. They are outsiders.  If you did not see the speaker's presentations, then you are not part of the mini-society that is created at an event.  Some claim they have work to do during those talks (their priorities that day should be focused on the event) or that the topics do not match their interests (too bad).  If you did not participate side by side with the attendees you are not their peer.  Instead they see you as a "vendor" who is only present to pounce on sales opportunities.  A small investment of time make you part of the community.

The companies who sponsor are also at fault for sending employees to events without training.  It is assumed that sales and marketing professionals understand how to network at events, but that assumption results in a lot of money being wasted at trade shows.  Many successful companies host pre-event and post event team meetings to discuss the details of how they will be engaged at a trade show.  They bring in outside trainers to educate their staff on the best-practices of working a show and do not leave their ROI of sponsorship to chance.

When a trade show or conference sponsorship fails to result in leads their is often accusations at the event itself fell short.  While there are some weak events, the blame rarely belongs to the organizers.  If people were in attendance and your team failed to meet them or make a meaningful connections, this is due to their actions (or lack of actions).  

In talking with CEO's they all claim their employees are great at working trade shows.  However, when I walk the floor at most conferences there are few sponsors who have a clue on how to be engaging.  This is a huge disconnect, and one that wastes time and money.

I was referred to a company who participates in a lot of trade shows in their industry.  The thought was I could offer training to their team.  An internal employee made the recommendation to the CEO and COO.  When I met with these executives they said it was not necessary as they had excellent internal training systems on this topic for their people.  When I saw this company at a trade show their representatives were tossing a football the whole time that prospective contacts were roaming about the booths.  This is far too common.

To get value from your trade show sponsorship you must get your people committed to the work involved at being at a conference.  It is not just a day away from the office.  It is hard work.  When managers assume their team are great at connecting at trade shows they are usually wasting everyone's time and a lot of the company's money.

If you organization sponsors events create a "blitz" mentality for the next show.  Get all team members committed to being heavily engaged in the full days of the event.  The more involved they are in the event the better connections they will make.  And better contacts will lead to more opportunities.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, November 15, 2013

Cool Things My Friends Do: Lani Rosales - REAL

Each Friday on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their personal and professional lives.

My friend Lani Rosales has just released her first book; "REAL: A Path to Passion, Purpose and Profits in Real Estate".  Lani and her co-authors describe the book as "Not your ordinary book on Real Estate - It's a book about Life, People, Health, Rejuvenation and Habits".  In addition to being an expert on the real estate topic, she is also a keen observer of life and quite witty..... thus I imagine this book will be a must have for everyone in the real estate industry.

Many Real Estate books fall short (well, the same is true for books on many topics!). REAL goes beyond mere tactics and strategies to focus on the core of what really matters - You. They have featured stories from Real Estate's Thought Leaders including Marc Davison, Spencer Rascoff, Sherry Chris, Krisstina Wise and many more. If building a real estate business that lasts is important to you - this is a book to buy, read, and implement.

I know Lani (and her husband Ben) from being involved in and around the Austin business entrepreneurial community.  They are cool people who contribute to interesting conversations and help connect people.  Together they started "The BASHH" (Big Ass Social Happy Hour), a monthly gathering in Austin, Texas that brings together those who may only know each other online and gets them into the same room to network.  I am happy they are my friends, and I can honestly say I wish I hung around them more often.

She also gave one of the best Ignite Austin talks several years ago titled "The Etymology of Curse Words".  It is worth popping over to YouTube to watch the very clever 4.5 minutes. It is funny! (I miss Ignite Austin.... it only happened a few times... but was always a cool event).

Congrats to Lani Rosales on her new book.  Very cool stuff.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The ABC's of Legal Marketing - J is for Join

You cannot market a professional services career from behind closed doors.  Lawyers are not commodity widgets, and cannot be sold as such.  Thinking that being in your office doing great work for clients will build a sustainable book of business is short sighted.  Oh, and it wont work.

As an attorney YOU are the product.  People want to do business with those they now like and trust, and while tangible items can be sold without any personal human-to-human connections, a professional service often requires the person who performs the work to be engaged in their community.

A mistake made by many firms is that they join nothing or they join everything.  Besides, the firms is not what needs to join, it is the individual lawyers.  

If you join nothing you fall back into the "out of sight is out of mind" situation.  Those who are engaged in a community expect others to also have connections into the larger ecosystem.  However, joining everything means you most likely do not participate properly in any one thing.

When I suggest people "join" organizations I make sure they realize that the commitment goes beyond paying the annual membership dues if they expect their money to be well spent.   Joining alone gets your name in the directory, but most of the time that is useless.  To find the value in joining a civic, business, philanthropic or social organization you must be involved.

Being involved means showing up and serving.  When someone belongs to too many groups they end up doing "drop in networking", which means they drop in a couple of times a year when their schedule allows.  However it takes time for people to notice you, much less establish any long-term and mutually beneficial relationships.  I believe it can take as many as seven to ten times of showing up at events before the other members begin to feel you are part of their crowd.  Since most of these organizations meet only once a month, that means it will take participating for nearly a year before you will begin to grow connections.  If you only go twice, you will never establish real bonds with people.

Choosing which groups to support is key.  There is not one magic club that will feed a pipeline of referrals over a lifetime.  Each person, firm and practice area have differing needs.  

I recommend lawyers find two or three organizations that whey will be dedicated to joining and in which they are committed to participate.  You can belong to more and drop in on those as appropriate, but your main groups get an "A-level" commitment.  This means you treat these meetings on par with appointments with your top clients.  

What you prioritize is a choice that you make.  Do not fall into the trap of rationalization about networking vs. client work.  When you have two meetings a month you MUST attend, then you can find a way to adapt your schedule.

Within these prioritized groups you should be volunteering to serve on committees or on the board of directors.  It is when you work together with others that you build your reputation and cultivate friendships.  But be careful, if you commit and then drop the ball you will damage the way people view your work ethic.  Blowing off a committee meeting because you are busy tells the other members of the group they are not important to you.  If they found a way to be present at the meeting, you should as well.  Everyone is busy and everyone has other commitments. (There are exceptions, but exceptions that happen every time are not exceptions, they are the norm).

Find organizations that are appealing to your clients, prospects and referral sources.  Bringing others along to meetings is a great way to forge deeper friendships.  Your participation can be the conduit for hosting others from time to time.

If you get a lot of referrals from other lawyers then bar groups (or other legal based organizations) are a great idea.  If you do not see any business from other attorneys then these are a valuable use of your time.  You can still choose to volunteer for your Bar activities, but do not pretend it is marketing your practice.

Social, civic, and philanthropic organizations are also a great way to meet and establish connections with others in your local business community.  Only join groups that have a purpose that matches your interests.  Do not join the young professionals group at your city's symphony or ballet if you do not enjoy music and dance.  Joining because there is "good networking opportunities" will not keep you as motivated over the long run, and you will not participate often enough to have an impact (plus when you hate being there, others can tell).

As you interact with clients (and others), ask them what they are involved with in you local area and beyond.  This is a great way to learn about all sorts of business, social and philanthropic groups in your community.  You may be surprised by all the great options you have to be involved.  Visit the ones that sound interesting to insure the culture of the group is a match with your own personality.

Remember that the pay-off from joining groups comes from the time and energy that you invest in your participation.  Many mistakenly think that there is no value from being involved in their community because they have never really been involved.  Sending a check might seem like "joining"... but it is not.  Those who are engaged will discover amazing opportunities over the long run.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thom Singer is experienced in legal marketing and business development.  He regularly speaks at law firm retreats inspiring attorneys to embrace their brand and increase their sales.  He also teaches lawyers ways to improve their presentation skills as the firm's secret weapon for business development success.  More information at

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The ABC's of Legal Marketing - I is for Interesting

Marketing is there to help you be noticed by those who could hire you or refer your services to others.  Out of sight is out of mind, and in the highly competitive legal marketplace there are many choices.  When potential clients seek your services you need for them to find you interesting.

Too many lawyers and law firms avoid standing out from others.  They create simple marketing materials and ads that will not look unique, as they do not want to rock the boat within the legal profession.  This ensures that much of the marketing we see for law firms looks like the marketing of every other attorney.  While I am not advocating being outrageous or weird, there is nothing gained from intentionally positioning yourself as a boring commodity.

Be interesting.  Boring is safe, but it is also ignored.

What does it mean to "be interesting"?  This is difficult define as it will be different for each person, practice group, and firm.  To be successful your marketing should allow your own unique experiences (including hobbies and personal life) to be part of what you show to the world. This does not mean a trial attorney should feature his or her herb garden in their marketing, but being true to self is very important.  

Exposing your personality allows others to get to know the whole person, and people want to do business with people whom they like.  Nobody can feel anything about you without an honest connection.  

Some successful lawyers will argue this point, believing that attorneys should only show their professional expertise and remain above exposing anything personal.  But others will have found success by exposing their personality and personal lives to their community.  In all businesses people usually choose to do business with people they know, like and trust.  The practice of law is not different.  Law is a highly interactive industry, and the people you encounter in your career can have a material impact on your future success.

Being interesting also means being able to converse about topics beyond your practice of law when in professional and social situations.  If all you can do is discuss business, you will miss the chances to create bonds with others.  Keep up with the news, current affairs, sports, business, and pop culture.  These topics come up often in conversation, and if you are unsure of who won the Masters (or what it is), which companies in your community are poised for IPOs, or the latest antics of a popular celebrity, you are not part of the discussion.  The advice to know pop-culture references often gets push-back, but pay attention to how often people talk about Brad Pitt or Kim Kardashian in places you do business (it happens more often than you think!).

In addition to being interesting, you need to be interested in others.  Do not always try to put the attention on yourself. Take the time to learn about the whole lives of your clients, co-workers and others in your community.  When you take an interest in what is important to other people, they will pay more attention to you.  People do not care about you until they believe you know and care about them.  

The personal side of conversing with others can be your key to winning more business.  In all situations be sure you are interesting and interested.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thom Singer is experienced in legal marketing and business development.  He regularly speaks at law firm retreats inspiring attorneys to embrace their brand and increase their sales.  He also teaches lawyers ways to improve their presentation skills as the firm's secret weapon for business development success.  More information at

Friday, November 08, 2013

Cool Things My Friends Do - Barracuda Networks IPO

Each Friday on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their personal and professional lives.

This week the Campbell, California based Barracuda Networks (CUDA) went public on the NYSE, raising $74 million in their initial public offering.  I caught the story while skimming the news on Wednesday and knew that this had to be the "Cool Things My Friends Do" blog post this week.  

One of the company's co-founders, and CMO, is a childhood friend.  Michael Perone and I grew up on the same street when we were kids (ages 5 - 12.  I moved in junior high).  When I remember those early days it always includes the kids on that block...especially Mike.  There were about six or seven kids who were close in age, and we spent a lot of time running free in the neighborhood. Sometimes we were best buddies, other times we were not, but I have only great memories of my days living on that street.

Mike is a smart guy who was into technology at an early age.  I saw my first computer at his house in about 1979.  We would have been about 12 years old, and he had a computer in his bedroom.  While that is common today, it was certainly not in the 1970s.  He was destined for growing a tech company from the start.

I have not remained close with Mike over the years, but I have watched the success of his company.  He and his co-founders were the 2007 Northern California winners of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, and the company and its products have been praised in tech circles for nearly a decade.  As CMO he has done a great job, as Barracuda Networks does a fantastic job of being visible and growing their revenues year over year.

Earlier this year I met with him at his office for coffee while I was in the Bay Area.  I got to tour the company's headquarters and see the cool things they are doing.  My impression is that Barracuda Networks is a great place to be for those who work there.  It was nice to catch up with Mike, and I was very happy to see an old friend achieve so much.

Congratulations to Mike Perone and his team at Barracuda Networks.  It is not everyday that someone sees and old friend ringing the bell at the NYSE.  

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thursday, November 07, 2013

The ABC's of Legal Marketing - H is for Host

Being a host or hostess allows you stand out from your competition in a world that is full of noise.  It shows your human side.  

Whether you plan your own educational and social meetups or take others along to existing events as your guest, when you provide positive experiences clients and prospects will remember you more.  Humans are experiential beings and when we share time with others we build stronger bonds.

"Hosting" in a business situation is similar to hosting a gathering in your house.  You have to plan all the details to ensure that all runs smoothly. Leaving the flow of the agenda up in the air can seem spontaneous, but the more you pre-plan the better the outcome.  Being the host means investing time and money, but the rewards can be seen in future business and referrals.  

Many lawyers avoid being a host because they do not want the hassle and think it would be awkward to invite people to participate, but if you look around at some of the most successful attorneys,  many use this technique as a key way to establish, cultivate, and maintain their business relationships (This is for those people you already know -- I am not suggesting your stalk strangers and put them on your invite list!)

The ways in which you host others, and the types of events you invite them to, will depend greatly on your own personality and interests.  You should not take clients to the symphony if you do not enjoy the symphony. Golf and other sporting events are often a great way to connect, but it is dependent on the other person's interest level in the activity.  Dinner parties can be effective, but not all types of practices lend themselves to having clients to your home.  And creating educational seminars would depend on the level of impact your field of expertise can have on your clientele.

What you do is not the most important part, it is doing something that gives you an excuse to reach out and make the ask, be the host for the event, and then follow up afterwards.

Individual Shared Experiences

Many business professionals use golf as tool for strengthening connections, but because of the time commitments (or lack of desire or talent for golf), some lawyers do not play the sport. If you are not a golfer it is a mistake to think that the answer to better business development is "golfing".  

Instead you should look at the desired outcome that comes from playing golf with clients:  It is about the time spent together.  Golf takes several hours and you are in a small group.  This provides the rare luxury of time together without an agenda for the conversation.  But this same level of intimacy can be attained by attending any number of types of events: seminars, charity fundraisers, a night at the theater, concerts, dinners out with spouses, etc....  While some activities do not allow for the same type of one-on-one conversations, these are still great ways to get to know people on a more personal level.

Success in in the personal time together and the shared experience.

Hosted Group Events - Educational

Presenting a seminar on a topic that shows you and your firm's level of expertise on a topic can be a wonderful way to provide value to clients and position yourself as the "Go-To Lawyer" in your community.  When you gather a group of clients and prospects together and provide them with valuable information that can impact their business, they remember you for it. Additionally, if those in attendance can have the opportunity to meet each other and share their knowledge on the subject, then you are the conduit that helps them connect with other business professionals.  

Hosted Group Events - Social

The "Client Holiday Party" may seem cliche, but there is a reason that professional services firms host these types of events.  The relaxed atmosphere and festive occasion allows people to come together and celebrate.  While you do not want to recreate an "Animal House" frat party type event, the fun that comes from a causal social gathering will allow people to feel more connected with those in your firm.  

Having people show up at the office (for an educational or social event) is similar to having friends to your home for dinner.  Think about it, we are not invited to everyone's house, but usually once we have been inside someone's home we feel more connected to them.  The same is true in business.  Get people into your facility when possible.  Be sure these events are not all about the firm (it is not a commercial), but instead make the focus on those who attend.  There is no need to interrupt the party with the managing partner to giving a speech (these are usually dull and kill the mood of the event).  Let people mingle, and prepare your staff on how to behave as hosts so they can have meaningful engagement with all your guests.

A great idea is to host your clients social event at an alternative time of the year. Everyone has a crazy schedule in December, and you might get better attendance in spring or summer.

**Side note:  Make sure to provide nametags for any gathering with over 15 guests that is held at your office or other professional site (not in your home).  While your lawyers might know all the clients, they do not know each other (and may not remember everyone on your team).  Make it easy for people to network.  

It is important to remember that a single party or night out will not build a relationship with anyone.  Your hosting strategy must be part of your ongoing networking, business development and branding strategy. 

If you have not acted as a "host" to those in your network (either in one-on-one encounters or group settings) you are missing a great way to build stronger relationships and solidify your reputation in your business community.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thom Singer is experienced in legal marketing and business development.  He regularly speaks at law firm retreats inspiring attorneys to embrace their brand and increase their sales.  He also teaches lawyers ways to improve their presentation skills as the firm's secret weapon for business development success.  More information at

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

The ABC's of Legal Marketing - G is for Goals

If you do not know where you are going, you have no way of knowing when you arrive.  Marketing for the sake of marketing is a waste of time and money.  There must be a strategic plan that helps advance the success of your practice.  You are well served when you set clearly defined and realistic business goals that help you stay focused on what you want to accomplish.

Marketing is not magic. Without a purpose, actions, and a way to measure success you can invest a lot of time and money and see few results.  Simply promoting your practice will not make your phone ring.  If you know what you are trying to do, and whom you desire as clients, then your choices on how to market become easier to understand.

Some lawyers roll their eyes at the idea of goal setting, mistakenly thinking that the concept is "motivational fluff".  Because many attorneys are analytically by nature they question if the act of writing down a goal has any meaningful value.  But it is not setting the goal that has the power, it is what keeping focused on the goal helps you accomplish.  The target must be something that the individual, practice group, or firm must stretch to attain, but these goals also must be realistic.  Goal setting is not about random wishes, but instead it is about creating an atmosphere that makes people perform to a higher level.

When a law firm has culturally accepted a set of goals there is no wiggle-room for attorneys on the team to skip out on the efforts.  Goals make the everyone accountable for their actions to increase the visibility of the firm.  Those who do not pull their weight are quickly exposed. The key is for there to be accountability for all on the team.  (Of course accountability is scary for those who do not choose to participate in growing the firm).  

Having clearly defined goals it makes it easy to make decisions.  This allows you to ask if a particular action moves you closer to your goals, or leads you in the wrong direction.  The answer makes choices easier for everyone in the firm.  It changes participation in marketing, networking, client relations, and community involvement activities into something tangible.  When team members understand the purpose over the long run they are more engaged.

Goals take time to accomplish.  Those who dream of a quick fix to raising their profile in the business community will fail.  It takes time to market and build a brand, but there will be little progress without a goal.  It is too easy to get distracted by current client work and allow your marketing efforts to fall to nothing.  When this happens your future is limited.

Lawyers who create plans and work toward their achievement of goals are more likely to succeed in building a sustainable practice than those who leave their future to luck.  

To successfully create a list of goals that are attainable, realistic and measurable you must carve out time for your team to discuss the program.  Everyone must have input and buy into the vision.  There are no shortcuts to formulating a plan.  Working with an outside consultant or coach is often a great way to get this done, as outsiders can have a knack for identifying strengths and weaknesses about an individual or group.

Having a combination of short-term and long-term goals is also a good idea.  To have early wins gets people excited and helps them see the accomplishments that can come from having goals.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thom Singer is experienced in legal marketing and business development.  He regularly speaks at law firm retreats inspiring attorneys to embrace their brand and increase their sales.  He also teaches lawyers ways to improve their presentation skills as the firm's secret weapon for business development success.  More information at

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Compounded Generosity

Little actions add up over time.  Financial planners advise clients to begin saving for retirement early, because there is amazing power in a lifetime of compounded interest. The same thing is true for giving to a cause.  If you start early and give small amounts of time or money, consistently, over a lifetime you will have an amazing impact and create a meaningful legacy.

If you wait until you are rich to support philanthropic causes, you may never contribute in a significant manner.  Sure, if you make it BIG (think Bill Gates, Michael Dell, etc...) you may have the ability to write giant checks, but most people will not create wealth at that level (nor will they win the lotto).  But with intention anyone can serve their communities.  

Small amounts of time and money over a lifetime will add up. When done properly, and tracked effectively, there is an amazing impact of "Compounded Generosity".

I used to believe you had to be rich to impact a charity.  There was a specific incident where a fundraiser made me feel insignificant because I could not write a check for $10,000.  I wanted to help, but was dismissed.  Too many philanthropic organizations focus exclusively on those they identify as wealthy, but it does not have to be that way.

Six years ago my family pledged a small percentage of the fees I earn as a professional speaker to a research fund at our local Children's Hospital though a named giving endowment for to the hospital's foundation .  Two years ago we expanded this giving to include a similar fund at the hospital where our child received treatment a decade earlier.  The checks we send are small.  On our daughter's birthday we host a minor fundraiser each year.  These donations, coupled with the success of the investments done by the foundations have grown over time to equal a substantial amount that has been marked for research and other needs of the institutions we support.  And we are just getting started.

A commitment to a cause over many years can grow into something more than you could have ever imagined.  My wife and I do not come from families that have our names on the walls of hospitals.  We are not seeking to build our own charitable foundation or create a new charity.  However, through a commitment to giving small targeted amounts, and in being steadfast with our giving in good times and bad, the endowment funds continue to grow.

It was not hard to establish these two endowments.  They were promissory agreements (not legally binding contracts).  Not not all charities are set up to manage giving endowments, but they can do so with little effort.  Some organizations scoff at the thought that someone who is not financially established will keep up their giving commitment, and others worry about their ability to track and manage the funds.  Yet future focused non-profits should not turn down what can amount to tens of thousands of dollars (or hundreds of thousands of dollars) over the long-run.

I am on a personal mission to inspire 10,000 entrepreneurs to discover a cause that matters to them and to create their own giving programs.  You do not need to found your own organizations and hire people to run them.  This is about partnering with existing and reputable programs and working together with them over time to build an endowment that can have amazing impact.

I received a note this week from an small business owner who heard me talk about our giving program.  This was not the topic of this particular presentation, but I mentioned how we came to our pledge to give.  She said she has now identified her cause and was going to move forward to support it for the long run.  Like my family, she could not write a single check for $10,000.... but she can give small amounts consistently going forward.

How about you?  Are you ready to join the ranks of those who promote Compounded Generosity?  This is not about giving to my cause, it is about finding your own.... but then taking action to be committed for the long run. It adds up faster than you might think.  And no amount is insignificant.  It matters.

Let me know what you do to give.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, November 01, 2013

Cool Things My Friends Do - 2014 National Speakers Association Convention "Learning Lounge"

Each Friday on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their personal and professional lives.

I have attended several conferences that have "Alternative Conference Formats" as part of their agendas.  The attempt to break out of the "same-old / same-old" mode often brings about great opportunities for conference attendees to find education, inspiration and unparalleled networking.

The National Speakers Association Annual Convention "Learning Lounge" is a great example of a "Conference Inside a Conference".  At the 2014 event in San Diego the Learning Lounge will be organized by two of my friends: Mike Dilbeck and Jessica Pettitt.  

The NSA Learning Lounge has a special place in my heart.  I organized the first attempt at this unique program in 2012.  Sarah Michel and Holly Duckworth took the lounge to a higher level in 2013 (they deserve recognition in the world of "Cool Things My Friends Do", too... as they did a great job).  And now 2014 is positioned to be spectacular.

The interesting thing about the Learning Lounge is that few of the attendees carved out time to attend the sessions in the lounge.  Most instead chose the traditional breakout sessions (which are fantastic).... but almost everyone who spent time in the Learning Lounge in 2012 and 2013 raved that it was a highlight of their convention experience.  Makes me wish more attendees understood the value of the slightly different style of programming.

What I learned from my involvement with this effort is that people claim to crave something "new", but when faced with a choice they go with the known choice (attending an alternative format learning environment or go to a familiar / regular lecture?) ---- But I also know from other experiences in the meetings industry that GREAT things take time to catch on.  People want to wait and see how it goes.  Will it be back next year?  Well, the Learning Lounge will be back at the NSA Convention in 2014 and I predict that Mike and Jess will weave together something wonderful.

Thanks to Jessica Pettitt and Mike Dilbeck for taking on this monumental undertaking.... I know it will be cool (because they are both so cool).

Sideline Rant.....

There is something good about people volunteer to give back to their industry.  The amazing professional speakers who donate their time, money and energy to making the National Speakers Association thrive are special to me.  I appreciate the honor to be part of this industry and have learned so much from those who are "the givers" in this business.  

I am often saddened and shocked by people who turn their noses up at their trade associations and look down on those who participate (many people mock their competitors who are dedicated to these groups).  Everyone should be active in their trade associations, regardless of their industry.  There is something unspoken - but cool - about those who choose to serve the greater good of the businesses that allows them to flourish.  

If your industry association is not spectacular, then get involved and make it better.  Business associations and trade groups across the world are in need of people who can raise the bar and contribute to their own success.  Be the solution!

Have A Great Day

thom singer  

The ABC's of Legal Marketing - F is for Feedback

What is your brand in the business community?  Do you know?  Are you making assumptions about how you are viewed by clients, prospects, referral sources, vendors, other lawyers, etc...? Do those who give advice sugar coat their words to avoid hurting your feelings?  Can it be that you have little name recognition and are not even noticed by others?

Obtaining realist feedback is very important to ensure that your efforts are paying off to market your practice and position yourself as a solution to those who seek counsel in your legal area of expertise.  If you are not aware of your "mindshare" in comparison to your competition then you could be missing out on valuable client opportunities.

Getting feedback is harder than it sounds.  We live in a polite society, so few people will ever tell you when you are doing something wrong or are just blah.  Plus, with so much competition in the legal field you need to have amazing marketing to ever provoke meaningful reports.  Most will not have unique marketing that creates buzz, so they will never know what others think.  Too many lawyers try to market only to have it fall into a black hole of no results.

Additionally, most of the people you may ask for feedback are not really qualified to understand what they are reviewing.  People look at websites, or other marketing materials, and have no point of reference to identify how it stacks up.  "Good job", "Nice site", or "I like it" are taken to mean that the effort is successful, when really that means nothing if it is not registering with potential clients and referral sources.

Often a lawyer or firm spends money to create a look and feel that is the same as all their peers. If you are a carbon copy of all your competitors, you go unnoticed.  If you are a commodity then clients shop on price.  Yet simply looking at most lawyer websites you see photos of their skylines, state capitol buildings or the scales of justice (quick, go look at your firm's homepage!).  Sameness is not marketing.

An attorney cannot review their promotions in a vacuum, but many do just that.  Reviewing materials they created themselves, or with the help of the consultant hired to do the job, is not enough.  We all look fondly on our own work. You need to get meaningful third part feedback.  This could be formal or informal, but without seeking out the opinions of several others you are just applauding yourself while standing alone in a field.

This review is about more than brochures and websites.  A full examination of your overall brand is needed, and you have to be open-minded to the input that comes back.  It will not always be pleasant.  At best you are not showing anything special to others, and at worst you have left negative impressions on others through your actions.  But not knowing the truth makes it impossible to improve.

Putting together a board of advisers that includes other lawyers, clients, vendors, etc... can be a great way to see past the walls in your mind.  But it takes courage to even ask others to help you.  Hiring a consultant to review your image, who is not someone you will hire to fix the problems, is a great idea.  Keep in mind f their purpose of giving feedback is to sell you solutions they may not always the right choice (although maybe).  There are many with expertise in legal marketing whom you can find to help you.

Always seek honest feedback, and do not get mad when you hear the bad stuff.  Celebrate those who are brave enough to help you see clearly where you need to improve your messaging, actions, branding, etc....  

Final point: You may not always agree with everything you hear, and those giving feedback may not always be right in their observations.  But to not seek feedback is a mistake.

Have A Great Day

thom singer 

Thom Singer is experienced in legal marketing and business development.  He regularly speaks at law firm retreats inspiring attorneys to embrace their brand and increase their sales.  He also teaches lawyers ways to improve their presentation skills as the firm's secret weapon for business development success.  More information at