Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Send A Sympathy Card - Handwritten Notes Have A Lasting Impact

Following the recent passing of my father I received many sympathy cards in the mail.  If you have been reading my blog recently (or other social media) you know that I have been focused on the topic of sending personal notes.  In our "social media crazy world" all personal communications have a way of standing out. 

I have been especially high on "Thank You Notes".... but was reminded of the power of a sympathy card.
If you know someone is is going through a rough time, your short handwritten words have amazing power to touch their heart and soul.  All of the cards that we received were special.  Some people did not know my dad, but shared their caring for our family.  Others included a personal story of their memories of his life.

(To be clear... I am not dissing the digital communications, as we also got many emails and other social media messages of condolence.  They also are special, important, and appreciated.  But there is something about a tangible card in the mailbox that make one stop and feel.  There is a lasting impact in a handwritten note).

I have declared 2014 as the "Year of the Handwritten Note" (help spread the word, as right now only about three people know about this important proclamation!!!).  Show people you care by writing to them, placing a stamp on the envelope, and giving it to the postman!  The art of the handwritten note is lost in our society, but when you send a card, people notice.

Have A Great Day

thom singer 

Monday, December 23, 2013

The ABC's of Legal Marketing - O is for Office

Many lawyers are not alone.  While the job can feel isolating, most work in offices filled with very talented and dedicated professionals.  Look outside your office door and you will find an office full of people who should be viewed as part of your business development and marketing team.  

The partners and associates in your practice group, and other groups, should be working together so that you are all cross promoting each other's skills.  Having three, ten, fifty or one hundred lawyers marketing your business is much more powerful than standing alone.  

However it is common that firms develop an "eat what you kill" mentality and actually set co-workers up as competitors.  If this sounds like the  culture at your firm then you are leaving future revenues behind.  This will not change unless it is actively addressed, and this is a major cause of why lawyers leave firms (and take their books of business with them).

This team effort should not limited to only the attorneys in your firm.  The professional staff can often be the best fuel for the word of mouth marketing in your community.  Those who work with you have a reach that is much farther than you may be aware. These people all have neighbors, friends, and others who they know through any number of activities.  When they speak of their career (and most of us do talk about work), what are they saying?  It is surprising how often people (including other lawyers) share the dirty laundry of the dysfunction at their offices.  This becomes part of the firm brand all over town.  When people are treated as an important part of the team, they will spread the word about your office with a positive spin.  Treat them poorly and they will talk.

Your office should be having regular business development and marketing meetings, and include the professional staff (this will let them know they are viewed important members of the team).  Open discussions about prospects, business development efforts, and marketing plans allows everyone to be focused on the same goals, and eliminates the ability for some attorneys to hide and not participate in marketing the firm.  In these meetings everyone should be encouraged to participate and share ideas.  No idea is a bad idea, and those who are trying to advance the cause should be praised publicly for their participation.

If you want those in your office to help you succeed, you must remember that they also want to find success.  You must lead by example, and not always keep score.  Make it part of your own business development plan to help people you work with achieve their goals.  This is more than sending business leads to the other lawyers (although that is part of it), but involves understanding what motivates your co-workers in life and then being a resource for them when you can.  

Final thought..... Do not refer to the professional staff in your office as "non-lawyers".  This is a condescending but common way the people in a law firm are described ("lawyers" and "non-lawyers").  It separates the team and creates an "us vs. them" culture that will limit creating a unified culture.  Some larger firms even have separate holiday parties... one for attorneys, and another for staff.  The worst part of this is the per-person cost invested in the party is often much higher for lawyers.  If your firm does this you can be sure this is impacts your brand in the community (nobody is impressed when you pamper your attorneys and give less to the rest of your team).

Have A Great Day

thom singer

It is not always about you (or me)

Just because something is not organized the way you want it to be..... that does not make it wrong!

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Cool Things My Friends Do - Christine Stock Helps Teens Find The Right Books To Read

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

My friend Christine Stock has begun blogging for the Huffington Post Canada (Check out her first two posts:  "Does Proxy Argue for the Affluenza Defense" and  "Getting Your Teen To Read For Pleasure"). 

Christine is married to one of my college fraternity brothers and they live in Toronto (Will is Canadian).  I have enjoyed visiting with them this year when I had the chance to speak at business conferences in Canada.  

She is a dedicated educator who has a passion for getting teens to read more books.  In her high school years she discovered the joy of reading, and went on to get her bachelors and masters degrees in English.  For the past decade she has been teaching English and Creative Writing in Toronto, Canada.

She also has started her own blog and website where she is reviewing books for teens and sharing advice for students, parents and teachers.  Check out Great Reads for Teens for more information.  She already has some great stuff online, and I am sure there is a lot more to follow. 

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Friday, December 20, 2013

The ABC's of Legal Marketing - N is for Networking

Growing a legal practice can be an all encompassing experience. Many lawyers put so much attention into their current client matters that they fail to honor the time to make, grow and keep their business relationships. The immediacy of issues surrounding today's problems leaves little space for things that do not create instant billable "ROI".

The pressures inside law firms to meet an annual billable requirement takes away the focus from all other activities.  With limited hours in the day, and the intensity necessary be a successful attorney, it becomes easy for a lawyer to push the cultivation of relationships to a "nice to have" activity instead of a "must have activity". 

 While time is limited and precious, it is important for lawyers to remember that all opportunities come from people and that law is a relationship business.  If you have the right network in place, most of the challenges faced (including developing future business) will quickly be solved through a few well through out phone calls.

However, you cannot wait until you have a need to try to build a network. If the only time you show up at business events or place calls to those you already know is when you have need, you will find it difficult to get the responses you desire. Building long-term and mutually beneficial relationships takes time, and even in our fast paced digital world you cannot create a friendship through sending a LinkedIn request (or a bill).

It is through people that you can quickly find new business or other things you will require to have a successful practice.  There are not short cuts to meaningful connections with people who know, like, and trust you and that understand your business.

Lawyers often make the mistake of only wanting to network with other lawyers. While this is a good idea for certain practices, if you only socialize with others who hold JDs you will never have a well rounded life. There must be diversity in your network.  This also goes beyond the types of jobs people have... and includes diversity of race, religions, sex, and age.

Out of sight is out of mind. Even when you are busy serving your existing clients, you cannot disappear from your extended business community. There will come a time when you will need other people, and you cannot expect them to be sitting around waiting for your call. You must cultivate the connection always and everywhere.
Make networking a priority.

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 www.ThomSinger.com.

The ABC's of Legal Marketing - M is for Moments

In all your business efforts you must be present in the moment.  There is a time and place for everything, and your marketing activities are important for your future success. Business development should not be treated as a low priority.  To position yourself for a long and successful career you must be intentional in what your actions.  This is especially true in your activities that involve interacting and networking with other people.

It is easy to get distracted with work, family and other obligations, and thus allow business development to happen when you feel like it, if you have time, and regardless of if you are focused on the task.  This will lead to haphazard results, and then you lose your enthusiasm for the whole concept of building your reputation and brand.

Wherever you are, be there and pay attention to the people around you.  Too often lawyers show up at business events and spend their whole time distracted by checking emails, making calls, and scanning their social media stream.  If you are talking to someone who is staring at their phone and not listening to what you are saying you will not be impressed.  But my guess is you have done the same thing to others (most of us have done this).  

I see people who treat others poorly on a regular basis (and not intentionally) then become angry at those who do the same thing to them.  Step back and look at how you behave when you are sharing a moment with people in your business community and lead by example.  Keep your phone in your pocket, or better yet... leave it in your car when you go to a meeting, lunch or other business gathering.

Why give people a reason to jump to conclusions that you are a jerk.  In your mind you are just keeping up with the onslaught of information that comes your way, but from the point of others you are not choosing to be present in the moment (this is true at home, too).

Occasionally you will have an important issue brewing somewhere (and I am talking about real important issues, not the ones you justify in your mind to add to your sense of self-importance), in which case I suggest not going to networking functions.  When you know you will distracted, stay focused on the one issue that needs your immediate attention.  By not making your interactions with people a priority, you are wasting your time (and their time!). 

Some justify they always have important things happening that require them to multi-task, but I believe if your biggest client who accounted for most of your income asked you for an hour of undivided attention (or you would be fired) you would be very focused.  Business development and marketing activities are just like the client who holds your future income in his or her hand.  

Not being mentally present in the moments spent with others is a problem that impacts many driven business professionals (not just attorneys) - but this is not true of all people who are successful.  I hear excuses all the time, but if you look at the people who have the best reputations in any industry, those around them feel they are all that matters to that person when they are in their presence. 

Show people that they are important to you in the present moment and you will invite an ongoing relationship. 

Being in the moment is a choice.  The alternative is rude.

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 www.ThomSinger.com.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Let People Know What You Want

You must let people know what you desire if you expect them to assist you in reaching your goals. Too often we think that others instinctively know what we seek, and then are disappointed when nobody refers opportunities.

On my email signature I have a sentence at the bottom that says "I am looking for introductions to companies that host "Users Conferences" or other meetings - Thanks!"  While most ignore these words, I also get several leads each year from those who are reminded about my speaking and being a Master of Ceremonies.

If you want something... let people know.

Have A Great Day

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

5 Ways To Make Your Conference About the Attendees

My friend Dave Lutz (CEO of Velvet Chainsaw) wrote a great article on the PCMA Convene Magazine titled "5 Ways to Make Your Conference Marketing About Attendee Benefits".  It is an important reminder for event professionals, as how you position your event directly impacts if people show up and participate in the conference.

His writing inspired me to think about what then happens at the actual event.  We should all follow his advice in how the marketing should be for the attendee (not for the planning organization), but the focus on the audience should not stop in the promotions.

Here are my thoughts (and hat tip to Dave Lutz, as some of the tips are similar to his marketing ideas):

5 Ways To Make Your Conference About the Attendee

1.  It is about them, not you.  Too often the focus of opening or closing sessions at events is dedicated to thanking their board, organizing committee, etc....  While recognizing people for their efforts to the organization is important, people will never ask "could you have made that part where you bring every volunteer on stage even longer?".  Respect the audiences time and do not bore them with internal back patting. 

All activities on the agenda should be filtered through the "Is this about the audience" filter.

2.  Why did they attend?  There is a lot of attention put on content, but if attending an event was only about the content then a live event is not the best delivery mechanism.  Yes, people want high level learning, but they also want to have an experience and network with peer.  Often these do not get the true level of importance in a survey, as it does not come off as sounding as "professional" as talking about the content.  Do not hide behind the currently popular mantra of "Content is King", as that misses the whole picture.

Discover what people really want.

3.  The speakers set the tone.  The general sessions and breakout sessions have a profound impact on the experience of the attendees.  These are shared experiences that impact the "mini-society" that is created at a conference. A speaker is not a commodity item chosen to fill a slot on the agenda. Those who are selected to present need to be vetted a great speakers who can share content and inspire.  

Just because someone is smart or has done something cool - it does not mean they belong on stage.

4.  Technology is great, but not if it hurts live connections.  We live in a technology and social media crazy world.  These tools are amazing and can have a positive impact on allowing people access to information and about each other.  But sometimes the app distracts from the live experiences.  If people are glued to their smart phones on every break, they are not talking to each other.

Tech does not replace the power of the impromptu hallway conversations that happen when people engage in a live conversation.

5.  Create a networking culture.  Networking does not happen by accident.  While attendees report they  go to live events for the "networking opportunities", too often they fail to make the types of connections they desire.  They spend their time with co-workers of surfing information on their smart phones.  To create a culture for networking you must do more than have an open bar at the first-timers reception.  There needs to be ample time during breaks and there needs to be a "lounge" setting where people can easily meet and converse.  You also need to educate the people about how to maximize their conference experience.

Do not assume that people will network on their own.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections. http://www.conferencecatalyst.com 

Friday, December 13, 2013

My Dad

In place of my weekly "Cool Things My Friends Do" post .... today this spot on my blog is dedicated to the memory of my father.  He was cool.  He passed away this week at the age of 99-years-old. 

The above photo is my favorite picture of he and I together. It was taken about seven years ago when  I was visiting him in California. I have many great memories thoughout my life of the times we spent together.

Dad lived a long and happy life.  The 100 years that he witnessed were about the most interesting times in human history.  He raised four sons, and got to see all the of his grandchildren.  I cannot ever remember a time when he was not enjoying the journey.

One of my brothers put it best when he said "what more could one want at the end of their life than to have all their kids not just love them, but like them".
He was one of the good ones.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Don't Be Jealous

Instead of being envious of other's success, look to celebrate their victories and help them find more wins.  Their success is proof there is a chance for you.  They did not steal your piece of a little pie.  There is an expanding pie and plenty for all who come to the table. 

Cavett Robert, founder of the National Speakers Association, said this about his industry: "Don't worry about how we divide up the pie, there is enough for everybody. Let's just build a bigger pie!" 

He was right, but many still worry about their allotment of pie and get jealous.  

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Don't Label Them

It is simple to judge people and assign them a label.  This is the easy way out for those who do not do the work involved in cultivating relationships.

We cannot really know what person is thinking (or feeling) without first investing in getting to know them.  Many talk of connecting, but never seem to go deep enough to respect the soul of others.  Sweeping generalizations are made about the "whole" of another person based on minor observations.

This is short sighted.  Don't be too fast to toss others aside unless you have put in the time.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

People Make The Difference

Sometimes bad things happen to good people.  We all have those days when we get bad news or face difficult "life situations".  When faced with adverse conditions..... people matter.  A helping hand, smile, nod or a hug is often all it takes transform the sad into the glad.

Sometimes we get the support, other times we give the support.  Be careful not to be caught up in your own BS that you forget others have their own "stuff".

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Be Open, Learn, and Be Coachable

If it were not for reading books (and blogs, magazines, etc...), attending seminars, asking successful entrepreneurs for their advice and being open to seeing myself as a "work in progress"...  my career would be very different.
A peer was recently described as "Un-Coachable" by several people who know about success in the speaking business.  This is a limiting character trait, as without all the coaching that has come my way (formally and informally) I would still be the same person I was 15 years ago.  I like the "me" of today more than the "me" of yesterday.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Work Hard

A mentor of mine shared with me a key to her long-term success.  Often people have asked her "How did you do it?", in regards to her building a business.  Some of these who questioned saw her as lucky

The truth was she worked hard for over 25 years and never slacked, even when she wanted to rest or felt she had reached the point where she could coast.  She had no other option but to keep working, growing her business, and earning her way in the world.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Friday, December 06, 2013

Cool Things My Friends Do - Phil Gerbyshak Sheds 51 Pounds (and is still going strong)

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

My friend Phil Gerbyshak is a social media guy. Now many of us run across people who claim status as "Social Media Guru"... but Phil is the real deal. He is also a networking super hero who loves to connect people to ideas, information and other people to make them more of what they want to be. He does a lot of speaking and training on the topics of social media and networking, and he just loves to connect. I got to know Phil online via many marketing social media communities, but we really became friends when he became active in the National Speakers Association (and the NSA XY group).

Phil has a big heart and always is there to help people find success.  But his heart was not all that was BIG.  Until now!!  This week as he celebrated his birthday he proudly announced that he has lost 51 pounds since his last birthday.  WOW. That is cool. 

He did this by being way more intentional about his life. He looked at everything he was doing, and changed a lot of it. Phil focused on eating smaller portions and getting his butt moving. A little at first, then a little more, and now he's doing 10Ks and group fitness 3 days a week.

About his weight loss, Phil says he feels like a new person!  More energy. Happier. Sleeping better. Clothes fit better. He adds "I can do more every day, and I feel addicted to exercise. And my blood pressure is normal again for the first time in 5 years. Life is GREAT!"  

The biggest thing he has learned is life is a choice. You can choose whatever you want, but it will have consequences. Some good consequences, some bad. Exercising gives him good consequences that he loves and he is choosing happiness, energy and exercise --- every day.

The second thing he learned is it takes time to make lasting changes. He hadn't exercised or even thought much about exercise since he left the Navy in 1995. Over that time he went from 180 to 317 pounds (his high weight last December). In 20 years he put on 150 pounds (YIKES) . He lost the 51 pounds a little at a time over a year. He is not usually a patient person, but insists he is getting better at it.... and is committed to keep going.

He is traveling to San Francisco to run the Bay to Breakers race in 2014.  He lived in California when he was at the fittest and happiest point of his life... so this trip is important to him. It's a 12K race, so it may also be the longest race he will run (I don't know, sounds like a Marathon is in his future!!!).

And numerically, if you're keeping score, he wants to weigh (not bowl) 225 by July 1, 2014.  My guess is he will get there.  

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The ABC's of Legal Marketing - L is for Lawyers

Across many practice areas attorneys often receive referrals from other lawyers.  Some refer business inside their firm, others help steer business outside their firm, but in either case it is common for new clients to originate from referrals.  Other lawyers are an important part of a solid business development and marketing plan.

If this is true, then why don't you find lawyers treating each other as if they were made of solid gold. Connections to attorneys can be very valuable over a career.  Networking and cultivating relationships with as many lawyers as possible should be a top priority.  Being respectful to peers would be a great first step, but too often there is a tendency to dismiss others in the legal business without any thought to the long-term benefits to a successful practice.

A lawyer in any size firm can cost his firm big bucks by not being professional with opposing counsel.  When you are disrespectful or try to bully the other side in litigation or in a deal negotiation, those on the other side of the table remember your actions.  When you act in a way that leaves them with a sour impression, you can rest assured that they will never send business your way.  It is not uncommon for lawyer who work opposite one another to later become allies (or even friends).  

How you treat people matters.

Throughout this series of blog posts (The ABC's of Legal Marketing) we are talking about the importance of how you relate to people, and this is doubly important in regards to other lawyers.  Your legal community, however defined, is a tight-knit group.  Your reputation is your calling card.  If you act like a pompous ass thinking it will show how tough or smart you are as a lawyer, it can (and will) backfire on your efforts to attract clients through this amazing network of those with JDs.

In addition to finding clients through referrals, it is more common than ever for lawyers to move their practice from one firm to another.  There are many examples of partners who thought they would never change firms that are suddenly on the market for a new place to hang their shingle.  If you have a long list of people you have alienated there will be fewer options for you (which means less money in compensation).  The smartest firms are adopting the "No Jerk Rule", as law is a tough enough business without working with people you do not like or respect.  Treating people poorly along the way is a fast-pass to less opportunity in your future.

Get involved with your local bar association and take a leadership role.  Be engaged in your alumni association and any other groups that have lawyers as members.  Create friendships, help others, and create a legacy of being a lawyer that others admire for both legal skills and people skills.

It is important to remember that others are not in business to be a one-way referral machine.  If you want to establish long-term and mutually-beneficial relationship you must look for ways to help others reach their goals.  Sometimes this mean referring clients to them (when you can), but it can also be as a resource for them and introducing them to others in the community.  Ask question to discover what they need, as sometimes what is hard for them is easy for you.

A great way to start building relationships in the legal community is by reaching out to those you already know. Reconnect with former co-workers or law school friends.  It is easier to reestablish a relationship than to start fresh.  Learn about their practice and find ways to help them long before you ever expect anything from them. 

Check the calendar for your local bar association and attend one or two educational or social events each month.  If you make an effort to be part of the legal community you will find success. 

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Handwritten Notes

The Handwritten Note.  Much is said about this little gem, but few people take the time to unleash the power of showing their appreciation, gratitude, etc... with pen and paper.

We now live in a social media crazy world where many people constantly seek productivity shortcuts.  The idea of going "Old School" to actually write a letter, place a stamp on the envelope and then mailing it to someone seems antiquated. However, the extra effort is always noticed and appreciated by the recipient.  Have you ever received a note in snail-mail, opened the envelope, felt the joy of great stationary, and said "DAMN THEM...they should have sent email or better yet.... a text!"?

If the situation that causes you to reach out to someone to say "thank you", "congratulations", or "nice to meet you" is all about self, then of course you want to take the easy path.  However, if the motivation is about the other person, then it means more when you take the extra effort.  When deciding if a handwritten note is the proper way to express your feelings (instead of email or text) you only need to ask the question "Is the recipient worth a few extra moments in time?".  If not, why are you reaching out at all?

Some argue against the handwritten note (I am shocked this is a debatable topic).  In March 2012 I wrote a rebuttal on this blog to a dumb article on Business Insider (by an author who was hoping for such rebuttals, not really for creating great journalism) that belittled the idea of a handwritten note after a job interview.  The truth is that if you don't want the job, then take the easy path.... but there are few situations where the tangible letter would not be a good idea. 

There is a lot of buzz each year about "Gratitude" (this comes up all over the internet and traditional media every Thanksgiving) and this brings with it all the advice about sending more handwritten notes.  I do not think that many people listen.  I suggest that less people send notes via the US Mail now that in the past. Since others are not doing this.... doesn't it sound like a great way for you and your company to get noticed?  Doing what others do makes you a commodity. 

Douglas Conant, the former CEO of Campbell's Soup has written over 30,000 notes to employees and others throughout his career (he mentioned it in 2011 in an article on the HRB website).  That is a lot of notes, but not hard to accomplish if you write regularly.  If the CEO of a major company can write so many notes, then the lame excuse of not having time gets tossed away.   I send about 5 notes each week to people I meet, clients, friends celebrating something cool, or those who refer business.  Simple math shows that over a 25 year career this equals over 6500 notes since I began the process of writing letters.  Even if some weeks I didn't do it, I bet the number is well over 5000.  I am gaining on you, Mr Conant.  

The excuse of bad handwriting is also not going to cut it.  I have rotten handwriting, but I can write slow and make it legible.  We can fabricate a million excuses, but the real point here is to put the attention of your effort on the other person.  Even doctors can write better if they try.  

In 2014 I am promoting "The Year of the Handwritten Note".  I am challenging people to pay attention to the people in their life that are worthy.  When I speak at events I often talk about the power of notes and after my talks there are many people who come and tell me how they agree that a handwritten note made them stand out from the competition.  They have been hired for jobs, selected as vendors, etc.... because of a note.  

If you have a great story of a handwritten note you have sent or received, please write about it on my Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/ThomSingerSpeaker.  I want to hear how notes make a difference in your personal and professional lives.

Have A Great Day

thom singer