Recently in Client Service Category

March 21, 2014

WMT: Is there commonality in marketing a law firm and a restaurant?

opentable.jpgIn my monthly contribution to Web Marketing Today, I go off the reservation a bit (pun intended) in discussing Open Table, restaurants and customer service compared to professional services, law firms and client service. In Using Customer Reviews to Drive Sales, I discuss positive (and negative) customer service experiences and how the same concepts and data drive similar patterns for a law practice.

Fine dining is a centerpiece in the health and well-being of my marriage. Every Saturday night is date night, come hell or high water, and with it one of many great restaurants in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. Regardless of how busy we get with work, travel and dealing with the kids, we take a few hours and a few bucks each weekend to partake in a nice dinner. It is our household's major discretionary spend (and when you add wine and a babysitter, it adds up fast). Our Facebook followers know that each week they'll be clued in on a new, hot or long-time favorite eatery for future consideration.

The chances of your restaurant being selected as a destination are heavily weighted by whether you show up on Open Table. I peruse the reservation options weeks in advance and look at my profile to remind myself where we are going over the next month or two. On the flip side, the participating restaurant gets to know a lot about me before I walk in the door--and that is where the possibilities of developing customer satisfaction and loyalty exist.

What spurred on this topic in writing my WMT piece for March was an invitation to dinner at Estia Taverna, a restaurant opening near our home, which is an off-shoot of a favorite spot in Philadelphia, Estia, and before that the sister restaurant we often enjoyed in New York City, Avra.

My follow-up reviews on Open Table puts me as one of the 25 most prolific reviewers on the entire site. I use Open Table when traveling as well. Ironically, the places we frequent the most--Bibou and Le Cheri--from Pierre and Charlotte Calmels (perhaps the top chef/restaurateurs in Philly) don't show up in most of my Open Table reviews (they use OT, but we end up locking in our reservations at the restaurant--never leaving either without the next one--and they know how to develop a following and loyalty through impeccable food and service).

I also juxtapose the positive--Estia Taverna, Bibou, the Phoenician in Scottsdale, the Four Seasons, Moore Brothers Wine Company among them--with the negative--my airline, which shall remain nameless, Priceline and dining establishments that failed to take advantage of the data sitting right there to cherry-pick. Read the piece and see if you can see where good client service for a lawyer overlaps with running a successful restaurant, hotel or similar establishment. The key takeaway is whether you take advantage of the data that exists (often through web-based sites and software) for your practice.

Fifty Great Local Web Marketing Ideas

If you do not subscribe to the free Web Marketing Today newsletter, they are providing a complimentary e-book on 50 Great Local Web Marketing Ideas to all new subscribers. I've contributed two of the 50 (and learned a few tricks from my fellow contributors as well).

September 12, 2013

Fox Rothschild hopes I'm inscribed in the Book of Life for 5774

rosh_hashana.jpgLaw firm clients know how much I love the annual holiday card agenda items each summer. You can't hear the sarcasm in reading a blog post, but it is there. Topics of political correctness, hard copy versus electronic, mailing list and CRM issues equate to multiple meetings and numerous arguments. These conversations are debated and renewed each year. And the harsh reality is that those cards--delivered anywhere from mid-December to early January often get lost in the flood of well wishes we each send out and receive. To be frank, if you do or don't send me one--I likely won't recall it.

Of course, there are still cards that stand out from the crowd--for right and wrong reasons. I see some cards that I do feel are politically incorrect in the theme and message. Some firms have turned (successfully) to humor and use of e-cards--like Akin Gump and Manatt Phelps. I always receive an early Thanksgiving card from Bill Bowser and the employment law department at Young Conaway in Wilmington. It arrives before the others, thus stands out in the crowd. Infinite PR sends out a postcard with their holiday card allowing me to choose which charity they will make a donation to. That concept stands out as well. But it was a "first" for me that I enjoyed receiving via e-mail last week. While driving to Baltimore on Erev (the first night of) Rosh Hashana, I received an e-card from Fox Rothschild wishing me a happy (Jewish) New Year. I enjoyed the greeting and the thought, and was impressed by the uniqueness of a holiday e-card that was outside the scope of the winter holidays, Thanksgiving and what most people consider New Year's (on January 1...5774, by the way, is the 2013 year on the Hebrew calendar). Differentiation and standing out...that is what it's all about. L'shana tova right back at you.

August 26, 2013

WMT: Law Firms Join the Apps Craze

If it appears this month's Web Marketing Today article on law firm apps is courtesy of the Department of Redundancy Department, I apologize. In the time I was writing it, I was also interviewed on the subject by two law publication journalists reacting to what must have seemed like an onslaught on law firm press releases touting the latest & greatest app. But I certainly saved some of my tips and examples for the loyal WMT audience.

In Corporate Secretary magazine, Abigail Caplovitz Field writes on "Law firms offer mobile apps to attract new clients." Her article revolves around two US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) apps developed by Latham & Watkins and O'Melveny & Myers. In developing apps, the type of law firm and the related content runs the gamut from global mega firms to mom & pop shops.

Almost every attorney involved in the development of an app at a law firm will (accurately) tell you that the expectation is not that it will generate new clients, but more likely offer a branding or awareness tool that (hopefully) will be seen as an added-value item by clients, colleagues and the media.

The keys to success are not necessarily first-to-market with an idea. For the most part, you will rely on some element of push from your marketing professionals to get the app into the hands of interested parties. I'm sorry to say that not a lot of people are perusing law firm apps when in the iTunes store downloading the latest version of Candy Crush. It takes a strong engine to get the word out and put the app in the right places for the right people. The reality is that most people that download your app will look at it once, think it is slightly interesting, and never return.

For an app to truly be effective in the long haul, it means constant updating. Recently, I flash backed to a project I worked on with Morgan Lewis in the late 90s. A partner at the firm had the idea for creating an online resource which we called HSRscan, containing information about the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 and its regulations. The data was unique and the relatively new "Internet" seemed an ideal place to market this content. Blogs were just coming into being. But what really would have been a perfect fit was an app (I did not have a crystal ball to identify this stuff or I would not still be working and writing these blog posts). Does the attorney or practice group have a specific idea that would provide a unique resource to the public at large?

In a blog post on July 24th, I recap and point to Gina Passarella's piece for American Lawyer Media on "Deciding whether law firms should have an app for that." Her article looks at vastly different examples from the Latham and O'Melveny apps, including family law (for consumers), labor & employment, and recruiting.

If you are considering app development for your law firm, I encourage you to read the three articles cited in this blog post--my WMT column and the stories from Corporate Secretary and The Legal Intelligencer. This should give you enough background to determine an effective route for your idea. Apps are not for every firm. At the same time, it is not about firm size, resources or budget; it is about having an effective idea for an impact tool.

October 22, 2012

WSJ Breaking News: Clients don't like getting nickeled and dimed

On an obviously slow news Monday, the Wall Street Journal front page touts "Law Firms Face Fresh Backlash Over Fees." Jennifer Smith reports on the "widespread revolt" over big bills for "legal miscellany." I can tell you that there is nothing new in this news from much of the last decade. But it does allow me the chance to once again discuss the issue of nickel and diming clients--often those that are paying seven figure invoices based simply on billable time.

Is this a marketing issue? It sure can be. While many in big law won't change things anytime soon, small, midsize and boutique law firms recognize that this provides an opportunity to offer up a "differentiating factor" in selling its legal services. Often lost in price comparisons are the costs that go beyond the billable hour, depositions and filing fees. Those extra costs--planes, trains and automobiles; hotels, dinners, legal research and copying--can inflate the final tally by quite a lot. It is like looking at the $25/day rental car rate, only to find the actual cost to be around $70 after taxes and related charges.

All I know is that when I meet litigation friends in Philadelphia, often in town for a matter in federal court, we are usually getting together at the Four Seasons. Dining ranges from Morimoto to Buddakan; Morton's to the Fountain. When you are working hard and traveling extensively, I'm not suggesting that we treat ourselves to anything less than first class accommodations. Unless, of course, the corporate counsel is staying at the Marriott. It is important to get a feel for the travel policies of your clients, and come in even or lower. There is nothing more damaging than outclassing the guy or gal that hired you during a trial. And when you get less work later, nobody will ever tell you why--the GC will just remember it when glancing at the final bill.

Many major law firms outsource the copying and courier functions. I can't tell you if they truly mark them up, but I know those companies do pretty well for themselves. Legal research costs have dropped significantly in the age of technology, and again, I'm not sure just how much of a mark-up there is on Lexis research, but flat fees in most cases control overhead...and should make the actual cost less heady than in the days when, as a summer associate, I was warned about racking up computer time and encouraged to hit the library shelves.

The solution here cuts both ways. If you are law firm management and nobody is complaining about secondary costs, it is difficult to change. At a time where we are squeezing cash from additional places, it is tough to say goodbye to the 25 cent copy. However, if you can rein in costs, and sell it as a firm advantage--you might have something there. Corporate legal departments are increasingly demanding discounts, cost-reductions, cost caps and decreased spending--but that is nothing new. It is a bottom dollar argument. If your matters are considered fungible, then you had better come up apples to apples in the final bill. However, high end specialization still commands top dollar--and an emphasis on a good result over a good deal.

Of course, the article quotes Jeffrey Carr, general counsel of FMC Technologies, who seems to be the go-to "exception to the rule" example of in-house counsel demand for various uses of technologies, alternative fees and RFP processes. I often advise firms to build for the sweet spot among corporate counsel, not based on the DuPont Legal Model or any other alternative method to handling outside law firms. We all know that the day-to-day handling of corporate matters has not changed too much in the big money, bet the farm deals.

Which leads me to "real life." If you start with the premise that the $1,000 an hour big law litigator is not going to change his hotel, limo, dinner or bar tab...and guess what, he is going to be busy every day until retirement...then where does this subject carry weight? In the day-to-day business law matters.
wsj.png
In completing an RFP or selling your law firms' services, being able to brag about reduced ancillary costs can go a long way to getting the work (or more work). This might involve mid-tier hotel chains, taxicabs and Ruby Tuesday's, but those dollars add up. In my business, which basically mirrors that of a small law firm boutique, I take a few approaches. In many cases, if costs are minimal (and I never charge for copies or phone calls), I just eat them and chalk them up to the cost of doing business (and consider them part of my billable rate). In other cases, I make it clear that I do my best to "treat your money like it is my money." They see it in connecting flights, diet dinners and public transportation. And finally, I sometimes provide a budget cap on travel--if I go over, that is on me. This allows me to stay at a nicer hotel and eat a little more--if I feel like it--and perhaps hit my out-of-pocket for a few bucks. Many clients are working off per diems and negotiated hotel deals. Clients appreciate it, and remember it. It is marketing. And in a world where differentiation can be tough, giving up a few bucks on "costs" can pay huge dividends in the long run.