The Myth of Client Pain

Michael_mclaughlin I have to disagree with Michael McLaughlin, a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP, when he blogs about "The Myth of Client Pain."  He is so wrong.  According to Mike:

"Sales literature is full of advice to find a client's "pain" as the first step to sales success. We're advised to ask prospective clients inane questions like: What keeps you awake at night? What are your pain points? And, if you had a magic wand, what problem would you solve? Please, spare me."

Mike says the pain approach "proclaim(s) that the consultant is fishing for answers" and "not all clients are looking for "pain" remedies. Maybe they want to raise the bar on overall company performance, or they just the need to improve some aspect of the business."

Boy is he missing the point.  He forgets that the typical professional firm goes to market by saying "me, me, me! Look at me! Our people are so smart, we have all these services to sell you, and have a history of our firm on our Web site."  Many professioanl firms market themselves by enegetic self-hyping, and doing all the talking and none of the listening.

The reasons to focus on a clients "pain" or "trauma" are that:

  • You need to learn what the client needs, what is keeping them up a night.
  • Clients only hire a law, accounting or management consulting firm when they have a personal and urgent problem that makes them need to hire you.  If you know a client's pain, then you know the trigger that will get you new business.
  • If you ask questions about the client's business, they may tell you that they're borrowing to make payroll, or that their sales manager just quit and took the salesmen to a competing company, or that a crew from 60 Minutes is at the reception desk and they're demanding an interview.  This is all "pain."  Once you learn this information, you can offer a solution to their problem.

Sorry Mikey: no pain, no sale.


Compensating Sales Jobs

Harry_joiner_1 Many professional firms are starting to hire business developers (a.k.a. sales people).  The trend is so big that a convention for legal sales people will be held in Boston on June 13-15: LSSO's annual "Raindance" conference.  And I know from my own experience consulting for law, accounting and consulting firms, that they want to add business development to their marketing efforts.

The hangup every time in creating a sales position is "how do we compensate the sales person?"  I know of a business developer for a 10-person California law firm who is paid $150,000 plus a 10% bonus.  Most professional firms would choke on paying that much.  Often the partners' annual draw isn't that high.

I found on Harry Joiner's blog "Proven Ways to Get New Customers" a link to an excellent 8-page PDF that provides the answers.  Entitled "Determining the Right Salary / Incentive Ratio for Your Sales Jobs," the article is written by sales compensation experts Jerry Colletti and Mary Fiss, authors of Compensating New Sales Roles.

Click here to download Compensating Sales Jobs.

Click here to download the Worksheet "Factors Determining the Salary/Incentive Ratio"

The article reveals that the average compensation package is 70% salary, 30% bonus. But if the business developer has a significant influence on the client's buying decision, you should increase the bonus to a 50/50% mix.  Conversely, if the sales person in only one of many factors affecting the buying decision, a package with a 90/10% ratio is appropriate.

The article even goes so far as to analyze what personality types fit best given the nature and compensation of different sales jobs.  Recruiter Harry Joiner says the article is as good as anything you'll read in the Harvard Business Review.


A Lawyer Enters the Blogosphere

Andrew_ewalt135The ABA's Law Practice magazine will feature a year in the life of a brand new blogger in every other issue.  The idea is to identify a small firm or solo lawyer who will be willing to be our test pilot for a year.

We've asked Andrew Ewalt, a sole practitioner in Storrs, CT, to be the volunteer and the magazine appointed me to be his coach.  Andrew has agreed to launch and maintain a legal blog for at least one year.  You can find his blog at

Email me at and tell us what you think so far.  What could we be doing better? What steps have we missed?  How can we turn this blog into a client magnet for Andrew.

For Andrew, starting up was no sweat.  "It was easy.  I'm computer-savvy enough to see a button on line and click it to see what it does," said the sole practitioner.  He also has a Web site at

Even though he admits to spending 18 hours a day in front of a computer, Andrew is not a hair-tinted technogeek.  This is a serious lawyer who practices in probate & estate administration, life and estate planning, business law, taxation law, elder law, bankruptcy, and residential and commercial real estate.

However, I am a hair-tinted technogeek (and a lawyer to boot). I run all sorts of Web, listserv and online ventures, so I guess I qualify as the coach.

You'll see Andrew featured in the July/August issue of the magazine in a two-page spread. In each of the October/November 2005, January/February 2006, April/May 2006 and July/August 2006 issues the magazine will feature an update including:

  1. Problems encountered (and solutions).
  2. Lessons learned.
  3. Outcomes and impact.

Many thanks to the effervescent and creative Merrilyn Astin Tarlton, Editor in Chief of Law Practice, for this assignment, and to Andy, for joining in this escapade.  Not only will we enjoy ourselves, but I plan to get him more business through the blog.


Who's Who? Who Cares!

Whos_who_cube_1There's been a hot discussion on the LawMarketing Listserv as to whether there's any value being in one of the "Who's Who" books.  The response has been a resounding NO.

There's Marquis Who's Who, Strathmore's Who's Who, Who's Who Online, Europa's International Who's Who, and so forth.  I responded, "Didn't it used to  be called "Wastemoremoney's Who's Who?"

"I'm assuming this is another listing that is unnecessary and carries no prestige," said Melissa L. Jones, Marketing Director of Babst, Calland, Clements and Zomnir, P.C.

Tom Kane chimed about a great article in Forbes FYI in March 1999 that debunked all of these "Who's Who" listings.  It's great ammo to show to a partner who need his prominence confirmed: "That article was a great help to me in staving off requests for lawyers' inclusion and references to "Who's Who" listings in the attorney bios when I was in-house," Tom said.

The article is great ammo to present to partners whose egos have caused them to be interested in "an honor that only a select few ever enjoy."  Being listed used to mean you had attained a significant achievement or position in your field. Not any more.  It turns out, anybody can get into Who's Who.  It now includes bowling coaches, gym teachers, undertakers, administrative assistants, landscapers and school nurses.  There are more than 100,000 entries in "Who's Who in America."

Of course, I can't remember ever looking up anybody in a Who's Who book, except for my own listing, which I first got when I was an Associate Editor at a bar association magazine.

The Who's Who publication's aren't picky about who gets into their books.  John Fox Sullivan, a member of a Who's Who board of advisors, told Forbes, "The reality is, I don't do anything."  So there are a lot of self-nominated people who haven't really accomplished much.  Nearly everyone who is nominated gets into the book. 

Afterwards the publisher works hard to sell you copy of the book for $749 ($1,595 for the Web version), and a mahogany wall plaque for $99, crystal desktop ornaments for $149, crystal bookends for $349, silver charm bracelet for $129, lapel pin for $64, Bulova watches for $195, or a leather briefcase for $199.

Whenever I saw someone touting their inclusion in Who's Who, I immediately thought "what a pathetic loser" or "what an insecure egomaniac."


If a law firm were run like Southwest

Southwest_airlinesDeborah Ackerman, VP and GC of Southwest Airlines, described what a law firm would be like if it were run like SWA.

Remember that SWA has high employee productivity, low turnover, high morale, and flies 64 million passengers to 60 locations. The last time I flew on Southwest, it was great. The Chicago to Las Vegas flight had attendants wishing passengers happy birthday and passengers all singing along together. It was a fun flight.

Ackerman said a law firm run like SWA:

  • Would be the low-cost producer
  • Focus on clients as customers and not as a legal matter
  • Have no layoffs
  • Have an annual chili cook-off
  • Have a tradition of fun. Halloween is a major holiday at the headquarters, and everyone comes to work in a costume, including the CEO.
  • Relax the dress code.
  • Be family-oriented. There is no expensive artwork on the walls of SWA. Instead there are pictures of employees with their families, pets and hobbies.
  • Display "brag boards" everywhere where employees can put up notes about their own and their kids' accomplishments. Have many employee recognition programs.
  • Establish an Employee Catastrophic Fund to help employees in cases of an uninsured loss or serous illness.
  • Communicate in a timely fashion to employees.
  • Senior partners give hugs and praise from to staff as a daily occurrence.
OK, this is a total fantasy. There will never be a law firm run like Southwest Airlines, because law firms care about partner profits, not employee happiness. The employees are there to serve the partners and help the firm make more money. Law firm goals are to move up the chart of the AmLaw profitability tables.

So call me a curmudgeon: there will never be a law firm run like Southwest, but we can dream.


Market Yourself with Postage Stamps of Your Pets

Pug According to Tim Stanley, Photo Stamps are coming back. The URL is

PhotoStamps let you take your own photographs and turn them into real U.S. postage. To create PhotoStamps all you need to do is upload a photo, customize it using their easy-to-use interface, then place your order., the company behind PhotoStamps, has been a USPS-approved provider of on-line postage since 1999.

Harry_and_larryOnline, Tim shows some examples of Little Sheba his "Hug Pug" ( stamps from when photo stamps were available last
year:  I have to say, Tim is a mighty lovesome for his pug, but they are awful cute.

It's a relatively inexpensive way to market your firm (or puppy) through the use of Official US Postage Stamps.  I myself have no puppy, but I do have an African Gray parrot and a Greenwing Macaw.  What do you think -- should I use Harry the Macaw?


Companies Spend $500 Million Annually on Web Analytics

Tyrone_mowatt135Spending on Web analytics will reach more than $500 million by 2006, according to JupiterResearch.  That includes many smart law, accounting and management consulting firms.

The statistic comes from an article in CMO, a magazine for corporate and product marketers.  The magazine says that most large companies shell out significant amounts of cash annually on Web analytics tools.

Refined Web analytics help marketers create a better client experience on professional firm Web sites, and can tell marketers:

  • The results of markeing campaigns that involve the Web site.
  • How many visitors went to a site shopping cart, but abandoned it before ordering.
  • Return on investment, such as the percentage of visitors who signed up for a firm newsletter or admission to a firm seminar.

The article mentions WebTrends, a Web traffic analysis program that I tried and do not recommend.  Instead, take a look at what strategic consultant Tyrone Mowatt recommends in his article "Web Analytics: How well are you doing if you can't gauge your progress?" on the LawMarketing Portal.

The point is that Web analytics will tell you how to tune up your Web site so it generates more leads and operates as a real marketing vehicle.  In 2002, Royal Appliances relaunched the Web site for its Dirt Devil line.  After reading scenario analysis reports from a Web analytics program,'s conversion rate jumped from 12-15% to 20-23%.  Similarly, the president of the custom gift site Personal Creations, spent 30 minutes to an hour every day to view the latest analysis of activity on their Web site.  They fine-tuned the site--for example, reversing the order of the billing and shipping pages--and pushed the conversion rates up by 25%.

Tyrone Mowatt will analyze the Web logs of the LawMarketing Portal for the past three years.  The site already gets 50,000 unique visitors per month, which I am delighted with, but I'm always looking for ways to improve.  Web analytics work.


I.P. Blog Wins Business Award - and New Clients

Phosita_graphic The law firm of Dunlap, Codding & Rogers is a little unorthodox. First, they specialize in intellectual property law, but aren't headquartered in New York or Silicon Valley. Instead, this 18-person firm makes its home in Oklahoma City, OK--hardly a hotbed of technological innovation.

Another peculiar thing about Dunlap, Codding & Rogers is that they've got a popular "blawg." Companies that blog are still the exception to the rule. Law firms--those staid, old world institutions--that blog are nearly unheard of.

Douglas_sorocco_1The blog at Dunlap, Codding & Rogers is called PHOSITA. The name comes from a legal acronym relating to patents: "Person having ordinary skill in the art." The blog was started in late 2003 by Douglas Sorocco, a partner and patent attorney at the firm.

PHOSITA was recently voted best law blog for the Business Blogging Awards, a kind of online Oscars for the corporate blogging community. These kind of online awards can serve as valuable traffic-builders for blogs. As a result of its victory, PHOSITA visitors have increased roughly 60% in the last two months. With growth like that, this Oklahoma law firm may not remain small for long.

To read the entire article from the May issue of Professional Marketing magazine, visit the PM Forum Web site.