Hanging Ten On The Wave Of Change
By Thalia Zetlin
Chief Marketing Officer, Berdon LLP
We’re on a wave of change that shows no signs of cresting. It’s no longer about setting up committees, having endless meetings, and rehashing everything that was already said a dozen times before… and that’s a good thing! Today, it’s about recognizing the new reality where we’re unfettered by any rule book that would be outdated before the ink dries. In this new reality, conditions for getting and keeping clients compel us to try things that haven’t been done before. For attorneys, or anyone, ready to catch that wave and ride it confidently, we have to leverage the factors that are propelling it. Here are a few.
Respond In Real Time
We’re all living in a real time world where an earthquake in Asia gets tweeted around the globe as it happens. That’s the speed of responsiveness people are becoming accustomed to. We all know colleagues who don’t share our sense of urgency about a business opportunity, a call, an inquiring email, or even a simple request for information. This mañana attitude, while never acceptable, has a deeper impact with today’s light-speed word of mouth.
What an edge this gives to those who recognize that a swift response is now expected — even a response that just lets the person know when we can get back with the information they’re looking for. It signals respect, courtesy, and how they may be treated in a relationship. When this mindset permeates the culture of an entire firm, imagine the potential for leaping beyond competitors.
Attract Instead Of Sell
The wave is washing away the increasingly resisted concepts of selling and closing. People don’t want to be sold, closed, or imposed on. In this direct-access world, prospects can get the information they want when they want it with the simple click of a mouse. So instead, take an approach that draws prospects using the plethora of vehicles now available. LinkedIn, foursquare, Google+, YouTube, any social media that’s appropriate … all give us the opportunity to send out “tails” of meaningful information that prospects can latch onto.
The essential word is meaningful content — giving the audience something they are interested in. Share expertise, insights, and foresight: clarify a complex issue … alert people to a ruling on their horizon … offer advice that addresses a challenge. Do it in ways that show you walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Whatever the message, it should never be self-serving — people see right through it and credibility goes down in flames. Our self-check is very simple. Is it something that our desired audience may value?
Review the variety of social media now available to us and wherever you think your target is looking, be there. It might be a tweet, blog, video — choose the vehicles that best convey the points you are sharing.
Here is your chance to distinguish yourself from the dozens of other well-respected attorneys who may also be rightly proud of their credentials, expertise, and technical brilliance. For the most part, people find it difficult to distinguish these characteristics from one attorney to the next; but what they can sense — that will help set you apart — is that you understand the issues that matter to them and your general regard for people.
Get In The Conversation
The wave is perhaps most apparent in the practically rampaging changes in technology that enable us to have a conversation with our audience and, in the process, learn what they’re thinking and exchange thoughts. This is golden. We learn what is motivating to our audience which allows us to quickly adjust so we can be even more helpful in addressing their needs. If what we learn is different from or even contrary to our expectations, great, we now know something we didn’t know before. Use this valuable information to make changes and adjustments where needed.
Grab every opportunity to make yourself available to your audience and share thinking using the website, message boards, Facebook postings, chat rooms, opinion forums … any medium that allows an exchange. Your audience will become more familiar and comfortable with you. People tend to trust people they are familiar with and are more disposed to engage people they trust.
Know Them Before You Show Them
There is a flip side to the easy access of information available through today’s technologies. Prospects now know that those same technologies make getting information about them and their industry or profession readily available. This is in addition to what you can learn from referral sources and others who may be familiar with the prospect. Going into a meeting cold was never a good idea and is now inexcusable. It will be evident that you didn’t think enough to even do some rudimentary homework and the prospect will likely see this as a sign of how you approach a relationship.
Today, when making direct contact with a prospect, we need to show that we not only know something about them, but that we have a sense of ways we can help them that’s better than what they are getting now. This requires going beyond the raw facts that anyone can pick up and drawing inferences about their circumstances based on all the information gathered. Going into any meeting with a potential client, be prepared to answer the question: What ideas do you have for me? Base preliminary ideas on the inferences you made from what you learned. This not only shows that you did your homework; it shows that you think. Give them reasons to choose you over whomever else they are using.
Finding Your Balance
Of course, the wave has not changed everything. We still meet with our usual, and not so usual, contacts and find out what’s going on in their lives, what they’re working on, and how they see the world and the people in it. It’s a component that blends with the many new and still evolving expectations and approaches available to us.
Underlying this wave of change is respect, being genuine, showing that we care. To find our balance on the wave, we need to feel our way forward to a place where need and service come together naturally. The implications and potential are tremendous, and the field is wide open to pioneer our way ahead while the water’s warm and the ride is exhilarating.
Note: This article first appeared in the Dec. 2011 issue of Marketing for the Law Firm.
Thalia Zetlin is Chief Marketing Officer of Berdon LLP, one of the country’s top CPA and advisory firms. Throughout more than 25 years as a leader in professional services marketing, Thalia has adapted marketing approaches or introduced new thinking in tune with change. She has shared her thinking in numerous articles and at professional forums, some of which are accessible on her LinkedIn profile. Thalia can be reached at 212.699.6708 or firstname.lastname@example.org.