T. H. Buscaglia and Associates
80 Southwest 8th Street
Suite 2100
Brickell Bayview Center
Miami, Florida 33130
305.324.6000 Tel
305.324.1111 Fax
thombusc@intelaw.com
MARKETING TECHNOLOGY AND BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

There is both good news and bad news when it comes to marketing your firm. The bad news is that in today=s competitive market attorneys have to find more and more ways to maintain and expand their client base. The good news is that new technologies have made more tools available to resourceful attorneys in meeting these new demands.

USEFUL INFORMATION

Often attorneys are too focused on their clients= needs to address their own. It may be useful for you to think as your firm or P.A. as your most important client. That means devoting specific time to doing your Amost important@ client=s business.

  • Tending your fields: As in any business, attorneys need to continually seek ways to enhance the relationship with existing clients and expand their client basis. Since the attorney/client relationship is a person-to-person relationship, this means finding ways to communicate with others in meaningful way.
  • Retention vs. Acquisition costs: It costs five times more to develop a new client or customer than it does to keep an existing one. So, don=t be foolish. You should be spending more time keeping your existing clients happy than trying to find new ones

DATABASE DESIGN

Electronic databases such as Lotus Approach, Microsoft Access or Corel WordPerfect QuattroPro are just a few examples of flexible user-defined devices used to organize and sort information. They allow the user to define numerous fields for each subject and then sort and dynamically view the information by each of the different fields. There are many useful examples of this.

  • Client Development: Client development is a very useful area in which databases case be implemented. Different levels of information can be maintained for potential and actual clients.
  • Suspects: Suspects are people who fit within the general scope of potential clients. Databases can help to fully define and identify the prospective client=s legal needs.
  • Prospects: Prospects are those where some initial contact has been made and a strong potential client relationship is beginning to form.
    Current clients: These are existing clients of the firm. Databases help you to cross-market current clients.
  • Former clients: These are clients of the firm who have no current pending matters, but who may form the most valuable source of new business.

Some of the ways in which the client portion of the database can be used both internally and in generating external communications: targeted presentations; quick, up-to-the-minute information on clients to maintain to a high interpersonal relationship; keeping your presence high in the consciousness of former clients by periodic contacts.

  • Attorneys: Attorneys are often both valuable sources of business and valuable resources.
    Friends:
    Attorneys that met through schools or in social environments and with whom we have not yet established business or professional relationships.
  • Associates: These are attorneys with whom we deal on a more regular basis and who know the areas of our practice and have an idea of our expertise and level of competency
    Opposing counsel: Oftentimes, the people on the other side in one case turn out to be co-counsel on a later case. Never underestimate the value of maintaining a good relationship with opposing counsel.
  • General Bar: Our brethren whom we have not yet met or with whom we have not yet had the pleasure of deal
Databases can be used to inform our friends, update our associates, educate our opposing counsel and introduce ourselves to the general Bar.
  • Client Satisfaction: Existing and former clients are probably the most important asset of a firm. Gauging the level of client satisfaction is an important way in which an automated database can assist you in evaluating the actual quality of the representation you are providing and, more importantly, the perceived quality. The surveys can be presented by mail or through telephone contacts. The information is then inputted into a fields analysis and levels of appreciation and other important information from your current and former clients can be analyzed to help you direct your efforts in the most beneficial areas possible.
    Automation: Databases are, in many ways, the most powerful marketing tools available today. In many instances a minimal amount of effort can generate a substantial result
  • Auto responses: Automatic responses to certain types of inquiries and contacts can be done by a simple merge program between the database and the word processor so that in response to simple inquiries, staff members can generate responses that appear to be personal and customized. Moreover, by combining fields, these responses can, in fact, directly mirror the issues and questions presented
    Bulk mailings: Traditionally, these databases are commonly used for bulk mailings. Though perhaps not the most effective, it is often the only way to identify and contact new markets.

MARKETING ON THE INTERNET

Anyone who hasn=t heard of the internet, what Vice President Al Gore has referred to as the Ainformation superhighway,@ has either been in hiding, isolation or a coma. Anyone who isn=t already actively engaged in commerce on the internet is behind the curve. Moreover, anyone that isn=t planning to actively engage this incredible tool in the day-to-day practice of law is, in my opinion, professionally doomed.

VERY BRIEF HISTORY

The internet evolved from a Defense Department initiative which began by linking the computers at the major university research facilities throughout the United States and the world. This was done to back up the more traditional communications network. Eventually, university researchers began to use this to communicate among themselves in various areas of interest and, ultimately, the commercial potential of this began to drive the internet into what it is today. The introduction of browsers, such as Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer, provided the tools through which the internet was transformed from the world of numbers and letters on a plain background to a world of colors, sounds, pictures and exciting moving visual objects.

DOMAIN NAMES

Domain names are names which are registered in a central depository which give the registered owner the right to use that name on the internet. The last three letter designations were either Aedu@ for educational institutions, Acom@ for commercial ventures and Aorg@ for commercial and nonprofit organizations. In addition, countries and states each have their own primary domain names. Recently, an entire new group of additional names were instituted which will be available in the near future for use by those wishing to register a domain name. The registration of a domain name is the first step in establishing one=s presence on the internet. It is very cost-effective C only $70. And, it is the difference between having mere access to the internet to actually having an identity on the internet.

An identity for any firm interested in proceeding in this area, even if only for purposes of their email, is essential to establishing an appropriate presence. Your domain name will act both as the address of your web site and the address for all of your email such that it integrates all aspects of your firm=s internet presence.

WEB SITES - FROM THE SUBLIME TO THE RIDICULOUS

GETTING STARTED

Web sites come in many forms. Lawyers and law firms have spent hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars to present their firms possible on the information highway. Clearly, the ability of so many people to have instantaneous access to information on a person-to-person basis has and will continue to substantially impact the way that attorneys do business. There are many ways to create a web site, and each comes with its advantages and disadvantages.
  1. Web site basics: There are three basic ways to create a web site. Some are simpler and others require a minimal amount of technical expertise, while others require a greater personal investment of time.
  • Web host services: Host services host sites and offer cookie-cutter design devices. Companies such as West Publishing and Martindale-Hubbell and professional third party site hosts are just a few examples. In conjunction with these web hosting services, these companies provide tools for lay people -- yes, even lawyers -- to build basic functional web sites. The cookie-cutter design devices are usually simple, straightforward, menu-driven procedures allowing an untrained user to input all of the information necessary to create a viable and useful web site. These are the most cost effective entry level devices through which to gain an initial presence on the internet. The downside is that the size of these sites is invariably limited in scope and content and they are tied to a highly populated environment.
  • Professional web site development: Professional web site developers have the expertise to develop the highest quality web sites. They also have the knowledge to assist with promoting and presenting your site in the most favorable way possible. The majority of large firms use these professional, third party web site developers. The main problems with these developers is that with the high quality comes high cost. Firm web sites done professionally can range anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000 and require anything from no maintenance to a full-time employee whose sole job it is to maintain and update the site daily.
  1. Self-help: Those of you with the time and the inclination may be interested in using a WYSIWYG program. WYSIWYG stands for AWhat You See Is What You Get.@ Some common WYSIWYG programs include Microsoft Front Page, Netscape Composer, Adobe Page Mail, Page Maker and many others. Also, both Microsoft Word and Corel WordPerfect word processing programs, when loaded with the proper enhancements, provide this capability. All of these programs have a very user-friendly presentation. However, it is foolish to think that anyone not trained and experienced in this area can build a sophisticated, dynamic site without some help from outside professional. The problems in cross-compatibility of programs and even the ability to view your finished product on the many different web-browsers can all impact the resulting site.
  • Contact vs. Content: There are two basic types of web sites. The first is basically an introductory web site that allows people to learn about and identify your firm. The second, more ambitious, type of web site is one that actually provides a service to the reader by providing them substantive content. Either is acceptable, but it is important to have a clear concept of which approach you wish to take before developing your site.
  1. The formats, purposes and goals: With the goal of either content or contact identified, the presentational format of your site will become more apparent. Also, as it becomes more defined, the purposes of each element of your site will become clear and, hopefully, enhance all of the other elements of your site.
  • Cost benefit: Anyone getting into a web site, whether directly or through a third party, must always maintain an eye on costs. Although the actual hosting of a web site is a fairly nominal cost, the amount of time spent, directly or through a third party, designing and maintaining the site is an ongoing cost that should be considered.
  • Build It and They Will Come ... NOT!: Last year there were over 500,000 separate domain names issued in the United States. By now, there are undoubtedly in excess of 100,000 additional ones. New domains go up everyday. A search of the word Alawyer@ yields more than 100,000 hits. That means that when your web site launches, you will have over 100,000 other web sites to compete with for user attention. We will briefly discuss the three primary ways that people find web sites. So, just building your web site is not enough.
  1. Search engines: Search engines are the primary way that people locate web sites. These are computer databases which are accessed by users through their internet browsers. As a result, certain information on each web site registered with the search engine comes forward after a search is commenced and a resulting list is generated that the user can select from to select the site of the type and substance that they seek.
  • Indexes: Indexes are similar to search engines. However, they are targeted in scope and more abbreviated in content. As a result, they tend to run faster, but produce less defined results. Just as with search engines, it is up to the author of the site to register his site with these indexes by business classification and category.
  • Banner advertisements: Banner advertisements are the most effective way to get users to come to your web site. However, they are very expensive. It is not uncommon for banner ads to generate as many as 10,000 hits per week. That makes them valuable and expensive. As attorneys the best way to capitalize on the value of banner ads is by listing your firm with companies that pay for the ads and through their expenditure receive the benefit of contacts within your practice or geographical area.
  1. Florida Bar Procedures and Regulations: The Florida Bar has engendered very specific regulations regarding the implementation of web sites.
  • Home page: The home page of every web site, that is the initial page contacted by the client, is treated as a solicitation. As such, $100 fee and a copy of your home page must be submitted to the Bar. Just as with direct solicitations, there are limitations on content that can be provided in these sites. In addition, each home page by an attorney in Florida is required to have the standard Bar disclaimer included.
  • Everything else: Everything else in your web site is discretionary. This does not mean that you can put whatever you want there. However, it does mean that the Bar need not approve all your internal web pages prior to publication. This means that you can update the content of your site on a daily basis without the need for unruly administrative procedures that would hinder your ability to maintain an active site.

EMAIL

PUTTING EMAIL TO WORK FOR YOUR FIRM

An often neglected portion of the use of the internet in contacting and maintaining client relationships is email.

  1. Client Relations: Email can do wonders for client relationships. It allows you to maintain daily contact with your clients. However, it does not require you to be Aavailable@ when the client contacts you. Because of the format of email, you respond when you have the time.
  1. Electronic Newsletters: Electronic newsletters are an excellent way to promote your firm if you find that you have a substantial number of clients and interested parties with email. Although an unsolicited newsletter might be considered a solicitation within the Bar rules, once an initial contact has been made through another forum, providing clients, prospects and other attorneys with an electronic newsletter on a periodically within your practice area can be an excellent way to keep your name on the top of any list of possible counsel.
  1. Networking: Email is also an excellent way to develop networks. Both the ABA and the Florida Bar have active network forms in numerous practice areas. In addition, most industries, vocations and advocations have mailing lists that can be subscribed to as easily as sending a message. Your participation in these sorts of mailing lists will expose you and your practice to many new people without running the risk of solicitation.
  1. Post Representation Contact: Email is also an excellent cost effective way to maintain post representation contact with former clients. It is much less expensive than traditional mail, instantaneous and easy to respond to.

 

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