Spill The Ink

Michelle Calcote King

Welcome to Spill the Ink, a podcast by Reputation Ink that features law firm growth and visibility experts. read less

AEC Business Development Trends and Strategies for a Constantly Evolving Market
6d ago
AEC Business Development Trends and Strategies for a Constantly Evolving Market
Competition in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) field has grown increasingly fierce over the years. Economic changes, market movement, technological advancements and — of course — the pandemic have greatly impacted the evolving business landscape.  According to Lori Sullivan, building stronger relationships with people will always be at the heart of winning business and sales strategies. AEC business developers must focus on developing customer-centric strategies that resonate and strengthen connections with prospective clients to succeed and stay ahead of the competition.  In this episode of Spill the Ink, Michelle Calcote King invites Lori Sullivan to share her expert insight on the latest trends and strategies for success in the AEC industry. Sullivan is the President of BluePrint Growth Consulting and brings a unique perspective to the conversation backed by a decades-long career in the construction sector. Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn Trends impacting sales and business development strategies in the AEC industryThe anatomy of an excellent sales plan and how to effectively plan for long-term successCommon mistakes AEC firms commit when building their sales and business development planThe value of branding and reputation management in the business development process About our featured guest Lori J. Sullivan is a seasoned AEC professional, having worked as a construction engineer and project manager before moving into business planning and development for some of the nation’s top construction management firms, including Turner Construction Company and Gilbane Building Company. Lori was named an Architectural Engineering Centennial Fellow in 2010 by her alma mater, Penn State University.   In 2012, Sullivan launched BluePrint Growth Consulting to help AEC organizations grow. BluePrint Consulting is a provider of building industry-specific research, strategy, sales planning and training solutions designed to improve sales performance and increase revenue for their clients.   As an AEC industry-leading provider of research and brand perception studies, the company has completed thousands of hours of interviews with buyers and influencers of AEC services. Using customer insights and industry research, they work with their clients to position them in the right markets and determine prospects who fit the company's expertise. Their sales and marketing plan implementation methods are based on a continuously updated body of research. Resources mentioned in this episode Check out BluePrint Growth ConsultingFollow BluePrint Growth Consulting on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedInConnect with Lori Sullivan on LinkedInSay hello to Michelle Calcote King on Twitter and LinkedIn Sponsor for this episode This episode is brought to you by Reputation Ink. Founded by Michelle Calcote King, Reputation Ink is a public relations and content marketing agency that serves professional services firms of all shapes and sizes across the United States, including corporate law firms and architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) firms.  Reputation Ink understands how sophisticated corporate buyers find and select professional services firms. For more than a decade, they have helped firms grow through thought leadership-fueled strategies, including public relations, content marketing, video marketing, social media, podcasting, marketing strategy services and more. To learn more, visit www.rep-ink.com or email them at info@rep-ink.com today. Transcript [00:00:00] Lori Sullivan: Many of the plans that I take a look at don't have goals. And I find that so often business leaders will equate goals with limiting expectations. They want to go out and just get as much work as they can but that makes it really, really hard for your business development team to really measure progress towards your goals. So, people don't feel like they're playing a winnable game.  [music] [00:00:28]: Welcome to Spill The Ink, a podcast by Reputation Ink where we feature experts in growth and brand visibility for law firms and architecture, engineering, and construction firms. Now, let's get started with the show. [music] [00:00:45] Michelle Calcote King: Hi, everyone. I'm Michelle Calcote King. I'm your host, and I'm also the principal and president of Reputation Ink. We’re a public relations and content marketing agency for architecture, engineering and construction firms and other professional services firms. To learn more, go to rep-ink.com.  Today we're going to be talking about hoe the AEC industry is rapidly, and some might say, dramatically transforming the way firms view and approach of business development and sales strategies is constantly adjusting to meet this evolving market and its demands and economic shifts. In today's episode, we're going to focus on those emerging trends and best practices that AEC leaders should keep in mind when pursuing growth opportunities in 2023 and beyond.  Joining me for this conversation is Lori Sullivan of Blueprint Growth Consulting. She's built a decades-long career in the construction sector, starting off as an engineer and project manager and now running a successful consulting business advising AEC firms on their business development strategies. Welcome to Spill The Ink. [00:01:53] Lori: Thanks so much, Michelle. I'm happy to be here. [00:01:55] Michelle: Yes, I'm excited to talk about this. If you could just tell us a little bit about your work at Blueprint Growth Consulting. [00:02:03] Lori: Sure. We're an advisory practice and we focus exclusively in the building industry. All of our customers are architects, engineers, builders, construction managers, general contractors and specialty contractors. We work with them specifically on growth plans, and customer-facing business development plans. [00:02:26] Michelle: That's great. Give me an anatomy of an excellent business development and sales plan. What does that look like? What is a good one when you see it? [00:02:37] Lori: Sure. First and foremost, a good business development plan is a customer-focused plan. A business development plan is not the same as a business plan. Your business development plan lays out who your ideal customer is, what the best-fit attributes are of a good client. It talks about specifically what they value about doing business with your firm or your organization, and then how you're going to meet their expectations. That's probably the first and most important part of it. The next part of it is that it has goals associated with it. Many of the plans that I take a look at don't have goals. And I find that so often business leaders will equate goals with limiting expectations. They want to go out and just get as much work as they can but that makes it really, really hard for your business development team to really measure progress towards your goals. So, people don't feel like they're playing a winnable game. A good sales and marketing plan really needs to have goals in it. The other thing that it does is it allows you to create a scorecard. Especially in an uncertain market, it allows you to break down the progress that you're making toward your goals and then allows you to pivot and shift as the economy shifts. Then lastly, a good plan has to be actionable. This is really super important because without it, you really have nothing other than a book or a binder. You don't really have a plan. You have to have a plan for what it is you're going to go out there and do.  One of the mistakes I see people making so often is that they jump right into this phase. They jump right to the tactical phase of things instead of making sure that they all are aligned towards who their ideal customer is, how much work they need to generate, what kind of profitability they're focusing on, and then they prioritize those action items to address those types of things. I think that's the right framework for a good sales and marketing plan. [00:04:56] Michelle: I can see that. I can see going straight to the tactics. The “What am I going to do?” Versus spending the time to really identify “What's an ideal client for us? What are their needs? What are their concerns?” That kind of thing. [00:05:09] Lori: Yes, that's right. [00:05:11] Michelle: That's interesting that you're seeing that a lot. You just pointed out, they often don't define their ideal client, they don't do that work. What are some other mistakes that you see AEC firms make when building a plan that you've helped them avoid? [00:05:33] Lori: One of the biggest things that people really don't do is they don't map out what their sales and marketing or their business development process looks like internally. It's very difficult for them to scale up or to scale back or to look and see where there may be holes in their game. It's one of the important internal things that folks need to do. By going through what that business development process looks like, it uncovers what your prospecting tactics are. Not all prospecting tactics are right for every customer, or every market sector; for every firm or every organization. By mapping out your process and looking at specifically what prospecting looks like, and then what happens when you have identified a prospect how you then advance it through your own internal process, as well as nurture the external relationship or the opportunity. You can skip some of the important steps and forget really how important it is that everybody is working along the same process. [00:06:44] Michelle: How has prospecting changed in the last few years? I can imagine dramatically. My guess is prospecting really involved a lot of in-person meetings, trade shows and networking events. How has that changed? What does that look like now? [00:07:05] Lori: I don't know that it has changed so much other than it has evolved. I think the important thing is that you adopt a prospecting approach, or a prospecting tactic, that works right for your customers, for your ideal customer, and also for your market sector. But there are some things that have evolved in interesting ways. I think digital marketing is an evolution of how we build the brand. I think organizations who have been able to successfully do that have really seen the value in it, and the economy of it because it's easy to implement. It's relatively inexpensive to do if you do it right. I think a lot of people dismiss it because it is so simple but sometimes the low-hanging fruit is the best fruit and in my mind that digital marketing, you get a real huge bang for your buck. I think the magic behind it is that you have to have the right message. What I work with my clients all the time is don't jump right into something that's super sophisticated if you don't know the market or the message for your target market. If you get that message right, then you're able to implement very effective social media or digital media strategy and know that the message is going to hit your target audience. [00:08:40] Michelle: I'm with you there. Do you find that your clients understand the value of a brand in the business development process? Do they understand brand and reputation and how that plays a role in it? [00:08:55] Lori: Yes, I think so. The word brand throws people off, but when you just simply discuss it in real words, in terms of, "This is your reputation and this is how people think about you," people understand it. At the end of the day, we're a professional service organization so our reputation and our client's trust in our ability to deliver value to them is fundamentally important. Without that, everything else is purposeless. When you really just talk about brand that's what you're talking about. Then everybody's like, "Yes, I'm good with that whatever you want to call it." I think more and more now, you have to be more in control of that reputation or that brand because clients can do research so easily. You have to really be controlling not only what you say to clients, but what other people are saying about you or what the perception of your presence is in the three-dimensional world, the digital world. I think people or organizations who haven't paid attention to it are behind the eight ball. There's no doubt about it. [00:10:16] Michelle: Yes, absolutely. 100%. What other trends are impacting how AEC firms pursue business? Are there anything that is really changing the way they do it or evolving the way they do it? [00:10:28] Lori: Yes, I think that the uncertainty in the economy is a big thing right now. For better or worse, I've been through, this will be my seventh recession since I started in the industry. Back in the 80s, the energy crisis of the 90s, the dot-com bubble, subprime mortgage, you can go on and on, COVID, post-COVID. I see organizations acting the same way. They see it coming, they hear all of the signs, but then all of a sudden, it hits them, and the backlog drys up, and they lay off people and they stopped doing marketing. I think that many of the more mature organizations are trying to get out ahead of it and not let that happen again where we just start to shut all of our resources. What I see the successful organizations doing now, is not saying, "Let's get rid of overhead, but let's be clear on how we're going to be spending our resources, and really focusing on that. Let's not just go out and chase work because we just want to have a full backlog.” They want to make sure that they're chasing the right kind of clients and the right kind of work. They're taking a critical look at their pipeline, and what makes a healthy pipeline, and that there are opportunities at the top of the funnel, the middle of the funnel, and the bottom of the funnel, not just focusing on scrambling to put stuff in the top, or slashing fees at the bottom of the funnel. I see, at least with my customers, a much more thoughtful approach to preparing for this recession, should it come, should it not come. [00:12:28] Michelle: I know. Yes, I'm tired of “Will it? Won’t it? What's it going to look like?” Yes, all of that. [00:12:36] Lori: Yes, for sure. [00:12:37] Michelle: Interesting. It's so sector-specific, too.  How does your guidance change for clients targeting government work? Is that an area that your clients are heavily involved with, with government work? Are there any specific trends there? [00:12:58] Lori: Most of my clients are in the private sector. I have a few clients who work in the public sector, mostly in transportation. We're waiting to see what happens with the transportation and infrastructure funding that's coming. Among the clients that I work with, we haven't really seen that manifest itself yet, but we know that it's out there. We know that the need is there, the funding is in place, but we haven't seen it come yet. But it's counter-cyclical to so many of the other industries that are pulling back. Overall, for the building industry, it's a good thing. [00:13:40] Michelle: Yes, absolutely. In one of your blog posts, you mentioned a sales planning blueprint, and I believe it's your tool that you use to help firms take a proactive approach to their planning. Can you describe that? [00:13:58] Lori: Yes. Going back to the beginning of our conversation, it's very customer-focused. The sales planning blueprint that we lay out is really super clear on what a best-fit customer is. We look at a customer along a number of dimensions. That's everything from what are their core values, and are they aligned with our core values? Because at the end of the day, we want to do business with people who respect us, and we can get along and communicate with. We look at dimensions such as how impactful they are in terms of long-term opportunities for us. Also is there a good fit with the kind of work that we do? We get really super clear on what a best-fit customer is. I want to make sure all the time that it’s unique to each individual firm or company. Once we have a clear idea of who that customer is, we do extensive research on what those best-fit companies value about my particular architectural firm, engineering firm or construction firm. This is really important because the market is saturated, and so all AEC organizations tend to look alike. You have to really zero in on what those value drivers are, and we do this through a lot of primary and secondary research. Before we move anywhere past putting an action plan in place or goals, we make sure what the value drivers are and know exactly how we can deliver on that. Once we have that in place, then we move into making sure that we have goals. We segment the whole market and really go target the best customers for our particular company. Then what we do is we put an action plan in place. The very last part of it is the action planning phase. We focus a ton of time on prospecting methodologies. What are your marketing methodologies that you can use? How did they work with your particular best-fit customer? What are your field marketing techniques? Going out meeting one on one with customers? How does Account Based Marketing fit if at all with your customers? Then what are your capturing strategies? We do all of that. The action phase really becomes the part that makes it a results-oriented plan as opposed to just a whole bunch of stats. They're usually one page. We try to keep them to one page and we find if we can be really clear and focused, then we can communicate that plan as simply as possible. [00:17:03] Michelle: I love that. That primary research, does that mean that you're actually going and conducting interviews with potential clients? That's great. Do you find that the things that they value tend to be similar across the board, or are you finding very distinct things by sector, by industry, size? [00:17:28] Lori: It's all of the above. We interview customers who are the best fit for my client. The dialogue that we have with them is different depending on the type of service we're providing and where our own personal strengths and weaknesses are, where we see opportunities. The answers tend to be really super specific. What comes back then is not something that sounds just like “what buyers of AEC services want,” but this is what your specific customer values about you. This is about all of your different types of resources and various attributes of your company. That said, I've been doing these now for about 10 years. We've done thousands and thousands of one-on-one interviews. We do see some trends over time that reflect how customers feel and what they value. A good example of that is the interviews and the feedback that we got during the pandemic where the customers were just so overwhelmed. Those people who were the buyers of AEC services also were doing double duty in so many other parts of their job that they were just overwhelmed. Business development had to take a very different approach, recognizing that companies aren't doing business with companies. People are doing business with people, and those people were really hurting personally. That was a big thing. I still hear that. [00:19:20] Michelle: Yes, I know. It feels like it's a little unsustainable, this track we're all on here. Yes, I can imagine you're hearing that.  What are some of the top prospecting methodologies that the majority of your clients are using? [00:19:38] Lori: My clients use different approaches to business development. Some use professional business developers, others use to seller-doer model. For those who use professional business developers, general networking seems to be the most productive thing. It's a people business at the end of the day, so getting out among people, understanding what's happening in the market, keeping your finger on the pulse of where the trends are industry by industry, sector by sector is super important. Just having a healthy network of people that you can gather intelligence and information from is probably the most important thing you can do. With the seller-doers, the primary prospecting tactic falls along the lines of thought leadership. The expectation for seller-doers is often not to go out there and just camp around in the dark and bring in a lead. It's usually much more focused than that and is really intended to ensure that they can maintain that trusted adviser status with their customers. Thought leadership takes myriad forms, from writing and speaking to serving on boards, and that type of thing. I think those are the most important ones. What I hear company leaders say all the time is, "Hey if you just get me to the table, I know what to do." Never have I ever had a client where I sit down and I'm like, "All right, what's going well? What's not going well." They're like, "Yes, if I could just get to the table more often." [chuckles] [00:21:19] Michelle: Yes. [00:21:20] Lori: We spend an awful lot of time on what that looks like, and what table do you want to sit at right now? Then we build the prospecting tactic around that. [00:21:29] Michelle: Yes, yes. That's great. I love to hear that. Thought leadership is really where we focus our working in and just helping those leaders facilitating the thought leadership and making it more impactful. I love to hear that. Do more people wonder what you do? [00:21:52] Lori: More people need what you do. The thoughts are in people's heads– [00:21:55] Michelle: They're there. Exactly, yes. [00:21:57] Lori: –getting it out is important. [00:21:59] Michelle: Exactly. I borrowed a term from another agency called knowledge extraction years ago, and I've been using it and it's really what we do because they're busy people, they need someone to help pull out that information, that knowledge; help them package it out, get it in the right places, that kind of thing because you don't want it to just live in their heads and not use those insights and knowledge. Yes, absolutely.  You mentioned this is a people business, it's built on relationships. How do you help your clients better develop those relationships and help them in that process? [00:22:41] Lori: Mostly, I work with seller-doers. The thing I stress with them is be yourself, be authentic. Don't try to be a salesman. Winning new work is not about selling, it's about building the relationship and you just have to do that in a way that's natural for you. When you're out working on a project, you're just being yourself and we just want to build into that conversation. What comes next? How do we deepen it? How do we position ourselves in a defensive position with our customers so that they don't have the desire to want to go and look elsewhere for new service providers? It's really just about helping them understand what expectations are for customers. How customers view what they do and building out conversations like, “What does trust look like on a contraction site? What does trust look like during the bidding process? How do customers communicate it? What are you doing inadvertently, perhaps, to undermine trust?” When customers say, "We want you to be more responsive," what does that actually look and sound like? When we do our interviews, we call them the “Voice of the Customer,” because we actually capture what clients are saying specifically and try to understand how that translates into everyday behavior. That's just a big part of helping people learn how to be a successful seller-doer or successful in their role as business development and in marketing. [00:24:27] Michelle: Yes, I can imagine the research that you do upfront helps tremendously with that because any relationship, if the person you're dealing with, if you know a lot about what's keeping them up at night, their concerns, how they think, you're going to build much better relationships. I can see that.  I'd like to ask a few more general questions just to end out our interview. If you can think what would be the most valuable lesson you've learned in your career that you now apply to the work that you do. [00:25:06] Lori: The most important thing, it comes down to one thing: don't make assumptions. Don't base your marketing, your business development or your business plan on any assumptions. Go ask your customers, "What's important to you? What do you value?" Then build your marketing plan around that. I can't tell you how often I've sat around the table with people debating what they think the right answer is, I'm like, "Oh, maybe we should ask your client or your customer,” because they're going to tell you." I would say that's the biggest lesson. Going into an uncertain economy, knowing exactly what your customers value helps you put marketing plans in place that are cost-effective. It helps you go hire folks like you and say, "This is the story we want to tell. Help us do that. Help us build our brand around conversations that our clients value." It all starts and finishes there. It’s the biggest lesson. [00:26:06] Michelle: I love that. That's great. Thank you so much. I've learned a lot and learned how you really add value to your clients. Thank you for talking to me.  We've been talking to Lori Sullivan of BluePrint Growth Consulting. What's the best way if listeners want to get in touch with you? [00:26:24] Lori: Our website is www.bdblueprint.com. I look at my email all the time, for better or worse, shoot me a message if you want to chat or send me a text message and we'll get in touch. [00:26:39] Michelle: Great. bdblueprint.com. love it. All right. Thank you so much. [00:26:43] Lori: Pleasure. Thanks so much. Very nice to meet you. [music] [00:26:47]: Thanks for listening to Spill The Ink, a podcast by Reputation Ink. We'll see you again next time and be sure to click subscribe to get future episodes.
Legal Tech Trends: How Technology is Transforming the Legal Industry
Jan 12 2023
Legal Tech Trends: How Technology is Transforming the Legal Industry
The global legal technology market has rapidly grown into a multibillion-dollar industry — and it’s still expanding. Even in its infancy, legal tech is revolutionizing how law firms manage client relationships and internal processes, yielding better overall services for more affordable prices. What trends are shaping the future of the legal industry? What do law firms need to know to keep up with the times? This episode of Spill the Ink features Jared Correia, the founder and CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting and co-founder of Gideon Software, Inc. Jared and Michelle Calcote King discuss how emerging legal tech is changing the way firms operate and the common barriers to tech adoption in firms. Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn Legal tech trends and how they directly impact law firmsHow may an economic recession impact the legal tech market?What market factors drive legal tech development?What up-and-coming legal tech companies and events are worth paying attention to?How is legal tech changing service delivery and pricing models?  About our featured guest Jared D. Correia, Esq. is the founder and CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting and co-founder and COO of Gideon Software, Inc. Red Cave offers subscription-based business management consulting services for law firms, bar associations and legal organizations. Jared is a regular contributor to legal publications, including his column, “Managing,” for Attorney at Work. Jared is the host of the award-winning Legal Toolkit podcast on Legal Talk Network, and hosts the NonEventcast podcast for Above the Law, which focuses on technology and innovation in the legal field. Resources mentioned in this episode Check out Red Cave Law Firm ConsultingFollow Red Cave Law Firm Consulting on Twitter and LinkedIn Check out Gideon Software, Inc.Connect with Jared Correia on LinkedInSay hello to Michelle Calcote King on Twitter and LinkedIn Sponsor for this episode This episode is brought to you by Reputation Ink. Founded by Michelle Calcote King, Reputation Ink is a public relations and content marketing agency that serves professional services firms of all shapes and sizes across the United States, including corporate law firms and architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) firms.  Reputation Ink understands how sophisticated corporate buyers find and select professional services firms. For more than a decade, they have helped firms grow through thought leadership-fueled strategies, including public relations, content marketing, video marketing, social media, podcasting, marketing strategy services and more. To learn more visit www.rep-ink.com or email them at info@rep-ink.com today. Transcript [00:00:00] Jared Correia: I think lawyers have to start being more comfortable with change management. I think lawyers have to start being more comfortable with risk management. That's the biggest barrier to everything. I'm seeing that improve. You see a lot of these attorneys who are 60s, 70s, 80s moving out of the practice. A lot more attorneys who are in 40s and 50s taking over practices, and they have a more open mind. Then the other big issue I see outside of the attorneys is the lack of structured data. If you want to start running analytics, if you want to have machine learning going at a high level, the data needs to be structured. Layperson's term might be “labeled more effectively.” [music] [00:00:40]: Welcome to Spill The Ink a podcast by Reputation Ink where we feature experts in growth and brand visibility for law firms and architecture, engineering and construction firms. Now, let's get started with the show. [music] [00:00:56] Michelle Calcote King Hey everyone, I'm Michelle Calcote King. I'm your host, and I'm the principal and president of Reputation Ink. We're a public relations and content marketing agency for law firms and legal services companies and other professional services firms. To learn more, go to rep-ink.com.  Today we're going to talk about the legal tech market. It's growing quickly. In 2021, it generated about $27 billion in revenue. In the United States alone, it's expected to exceed $35 billion by 2027. As a side note, my team here has written some great blog posts, especially recently to help legal tech professionals navigate and boost their PR. Go ahead and check out those on our website. Today we're going to dive into the trends that are impacting the legal tech industry, how emerging technologies are helping law firms and in-house legal departments modernize and improve their operations. Today, I'm speaking to Jared Correia, and in fact, I always ask how to pronounce the name and I forgot to. [00:01:57] Jared: It's a tough one. There's too many vowels. [00:02:00] Michelle: Did I butcher it? [00:02:01] Jared: That was pretty bad. No! But in all seriousness, it's “coh-RI-ah” like the country. [00:02:06] Michelle: Oh, Correia. There you go. Perfect. [00:02:08] Jared: It's even simpler than that, though. [00:02:10] Michelle: I love it. Jared's the founder and CEO of Red Cave Consulting. He's a business management consultant for law firms, and he's a legal tech entrepreneur.  [00:02:20] Jared: Here I am working from my kitchen! [00:02:22] Michelle: There you go! He's a seasoned podcaster. I'm really looking forward to this. Welcome to the show. Thanks for joining me. [00:02:28] Jared: Thank you. Thank you. I brought my best mic just for you. [laughs] [00:02:32] Michelle: There you go. I like it. Tell me about Red Cave. If you can just give me a background, how you ended up in this area. [00:02:41] Jared: I don't know if it was necessarily planned. [laughs] I went to law school after college not having any idea what I would do with my life because who knows what they're going to do when they graduate from college with an English degree? What do you do? I don't know. I was like, "Oh, I'll go to law school. That sounds fun." I get to law school and I was like, "Wow, this is horrendously boring." When I was in my second year of law school, I went to the career development office and I'm like, "I think I should do business consulting for lawyers because they don't seem to be great at business consulting." They were like, "Hey, maybe you should get a real job, like a lawyer job." That's how it went. Then randomly, four or five years later after working in law firms for a little bit Massachusetts launched this free consulting program for attorneys. I started working there, worked there for about eight years, and then started my own company which I've been running for almost 10 years at this point. Then a few years back, I also started a software company with a partner of mine as well. I got a couple irons in the fire. [00:03:40] Michelle: That's amazing that you thought about consulting back in college. It's one of those things you don't really-- especially business consulting for lawyers, I haven't heard of anyone having that light bulb moment that early on. [00:03:54] Jared: I was in these law firms on internships and I was like, "My god, this is a dumpster fire. What is going on?" I'm like, "I could do better than this." [laughs] That's how it worked for me. [00:04:06] Michelle: That's fantastic. Tell me about the software company. [00:04:09] Jared: About, I want to say four years ago we launched this. It's a chatbot for intake, qualification, scheduling and then document assembly for law firms. The idea is that you can qualify leads and then once those leads become clients, you can produce documents off of a chat-based interface. We've had a lot of success with that. People, clients like building documents via chat through law firms and it takes a lot of the lift off the law firms. We got to a bunch of firms we're working with on that. [00:04:41] Michelle: What management consulting are you doing? Are you doing it mostly in the tech area or are you advising firms on on other issues? [00:04:52] Jared: My pitch to law firms is like, "Imagine if you had a partner who actually knew how to run a business. That's me." We engage people usually a couple times a month. We do a biweekly meeting just to keep things moving forward, but it's super broad. I've always been really shallow in terms of the categories. It could be technology, it could be marketing, it could be financial management and then I don't do the implementation stuff and I'm not building websites.  What's really cool, is that I've met a lot of people in the industry who do good work at very specific things. I can say, "Okay, I can help you with this or I can help you construct a plan around this, but you're going to need these three service providers as well who can help you and I've got great recommendations to make for that.” That's being an outside business partner-ish, working as far as this is concerned. Then in addition to working with law firms directly, we also have partnerships with around 20 bar associations. We're the consulting partner for the bar association and that's cheaper for the bars than hiring someone in-house to do that work. [00:05:55] Michelle: Fantastic. Let's talk about legal tech. You've carved a niche in the legal tech area. I know you do a lot of writing and speaking about legal tech. Tell me your take on what the market's seen this year and where it's going. I'd especially be interested in your thoughts with all this talk around the recession and how that's going to impact legal tech. Sorry to- [00:06:25] Jared: I know everybody-- [00:06:25] Michelle: -just throw a lot at you there. [00:06:26] Jared: [laughs] It's so funny. [00:06:29] Jared: Everybody's like, what about the recession? I'm not an economist. I've no idea. [00:06:33] Michelle: I feel we've been talking about recessions for three years now. [00:06:37] Jared: It seems like it's been a long time. [00:06:38] Michelle: Yes, I know. [00:06:40] Jared: Inflation's high, obviously. I don't know if we're in a recession or not, but my whole approach to this with law firms is like, you should be using technology to run your practice because it's going to be cheaper than using people in certain spaces. But you always run or run a lean law firm whether there's a recession or not and the leaner you can get, the more profit margin you can make, the more efficient you can be. I'm always telling law firms whether it's a recession or not, whether it's high times, you want to be as efficient as possible and running your law firm as effectively as possible because you're making the most money you can in that construct whatever's happening at that time. Maybe it's less than you would've made two years ago, but it's still pretty good probably. I found that most law firms are not really innovative at all. Not a lot of law firms are trying new things, not a lot of law firms are being aggressive about marketing, for example. The ability to be an outlier and legal it's a little bit easier to do that than in other industries where the business owners absolutely are more savvy. That's the way I look at it with folks. As far as legal tech trends are concerned, I guess there's two big ones I'm looking at right now. One is all the consolidation that's happening. As you know, all these larger companies, oftentimes like the case management software companies like the Clio or a Filevine or MyCase, they're either snapping up these smaller companies, or in the case of MyCase, they're being snapped up by larger companies like a LawPay. I think everybody's got this notion in their head that there's going to be this operating system for legal and there's this big battle between these huge companies about who's going to be the operating system for legal. I think that's a flawed premise, honestly. I don't buy that as being a thing. I think lawyers are too independent and I think most lawyers want to choose the best in class solution rather than-- [00:08:35] Michelle: And law firms are different. I know there's a lot of similarities. A small firm versus a large firm, a business firm versus a plaintiff firm. There's quite a variety. [00:08:46] Jared: I'm not seeing a world in which there's the Lexis and Westlaw of legal technology. I'm just not seeing that. The other thing I'm seeing is I kind of feel we're in the second wave of legal technology, as I would call it. The first wave is '08, '09, everybody started using the Cloud, all these case management software products came out, Rocket Matter came out, Clio came out, everybody's like, "That's awesome. Back office software. That seems to be selling. Let's build a ton of that." Then nobody built anything else. Pandemic hits and all of a sudden, all of these law firms are doing analog intake. You got to do digital intake and they have no way to do it. There's no software for lawyers built for that. Now you're starting to see more investments made in front office technology. You're starting to see more companies come out in front office technology, you're starting to see these back office tools, either acquiring systems that can do front office technology or building those features into their own products. I think that's going to continue, and I think it's long overdue. And that's one of the reasons we started a company that was a front office software because there's not enough of that in the space. [00:09:49] Michelle: Absolutely. I was shocked. I remember during the pandemic learning that one of my clients, no one had laptops. The entire firm. [00:10:00] Jared: What were they using instead? Stone tablets? [00:10:02] Michelle: Desktops, yes. You had to be in the office to work and I thought, "Are you kidding me?" It was quite a wake up call. [00:10:11] Jared: It's so wild. Lawyers cling to those desktops, it's crazy. [00:10:14] Michelle: Yes, it really is. I know we all have stories like this, but I still have a client — I don't do a lot of the day-to-day work anymore — but he will print out an email, write his response on the piece of paper, hand it to his assistant who will scan it and send it back to us. [laughter] [00:10:37] Jared: I was talking to a lawyer last week who was like all out of breath and I was like, "What are you doing?" She's like, "Oh, I'm taking my desktop out of my trunk and bringing it to my office." I'm like, "Are you for real right now?" [laughs] [00:10:47] Michelle: Wow, that's wild. [00:10:48] Jared: It's crazy. It happens all the time. [00:10:52] Michelle: What do you see are the areas that you think are going to really continue to grow? We had the pandemic that really put a turbocharge on — and you mentioned the front office stuff. Are there certain areas where you think are going to grow moving forward more than others? [00:11:10] Jared: I think the front office tech is going to explode a little bit here, which I've already mentioned. The other thing probably obviously maybe not, is automation: triggered automation, behavior automation, which leads to the machine learning and the AI. I get law firms, for example, who ask me all the time can you automate conflict checks? I don't think you can because I don't think the technology's sensitive enough right now. But at some point if you run a viable AI on that, you could be in a position where you could do something like that where a machine could tell you whether there's a conflict and do it in a similar way to how a human would do it. I think that technology is in its nascent stages. If you look at all that back office, front office software I'm talking about, none of it uses really any high level machine learning or artificial intelligence. You're seeing some of this stuff happening in legal research software. They're actually starting to use data effectively.  The three big things I see, one is the AI piece that's coming, the use of data analytics by law firms and software. You've seen that happen in sports, you've seen that happen in finance, you've seen that happen in a bunch of other industries where there's more reliance on data so people can make better decisions. No law firm are really doing that right now. I think the software is going to start to be developed to do that. Then the other stuff I think is interesting is all these web-based communities. People look at— Facebook changes name to Meta and everybody thinks Facebook is the Metaverse. There's a bunch of these different segregated online communities, which are various Metaverses and you're starting to see law firms do things like set up virtual office spaces in there. I think that's going to start to become more and more utilized by firms. Those are three things that I think are trending right now that you're going to see developed over the course of like probably in terms of AI over the next 15, 20 years, maybe more. [00:13:10] Michelle: Are there any major barriers that this industry is going to face that might slow down the growth? [00:13:21] Jared: The biggest barrier are the attorneys, because they hate change. When I talk to people about lawyers, people are like, “Lawyers are risk averse. They're so risk averse. I don't understand why.” It's obvious because their job is to spot every possible risk and so when they look at a new venture, they're like, "Oh, my god, look at all the things that could go wrong here. Why would I do that?" If they were advising a client, they would never do that. I think lawyers have to start being more comfortable with change management. I think lawyers have to start being more comfortable with risk management. That's the biggest barrier to everything. I'm seeing that improve. You see a lot of these attorneys who are 60s, 70s, 80s moving out of the practice. A lot more attorneys who are 40s and 50s taking over practices, and they have a more open mind. Then the other big issue I see outside of the attorneys is the lack of structured data. If you want to start running analytics, if you want to have machine learning going at a high level, the data needs to be structured. Layperson's term might be “labeled more effectively.” If there are five different software you're using and they each label a settlement with a different field, it's going to be very hard to extract meaningful information from that data. That's one of the things that's going to have to happen and both the technology companies and the attorneys are going to have to put a premium on that. That's just hard work that no one wants to do. Those are two big issues that I see. [00:14:53] Michelle: Do you think the trends that I've seen in the legal industry are often driven by client demand, things like diversity… Diversity is the best example I can think of. [00:15:07] Jared: That's a great example. [00:15:09] Michelle: This isn't altruistic firms, this is client saying, "Do it." Do you think clients will have any impact on the growth of this market? [00:15:21] Jared: Yes and I think they already are. I think the two big things that are being driven by law firm clients — and it's more of a push the bigger they get. The bigger companies are going to demand more of this. Law firms that are operating as outside council are starting to see this already in waves. The first is efficiency.  A few years back, like Casey Flaherty who was a Chief Legal Counselor at Kia, the car company. He was starting to give efficiency tests to law firms. Like, can you actually convert a PDF from a Word document? A lot of them couldn't do it, because all these companies are upset because a lot of these firms are operating on the billable hour that incentivizes inefficiency. Why would you learn to do anything more efficiently? You wouldn't. You're seeing a lot of pressure from companies now about law firm efficiency, more challenging of billing, more requests for alternative pricing models as well that don't value efficiency as highly. Then I think in addition to that, the other big thing is data security. You see a lot of these larger companies say, "Okay we've got sensitive legal files on our side, but you as a law firm are also maintaining sensitive legal files. We see new stories about law firms being breached all the time. What are you doing to secure your data effectively?" That's not just any longer about having a written information security program or a data security document that's two pages long. That's also about filling out the forms that these companies want you to fill out. I have a friend of mine who runs IT for several large law firms and they're asking these firms to fill out 100 page, 200 page queries about how they manage their data security. They have no clue how to do it. Those questions are only going to get harder. And this is in the US, we're not even talking about Europe with GDPR. [00:17:15] Michelle: I attended a managing partners forum, maybe it was last year. The very beginning of it, they went around and talked about-- The question was, what's keeping you up at night? These are managing partners of mostly smaller defense firms. The amount of people that said cybersecurity was outstanding to me. I mean it was by far the number one topic. That doesn’t surprise me at all. [00:17:45] Jared: It's a huge deal. Lawyers are risk averse because they understand the law very well. They don't understand the data security space very well and it's really dangerous. It's not enough just to get a cybersecurity malpractice insurance policy. You need to actually implement the tools in your office. [00:18:06] Michelle: Yes, absolutely, because it's such a reputation risk as well. [00:18:12] Jared: That's the biggest thing. As you would know, running a PR firm. That's a PR nightmare. A data breach. [00:18:17] Michelle: PR nightmare, absolutely. The risk aversion is something that as marketing and PR people, it's sort of the opposite approach. I see marketing and PR people…by nature, you have to push the envelope, you have to take risks. Marketing is not a risk averse discipline. We have to avoid shiny object syndrome. There has to be strategy, but in general you have to be willing to try some new things. [00:18:49] Jared: For sure. [00:18:50] Michelle: It's certainly a challenge working with lawyers who will point out anything and everything that could go wrong. If you spend too much time, why would you put anything out there? After a while, pretty much anything could go wrong and the more risk you take out of it, the blander and less effective it gets. [00:19:10] Jared: Yes, absolutely. Take a chance. Come on, lawyers. [laughter] [00:19:15] Michelle: Are there any companies in the legal tech space that you think are going to be the ones that are really disrupting the space that are important to watch? [00:19:26] Jared: Yes. I think some of the bigger companies that have been around for a while are still being pretty disruptive. Like Filevine for example. I interviewed your CEO on a podcast the other day. They've been really doing a good job building out case management features in their systems. They've actually started to cross over the larger law firms, which is something that hasn't really been done before. I think that's a pretty big bellwether for where this is going because a lot of those bigger firms prefer document management systems, they’ve never use case management systems. That's a big deal. NetDocuments is a document management and automation platform. They've been taking up a ton of market share in the large legal space. Then there's some smaller companies which are doing interesting things as well. This company called Milestones, I talked to their CEO the other day. They're doing law firm notifications to clients based on workflows. Essentially no touch notifications, which I think is a really interesting thing to do because most law firms are going to forget to do that, or they're going to try to do that in a manual way. That's a really hard thing to do. [00:20:33] Michelle: What notifications? Explain that to me a little bit more. [00:20:36] Jared: Emails, text, any notification you could send. Potentially with integrations as well. If you're using WhatsApp or whatever for texting, you might be able to send a notification that way too. I think that's something that some of these companies lack, these larger case management software companies.  Then what I'm waiting to see actually is a really hardcore legal project management or task management tools. You see a lot of uptick on like Asana, Trello, Notion. There's no Notion for legal. I think something like that, I'm sure somebody may be developing that right now. Maybe I will. [00:21:14] Michelle: That's a really great point. [00:21:16] Jared: That, I don't see anything.  [00:21:17] Michelle: I haven't seen that either. That's fascinating. Who are the people that are who are leading these companies? Do you see any trend in terms of are they all former attorneys? Do you see anything where they were smaller firms, bigger firms? What are you seeing? [00:21:39] Jared: Most of them, to my knowledge, are not lawyers. You see a few people who are attorneys who started companies. I talked about Filevine, Ryan Anderson, the CEO, he's an attorney. You look at a Clio, Jack Newton, the CEO over there, not an attorney. If I had to guess, I would say that probably like 75% of the founders and are not lawyers. They're people who are looking to disrupt the legal industry. [00:22:04] Michelle: Disrupt an industry. [00:22:05] Jared: I think the part of that is obviously because they're less risk averse. They look at this and they say, "Oh, there's so many solutions we can provide that lawyers just don't have the opportunity to even access."  The other thing I will say that, it's encouraging that the legal investment has been going up significantly year over year until this year because people worried about recession as we talked about, but nobody wanted to invest in legal technology for a long time. Lawyers are intelligent, which means they're hard to sell to. The sales cycle is long. There's a lot of entrenched tools, they're skeptical. All bad things, right? [laughs] I think it's encouraging that the investment has been coming in and I think that's probably part of the reason that more lawyers, non-lawyers I should say, have been attracted to this. The other thing I find honestly is that you see a lot of lawyers who launch tech companies, but they can't get out of their own practice because they haven't figured out a way to manage that effectively or hand off the reigns. It's really tough to do two things like that at once: managing a large law firm and also trying to create a tech venture because that's a very competitive space. [00:23:08] Michelle: Well, and that made me think too, the big challenge that I see a lot of law firms talking about is handing it over to that next generation. I would imagine that tech plays a big role there. You've got to-- Law firms are that quintessential, you don't own a company, you own a job almost, until you've built processes and systems. [00:23:34] Jared: Oh, man, you're so spot on. After the pandemic, and during, most of the law firms I was talking to prior to that, they were like, "I'm really inefficient. I don't know why." Then law firms started reaching out to me and they're like, "Hey, we need to start building processes and workflows." I'm like, "Okay. We're getting somewhere now." You're totally right in that lawyers don't build businesses like that. We haven't talked about this, but some states are now authorizing alternative business structures where non-attorneys, non-law firms can be involved in law firms. To be able to compete with organizations like that, you have to take chances in marketing, you have to build processes, and there's a chance that maybe you get acquired by some of those companies down the road. I think lawyers are going to be forced to do this eventually, but honestly it's about time because it only benefits them frankly. [00:24:30] Michelle: Absolutely. A few of our clients are ALSPs. Law firms often were founded based on geography, and their business was built around a particular geographic market. You're seeing that rise of the niche, and obviously you're still regulated by where you can practice in court, but I'm seeing more and more attorneys build brands that are national and international. ALSPs are good at that, too. They have a niche focus that can really deliver a niche optimized service. That's going to be something that the law firms have to compete with. [00:25:19] Jared: I mean, it's crazy. If you look at, even the ethics rules, before the pandemic, in half the states, you couldn't even have a brand name for your law firm. All those rules came off the book almost simultaneously. The bonafide office stuff. Everybody knew that was BS, but took like a global pandemic to change that. They're still behind the eight ball. It's wild. [00:25:40] Michelle: It's wild. It really is. This has been fascinating. Tell me, are there any trends that we haven't touched on? I want to make sure, and then the other question I have is just since we're doing a broad overview of legal tech, what are some of the associations, conferences? If you're dipping your toe into legal tech, let's say you're a managing partner, you want to start following the industry, getting information, what are the some of those that you recommend that they pay attention to? [00:26:13] Jared: I can do a couple more trends first if you want. [00:26:15] Michelle: Oh yes, let's do trends. [00:26:17] Jared: I like how your cat popped into the screen here, mirroring my daughter who's come back and forth for snacks. Well, two of the trends I haven't mentioned yet that I've been seeing is like a change in pricing models. I talk about firms moving away from the billable hour potentially. What do you move to? I see a lot more firms that adopting evergreen retainers. I see more firms doing subscriptions and products. What's interesting about that is that in terms of service delivery, which is a second big trend, and that's changing as well. The law firms only deliver services in one way, like painstaking. Cottage industry. Now, if you've got a law firm products, you can deliver documents. What I never understood was you got companies like LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer out there, and law firms are like, "Oh, they suck. I don't like them." But law firms could offer the same services, capture those DIY clients as well. They just never did. There was no reason for
Happy Holidays! A Marketer’s Reflection on the Legal Industry
Dec 15 2022
Happy Holidays! A Marketer’s Reflection on the Legal Industry
The state (and future) of the legal industry is drastically different from what it was 10 years ago. The rise of legal tech and social media platforms like LinkedIn are changing the way law firms operate and market their services to clients. Meanwhile, the role of firm culture in recruitment and retainment is shifting priorities for in-house marketers and business developers. What can legal marketers expect from 2023? In this episode of Spill the Ink, Michelle Calcote King and Kevin Aschenbrenner, the Senior Director of Public Relations at Reputation Ink, discuss the evolution of the legal industry and the trends that will shape the next decade of marketing and branding.  Michelle and Kevin also talk about how a firm’s legal marketing department can help keep them afloat during a recession, strategies for working with influencers to expand reach, the importance of niching down, and more. Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn What trends shaped legal marketing and public relations in 2022?What are non-media influencers and why are they an important target for firms who want to grow their brand?How can firms communicate their culture to help with recruitment?Why recessions are great times to invest in marketingSocial media strategy considerations for 2023 About our featured guest Kevin Aschenbrenner is the Senior Director of PR at Reputation Ink. Kevin is a seasoned PR and communications consultant with more than two decades of legal industry experience. Kevin has worked with firms from across the United States and Canada, as well as in the EU, UK and China. His clients range from boutique, specialty, or mid-level firms to members of the Am Law 25. He has represented Fortune 500 consumer products companies, colleges and universities, start-ups and technology companies, non-profits, authors and speakers.   Resources mentioned in this episode Follow Reputation Ink on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram Connect with Kevin Aschenbrenner on LinkedInSay hello to Michelle Calcote King on Twitter and LinkedInBlog post: “A Legal Tech Professional’s Guide to the Media You Must Know: The Bloggers and Media Outlets”Blog post: “How to Build a Following on Your Law Firm’s Linkedin Company Page”Blog post: “Why Law Firms Need to Know About the ‘Excess Share of Voice’ Rule”Blog post: “How To Get Your Employees to Share Your Content (And Why It’s so Important)” Sponsor for this episode This episode is brought to you by Reputation Ink. Founded by Michelle Calcote King, Reputation Ink is a public relations and content marketing agency that serves professional services firms of all shapes and sizes across the United States, including corporate law firms and architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) firms.  Reputation Ink understands how sophisticated corporate buyers find and select professional services firms. For more than a decade, they have helped firms grow through thought leadership-fueled strategies, including public relations, content marketing, video marketing, social media, podcasting, marketing strategy services and more. To learn more visit www.rep-ink.com or email them at info@rep-ink.com today. Transcript [00:00:00] Michelle Calcote King: Recessions — like real estate investing— recessions are when you really get ahead if you can make that investment, it's time to invest in marketing. The winners, if they can do it, will be the ones that keep their foot on the pedal and honestly do more during a recession. Because marketing is just such a long-term game and you can get further because a lot of companies do cut back during a recession. There will be less competition for your voice during a recession. [music] [00:00:39] Welcome to Spill the Ink, a podcast by Reputation Ink. Where we feature experts in growth and brand visibility for law firms and architecture, engineering and construction firms. Now, let's get started with the show. [00:00:56] Michelle: Hi, everyone. I'm Michelle Calcote King, I'm your host, and I'm the principal and president of Reputation Ink. We're a public relations and content marketing agency for law firms and other professional services firms. To learn more, go to rep-ink, that's Ink with a K.com.  We're changing things up a little bit with this episode and with Spill The Ink in December. I've invited members of my own team here at Reputation Ink to come on the show and interview me and overall just share in a great conversation about the state of PR and marketing and professional services industries.  Today, I'm going to have a gentleman who has extensive knowledge in the legal field. I'm welcoming Kevin Aschenbrenner to Spill the Ink. He's going to talk about the legal industry trends and we're going to discuss our favorite strategies for securing placements for law firms and legal services providers. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of meeting Kevin, he's our Senior Director of Public Relations. He has been working with law firms for most of his entire career, more than 20 years. He and I have a long history together. We've worked at another agency together. Kevin knows the legal PR world inside and out. Thanks for joining me. [00:02:20] Kevin Aschenbrenner: You're welcome. Nice to be here on this side of the mic. [00:02:26] Michelle: Yes, this will be fun. [00:02:28] Kevin: Usually, I'm setting up clients to do this thing, so it's nice to be doing it myself. [00:02:36] Michelle: I know people always think PR people are extroverts and I'm like, "No, we're the people in the background putting the extroverts on the stage," right? [00:02:44] Kevin: Exactly. Exactly. Yes. [00:02:46] Michelle: You're going to interview me about the state of legal PR and marketing. [00:02:53] Kevin: Yes, exactly. Why don't we start off by taking a look at 2022 and some of the trends that shaped legal PR and content marketing over the past year? [00:03:06] Michelle: As everyone knows, it's been an interesting couple of years with COVID, then we think COVID's over, and then the return to the office and all of this. Law firms aren't immune to any of that. Certainly, there's been a couple of things happening in the legal world. One that we've seen is niching down, it has become more and more of an important strategy from a marketing and PR perspective, and also just from how law firms operate. The law firms that we work with that seem to really get the most attention from the press, who do well on social media, and just really get the most ROI for their efforts are those who have figured out niching down, meaning really becoming known as an expert in a particular area of the law whether it's an industry or a certain practice. It's a very effective strategy. It's just a busy world right now. Even sophisticated legal buyers, they want to know that they're speaking to the person who holds all that expertise in a particular area so sourcing. I know you've seen it quite a bit with your clients. [00:04:23] Kevin: I have. I think to the extent that the more strategic you can be and focused in your efforts that way it increases measurability, you can be more effective because you're only focusing your efforts and your limited amount of time, bandwidth, and budget to a specific effort, and you can measure it better, and then you can ensure it's aligning with the rest of the strategies for your firm. Let's say if you have a really strong intellectual property practice, you want to be focusing on that. It's where money is coming in, business is coming in. If you put effort into that, then you can also measure it and see it grow in ROI, and that looks great for the executive committee, and everyone can be assured that time and money is being spent in the right place. [00:05:19] Michelle: Yes, absolutely. I think some of the other trends you and I were brainstorming earlier about is consolidation in the media with fewer media outlets. Where do you see that? I don't mean to turn the table back on you, I know you're supposed to interview me, but where do you see is that? If we have consolidation, what does that mean for law firms? What do they have to change about their strategies? [00:05:42] Kevin: I think you just have to be pitching really good stories. That has always been the case. There are fewer reporters at fewer outlets covering fewer things. They, like everyone in the digital space right now, they're governed by clicks, they're governed by interest, and they really have to ensure that they're providing their audience with value and with information that they're going to come to see and pay to see if they're behind a gate, a paywall. I think you really have to be pitching quality stuff. It was never the case for me and anyone that I ever worked with that we would pitch stuff that just wasn't relevant to a reporter just because we had to pitch it. I think that's, even more, the case. You can't waste their time, they're very busy. I think I saw a stat, it came from Cision the other day, that I think that only 3% of pitches get read or result in the story. There's a lot of noise out there and you really have to be focused and just get to know the key people who cover you, your firm very, very well and what they will cover and what they won't. [00:07:02] Michelle: Along the same lines, the media consolidates, but we're also seeing— I think it's very much due to the rise of social media, is non-media influencers. These are people that have really developed a strong reputation in a particular area, who have a strong following on social media. People tend to take what they say very seriously. I know that we've been doing a bit of that, helping our clients identify who are the people in a particular space. I think the next one we're going to talk about with legal tech but this is especially so in legal tech we're really seeing a lot of influencers pop up and it's important to include that in your strategy as well. [00:07:49] Kevin: It really is. Also, include them properly. Influencers aren't media. Their job is to build their own brand and they've spent a lot of time putting effort and money to grow their audience and grow their reputation. It's not like they're a reporter where they're getting paid to publish something. When you work with an influencer, you can't just approach them and expect that they're going to lend you their name in recognition just because you asked, there has to be a bit of a quick pro quo. They have to get some ROI from it too. I know there are some things that we've been encouraging, you in particular encouraging clients to consider, which is work with influencers on specific projects. Do a research study together, do a research project together, do something where you're going to generate news, you're going to generate data and then you can both share the awareness bump out of it. Do something that benefits both sides. With influencers, you really, really have to do that. [00:09:04] Michelle: Absolutely. That goes to the next point I wanted to make in terms of this year. Legal tech just continues to explode. I know it didn't just happen last year, but last year seemed to be a year where legal tech really took hold in the media's focus. I know that for some of our clients, CLM; Contract Lifecycle Management was a big topic. This is going to continue to be an area that gets really heavily covered. If you're anywhere near this space, it's important to keep track. We've written a couple of blog posts with some guides on podcasts and blogs to read up on, but it's definitely not going away and it's going to continue in importance. [00:09:57] Kevin: I think so definitely. Also, the legal media are paying more attention to legal tech. There are outlets devoted to legal tech, Bob Ambrogi's LawSites and Legaltech News from ALM, but there's also more like the straight legal media is paying attention to legal tech. Yes, CLM was quite big this past year. We saw massive funding announcements and massive acquisitions. That may cool a little bit now, and it has cooled with the rise in interest rates, but once that stabilizes we'll probably continue to see that as well. That's a niche in a market that's going to continue to experience growth and change definitely. [00:10:58] Kevin: Yes, that was the year-end review, some big touchpoints from the year-end review. What are you hearing as you talk to legal marketers, clients, other folks, legal tech companies, what's keeping them up at night right now? [00:11:15] Michelle: Yes. I talked to a lot of legal marketers, and actually, I had the pleasure of sitting in on managing partners' round table and hearing from them. I'm hearing a lot of talk about recession. Will there be one? Would that result in layoffs? We've already seen reports of layoffs at some firms, it's this idea of stealth layoffs.  As marketers recession talk, it's always the fear that marketing's going to be the first thing to take a hit. Even if you're not worried about your job, marketers are worried about the hit that that will take to the long-term health and performance of marketing because marketing — honestly it sounds so self-serving to say it. I hate to say it sometimes because it does sound so self-serving but really recessions — sort of like real estate investing — recessions are when you really get ahead if you can make that investment. It's time to invest in marketing. The winners, if they can do it, will be the ones that keep their foot on the pedal and honestly do more during a recession because marketing's just such a long-term game. You can get further because a lot of companies do cut back during a recession. There will be less competition for your voice during a recession. [00:12:48] Kevin: Yes. I've also found too— I mean I've been through a couple of downturns now 2008, which was devastating for law firms. You and I both have been through that one. Also, the 2020 dip was pretty devastating for law firms too. There were a lot of furloughs, layoffs, that kind of thing. I think that in recessions it is important not to lose ground. Also in recessions, everyone in a firm, everyone in a company becomes very focused on marketing. Marketing tends to become a huge focus number one because it's got to show ROI for the money being spent. Number two, because everyone's like, "We don't have business, now we have to market." Suddenly people who have never paid attention to marketing within the firm or company are all about marketing. They want to know. [00:13:45] Michelle: And it's the worst-case scenario. [00:13:48] Kevin: It really is. [00:13:49] Michelle: You don't start marketing whenever you need business because it's just-- [00:13:53] Kevin: No, it's a consistent thing. I like your point about staying focused on the long-term, the horizon. Don't lose ground now. Yes, you might have to trim. Yes, you might have to be a little more focused in your efforts, but keep doing what works and what has worked for your firm, I think. [00:14:16] Michelle: Yes, absolutely. What was interesting to me was at the LMASE which is the Southeastern conference of the Legal Marketing Association. Their theme this year was on culture. A lot of it was about what's the role of marketing in law firm culture? And is there a role? I was part of the committee. I think marketers have a big role in culture. If anything, they're the ones communicating that culture to prospective clients, to prospective attorneys, and how you present that culture is important. You have a good handle on what that culture is and make sure it's a positive one before you start promoting it. I thought that was pretty interesting that that's— I think it comes from a place of other trends that have been at the forefront. Things like diversity, things like environmental, social, and government topics; ESG. Those things are pushing law firms to not be just so focused on the billable hour and how much money everyone's making, but really making this an environment where people can thrive and people of all backgrounds can thrive and present their full selves. Then also things like mental health took a forefront as well. This is an industry that has a very bad track record in mental health. All of those things come together. I think marketing still sits at the forefront. I know many marketers who are tasked with quantifying diversity for their firms, who have to showcase diversity in RFPs. All of those softer topics are really taking center stage. [00:16:09] Kevin: Yes. I think it's really been driven because law firm clients are demanding it. They're demanding to know what's going on with diversity. They're demanding to know, "Okay, am I not just working with a partner who's going to talk to me and then I'm going to be given to lower level associates for all the work?" But also are you training up those lower associates and senior associates and younger partners to have continuity if I bring you business? If the rainmaker goes away is the work left and what happens to the quality of work for the client?  I think that firms that are really focusing on culture and not just giving it lip service. We've had so many years where diversity was given just lip service and equality and inclusion, and nothing was actually done. You did not see associates getting into partner ranks. 2020, I think that brought all that into focus. I hope and I believe that a lot of firms are doing very practical things to increase diversity amongst new hires, amongst associates, and then foster a path. I think it's up to marketing to help communicate that and show it because it's all through recruiting. It's a recruiting thing, it is a recruiting benefit to show you're walking the talk and you're taking action. That often falls on law firms to communicate about recruiting and efforts and show that the firm is serious about these things. [00:17:59] Michelle: Yes. That goes to another trend that we're seeing, and I'm seeing it in other industries too, where recruiting and marketing are overlapping. Because recruiting nowadays, people take a look at the website, they look at social media, they have more tools, just like a prospective buyer has more tools to self-research and self-select through and figure out, "Is this the firm I want to work with?" A prospective attorney or other professional is going to look at the marketing and that's going to drive a lot of their decisions. HR and marketing have to really work in tandem because that's a very important audience in today's recruiting environment where it's a tough one. There's a real overlap.  Then I know going back to the recession point, I think there seems to be more concern in legal tech a little bit— I'm just seeing that from an outsider's perspective here, but about what does a potential recession look like in terms of funding? There's been a lot of funding that's flooded into the legal tech space, but what will a recession do to that? That always puts greater pressure on marketers to make sure that they're showing ROI as well, whenever that becomes squeezed. [00:19:34] Kevin: Yes. I think in some clients I talked to in the legal tech space, they're thinking that that market is going to be a little flat for 2023. Depending on how a recession shakes out, people are not going to be as free with money and maybe that's a good thing. Maybe there are companies that are operating effectively, marketing effectively will be distinguished by that. It might be a bit of a crucible time for some companies. I think just the same thing goes, don't slash your marketing budget. Don't fire the marketing team, they're actually useful, and they're going to ensure that you have business through 2023 into 2024 and whatever comes next. [00:20:25] Michelle: To use the term that I borrowed from another guest, they are your revenue-enablers. [00:20:32] Kevin: They really are. I like that term. I like that term your revenue enablers.  We've covered 2022 and what's worrying legal marketers. How should people prepare for the year ahead, for 2023? [00:20:54] Michelle: We've touched on this but like I said recessions are a great time to stand out. There are going to be companies that cut back. This is the time to show that you are healthy, you're an active firm that is doing deals and winning cases, that you've got the expertise, you're keeping a pulse on trends and issues that your clients are facing. This is the time to really continue to get that share of voice which we've talked about on our blog but meaning that you're really making sure you share voices to the level that you need it to be to get the reputation that you need to build that business. Continue to focus on niching. Niching doesn't mean rearranging your entire legal practice, your entire law firm but it means more strategically thinking about what areas might bring in more work and then focusing your marketing dollars there. Not spreading everything out. Certainly, if you've got a marketing budget like GEICO does and you can hit every area but most firms don't have like a consumer products budget and so they have to pick and choose and that's where being more strategic and thinking through where are we likely to see more work? Where can we really carve out a reputation as a deep expert in an area? That's going to get you more ROI than really spreading yourself across the thing.  Then going back to the discussion around culture, I think marketers should be the people that really are constantly talking to their lawyers, clients, and thought leaders and they're really keeping a pulse on what's happening in the industry. They should be the one bringing to partners and senior leadership that clients are focused on diversity or clients are focused on ESG, whatever it is. As a marketer, you should make sure that you're doing that regular canvassing and talking to people as well. I wanted to touch-- Oh, go ahead. Sorry. [00:23:13] Kevin: No, go ahead. Go ahead. [00:23:14] Michelle: I wanted to touch on Twitter and social media. Social media is here to stay. I'll never forget a conversation I had early on in my business where a very senior, senior person said to me that social media was a fad. Every now and then I think back to it, this was like 11 years ago but social media is how we communicate nowadays. It's no longer this new thing that the young folks are on. It's really how we communicate as people. You've really got to have a presence there.  Right now we're right in the middle of the Elon Musk experiment with Twitter. Keep an eye on that. It might mean that if Twitter has been a key focus for you, you might have to switch. LinkedIn's always going to be critical for any law firm.  Think about how you can encourage your attorneys to not only network which is critical but also share the content that you're creating. As you know, LinkedIn favors individual posts and individual interaction. Enable your attorneys by sharing content that they can share on the platform, make it easy for them to do so in as much of an authentic way as possible. Then keep learning about the softer things that we talked about. Diversity and culture and all of those things are going to continue to be trends. All the social upheaval that we went through in the last few years. All of the Me Too stuff, that's not going away. It's going to continue to shape perceptions and reputations. [00:25:12] Kevin: I also think with Twitter, a lot of firms do use Twitter. I think it is worth watching right now and see where it ends up. There's a lot of concern around it. Last Friday was supposed to be the end of Twitter and it's still up as far as I know. It might not still be up now when people are listening to this podcast but as of right now it is up. I think there's also some other platforms emerging like Mastodon which seems a bit tricky and you have to you be a little tech-savvy to know how to use it just yet but I think it's always important to see what's going on. Then also make sure you keep tabs of what's going on and where people are going because if Mastodon hits then people are going to be on Mastodon. You have to follow the pack but follow the pack in a way that makes sense for law firms. LinkedIn is still the granddaddy of where to be for law firms. I agree with you. I think you really need to as much as possible encourage people to engage with your page content, share it, provide thoughtful commentary. LinkedIn really rewards that. It's becoming a bit of like the Business Facebook. The more personal and human and additive can be in terms of information, I think it's better. Just encouraging that. It is hard but I think you also focus on folks who are actually going to do it. There's going to be a lot of people who for whatever reason do not want to engage on social media or LinkedIn. It's just not part of their thing. It's not what they want to do, so focus on the people who actually do it and are doing it well and then they can even more easily integrate it. Also to your point of continuing with what works, I think 2023 would be a really bad time to make any really abrupt changes. Like don't do anything abrupt. Make sure that you're just continuing on, don't change for change’s sake. I think there's a real danger in times like this to try everything and change and whatever and that's not the best, I don't think. Stick with what's worked, make adjustments as needed but maybe reach out to a few more lawyers to add to the input call rotation. Start looking at those older associates and younger partners as people you want to start to cultivate and have them start doing— Like, the older associates can write by-lined articles. The younger partners can start doing interviews and start building that pipeline. I think, too, really put effort into building up the next generation, particularly with IT diversity. Make sure that the people you're offering to media, that you are working with shows the diversity of the firm, and demonstrate that. I think that's a really important right now I think and it's always important to bring up the younger folks. I always say, too, like when lawyers or associates they're expected to disappear and do the work and as soon as they are partners, they're expecting a subtle market. They don't know how. Take this time to invest in that. Bring them along and establish a pipeline for all your associates. [00:28:55] Michelle: Yes, it's a really good point about the dichotomy of the expectations at the different levels there. [00:29:01] Kevin: It really does show up at a time when new partners are dealing with so much. They're all of a sudden responsible for so many more things in the firm. Their income is now related to the performance of the firm as a whole rather than just their own performance. Then marketing is added on top of it as if they automatically know how to do it because it was covered in the last year or in year two, and it wasn't. [laughs] [00:29:30] Michelle: Completely, yes. It's interesting. This has been fun. Kevin and I talk all the time about these topics but it's fun to bring our audience into this. That's a wrap on our show today and thank you again for joining me, Kevin. [00:29:46] Kevin: Thanks very much. This was really fun. I hope we can do it again, maybe next year. [music] [00:29:51] Thanks for listening to Spill the Ink, a podcast by Reputation Ink. We'll see you again next time and be sure to click subscribe to get future episodes.
Bye 2022! A Marketer’s Reflection on the AEC Industry
Dec 1 2022
Bye 2022! A Marketer’s Reflection on the AEC Industry
We blinked, and suddenly December was upon us. What even happened in 2022?  To start, the massive federal infrastructure spending bill passed in 2021 meant more projects on the horizon for architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) firms. Recruitment and retainment became significant priorities for AEC marketing teams, especially amid the Great Resignation. In this episode of Spill the Ink, Michelle Calcote King hands the microphone to a special guest. Steven Gallo serves as the Director of Content and PR at Reputation Ink where he’s in charge of creating brand awareness strategies for the agency’s AEC clients. They reflect on the trends and legislation that shaped AEC marketing in 2022, discuss the growing importance of building a digital brand and reputation, and what marketing departments can do to prepare for a recession and the new year. Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn What trends shaped AEC marketing and public relations in 2022?How did the 2021 Infrastructure Bill influence AEC marketing?What will be AEC firms’ greatest communication challenges in the new year?Why shouldn’t AEC firms cut down on marketing during a recession?What should marketers and AEC firms be doing today to prepare for 2023? About our featured guest Steven Gallo is the Director of Content and PR at Reputation Ink. His communications experience spans the media spectrum, including award-winning work for television, radio and digital platforms. Before entering the PR and content marketing arena, Steven was a broadcast news reporter in Florida and Georgia. Resources mentioned in this episode Follow Reputation Ink on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and InstagramConnect with Steven Gallo on LinkedInSay hello to Michelle Calcote King on Twitter and LinkedIn Sponsor for this episode This episode is brought to you by Reputation Ink. Founded by Michelle Calcote King, Reputation Ink is a public relations and content marketing agency that serves professional services firms of all shapes and sizes across the United States, including corporate law firms and architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) firms.  Reputation Ink understands how sophisticated corporate buyers find and select professional services firms. For more than a decade, they have helped firms grow through thought leadership-fueled strategies, including public relations, content marketing, video marketing, social media, podcasting, marketing strategy services, and more. To learn more visit www.rep-ink.com or email them at info@rep-ink.com today. Transcript [00:00:00] Michelle Calcote King: If you don't have that digital presence and that reputation online, it becomes a gap, especially as we look at future generations who are much more digital savvy and we're trying to target those. If you don't have a website that is very easy to navigate, has all that content and anecdotes and details and photography and video that people come to expect you're in a worse place than a competitor would be. [music] [00:00:35] Introduction: Welcome to Spill the Ink, a podcast by Reputation Ink where we feature experts in growth and brand visibility for law firms and architecture, engineering and construction firms. Now, let's get started with the show. [music] [00:00:53] Michelle: Hi, everyone. I'm Michelle Calcote King. I'm your host and I'm also the principal and president of Reputation Ink. We're a public relations and content marketing agency for law firms, architecture, engineering and construction firms, and other professional services firms. To learn more, go to rep-ink, that's ink with a K, .com.  This month we're doing something a little different which is exciting. We're having members of the Reputation Ink team come over and take over our Spill the Ink to interview me instead of our usual format. It's going to be more of a conversation. It’s very special episode of Spill the Ink because I have the opportunity to welcome and hand over the virtual microphone to Steven Gallo, so welcome, Steven. [00:01:35] Steven Gallo: Thank you. [00:01:35] Michelle: Steven serves as the director of content and PR for Reputation Ink. He leads many of our biggest accounts. He's in charge of creating the phenomenal content and public relations strategies that we do for many of our clients in the AEC sector, the architecture, engineering, and construction sector. Before entering the PR and content marketing arena, Steven was a broadcast news reporter in Florida and Georgia, so he applies a unique media-savvy perspective to his client work. Thank you for joining me. [00:02:07] Steven: Yes, thank you. You make me sound so official, I appreciate it. [chuckles] [00:02:12] Michelle: It's exciting. [00:02:13] Steven: It's exciting to be here and cool in this format, so thanks for bringing me in, Michelle. I know somehow the holiday season is already upon us. Before we get, I guess, too ahead of ourselves and jump into the New Year, let's maybe talk about 2022 and the AEC industry. I guess looking back over this past year, what are some of the factors that, from your perspective, really shaped AEC marketing and PR? [00:02:41] Michelle: We've been working in the AEC sector since we were founded 11 years ago. I would say the number one trend that I'm seeing is the labor shortage and how really recruiting is becoming a top priority for marketing. Every AEC firm owner that I speak to, that's their challenge. The work is there, so they can secure the projects, funding is great. There's a lot of government funding happening, but also the private sector is building, but really, it's finding the people to build these projects.  Coming off of COVID, we've got just such a disruption in the market and the industry was already facing a labor shortage. Really, much of marketing's role is becoming how to communicate a brand that people want to work for — differentiating. Because every other firm is out there hiring and competing for the same people. Really communicating what a company is about, why work for them, what kind of career you can expect. It's a real melding of those disciplines and I know our team is working really closely with HR departments to help them on those initiatives. [00:04:04] Steven: Yes, and to your point too, attrition in the industry, this changing of the guard almost that we've been seeing happening in the past few years and looking ahead, there's this need for that worker. I know that that's a big part of it now even for maybe traditionally, not as much from a marketing standpoint but marketing being a great place to work now it seems more important than ever, at least in this industry. [00:04:25] Michelle: Yes, absolutely. Then other trends I'm seeing is when I first started this company 11 years ago and before when I was working at other agencies, you would talk to people in more conservative industries like AEC and there was a sense that we're exempt from needing to do that kind of marketing. That doesn't apply to us and that's changing. I'm having clients come to me and say, "We need to do thought leadership," or, "We need to do some niche focusing in on a certain industry."  It's really interesting to see that transition from, "No, we don't need to do that. We're all about in-person, relationship building,” to realizing that building a brand online and developing a brand and a reputation for having expertise in certain niche areas is incredibly important to building their business. That's a shift that's been slowly happening, but I'm really feeling it moreso now with client requests. It's less me explaining why you need to write an article for a trade publication to them saying, "We really need to write an article for X and X publication," and me thinking, "Wow, that's great that they're coming up to us with that." [00:05:49] Steven: Yes, a paradigm shift happening. I think realizing that construction, architecture, engineers, we're not immune necessarily to these changes and it's just as important. [00:05:59] Michelle: Right. What I often show is how they're right, it is a relationship business, but relationships are formed in very different ways nowadays. People spend a lot of time online educating themselves and connecting with people. While we're certainly, thankfully, we're in a different place than we were just last year or two years ago where we are going to meetings and seeing people in person, it's very important to make sure that your website is an incredibly robust website. You're telling the stories about your projects, you're regularly telling stories about what it's like to work there, you're sharing updates about milestones on projects, that kind of thing. Because if you don't have that digital presence and that reputation online, it becomes a gap. Especially as we look at future generations who are much more digital savvy and we're trying to target those. If you don't have a website that is very easy to navigate, has all that content and anecdotes and details and photography and video that people come to expect, you are in a worse place than a competitor would be. [00:07:22] Steven: Yes, that's a great point. You mentioned, despite the fact that we're looking a bit more like pre-COVID in terms of day-to-day life, but a lot of those same remote work habits and that hybrid model. We're in a different world now that there's some things that feels like that can't be put back in that box and we're seeing that now. [00:07:45] Michelle: Yes, well, we have a very large, what we thought was a more conservative client that right out of the gate when COVID hit, said, "You know what? This work-from-home thing is actually working for us," and has let employees really continue working from home in a very flexible format that I don't think I would've ever expected, especially in this industry. We have other AEC clients that are like, "No, you absolutely have to get back to the office." That's a culture thing. This is a tangible industry that's working on projects, so it makes sense that it can't be fully remote, but a lot of those habits remain. The fact that you can accomplish multiple meetings with multiple different audiences in one day over Zoom versus spending a whole day out just for one meeting is still happening. They're realizing that they really have to upgrade their digital presence to reflect that environment. [00:08:50] Steven: Yes, definitely. Speaking of clients of ours, as you mentioned, I've had a pleasure to work with a lot of these AEC clients for a number of years now at the agency. If there's one thing I've learned about that sector and the smart people that work in it is that there's always something new to learn, there's always something going on. I guess I'm curious, as we're reflecting back on 2022, any surprises, learnings, takeaways that the clients have seen this year? What have you been hearing? [00:09:19] Michelle: I think for me what I'm seeing is there's a realization that marketing does not equal proposals. For the longest time in this industry, if a company had an in-house marketing person or team, that person was really just doing proposals. They weren't doing the brand-building work that we do, the telling stories on social media, telling stories through PR, through engaging with the media and publishing articles, and getting news out about projects. They're realizing that, yes, proposals are always going to be important, but there's this whole other realm of activities that we have to do to have that brand presence. Just the importance of that online brand. It's funny to be in 2022 talking about social media and that people are realizing it's important, but it really is true to see how, especially these AEC owners are older many of them. These are people that didn't grow up with social media and seeing them really understand that they have to be very active on platforms like LinkedIn and have to engage there, that that's where people are and that's where they're learning about people. I just got off a prospect call with a construction company owner and I asked him where he heard of us and he said, LinkedIn. They're on there and they're starting to really engage in those platforms, especially as they realize that recruiting is such an important focus and that they're trying to recruit these more younger people. That the importance of social media can't be understated. [00:11:09] Steven: Exactly, right, especially in that recruiting conversation now, it definitely can't be ignored because that's a pain point. Everyone's feeling it seems. Something I've noticed as well— We're helping a client go through a big milestone year and brand changes and it's this understanding as an AEC firm that having a brand now, I need to be thinking about that. Maybe at least compared to historically, it was really all about, "Hey, here's who we are." I guess, what does that look like for AEC firms and why does it matter? [00:11:44] Michelle: I know the example you're thinking of there, but I think the whole industry is feeling it is that there's this shift in delivery methods. Especially for clients that do a lot of government work, it used to be a hard bid environment. There was a good argument for the fact that marketing didn't really make an impact there when we're really just it's the lowest price wins. As government agencies and certainly the private sector shift toward a design-build model where they can factor in other things other than price, that's when a brand really does play a big role. That's a shift for the industry overall, the shift toward the design-build model, and with it, more AEC companies are going to realize that having a strong reputation, a strong brand will help them secure these projects. [00:12:49] Steven: Absolutely. To pivot a little bit, I know we just got over the hump of midterm elections. Still recovering from the onslaught of campaign ads. I guess all the votes haven't even been counted yet and everyone's already shifting to looking to the next election cycle, so it's always something. The AEC industry is always really keeping tabs on what's going on in Washington one way or the other, but the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act, that was a big deal when the president signed it a year ago this month, last November. I guess I'm curious, over this past year, have we seen that influence marketing in the industry and in this sector in particular? [00:13:30] Michelle: I think that the firms that specialize in these areas and infrastructure are certainly gearing up for it. They know that this work is coming and they've got to be ready. It goes back to not to beat a dead horse, but recruiting and making sure that they've got the right people to do this work because it is, it's going to be a lot of work. I think the smart companies now are gearing up and thinking about how do we build our brand to attract the right people to be able to deliver that work. It's an exciting time for companies that work in that sector because there's going to be a lot of activity.  I think the challenge will be keeping the momentum going. It's easy to get caught up in all that work that's happening and forget that there are down cycles. You've got to keep your foot on the marketing pedal even during when things are really, really busy. Making sure that they don't ignore it whenever they are fulfilling those contracts is going to be important. [00:14:45] Steven: That's a great point. Just because that was signed doesn't mean that that work is just automatically walk in the door, right? [00:14:51] Michelle: Yes. [00:14:52] Steven: I know some people are wondering, "Okay, well, is 2023 going to be a busy year for the industry?" We don't have a crystal ball, but to your point, regardless of what you might be anticipating in terms of investment and the effort putting into marketing and PR efforts, it's just not the time to slow down at least. Is that fair to say? [00:15:15] Michelle: It's an interesting thing— Unfortunately, I've been in this business long enough to where I've gone through many, many cycles of people predicting a recession, and there's always talk about marketing being the first thing that goes during a recession, but the way marketing works right now, you can't stop it. Certainly, you could pull back on some expenditures, absolutely, but especially on a B2B side of things, you've got to be keeping your CRM system up to date. You have to be regularly announcing and talking about projects. You have to be keeping your project descriptions and case studies up to date. You have to show activity. You have to be building that brand. Maybe you pull back on some more of the nice-to-haves or campaigns trying to get into new markets, but other than that, if you pull back on those when you're in a much worse place, when you're ready to spend the money again and really you're going to end up spending more money than needed. You're really damaging your brand in the long run because there's just so much catch up that you'll have to do. I liken it to you're regularly telling the story of your business, and if you just stop telling that story, especially in the online world, it can create a lot of negative associations with your brand that you don't want to happen. Pushing that pedal and moving forward is the right thing to do in a recession, if it hits. Certain construction sectors tend to be pretty recession-proof. I certainly don't think our infrastructure clients are going to feel any pullback. That's really the lesson. I know it sounds self-serving coming from a marketer, but it's the truth. Marketing's not one of those things that you want to start when you need it because it takes so long, it's a long-term game. You can't say, "Oh, I suddenly need business, let's do this." You might not see the results of your marketing efforts for a year, so you can't wait until you need it to start it. [00:17:34] Steven: To your point, if you're not telling your story regularly, that gap, that silence also speaks in its own right. It's also an opportunity for other folks to tell your story indirectly or not if you're not the one doing it. [00:17:50] Michelle: Right. Yes, absolutely. [00:17:52] Steven: No, I love that.  You did your fair share of traveling this year, business and pleasure, but a lot of that I know is attending and speaking at various industry conferences and events, as you usually do. I know those can oftentimes, especially now folks coming back together in person and networking, it could be a place where you get a lot of ideas and see maybe what's new, what's next. I'm curious, anything you picked up along the way that AEC leaders should keep top of mind? What are the most valuable insights? [00:18:23] Michelle: I went to a conference where culture was the focus, and I thought that was really interesting. Again, more conservative industries talking about things that you wouldn't anticipate them talking about. I can see how culture is an important topic for AEC. Again, going back to the recruiting, how do you differentiate your workplace from another workplace? Culture really is that. Marketers, when you think about a lot of the conference I was talking about, how does marketing impact culture? I think marketing is tasked with, one, not only helping to define what that is but communicating that culture. Culture's often set from the top down, but marketing's role is really how do we communicate and showcase what that culture is? Certainly, internal communications can help that. Especially AEC, companies they have a workforce that's highly distributed. You've got field employees who aren't glued to a computer screen like us office people, so it becomes a challenge to communicate to those audiences, and that's a really important factor in retaining your workforce. The other thing I think we've noticed too is companies being more willing to, in this competitive labor market, being more willing to showcase their employees online. I'm sure we both remember years ago when we'd say, "Oh, let's put this employee up for an award," or we'd suggest these things and we get, "We don't want anyone tapping in and stealing our employees." There's a realization that that cat is out of the bag. LinkedIn exists, and really, by showcasing your employees, one, you're making them feel great about themselves. It's a way of giving them feedback and showing that you're proud of them. Two, it helps show other people looking from the outside the kind of people that work here and the way this company treats their employees, which is to showcase them and to talk about how great they are. In the digital environment, people want to see other people. You don't want to be this faceless brand. The more companies can showcase their people on social and on their website and put them up for rewards, the more people associate you with actual human beings, which is what really people relate to and want to do business with. [00:21:01] Steven: That's a great point. I know sometimes I've heard workplace culture is so much bigger than just marketing, it's really a team effort. I think to a degree, that is true, it goes beyond just marketing, but I've also heard folks say, "Oh, this is such a great place to work. We have such a great family-oriented culture," but you're talking about telling that story. That may be true, but if no one knows that, then how far is that really going to take you, especially in that recruiting conversation? [00:21:33] Michelle: Exactly. [00:21:34] Steven: That's a great point.  I guess 2023, it's here, it's upon us. Looking ahead and gearing up for the New Year resolutions, all that good stuff, what's one thing, or maybe a couple of things that in-house marketers that AEC firms should be doing right now to prepare for 2023? [00:21:56] Michelle: If I were in-house at an AEC company, I would be looking at ways to streamline all the many collateral needs that an AEC firm needs any time. After working with in-house marketers for so long, I know that they can get just pulled into this endless cycle of churning out materials, so project descriptions, team resumes, qualifications packages, proposals. As I've worked more in this industry, I've found providers that have found ways to really stream like that.  I just did a podcast interview with a gentleman who runs a company called NK Interactive and they've really developed a proprietary system. They call it a single Source of Truth, where all information is held in one place, but it can be repurposed very quickly and easily. Anytime they update a project on the website, they can pull a project one sheet or all those images are there, the video is in that one spot. It's really thought out to meet the needs of AEC because I know that AEC marketers end up becoming InDesign graphics specialists who never went to school to be an InDesign designer. That's because these AEC firms are having to constantly submit proposals and qualification packages and they need details on projects. It's very hard to keep track. If you don't have a CRM system built for AEC, I would be getting one now. You'd be surprised at the amount of really large companies that don't, that none of that information is collected and in one place. It really slows down and makes marketing very inefficient. Thinking through that process, even though it takes a while to really think through, "How am I going to collect all this project information and this team information and get it in one place and have a process for updating it?” It's incredibly important and will make their life a lot better. That would be the number one thing I would do. [00:24:07] Steven: That is great advice, Michelle and I know there's probably numerous things, but that one is a big one, especially if you're looking at budget planning and whatnot. To your point, being organized and having those things lined up and ready to go is going to make the whole process throughout the year a lot more efficient, whether you're working with an in-house team or an agency that's outside the company. I appreciate you sharing those insights and a little bit about what you've been seeing and what we're looking forward to. [00:24:34] Michelle: Yes, it was fun to have you on as my interviewer. I'll do our normal wrap-up. That's a wrap for our show today and thank you for joining me and for coming on Spill The Ink. [00:24:47] Steven: Of course. Thanks so much, Michelle. Take care. [music] [00:24:52] Closing: Thanks for listening to Spill The Ink, a podcast by Reputation Ink. We'll see you again next time and be sure to click subscribe to get future episodes. [music]
Building AEC Websites That Attract New Business And Support Operations
Nov 17 2022
Building AEC Websites That Attract New Business And Support Operations
An architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) firm’s website is its most valuable marketing asset — but its utility can be stretched even further with the right approach. Your website can be transformed into a state-of-the-art tool that both empowers B2B buyers to make decisions based on your portfolio and creates automated efficiencies for your business. Scott Jacques is the founder of NK Interactive, a digital agency that designs websites and custom digital tools that solve complex sales and marketing problems for clients in the commercial construction sector. His team transforms client websites using a “single source of truth” approach to streamline internal data management while showcasing robust project portfolios. In this episode of Spill the Ink, Michelle Calcote King and Scott Jacques discuss best practices and considerations for website design in the AEC sector, how firms can build functionality into their websites to meet a range of needs, website development and design trends influencing B2B buyers, and more. Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn What are the unique website needs of an AEC firm?How important is web presence to AEC buyers?What information and content should be included on your website?What is the “single source of truth” approach?How can AEC firms integrate digital tools into their websites to facilitate firm-wide content management?What website development and design trends are influencing the AEC sector?How often should a firm update its websites? About our featured guest Scott is the Founder and Principal of NK Interactive, a San Francisco-based digital consultancy with decades of strategic, creative and technical expertise. Their clients are forward-thinking businesses in the commercial construction sector consisting of general contractors and specialty contractors. A representative sampling of past and present clients include Rosendin Electric, W.E. O’Neil Construction, DPR Construction, Level 10 Construction, Build Group, Cupertino Electric (CEI), Nibbi Brothers, BCCI Builders, XL Construction, ISEC Inc., and the Associated General Contractors of California. Typical client engagements cover the range of transformative websites to the design and development of custom digital tools supporting marketing and business development teams (collateral automation, single source of truth repository for projects and resumes, qualifications/proposal builders, and capabilities presentation builders). Resources mentioned in this episode Check out NK InteractiveFollow NK Interactive on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and InstagramConnect with Scott Jacques on LinkedInSay hello to Michelle Calcote King on Twitter and LinkedIn Sponsor for this episode This episode is brought to you by Reputation Ink. Founded by Michelle Calcote King, Reputation Ink is a public relations and content marketing agency that serves professional services firms of all shapes and sizes across the United States, including corporate law firms and architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) firms.  Reputation Ink understands how sophisticated corporate buyers find and select professional services firms. For more than a decade, they have helped firms grow through thought leadership-fueled strategies, including public relations, content marketing, video marketing, social media, podcasting, marketing strategy services and more. To learn more visit www.rep-ink.com or email them at info@rep-ink.com today.
Developing A Strong Strategic Plan For Your Law Firm
Nov 4 2022
Developing A Strong Strategic Plan For Your Law Firm
Many lawyers spend a lifetime building their legal practices into thriving businesses with an abundance of clients. While your day-to-day grind is vital to sustaining operations, it’s also essential to have a strong strategic plan in place to secure your law firm’s future. Your firm’s strategic plan is the blueprint not only for when challenges and crises arise, but it’s also the roadmap attorneys are referencing for guidance on how to succeed and grow in the firm. How should attorneys approach the strategic planning process for the best results? In this episode of Spill the Ink, Michelle Calcote King interviews Wendy Merrill, the Director of Strategic Consulting at Affinity Consulting Group. Wendy shares her experience working with law firms to develop strategic plans in the post-pandemic world, insight into what areas firms should prioritize during their strategic planning process, and what she sees attorneys commonly do wrong. They also discuss how technology can help — or hurt — a firm’s ability to adapt to challenges. Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn Why should law firms care about strategic planning, regardless of their size?What factors and market forces are shaping priorities during strategic planning?How can law firms address employee retention during the strategic planning process?What common mistakes should firms avoid throughout the strategic planning process?How is technology impacting firms and what role does it play in strategic planning discussions?How does having a strategic business plan help firms when crisis strikes? About our featured guest Over the last 10 years, Wendy Merrill has helped thousands of attorneys and their firms to dramatically improve their origination and realization rates, practice management, business development and leadership skills. As Affinity Consulting’s Director of Strategic Consulting, Wendy helps law firms with strategic planning, executive retreat facilitation, growth strategy, marketing planning, partner development, succession planning, and best practices for improving profitability.  Prior to joining the Affinity team, Wendy served as part of a turnaround executive team at DRI (the largest civil defense bar association) facilitating the refresh of the 62-year-old organization. As part of her commitment to facilitating necessary change in the legal space, Wendy authored her first book, Path to Impact: The Rising Leaders’ Guide to Growing Smart, in 2019. Her favorite part of her role is helping professionals recognize and quantify their value, and to think and do bigger. Wendy lives in Monkton, Maryland, with her husband, three children, two dogs, and her retired racehorse. Resources mentioned in this episode Check out Affinity Consulting GroupFollow Affinity Consulting Group on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedInConnect with Wendy Merrill on LinkedInRead Path to Impact: The Rising Leaders’ Guide to Growing SmartSay hello to Michelle Calcote King on Twitter and LinkedIn Sponsor for this episode This episode is brought to you by Reputation Ink. Founded by Michelle Calcote King, Reputation Ink is a public relations and content marketing agency that serves professional services firms of all shapes and sizes across the United States, including corporate law firms and architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) firms.  Reputation Ink understands how sophisticated corporate buyers find and select professional services firms. For more than a decade, they have helped firms grow through thought leadership-fueled strategies, including public relations, content marketing, video marketing, social media, podcasting, marketing strategy services and more. To learn more visit www.rep-ink.com or email them at info@rep-ink.com today. Transcript Wendy Merrill [00:00] Even if you’re really busy and you’ve got a lot of pressure on you to bill, carve time out and look at your business development. And you have to understand that while you may bill $400 an hour to a client, your business development is actually worth exponentially more. It’s not a waste of time just because you can’t bill it to a client. You’ve got to carve it out and you have to commit to it. [MUSIC AND INTRODUCTION] [00:22] Michelle Calcote King [00:43] Hi everyone! I’m Michelle Calcote King, your host, and the Principal and President of Reputation Ink. We’re a public relations and content marketing agency for law firms and professional services firms. To learn more about us go to www.rep-ink.com.  As a business owner, you’re constantly eyeing growth opportunities and thinking through what you can do best to position your business for success. Well — like it or not — a law firm is a business and if you don’t have a clear vision for the future with measurable markers of success, you’re essentially just treading water. The strategic planning process is a crucial component to securing your practice. But, how should you go about it? To talk about this topic, I’ve invited Wendy Merrill to be on today’s episode. Wendy is the Director of Strategic Consulting for Affinity Consulting Group where she helps law firms with strategic planning for growth and improving profitability. She’s a published author, and a seasoned business developer and marketer. I’m really excited to have you on the show! Welcome! Wendy Merrill [1:45] Hey! Great to see you. Michelle Calcote King [1:47] Wendy and I know each other well. I gave that very brief intro but if you wouldn’t mind giving us a little bit more about your background. Tell us about your book and your services at Affinity. Wendy Merrill [2:01] Sure. So many questions; so many things to talk about. I have been, I’d say, immersed in the legal space for over 12 years as a business development strategist, growth strategist; and also helping firms with their retention needs, their professional development needs, and all sorts of really fun and exciting things. Helping law firms think more like businesses, which I love to do. A couple of years ago, I wrote a book that was specifically written for rising leaders. So, those that are a little bit newer, a little bit younger, in the professional services space — especially law firms — who have aspirations to be impactful, really want to make a difference, want to take on leadership positions, and want to grow their firms but aren't really sure how to start. So that's what it was designed for. So that's called Path to Impact: The Rising Leaders’ Guide to Growing Smart.  Michelle Calcote King [3:07] Awesome. Let’s talk about strategic planning. Why should firms care about it, regardless of whether they’re small or large? Tell me about that. Wendy Merrill [3:17] I want to put it in the post-COVID perspective. I think that’s probably most relevant now because COVID, you know, it continues. We’d like to think we’re in post-COVID, but it’s been terrible. But, there have been a few silver linings, dare I say. I think one of the silver linings for the legal industry in particular is it forced law firms to start thinking about their business model and thinking strategically about where they want to go. When the pandemic happened, pretty much overnight, suddenly firms were faced with the fact that maybe their technology support was not where it needed to be; they didn’t have enough laptops to allow for remote work, for example; they were faced with having to figure out a whole new culture. How are they going to service clients? How are they going to retain good people? All sorts of things. What I have found is the last couple of years, law firms are really starting to think about, “Well, why don’t we really be more strategic about how we grow? Why don’t we think a little bit more analytically about what does growth mean for us? What kind of clients do we want? What kind of practice areas do we want to specialize in? How do we want to grow our team? What kind of people are our future leaders? And set up goals, objectives, KPIs?” Things that are kind of new to the legal space; things that businesses have been doing for years and now law firms are doing. Michelle Calcote King [4:48] Yeah. There are a lot of market forces. Obviously, you mentioned COVID, but there are other market forces that are really pushing law firms to change old ways. There are ALSPs, client demands and that kind of things. Are you seeing that that’s top of mind for many firms? Wendy Merrill [5:09] You know what’s top of mind? People. Holding on to people. Michelle Calcote King [5:16] Oh, interesting. Wendy Merrill [5:17] There are certainly pressures like you said, the non-lawyer-owned legal services provider. Certainly mergers of larger firms and pricing pressures. All sorts of things. Michelle Calcote King [5:32] It’s an interesting point you make about people because we read about it and there’s all the news about the “Great Recession.” tell me what you’re hearing from firms about that. Wendy Merrill [5:42] As I mentioned, people has become the biggest focus for law firms in that certainly the great resignation affects them; this quiet quitting — which is a really strange concept. They can't really take it for granted anymore that they’re going to have people to do all the work. For example, most of the law firms I’ve spoke to in the last couple of years had an influx of business. They were very profitable and did very well, but their biggest problem is they have more work than they can handle because they are struggling with retaining associates for a number of reasons. They’re also struggling to hire lateral hires. The goal of every firm is to bring over attorneys with experience that have a nice book of business they can meld into their firm.  It’s been a big struggle for firms and it’s been, I think, sometimes a distraction from, “Okay, how do we go out and get more clients? Well, we’re not really thinking about that. We’re really more worried about how are we going to service the clients we have?” So it’s not just employee retention. It’s also client retention. Michelle Calcote King [6:55] In the strategic planning process, how can firms address the people factor? How do they go about that in doing their strategic planning? Wendy Merrill [7:07] A couple of keywords come to mind: trust, transparency and transition.  Trust is the most important thing. If a firm is really serious about thinking about how they want to grow, and thinking very strategically about putting one foot in front of the other, they have to make sure that everyone trusts each other. There has to be very deep trust among the partners, which sometimes can be a struggle. There also has to be trust among the associates, the non-partner lawyers who are looking to the partners to be leaders in the firm. They have to make sure they have their best interests in mind. Also staff. I mean, they make the magic happen. There are a lot of administrative folks that sometimes struggle with trusting the direction that the organization is going in; that the lawyers really are going to appreciate the work that they do, and vice versa. So trust is really important. Transparency, as I mentioned, is something that has not always been a theme in law firms. I would say that the legal business has probably not been known as one of the most transparent industries. But that is changing. The reason for that is because the younger generation, the next gen wants to know what’s going on. Not only do they want to know what’s going on, but if law firms really want their people to be engaged and buy in to what they do, understand profitability and contribute to the firm, they need to understand how the sausage is made. They need to understand, how do we make money? How do we do things? Many lawyers really just don’t know. They’re very focused on what they need to do on a day-to-day basis, which doesn’t exactly support the cause, if you will, and really helping the whole firm work together in lockstep towards a common goal. The third keyword is transition. Talking really about succession planning. That is a big, big, big, big challenge I think in a lot of businesses, but I just happen to see it a lot in the legal space. Many firms intellectually understand that they need to think about it, but it’s very emotional, Michelle. Very, very emotional because for so many people who have built these firms, it’s their baby. They’ve been doing this forever. It’s their identity and the thought of having to step away from that is scary to a lot of folks, quite frankly. You know, “Well what am I going to do next? What does my next chapter look like?” And it’s also scary because when you retire there’s a finite amount of money that will come in. So, it’s not like, “Oh, well, I’ll just keep earning in perpetuity.” So, those are two roadblocks I think sometimes to the succession process. But, succession planning is so important not only for the future growth of the firm, but also for the security for the rest of the firm. Meaning the other lawyers and staff who want to know what it’s going to be. They want to know what’s going t happen and they want to know what their future looks like. They need to understand what kind of upcoming transition there might be, what it looks like, what leadership change, etcetera. Michelle Calcote King [10:28]  I've always found that fascinating about the legal industry how so many lawyers really work for a much longer time than I see in other professions. Wendy Merrill [10:40] I mean there’s the old saying that someone’s going to die at their desk. It sounds kind of funny and kind of morbid at the same time, but it’s true. It’s the kind of profession  that you can and you can. You can hold on to a few clients and do work at the end of the day, which is fine. But that person really shouldn’t be leading the firm. They should perhaps move into an off-council position or something like that where they can still contribute but they relinquish a lot of their decision-making and control to the next generation. Michelle Calcote King [11:11] What are some of the ways you see law firms getting strategic planning wrong? What are some common mistakes that firms are making? Wendy Merrill [11:23] I think the biggest mistake — and it’s not just law firms, it’s a lot of businesses that engage in the process — is they focus more on the plan, not the process. They will invest a lot of time and energy and money and emotion into going through the strategic planning process. They get a document that’s like yay thick, it goes on the shelf and then that’s it. It happens a lot. So we focus a lot more on the process itself. So, it’s not just about the plan, but how is it a living document? What are strategic objectives? Who is bought in? How do we all work together? And how do we assign tasks and action steps and dates and make sure that the implementation is happening? And that we’re maintaining momentum? It’s very difficult because you’re working with firms where time is of the essence. Let’s just say, time management is probably a struggle for all of us, but also especially for lawyers. Especially for lawyers, when they’re so busy — especially litigators — if they’re so busy and they’re pulled in a million different directions, it’s really hard to commit the time and energy to, “Okay, let’s take the next steps. Let’s move this along.” so, a lot of our clients when they express interest in strategic planning, we want to find out, “Well, how committed are you? Are you serious about the process? Here’s what’s going to be involved.” Then afterward, we try to stay involved to make sure that we’re pushing the ball along in any way that we can to make sure that we are focusing on measurable results. Michelle Calcote King [13:00] Yeah, I could see how that would be a huge part of it because it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day of just delivering client services and keeping that deadline. We know law firms and the law, in general, is more conservative and slower to adapt to change. How are you seeing how technology is impacting firms? Does it play a role in this strategy discussion? Wendy Merrill [13:35] It definitely does. At Affinity, we do a lot of technology consulting as well and focus on improving processes and systems. Many firms will come to us and say that their people are frustrated for whatever reason. They don’t like the systems they have or they don’t know how to use them. Sometimes it’s the system, but other times it’s the people. What I mean by that is they’re just not properly training, they’re not properly engaged and they don’t understand the capabilities of the particular technology they have, or for whatever reason, they’re just not interested in it. So, it absolutely affects this whole process. I mean, there are people who will be so frustrated and have such low job satisfaction because maybe their impression is that the systems aren’t there, the technology is not there, so they move to another firm where they feel like their needs are better served. But, oftentimes it’s just a matter of understanding what you have. These days you can automate so many processes, but many firms are still relying on kind of like a hodgepodge approach to technology. They’ll have a piece of software over here and a system over there and they’re not talking to each other. So, it requires a lot more steps that aren’t necessarily ones that they need to take.  Technology can be friend or foe, right? I mean these days it’s absolutely essential that you have a really streamlined system, and you know what you’re doing, and you’re able to use it, and everybody’s engaged. But at the same time, it can be really frustrating. I personally use technology all the time and I don’t consider myself a tech person. I get frustrated and I tend towards old-fashioned ways. Sometimes I’ll use it but maybe I don’t use it the best way I should. Fortunately, I get a lot of great training from my company to learn how to improve myself, but that’s not always the case in firms. I think it’s really important. Technology is just a huge component to this whole process because it’s one of the engines to progress. Michelle Calcote King [15:36] Well and it needs to be implemented strategically. I remember someone in the industry telling me — and it wasn’t a law firm they were talking about; they were talking about another small consulting firm — and they said it was always the shiniest new platform and there was almost fatigue of the employees hearing what’s the newest thing they had to learn and figure out. That was fascinating to me because I’ve always seen the opposite where leadership is sluggish to adopt something. But it can be either way. Wendy Merrill [16:10 It can. Also it comes down to the same thing for both it’s if people are not engaged in owning their role and understanding why are we using this system or why did we hire this person, if they don’t understand that, it’s hard for them to understand their role and how important their role is in the overall success of the firm. Michelle Calcote King [16:36] Yeah. How do you see strategic planning and having that plan — and hopefully it isn’t just sitting on the shelf — but having that strategic plan when a crisis hits? We’ve all been through COVID now but I know there are other crises. How have you seen firms weather a crisis or not weather it very well because of having or lack of having a strategic plan? Wendy Merrill [17:06] I’m going to answer that question in sort of a sideways fashion, I suppose. Because of COVID, once upon a time, I think many businesses would say, “Well, what’s the one-year plan? The three-year plan? The five-year plan? The 10 and 20 year plan?” These days I say one to three. We don’t look beyond that because we all know things change. It’s good to say, “Well long term I’d like to do this.” But we also know that we have to be nimble. We have to be prepared for anything to happen and have a backup plan. I think what I’ve seen with firms is, certainly, they’ve invested a lot more in technology, they’ve invested in cloud technology, getting servers out of their offices, which is risky. Also thinking about a creative approach to the workspace because if something happens, like a pandemic or any crisis, if they have a huge lease on a huge office space and something happens, they’re stuck. So many firms are starting to think about what’s a flexible option. Doing hotelling or figuring out if they even need to be in an office. I think that it’s affected the way people are planning for the future. We’re all aware, but i think it’s human nature to sort of say, “Well, let’s just kind of stay in our comfort zone.” And I don’t know how much crisis planning law firms can really do other than what they’re doing right now. I do think it’s also really important to focus on culture. If you don’t have a really strong culture and something happens, your firm will have a very difficult time weathering the crisis. Culture is a newer phenomenon, I think, in terms of thinking of it as this sort of entity. Like, we have to be intentional about it. What is our culture? What is our brand? What do we stand for? Why do we do what we do? How do we care for our people? How do we engage them? That is absolutely vital to the success of any firm and I would say weathering any crisis that may come their way. Michelle Calcote King [19:22] Agreed. It’s interesting because the Legal Marketing Association’s Southeastern Conference, their whole theme is culture this year. I’m looking forward to that. I think especially for on the marketing side, often marketers kind of get thrown these things, you know, if the firm is big enough to have a marketer in-house. They get thrown anything to do this kind of stuff. I think it’s going to be a fascinating discussion. Wendy Merrill [19:51] I’m really happy to hear that they’re doing that because I personally believe that marketing should have the responsibility of being stewards of the culture. And I don’t think a lot of firms properly utilize and really take advantage of the knowledge that their marketing professionals have in creating this culture because it’s really branding. I mean, it’s really the same kind of thing. I’ve also always wondered why HR departments and marketing departments don’t sit next to each other and work together because it’s kind of the same thing. Michelle Calcote King [20:27] It’s becoming one in of the same, absolutely. Well, as recruiting gets more difficult and retention, right? This is how people, you know, through marketing is how they learn what kind of firm this is. Absolutely. So, you have answered this already, but I want to ask it. How do you know if a strategic plan is sort of strong, but also nimble enough to evolve? You mentioned, “Look let’s look one to three years.” Are there other ways to know that, “Look we have a strategic plan, but we’re still going to evolve and react to market changes”? Wendy Merrill [21:08] I think you have to build that in. When you’re talking about the planning process, you have your goals and you have your strategic objectives. Strategic objectives should be broad enough that you can apply it to different things that may come your way. It may be something like, “We want to become the go-to firm in this particular practice area.” Okay. Well, there are a lot of ways you can do that. Maybe you try spending a lot of money on digital marketing. And maybe it doesn’t go so well. Okay, well, let’s go to Plan B. What else can we do? I encourage firms to think about — there are a lot of ways to skin a cat, right? — so, I think that if you have a really strong foundation where you have buy-in from all of the stakeholders, and they all agree, they’re all aligned in what they want and their values, that’s the most important thing because if they’re faced with a crisis or they’re faced with something going sideways or it’s not going as well, everybody should be able to come back up together and say, “Okay, let’s regroup. Remember what we talked about before; remember what's really important to us. This particular tactic isn't working. Let's shift to something else.” So, like anything else, it really comes down to the trust that people have with each other within these firms and making sure that they’re constantly aligned. And by the way, Michelle, that’s not a one-time thing. It’s something that you have to keep reconnecting and reiterating. You have the strategic planning process and you go through this; many firms will have a once-a-year retreat. That’s great, but what’s keeping people connected throughout the year? That’s absolutely imperative. Michelle Calcote King [23:06] How do you help firms do that? How do you help them kind of stay connected to their strategy? Wendy Merrill [23:14] It depends on the firm. I like to definitely set up some kind of a structure. For example, I recently worked with a law firm that was having — I can’t remember how often they were meeting as partners; maybe quarterly; maybe twice a year. They had so many changes going on, I said, “You all really should be meeting monthly.” So, we had a retreat and it was hugely successful. Everyone was thrilled to come together and share. I said, “Okay we have to keep this momentum going.” So, one of the things that we’re doing is we’re having monthly partner meetings. Everybody’s going to come together. One month you’re together in perso and the other month you’re virtual. To make it easier, here’s the agenda you’re going to follow every single month. It’s going to be a revolving facilitator, so somebody gets assigned each particular month and make sure they’re on task, and then there’s going to be follow-up. And it's worked really, really, really well. It's made a huge difference for this particular firm.  Where we try to help is — I mean, certainly you can lead a horse to water, right? But, we try to share ideas about, “Okay, well, here’s some structure you can put to this; and if you lay it out and it makes sense to people.” Also it’s helpful when you’re in the room with them and you whip out the calendar and you say, “Okay, so let’s get it done.” It really makes a difference. Michelle Calcote King [24:32] That’s great. What else haven’t I asked you that you think law firms need to be thinking about from a strategic planning process? Is there anything that we haven’t touched on? Wendy Merrill [24:45] We can talk about growth strategy and business development. Many, many firms that I mentioned earlier are very fortunate and have a ton of work right now. So, when we’re all really busy and things are good and we’ve got a lot of clients, we go, “Oh, we don’t have to market. We don’t have to go out and shake hands and kiss babies.” But I cannot underline this enough. When you’re really busy is exactly when you need to be investing because the other shoe always drops. This recession that keeps kind of coming up, you don’t know what’s going to happen. And, it’s going to sound silly, but when you’re busy and you’re successful, you exude confidence and positivity and people want to work with you. Michelle Calcote King [25:34] Absolutely. Wendy Merrill [25:35] When you’re not busy, you will absolutely look and seem desperate. It’s happened to all of us. As silly as that sounds, it’s true. So, I’d say, even if you’re really busy and you’ve got a lot of pressure on you to bill, carve time out and look at your business development. And you have to understand that while you may bill $400 an hour to a client, your business development is actually worth exponentially more. It’s not a waste of time just because you can’t bill it to a client. You’ve got to carve it out and you have to commit to it. Michelle Calcote King [26:09] Yeah. I could not agree with that more. It’s something that I say often about business development, marketing or long-term initiatives. You can’t just throw a campaign out there and generate business, especially in professional services. Wendy Merrill [26:28] It’s building habits. It’s not just, “Well, let’s do this initiative. Let’s do a PR campaign.” It has to be woven into the very fabric of the firm. It’s building the muscle. It’s saying, “Here’s what we’re going to do.” You just have to build this habit and know that if you’re responsible for origination, business development is just part of what you do on a daily basis, on a weekly basis. It’s just what’s expected of you as an attorney.  I will add one more thing. Defining expectations, which is a really big deal, I think many firms do not have path to partnership. It’s very subjective. Maybe it’s not written down or if it is, it’s still very sort of vague. This is a struggle I’ve seen where younger attorneys want to have a roadmap. They want to know what’s expected of them so that they can measure themselves and that they can aspire to goals. But, it’s also important for the firm to define what is an “ABC” lawyer. What do we expect of our attorneys? What is the approach to billing? What is the approach to client service? What is the approach to culture? Leadership? If it’s not defined, then how can anyone be judged by it? How can anybody be measured? This is something that I also reiterate a lot with the firms they work with.  Michelle Calcote King [27:59] That’s really important. Thank you so much. This was a fantastic overview of the strategic planning process for law firms and I can imagine it’s top of mind with many firms. We’ve been talking to Wendy Merrill of Affinity Consulting. Tell our listeners how to get in touch with you, Wendy. Wendy Merrill [28:18] Sure. My email is wmerrill@affinityconsulting.com. Definitely connect with me on LinkedIn. I’m very, very active on LinkedIn and would love to connect with all of you. Feel free to reach out with a question and an idea. I love to collaborate and I love to learn, so I would be happy to speak to any of your listeners. Michelle Calcote King [28:44] Awesome, thank you so much. Wendy Merrill [28:46] Thank you.
How To Improve Your Legal Marketing Strategy For The Hispanic Market
Oct 7 2022
How To Improve Your Legal Marketing Strategy For The Hispanic Market
Your law firm’s marketing strategy is tailored to resonate with the types of clients who you want to reach and attract. However, an award-worthy marketing strategy for an American audience can fall short when simply translated verbatim to another language.  Achieving a successful multicultural and/or multilingual campaign requires extra legwork and a different approach to ensure your messaging hits its intended mark. Otherwise, you stand to quickly lose potential clients. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Michelle Calcote King talks with Liel Levy, the co-founder of Nanato Media and award-winning author of Beyond Se Habla Español: How Lawyers Win The Hispanic Market. They discuss best practices for marketing to a Hispanic audience, the common mistakes firms and attorneys make when they’re first starting out, and what lawyers can do to keep these new clients once they have them. Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn Why marketing to Hispanic and Latino clients is different from marketing to a U.S.-born or English-speaking clientWhy translating messaging verbatim from English to Spanish is an ineffective strategyHispanic consumer habitsBest practices for connecting with potential Hispanic clientsCommon mistakes law firms make when working with non-native English speakers About our featured guest Liel Levy is the award-winning author of the Amazon bestseller Beyond Se Habla Español: How Lawyers Win The Hispanic Market and co-founder of Nanato Media, an Austin-based marketing agency focused on helping law firms dominate their Hispanic market. He is also the producer and co-host of "In Camera Podcast: Private Legal Marketing Conversations" and has been published by multiple legal publications of note, including Law.com, Law360, Marketing the Law Firm and ABA Journal. Resources mentioned in this episode Check out Nanato MediaFollow Nanato Media on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and InstagramRead Beyond Se Habla Español: How Lawyers Win The Hispanic MarketConnect with Liel Levy on LinkedInSay hello to Michelle Calcote King on Twitter and LinkedInWhatsApp Sponsor for this episode This episode is brought to you by Reputation Ink. Founded by Michelle Calcote King, Reputation Ink is a public relations and content marketing agency that serves professional services firms of all shapes and sizes across the United States, including corporate law firms and architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) firms.  Reputation Ink understands how sophisticated corporate buyers find and select professional services firms. For more than a decade, they have helped firms grow through thought leadership-fueled strategies, including public relations, content marketing, video marketing, social media, podcasting, marketing strategy services and more. To learn more visit www.rep-ink.com or email them at info@rep-ink.com today. Transcript Liel Levy [00:00] You want to make sure that you’re digging a little deeper and see what things are important to their culture. What do they value? Is it family? Is it sports? Is it food? And these are just some of the very, very upper layers. You want to dig deeper down there and really showcase things that matter to the community. [MUSIC AND INTRODUCTION] [00:20] Michelle Calcote King [00:40] Hi everyone! I’m Michelle Calcote King, your host, and the Principal and President of Reputation Ink. We’re a public relations and content marketing agency for law firms and professional services firms. To learn more about us go to www.rep-ink.com.  We’re now in Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s a celebration of the histories, cultures and achievements of Hispanics and Latinos. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, for this episode, I’m going to talk to an old friend of ours about how law firms can effectively market to their Hispanic population — and also how they can get it wrong. My guest today is Liel Levy. He’s the award-winning author of — and this is going to show how bad my Spanish skills are — Beyond Se Habla Español: How Lawyers Win The Hispanic Market and he’s also the co-founder of Nanato Media, a marketing agency focused on helping law firms dominate their Hispanic market. Liel, welcome and thank you for sitting down to chat today. Liel Levy [01:44] That actually sounded great. That’s really good pronunciation. Thank you so much for having me. It’s a real pleasure to be here and to have an opportunity to chat with you again. Michelle Calcote King  [01:54] To start, tell me a little bit about Nanato Media, what you guys do and why you founded the agency. Liel Levy [02:03] Nanato Media, we’re a multicultural marketing agency. We’re bilingual and our goal is to help particularly law firms because the go-to law firms for their local Hispanic market. How Nanato Media came to exist was basically as a solution to a need that's been there for decades.  Latinos have been part of U.S. culture and society since the beginning of the existence of the nation. Before lawyers, they used to primarily rely on strategies that were run through lead generation companies where they would relegate their marketing efforts for the Hispanic community to other parties that did not necessarily market their own brand — the law firm brand. Many times, it wasn’t really something that they were specialized in. So, obviously, this generated frustration, particularly amongst law firms that deeply care about the community and want to have the same quality of marketing that they have for their English-speaking market for their Spanish-speaking market. For us, it became very clear that there was a massive gap there. And this is what we’d been doing pretty much all of our professional marketing careers. It was a very natural pivot for us to move from doing the marketing from a big lead generation organization that was focused on the Hispanic market to doing it for law firms that are interested in building their own brand — and we’re talking here about consumer-focused law firms. Michelle Calcote King [3:53] Yes. So, we know each other because we worked together to help publicize your book. And it’s not just translating materials to Spanish, right? Tell me a little bit more about how marketing to the Hispanic and Latino population is different. Why does it go beyond translating materials into the Spanish language? Liel Levy [4:25] Sure. Translation as a baseline doesn’t work. The way that you actually create and compose sentences and paragraphs, and organize ideas in one language is not the same as in Spanish. Also, for those who are Spanish speakers, they probably already notice that in Spanish we speak and use more words than we use in English. What happens when you’re using translation as your main method of creating messaging in Spanish is that your message ends up getting lost in translation, literally. So it’s not effective. It doesn’t fulfill the purpose of actually helping you communicate to your audience exactly what you want them to know. Beyond that, it’s ineffective because your message that was created thinking of the English speaker in mind is not necessarily one that’s going to resonate with your Latino speaker. It’s not just about the language being really compatible — the words that you’re using in English being compatible with the Spanish language. It’s more about, is what you’re saying to your English speaker potential client the same that you would want to say to your Latino speaker? You may say, “Well, it is,” but at the end of the day, are you customizing or personalizing these words to be even more relevant to the Latino speaker? Are you actually showing them through the messaging that you are seeing them, that you’re hearing them, and that you care about them? If you’re not, then that’s where you’re missing a big opportunity. Because here’s the thing about being a “minority” — and I say minority in brackets here because Latinos are by no means minorities in markets like Texas and California. Just last week, a new census report showcased that in Texas the Latino population is now the largest demographic group, so more Latinos than white non-Hispanics, and that same milestone was achieved a couple of years ago in California. So, when you’re using the term “minority” for Latinos, in some areas and states — some of the biggest states in the United States — it’s no longer applicable. But, generally speaking, when you’re a minority, the general message of a brand doesn’t necessarily feel that it was created for you. Michelle Calcote King [7:00] Can you give me some examples of those differences? I know by even asking for examples that is sort of pigeonholing it, but can you give me some examples of what some of those differences might be for people? Liel Levy [7:15] Absolutely. Just the idea — especially talking about law firms — when you are putting yourself in the mindset of the Latino, especially the one that is Spanish-speaking, if Spanish is their mother tongue, then chances are that they actually immigrated recently within the last ten or maybe twenty years to the United States. What’s on their mind? What are the concerns that they have? How do they think about things? Where do they live? What do they have access to and do not have access to? When you actually start talking and seeing things from a mindset that they can understand, then you’re going to become more relevant to them. Language is a fantastic way of doing it where you’re targeting an audience that is likely to be Spanish speakers first. But, when you’re looking at U.S.-born Latinos, you want to make sure that you’re digging a little deeper and see what things are important to their culture. What do they value? Is it family? Is it sports? Is it food? And these are just some of the very, very upper layers. You want to dig deeper down there and really showcase things that matter to the community. That’s why we always think that the best marketing you can do for yourself is actually getting involved in the community, doing community outreach. As you’re getting involved in the community, showcase the stories of what’s happening there in the community because nothing will speak better about your brand and your law firm than showcasing the people you’re having an impact on. I think there are tons of examples where we see law firms doing this, and their results are astonishing. Michelle Calcote King [9:06] Wow. That makes a lot of sense. It’s understanding the consumer that you’re targeting, what they care about, their concerns and their needs. Are there differences between the kinds of technology Latinos use or how they search for services like law firms? Are there differences in that as well? Liel Levy [9:31] Yeah. This is already widely known, but for those who may just be discovering the Hispanic market, Latinos are considered mobile power users. What does this mean? That they heavily rely on their mobile devices for all kinds of connectivity. This is for infotainment; they watch and listen to basically everything you would stream traditionally on a TV, but on their mobile devices. Or some of the things you would do on a desktop, they would do on their mobile devices.  There are actually a couple of things here that are important to point out. They really like to search on Google. 93% of Latinos in the U.S. have expressed that Google is their preferred search engine of choice. They go there to find answers when they don’t know the answers to things.  The other thing that is also very interesting about the U.S. Latino consumer is that they're 20% more likely to interact with ads. Whereas you may think that every time that I do complete a search query on Google and I get to the search results page, I skip through the ads because I don’t care about ads. Well, when you’re looking at your Latino consumer, that’s not the case.  Most of the time they actually do pay attention to the ads.  Why is that? Well, it's because there's not a lot of great content on your organic search results in Spanish for potentially what they're searching for, especially if they're searching in Spanish. So, ads tend to be more thoughtful. Not just that, but especially when you’re looking at law firms, it also offers a more viable and faster solution to what they need. The other thing about mobile users is that you’re not going to spend as much time on the device as you would on a desktop. Desktop has a bigger screen and is a different experience; you can spend more time researching, reading reviews and maybe watching videos or doing comparisons. On a mobile device, you’re probably not going to want to read through the long text that is on practice area pages and that sort of thing. You’re also more likely to initiate a conversation, and it will most likely be a phone call faster. Latinos most likely need a fast answer to try to troubleshoot the problem that they’re going through. That’s kind of a lot about Latino consumer behavior there. Michelle Calcote King [12:10] That’s fascinating about the ads, but it makes complete sense that once they get to the organic search results, they’ve learned there’s not a lot there that really resonates because it’s more built for an English-speaking audience. Liel Levy [12:25] What you encounter a lot on the organic search results is — you’d be surprised how many times pages that are not even in Spanish get to rank, even on the first page of search results. But, even the content that is in Spanish oftentimes is not really that great. It’s literal translations of pages that were first created in English. They just have terrible user experience (UX) and user design (UI). To scroll on them is not really pleasant. Ads are a more efficient way of finding quick and fast information about what they’re looking for and allowing them to take the next step in a way that doesn’t require a lot of effort from their end. Michelle Calcote King [13:19] Interesting. Once you’ve captured their attention through the ads, is there anything different about that funnel they’re going through that is different from an English-speaking audience? Do they interact with chat boxes? Is there anything different at that stage of the funnel? Liel Levy [13:37] I love that question because yes, it’s very different. It really is gonna depend a lot on your practice area. We’ve noticed that, for instance, personal injury phone calls will be very popular. However, other types of law, for instance, immigration, the users are going to be more open to having conversations via messaging. I will tell you definitely that your best option to connect with the Hispanic market through text is not through live chat, but it’s actually by enabling business WhatsApp on your website as a way of being able to start conversations with them via text. It’s just from a user-experience standpoint much better. The conversation opens up on your WhatsApp app, right? And there are two very powerful things that are actually achieved when you do that. Number one, you already become a contact on the WhatsApp app. Now you’re a lawyer that sits there and you’re going to be a conversation on their WhatsApp until they consciously decide to remove you. The other thing is that it allows them to get back to you whenever it’s convenient to them without necessarily having to go back through the whole journey of searching for you on Google, clicking on your site and getting to the live chat session. From a user-experience point, it’s better, but Latinos love WhatsApp. They use it a lot. Michelle Calcote King [15:13] It seems like most of the world uses WhatsApp except for the U.S. Liel Levy [15:17] And it all goes back to the fact that — you need to remember that they're on their mobile devices. WhatsApp is an app that was built for mobile. So, it doesn't get much better than that. Michelle Calcote King [15:29] Got it. Once lawyers in these consumer law firms have Latino clients, do you see any mistakes firms are making or challenges they have in terms of actually working with these clients? Liel Levy [15:48] Yes. One of them is investing in marketing and putting efforts in place to generate Latino clients, but then not having Latino experience thought up. What happens there is that it basically generates frustration from the client standpoint. They are calling call centers where there are no Spanish speakers who can actually help them. They’re being sent contracts that are not in a language that they can understand. They also encounter that the intake agent was able to speak Spanish, but then there is no other person inside the law firm when it comes to communicating with the legal team that actually speaks Spanish. All of those things are roadblocks. If you fail at any of those points, you’re taking a risk of losing the client. That’s one of the issues that we see law firms face oftentimes is that they do want to enter the Hispanic market, but they’re not structured internally to be able to provide a good quality experience for their Spanish-speaking clients. Michelle Calcote King [17:11] That’s really important, and that’s fantastic that you guys can help these firms with that. It’s not just about capturing the client, it’s making sure that client experience continues. There’s nothing worse than feeling that sort of bait and switch feeling that you’ve been sold to in a certain way and then once you sign on the dotted line you get a different experience. Trust is so important in that attorney relationship. Liel Levy [17:45] Right and that can break if it’s not kept throughout. They may have had an excellent rapport and connection with the intake agent, but if that intake agent is not going to be leading the case beyond that point, then if whoever takes the role from intake onwards is not connecting with the client in that way, then it’s ineffective. The other thing I would say is the lack of awareness about what could be the areas of concern to Latino clients. What we know from our experiences is that oftentimes Latinos need a lot of handholding when it comes down to understanding how cases are built and what needs to happen in order for a case to run its path. If you’re not training your staff and you’re not generating awareness about how to educate your clients — even after they’ve already reached out to you, they don’t know everything that you do — assuming that they do is a huge mistake that may leave you without being able to convert really valuable leads into clients. Michelle Calcote King [19:16] I like that y’all offer that expertise. Let’s talk a little bit about your book. A lot of what we’ve talked about is what people will learn in the book, but if a law firm is looking to more effectively market to the Latino population, what are they going to take away from your book? Liel Levy [19:44 I think the most important thing that anyone picking up the book, especially lawyers, will get out of it is that it's gonna demystify a lot of the misconceptions that are around Latinos.  Most of the time when people think about Latinos, they say, “Oh, so many nationalities; so much diversity.” We feel that the first thing that someone who's approaching the Latino market should do is not try to categorize Latinos by their country of origin, but more so by the level of acculturation that they have. That’s one of the baselines that the book will give you because once you understand that, you’re going to have a completely different understanding and view of the Latino market.  The other thing I think is very valuable about reading the book is that it’s very easy to get intimidated with the prospect of, “I need to target or create a campaign for a community that I may not necessarily be part of. Where do I start? How do I do it? What steps can I take to prevent making the mistakes that others have made?” I think the book will give you that. It will give you enough of a level of awareness and education so you can at least make good, well-thought decisions about how to approach your Hispanic marketing strategy. Whether you’re going to deploy it on your own with the resources you have in-house, or whether you’re considering bringing a partner to the table to help you out, it’s going to give you enough education and awareness so that you’re not just sitting at the table listening to what others are telling you, but are actually actively partaking in the decision-making in a way that you’re looking after the interest of your law firms and clients. I oftentimes see lawyers completely lost when it comes down to being able to talk and make decisions about their Hispanic marketing strategy. Michelle Calcote King [22:04] Yeah. Lawyers are all like small business owners. They go into it because they know the law, not because they’re great marketers or great finance people. So they have to find people like you to help them navigate these things. Liel Levy [22:23] But you’d be surprised, Michelle. Even those big marketing lawyers who we are seeing all the time on TV and in the news and on billboards and such; they may have very good and strong strategies in English, but when you have conversations with them about their Spanish marketing efforts, they’re completely lost. I’ve had a lot of conversations with several of them and I think it’s really interesting to see how much of a vulnerable position they feel like they’re in when it comes down to it. So, I think that’s one of the things that the book does is takes you away from that position. Michelle Calcote King [23:03] This is great and it’s such a good conversation for us to mark Hispanic Heritage Month. I really appreciate you being here. We’ve been talking to Liel Levy of Nanato Media. Liel, tell our listeners where they can find the book and learn more about you guys. Liel Levy [23:22] Yeah! You can get the book as easily as Googling it in Amazon, but I understand that Beyond Se Habla Español: How Lawyers Win The Hispanic Market may not be something that everyone can easily spell. Hopefully, by either searching for me, Liel Levy on Google or Nanato Media, which is the name of our agency, you’re going to be able to easily find your way to a place where you can order the book. Or, if you’re interested in connecting with me or with anyone on our team, we’ll always be happy to talk to lawyers, marketing professionals or anyone who is interested in connecting with their Hispanic audience. Michelle Calcote King [24:04] Great. And we will post the links as well when we publish the podcast. All right. Well, thank you so much. Liel Levy [24:11] It’s my pleasure. Thank you very much, Michelle.
Insights Into Today’s Facility Owners With Howie Ferguson, Executive Director of the Construction Owners Association of America
Apr 11 2022
Insights Into Today’s Facility Owners With Howie Ferguson, Executive Director of the Construction Owners Association of America
Howie Ferguson is an experienced leader and is the Executive Director of the Construction Owners Association of America. The national association consists of public and private owners who manage facilities development and capital improvement projects. The organization supports owners' success in the design and construction of buildings and facilities through education, information and collaboration. Howie has a thorough background in civil engineering, serving over nine years as a commissioned officer in the Civil Engineer Corps of the US Navy. He spent roughly 28 years as an institutional owner, including almost two decades as a Project Manager at the University of Florida where he oversaw their planning, design and construction. In this episode: AEC firms have a particular need for high standards of quality. So many small details come into play during construction, any of which can have catastrophic effects on the build. Furthermore, those potential defects can directly correlate to the longevity and even safety of the finished product. This creates a demand for higher standards and a sense of trust. For the Construction Owners Association of America, this is exactly what they aim to do. They utilize education and collaboration across their members to improve the quality of the building process. Howie Ferguson, the Executive Director of the association, has upheld these standards in his own work and as director. So what lessons can be learned by other AEC firms? Michelle Calcote King has an informative interview with Howie Ferguson, the Executive Director of the Construction Owners Association of America, to discuss the association and the principles behind their work. They go through the organization’s background and how they use education to raise standards. They also touch on a variety of topics for AEC firms, including procuring clients, the value of authenticity and accountability. Hear all this and more on this episode of the Spill the Ink podcast.
The Role of Sales in Professional Services Firms With Mark Wainwright of Wainwright Insight
Mar 15 2022
The Role of Sales in Professional Services Firms With Mark Wainwright of Wainwright Insight
Mark Wainwright is an established consultant for business development and sales growth. Through his current firm, Wainwright Insight, he applies his method of fractional sales management to help clients get organized and grow their practice. He also serves as a consultant for giving campaigns, fundraising, and sponsorships for purpose-driven organizations. Prior to his own firm, Mark had worked in marketing for businesses such as Kotter and GGLO. He received his first job out of college at K2 Sports, where he first learned some of his managerial principles in their bicycle division. In this episode: Over the years, the word “sales” has taken on a loaded connotation within the marketplace. It seems to imply a callous and sometimes even greedy mindset when working with other companies. While all businesses are driven by sales, the term itself has started carrying a new meaning. But what would it look like to breathe life into the concept and reemphasize sales in a new way? Mark Wainwright is a sales management consultant with a thorough background in marketing and development. His approach, which he calls fractional sales management, is both personal and effective for helping clients get organized. He knows the baggage behind sales and has found a way to transform the process. Now he shows you what it looks like in action. In this episode of the Spill the Ink podcast, Michelle Calcote King talks with Mark Wainwright about sales management and how to adapt to the current business climate. They start with his consultancy and how he uses fractional sales management to give clients the attention they need. They then dive into topics such as making the sales process more comfortable, taking on a vendor mindset and what makes a good businessperson.
Nurturing Leadership and Culture Within Law Firms With Marcie Borgal Shunk of The Tilt Institute
Jan 17 2022
Nurturing Leadership and Culture Within Law Firms With Marcie Borgal Shunk of The Tilt Institute
With more than 20 years of experience consulting law firms, Marcie Borgal Shunk considers herself a sociologist of lawyers. She is the President and Founder of The Tilt Institute, a firm that provides leadership advisory and training along with business support. Concurrently, she serves as a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and is a Faculty Member at Conscious Inclusion Company. Marcie worked with The BTI Consulting Group for over 10 years where she developed an expertise in market research. In addition to all of these positions, she is also a frequent speaker on topics such as competitive intelligence and the future of law. In this episode: Leadership comes naturally to some, but even the best leaders need guidance to improve. Especially within complex systems such as law firms, leadership is a tricky proposition that requires extra care. Otherwise, the precise ecosystem of most firms is ruined, not allowing them to operate as well as they could. Marcie Borgal Shunk works directly with law firms to remedy this very problem. Her firm, The Tilt Institute, offers leadership services and analytics to guide her clients towards greater success. Across 20 years of experience as a consultant and analyst, she’s learned the key principles of great leadership. Want to know what they are? In this episode of the Spill the Ink podcast, Michelle Calcote King hosts Marcie Borgal Shunk, the President and Founder of The Tilt Institute, to go over how to further develop leadership and culture in law firms. The two talk about the current challenges that firms are facing and how to overcome them. They also touch on the tenants of a great culture, how to use data and what it takes to be a good leader.
Digital Marketing Tips for AEC Firms With Lindsay Diven of Marketers Take Flight
Jan 10 2022
Digital Marketing Tips for AEC Firms With Lindsay Diven of Marketers Take Flight
Lindsay Diven is a Marketing and Sales Manager for the Blackbox Connectors and a well-known figure in the AEC field. She works closely with her clients and team at Full Sail Partners to research new connectors and how to use them to streamline processes. She is the Founder of Marketers Take Flight, which provides proposal and career development for marketers. She also hosts a podcast of the same name. Previous to her current work, she served as the Director of Marketing and Business Development at BRPH. In this episode: AEC firms have the difficult task of selling clients on large projects. They are high-risk and high-reward by nature, which means that marketing takes on a new meaning. A broad approach likely won’t do much, but being able to secure the important projects can propel a firm to great success. The challenge then becomes how to market yourself accordingly. Lindsay Diven has a good idea of how to do it. Her business, Marketers Take Flight, works closely with AEC firms to create better proposals and improve their marketing. She has more than 15 years of experience across multiple companies, giving her keen insight on how to do it right. Now she shares those same principles with you. Michelle Calcote King invites Lindsay Diven, the Founder of Marketers Take Flight, onto the podcast to discuss marketing and what most AEC firms are missing. They go over Lindsay’s background and how she’s trying to fill holes in the industry. They then go into key topics such as generating leads, niching your firm and the best tactics for digital marketing. Hear it all on this episode of the Spill the Ink podcast!
How Law Firms Can Master Responding to RFPs With Matthew Prinn of RFP Advisory Group
Jan 3 2022
How Law Firms Can Master Responding to RFPs With Matthew Prinn of RFP Advisory Group
Matthew Prinn is an executive with 20 years of experience in legal pricing, marketing and operations. He is the current Principal at RFP Advisory Group, which works with general counsel to manage legal spend and requests for proposals. He honed his expertise at K&L Gates, where he worked for over a decade in business development. Over his career, Matthew has operated on both the buying and selling side of legal services, giving him a unique perspective on RFP. In this episode: While law firms tend to be traditional, the legal landscape is changing. Alternative legal services and technology are just two examples of some recent significant shifts. One of the greatest changes, however, has been the rise of Requests for Proposals, or RFPs.  RFP has quickly become a popular option for managing outside counsel spend. They’re an attractive option for many clients, but they are still relatively new, making them difficult to navigate on both sides. This has opened the door for advisory groups to come in and smooth out the process. One of these prominent consultancies is RFP Advisory Group, which have developed their expertise around best practices for RFPs. So how do you get the most out of the model? Michelle Calcote King talks with Matthew Prinn, the Principal at RFP Advisory Group, about RFPs and how to use them the right way. They discuss the different trends happening right now, how to properly establish the value proposition and how alternative legal services affect RFPs. They also touch on the mistakes that law firms make early on and how to avoid them. Hear the rest by tuning into this episode of the Spill the Ink podcast.
The Legal Media Series: Valerie A. Danner With Legal Management Magazine
Dec 27 2021
The Legal Media Series: Valerie A. Danner With Legal Management Magazine
Valerie A. Danner is the Senior Managing Editor of Legal Management magazine, which is the flagship publication of the Association of Legal Administrators. Legal Management is published 10 times a year and features scholarly articles targeting law firm managers and managing partners.  Valerie has served as an editor at several prestigious companies, including Krames StayWell, the Institute of Real Estate Management, and the American Massage Therapy Association. Across her positions, she has more than 20 years of experience in content creation, having worked in both digital and print media. In this episode: Legal media is oftentimes the separating factor between a respected and an unknown law firm. After all, even if you have the best lawyers, who will see them if they’re not being represented well? Legal media is far more than basic advertising and extends to the presentation of your firm’s brand. How you get your name out there, your approach to design and your online presence all make an impact on performance. So how do you do it right? Spill the Ink is starting a series of interviews all about legal media and how the experts handle it. They discuss the best ways to frame your firm without sacrificing what makes you unique. To start off the series, we listen to an editor who deals with legal media day in and day out. In this episode of the Spill the Ink podcast, Michelle Calcote King sits down with Valerie A. Danner, the Senior Managing Editor of Legal Management, to discuss legal media and how to pitch your firm. They go through the topics and interests of the publication before digging deep into what makes a great pitch and how to improve your media. Valerie also talks about the other content she reads to stay informed.
The Market for 'Revenue Enablers' in Today's Law Firms With Jennifer Johnson of Calibrate Legal
Dec 20 2021
The Market for 'Revenue Enablers' in Today's Law Firms With Jennifer Johnson of Calibrate Legal
Jennifer Johnson is the Founder and CEO of Calibrate Legal, a consultancy that specializes in recruiting services and legal marketing. They work with diverse applicants to find their way in the legal industry and help law firms achieve the results they’re working towards. She has two decades of experience in her field, having spent six years at an Am Law 100 firm.  Over the years, Jennifer has served in multiple leadership roles, including Secretary of the International Board of Directors for the Legal Marketing Association and President of Young Executives for Success. She was named as a Global Top 100 Leader by LawDragon for Legal Strategy and Consulting. In this episode: Getting the right team for your law firm isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity if your firm has any chance of standing out from the crowd. The experience and success of every member of your team, from intern to partner and everyone in between, is crucial. These important people are “revenue enablers,” the ones who make all of the revenue possible. So how do you find them? Networking is an integral component of working at a law firm, but that definition will need to expand to find the right people. Jennifer Johnson has spent much of her career in recruiting and legal marketing, learning firsthand the importance of investing in human capital. She’s built her company on this theory, and now, she shares those same ideas with you. Michelle Calcote King invites Jennifer Johnson, the Founder and CEO of Calibrate Legal, onto the Spill The Ink podcast to talk about revenue enablers and how to find them for your law firm. They discuss the current trends of the legal marketing world and how to stay on top of them. They then go into detail on what makes a revenue enabler, flexible work arrangements and why so many are leaving the legal industry.
Teaching You How to Write and Manage Winning Proposals With Matt Handal of Help Everybody Everyday
Dec 13 2021
Teaching You How to Write and Manage Winning Proposals With Matt Handal of Help Everybody Everyday
Matt Handal is a specialist in contracts, helping firms of all kinds write winning contracts on projects ranging from $500,000 to $2 billion. In 2009, he started his own agency, Help Everybody Everyday, which offers both proposal services as well as instructional content. Concurrently, he continues to work as a Business Development Manager at Trauner Consulting Services, Inc., where he’s worked for more than 18 years. Matt is best known for his book Proposal Development Secrets, which shares his insight for proposal development. His background in marketing for industrial companies gives him a unique and thorough perspective that he uses in his contract work. In this episode: What makes a winning proposal? Many firms don’t have a solid answer for the question. While marketing and business are common fields with plenty of education, there’s little focus done on the writing of proposals. However, that small component is becoming more important by the day. For construction companies and law firms alike, creating a nuanced and favorable proposal can rake in incredible profits.  Matt Handal has dedicated his career to writing these proposals and teaching others how to do it. He’s submitted work in almost every state, and with 20 years of experience, he’s more than qualified to answer that initial question.  In this episode of the Spill the Ink! podcast, Michelle Calcote King interviews Matt Handal, the Founder of Help Everybody Everyday, to talk about the secrets behind writing a winning proposal. They start by discussing what most people miss and the small changes they can make to improve. Then they break down the details such as non-technical people writing technical proposals, the newest trends and using data to your advantage.
Account-Based Marketing for AEC Firms With Perryn Olson of REX.one
Dec 6 2021
Account-Based Marketing for AEC Firms With Perryn Olson of REX.one
Perryn Olson is a renowned leader in both marketing strategy and business technology, serving as the Vice President of Marketing for REX.one. The company provides comprehensive engineering and construction solutions under a single umbrella. He has also worked for other businesses in the construction industry including The Brand Constructors and Hinge Marketing.  Perryn is a Certified Marketer through the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) and was the former President of the Louisiana division. His start came from a 14-year tenure at Design the Planet, starting as a design intern and climbing all the way into the role of Vice President. In this episode: What’s the best way to earn someone’s trust in the business world? From financial to creative limitations and everything in between, firms and agencies of all kinds are reliant on trust. Even acquiring a client in the first place is a difficult proposition of persuasion and commitment. While facts and figures are crucial, there’s no substitute for a personalized approach. This is the primary theory behind account-based marketing and how it targets high-value prospects with a more specialized process. If done right, the outcome can be far more profitable than a shotgun approach. So what does it look like in action? On this episode of the Spill the Ink! podcast, Michelle Calcote King talks with Perryn Olson, the VP of Marketing for REX.one, to hear about account-based marketing and how he uses it in his AEC firm. The two go through a plethora of topics, including niching your firm, the best content for ABM and which tools can help along the way. They also touch on the integration of business development and marketing and how to do it right. Stay tuned for more!
Leadership, Education and Diversity in Architecture With Marc Teer of Black Spectacles
Nov 15 2021
Leadership, Education and Diversity in Architecture With Marc Teer of Black Spectacles
Marc Teer is the Founder and CEO of Black Spectacles and Spectacular. Black Spectacles is a business that offers online videos for architects including courses and tutorials. Their democratized approach to learning is designed for newcomers and established architects alike. He is a Member of The Economic Club of Chicago and the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.  Marc has learned what architects need to thrive through firsthand experience, working in architecture for Gensler and Legat Architects. He received his bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and his master’s in architecture from Clemson University. In 2020, he was elevated to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects. In this episode: Both architecture and law firms have more in common than you would think. They are both detail-oriented institutions, composed of entrepreneurial individuals and a sense of prestige. They also share the same needs in leadership and support that often get overlooked. Since these careers are so competitive and skill-based, any kind of advantage is needed. Marc Teer was an architect who saw the need for greater education, so he started Black Spectacles in 2010. The company provides resources to inspire and train architects outside of the conventional classroom. He has also started to lead the next generation of architects into the future with better technology and better leadership. So what does this look like in practice? Michelle Calcote King takes the time to interview Marc Teer, the Founder and CEO of Black Spectacles, to hear his thoughts on leadership and education in architecture. The two go over pertinent topics including diversity, connecting architects with firms and how to work as a fully remote company. They also discuss the work that Black Spectacles is doing and how it’s made an impact. Check out this episode of the Spill the Ink! podcast to hear the rest for yourself!
Navigating the Legal Industry’s Rapid Changes With Gerry Riskin of Edge International
Nov 8 2021
Navigating the Legal Industry’s Rapid Changes With Gerry Riskin of Edge International
With a long and intensive career, Gerry Riskin has made his name in consultation for law firms. He is a Co-founding Partner at Edge International, serving clients around the globe for nearly 40 years. His specialties include leadership, governance and structure within law firms. He has served the Conference Board of Canada and is a Visiting Fellow for The College of Law in London among other universities. Gerry is also an author, writing books such as The Successful Lawyer, Herding Cats, beyond KNOWING and Creating the Marketing Mindset. In addition to his consulting, he also serves as a workshop leader and a prolific speaker. In this episode: Most law firms are deeply rooted in tradition and heritage. Unique from other industries, lawyers tend to be similarly minded in their approach to work. This has led to success for some while leaving the rest in the dust. As the world is changing quicker than ever, doing it the old-fashioned way may not work anymore. It might be time to rethink how your firm operates. This reevaluation requires a change of priorities, structure and mindset. The goal is to optimize your firm as much as possible, which means a lot of change. Few people know this more than Gerry Riskin, an internationally-known consultant with more than 30 years of experience in transforming law firms. He has firsthand knowledge to update your firm, and now he offers his insight to you. On this episode of the Spill the Ink! podcast, Michelle Calcote King interviews Gerry Riskin, a Co-founding Partner of Edge International, to hear his advice on optimizing law firms. They go over the common stumbling blocks in the age of remote work and how to adapt. They then go into detail on how to keep up with technology, alternative legal services and the benchmarks of a healthy culture. Stay tuned!
How To Make Virtual Events More Engaging, Interactive and Magical With Ken Sky
Nov 1 2021
How To Make Virtual Events More Engaging, Interactive and Magical With Ken Sky
Ken Sky is an expert on virtual event production and is the primary producer and coach at Ken Sky Unlimited. He particularly specializes in Zoom meetings, transforming the mundane into engaging. He also works in seminars, conferences, ceremonies and all kinds of meetings. He is the Co-founder of a DIY executive coaching program. Until recently, Ken also worked at the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg as a Childcare Supervisor. In addition, he also worked as a technical trainer and RESP account administrator, where he picked up his computer and presentation skills. In this episode: Zoom calls have become an everyday routine for many of us. The technology has proved to be incredibly useful, but can frankly be rather dull. The loss of in-person connection along with increased distractions can make them difficult to sit through. As remote work continues to grow, there has been shockingly little innovation to the informal format. That’s why Ken Sky created a better way. Ken Sky started his own virtual event agency called Ken Sky Unlimited. He discovered that online meetings can be engaging, informative and surprisingly fresh. Using a combination of personal tricks and technology, he has created a far better experience for workplaces across the nation. Now he shares those same tricks with you. Michelle Calcote King talks with Ken Sky of Ken Sky Unlimited to hear how he makes the most of Zoom calls and other virtual events. He goes into detail on his process, how he utilizes his background in magic and keeps participants engaged. He then dives deeper into tips for online presentation and where remote events are heading in the future. Hear it all on this episode of the Spill the Ink! podcast!
How Law Firm Culture Impacts Business Development With David Freeman
Oct 25 2021
How Law Firm Culture Impacts Business Development With David Freeman
David Freeman is an expert in law firm leadership, currently serving as a consultant for both individual lawyers and law firms through the David Freeman Consulting Group. He specifically works with law firms on their leadership, business development and client service. He has also started focusing on remote work consultation in the wake of COVID-19.  David is also the Founder of Law Firm CultureShift which was started to work with leadership teams and improve culture at law firms. He is an established two-time best-selling author who has written on each of his specializations. David has been inducted into the National Law Journal Hall of Fame for being voted the #1 business development consultant and coach for three consecutive years. In this episode: There’s a lot that goes into a successful law firm, and now we add another component to that list: business development. While marketing is crucial and the quality of your work is essential, business development can often get overlooked. Law firms still function as a business and require strategic growth and optimization to be profitable. Especially in light of COVID-19, many law firms have lost the finer details on how to treat clients and improve their services. This relates to every step of the process, but particularly the culture your law firm has cultivated. It can be hard for some lawyers to see this without outside help. Luckily, that’s where David Freeman comes in. In this episode of the Spill the Ink! podcast, Michelle Calcote King interviews consultant David Freeman to hear his thoughts on business development for lawyers and law firms. The two touch on topics of cross-selling, improving your leadership and excelling in the virtual age. They also talk about the culture of your law firm and how to transform it from the ground up. Stay tuned to hear it all for yourself!