Walk A Mile In Our Shoes

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Smart Marketing was delighted to host a visit from long-time client Martin Siemer of Siemer, Austin, Resch, Fuhr & Totten in Effingham, Illinois. (Left to right: that’s Marty’s wife — and PR guru — Lisa, Mark Merenda, Marty, and Lesley Blaine in the Smart Dscn0535
Marketing conference room.) Marty and Lisa didn’t get the best weather Naples, Florida has to offer, but it didn’t get the worst either (hello, Wilma). Marty won the Smart Marketing holiday contest, correctly matching Smart Marketing personnel with their childhood photos. He and Lisa were nice enough to bring us souvenirs from their home town of Teutopolis, where the local high school team is known as the Wooden Shoes. (It’s a long story.) And before you laugh, remember there are teams out there called the Anteaters, the Armadillos, the Wonder Boys, and the Banana Slugs. I kid you not.

Blink And You’ll Miss Him

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There are few writers who provoke my thinking as does "contrarian" New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell, who has now launched his own blog. The entry of the author of The Tipping Point and Blink into the blogosphere is sure to be interesting, and of course his early posts are drawing comments from all over the world. I particularly enjoyed this one from Sophie Cunningham of Australia, remarking on the relevance of Blink to her own career: "I was a book publisher for many years and all my best judgements were
the quick ones. The more meetings there were to justify decisions, get
other opinions, do market research etc, the worse I got at my job." It made me think of the famous quote from automotive designer Sir Alec Issigonis: "A camel is a horse designed by a committee."

Pimpin’ For My Pals

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Lots of activity on the part of various friends of Smart Marketing (a busy bunch). Dave Zumpano of Medicaid Practice Systems is offering his new program March 23 and 24, teaching attorneys how to practice and profit in the world of Medicaid Planning, specifically in light of the recent changes to Medicaid law. You can get all the details here. He teaches both attorneys from the estate planning and elder law fields, and attorneys who want to transition from other practice areas. Dave’s program gives attorneys everything they need to enter this niche, including the legal/technical knowledge, the in-house systems and methodologies, and his own valuable insights. Yours truly teaches a marketing segment. You can listen to Dave’s recent interview on National Public Radio here. And you download Dave’s summary of the changes wrought by the Deficit Reduction Act, here: Download mps_changes_in_eligibliity_rules.do

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Still on the Medicaid/Elder Law front, Boston attorney Harry Margolis of Margolis & Associates and ElderLawAnswers was the guest speaker on Smart Marketing’s monthly client conference call. His topic was: "The Future of Medicaid Planning Under the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005." Although less concerned with marketing issues that our usual monthly call, Harry’s expertise was much appreciated by all the attorneys on the call. If you would like a CD of the call, please email: [email protected] to request your copy. Smart Marketing clients will receive their CD automatically.

Meanwhile WealthCounsel is offering their one-day "Thriving In Estate Planning" event as well as their "Building and Sustaining An Estate Planning Practice" program at various spots around the country. You can find the full schedule here.

Those Wonderful Automated Voice Response Systems

Riding one of my favorite hobby horses, I am here to tell you that if you have one of those automated voice response systems doing your phone answering you should burn it! According to this article in the Richmond (VA.) Times Dispatch, and a survey by the Customer Care Alliance, about 73 percent of those who use such systems feel "customer rage." Now, think about that number for a moment, if even remotely accurate. How would you like to not please your clients with first impressions, not just leave them neutral, not just irritate them, but actually put them in a rage when they call? But hey, look at the bright side. You saved yourself the salary of a receptionist.

And In This Corner…..

This tender exchange (which comes to my attention courtesy of writer Michael Lasalandra) is mostly being touted as an example of why you should never write an email that you do not want to have enshrined in history — which I think is more weight than most people want to give this form of communication. Nonetheless, I think there are lessons to be learned here, not the least of which is you shouldn’t offer associate positions to divas. My sympathies in this case are with Boston Attorney William A. Korman, and not with self-styled trust fund baby Dianna Abdala, who did not feel that the beginning associate’s salary she was offered would "support the lifestyle I am living." Anyone want to offer the young lady a job?

Zen and The Art of the Tag Line

The "tag line" is that little sentence or phrase that follows your firm’s name. It’s usually used to convey either a) what you do, or b) some sense of who you are. It is not an advertising slogan. It’s not your "elevator speech." But it probably has elements of both. (In the interest of a fair discussion, my own firm’s tag line is: Marketing for Attorneys and Financial Professionals.) If you’d like to see a wide range of law firm tag lines, you can find one here.

But today, I may have found the grand-daddy, on Andrew Ewalt’s Law Blog. No offense to Andy, who seems a very nice guy, but……here’s the 63-word tag line for his blog: Helping individuals, families, and business control their affairs, protect their families and preserve their assets, through effective, prompt and reasonable legal services, including wills, trust, powers of attorney, living wills, probate and estate administration, buy sell agreements, asset protection, elder law, nursing home, Medicaid planning, business law, contracts, establishing LLC’s and corporations, not-for-profits, residential real estate, commercial real estate, reverse mortgages.

It put me in mind of the — much shorter — tag line of a young attorney whom I met at a NAELA event at Hilton Head Island, S. C. in May, 2004. His business card read (with a change of names to protect the guilty): Joe Jones, attorney at law, N.A.A.

I asked what the N.A.A. designation stood for. He said, "Not An A**hole."

Marketing Lesson From The Movies: KBO

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I recently had a chance to watch the cable TV production "The Gathering Storm." The movie chronicles the years preceding World War II, when Winston Churchill was a voice crying in the wilderness, warning of the looming Nazi threat while all the politicians around him (and most of the public) chose to see only what they wanted to see. That policy of appeasement, of course, led to the dreadful "Peace Conference" at Munich, in which the English and French sold Czechoslovakia down the river. As Churchill said of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain,
"He was given a choice between war and dishonor. He chose dishonor and he will have war anyway."

What struck me most, however, was the way Churchill was to lead his nation through the dark days when England would stand alone against the Nazi threat, despite one disaster after another — and his standard incitement to his staff: "Order of the day: KBO!"

KBO meant "Keep Buggering On" which I take to mean that, no matter what the calamity, no matter the despair, you just keep going forward, putting one foot in front of the other, rain or shine, come what may. The English are famous for "muddling through" and I admire them for it. And, in the opinion of this American who has not been asked, aside from Shakespeare, there was no greater Englishman than Winston Churchill.

When times are tough, it’s good to remember what Churchill said: "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."