As many of you know, I will be in Denver all next week in conjunction with WealthCounsel and the National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys. If you are attending, I am looking forward to seeing you, and we have tentatively planned a Smart Marketing get-together for Thursday evening at 7:30. We haven’t quite figured out if it’s dinner or dessert or wine or what, but we’ll let you know. If you need to get in touch, my cell phone is 239-821-3918. I’ll be staying at the Marriott Tech Center. While I’m gone the office will be functioning as usual, except maybe better.
If you haven’t seen WealthCounsel’s new website, you might want to pay a visit: www.wealthcounsel.com. It looks a bit like the "old" Smart Marketing site. I like the way they’ve got the member directory set up. It is certainly cleaner and more modern than before.
Not sure that I’ll be blogging next week, since I will be extremely busy in Denver, but I will be watching my email to stay in touch. By the way, did you know that a blog about lawyers, the law, or legal issues is often called a "blawg"? No, I’m not making that up.
Did you hear the one about the programmer who outsourced his own job? I read about it on Slashdot.org, the ‘news for nerds’ Web site. A pseudonymous poster wrote, ‘About a year ago I hired a developer in India to do my job. I pay him ,000 to do the job I get paid ,000 for. He’s happy to have the work. I’m happy that I only have to work 90 minutes a day, talking code. My employer thinks I’m telecommuting. Now I’m considering getting a second job and doing the same thing.’
Very funny story. But with a kernel of truth.
Many of you have heard me speak of a Florida personal injury attorney who grew extremely wealthy by marketing heavily for PI cases, employing a well-trained paralegal to do triage and pick out the good cases, and referring them to practicing PI attorneys for a split of the fee.
Often attorneys are stuck on the idea that they have to perform the work themselves, or employ someone full time to do so. In fact, that’s not so. And you should look at your current workload, legal and other, and think about which ones might be profitably outsourced….you can start with the obvious, like bookkeeping, and proceed over time to the outrageous, like your own role.
The Benefits of Outsourcing
(much of this material is adapted from an article by Heather Robson Ouzts)
Every business has a host of resources at its disposal. Each employee offers a unique combination of skills, plus companies have hardware, software, phone lines, fax lines, Internet connections, email, and more. All of these resources contribute toward getting the job done. But sometimes all of the resources a company has at its fingertips may not be enough. That’s when outsourcing can be a lifesaver–or at the very least, a project saver.
When you outsource a project or part of a project, you are enlisting the services of an independent contractor (IC). The services available from ICs are numerous and varied. You might need someone to do administrative tasks, or paralegal work, or co-counsel, or just about any other task imaginable. Instead of heaping another responsibility on the shoulders of your already-stressed-out staff or hiring another person that you will have to find work for during the next slow down, you can look for help from the outside.
Pay for only what you need
In most businesses the amount of work comes in cycles. It is a familiar drill to us all–one month everybody at the company seems to have more work than they can handle, the next month, they’re searching for things to do. One of the wonderful things about outsourcing is that you never have to find things to keep an IC busy, so you will never pay for anything more than exactly what you need. A lot of ICs charge by the project rather than the hour, so you get a good project estimate up front. Another bonus-ICs handle their own taxes and health insurance.
Get a higher level of experience
Oftentimes ICs have a higher level of experience than what you might be able to afford in a full-time employee. Many ICs have worked many years as full-time employees and reached the point where they realized they could go it on there own–be their own boss, focus on the kinds of projects they like to take, and have more control over their working environment. You can take advantage of that experience without budgeting for a new full-time employee.
Get an additional, often more objective perspective
ICs make great sounding boards. They’ve been around. They know what’s been tried, what works well, and what doesn’t. They aren’t as close to the project as you are and can usually offer a fresh and valuable perspective on what kinds of solutions might work.
They are great in a pinch
When the deadlines are looming and there just doesn’t seem to be anyway to get everything done that needs to be done, ICs are great. They are on a different pace and schedule than you, and though they might be busy, too, chances are you will be able to find one who will be able to meet the deadline you need. In crunch time you can use ICs in different ways. You might want to delegate a critical project with a nonnegotiable deadline to an IC, putting some distance between the project and the office crunch. Or you may want to call in an IC as backup, giving them back-burner projects to handle, so that when the office crunch ends, you’re not behind.
They come with their own infrastructure
Many ICs prefer to work out of their home office. They have a rhythm worked out and feel more productive in the environment they’ve created for themselves. So, unless you absolutely need an IC to work onsite, you’ll find that most ICs come with their own infrastructure. They have their own computer and programs. A legal secretary will have MS Word, Adobe Acrobat (or Acrobat Writer), and possibly an HTML editor; a paralegal may well have HotDocs, Time Matters, Amicus Attorney, or other programs that will seamlessly integrate with your office. These programs are all substantial investments. If your company doesn’t already have them, the initial cost of a new employee who knows them will be much higher. On the other hand, with an IC you don’t have to worry about that.
Outsourcing is a cost-effective way to increase your resources
Many law firms who have never outsourced a project before find the idea a bit stressful and a bit strange. How can you know that the project will get done? How can you be in control when you have someone working for you who isn’t there? While these are understandable concerns, they aren’t well-founded. A reputable IC has built his or her reputation by doing work that is done on time for prices that match the work’s value. The bottom line is that for many projects, outsourcing to an IC will often result in higher quality work for less money than doing it in house.
What tasks in your firm might be profitably out-sourced?
We are always conscious here that we are guiding our clients as they risk their hard-earned dollars on marketing. (Not doing marketing is far more risky, but that’s another post.) So we try not to use methods that arent tried and true. However, if we want to keep evolving and finding new ways to add to your marketing results, we have to try new things.
So we have a new thing: door knob hangers. It seems that we can print and distribute doorknob hangers (invitations to seminars) for something like $135-$185 per thousand. In other words, to distribute 5,000 invitations in this manner would cost less than $1,000. For $5,000 postcards, the cost would be something around $3,600.
Will people respond to doorknob hangers as well (or worse, or better) as they do to postcards? Will they resent having something hanging on their door? Is this an effective marketing method?
I don’t know. Could be great. Could be a total bust.
I’m not sure if I’m appalled or awed by the audacity of it.
From the Boston Globe:
Legacy Financial Advisors, a financial planning firm in Milford, was having trouble attracting clients with the standard pitch in a hotel ballroom. Legacy’s new approach: free bus rides to Foxwoods casino, with a guest speaker giving a talk on financial planning for seniors on the way down and a question-and-answer session on the way back. Legacy throws in a $10 food voucher and $15 for Keno.
"We don’t advocate gambling. Not at all," says Legacy’s Edward Kiernan. "It is a desination that people are looking forward to. And we can take their time to inform them that there are other options to gambling."
I lived for a year in France (1986, but who’s counting) and often visited La France Profonde ("deep France" which is defined as anyplace but Paris). I was struck by the fact that most people still lived in the town or village in which they were born. They knew everyone, and everyone knew them.
The streets and shops were filled with their friends, acquaintances, relatives, and everyone with whom they had been to grade school.
I’m not saying that this is better or worse than life today in the U.S. but it sure is different. Many, if not most, of us live far from our birthplace, and far from other members of our families. That means we are cut off from roots. Although for many that might constitute a liberation ("Happiness is a large, warm, loving family — in another city" — Mark Twain), and it certainly gives our economy a flexibility that does not exist elsewhere, it comes at a certain price.
That price is that we often live in places where we know hardly anyone outside our immediate circle (often not even the next door neighbor) and experience a certain underlying loneliness or alienation. This theme is extensively explored in Robert D. Putnam’s "Bowling Alone," and "Better Together" to which I was introduced by Smart Marketing client Bob Horen of Denver.
That means people have a sub-conscious desire to belong, which also means that if we can answer that need by constructing a sort of family, or club, we will have created a powerful marketing and client retention tool.
Years ago I had the opportunity to interact with one of the legends of the marketing business. I won’t use his name, but he was the man behind a lot of well-known direct marketing phenomena. His dictum was "Don’t sell a product. Create a movement."
At first I didn’t understand what he was telling me. Then he showed me two examples. The first product was a health insurance policy for pets. Instead of trying to market the insurance policy (which went for, I think, $24.95 a year), he created something like "The American Pet Club" (The name was better than this, but I can’t remember it. For $49.95, you could register your pet, get a collar tag with your pet’s name and the club insignia, and….a health-insurance policy for your pet! Sales were phenomenal. Clearly this man was on to something.
Then he pulled out a copy of a magazine called "Horizons" that was aimed at the African-American (then commonly referred to as "black") middle-class. Did he market subscriptions at $12.95? No, he created the "African-American Heritage Society." By joining for $49.95 you received some sort of certificate, suitable for framing, and……a subscription to Horizons.
Essentially, this idea of community is what is behind the Smart Marketing conference calls, the Smart Marketing website as resource center, the Smart Marketing listserv, and the Smart Marketing blog. Obviously, I am still learning, and always seeking ways to add value, to add depth to my relationship with you, and to retain you as clients. I also seek to attract new clients by giving them the occasional peek inside the club (without telling them about the initiation ceremony or the secret handshake).
I could go on for another 10 pages here about the psychology of clubs, but I think this has been enough for Sunday morning.
How can you use these concepts in your own practices? With your clients? With your rainbrokers and centers of influence?
The problem with many seminars I’ve seen is not that they are technically incorrect, nor even that the presenter wasn’t skillful or warm. The problem is that they’re boring.
Most of the seminars I see are so serious, so stiff, so dense, so devoid of entertainment as to be a fine cure for insomnia.
Let me make clear what I am not saying. I am not saying you should put on a clown suit. I am not saying you should tell corny jokes. I am not saying that estate planning, elder law, and business planning are not serious matters.
I am saying that you cannot come across as Tom Sawyer’s Aunt Polly, making your audience eat the vegetables because it’s good for them.
I am saying that you have to make your message — and your self — more accessible and more palatable by making it more entertaining.
Did you know that research shows that 75 percent of the people who go to Las Vegas, go there expecting to lose?
If they know they are going to lose money, why do they go? They go for the experience. And that’s what I would like your seminars to be: an experience. A good experience. A fun experience.
A useful example
I recently attended a client’s seminar at an assisted living facility. The members of the audience probably averaged 70 years of age. Toward the end of the presentation, my client asked how many of them were familiar with the TV show “Jeopardy.” All raised their hands. He then announced that they would play “Jeopardy” and award prizes. On the screen he posed a question based on the content of the just-given seminar. (I will not use his actual questions, but give similar examples). “The answer is: the “look back” period for Medicaid qualification.”
Hands shot up. A lady said “Thirty-six months.” WRONG, said our presenter, you didn’t ask in the form of a question! Another hand shot up. “What is thirty-six months?” CORRECT! And the presenter handed the audience member an attractive gift bag containing a bottle of good wine.
This process was repeated four more times. The result? Everyone was laughing and smiling. The presenter had driven home the four important points he wanted to make (again). And lots of appointments were made.