Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Shifting loyalty from individuals to the firm- A case study

Hairdressers are notorious for fiercely protecting their clients (at least from a woman's perspective). So, if you go to 'Sam', you're perceived as Sam's client, not Sam's salon's client. But after decades of salon jumping, I stumbled on one that had the courage and imagination to turn this expectation around.
The Curly Hair Institute did something most salons are afraid to do... Read more.
- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law, architecture, accounting, consulting, medical and other professional practices are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, marketing services.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Why bother blogging on LinkedIn?

Bloggers, there's a new kid in town. LinkedIn is opening up its blogging platform to all members. The question is, should you bother using it if you already have a blog?

After some hemming and hawing, I finally found a reason why to bother... 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law, architecture, accounting, consulting, medical and other professional practices are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, marketing services.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Maximize quality referrals to your law firm

If you asked the people in your network to describe your firm to you, how well would they do? 

Area of practice? Most people would probably get that right.  Location? Probably.

Here's where folks might start to stumble.

Would they be able to describe your ideal client beyond a token few words? Your greatest strengths? Your approach? 

If you're anything less than certain, then you might be losing out on quality referrals that were there for the taking. 

So, how can you get the people in your network to do a better job of referring prospective clients to your law firm? 
  1. Develop and practice an elevator pitch that enables you to spontaneously explain the positioning of your firm.  
  2. Distribute marketing materials that are crystal clear, specific and compelling about all of the above. 
  3. If they refer prospective clients that are a good fit, take the time to tell them why. And if they don't, take the time to figure out what went wrong. 

Quality referrals have a cumulative effect.  The earlier you nurture your network, the greater the impact.  Each additional prospect has the potential to contribute to the life of your practice, as a client, future referrer and future referrer of referrers!  

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, law firm marketing and legal business development services.

Monday, November 17, 2014

FREE: Proven Coaching Toolkit Framework, Instruction Manual, & LIVE 90-Minute Training

If you're a coach and you haven't yet taken any webinars with WBECS, consider signing up for training on the Coach Master Toolkit with developer Andrew Neitlich.  

I've participated in WBECS programming in the past and it is excellent.  They bring in quality speakers. Their format is engaging.  And sessions are chock full of valuable insights and guidelines.  

The session this week is free. It's 90 minutes long and it comes with the following (taken from confirmation email, received from Ben Croft, WBECS President, Coach Master Toolkit Co-Founder):
  • Detailed instructions for how to use the framework with clients
  • The 65 page instruction manual
  • The editable version of the framework
  • Full rights to use and rebrand the framework
  • A proven technique for selling this framework and closing high ticket engagements
If you are interested in attending, you can sign up here.

I also plan to blog about the actual framework, after the event. 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law, architecture, accounting, consulting, medical and other professional practices are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, coaching services.

Friday, November 14, 2014

One key takeaway from 'Turning strangers into clients', a social media webinar

Do you treat your social media marketing like advertising?  

If you had to pay thousands of dollars to have a LinkedIn profile, to appear in search results on the LinkedIn platform or to post updates in LinkedIn groups, would you change what you posted? Do you hold social media to the same standards that you would hold a print publication, a mailing or other out of pocket marketing activity? 

Think about it.

Doesn't time lost on failed marketing represent opportunity cost?  What could have been happening with your practice, if you'd tried something else?  And isn't your time worth money? 

So, if you were to treat your social media marketing like advertising, what could you do differently?  Here are some questions to give you ideas:
  1. Read your LinkedIn title. Does it read like a headline for an ad or a bare bones description of your actual job title or profession?  If someone were to pull up a search would your title give them reason to click into your profile? 
  2. Few names of professional practices communicate point of difference. If your firm falls into this category, would you consider extending your brand with a tagline?  And placing your tagline beside your firm name, together in the 'company name' area of your profile?  
  3. Look at your photo. Does it fit with your messaging? Does it communicate artistry, thoughtfulness, confidence or other qualities that would be a fit with your brand?

Rethink the way you perceive social media marketing.  

It's not a tax form.  It's advertising.  Go beyond simply sharing the facts. Start packaging them in a manner that pops from the clutter, connects with your target audience and communicates your valued difference... starting with your title.   

That's advertising.   

'Turning strangers into clients: A social media roadmap for interior designers and architects', is the title of a webinar that I recently delivered for Interior Designers of Canada (IDC).  It was packed with ideas - large and small. This was one key takeaway that I wanted like to share with our readers.

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Which social media sites should you be on?

The social media sites best suited to your professional practice will depend on your unique circumstances - your sector, target audience, unique offering, interests etc.  

That said, to make an informed decision it also helps to stay abreast of changes in the marketplace.  Adjust as necessary but avoid jumping around, as marketing works best when the same audience starts to recognize and trust you over time. You need to be in one place for an extended period of time for that to happen.

Research data on the current social media landscape is available in the Social Media Examiner's 'Social Media Marketing Industry Report'. Here is a short excerpt:
"Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogging, Google+ and Pinterest were the top seven platforms... 
Most of the social networks increased by a few percentage points. Blogging declined slightly to 55% from 58%, allowing YouTube to take the number-four slot. Instagram rose to 28% from 18% in 2013..."
If you would like to see the full report, you can sign up for it on their website.  

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Friday, October 31, 2014

3 Ways to juggle your blog with LinkedIn's blogging platform

LinkedIn will be opening their blogging platform to all members shortly. Should you use it? If you do, what should you do with your existing blog?   

Keep it!

Here are three ways to juggle your blog with LinkedIn's blogging platform:
  1. For SEO purposes, switch it up. Even if you're writing for the exact same audience on your blog and on LinkedIn, change about 20% of the content. Google doesn't like to read the same thing twice! 
  2. Post your article to your blog first. You own your blog. You don't own the LinkedIn blogging platform. So, make it clear to Google that you're the owner of your content. 
  3. LinkedIn has developed blogging guidelines. While you follow can those guidelines for articles shared on its blogging platform, maintain the mix of articles that readers enjoy on your blog. They are part of its character and interest. 
The LinkedIn blogging platform may extend your reach. But your blog is part of your firm's equity. Don't jeopardize its value by writing for someone else. 

And if you don't already have a blog but are considering trying out the LinkedIn platform, maybe now is the time to start one!

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law, architecture, accounting, consulting, medical and other professional practices are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, marketing services.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Go for your goals

Go for your goals was previously published in The Pulse - Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors, Fall 2014, Issue 75. 

Working hard on whatever comes through the door isn’t the same as going for your goals. So, if that’s what you’ve been doing, you can’t really say that you’ve been failing to meet them… can you?  And while it may be taxing enough to run a naturopathic practice let alone to find the time for additional managerial activities, consider this: 

Goal setting and planning may be the best investment you’ll ever make in time management. 

Before we dig too deeply into this topic, let’s debunk some myths.  Does goal setting and planning sound like a really rigid and formal exercise? A good idea for big business but not so transferable to your practice?  It doesn’t need to be.  You can be creative about how you plan – when and where, what’s in or out of scope, whether you take big steps or small ones...  You don’t necessarily need to embark on a comprehensive strategic, business or marketing plan to make progress.  As long as you regularly carve out some space for planning in a manner that supports the way you work, you’ll be moving forward.  

Let’s get out of theory mode and outline a few concrete ways to approach this. 

Start with the big picture.  Even if, on an ongoing basis, you’re only going to spend short bursts of time action planning, you’ll need to get things started with a big picture planning session.  Use this time to outline the gaps between where your practice is today and your ideal vision.  And revisit this big picture viewpoint on an annual basis to assess how you’re doing, consider what’s changed and update your objectives. 

Don’t get too far ahead of yourself.  While the big picture planning necessarily begins with your vision for the next 3-5 years, in this fast paced environment it can be futile to get too specific about any plans that are more than 1-2 years out. Limit action plans to that timeframe.  

Talk about it and write it down.  Thinking about something isn’t planning.  If you’re not writing it down, you’re not committed. Similarly, if all your planning conversations take place in your own head, they’re less likely to evolve, expand and result in actions aligned with your goals. Work with a coach, a consultant, a mentor or a peer.  Someone objective, experienced and easy for you to open up to.  Someone who brings a new perspective and knows how to ask the right questions. 

Focus on your priorities. Your goals may involve any area of the clinic – client service, staff or partners, dispensary, products, treatments, marketing, operations, interior design, profit...  By way of example, consider your desired growth market. What type of work do you want to attract?  Where is the bulk of your business coming from today? Can the new business be redirected? What about your point of difference?  Has it been developed? Is it coming through in practice? In marketing? In conversation?... 

Decide how to take action. The objective of planning is to arrive at an action plan aligned with your goals. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you own the resulting action plan.  Once the actions have been itemized and prioritized, you need to decide how it gets implemented. Who owns which steps? What are your deadlines? Milestones? Budget?  How will you measure success?  

Protect your time, vigilantly.  After you’ve decided what you’ll say yes to, decide what you’ll say no to.  What takes you away from your priorities – in work and in life?  Is it disorganization? Distractions? Doing work you should be delegating? Taking on extras just to be nice? It may seem harmless to spend a few minutes or even hours here and there.  But over weeks, months and years they can eat up your time and energy.  So, what are you going to start saying no to?

Keep things on track.  Book calendar appointments for status meetings and time to implement the action plan, just as you would for a patient.  Otherwise, it won’t be there when you need it.  In terms of how much time to allow for this work, there is no magic number but it should reflect the size of your steps.  

Successful people take the time to set goals and develop them.  That’s how they achieve more with less. 

You’re a naturopath. But you’re a business owner too.  Start thinking of yourself that way. Articulate a vision for your practice and develop a plan to make it happen.  Then bring reasonable expectations to the table so that you know when to stay the course and when to adjust.  Clinically, you don’t normally expect results from trying something once. So, apply that pearl of wisdom to running your practice too.  Tweak as necessary but stay committed.  

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized naturopathic, chiropody, chiropractic, dental, veterinary, massage therapy and other Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) clinics are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, medical clinic marketing and business development services.

Friday, October 17, 2014

How deep is your medical clinic's brand?

Today I'm taking it easy, recovering from gum surgery. For those of you that have undergone this procedure, you can empathize that it's not over until the sutures are gone! 

Interestingly, throughout the experience, I noticed my thoughts travel beyond my own discomfort to a closer examination of the depth of my dentist's (and client's) brand.  Not surprisingly, I guess, since I don't often have the opportunity to experience my client's services as the actual client. 

Here's what I noticed:

Every single time the clinic 'did' (in service) what the clinic 'said' (in marketing), I felt greater trust as a patient.  It's like going on a blind date and finding out every step of the way that what the person wrote online (which is what captured your attention in the first place) was true!

The lesson? 

Stop telling yourself that your medical clinic's brand is the same as that of your peers. Whether you're a dentist, naturopath or chiropractor, there are an infinite number of ways to deliver the very same service. The point is to gain clarity about what distinguishes your approach and to articulate it in as genuine and deep a manner as possible. 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized naturopathic, chiropody, chiropractic, dental, veterinary, massage therapy and other Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) clinics are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, medical clinic marketing and business development services.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Is your law firm delegating effectively?

As part of the ongoing planning work that I've been doing with Wise Law office (introduced with my article about law firm retreats and Garry Wise's live tweets from the event!), we have now embarked on a lunch and learn series. Rachel Spence, Law Clerk at the firm, kicked things off with a session on delegation. 

Here are a few of the key points covered:

Why might people resist delegation?

  • Poor performance on the part of the delegatee will make the delegator look bad. 
  • If time frees up he / she may have to take on unfamiliar tasks. 
  • One's contributions will no longer be seen as indispensable.

  • Fear that he / she may not be capable of carrying out the assignment.
  • Lack of desire to challenge oneself.
  • Lack of understanding of what's expected. 

How can we overcome this resistance?

  • Do the preparatory work that will set the delegatee up for success. Provide clear instructions. Establish follow up dates to review in progress work. Allow sufficient time for the delegatee to make revisions him or herself.
  • Acknowledge that this type of support positions you to grow and make greater contributions to the firm.

  • Ask questions and request discussion or examples until you feel prepared for the task.

This lunch and learn session provided everyone with an understanding of the advantages and the process of delegation.  But perhaps its greatest value was that it prompted discussion about specific opportunities to delegate better.

Congratulations Rachel for sharing what you learned at a recent management program and for demonstrating leadership in doing so! 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, law firm marketing and legal business development services.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Lack of focus, message can kill plan

Lack of focus, message can kill plan was previously published in The Bottom Line, Mid-September 2014. 

Considering the chances of failure for marketing plans — 50 to 75 per cent of the time by some estimates — firms could be excused for thinking it looks a bit more like a gambler’s game than a business decision.

So, how can accounting firms beat the odds of low marketing return? Three steps: avoid the most common mistakes, accurately assess performance and revitalize the plan.

Common mistakes
The first step is to avoid the nine most common marketing mistakes.

No research – Most accounting firms develop their marketing plan and materials based on what they know.  But what they know is limited to their existing client base.  It doesn’t include current and deep knowledge about the business environment, competition or desired growth market.  As a result, the chance of popping from the clutter and really connecting with the bull’s eye target is equally limited. 

No point of difference – Resistance to declaring difference or focusing on a narrow area of interest is widespread throughout the sector. While it may feel safer not to stray too far from the flock or zero in on any niche areas or services, not doing so makes it enormously difficult for the target market to feel understood and catered to.

No focus – While some firms may simply not be doing enough marketing, often the problem is that the firm is experimenting with too many marketing activities.  A scattered marketing plan has accountants spreading their resources too thin to be effective - whether it’s time that’s spread across speaking gigs, different social media sites and networking or dollars that are spread across print ads, direct mail and event marketing.  Without frequency, consistency and intense focus on a specific target audience, marketing doesn’t stand a chance of being noticed.  

No message – Translating a point of difference into a message is an art. It requires talent and training in marketing, copywriting and graphic design.  Without a creative and compelling message easily accessible to the marketplace, even the greatest point of difference isn’t any better than a well kept secret.  

No consistency – From logo to elevator pitch, website and LinkedIn postings, anytime there’s a break in consistency marketing equity is lost.  If the target market doesn’t recognize a familiar tone and message ringing through all marketing efforts, then the firm will be hard pressed to build recognition and profile. 

No continuity – Point of difference is great, as is focus.   But even when both are working like a charm, there’s still the issue of ensuring that marketing activities are strategically selected to reinforce each other eg a speaking engagement followed by a live Twitter Q&A, blog summary or LinkedIn group discussion is far more likely to be memorable, to encourage website visits and to encourage connections.  

No support – When accountants lack the skills and the confidence to write articles, to deliver seminars, to be on video and to network, the personal portion of the marketing plan is in jeopardy.  Coaching can help to alleviate such concerns and, in the process, drive up quality control, motivation and commitment. 

No sales strategy – Marketing and sales are often lumped together as one single discipline. But marketing isn’t sales.  It can deliver inquiries, website traffic and an audience at seminars.  In order to deliver sales, however, it also requires timely and skilled follow up and relationship building. 

No refresh – Just because it worked before doesn’t necessarily mean that it will again.  In a fast-paced world, things change and marketing plans need to be adjusted.  They should be revisited on an annual basis and at every significant juncture.  

Step two is to accurately assess performance. 

Define objectives – Targets come before measurements.  But objectives come before targets. Without predetermined objectives, marketing can’t even be aimed in the right direction. In order to define objectives, consider what success would look like. Inquiries? Referrals? Media coverage? Loyalty? Web traffic? Resumes? From whom? For what? By when? Does it lead to an increase in awareness? Engagement? Followers? Sales? Profit? 

Establish targets – Once marketing objectives are clear, they need to be translated into measurable targets. What are the realistic timeframes and benchmarks for the stated objectives? Are they aligned with the marketing plan, in terms of urgency and scale? 

Measure and review – Based on the specific targets established, set up systems and reports to easily measure and review results. Train everyone to ask inquiries, media requests and job seekers how they heard of the firm.  Record this information in a shared database. Every time. Set up analytics for all digital activities, including blogs, social media, website and newsletters.  If it’s easy, it’ll get done.  If it’s a hassle, it won’t.  

The plan

The third step is to revitalize the plan.

Decide which activities to drop – After defining objectives, target market and point of difference, certain marketing activities will naturally rise to the top. Additionally, in order to avoid setting anyone up for failure, the talents and interests of accountants participating in the personal portion of the marketing plan need to be considered. For example, accountants nervous about public speaking might deliver better results blogging.  And those nervous about writing might deliver better results networking, online or off.   

Adjust activities that made the cut – Certain marketing activities will be harder to assess than others. If they appear to be a good fit but history presents another picture, explore further. When the activity was run last, had the firm defined its target market? Was there a message?  Was it effectively communicated? Could the same activity deliver better results by updating text, graphics and distribution approach?  For example, a newsletter that delivered poor return might do better with a facelift, compelling content and a segmentation strategy.    

Assess the need to add to the plan – Based on what remains on the list, is there continuity from one activity to the next? Is there a flagship marketing activity that acts as a hub for all the others?  Is anything missing to bring it all together? 

When marketing isn’t working out, the usual response is to look for a quick fix. If a direct mail program doesn’t result in phone calls, it would normally get cancelled after the first mailing without knowing if the issue was too broad an audience, a weak hook or no follow up.  Similarly, if considerable time was invested in blog articles and facebook updates that didn’t generate readership, both projects would soon be abandoned without knowing if the issue was a lack of continuity with the rest of the firm’s marketing or if the updates failed to excite and engage readers.  

While the quick fix to cancel a marketing activity may at first feel efficient, placing blame on the wrong issues doesn’t actually solve anything. Neither does pulling the plug too early.  So this year, instead of repeating old patterns that don’t improve marketing return, think instead about avoiding common marketing mistakes, accurately assessing performance and revitalizing that marketing plan.  

While it may seem like it when the chips are down, marketing is not a game of chance. It’s a game of strategy.  And it’s a lot more fun to play, not to mention more profitable, after figuring out how to beat the odds. 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, CPA, accounting, investing and actuarial firm marketing and business development services.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Cyclists, here's the greatest sticker!

We're going off topic today folks! I found this sticker on a bike path (sorry, I can't remember where but I will post an update when I see it again) and I HAD to stop and take a photo. I figured my fellow Toronto cyclists would appreciate this. 

The address is too small on the photo but I think it says globalaware.org. As an aside (I guess the marketer in me has something to say after all!), if you use promotional materials for your practice, make sure the web link and other contact details are large enough for its many uses... intended and otherwise. 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Friday, September 12, 2014

Getting creative with gift-giving at law firms

I was recently interviewed by Grant Cameron at The Lawyers Weekly on memorable promotional products for law firms. The article spans the practical and the innovative.   Here is a short excerpt:

Sandra Bekhor, president of Bekhor Management in Toronto, believes giveaways can enhance awareness and goodwill with prospective clients, employees and recruits, although it won’t sell an audience that’s not interested... 
In future, she notes, strategic giveaways might involve items with subliminal messaging such as earbuds from a firm that bills itself as a good listener, a Swiss army knife from a firm that cuts to the chase, or USB sticks from a firm that’s technology-oriented. 
“Firms could have a lot of fun with quirky or humorous gifts if that’s an important aspect of their brand.”  Read article. 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Law firms - Craft the right message to stand out from crowd

I was recently interviewed by Natalie Alcoba  at The Lawyers Weekly on crafting a branding message for law firms. In her article she demonstrates that the subject is somewhat controversial.   Here is a short excerpt from her article:

Branding is as much an internal exercise as it is an external one, adds Bekhor. Often, however, companies will develop a logo and a tagline, only to have it “sit there.” She suggests a formal launch that explains to everyone in the office what the brand means. It is “more than just an FYI,” she notes, and should show people where the phrase came from and how each person is going to participate in the idea, so that it “becomes alive.” Principals in a firm could tell stories about why they founded the practice, or detail meaningful days in their career at the kickoff... Read article

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, law firm marketing and legal business development services.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Turning strangers into clients: A social media roadmap for interior designers and architects

I will be delivering an accredited webinar for interior designers and architects, Turning Strangers into Clients: A Social Media Roadmap.  Here's an excerpt from the program:

Social media is one of the most valuable and versatile practice development tools ever to be available to the A&D industry. And yet, its performance has ranged from inconsistent to disappointing.  
Is it simply a roadmap that’s missing? This one-hour webinar explores a fresh perspective on leveraging social media - not for likes, tweets and shares - but rather for laser focused, goal oriented action.  A conceptual framework will be explored with examples from a range of widely adopted social media sites.  

Please visit Interior Designers of Canada (IDC) for further information or to register for this webinar.  It will take place on Wednesday, November 5, 2014 from 12 noon - 1 p.m. EDT.

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Going bigger might not always be better - Expanding your law firm requires careful analysis

We often use growth as a metaphor for success. But is it really?  Grant Cameron at The Lawyers Weekly takes a closer look at this very question, with his article 'Going bigger might not always be better', in which I was quoted. Here is a short excerpt:

...“Whatever your goals are, make sure you are clear on them first before you make a decision about expansion and be honest with yourself about what those are,” Bekhor says. 
“You could blindly expand your firm, add three new lawyers, and at the end of the day you’re taking home the same salary or doing work that you don’t enjoy.”... Read article.

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, law firm marketing and legal business development services.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The law firm retreat... why your firm should have one this year

If you follow @wiselaw on twitter you're probably already aware that I recently assisted with their first law firm retreat and that we are now working on the resulting action plan.

So, why did Wise Law Office decide to have a retreat? And why should your firm have one too?

Every law firm has burning questions about how to make the firm better at something, more focused, more profitable, more efficient... While such questions may come up from time to time, they mostly linger in the background to be dealt with another day, a day that may or may not ever come around.  This may sound like procrastination, but it's considerably more complex.  To really do justice to these higher level questions about a law firm's future, you need to be in the right frame of mind, have allocated sufficient time to fully explore the issues and already be at the table with all the right people.  A retreat gives you that opportunity to get away from the day-to-day operations of the firm, physically and mentally, and really consider the firm's future within the context of the bigger picture, including significant trends in your business environment.  

So, clearly there's a business case for retreats. But then again there are retreats and there are retreats... and the difference isn't the setting or the meals (although there's a lot to be said for Wise Law's choice to have a friendly backyard BBQ).  So, if you do decide to take the plunge and have a retreat for your law firm, how can you make the most of it?

  1. A retreat isn't about what's wrong with the firm.  It's about making what already works even better. This is probably the most commonly misunderstood aspect of strategic planning.  Strengthening your strength - not overcoming your weakness - will take your firm to the next level.  That’s not to say that there shouldn't also be discussion about areas that need improvement.  But they shouldn't be the focus of the retreat. 
  2. Don’t wait for the perfect plan.  Just begin where you are.  While it may be tempting to begin the process with high expectations fed from the pent up desire for growth, if they're too high they can thwart rather than maximize your efforts by demotivating participants. So, instead maintain that results oriented mindset and, if perfectionism sets in, move ahead based on where you are.  Experiencing success with any planning at all will inject the firm with momentum for the, as of yet undefined, steps ahead
  3. Participation, motivation and ownership is key to ensuring that your resulting action plan doesn't just sit on the shelf collecting dust. Small firms can invite everyone to the retreat.  Mid-sized firms can involve everyone in the process by way of departmental 'pre' and 'post' retreat meetings. Welcoming everyone's participation in the development (not just the operation) of the firm ensures that their highest level, critical thinking will be focused on how to do what they already do even better. And when that action plan is ready to go, who’s going to want to implement it? The people that were involved.   
  4. Work with a professional to make your retreat a good use of everyone's time.  Aside from location and meals, booking your key people for the day makes a retreat an expensive venture. A consultant experienced with the process and your sector can make the process laser focused on your goals.  Here's a little window into our approach, at Bekhor Management. Before the retreat even begins, we sort through your objectives, who should be involved and how, what needs to be covered in pre-retreat meetings, what should be on the agenda and how to share individual input. At the retreat, we play the role of objective facilitator, ensuring that everyone else stays in the role of participant.  We keep the meeting open and on track, observing changes in alignment and gaps as they occur and using that understanding to continuously adjust and drive the process forward.        
  5. Don't drop the ball. Getting the most out of your retreat isn't just about what what happens before or during the event. After counts too. There's little value in having a really great retreat and getting everyone excited about it just to drop the ball when you get back to the office. In some ways the follow up meetings can be even more important than the retreat itself because they set the stage for a commitment to ongoing improvement, a commitment to your goals and a commitment to yourselves.           
  6. Revisit your objectives and acknowledge what's been accomplished.  Ever notice how we tend to notice when things don't get done but not as much when they do?  The trouble with that default setting in our brains is that you get what you focus on. My clients that take the time to revisit objectives after a retreat or other planning initiative often find that they accomplished most, if not all, the objectives that they had set out.  That's pretty nice accomplishment and, if acknowledged, can motivate people to jump right back into the process. 

Think ahead to next year, the following year and the year after that.  Do you know where you want your law firm to be? Are you headed there now? What needs to change so that you don’t look back three years from now, wondering where the time went and why you're still dealing with the same issues three years later.

Instead of waiting for the right time, which may or may not ever arrive. Book your retreat this year and start seeing immediate progress on those burning issues.  They may represent a sea change for your law firm.

You won't know until you get started.  

Thank you to Garry J. Wise for the action photography!

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, law firm marketing and legal business development services.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Maximizing the value of referrals to law firms

I was recently interviewed by Natalie Alcoba  at The Lawyers Weekly on maximizing the value of referrals to law firms.  Here is a short excerpt from her article:

Lawyers should step back and consider what would motivate someone to send a client their way, says Sandra Bekhor, a marketing consultant. “Beyond great service, knowledge and experience, point of difference is key. If your firm offers a genuine and valued difference — whether that’s special expertise or a specific way that you approach your subject matter or your clients, human touch, technologies that you employ…your clients will know when and where to offer up your name to their own network,” she says... Read article.  

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, law firm marketing and legal business development services.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Why do architects sell themselves short with predictable websites?

The last few times I've given marketing seminars to architects, I boldly went where I haven't gone before.  I asked the audience straight up if they thought that architects, interior designers, engineers and other design professionals were using a formula to develop their websites.

I was met with a resounding YES.  The components themselves - beauty shots, portfolios, discussions about context and client service - aren't necessarily the issue.  The degree to which this information has been strategically framed and organized, both graphically and with language, is.  

As my audience did, you too would know if this applies to your site - if, for example, it could better capture what's important to you.

So, returning to the premise of this article, if architects know that their websites are predicable why are they selling themselves short?

Confusion - Marketing is visual and artistic. When used to broadcast an architect's practice, it can sometimes create confusion between the roles of the architect, the marketer and the graphic designer. Clarity about how to leverage the unique value that each of these professionals brings to the table can be the first step towards a website that goes beyond an online portfolio and delivers meaning and intrigue.

Risk -  Doing something different always involves risk. And winning in a creative field always involves doing something different.  Architects know this better than most. Confined to the scope of an architectural project, risk might be easy to assess. However, outside one's area of expertise risk tends to get inflated. Learning about best marketing practices, purchasing behaviours and case studies, from a professional marketer can help you to reassess and devise risk management strategies that don't limit creativity. 

Value - Why  invest time, money and energy and assume risk when you have low expectations for the return on your website? Expectations can become self fulfilling prophecies. So, just because the return on a formula website is limited, that doesn't mean that the same limitations apply to a website that breaks with convention to showcase what's genuinely powerful at your firm.  

While we can all agree that there's a key role for many of the standard components to the predictable website, architects are so much more. They are thought leaders, strategic thinkers, game changers, business people, advisors, planners, historians, visionaries and more. 

If you find your own website to be predictable, understanding how to remove the barriers above would appear to be the next step on the road to creativity. So, ask yourself... 

If there was little risk involved and the potential higher than I first presumed, how bold would I go with my firm's website?    

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A firm handshake for unsure times: Trust is no longer assumed — lawyers need to earn it

A firm handshake for unsure times written by Sandra Bekhor, was published by The Lawyers Weekly (May 30, 2014 issue).  Below is a short except.

It used to be that whether you were a partner, employee or client of a law firm, trustworthy behaviour wasn’t just an expectation, it was a given.  
You could count on a handshake. 

What about now? What has changed?  

Everything, perhaps. 

From the Internet and technology, to firm break-ups and mergers, and globalization and alternate business structures, the legal marketplace has experienced rapid change. Comparison shopping is at an all-time high while client loyalty is at an all-time low, no matter which side of the desk you’re sitting on.  

Lawyers can no longer necessarily count on a firm for employment for life. The same goes for a firm counting on the loyalty of its lawyers and its clients. Competing firms are always just a mouse click, referral or RFP away, and new options for the delivery of legal services are springing up every day... Read article.  

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, law firm marketing and legal business development services.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Stop taking back what you delegate!

If you'd like to make your professional practice run more efficiently, here's an approach that will do more than just save you precious time.  It will minimize frustration, keep files moving ahead on schedule and deliver growth opportunity to both you and your team...  stop taking back what you delegate!

Have you ever assigned something to someone in your office only to have them come back to you for further input or clarification? Or have you ever received a draft of a report that didn't meet your standards? Most principals, partners and managers at law, architecture, accounting, consulting, medical and other professional practices will have had these experiences, some on a daily basis. 

The good news is that you have some responsibility in this boomerang effect on the work you delegate.  When it comes back to you incomplete or loaded with questions, instead of falling into old habits and taking back the assignment with an 'I'll get back to you on that' or 'leave it on my desk so I can review it later', make it your job to coach the person that owns the task through the next steps, so that he or she can continue to own the assignment.  Instead of getting information for them, ask how he or she would go about it, so you'll have an active thinker in the problem solving process. Instead of reviewing the submission, ask first if he or she compared it against briefing notes or against a sample of a previous report that represents the standard that you're looking for. 

It can be a reflex to take back assignments when you're the one that used to complete them. You're good at it and you know what you want. But next time you feel the urge to do so, ask yourself.  Is this the best use of my time? Will coaching my staff on these next steps help him or her on future assignments?  Will it be a source of opportunity for both of us to stretch ourselves in our respective positions? 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law, architecture, accounting, consulting, medical and other professional practices are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, leadership development and business coaching services.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Business coaching vs consulting - What's the difference?

You've hit a wall on an important aspect of your practice development goals. Maybe accountability is spotty. Maybe there's been a surge in conflict. Or you've noticed increased competitive pressure. You know that you're going to need some help with this one. So, what's it going to be? Business coaching or consulting? 

Both offer value. But they're actually quite different.  Understanding the difference can shed light on what skill might be most helpful with respect to your concerns of the day: 

Business consulting definition 
Business consulting services are structured to act on a specific requirement.  Examples include: marketing planning, strategic planning, succession planning and business planning. These services depend not only on the professional's understanding of and experience with such processes but also on their ability to provide expert advice, information and opinion, relevant to the client's business.  

Business coaching definition
Business coaching services also involve working with a professional who has expertise on the topic of concern.  But, rather than dispense advice and opinion, the business coaches' role is focused on drawing out the client's own knowledge, wisdom and insight.  Through active listening, questions and targeted messaging, a skilled business coach can help bring objectivity and inspiration to brainstorming and clarity and direction to action plans.  

You already know when and how to work with your lawyer, your accountant and other professionals. When to call them.  For what type of problems they are likely to save you time, money and headaches.  The same is true of business coaching and consulting professionals. Once you get through the learning curve, your practice will be strengthened with a trusted advisor that, overnight, will have expanded your opportunities to grow.   

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law, architecture, accounting, consulting, medical and other professional practices are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, consulting and business coaching services.

Should you market yourself or your medical clinic?

Should you market yourself or your medical clinic? was previously published in The Pulse - Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors, Spring 2014, Issue 73. 

Despite the multitude of decisions that get made before initiating a marketing program - positioning, target market, location, services, fees - there’s one underlying question that often gets overlooked. 

What are you trying to build – a personal following or a clinic?  

Anybody who has followed their naturopath from clinic to clinic, neighbourhood to neighbourhood, will tell you that loyalty to a clinic and loyalty to a person isn’t the same thing.  

Marketing a clinic and marketing a person isn’t the same thing either.  That said, they’re both valid options.  The key is to align your marketing plan with your practice development goals. 

So, how do you decide what you’re trying to build – a personal following or a clinic – and how should that decision impact your marketing?  Let’s look at two common scenarios and their associated pitfalls: 

  1. If you’re renting space in someone else’s clinic, have no plans to eventually take on your own space or to add employees, you’re building a following. Common pitfalls? Placing undue emphasis on creating and marketing a name for your practice, rather than simply building your name. Missing out on the opportunity to cross promote yourself with the clinic.  Creating confusion about your relationship with the clinic.     
  2. If you own a clinic and you have partners or employees, you’re building a clinic.  Common pitfalls? Focusing the lion’s share of marketing resources on the individual at the cost of building a reputable and sustainable name for the clinic. Diluting your point of difference with false ties to tenants operating out of your clinic.  

If your goal is to build a personal following, every aspect of your marketing plan needs to support that goal.

Whether or not it’s formalized with a logo, tagline and positioning statement, your professional identity will need to capture your philosophy, style, vision, history and context. 

You’ll need flagship materials that support your personal marketing efforts, such as a website, brochure, newsletter, business presentation or other.

You’ll also need a personal marketing plan. It will need to be fed, continuously, on an ongoing basis. So, choose activities that call you, or it won’t work. It will feel like drudgery. If you like to press the flesh, network. If you like to write stories, start a blog. If you like to teach, give seminars. If you like people but are shy at large gatherings, use social media. By picking activities that align with your interests and temperament, you’ll bring out your most engaged, natural self.  To get noticed, choose one focused activity and take it on with passion and dedication.  Make sure everything you do is aligned, not just with your target market and areas of interest but with your positioning, even if it’s as inconsequential as a 140 character tweet. 

If your goal is to build a clinic, every aspect of your marketing plan needs to support that goal.

You’ll need a name, logo and tagline founded on a vision that gets supported in a consistent manner by all, from the way someone is greeted on the phone to the way they’re treated and followed up with, no matter who they’re dealing with.  

As you would if you were building a following, you’ll need flagship materials, such as a website, brochure, newsletter, business presentation or other.

You won’t need a personal marketing plan. You’ll need several, one for each participant.  You’ll also need branded materials, strategies and coaching to align their activities with the vision for the clinic. As an example, beyond setting up a clinic blog (or micro blogs), consider - what type of articles do you want to write? How controversial do you want to get? What is the writing style and tone? What is the blog’s purpose (go deeper, much deeper, than ‘to share information’)…? The same applies to virtually any personal marketing activity: speaking, networking, social media…   So, when you’re building a clinic, you’re not just showcasing individuals, you’re doing so within the context of a cohesive, consistent and common purpose that adds value to the brand with each article, smile and handshake.  That doesn’t mean that everyone needs to do the same thing. It just means that that they bring the same vision to what they do. 

So, where do these ideas leave us? 

You're doing everything right. You deliver good patient service. You get out there and give talks. You get published a few times a year. You’re using LinkedIn on a daily basis. 

Clarifying which brand you’re building and the distinction between your brand and others sets the stage for you to collect equity for your efforts. Equity that establishes sustainability and multiplies in value over time... as we all know one happy patient tells two of their closest friends and so on.

If you fall into the category of landlord or tenant, there’s one more detail to consider. Your well-organized brand will need equally well-organized paperwork.  This will provide clarity about the legal ownership of your patient list, a most critical element of your brand equity. If you’re going to get the marketing piece right, it’s certianly worth your while to make sure your hard won patients stay with you, should anyone decide to move.  

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized naturopathic, chiropody, chiropractic, dental, veterinary, massage therapy and other Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) clinics are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, medical clinic marketing and business development services.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Introverts underestimate their negotiation powers

I just came across interesting negotiation tips in the preview for Quiet by Susan Cain. This is specifically directed at introverts who may have underestimated their abilities in this area. Here's an excerpt from a story about a junior lawyer sitting at a negotiation table and freezing... 

"Then she'd remembered what I'd told her again and again: she was an introvert, and as such she had unique powers in negotiation - perhaps less obvious but no less formidable. She'd probably prepared more than everyone else. She had a quiet but firm speaking style. She rarely spoke without thinking. Being mild-mannered, she could take strong, even aggressive, positions while coming across as perfectly reasonable. And she tended to ask questions - lots of them -and actually listen to the answers, which no matter what your personality, is crucial to strong negotiation."

Fascinating! I think I'll have to read the book now!

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Does leadership skill have a place in law firms?

Did you know that culture can account for nearly a third of financial results?

A third.

Seriously, A THIRD. 

Given the opportunity to make such dramatic impact by modifying one single factor, anyone that cares about the performance of their law firm should be wondering what they can do to positively impact culture... right now.

Simple.  Develop leadership skill. 

Managers who use leadership styles that positively affect culture deliver better financial results.

This is a matter of knowing when and how to:

  • Make it clear to each individual how their role fits into the big picture. 
  • Give individuals the freedom to figure things out on their own. 
  • Set standards and be directive. 
  • Tend to the emotions of others and your own. 
  • Ask for input, listen and get buy in. 
  • Give instruction and feedback. 

So, the next time you’re facing the managerial aspect of your job as a lawyer, consider intentionally choosing an approach that fits both the individual you’re working with and the situation you’re addressing.  

There’s a considerable difference between managing by default and leading. It may take some planning, training and coaching to get there.  But is there a law firm out there that can really afford to throw away any opportunity with that much upside?

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, law firm marketing and legal business development services.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Accounting firms - Get strategic or risk getting lost

Get strategic or risk getting lost was previously published in The Bottom Line, Mid-September 2013. 

Options.  They can swing doors wide open or gamble resources away.  They can inspire us to act with urgency or be the cause of indecision and procrastination.  
The options to market an accounting firm have exponentially increased over the past fifteen years.  Most are thanks to the internet.  But, creative ways of using the internet to generate interest for seminars and other live events has multiplied offline marketing options as well.  And with the ensuing online clutter, some strictly offline marketing activities, such as direct mail, have experienced recent renewal.  

Tempting as they might be, the options to market an accounting practice don’t usually deliver on the promise of success, without a strategic approach to filter them for fit.  

What follows are essential components to the process of assembling a strategic marketing plan:

As with a business plan, a marketing plan needs to support short and long-term financial, strategic and lifestyle practice development goals.  There are, however, considerations that extend beyond those typical of a business plan, including: establishing desired image, attracting qualified recruits, generating media coverage, extending referrer networks and building a specific area of interest or client profile.  

One of the most challenging aspects of developing a marketing plan is defining a firm’s market position. This is essentially the firm’s unique and valued difference. For some accounting practices, market position may be built into the basis of their operations.  But for most, analysis is needed to establish clarity about standout strengths and to ensure that the firm’s promises don’t simply mirror those of its peers.

Target market
Prioritizing a subset of a target market helps to position the marketing plan for success on multiple levels.  From websites to seminars, the content of any marketing activities that speak directly to the needs of a specific audience, and referral market, are more likely to resonate.  As well, it’s simpler and more cost effective to choose marketing activities that reach a specific group, rather than casting a wider net.  

Competitive set
If marketing decisions are made in a vacuum, they run the risk of being predictable and cookie cutter.  Market research about direct competitors can reveal where, to whom and how other accounting practices are marketing their services, down to the detail of language style and marketing promises.  Faced with this information, a firm will almost always be able to go yet one step deeper with its own analysis and decisions about target market, market position and marketing activities.  

Business environment 
In order to stay relevant, the marketing plan needs to be reviewed against changes in the business environment on a regular basis.  Since the recommended duration of the plan is annual, most changes aren’t expected to impact the details of the current plan but, rather, will provide inspiration for subsequent years. By way of example, recent developments in today’s business environment include: professional branding, widescreen website design, micro sites, micro blogs, apps, mobile and browser compatibility, self administration of websites, changes to Search Engine Optimization, new social media marketing sites and tools, newsletter segmentation strategies, video marketing and new approaches to networking.  

Marketing activities
Between advertising (online or off), direct mail, public relations, speaking engagements, websites, Search Engine Optimization, social media, blogs,  newsletters (digital or print), networking and events, the list of marketing activities to choose from is long and it's getting longer. Choosing begins with finding options that align with the firm’s goals and its target audience.  But the most fitting activities will also align with the talents of the team participating in the ongoing implementation of the plan i.e. based on interest and inclination to network (online or off), speak and write.   Finally, marketing activities require a third tier of alignment.  They need also to align with each other, where each activity is positioned to amplify success because it has a place in the overall chain of events. 

The budget to market an accounting firm depends on many variables, including the size of the practice and the stage within its life cycle.  An ongoing marketing spend also depends on specificity of target audience, complexity of service offering and list of marketing activities.  To develop professional materials for the first time, however, a disproportionately high, one-time investment should be expected.  If this period coincides with tight cash flow, foundational pieces could be phased in over months or even years.  The ability of a firm to maximize return on its marketing investment will be based on three factors: reach (ease of access to the desired growth market), frequency (repeated messaging directed at the same audience) and impact (the degree to which the firm’s professional identity and its marketing messages resonate with its audience).  

There was a time when marketing plans extended for a five-year period.  But in order to stay nimble and responsive in a fast paced world, it’s recommended to consider the long-term broadly and plan for details on an annual basis.  To facilitate connection with clients, referrers and even search engines on an ongoing basis, it’s also recommended to market continuously, rather than just during the slower accounting months.  With planning and coordination, many marketing activities can be developed well in advance and scheduled for release throughout the year.  Consideration needs to be given, however, to allowing for real-time marketing activity, including social media, networking and, possibly, writing articles or giving seminars that respond to news or other time-sensitive updates. 

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
More that ever before, marketing plans need to be reviewed and revamped on a regular basis, against actual performance and changes in the marketplace. This process is essential to building continuous improvement into the plan.  KPIs can be informative in this regard, if the right factors are being measured.  For example, there are many tools available to easily measure website traffic and, at first glance, this indicator may seem to be obvious and useful.  But without a sense of whether the profile of the website visitor matches that of the firm’s desired growth market, this indicator will be of limited value.  Finally, generating results will also depend on the firm’s ability to balance the knee jerk reaction to prematurely implement change with the discipline of follow through and commitment.  

Beyond filtering options in order to improve marketing investment and facilitate a firm’s ability to meet its goals, the value of this planning process is in taking the heat off the sales process, from the generation of leads through to closing.  A strategic marketing plan can help to ensure that an accounting practice is findable, by the right audience, efficiently and effectively.  Most importantly though, when it is founded on authentic messaging that resonates, by the time prospects pick up the phone, they usually are highly suitable and highly interested.

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, CPA, accounting, investing and actuarial firm marketing and business development services.