Six Tech Trends to Know Heading Into the New Year

As we look back at 2016 and gear up for a new year, it’s smart to brush up on new trends in the legal industry. By new trends, I mean new technology, because the terms have become almost synonymous.

Technology has impacted our profession dramatically in recent years, and it continues to do so at an accelerating pace. If you’re not on the technology bandwagon, you and your firm will have a hard time staying afloat.

This fact isn’t a revelation. We’ve known for decades that success in most industries comes down to adopting new technology. But doing so in the legal profession comes with its set of challenges.

First, regulations make change difficult. Second, sometimes it’s hard to know which new products and approaches in the legal industry have value, and which are just hype.

Those challenges aside, firms that don’t embrace technology will have trouble attracting the best new legal talent. The revenue at law firms clinging to old school ways will drop off as a new generation of clients takes their business to new-school, tech-savvy companies.

What does it take to join the ranks of the new-school? There are six major trends to be aware of going into 2017.

Social networks

Social networking is the cornerstone of legal industry marketing. This fact shouldn’t be a surprise. Rainmaking has always been about networking, relationship building and word of mouth. It still is; these techniques in their offline form still build practices. But if you’re not working the online component, too, you’re at a catastrophic disadvantage. Social media has become a factor in how clients choose attorneys, according to a survey taken this year by FindLaw. In 2017, take steps to ramp up your social presence on your website and blog, on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Doing so will maximize your online presence and help you grow relationships over time.

Your clients, prospects, and leads are online and checking social media regularly. Being part of the social media landscape isn’t hard, but there are right and wrong ways to go about it. Invest in expert help this year. Set a goal to get your social marketing plan up and running in 2017.

Virtual Law Firms

These are firms that can operate anywhere: A lawyer’s home, a satellite office, even from inside a Starbucks. Many lawyers have closed their downtown offices and work remotely. Technology lets them do this without hurting service or quality. Remote work can reduce overhead and travel time while increasing flexibility and improving work/life balance. Plus, you have the option to rent offices or meeting rooms as needed.

The leap to virtual doesn’t have to happen overnight. Experiment by working remotely one day a week and see how it impacts your productivity and revenue. It may very well provide the edge your firm needs to succeed in 2017.

E-discovery

Electronically stored information (ESI) is now considered discoverable in court. ESI includes e-mails, texts, instant messages, voicemails and other electronically stored information. What you need to know: This technological reality has changed the face of litigation. Lawyers can (and should) use digital services to access all types of records. And we need to remind our clients that their deleted texts and e-mails are retrievable.

Legal process outsourcing

Outsourcing legal work to a vendor, law firm or overseas resource has become an increasingly favorable trend for law firms. Streamlined by new technology, LPO continues to cut expenses and reduce workload overflow. It can be a huge factor in scaling your business and managing workflow. LPO technology firms that market to the legal industry are on the rise. They’ll be coming after you in 2017 to present their case. When they do, listen.

Reviews and testimonials

Adding positive reviews to Google+, Yelp and Avvo is critical to growing your business and managing your reputation. 72 percent of consumers said they trusted companies more when they have positive customer reviews, according to a BrightLocal survey in 2014. The number of people reading online reviews is increasing, so take steps to post reviews in 2017. If you can’t get customers to go on record, that’s OK. According to the data, consumer trust increases even when the reviews are anonymous.

Cloud-based online document repositories provide secure, on-demand access to records for you, your clients, and your team members. You can store, organize, view, and change files.

More customers want instant gratification and access to their documents and records. It’s relatively easy to set up, makes for a better consumer experience, and can save you time from fielding emails and sending attachments. Make sure your clients have this access in 2017!

So there you have it. Six new trends that aren’t entirely new, per se, but are increasingly important as our industry ventures forth into the brave new world of 2017.

Lawyers like to err on the side of caution. Many of us are slow to embrace new technology or rock the boat. Historically, we get hung up asking ourselves whether we can afford to take such risks.

But what we need to be asking is: Can we afford not to?

At the end of 2016, the answer is a resounding no.

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5 Book Recommendations to Have a Great 2017

As you run around doing your final Christmas shopping this week, have you remembered your favorite person? (You!)

I know you do a lot for others in your life – your family and extended family, your co-workers or employees, those people who serve you in your favorite restaurants, cleaners, mail delivery people, etc. – but what about yourself?

As we stare down New Year’s Eve and a whole new year of dreams and goals, why not give yourself a couple of books (or audiobooks) that can motivate and support you in achieving those dreams?

Here are my top five favorite motivational and inspiration books. If you haven’t read them, then you’re in for a treat…

#1. “The Advanced Formula for Total Success,” by Dr. Robert Anthony. This is a classic and one that I read every year. It is packed with the truth about what is holding you back from achieving your dreams, AND it tells you how to release the breaks. It is out of print, but luckily Amazon.com has many sellers still offering copies from a few bucks to over $40. Search for it today and get ready for a powerful, life changing book that you will enjoy for years to come.

#2. “Find and Use Your Inner Power,” by Emmet Fox. I read sections from this book almost every day. It is a book of essays, each only a page to a page and a half long. The essays are about the law of attraction from a spiritual perspective. Simply one of the best books out there to be reminded of the truth.

I recommend you start every day by reading a page or two.

#3. “The Secret,” by Rhonda Bryne. One of the most accessible books on the law of attraction. If you’re not familiar with this concept, then this is a great introductory book.

Bonus book: Another great introductory book on the law of attraction is: “As a Man Thinketh,” by James Allen. This book is probably available for free as an eBook. Great, quick read that will change the way you think.

#4. “The Success Principles,” by Jack Canfield. If you’re looking for a more complete, step by step, guide to setting and achieving goals, this book will get you there. Make sure you have a notebook handy as Jack will have you doing exercises as you plan the rest of your life.
#5. “The Complete Book of Phone Scripts,” eBook for sales people. How could I not put the bestselling book of phone scripts on this list of books to help you have a killer 2017?

If you are in sales, then this is a must have. Let’s face it: 80 – 90% of the objections and stalls you get are the same, day in and day out. You will be 100% more effective if you just take the time to script out the best practice ways of dealing with them. It’s called being prepared. Plus, this is the gift that keeps on giving with over $500 worth of extra bonuses!

So there you have it. 5 (actually 6) books that will help you set goals and achieve them. Give yourself something that will continue giving for the rest of your life.

Copyright (c) 2016 Mr. Inside Sales

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Are You at Risk of Being “Uberized”?

If you’re like many Business Owners and Leaders you probably feel pretty good about the position you hold in your market… so did the taxi cab companies and drivers before Uber became a reality. Now they are scrambling and trying to find a way to survive… even to the point of trying to get political help in different cities to stay afloat.

Disruption and Commoditization have impacted virtually every industry today. There probably isn’t a single industry that hasn’t been impacted by a disruptive organization entering their market and stealing some of their market share. Uber is an excellent example but there are many others that have been equally disruptive. Companies such as LegalZoom have taken billions of dollars away from attorneys over the past several years. They captured and disrupted a document and transaction-based business and turned it into a commodity by substantially lowering the pricing of document preparation… impacting attorneys all over the country.

Amazon was an early disruptor to the entire book business… taking significant market share away from Barnes and Noble and Borders who were recognized giants in the book industry. And we certainly can’t forget about Blockbuster’s demise when Netflix entered the market. They were the unquestioned dominant leader in video rental and were virtually replaced overnight by an unknown company with a new disruptive business model that matched the needs of customers at substantial savings.

Even though these examples are in completely different industries there is one common thread that runs through all of them… they didn’t believe anyone could disrupt their dominance in their market. While it’s awesome to believe in your product or service, it’s dangerous to think there isn’t someone waiting in the wings to take away your position. Unlike any other time in history, we are now seeing new companies coming into traditional industries from many unrelated areas and establishing a disruptive model and capturing significant market share. This trend is only going to continue now that it has shown massive success over the past few years. So what can you do, as the leader of your business, to either avoid or minimize the impact of this potential disruption?

While commoditization is difficult to combat with products and services over a long period of time, there is at least one alternative that appears to withstand the test of time and delivers differentiation in the market… your CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

It is difficult to continually come up with new products and services to satisfy the ravenous appetite customers have today. Just when you think you have the best and leading edge product or newest service, someone comes in and “one-ups” you and takes away the leading spot. While you might remain there for some period of time, it is difficult to remain at the top for extended periods of time. Apple is one of the few that has been successful at this… but it took them many years of living in the shadow of Microsoft and others before they became the dominant leader. Today, Microsoft is in this unenviable position and trying to fight their way back to the top… especially in the race for the Cloud.

But these are behemoth companies… not the SMB market. They can throw billions of dollars at innovation and products and hope they find a winner. The small and mid-sized business (SMB) can’t be this frivolous with their cash and making too many product/service mistakes can wipe out a business before anything comes to fruition. The proven alternative to this madness is to focus on the ONE THING that is completely in their control to design and deliver… their CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

Customer Experience has both short and long term advantages. It is something that can be created and implemented within the year but last for many decades to come when implemented properly. And by properly I’m not talking about telling all your employees they need to be nicer to the customer… that never works for the long term… every company can be nice to their customers if they try. This isn’t the answer… this isn’t the differentiator… but it’s on the right track.

Creating a customized CUSTOMER JOURNEY that is built upon a very well defined Customer Experience Process (something we call Customer Experience Mapping) is what allows companies to reap these rewards for many years into the future. Think Disney… they created “the happiest place on earth” and continue to deliver this experience year after year after year. This didn’t happen by holding a meeting and telling all their employees and characters to be nicer to their guests… it happened because they have a very well defined Customer Journey that is built on a foundation of a well-designed and executed Customer Experience.

Nordstrom did the same thing many decades ago. They started selling shoes… then clothing… all at high prices. But they started with a very distinct process inside the organization for delivering an incredible customer experience day in and day out. Zappos followed this same model… sold shoes… one of the ultimate commodities in the clothing industry… and they dominate today. They don’t give discounts and silly things like “one day only” sales (every day)… they simply deliver a remarkable Customer Experience to every customer every day… and their customers love to buy from Zappos. And it has worked out pretty well when you consider they went from zero to over $1 Billion in revenues in less than 10 years and were sold to Amazon for more than a billion dollars. Not a bad model if you ask me.

One way to avoid being COMMODITIZED and losing customers is to design something even new entrants can’t copy… the experience you offer. If your Customer Experience is so incredibly amazing and remarkable… WOW… every single day with every interaction, this creates immediate differentiation and a long tail of success. It is the ultimate weapon against commoditization or even new entrants into a market. For a new disruptive entrant to take away market share they would need to be so much better and cheaper than anything you offered… which is difficult to do today. And for those of you that are saying to yourself right now, “Yea but we’re different, we do a good quality job and treat our customers well so we aren’t at risk,” I would offer you some instant advice… take the blinders off and get real with looking at your business. This is living in a fantasy world… this isn’t looking at your company from the eyes of your customer… they are seeing something very different. And if someone came into your market today and offered a completely different (and awesome) experience to your customers at or below your price they would be gone in a heartbeat.

Achieving long-term dominance doesn’t happen by “being nicer to your customers” and thinking you have created differentiation… you haven’t. Being CUSTOMER OBSESSED and creating a process based CUSTOMER JOURNEY that has a well laid out and documented CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE PROCESS at the heart of it is what will help you avoid being “Uberized.” This strategy gives you differentiation, uniqueness, and a special place in your customers heart and mind… it gives you the “long tail” of success.

I would strongly and passionately encourage you to learn more about why and how this is completely different than what you are probably doing today. If there was ONE THING TO FOCUS ON IN 2017 it would be to create a strategy based around a well-planned Customer Journey which incorporated an incredibly awesome Customer Experience by Mapping out all the experiences your customer will receive when they interact with your business (there are usually over 20 for most companies in the SMB market). If this is of interest and you want to learn more, let’s grab coffee and I can share how some of the best companies in the world have followed this path… for decades… and still dominate in their industries. I think you will find it a fascinating discussion…

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4 Steps to Choosing the Best Promotional Products for Your Business

When investing your marketing dollars in custom branded promotional products, you want to ensure that you are getting your best return on investment. You want to look for products that serve more than one purpose and provide continued brand exposure.

1. Choose products that provide your company with good visibility.

The more your products are seen, the more promotional benefit your company receives. The best promotional products are prominently placed on everyday items, such as screen cleaners attached to mobile devices.

2. Give away products that will be used every day.

How many times have you received a piece of schwag that you threw in a drawer or even the trash? For your promotional products to be effective, you need to choose items that people will use over and over again. Products that are used often and in public places will gain your brand the most exposure for your investment. A great example would be screen cleaner stickers for phones and tablets, that are custom branded with your logo but people can use to clean their electronic devices. Another example are portable USB chargers, that have your logo on them but people can use in an emergency to charge their devices. These are useful products that people will carry with them, hence, increasing the amount of times your logo gets flashed around.

3. Reflect your business’s reputation with high quality products.

We’ve all received a branded pen or notepad that fell apart in our bag before we even left the exhibit hall. Handing out cheap promotional products gives the impression that your company is just as cheap. Make sure that the freebies you give away are representative of the high quality of the products and services you provide in your business.

The best way to test a product before you decide to pull the trigger and make an order for your event would be to get samples. Reputable promo product companies will provide free samples and stand behind their production. It should be crystal clear once you compare samples whether the promo product will be a hit or a miss.

4. Think versatility.

Choose promotional products that are versatile enough to fit every occasion you need. Whether you need giveaways for a trade show, gifts for your employees, or tokens of appreciation for customers who visit your office, having an appropriate product available for all occasions is key to getting the best results for your marketing dollars.

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Science Research Funding Under A Trump Administration – What Will Happen?

Right after Donald Trump won the presidency, scientists and researchers got together to stage a large protest with signs and marched on Washington DC to make their case for research funding fearing that academia would be cut off from those 10s of billions of dollars in money flows to themselves and their institutions. Apparently, academia is worried their gravy train will end, and maybe they are right – but protesting won’t work. Academia is already in serious challenges due to the outstanding college loan debt default rates. Is this a perfect storm for science? Let’s look at this a little closer shall we?

There was an interesting article in Scientific American in the January/February 2017 issue titled; “Ending the Crisis of Complacency in Science – To survive the Trump administration, scientists need to invest in a strategic vision that mobilizes social change,” by Matthew Nisbet which stated:

“As newly elected president Donald Trump takes office, the scientific community faces the likelihood not only of unprecedented cuts in government funding for research, but also of bold new attacks on scientific expertise as a basis for policy making and decisions. Trump campaigned on a pledge to eliminate as much as $100 million in ‘wasteful climate change spending’ and there have been reports of plans to severely cut funding for NASA and other agencies.” The article also talked about the NIH funding of Stem Cells and how they might turn back to the Bush years on that type of science funding. There was a point in the piece about the need for scientists to do better with PR and media so the tax paying public would be more supportive. In fact the author of the article suggested better cooperation with journalists was important to change the narrative to continue climate research funding.

Interestingly enough, the NIH and NSF and other big research funders are under the executive branch of our Federal Government. Academia is worried because they chose the wrong political side and academia had brain-washed our kids towards a leftist, socialist skew – they are in fear now, but they’ve allowed that academic bubble to build – academia has caused their own demise, with their High IQ’s they still don’t see it. What do I think of this as the founder of a Think Tank?

Well, here is my assessment; My gosh, that article was so out-of-touch with the new political landscape. In fact, Donald Trump’s Administration is a breath of fresh air for science, and he’s about the only one who can save scientific research and academia from their current path towards a cliff.

Sure there will be cuts in all the ‘politically correct research’ that many in academia are now calling “science” and yes there will be cuts in Global Warming research – after all, it is academia that continues to go with that IPCC globalist narrative that climate science; it’s “settled” by consensus (what?). The climate scientists hypocrisy is epic – you see, if it is settled then there doesn’t need to be anymore science research there, we already know right? Now then, we have to determine if we should act on that research or not to cut human emissions of CO2 (which by the way is only 3% of the total CO2 output of this trace gas). Academia can’t have it both ways and say it is settled, because if it is then there is no need to keep funding their incredible PhD level academic salaries then. Let them find something else to study or get a new line of work.

Sure there will cuts to BS science and waste – there is a ton of it, admit it. I see the grants being awarded by the NSF, NIH, and some of that crap is a waste. With the Trump Administration – the good science stays and the crap goes – there will be plenty of money and research for GOOD science. Academia will have to adapt, just like businesses do. Remember it was one of theirs who said; “Change is the only constant” so they will have to deal with it. No more sniveling.