Law Offices, Professional Image, and Marketing

Face it. Financial bottom lines are affected by the fact we live in a world that judges a book by its cover. Pretty singers sell more records, court cases rank higher in the news if the person is attractive, and politicians are elected based on their image as much any other factor.Looking at your own industry, don’t you have to fight the public’s perceptions? We see it on TV and in movies every day. More often than not, young lawyers, paralegals, and others just starting out in the profession are portrayed as cheap, petty, low-rent, and usually called “ambulance chasers.”It’s not right, but this issue of image is one that you have to live with and learn to work with.Let’s cut to the bottom line which is this: In today’s business climate, everyone should realize that a professional image is crucial to reputation and everyone could stand to improve theirs to some degree or other. It’s what you need to do to keep your individual firms alive. Therefore, let’s cover some opportunities for improvement using the acronym A.L.I.V.E.:Appearance – Your physical persona and the way present yourself.Letterhead – The level of professionalism demonstrated in your printed marketing materials.Information – Accuracy and honesty; the keys to presenting the data gathered during a case.Voice – How you communicate to everyone you’re associated with.Education – The continual improvement to your professional knowledge base.Appearance: People base a large percentage of their first impression on your appearance. When a client meets you for the first time, they’re sizing up your credibility, your ability as a legal professional, and deciding just how well you might conduct yourself in public. As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a good first impression, so let’s look at a few pointers.Always dress in a professional manner. For men and women both, the attire should be “business professional,” which for men means suit and tie whenever possible, and for the ladies, business suits, nice skirt and blouse, or dresses. If you look unkempt or “second rate” the client will wonder how you’ll represent them while working their case.A close cousin to dress is personal grooming. Simply put, make sure your hair, facial hair, hands, nails, and teeth are all clean and well kept. By the way, how’s your breath? Always keep some mints handy.Another key opportunity to exhibit a professional image is in court. Make your trial presentations well-organized and polished works of art. You’ll notice down in our bio box we have a link to a free ebook that will help you create a very professional trial notebook.Letterhead: In some cases, the first contact someone may have with you might be one of your business cards. For our purposes though, “letterhead” refers to any printed material (paper or electronic) anyone outside your office might see.Business cards are a must. Make them distinctive, but with minimal content. Let your website or brochure carry the heavy content.On business cards, stationery, and your website stay away from trite, cliché, or negative icons such as someone running after an ambulance. In your web address, phone numbers, or email addresses, stay away from negative phrases like “[email protected].” These might seem cute, but to many potential clients, they’re a turnoff.For stationery, choose quality paper and have your letterhead and envelopes, as well as your contracts, professionally produced by the same people who do your business cards. Make sure their color themes match. Your local print shop or office supply store should have everything you need. If there’s any one place you want to spend a little money, this is near the top of the list.Stay away from blank notepads and manila folders. They’ll both get too messy too soon and not only will that make you look unprofessional and disorganized, but blank notepads make you look unprepared, and lost or disorganized notes lead to inaccurate reports and invoices. Invest a little time and/or money into buying or developing a comprehensive set of forms or an organizer system to use while assembling your case.Information: In the legal business, the glass is neither half full nor half empty. It’s 50%. And, unless you know what’s in it, don’t speculate. “Just the facts Ma’am.” One of the biggest opportunities for a good impression, and naturally the most important, is the timely delivery of honest, accurate, information. Nothing will kill your image, reputation, and livelihood, like incomplete, inaccurate, biased, or late case work. Likewise, an inaccurate invoice can cost you by being either too low or too high.Rule one is, always has been, and always will be, “Use a good case management system.” Make sure everyone working for you uses the same system, and that your standards of accuracy start at the beginning, and continues through the whole case and through any follow-up you may ever have with that client. Then treat all of your other clients the same way.Use nice presentation folders for all your reports; even the “small dollar” ones. Each client is important to you from a marketing standpoint and therefore deserves to be treated with respect. Putting your work product on better stationery, in a well-organized format, and in an attractive presentation folder will provide a greater perceived value to your client. These people have probably paid a hefty sum for your service and a more professional report will help assure them that it was money well spent.Voice: Voice is a general term used to describe not only the actual verbal communication you have with your clients and others, but the “tone” your business has with those it deals with.When you answer the phone, do so cheerfully and actually smile. You can tell when someone’s not happy to be on the phone and so can others. This phone call might be your first contact with the next big client, so make it count.If you can’t personally answer every call, the next best thing is to have a receptionist or answering service. A person is always better than voice mail. Go with what you can afford, but since the phone call is one of your opportunities for a first impression, anyone answering the phone should be trained to be courteous, cheerful, informative, and as professional as possible.Education and intelligence are just as necessary as a cheerful hello. You want people to know that you are every bit as qualified and capable as they could hope for. Therefore, when speaking with people, speak clearly, and choose your words carefully. They don’t have to be big words, but they do have to make sense, and grammar is important.The written word should follow the same rule. Make sure your business cards, letterhead, brochures, reports, invoices, and all other written documents use correct spelling and proper grammar. Though your client may be enamoured enough with your abilities as a legal professional to overlook a minor grammatical error, you never know who else of importance might see your report or correspondence.Education: Here we continue where your writing skills leave off and cover the actual knowledge or skill base upon which your legal expertise is founded. Experience is the best teacher, but classroom education can certainly help keep you informed and up to date. Also, the fact that you are continually updating your expertise is impressive to most potential clients.Many states require continuing education. If your state does, you should publish this fact in your firm’s literature. If your state does not require CEU, you should still take it upon yourself to keep your own training updated and make that fact a prominent component of your marketing materials.Join professional organizations where possible. Many of them will offer various classes and training programs and the benefits of networking are considerable.Keep your library stocked. Many people learn as much from books and videos as they do in a classroom setting.As you attend some of these educational functions, take the opportunity to look around you and either further your own education on this issue of appearance by studying your colleagues, or help improve the way they represent you by helping educate them as to the benefits of a more professional image.

Automotive Advertising Agencies Drop Conventional Media in Favor of Social Networking by Consumers

Old school wisdom like ‘the customer is always right’ have often taken a back seat to automotive advertising agencies and auto dealers who presumed to talk “at” customers rather than listen to them. Hard sell tactics built on that presumption may have sold cars in the past but with the rise of the Internet and social networking media — not so much!Today’s educated car shoppers are bypassing the auto dealer’s real and virtual showrooms in favor of visiting other online information resources. Auto dealers are being replaced by consumers in the formative stage of their buying cycle who turn to trusted friends in social networking communities. These online groups of like minded consumers share their car buying experiences before, during and after the sale and customers find that they are able to provide far more transparent and relevant information than any self serving auto dealer; real or imagined.Similarly, the reach and frequency of the best planned automotive advertising campaign can be trumped with the click of a mouse by a car shopper who can get the information they need to buy a car without having to listen to a sales pitch from a self serving auto dealer. The solution for automotive advertising agencies challenged by a shrinking economy and a consolidating auto industry is obvious — if you can’t beat them, join them.Social networking on the World Wide Web is an extension of an equally established wisdom that people like to do business with people that they like. The social part of this growing online marketing phenomenon is built on trust in friends which is an element of human nature that has survived on the Internet Super Highway. Networking references the value of word of mouth advertising that delivers a single message to a sphere of influence that used to be limited to close friends and family. The Internet now distributes that same message virally on channels like You Tube, My Space, LinkedIn, Face Book, Bebo, Twitter and too many others to list that are growing exponentially.Automotive advertising agencies have been challenged to monetize social networking with mixed results primarily because they attempted to apply best practices learned from their past experiences on conventional media like radio, T.V. and print. Initially, it was assumed that the only adjustment needed was to post the same retail messages that worked in conventional media on the social networks. That was accomplished through the use of banner ads linked back to the auto dealer’s website or with an invitation for the customer to call or visit their real world dealership to get the information they needed beyond the low ball price or payment that was often offered but rarely trusted. These banner ads were seen as an easily avoided nuisance by community members who opted not to play. However, evidence does suggest that they did/do provide a residual impression that adds to the auto dealer’s top of the mind awareness with the car shopper; although sometimes the impression was tainted by the dealer’s intrusion into the community of friends.When the R.O.I. of the banner ads did not meet expectations, automotive advertising agencies attempted to register their auto dealer clients as members of the community to promote themselves from within. Auto dealers were quickly discovered as the wolves in sheep’s clothing that they were and the unwritten rules of etiquette of these social networking sites drove them from the community with their tails between their legs.Automotive advertising agencies have since learned that the elements of human nature that drive word of mouth advertising are fragile and they require transparency to survive in social networking communities. As is often the case, the solution has been provided by the developing technologies that have matured along with the Internet as a marketing media.One such solution is provided by ronsmap.com, a game changing customer centric marketing platform with proprietary applications including vBack and SellersVantage that generate Intelli-Leads with market and consumer intelligence not previously available to auto dealers. vBack is a social media engine that is embedded on the vehicle postings on ronsmap as well as the auto dealer’s website and linked marketing channels with an Ask-a-Friend/Tell-a-Friend feature functionality that develops viral messages trafficked through the social networking communities that the customer belongs to and trusts. In addition, related comments from friends solicited by the customer are attached to the Intelli-Lead as part of their SellersVantage application that also accumulates data on comparable vehicles from the auto dealer’s inventory in accordance with the customer’s stated preferences as well as related real time product and pricing information from local competitive dealer inventories posted on the Internet. This added information is sourced from within the social networking community by the customer — not the auto dealer — preserving the anonymity of the dealer while providing the auto dealer virtually unlimited access to members.This method of C2C marketing from the inside out vs. the now dated B2C marketing from the outside in is unique to ronsmap and it promises to allow automotive advertising agencies access to this growing online media. Conventional media is, and will always be, an integral component of any comprehensive marketing plan, however access to leveraged viral messaging offered by consumer driven social networking channels is the best way for budget challenged auto dealers to sell more for less. After all, what are friends for!

How to Optimise Your Videos for Search Engines

If you aren’t optimizing your videos to match what people are searching, your videos are likely to get lost and not reach their intended audience. Without reaching their intended audience, they serve no purpose.

So how do you ensure your videos get results?

With video search engine optimization, commonly referred to as video SEO.

To simplify what you need to do, think about your target audience. Consider their language, wants, and needs.

Use the following 12 valuable tips to get your video to reach the first page of Google and YouTube, but most importantly build visibility to a large niche audience that is interested in what you have to offer.

1. Content Quality
Ensure your videos are relevant, informative, and rich with content.
Videos demonstrating step-by-step processes or videos expressing opinions about topics can be quite useful. Videos should be fun, memorable, short, and leave the viewer wanting more. If using a video production company, choose one that understands the importance of these concepts and check out their existing video portfolio for videos that match these qualities.

2. Catchy Title
Capture the potential viewer’s attention with a catchy title that contains related key phrases that are relevant to your brand or service. Do some keyword research and find the words that your audience will most likely be searching, but keep the title interesting, not just filled with keywords.

3. Keyword Tags
Optimize your video with important key phrases or keywords. Refer back to your keyword research and think in terms of what your targeted audience might be searching for when looking to find your brand or service. Tag your video with these terms and consider naming the file of the video with these terms in mind.

4. Keyword Description
Optimize your video’s description with relevant keywords and include a keyword-rich description of your video to allow search engines to index it and rank it higher, and for users to better understand your video before viewing.

5. Link back to your website
Use video as a portal to other content on your website. Upload your videos to portals like YouTube and Vimeo, and consider providing links back to related content and other relevant videos on your site.

6. Provide Transcripts
Provide transcripts of your videos. If you want your video to rank well, you need to give the search engines something to index and rank. Surround your videos with on-page copy that can be indexed by search engines.

7. Short Length
Keep your video at 2 minutes or less. The average amount of time a user spends on a YouTube video is around 1 minute 30 seconds. If you have video content that is of longer than 5 minutes, consider breaking it up into smaller pieces and tagging each accordingly, to be more appealing to the viewer. Not only does this make for better viewing pleasure, multiple videos are also better for optimization efforts.
As YouTube is now paying close attention to viewership and engagement it is critical that viewers watch your video for as long as possible.

8. Video Sitemaps
Use Google Webmaster Tools for creating a video sitemap to make sure that the search engines can find your video content and index it accordingly. Use important keywords in the anchor text that links to your videos featured on your sitemap.

9. Branding
As video is a great way to generate brand awareness with prospects, take advantage of this opportunity to incorporate your brand and logos into your videos.

10. Embedding Options
Allow other users access to the coding that will allow them to embed your video on their website or blog. This can help gain valuable back links and shares that will boost your rankings in search engines.

11. Syndication
Submit your video to RSS feeds and syndicate your videos to drive exposure across various online platforms and to optimize your videos even more.

12. Share!
Get on your social networks, check your email contacts, write on your blog, and get the hype going. Share your video with everyone, because if you have content worth sharing, it will continue to be shared with an expanding audience, and in turn develop more exposure for your brand or service.

In summary, video optimization can be a great way for you to expose your brand to users who may otherwise not have been familiar with your brand, product, or services. It is a great way to engage, entertain, and promote!