Power Niche Marketing: 6 More Things Not To Do

Continuing from my previous article, here are some more things that are almost certainly a waste of time in terms of business development (or, at the very least, not the best use of your time).

  1. Spending a ton of time writing a great article for publication.

There are two things that will likely happen here:

First, you will be giving away your expertise and industry knowledge for free to your competition

Second, you will spend a great deal of your most precious resource – your time – for a very uncertain payoff.

Doing things like this make you “feel” like you are doing something useful, but sorry, you likely aren’t doing anything that will really help you.

Having said that, sometimes articles can be useful to establish your reputation and bona fides; however, overall it is not the most effective use of your time.

I will give you, in a later column, a more useful way to write articles for publication.

  1. Advertising.

Of course advertising can potentially be a powerful technique for a major company that is trying to build its market share (e.g. “Things Go Better With Coca Cola”); however, for law firms (other than global law firms and regional powerhouses that are already a dominant player trying to extend that dominance), I think the dollars are better spent elsewhere.

  1. Brochures, Videos, Website, Your Bio, etc.

I am overall torn on brochures (get it?). There is a perfectly good argument that no one ever reads them so they are a complete waste of time. Yet, on the other hand, if they are well prepared they can put forth your message – maybe in just a few key words – on the cover, and in the call-out boxes (which people sometimes do look at), and they provide a modicum of seriousness and class to your enterprise. Although I am being a little wishy-washy here, I will say that ideally you will have a really nice-looking brochure that is very professionally prepared; however, I urge you to pull this off in a way that doesn’t take much of your precious asset of time.

Videos can be cool, and if they are unique, a bit crazy, and along the lines of a Purple Cow, and let you “put on a show” (which I will talk about in a later column), then I would say go for it. However, I would do everything I could to not spend that much time or money on it.

Of all these written materials, there is no question that the website is by far the most important thing you will write and where you should devote the most time. Third parties “always” go there to “check you out.” In this regard I advocate that it is key to have your website e interesting and not look like all the others. You want to stand out and make clear how different and unique you are — i.e., the heart of your message is you are a power player in your Power Niche.

It is the same with your online bio. Try to stand out and be different and make the same point about your power in your Power Niche. And don’t worry too much about mentioning every single thing you ever did in your career for fear that by omission you will lose out on customers and clients. It doesn’t work that way. Worry more about what you are saying than what you are not saying.

For all of these mediums, I advocate that you figure out your “message” before you write them up. It should be the same message in all of them. The message should be a short one. And the message should be about your power in your Power Niche.

  1. Direct Mail.

Today this is mostly by internet and is loosely called spam, and “spam” is hardly a compliment. Indeed, other than Monty Python’s famous Spam skit, I haven’t ever heard anything positive about it.

I think spamming people is overall a terrible idea because it is such a turn-off and convinces people to ignore and avoid you as much as possible.

However, there is a way to cold call someone over the internet that can be done in a very classy manner, which I have used many times before, and which I will explain in a later column.

  1. Sponsorship of Cultural or Sporting Events.

Except for major law firms that find plain old advertising worthwhile, as I noted above, I don’t think this is worth it either. It is every expensive, plus time-consuming, and I don’t see what you get for it. Yes, your clients have a nice time, but I think if you took the time and the money and spent it as I otherwise advocate above, you will have a much more positive outcome.

By the way, this is very different from a one-on-one situation when you take a client out to a sporting event. That can be superb bonding time and very useful to building a relationship.

  1. Anything else that takes a ton of your time for an uncertain payoff is “probably” not worth it – unless the payoff is potentially enormous.

. . . .

If you have been doing any or all of the foregoing things, don’t bum out too much. I think I did every one of them, other than the social media stuff. The past is irrelevant – all that matters is what will happen going forward.

By the way, if you have done some of the foregoing and it has actually worked for you, consider why that is the case. Is it pure luck, in which event it is great that you were lucky but you still shouldn’t waste more time on it? Or, do you maybe have a special angle on the foregoing that I personally haven’t seen but is nonetheless successful that could be exploited?  I don’t like to admit it – but I don’t (yet) know everything….

Power Niche Marketing: 6 Things Not To Do

Here are some things that are almost certainly a waste of time. I think, to my embarrassment, I have done most or all of these things myself. Mostly they makes me cringe….. Since it is a lengthy list, I have split them into two parts. Part one is below.

  1. Trying to take someone to lunch without an agenda that makes it clear that the lunch is for the other person’s benefit.

In this situation, the other person will assume you are trying to just get business out of them, and they will cleverly and creatively avoid it for a loooooonnnnngggg time.

I wonder how many of you readers are – right now – chasing some poor prospective client down for lunch? And if so, how many times has it been cancelled? And at the last minute at that, I bet, which is kind of demeaning to you? And afterwards I bet you chased after the person to reschedule. And each time it gets rescheduled, is it weeks, or even months, till the reschedule date? And what is your plan for that lunch – to talk about the poor fellow’s kids and skiing and then (subtly) slip in something about getting his business, which is supposedly the point of it all?

Bottom line, you are thinking of what you want and not what your client wants.

  1. Making up a super-convincing PowerPoint to show people.

Unless it is really funny or funky or crazy or iconic or a dramatic visual presentation, it will just put people to sleep. They will do anything to get out of watching it or if you force them to watch it they will not pay attention, or even if they do politely force themselves to pay attention, they simply will not remember it.

Do you really think your analysis of your market share versus that of your competition is going to “make the sale”? I ask you, when was the last time someone sold something to you, and why did you buy it?

By the way, here is a super-sales story, and it happened only a few weeks ago. The doorbell rang and a traveling saleswoman showed up. Can you imagine how she made the sale to me, and I had no chance against her tactics?

Well, she was about seven years old, cute as a button, and was with her Mom. They lived down the street and she was selling Girl Scout cookies. She just said “….do you want to buy some girl scout cookies?” I hate most Girl Scout cookies, and the rest make me fat, so I bought only ten boxes.

Boy was this a devastating sales technique. I wonder what would have happened if she had brought a PowerPoint…

  1. Misusing the internet and the social networks.

Some people seem to think if they press the right button on the internet or on social media, the business will just roll in. This is not going to be the case if the use of these tools is in place of personal interactions.

At least I certainly haven’t found a way to do this in a professional service business, nor have I seen anyone else do this successfully. The internet can be used for generating leads and letting people know your brand. However, sitting in your office and playing on social networks just won’t get the job done.

By the way, a caution here about what I mean is in order. I don’t mean you can’t email people and build pre-existing relationships by putting forth positive statements about yourself and your Power Niche on the internet. Of course you can and should. What I mean is that you shouldn’t be using the internet instead of personal contact. There is nothing more powerful than meeting someone in person, shaking hands, and sharing a cup of coffee or a meal. That is a predicate to a “relationship.” A supposed relationship built over the internet is not much different from an email relationship with that fake Nigerian Prince.

  1. A party where you invite all your clients/customers so they can network, etc.

This can feed your ego, if the party has “all the cool people there,” but doesn’t get the job done nearly as well as sitting down with people and talking about “their” business and how you can help build it. It is also a lot of time and money that could be spent better elsewhere.

  1. Networking without a plan or a message.

Networking without a plan is a lot better than doing nothing, as I will point out in later columns, but not that much better. It is a variant of working “hard” but not working “smart.” If you couple the hard work you are willing to put into your networking with the smart ideas you will learn from my column, then you will convert this to a winning strategy.

  1. Conventional PR.

After flip-flopping on this a half-dozen times in the past ten years, I have concluded that, for most of us, and for most businesses, this is just about a complete waste of time. Typically PR sops up the personal time of the most senior, and most valuable, persons in your company, as that is who the media wants a quote from.

You might spend hours to get yourself quoted somewhere? So what? Are you really going to get hired as a lawyer because you got quoted in the newspaper? Hardly.

Sorry, but all of this is almost always a complete waste of time, not to mention a waste of the money you spend on a PR Firm.

You are better off taking the time and the money that you would have devoted to PR and using it on the other techniques I outline for you.

Having said this, PR can be good for a global law firm to maintain its global branded position as one of the top players in the legal world. But down in the trenches, for most of us with smaller-sized law firms, it isn’t likely to help your business succeed or help you become a great rainmaker.

. . . .

If you have been doing any or all of the foregoing things, don’t bum out too much. I think I did every one of them, other than the social media stuff. The past is irrelevant – all that matters is what will happen going forward.

By the way, if you have done some of the foregoing and it has actually worked for you, consider why that is the case. Is it pure luck, in which event it is great that you were lucky but you still shouldn’t waste more time on it? Or, do you maybe have a special angle on the foregoing that I personally haven’t seen but is nonetheless successful that could be exploited? I don’t like to admit it – but I don’t (yet) know everything…

Is Real Estate Becoming A Service?

Real estate just became its own separate asset class.  However, ironically, that may have occurred just at the moment it should have been morphing more deeply into other asset classes.

Don’t get me wrong, as a real estate professional I am very happy about real estate being named as its own investment class; however, it is worth taking stock of what is actually happening around us and its implications.

So far we have the disaggregation of real estate persisting in numerous directions, such as:

  • Co-working

  • Co-living

  • Crowdfunding and similar concepts to democratize real estate investing

  • Airbnb

  • The implications of self-driving automobiles

These are the obvious ones.  But roaming beneath the headlines is a slew of real estate players with different business models, with more being imagined and created every day.  Here is a quick list of some I know of:

  • LiquidSpace – Network for office space where startups and growing teams connect directly with real estate owners, operators and companies that have space to share.

  • Opendoor  and Nested – Offer simpler and easier ways to sell your home

  • Breather – On demand access to private spaces across the U.S. to be used as temporary working spaces.

  • Spacious – Uses restaurants during off-hours as co-working spaces for paying subscribers

  • Roam – Network for global co-living spaces and co-working spaces when you travel – providing everything you need to feel at home and be productive at your chosen destination

  • Remote Year – allows you to travel around the world while still being able to work remotely

  • Common – Manages shared living spaces

  • Storefront – Finds temporary retail or event space in the best neighborhoods

  • Fundrise – makes quality real estate investments available to everyone

And this list just scratches the surface as there are more and more things going on every day.  I certainly don’t know everything and even if I did, there are likely a bunch more things about to happen that I have no idea about, .i.e. to paraphrase Mr. Rumsfeld, “unknown unknowns.”

I have been wondering whether there is a way to make sense of all of this.  And the conclusion I have reached is that just as many people have been wondering whether they should really own a car when they can just rent or use one — through services such as Zipcar and, eventually, self-driving vehicles – I wonder whether people will reach the same conclusion about real estate?  I mean why own a house and why rent space under a long-term lease if you don’t have to make that kind of economic commitment and get pretty close to the same benefits without such a commitment?

What this means is that real estate may transform from a thing you buy to a service…..

Consider these thoughts……
Living space that has co-living and robotic movable walls (already in development) whereby a single room can morph from a bedroom to a kitchen to a party room to a study.

Restaurants that have a breakfast brand – a lunch brand – a dinner brand – and a swinging nightspot brand.  There are logistical issues; however, ultimately with the right cosmetic changes you could see that coming.

Retail stores that are one store on one day and another on another day or at another time of day.  Of course, there are devils in these details but you could see it coming.

Offices that are shared.  I guess we already have that.  At first it was companies like WeWork.  Then it was competitors to WeWork.  And now it is landlords themselves putting these spaces into their buildings without leasing to a WeWork or a competitor of WeWork.

Houses and homes that are like hotels and used and rented out.  I guess we already have that too.

Transient living uses that are being invented, largely under the concept of co-living.

Liquid space – Airbnb – and so much more

For some time, I have been idly thinking and wondering about this concept, but without really putting the intellectual pieces together.  Then I read a very insightful article by Mr. Dror Poleg entitled Don’t Think of a Building, Understanding Technology’s Threat to Real Estate Owners, Operators and Asset Valuations, where he synthesized my nascent thoughts better than I was able to do.  He makes the following points about how real estate is morphing:

  • “Space is broken down into smaller value units, allowing end-users to pay only for the specific components they wish to use — as desks, meeting rooms, bathrooms, beds, etc.”

  • Time is broken down, reducing the minimal commitment required from end-users to as little as 30 minutes — shifting profits to those who can secure large spaces “wholesale” and lease them out “retail” in smaller sizes for shorter periods of time.

  • Incremental use (smaller spaces, shorter periods) gives rise to dynamic pricing models.

  • Equity is broken down, enabling smaller owners to share their financial burden with other small and medium investors.

  • Visibility is no longer just about being seen offline. Accessibility is now partly about the ability to book space and other amenities within it on demand. Spaces with “good enough” locations become more valuable through optimized design and innovative marketing.

  • New attributes – community, curation (who else is there?), content (events), value added services, and availability on demand – are eclipsing location and accessibility as the key drivers of differentiation between assets.

So I wonder if real estate is morphing into a service more than an asset.  What does that mean and what should real estate players do about it?  Of course, no one can really predict the future and figure out what is going to happen.  However, I am getting more and more confident that real estate as we once knew it is going to be changing dramatically in years to come

The answer to appropriate strategy would be specific to the different asset classes and investment strategy of each real estate player; however, I will stick my neck out and advocate the following plan of action:

First read Dror’s article – this article – and whatever you can find about new business models in the real estate world.

Second – sit down with a pad of paper and a pen – and no iPhone – and think of what real estate related business you are in.

Then consider whether there is a deeper meaning to what you are “really” doing.  For example, the car companies are now wondering whether they are really in the transportation business?  Is there a deeper meaning about what you are doing that leads you to describe the heart of your business differently?  For example, instead of building houses, maybe you are in the business of giving people a comfortable place to live.

See where this leads you…….

Finally, I do think it behooves all of us (including us lawyers) to be as vigilant as possible regarding these changes because when an industry is disrupted, it is typically much too late to play catch-up once you fall behind.  And I will end with a Bill Gates (famous?) quote:

“People tend to overestimate what will happen in a year and underestimate what will happen in ten years”

I am comfortable in saying that whatever you are doing now, the odds are that you won’t be able to do that in ten years or, if you can, it will not be nearly as profitable.