Being Likeable

One of the awful — or wonderful — things about marketing is that clients often send their legal business to people they just “like” and justify why they did it after the fact.  It is awful if you are not naturally likeable and wonderful if you are.

To be clear, this often doesn’t happen if it is a “bet-the-company” or “bet-your-life” situation. In these types of situations, clients are often caring a lot more about your skills and competence than your likability. However, these bet-the-company situations are a lot less frequent and, accordingly, being likeable or not can be the difference between a successful career and a dud.

Clients and customers are people — just like you and me — and they want to connect with the people they do business with. Of course, they are hiring a lawyer, but they might have to spend a lot of time with you and who doesn’t want to spend time with someone she likes rather than someone she kind of tolerates or doesn’t like at all?

Being a person someone “likes” is easy for some and an almost impossible task for others.  Different personalities can conflict with each other, people can read body language wrong or even take something you meant lighthearted seriously, and it’s almost impossible to take back a first impression.

So how do you do this?

The real answer is I don’t know, but since it is so important I will stick my neck out here and give you my best thoughts.

At the outset, I believe the most important thing a person can do to be liked is to be empathetic and show caring and sensitivity to the other person.

In this regard, it is critical to make clear how much you care about your client’s business and how much you care for the client as an individual.

For me, at least, faking this is impossible.  I am not a great liar, although I am proud to say that I once completely lied to my wife’s face and fooled her 100 percent when I was throwing her a surprise party and one of her friends blew the surprise.

I actually do care — and I care a lot — about my clients and their businesses and their happiness and their success. I like to think I am cool, wonderful, and interesting, but even if the clients were to think that I am odd, strange, or off in some manner, I think they would feel the message that I care.  In other words, I get across the message of empathy and that I really will look out for them.

Here are some additional practical thoughts about how to increase your likeability or make yourself likeable if you think this might be a problem for yourself:

  • Consider trying to get some super-honest feedback about how you are perceived. You may be an extremely caring person, but maybe it is not coming across in meetings and other interactions.  Perhaps if you really ask your closest friends and colleagues and make clear that you (really) won’t shoot the messenger, you might get an honest analysis from third parties about what people are taking away from your personal interactions.  You could use this to make a change if needed.
  • Be a genuine person and think deeply about what that really means. Think about how you let your family or friends know that you care about them and do the same things with your clients and customers. Consider why does your wife/husband/significant other/family member/best friend care about you? What do you do to engender those feelings? Perhaps it might be the same with clients.
  • Read the book How to Win Friends and Influence People a bunch of times and try to put the concepts into action. I have mentioned in other articles that Warren Buffett has read it many times and he hasn’t done half bad.
  • Talk about the interests of your clients rather than your interests. Show sincere interest in them as people as well as their businesses.
  • Ask about the personal hobbies and interests of those you meet. Maybe you will have an overlap. If not, you can always show a sincere interest and forward articles and other information about their hobbies.
  • See/watch what others do who are just plain old “popular.” How do they interact with people? What do they do?  You can’t necessarily copy other people but you can learn from them.
  • Read everything you can about the subject of being likeable and make it a major focus.

*****

My Book on Power Niches Will be Published in Just a Few Months

Many of you have enjoyed my Power Niche Marketing series. As you know now, my day job is marketing — marketing — and more marketing.  That is what I do.  In this vein I have developed the concept and coined the phrase, Power Niche, to delineate the incredible (bargaining and pricing) power that one has in becoming a powerhouse in a small market niche, as opposed to having little or no bargaining or pricing power in a larger market.

This Power Niche concept works perfectly well in the legal world or in any servicing industry.

I have written a book about this — and all my other marketing secrets and ideas.  It is called:

          If You Want to Get Rich, Build a Power Niche

It is being published by Morgan James Publishing with a target publishing date of October of this year.

If you are trying to grow a legal career, my book will be helpful to you.

In my book, I synthesize all that I have learned in the past 10 years of studying marketing.

The book is for people who feel like they are just losing and want to start winning.  And it is also for people who are winning and smart enough to know that no matter how successful you are, you can always learn from others to be even more successful.

Indeed, my proposition is that I can help “anyone” who has the desire to become a great salesman and/or a great marketer if she/he just follows the outline in my book.  Truly!

Click here to see a preview of the book’s content.

You can follow me on Twitter @BStachenfeld or connect with me on LinkedIn.

Power Niche Marketing: Why Should I Hire You?

Pitching for legal work — or any kind of work — has a lot of subtleties of course. This includes establishing trust and rapport and much more — but ultimately you have to be able to answer a simple question that the prospective client is asking you overtly or impliedly:

WHY SHOULD I HIRE YOU?

If you don’t have a strong, powerful, unreserved, confident answer to this question, you have completely blown it. And I mean completely blown it.

That is what the prospect wants to know. That is what the prospect wants to take away from the meeting and if you don’t have an answer to that question you have missed your chance.

So now I ask you a question: When you prepare yourself for a pitch, do you sit down with a colleague and have the colleague ask you flat out:

WHY SHOULD I HIRE YOU?

And then – play-acting — do you answer it? I don’t mean saying to your colleague, “what you would say,” but actually answering it exactly the way you would say this to the prospect when the prospect asks you this question at the pitch.

If you don’t do that, why on Earth not?

I guarantee that if you do the foregoing play-act, you will be disappointed in how awkward you sound at first. But if you play-act a few times, or a bunch of times, or even a lot of times, you will be impressed with yourself and how incredibly good you sound.

And of even more importance, you might be puzzled at first and wonder why the prospect would in fact hire you. Maybe at first you can’t think of a reason and you will have to really think about it until you do come up with a reason.

In any case, without belaboring this point too much, one way or another you need an answer to this question that is — as I said — strong, powerful, unreserved, and confident.

You may be thinking at this point, I have been to a bunch of pitches and no one has ever actually asked me this specific question, so, Bruce, what are you talking about here?

That is a good question and there are two answers:

The first answer is that the prospect is thinking about this question even if she isn’t actually asking.

The second answer is that the process of figuring out how to answer this question is going to underlie and overlay your pitch meeting anyway. And if you have a strong answer it will come out one way or another during the pitch and resonate strongly to your benefit.

So, to conclude, never — ever — go to a pitch without a great answer to the question:

WHY SHOULD I HIRE YOU?

7 Tips On How Lawyers Can Get Over The Greatest Fear of All — Public Speaking

For many people, getting up in front of a group of people to speak triggers a body response that is similar to being thrown in a cage with a wild animal. Indeed, there is that joke that most people would rather be in the casket at the funeral rather than delivering the eulogy.

While many people just try to avoid public speaking, it is hard to avoid it in a career where you need to be pitching clients, giving presentations, running transactional calls, and every once in a while being called to give a speech.

My firm recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, and at our annual firm gala I gave a speech just like I have done for the past 19 years. Each year, I undergo the same process for how I prepare to give such an important speech to a room full of close to 200 people. In reflecting on my preparations, I thought I would share the steps I undertake with the hope that it can be useful to you in the various stages of your careers.

Of course this is a “speech,” but the preparation is similar for pitches, presentations, and pretty much any situation where you are “presenting” in front of others who are watching you “perform.”

  • Fear. Gasp, I realize I am making a complete fool of myself. I have forgotten what to say. Or people are laughing at me. Or someone points out what I said was just wrong — in front of everyone. I wake up sweating. It is a dream, of course. For many years I was just terrified of public speaking. I heard all the silly suggestions like pretending everyone else in the room was naked — ugh. None of it worked. But then someone said something that resonated for me. This was that the adrenaline and butterflies I felt before speaking was “good” — it meant that my body and brain were ready to outperform! Is this true?  I don’t know, but it has worked for me. I get butterflies, but I am not really nervous any more. I try to look forward to these kinds of things, and I welcome those butterflies.
  • Pick a message and drive it home. It seems obvious, but before you write a speech you need to figure out what the message will be. As stated in the Churchill quote below, once you figure out the message, then you need to drive it home to the audience. I have learned — the hard way, by blowing it in the past — that ONE message is best. Two messages is blowing it. Got that? ONE message.
  • Be a storyteller. Regardless of the topic it is always good to weave in an interesting or thought-provoking story to make you more relatable as a speaker. People love listening to stories. They say Lincoln was a master story-teller, by the way. Supposedly many of his speeches were in the nature of stories. And they are really much easier for an audience to listen to, follow, and remember.
  • If you are naturally funny, that is great, and if not, don’t worry about it. Trying to be funny and failing really can take the wind out of your sails. There is nothing wrong with being serious and strong and passionate.
  • Share your speech with one or two people you trust. We’ve all been victim to our own delusions of grandeur and that definitely applies to speech writing. Sometimes I think I have an amazing speech but for some reason it just isn’t, or maybe it is, but the speech draft isn’t getting the point across the way I want. I have (two) trusted confidantes who will be ruthlessly honest with me, and I let them read it ahead of time. By the way, in an earlier draft of this speech, both of them told me my speech essentially “sucked.” I then rewrote it almost entirely. Thank God I have them around — thank God they are honest with me — and thank God I am willing to listen to them openly.
  • I remember Keith Barket — the former global head of real estate at Angelo Gordon — from whom I learned an incredible amount. He passed away tragically in 2010. But Keith was always so cool and impregnable in front of a group — how did he do it? I called him one night about something or other, and he told me he couldn’t talk to me because he was rehearsing his presentation. I was incredulous — Keith, rehearsing?  Keith told me, in his special way, “Bruce, everyonerehearses! (emphasis added)” Well, if Keith rehearsed, then I better do it too. I always rehearse. It is astonishing how awful I sound the first time through and how impressive (humbly) I sound after a couple of trial runs. By the way, for me, I don’t “over- rehearse,” as then it starts to sound canned and rote and boring. So I rehearse “just the right amount.”  One last thing: I don’t rehearse what I plan to say; I pretend I am actually making the speech — to an empty room, of course — and I then make appropriate changes if necessary.
  • Breathing. I don’t find this is an issue for me anymore but if you are really scared, I advocate saying your first few words really LOUDLY. It is surprising how much that energizes you — and makes you feel strong. So I used to do that.

Finally, I will end with the excellent admonition from one of the world’s great speakers, Winston S. Churchill:

“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.”

Good luck!  I hope this helps.

Anatomy Of An Associate Marketing Competition

Here is something interesting we have done to help associates learn to market at my law firm, Duval & Stachenfeld LLP.

Among other things, we have an associate-led Associate Marketers Group that meets monthly to teach, learn, and share various marketing skills and strategies. This year, by way of example, the group read an impressive marketing book called How To Master The Art of Selling (affiliate link), and then they practiced the techniques outlined in the book.

I believe our associate marketing program is unique as far as law firms go. Most law firms don’t really teach associates that much about marketing, at least not until they have achieved a certain level of seniority. We start the first day the associate joins the firm.

In any case, this past year the associates took it upon themselves to arrange a mock pitch presentation — sort of like moot court, but for pitching.

The associates divided themselves into groups and decided to have each group pretend to be representatives of a craft beer company that was pitching a local supermarket chain in order to get their craft beer product on the store shelves. Each group was then judged by a panel that was comprised of four partners and our Chief Marketing Officer, Caitlin Velez.

The associate pitching groups did their best to prepare for — and actually be — the senior management team for the craft beer company. And the partners and Chief Marketing Officer did their best to actually be the senior executives of the local supermarket chain. We all made it as real as possible. I styled myself as the annoying, penny-pinching CFO who didn’t care about the beer at all — just whether we could make money on it in our supermarket. I even annoyed myself in my role!

It was suggested to the groups that they use the techniques outlined in the How To Master The Art of Selling book; however, they were absolutely free to create their own, unique presentations.

I will say that after many years of pitching to clients and prospects, I was convinced I wouldn’t see anything in these mock pitches that I hadn’t seen before, but I was happy to be wrong, as I saw a bunch of creative ideas that I will be thinking about how to weave into my own future pitches.

For example, one group provided sample beer with a new brand and logo. Another provided cheese and crackers to be sampled with the beer. Another one made clear that they had no need for our shelf space due to the power of their brand, and wouldn’t pay a nickel for shelf space, despite me pushing them on that point. And there was much more.

At the end of the day, this project was a great success. Everyone got the real feel of a pitch, including:

Preparing for the pitch;

  • Coming up with a powerful and memorable message;
  • Having butterflies in the stomach of being in a room “across the table” from those who were being pitched; and
  • Pitching a tough group of people — we didn’t make it easy for them at all, but they all rose to the occasion.

It may sound like “I am just saying this” because I am writing a public article and could hardly say something negative about my associates; however, I assure you that that is not the case at all. My associates nailed it across the board. I also like the fact that they came up with the entire idea and it wasn’t from me at all. Hats off to the Duval & Stachenfeld associate marketers.

Our associates leading the project said, “Pitching legal services is tough — especially when you’re not yet comfortable impressing potential clients with war stories and your breadth of experience (because, guess what, you don’t really have any). You have to sell yourself just as much as the services you’ll be asked to provide. By having associates test out their marketing skills in a totally different context, focusing on a fun, more congenial topic than legal services, we were able to see their creativity and confidence soar.”

Finally, I end with the thought that — alas — I wish someone had pushed me to learn about marketing at the beginning of my career. It really wasn’t done in those old days. I just came in and did legal work. I didn’t think about building client relationships until I was in my late thirties. Oh well. I can’t change my past, but hopefully my associates will be great marketers as well as great lawyers.

Power Niche Marketing: Some Advice On Pitching You Might Not Have Thought Of

So you have a pitch set up. Now what?  Who should go?  Who should speak?  Who should do what?  How did you get the pitch?  What is the prospective client expecting to hear?  What are the strengths and weaknesses of the people doing the pitch?  What is the one question you really hope the team isn’t asked?

At most law firms, everyone looks at each other awkwardly. No one wants to hurt someone else’s feelings. If Toby is a brilliant lawyer but trips over his tongue at a pitch, maybe he should be keeping his mouth mostly shut — but who is going to tell Toby that?

Or if the big cheese — maybe the managing partner — is going to the pitch, should she dominate the discussion or keep quiet and let others speak to get air time?  And who is going to tell the big cheese what her appropriate role should be?

There is a myriad of questions here and they are all personal to the people going to the pitch and the people who are going to be receiving the pitch.

But there is only one answer: everyone should check their egos at the door in figuring out who should do what. There should only be one single goal and that is making the right impression at the pitch.

This is easy to say — and I just said it — but it is difficult to do if there is an inherent awkwardness within the team in having this type of discussion. Let me delve into this important point.

Patrick Lencioni — in his incredible book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (affiliate link), puts forth the first dysfunction of a team as lack of “trust.” This doesn’t mean a concern that people will steal. Instead, he means that often Teammate A doesn’t “trust” Teammate B enough to be honest enough to say something like:

“Toby you really aren’t good at these pitches — you just babble too much — I am much better — let me do the talking.”

Yikes — that is awkward to say!  Isn’t it?  You could hurt Toby’s feelings. Yes, you could indeed. You could really upset Toby.

But what is your goal — preserving Toby’s feelings or doing a great pitch and landing a new client?

Do you “trust” Toby enough to tell him what he needs to hear and the team needs for success, or are you too afraid of honest confrontation?

Bottom line — teams that don’t “trust” each other enough to be honest about what each teammate is great at and what each teammate is poor at, are a lot less likely to have a successful pitch.

Power Niche Marketing: Turning Your Niche Into A Power Niche — Augmenting Your Power

As you follow the steps to create a Power Niche, your ownership of your niche starts to grow in strength. Even with just reading a few articles on Google, you are growing little bits of “power” after just a few hours of work. And, after several weeks, well you are becoming a know-it-all!  Now let’s talk about how to grow this to the next level:

Happily, this is the easiest and simplest part of all… you just start telling everyone about what you are doing.

As an example, for a lawyer, you start to tell everyone: “I am going into fashion law – I am the fashion industry lawyer”.

You tell everyone, and I mean everyone!

You tell your mom, you tell your dad, you tell your entire family. And, you tell your relatives and your friends. You can even use Facebook and LinkedIn and other social media (if you are good at that stuff). This is one of the places it might be very useful.

You of course tell your co-workers, including peers, subordinates and, once you have your footing, your boss too.

You tell your friends. You tell everyone under the sun, especially those in the fashion industry that you start to get to know.

And – this is SUPER important — you tell them again and again and again and again. One email that announces it will not cut the mustard. You have to repeat what you are doing again and again and again and again and again and again….This is not because people are stupid or don’t care; it is because people are all barraged with constant information hitting their brains and if you don’t repeat your message it will just be forgotten. So you have to over-repeat your message.

There are some statistics about three times in 90 days or something like that. I don’t know about that statistic, but I can say that that is not even nearly enough and the more times the better. And there is even a quote from a hypothetical coach who says:

“Before the game I worry that I have repeated myself too many times, but then when the game happens I realize I haven’t repeated my message nearly enough times.”

By the way, have you noticed I just repeated this message a bunch of times.

Along the way, you pepper the lives of your friends and relatives and co-workers with your Power Niche, because every time you see them you turn the conversation to talking about your Power Niche. You are a veritable fire hose of information and repartee about your new passion.

You work the Threebies in because you are out and about – you are crazy enthusiastic about your Power Niche – and you now have knowledge (power) in your growing Power Niche. And of course you don’t forget the fourth Threebie, so you follow up with everyone you meet that has potential interest in your Power Niche.

In any case, you keep talking about your message so much that people start to get (almost) sick of you. When they see you coming they can’t help but see the word FASHION tattooed across your forehead.

Having overemphasized this, of course, you should try not to be a butthead about it. You don’t want people to think of you as an idiot – but hopefully you get my point.

So as you keep on talking about what you are doing, then an amazing thing happens – all of these people start helping you!

It is the strangest thing but if you are like a broken record on the high end fashion industry legal stuff, people start sending you articles, links, ideas, connections, friends and, yes, even clients or job leads.

It becomes an incredible thing – a self-fulfilling prophecy – that because you held yourself out as an expert everyone helps you become more of an expert.

People simply can’t help themselves. They see a fashion industry article and they think: “Oh, Toby will want to see this” and they forward you the link. Or they meet someone in fashion and they can’t help saying:  “Oh you will want to meet my friend Toby. He just is SO into the fashion industry and he knows everything. I bet you guys will be fast friends immediately. He is a good guy too. Can I connect you with him?”

So, if you keep going with me here, in just a few weeks you know more than a lot of people on a topic. In a few months, you know more than just about everyone everywhere. Your power is growing and your niche is fast becoming a Power Niche.

Suddenly, without you realizing how easy it was, you are the best in the world at something. Wow!  Within your niche, everyone wants you around, and the more you are around, the more people you meet, the more your knowledge increases. It becomes an incredible virtuous cycle to grow the power of your Power Niche.

You not only are useful in your niche for “what you know”, but you are also starting to get to know everyone and therefore become useful also for “who you know”. You know people, and you have heard before that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”  And trust me, that is very true. Now you know all the key players.

So your power grows and grows. There is no stopping you now.  You are the owner of a Power Niche!

Power Niche Marketing: Marketing Motivation — And Where to Get It

I am interrupting my stream of articles on Power Niche Marketing to talk about something that is incredibly difficult for most people: developing the motivation to actually do the sales and marketing that is necessary to develop a successful legal career.

To start, consider the reason not to do anything:

If you work eight hours in a day on billable legal work, you get paid for the eight hours – end of story. No particular upside, but not much downside either.

If you don’t work that day on billable legal work but do work in the nature of marketing, it may turn out to be worth nothing or, if it is worth something, it is nebulous and off in the future. This means that at least on a short-term basis you probably aren’t going to get paid for your work that day.

So it seems like a no-brainer. If you have billable work to do, you should put that first, and if there is leftover time, then you should do some marketing.

However – alas – that is a sure-fire recipe to keep your “job” but have long-term career failure.

Now here I am not telling you anything you don’t already know. All of my prior articles have touched on this concept – I have told you things like “get out and about” – “don’t just sit there” – “build a power niche.”

And, intellectually, you know full well that you have to do this or you will end up not having clients and toiling away in the back room, etc. However, it has been a long day – you are tired – you want to see your family – and you could always do the marketing “tomorrow.”  And so the years pass……

What do you do about this?

Being honest, I have absolutely no idea…..

This is something you just have to decide to do and just do it.

And it is really hard to do – i.e., to change your behavior to exit what is likely a comfort zone into a place where you are uncomfortable.

Even though I don’t have anything to say here that is different from the typical “motivation” or “how-to” book, I will make one point, which is that it is a lot easier to train yourself to do what you need to do on marketing early in your career than later. The more you get set in your ways the harder it is to change behavior.

So maybe that is my advice here…. pretend that on the first day of work your boss told you “if you don’t bring in a client in the next twelve months, you will be fired…..”

Pretend that is what happened and act accordingly.

If you are more senior in your career, I guess you could do the exact same thing but it will just be harder to do. Pretend your boss/managing partner came in and said you have twelve months to bring in a client or you are out!

In either of these cases, of course you don’t know if you will actually be able to bring in a client; however, I suspect you will do what is most important; namely, change your behavior to be an appropriate mixture of legal work and marketing.

And your career will be enhanced.

If I were Tony Robbins, I would end by saying here, “You can do it!”

Power Niche Marketing: Competition Is Evil

I start this article with an incredibly powerful quote from Peter Thiel. Mr. Thiel is a very smart fellow who started, and then sold, PayPal and became a billionaire. Now he is a professor who teaches at Stanford.

Thiel coined the phrase “Competition is Evil” in his book Zero to One, which should be on your reading list.

What Thiel means by this short phrase, is that your goal is to avoid being commoditized and similar to everyone else (which destroys your pricing power). Instead, you should create your own little baby monopoly that you really “own.” In other words, Thiel advocates creating a smaller “niche” that is absolutely your own.

Once you follow Mr. Thiel’s advice — once you become a monopoly in your niche — you aren’t “competing” anymore within your niche. And the best thing about being a monopoly is that monopolies have pricing power. Note the use of the word “power” just now.

Keep this thought in your mind. When a client or customer asks you: “How would you compare yourself to [name your number one competitor]?” —  you have probably already blown it because in your client’s/customer’s mind he sees you as “competing.” The essence of competing implies your products are “comparable” and so the client or customer could easily ask you:  “Why are you more expensive?” And then it is likely that you and your competition will end up in a race to the bottom of pricing and you lose all pricing “power.”

You want to be able to say something like. “We’re not actually competitors. The other party you mentioned is really great at [X]; however, when it comes to [Y] we are the top/only game in town, because….”

Thiel’s point, at heart, is a statement that you have to be “different.” It is important that you outperform in your smaller niche — it is the first thing you must do — be different!

And Thiel is not the only one making this point. Indeed, all the smart thinkers are saying the same thing:

Peter Drucker says you have to “innovate” which means do something differently.

Michael Porter says that the biggest mistake companies make is trying to be “better” than their “competition” (which only enriches the customers, employees, and other related parties), when instead they should be striving to be “different” from their competition.

Seth Godin, who wrote some brilliant marketing books, including Purple Cow, which should also go on your reading list, touts the virtues of standing out (i.e. being different), like a purple cow would stand out.

And of course yours truly, that incredibly intelligent, and arrogant-in-a-nice-way, columnist writing this article, is pushing that view hard. There is literally nothing worse than being indistinguishable from the “crowd” — you have to be different and thereby avoid the “evil” of competition.

Power Niche Marketing: If You Want to Get Rich, Own A Power Niche

My whole column is about Power Niche Marketing – but this article is the “big” article – it is about how you can “own” a Power Niche.

By the way, I have written a manuscript on this subject – hopefully for publication later this year. Does anyone know a literary agent for me?  Yes – that is a serious question.

In any case, in my first article of this Power Niche Marketing column, I explained the essence of a Power Niche and the importance of developing one if you want to have a successful career.

As a reminder, for it to be what I call a “Power” Niche, as opposed to just a plain old niche, you have really be top dog in that niche.

In order to truly own a niche, you need several characteristics that are important:

First – the niche should be an area in which you already have some expertise and should be in the industry you are already working. However, I will admit that this isn’t 100% needed, as you can decide to acquire the expertise, and change jobs and even industries, if the job or industry you are in just isn’t that robust. Then you would be starting from scratch, which is very tough and fraught with the risk that you will find out, after investing a lot of time, that you have hit a dead end. Without belaboring this, I suggest we presume that you are picking a niche in the industry in which you are already working and have a least a modicum of expertise.

Second – it needs to be something that no one else already owns. If you think about what this means, it typically means something that no one has thought of yet. As a quick example, if you are selling houses, perhaps you say that you are a real expert in selling houses for people who have a physical or mental handicap, as you have an understanding of the special requirements and needs.

As an aside, it is not 100% necessary that you be the sole player in a Power Niche, as sometimes there could be room for two people in a niche. In that situation, your power would be somewhat diminished, but depending on the niche and the circumstances you might be okay.

Third – it should be something pretty small so that you can become the dominant force within it. But of course it can’t be so small that it is useless.  This is a judgment call, of course.

Fourth – it should be something for which you can hold yourself out as the world’s greatest expert, perhaps by becoming a thought leader, writing (super short) articles, webinars, even mass-mailings and whatever else you can think of.

In the law business, the Power Niche is by far the most powerful technique. Let me give you a perfect example of the power in a Power Niche.

I will talk about my firm’s litigation practice. I have ten litigators, and the practice is led by a really talented superstar lawyer. He hails from one of the most prestigious law firms (Cravath, Swaine & Moore) and one of the most prestigious law schools (Harvard Law School), and he is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York City. This guy is “the real deal” in litigation! And he has nine partners and associates to boot, so we have a ten-lawyer litigation department led by my talented partner.  Pretty good, huh?

Not so fast. There is another law firm that I have a lot of respect for.  It is a global mega law firm with a powerhouse brand. I have a good friend there, and we had lunch last year. He told me they have 750 litigators. Yikes – that is a lot of litigators!

Using my math major, I calculate that we are down 75 to 1. How could I possibly “compete” with this firm in litigation?

To avoid this competition that I don’t really have a hope of winning, I use the power in my Power Niche. As you recall, I have branded my firm as The Pure Play in Real Estate Law, thereby trying to establish ownership of this niche as much as possible. The global firm I mentioned has a real estate practice and a really good one too; however, whether they like it or not, they are known for being one of the top litigation firms in the world. That is what they are and that is their Power Niche. And we are known for being one of the top real estate law practices in the world.  That is what we are.

So, if the litigation at hand is just general litigation, then unless price is a consideration, which it often is whether I like it or not, the client will likely go with the other law firm. But what if it is real estate litigation? Could I maybe say something like the following?

Well Mr. Client, I can’t say we are comparable to [the other firm] in general litigation. They are just much bigger than we are. However, if you are talking about real estate litigation, it is a much different story. We are the largest real estate law practice in New York City – dramatically bigger than [the other firm’s] real estate group. We have a zillion real estate clients – including a Who’s Who of blue chip institutions doing billion dollar deals — and we know everything about the real estate world from all angles of the capital stack. Our vaunted real estate group often works with our litigators, thinking up unusual and creative legal angles and advising on how to obtain advantage. If this were just a general litigation matter, well maybe [the other firm] is a logical choice. But this is real estate litigation, and no one is better than we are here!

So, what do you think? Believable? Maybe yes – maybe no – but it is a lot better than my alternative, which is only to say that “we are smaller and cheaper.”

Sticking with the legal world for a moment, it is interesting if you look at the statistics. If so, you will see that a fair number of the most profitable law firms in the world – especially the ones that rose to prominence in recent years – are largely pure plays.

So if you want to get rich, own a Power Niche!

Power Niche Marketing: The Third (Marketing) Threebie – Knowledge Is Power

In my last two articles, I explained that when I need to remind myself of the most important basic marketing things to do, I am mindful of the three basic items, which I call the “Threebies.” In my last two articles, I wrote about the first two Threebies”:

The importance of “being enthusiastic”when marketing and meeting new people.

The importance of “getting out and about.”

In this article, I will talk about the last Threebie, which is:

Knowledge is Power

Ultimately, you have to have knowledge of something, or you aren’t that useful. Indeed, when you get right down to it, people, whether or not they are really thinking about it analytically, generally want you around if you are useful or potentially useful to them, and generally don’t really care that much if you are around if you aren’t that useful.

Consider when you were a kid. You were someone everyone wanted to be with because:

You always knew where the party was.

You were smart and could help with homework.

 

One way or another, there was something useful about you that made people want to be with you.

Obviously, what we are talking about here is much more sophisticated; however, you are trying to create something of use that makes you worth talking to or having around. For marketing purposes, that “something” is your “knowledge” of a topic that is of interest — or of use — to the people you want to have around you.

How do you get knowledge to have power? I will say now that you should pick an area of the industry in which you work and learn everything there is to know about it, so that you are a complete compendium of useful and cutting-edge information. This of course is what I call a “Power Niche,” as per the various articles I have written and will write.

For example, I am a real estate lawyer. So I read every single thing I can put my hands on pertaining to the real estate industry. Of course, I read the Wall Street Journal, but I also read books, publications, blogs, magazines and everything else I can find that deals with the real estate industry and/or the players in that industry. For example, I have my assistant send me any article on real estate that appears anywhere. That way, I am a wealth of information about real estate. It is astonishing how much I know and keep learning in my real estate niche. I have made myself very useful to be with because I know what everyone is doing and what is going on.

So if you are one of my clients, or someone I hope will be my client someday, it is obvious after speaking to me for a short period of time that I know a ton about the real estate industry and that I am able to provide value to you and I will be an extremely useful source of information, guidance, and advice.

Also, just to be clear, I am not out for “power” in the classic sense, to have the ability to push people around and lord it over my subjects. That simply isn’t my style, and it is not at all what I am talking about here. I am referring to the “power” to be useful. Indeed, it is great to have “power” to help your friends and your clients achieve their goals.

So, the next time you decide to market, remember to “Get Out and About,” to “Be Enthusiastic,” and to relentlessly seek knowledge because “Knowledge is Power.”

There may be a special fourth step or a “Fourbie” as I call it, so stay tuned…