Monday, November 23, 2015

Hire the right fit the first time

Hire the right fit the first time written by Sandra Bekhor, was published by The Lawyers Weekly (November 13, 2015 issue).  Below is a short except.

Bad picks slow down plans, affect firm culture and shake client confidence. 
Most lawyers would agree that their biggest asset is their people. They’d probably also agree that their biggest vulnerability is their people. And yet when they get busy, the pace of the recruiting process doesn’t allow for a thorough assessment of, guess what? People.  
So, predictably, some new hires don’t work out. The new hire eventually leaves or gets terminated and it’s back to the drawing board to search for the next recruit. In some cases, this process drags out for months, or even years, while principals or supervisors debate whether or not they should let someone go.  
But all’s well that ends well right? Maybe. Or maybe not. 
To make that call, the real cost of a bad hire, aside from obvious expenses like recruiting fees, time lost doubling up on interviews or training, and the downtime between hires, needs to be better understood... 
Read article.

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

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

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Can you explain your business to a 9 year old?

Last week I spoke at the Montessori Learning Centre career day in Pickering (as you can see from the lovely thank you note that just barely survived my gym bag). "Talk about your business, what got you started and share some tips", my friend Lucy, teacher, at the school says. "No problem," I tell her.

Then I started to think about it. 

Oh no. 

What did I get myself into?! 

I can explain my business to adults in my sleep (ok maybe not in my sleep... still you get the point). But to grades 4-8? All of these questions started to creep up about how to 'translate' terms and situations. 

In the end it was a good excuse to take the elevator pitch I already had through yet one more round of simplifications. Not to 'dumb it down'. To simplify. Kids are smart. They just need information to be communicated to them in familiar terms.  

While it may not be as obvious with adults, often that's what they need too. 

So, here's an excerpt from my talk... which I'm happy to say the children clearly understood, given the degree of interaction that followed:

"Architects, lawyers and accountants don't put their services in a box, like cereal or iphones. But they need marketing too. However, since these services aren't products you can see, touch or feel, it's even harder to market them. People have to use their imagination to understand.  As their marketing consultant, it's my job to spread the word about what they're doing, why it's great and who would benefit the most from working with them."

Needless to say, I won't be keeping this as my ongoing elevator pitch, verbatim. But it does provide inspiration for taking the jargon down a notch. 

So, if you already have an elevator pitch, ask yourself if you can use it to explain your business to a 9 year old. 

If not... maybe it's not done yet.  

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

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

Friday, October 30, 2015

The single biggest web marketing mistake everyone (almost) is making...

We've come to turn to the internet for, well, nearly everything. 

While much of that is enriching to our businesses (and our very lives), are we deluding ourselves into thinking that the internet has become a panacea for all our marketing woes? And is it possible that we've been lulled into relying on it for things it was never meant to do?  

You know like, for instance, if we started using Band-Aids for painter's tape... Where do I begin? They're too sticky. They would leave residue behind and be a nightmare to remove. They'd be prohibitively expensive. Paint would drip through all the gauzy areas... And you'd be hard pressed to finish with any semblance of a straight line. 

Suffice it to say that sometimes it's best to use a thing for what the thing was designed for. 

The internet was designed to reach the world.  It's not a secret.  It's in the name - the world wide web? So, it may not be the most efficient way of reaching... I don't know, say the guy next door?!?

I see this all the time in my consulting business, law firms, architects, medical clinics and other small to mid-sized professional offices struggling to get the word out. When I ask them how they're marketing themselves, they proudly advise me of their new facebook and /or twitter accounts.  When I ask about their offline efforts, the answer is usually something like 'oh we tried direct mail once, but it didn't work'.  No, it's not just you. Seriously, this happens a lot.  

The single biggest web marketing mistake everyone (almost) is making is this. They're dismissing grassroots marketing - potentially a perfect fit for their goals - and using the internet for EVERYTHING.  

Here are five examples of how to do better:

  1. Weave back and forth, from online to off - my personal favourite. Whether it's to network with prospective clients or referrers, go to or create your own live events, anything from seminars to cycling and wine tastings. Get out there (with your team) and press the flesh. And for those of you that are already doing so, stop keeping those activities in a silo. Use the internet to share your experiences, post photos and reconnect with the very same people you met in the flesh. They will remember you far better than having briefly scanned your profile and your online efforts will continue to solidify the connection. Keep doing it and your internet marketing will be more targeted, one degree at a time. 
  2. Market to the neighborhood - especially fitting for medical clinics and other services targeting the local client. Every neighborhood has its own culture.  Read the local paper, visit complementary businesses and generally tap into the comings and goings of the area to discover the best opportunities to get the word out about your firm. There are ample opportunities from sponsoring local events or teams, public speaking, networking opportunities and promotional partnerships. Start walking and talking. You might even enjoy yourself. What's wrong with that? 
  3. Use snail mail to pop from the clutter - That's right, snail mail is the new internet! How many letters do you get these days? Would you notice if you received a personalized package from someone in your professional network? And what if it included a handwritten message, clever marketing materials or a surprisingly likeable keepsake?  Don't be too quick to dismiss direct mail as a viable option just because you had a couple of bad runs. There may very well be a logical explanation. Objectively, was the message clear and compelling? Did it reach the right audience? Did they even receive it? Did you follow up with subsequent mailings to build up to the appropriate frequency? Investigate.
  4. Pick up the phone, you know the part with the numbers that can actually call someone?! -  I can't tell you how many times I've heard from clients that nobody calls anyone anymore. Our phones may be smart, but are we? We're so busy texting, emailing and 'liking' that we've forgotten how to connect as human beings. Remember that a short call is a lot more powerful that posting something on LinkedIn to the audience that never showed up to read it. 
  5. Better yet, go for coffee! And don't let distance stop you, skype coffees count too! 
Using the internet for everything is tempting. It does so much so very well. But it doesn't do everything well.

So, stop it.

Take a step back and revisit your goals. Who are you really trying to reach? Where are they -not just online, but in real life? What are their hobbies, interests, connections... What do they read? Where do they live? Who do they know? What's the easiest way to reach them? Start looking at the options to reach your market with a much broader mindset.

Ironically, the more open minds in marketing these days are the ones that know better than to dismiss their grassroots, like shaking hands, smiling and telling someone that you're pleased to meet them.  

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

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

Thursday, October 15, 2015

How To Raise Your Fees 276%

Guest Blogger Enoch Sears
How To Raise Your Fees 276% was written by guest blogger Enoch Sears. Enoch is the founder and publisher of the Business of Architecture show and principal architect at Enoch Sears Architect.

A man was having a hard time choosing an architect to renovate his home. Time was running out, and he needed to make a choice to get his project completed in the time frame he desired. His last meeting of the day was with an architect whose prices were higher than the other firms. Although the man had the money, he wasn't sure why he should pay a higher price when other firms were willing to take on the project for a lower cost. When he arrived at the meeting, he cut straight to the point: “I’ve noticed your fees are higher than anyone else’s. Why would I pick you over these other firms who can do the same work at a lower cost?”

The architect nodded knowingly and said, “Let me ask you a question, how much is your home worth now?”

The man shrugged, not sure why the question was relevant. “Well, about $500,000.”

The architect smiled, “When the renovations are finished, your home will be worth $2 million, which means, you’ll make $1.5 million. Would you like to make $1.5 million?”

“Of course!” The man replied, surprised because he had not considered the final market value. 

The architect reached out to shake his hand, “Great, let’s get started.”

What if I told you, as an architect, you could make your clients 1.5 Million? Would that change the way you talk about your architectural services to prospective customers? How about clients? How many more projects would you gain? You would sit comfortable knowing that your architecture fees aren't too low.

The key to landing more projects and getting the best fees is to sell the value of what you provide.

So what's the difference between selling time vs. selling value? 

When you sell time, you are limited to a fee based on the amount of work you do. On the other hand, when you sell value you highlight the benefits a customer gains by working with you. Yes, your services have a cost, but clients are also investing in an outcome and a process. Instead of focusing on the cost of services, ask yourself, what are the benefits that encourage a potential customer to choose your services over the competition?

What are your clients looking for?

To understand value based selling, you need to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. If other concerns are addressed, would cost be a barrier to moving forward? Besides a finished project, what other expectations do customers have? Think about some of the worries and concerns they might have about the process you can address. Talk about the overall value the finished project brings, even addressing the benefits to your client's lifestyle. We all want more time, less stress and speedy delivery. Can you deliver these things to your clients? 

Why does selling value work?  

If a client looks for an architect who can simply complete a project, he or she will likely find the lowest price point. After all, why shell out significant funds for a project any architect can complete? But what if an architect could complete the project on time and provide improvements the client hasn't even considered? What if an architect takes the client's ideas into consideration and plans time to provide status updates and explain complex requirements? At the end the project is finished on time, on budget and although the customer may have paid a higher fee, they walked away with $1.5 million because they bought into the value, not simply the price.  

A good architect can get a the project done. A great architect will add value by addressing the client's worries, protecting their investment, and saving them time and energy. As an expert architect, you know the secrets to a successful project and can pass that value to your clients. Raise your fees. Sell value.

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

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

Monday, October 5, 2015

Coffee anyone?

What's a good return on social media marketing? Lots of followers? Likes? Shares? 

What about offline connections?  As in actually meeting people? 

Oh yeah that. 

Well, Jeff Echols, digital marketing consultant, gets it.  Rather than rest on his laurels as a social media influencer, he meets someone for coffee everyday.  That might just be how he became a social media influencer in the first place... by talking to people!

I had the pleasure of having a 'virtual coffee' (that's a thing now!) with Jeff on Friday via skype. We had a lovely chat about everything from racing cars to the intricacies of consulting.  We both now have one more solid, like-minded acquaintance in our network, for support, banter, referrals or plain old fashioned friendship.  

Nothing wrong with that.  

As with any great 'online-offline' strategy, after each coffee date Jeff closes the loop by posting some thread of what he learned about the person. You can read all about it at #CoffeeADay. Here's an excerpt from our coffee together last week:

...Sandra is very good at sniffing out the real issues her clients suffer. She reads between the lines to understand the whole story. 
We decided she should bill herself as a Business Psychologist...

While these posts reinforce the real life ties he made, they also do something strategic for his business. They give him opportunity to model storytelling, his area of focus and passion.  

Isn't that what any good social media marketing strategy should do?  

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

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

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Turning strangers into clients - a webinar for naturopathic doctors

Described by participants as eye-opening, 'Turning strangers into clients' is now available to naturopathic doctors. It will be offered as a webinar by the Association of Perinatal Naturopathic Doctors (APND) on October 7th at 12pm, EDT. 

This will be the third professional body that has requested the presentation of this topic. It's previously been accredited and well received by the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) and Interior Designers of Canada (IDC). 

So, why is this seminar resonating so strongly with the professional marketplace?  From the program:
Social media is one of the most valuable and versatile practice development tools ever to be available to healthcare practitioners. And yet, its performance has ranged from inconsistent to disappointing. Is it simply a roadmap that’s missing? This session explores a fresh perspective on leveraging social media - not for likes, comments and shares - but rather for laser focused, goal oriented action. 

For further information, or to register for this webinar, please visit the APND registration page.  

Further reading (and watching!) on this session, a deep topic that's been modified to speak to the specific needs of each unique audience: 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Collaborative value of a marketing consultant

Collaborative value of a marketing consultant was previously published in The Bottom Line, Government / Compliance, March 2015.

There’s a wide range of possibilities between just going where the wind blows and deliberately determining the future of an accounting practice. But are accounting practices aware of where they land on this spectrum?  If they wanted to take a more active role in shaping the future of the practice, would they meet their goals?  If not, could a knowledgeable and experienced marketing consultant make a meaningful difference?  Given the murky waters of an unregulated profession, how would one go about making such an assessment?

On the cusp of change, there are often more questions than answers. Here are some practical tips on how to assess the firm’s needs and, if it makes sense to move forward, how to work with a marketing consultant.

Find the gaps.
In order to determine whether strategic marketing advice is a critical gap, some of the questions to pose include: 
  • Does it feel like the marketing plan is always in trial mode? 
  • If the performance of the marketing plan is in question, is there clarity about why it’s not working? 
  • When switching marketing tactics, is there any certainty about decisions and the decision-making process? 
  • Does it seem like the competition is getting business when they’re not best suited for the job? 
  • Is there a general sense of frustration due to lack of progress? 
  • Is pride in the firm’s accomplishments accompanied by worry that those achievements might as well be a well-kept secret? 

Investigate the options. 
If the answers to the questions above point to the need for strategic marketing advice, learning to assess the talent and fit of a marketing professional is the next step, and key to that is the ability to remove the divide between the professions. 

Marketers and accountants bring different perspectives, training and focus to the table.  That's the very reason why there is value in the collaboration, assuming the marketer understands and respects the sensitivities of professional practice.  Therefore, look for individuals with applicable experience.  

Ask about past projects, including the rationale behind campaigns and ensuing results.  Pay close attention to approach and style. Consulting gets pretty involved, so it works best when there’s a natural cultural fit. Learning about a consultant’s history is informative. Bear in mind, though, that more will be learned from their questions than answers.  At the beginning of the process the key to success is insight that comes from real understanding of context, not standard textbook replies.

What are the rules of engagement? 
There are many creative ways to engage a consultant. Any assessment of the most feasible arrangement should take into account the firm’s goals (are they aggressive or moderate), budget or cash flow considerations and whether any internal resources might be available to support the process.  

Mid-sized firms may already have dedicated marketing resources and there may be specific scenarios where the firm would benefit from senior-level advice or training. A marketing plan, communication strategy or positioning statement are examples of high-level directional materials that could serve to guide the internal marketing team’s efforts, ultimately delivering a higher return on marketing expenses and salaries.  

For small firms that prefer or need to do everything themselves, a list of recommendations or an assessment of where the firm is going wrong could be sufficient to redirect the focus and improve impact.

For those wishing to minimize initial risk, it’s worth considering starting small. Graduated contracts allow the firm and consultant to get to know each other, building confidence in the relationship before digging too deep into either the work or the budget. 

Choosing the right projects to assign to a marketing consultant helps to ensure that the investment made in these services adds value to the firm. For example:
  • The marketing plan isn’t just a paint by numbers to choose Facebook or LinkedIn, speaking engagements or blogs. It’s driven by goals and inspired by the firm’s history, successes, challenges, business environment and the reputation of its individual accountants.  If it’s strategic, it can be the ticket back into the driver’s seat of the accounting practice. 
  • A compelling creative direction is the root reason why people respond to logos, websites and social media, not just logically but viscerally.  A marketing consultant can assist with the development of a unique and valued point of difference and a strategy to communicate such messages through graphics and language, across the program.  
  • A marketing consultant can help to keep the plan on track, stay strategic, tie individual components together, oversee implementation, put key performance indicators in place, overcome hurdles, pursue new opportunities as they arise and manage the need for change.  A great plan that sits on the shelf doesn’t help anybody, other than the competition.  

Positioning marketing consultants for success. 
Working with a marketing consultant is a partnership.  
  • Get started on the right foot with agreement about what success looks like, with tangibles that can be measured, observed and fine-tuned along the way.  
  • Give the consultant access to information and get involved in the process, so the resulting program reflects the firm’s authentic character. The experience prospective clients have, from the way their inquiries are handled to their initial consultation, should be consistent with expectations established with the firm’s literature.  
  • Invite the team into the process to contribute ideas and expand on the firm’s marketing plan with personal marketing plans, based on individual ability and interest in writing, speaking or networking. Involve the consultant in training and overseeing such efforts. 
  • Address issues and opportunities as they arise together, in order to maintain continuity in the plan and ensure that the consultant’s knowledge about the firm continues to add value. 

Working with a consultant is engaging every step of the way. Not only is involvement from principals and the team critical to the plan’s success, but it often yields an additional benefit that tends to take accounting firms by surprise - through their engagement, every participant is enriched. They become more sophisticated about how they see and pursue practice development opportunities, as well as how they present to others.  

Over the course of time, it's not just the consultant but everyone who participates in the process that adds incremental value to the practice. 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

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

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Who is your real market?

If you're a client of ours or a regular at Toronto Marketing blog, you've probably heard me say this before... social media isn't a revolutionary way to market. It's just a new vehicle. Consequently, the best way to generate results (since they don't accept likes and follows at the bank yet!) is to apply traditional marketing principles. And effective marketing plans begin with clarity about the target market, delving far deeper than the point at which most professional practices operate. Here is an overview of some ideas to get you started:

  • Go forwards - It can be challenging to describe a target market in great detail without examples. Instead, try to list the names of 10 prospective clients that you would like to work with. Then figure out why you chose those businesses and what they have they have in common with each other. What type of business? What sector? Which individual in that business? What services do they need? Why do you want to work with them?  
  • Go backwards - Apply the 80 / 20 rule to your client files. Which clients represent the 20% of the work that drove 80% of the profits? Or 80% of your most interesting, strategic work? What is consistent across those files? Can you describe the commonalities to the point that it would influence the shape of your marketing plan? 
  • Go outside - Marketing is easier, cheaper and more effective when it's focused on one bull's eye audience. So, as just one example, whether your firm targets consumers or businesses, your market could potentially be referrers alone. Actively targeting them with your marketing materials will make it far more likely to generate word of mouth files and also help to ensure that those referrals are suitable for your practice. 

Along with a discussion about some of the hot trends in the marketplace, these ideas are expanded on in my interview with Enoch Sears from the Business of Architecture in the video above. Although our talk is primarily focused on marketing architecture firms (and law firm marketing by contrast), the principles are transferable to professional practice generally.

See if you can take away one practical tip to get started on today! 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

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

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

2 P's that drive success for professional practice

Many areas of professional practice development are teeming with controversy. But everyone seems to agree on one thing. Professional services are not consumer goods... and that difference should be reflected in marketing.  

Before speaking with Enoch Sears about this topic on the Business of Architecture, I arrived at a realization that summed it up. Consumer marketing is (and has been since the 60's... as Enoch rightly pointed out!!) driven by the infamous 4 P's.  For those unfamiliar, this model and its application to professional practice is expanded on at the top of this video.  But, experience tells us that there is a better way for professional practice. So, here's what I came up with instead.

2 P's that drive success for professional practice, in the modern marketplace:
  1. Point of difference - Consider developing a unique and valued difference that goes so deep that none of your peers do exactly what you do.  When they come across someone that needs that service, what do you think will happen? They will refer to you. What else?  So, in one strategic move, you turn your competition into referrers and you expand your market.  Point of difference can be developed in the most creative of ways. Beyond service, it can also include style, process and many other possibilities. 
  2. Partnership -  It's not the legal definition of partnership that's being referred to here but rather that 360 degrees of 'partnerships' professionals develop throughout their careers. The alignment of such partnerships is a direct reflection of the strength and reach of the practice. So, if the (literal) partners running the firm share a vision for its future, their leadership will have a positive rippling effect throughout. But, if they are disconnected, whether discussed or not, it negatively impacts motivation, performance and growth.  The same is true of partnerships with staff, referrers and other complementary businesses. 

All of these ideas are expanded on at the 6:30 mark on the video above with very specific and concrete scenarios to take this discussion out of the theoretical.  Although our talk is primarily focused on marketing architecture firms (and law firm marketing by contrast), the principles are transferable to professional practice generally.

Plans for doing this video began when I noticed a wave of clients going through sweeping changes all at once. There were clear patterns in the resulting solutions that enabled them to manage ensuing risk and also take advantage of opportunity (including both the overt and hidden). So, instead of waiting for issues to force your hand, you can put some of this learning into place proactively!

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

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

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Practical law firm marketing tips directly from Google!

I recently attended a Google event on the impact Google is having on the Canadian legal industry. When Alec Humes (Google spokesperson) opened up the session, he told us that if there's anything he'd like us to take away from his talk, it's 1. mobile & 2. video. So, today, I'm passing along one practical tip on each for our readers.

Practical Mobile Marketing Tip 
Have you ever searched for your firm on your smart phone?  Does the map with the image and blue banner followed by the icons for call, directions and website come up?  If so, is the information accurate? Complete? If you've found any errors or your firm is missing entirely, visit Google My Business to post or update your profile.  You can view this result in the right hand column on Google desktop searches as well.

I did a quick search for some clients and friends to see how they're doing. Most were fine. But there were a few that were off the map (literally) and others that were misclassified, some grossly. It's a really easy thing to fix, with the possible benefit of being easier to find no matter which device your prospects are using to find your firm.  And, according to Alec, people are using their smart phones even when sitting at their computer. 

Practical Video Marketing Tip
Searches on YouTube have surpassed Google. So, if you're not already using video to market your law firm, think about it now.  Even if your audience isn't searching for the topic you're posting, video offers tremendous opportunity to be interesting and real, when implemented well. 

Participants graciously tweeted highlights and photos live from the event. You can read about it here

Thank you to Mark C. Robins at and Alec Humes at Google for a fun evening and an educational event! 

By the way, in the photo I'm trying out Google Glass. Weird. Photo credit goes to Garry J. Wise, of Wise Law OfficeWise Law Blog and SlawTips. Actually, even the idea of taking the photo goes to Garry! 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

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

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Strengthening Your Clinical Team

Strengthening Your Clinical Team, Anna-Liza Badaloo (Manager, Clinical Development) interviews Sandra Bekhor, was previously published in The Pulse - Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors, Summer 2015, Issue 78.  

Working with others in a clinic setting can be an incredibly rewarding experience. But there’s more to working effectively together than figuring out rent percentage splits and scheduling. How well does the team work together on a day-to-day basis? How can you improve these relationships and make sure you’re all on the same page? The Pulse sat down with Practice Development Consultant Sandra Bekhor to find out how you can use the summer months to take a step back and strengthen your clinical team.

Write a Mission Statement: One challenge of having a clinical team, is that clients often feel that they’re not on the same page with all staff in the clinic. If your clients feel this way, it’s a great opportunity to find out if you are indeed all on the same page. Try writing a clinic mission statement and discussing it with everyone in your clinic.  Think of your mission statement as your compass. It powers all clinic decision-making processes, ensures that the right things are being prioritized, and avoids the inclusion of personal agendas. Everyone must feel they have a meaningful role, and that each role pushes the mission forward. To design your mission statement ask yourself about its purpose and valued difference.

How Does the Team Gel? Is your team communicating and relating well? If you’re not, clients will sense that vibe and it will reflect negatively on your clinic. Never underestimate the importance of this level of communication. Some initial questions to ask yourself to assess this would be: Are there conflicts? Do all staff share a vision? Balance each other? Understand each other’s jobs, and how each job contributes to the whole? Could your clinic benefit if you step up your role as a leader by engaging in coaching and mentoring? Consider kicking things off with a team bonding exercise or a clinic retreat for a day, an afternoon or even a few hours. 

Review Job Descriptions: Although you may feel that it’s obvious what everyone’s job is in your clinic, try writing out a job description for all clinic staff, and yourself. You may be surprised by what you learn! Then take it one step further: have all staff (including yourself) write down a job description for what they would like to be doing.  Then figure out how to get from your current job description to your future one by asking yourself: Do I need to delegate more? Stop doing something? Outsource something? Get more training on a specific topic? 

Performance Management: This is only applicable to clinics where there is an established reporting structure. Remember, performance management is not an annual activity, it is a daily activity. Setting up a process is key.  For example, are there formal reviews? And what are you measuring in these reviews? There is little point to conducting performance reviews without ensuring that you are measuring indicators that truly help you assess performance. And perhaps most importantly, what is your communication around performance reviews? Often times, it’s not what you say, but how you say it. To get started, sit down one-on-one with each of your direct reports to learn about their personal career goals and where they are struggling.

Evaluating Processes: If you think you don’t have a process for something, think again: whatever you’re doing right now is your process. So the question becomes, is your current process working for you? If not, you need a new process. Some facets of clinic management that are worth considering here are human resources, communication, administration, overt medical/clinical aspects, and training. To think about what processes may be due for a revamp, ask yourself: Where things are getting lost? Where am I losing time? Where am I worried that something important for a patient is getting lost, negatively affecting continuity in care? What keeps me up at night?

The Hiring Process: These processes always take longer than you think, and often are reactive. Do yourself (and your clinic) a favour, and plan ahead. Start thinking about the steps required to hire a new staff member. Identify what you need and think about where you can source individuals with these skills. You can even have a few initial meetings. The key here is that you don’t need to act on it right way, but if you lay the groundwork for your hiring process in a slower time period, when you’re ready to hire (which often coincides with a busy time in your clinic) you’ll be all set to go. 

Imagine returning to your clinic after a summer vacation with the knowledge that you’ve done the work necessary to support and improve clinic function throughout the busy fall season. The final step? Sit back, and congratulate yourself on a summer well spent. Your clients and your staff will thank you!

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

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

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Mindfulness for Lawyers Goes Mainstream

Ever wonder how all the recent buzz about mindfulness might possibly have relevance to you, as an individual and maybe even as a professional? Well, I was recently interviewed by Garry J. Wise, of Wise Law Office, Wise Law Blog and SlawTips on the possibilities for lawyers.  Here's a short excerpt:

“Sharper listening skills will make you a better lawyer, presumably, whether you are listening to your client, opposing counsel or a judge. What you do with that information is up to you."...

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

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

Monday, May 11, 2015

Takeaway #2 from 'Turning strangers into clients', a social media roadmap for architects

I just got back from speaking at the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) conference in Hamilton. My session was called 'Turning strangers into clients', a social media roadmap for architects.  I've already shared one takeaway after giving a webinar on this topic to the Interior Designers of Canada (IDC) last November. But it's a really deep subject, so here's takeaway #2. 

Social media marketing is deceptively simple. No programming. No printing. Even design is optional. Essentially, it presents no obstacles to posting content to the web.  Anyone can set up an account and click away.

So, without cost or risk, many architects (and other professionals) just join in, hoping something will stick. And after numerous attempts with inconsistent to disappointing results, they are left wondering how the game is really played. 

Before delving into the hows and whys of social media, there's a pink elephant in the room that we need to talk about.  The hidden costs of social media marketing need to be acknowledged in order to change the mindset about how it should be approached:
  1. Your time - how much time do you need to spend on something before it starts to be considered a real cost? Same goes for everyone else at your firm.  Architects are busy people. Those minutes, hours and days could easily have been put to good use, should they have been available... even if it simply meant going home earlier. 
  2. Opportunity cost - What's the value of lost opportunity? If the social media marketing game had been 'played right', what would you have won? New clients? Talented employees? Media coverage? And since success breeds success, over the years how could you have built on those winnings and compounded them?  If you had won one new client two years ago, what other opportunities might have followed? More projects from the same client? Referrals? A better portfolio? Media coverage?...
  3. Reputation -  Everything you post is public. So, it becomes part of your firm's way of greeting the world. And, in many instances, it's your first impression, possibly with your bull's eye market. Would you normally treat such opportunity lightly in the real world?  Not likely. Just think about the focus and preparation that you put into meeting with a prospective client, presenting a proposal or attending a networking event. 

So, what's the takeaway? 

While social media marketing is 'social' and very much about building relationships between individuals, in order to be effective it needs to sit on a foundation that includes clarity about what your firm does that's great, who you want to work with above all else and the way you wish to communicate with others. Why do these high level brand and marketing decisions matter when it comes to a 140 character tweet? A photo on instagram? A brief comment on LinkedIn? Every action you take - the people you connect with or don't connect with, the responses you post to others or the lack thereof, the news you share about your projects - all of it communicate something about your firm's character. And if you try to keep it neutral in order to play it safe, you'll still be communicating something... lackluster. Not a quality architects normally embrace. 

Consider the ripple effect of your brand and marketing strategy.  It's not just a matter of a logo, brochure and website.  It's the engine behind the social media marketing posts that deliver more than likes.  They deliver results.  

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

In search of the ideal client

I was interviewed by Grant Cameron at The Lawyers Weekly about the challenge of finding the ideal client, a process that begins long before you begin advertising. Here is a short excerpt:

...“Twenty per cent of the files that you’ve worked on probably represent 80 per cent of your profit or the strategic type of work that you want. You have to find that 20 per cent. That’s where you start.” 
Bekhor, who works with small to mid-sized law, accounting and other firms, says once partners have identified the types of clients they want, they have to mine deeper and ask why they prefer those files...

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

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

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Being prepared to put out fires

I was interviewed by Christopher Guly at The Bottom Line about a timely and relevant  topic that most of us prefer to avoid thinking about. Given our increasing acceptance of cloud-based storage, how do you handle the aftermath of a security breach?  Here is a short excerpt: 

Marketing and branding specialist Sandra Bekhor says companies needs to "drop the act" and "get off their high horse" that they're "impenetrable fortresses" - even in a crisis.  "Nobody believes that," she says, "so they better have a real plan with measurable promises and milestones that must be followed through to the letter in order to rebuild trust.

"They also have to show that the lesson learned is not only to fix the problem but to put in place a system to catch things they didn't foresee earlier.
"It's about providing ethical leadership and putting clients' interests before their own."... 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

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

Monday, March 9, 2015

Turning Strangers into Clients: A Social Media Roadmap - OAA Conference 2015

I'll be speaking at the 2015 Ontario Association of Architects conference in Hamilton.  Here's a short excerpt from the program:

Turning Strangers into Clients: A Social Media Roadmap 
Social media is one of the most valuable and versatile practice development tools ever to be available to architects. And yet, its performance has ranged from inconsistent to disappointing. Is it simply a roadmap that’s missing? This session explores a fresh perspective on leveraging social media - not for likes, comments and shares - but rather for laser focused, goal oriented action...

'Turning Strangers into Clients' was well received by the Interior Designers of Canada.  100% of participants ranked the session good to excellent and it was described as "Eye opening".

For further information or to register for this event, please visit the OAA's website

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Getting started with professional law firm marketing

Law firms have moved on from asking whether or not they should be marketing.  They are marketing.  Today, law firms have websites, blogs, social media pages, brochures, newsletters and more.  Some even have formal logos and taglines. 

But they're not all enjoying the success that they are seeking.  

So, the question has changed from should I market my law firm to how can I better market my law firm?  

As part of an ongoing exploration of the answer to this question, here is the second installment of our law firm marketing video series.  In this video, Garry J. Wise, of Wise Law Office, Wise Law Blog and SlawTips, asks about what's involved in professional marketing, from a lawyer's perspective.  And he asks some good questions... goes with the territory of being a litigator I guess! 

Here's a summary of some of key discussion points: 

How do law firms figure out what their marketing message should be?

To develop truly compelling marketing messages, you need to understand your firm's strengths.  Unfortunately, most law firms (and professional practices, generally) don't go beyond the superficial level with this exercise. In fact, if you look at what any five firms in the same area are saying about themselves, you will likely find that they are saying almost exactly the same thing.  It's because their marketing messages are based on what they believe their clients want to hear.  

Instead, an introspective marketing exercise that assesses the true character of a firm will leave you with a message that's more specific and authentic.  The prospective client will know that they can trust you because there’s a consistency and depth with each experience they have with your firm.  

I have clients that call me their business therapist because we go very deep with this process. 

What about when partners have polar opposite personalities?  How do you handle their firm's marketing messages? 

This is controversial.  

Some marketers believe law firms should just focus their marketing on the individuals and and their areas of practice.  I believe that you will get more out of your marketing if there's a flagship message about the firm, something that ties it all together. Some of our clients do in fact have individuals that land at opposite ends of the spectrum, in terms of personality.  But we always find that gold nugget - the reason why they chose to practice together - and it’s always a strong one.

Firm level messaging can also be supplemented with marketing that’s individual specific, especially when the individuals work in different areas of practice.  This works as long as there is a consistent hierarchy to the firm's communication materials.  

When not everyone is on board with taking a modern approach to marketing, how do you get everyone on the same page?

Law firms think of marketing as an outward exercise but that’s only half the battle, the other half is inward.  Once you're clear on what you’re doing with your marketing, you need to launch it internally.   The principals of the firm need to be clear about what's driving the process: 
  • What is the vision?
  • Why are we doing this?
  • What are our values? 
  • How is the marketing plan relevant to everyone in the room? 
  • What is the role each individual will play and why?

How well does traditional marketing translate to law firms?  
Marketing professional practices is different than marketing packaged goods or other types of businesses.  There are sensitivities and obligations to professional bodies, that need to be carried through to biographies, promises on website.  This approach needs to be ingrained in those contributing to the marketing plan eg if anyone is going to be blogging, speaking or tweeting... 

Depending on their culture, some firms will go beyond their professional obligations. Particularly in a Canadian context, marketing for law firms needs to shed a positive light on the firm and, beyond that, the profession.  

Some of the resistance that lawyers have had, and continue to have, to marketing is that the content won't meet the same standards as the rest of the firm.  But maybe that's just a good reason for working with professionals.

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

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

Monday, February 23, 2015

Setting the stage for a business retreat

Setting the stage for a business retreat was previously published in The Bottom Line, Government / Compliance, March 2015.

It's the rare accounting firm that's had a great experience with a retreat. But, for those few and far between firms, the event holds a sacrosanct position on the calendar.  Partners look forward to it long in advance, knowing full well the additional commitment and responsibility they’re assuming.  

The vast majority of accounting firms do not share this experience.  While some may have dabbled with the concept – often landing somewhere between a work and play event - most never made it out the gate.   

Given that some firms have made such an unwavering commitment to their seemingly productive retreats, the question is what's the draw?  

Put it this way: what would be the value of partners returning to the office energized, connected and just about itching to share and build their plans?  Incalculable? Perhaps. Significant? For sure. 

Why doesn’t every retreat end this way? Low expectations can be a self fulfilling prophecy in this case. If everyone is counting on partners to generate a few good ideas, take a little break from the office and share a few laughs, then that’s just what will happen.  Make no mistake about it, however. If that is what happens, the ball was dropped.  And chances are good that whatever it is that went wrong, it happened before the session got started.  Successful retreats begin with pre-retreat planning.  Here’s how. 


Book pre-retreat meetings. Setting the stage for a successful retreat doesn’t happen on location. It happens in planning sessions that take place long before the event, months before in fact. This is where retreat objectives are discussed, prioritized and, depending on what those objectives are, delved into by way of interviews, research and analysis.  So, instead of blank expressions and the same old questions that don't go anywhere at partner meetings, everyone is presented with depth and clarity on the firm's key issues and opportunities, enabling them to not only voice opinions but ultimately vote on direction.

Work with a consultant. While facilitation is key to keeping a session on track, it's the pre-retreat involvement of a consultant that positions the event for success.  Working with a consultant familiar with the process, the sector and, possibly even, the firm can help to ensure that the retreat stays focused on the stated goals, right from the planning stage. It can also help to ensure that goals stay high level, leaving aside micro issues that simply don’t require the attention of the firm's highest earners.  

Invite others into the process.  The logistics of inviting others into the process grows in complexity the larger the firm.  For small firms it may very well be worthwhile to invite everyone to the retreat, but at some point that becomes infeasible.  That doesn’t mean that the retreat should happen in isolation of the rest of the firm - or the marketplace for that matter. Inviting input from others before the retreat makes for a more inclusive, thoughtful and effective event.  


So, let's say the firm does everything right from the pre-retreat meeting through to the engagement of a consultant and the involvement of others.  Can the retreat still go off the rails in session?  If so, what can be done to prevent that? 

Objective facilitation at the retreat can help to ensure that everyone gets a turn to speak, the reserved and outspoken alike.  It can also head off group think (whereby group discussions preempt the individual from disclosing and hence committing to their individual thoughts) or cliques, either of which would reduce the value of decisions made at the event.

Ground rules, if strictly enforced, set the stage for retreat meetings to be taken seriously.  There is no one size fits all set of ground rules, however.  They need to suit not only the goals for the event but the culture of the firm.  Examples include - one person speaking at a time, discussions concluding on a win-win note rather than compromise and people returning on time from breaks. 
A comprehensive agenda that is referred to throughout the session - and on which partners have had the opportunity to comment in advance - helps to ascertain whether or not discussions are moving the events’ objectives forward. And for those off topic points that are bound to come up, it's helpful to have a ‘parking lot' to keep them off the table for the purpose of the retreat but not forgotten in terms of the meeting’s minutes.  


Even the most energized and well intentioned team can return to the office, get sucked back into the vortex of day-to-day operations and never actually implement the golden action plan. So, the final step to securing a successful retreat is to develop a process that ensures continuity and commitment.  

Invite others into the process, again. The process began with involving the rest of the firm and now it’s time to reconnect, to thank people for their input and to let them know what is going to be done about challenges and opportunities tabled in the research stage.  Why were some items prioritized and others not? What are the next steps in the process? When and how can they expect to hear more about it?  

Delegate responsibility. Establish committees to delegate action plans to the right roles and at the right levels.  Develop a process for status updates and issues to be raised and discussed early.  Share why these plans are important so that even at the micro level, everyone understands how their piece contributes to the big picture.

Plug the process into existing planning meetings. Even if many, if not all, tasks are delegated to others, there needs to be a process to funnel executive summaries back up to the top, in real time.  Consider how to most efficiently plug the process into existing planning meetings and, if they don’t exist, use this exercise as the catalyst to organize them.  


It’s time to dispel old ideas about retreats that are neither accurate nor helpful.  When the event – pre, post and during - is taken seriously, not only is participating in a retreat real work. It may well be the highest value work of the year. It’s where decisions are made that will affect the firm’s future long and short, priorities are established and identity examined.  

A retreat can be especially critical if a firm is ready for growth or change - expansion, business development, performance management, succession planning, retention or training as but a few examples. But even for a firm well into its heyday, a retreat can be critical to its ability to hold fast.  

The business environment can be a fast moving target.  A retreat provides a discipline and a permanent forum to ensure that confidence in the future is backed by plans in the present. That’s the work that can’t be shuffled, postponed or delegated, at least not without consequence.  

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

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