Monday, September 15, 2014

Cyclists, here's the greatest sticker!

We're going off topic today folks! I found this sticker on a bike path (sorry, I can't remember where but I will post an update when I see it again) and I HAD to stop and take a photo. I figured my fellow Toronto cyclists would appreciate this. 

The address is too small on the photo but I think it says As an aside (I guess the marketer in me has something to say after all!), if you use promotional materials for your practice, make sure the web link and other contact details are large enough for its many uses... intended and otherwise. 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Friday, September 12, 2014

Getting creative with gift-giving at law firms

I was recently interviewed by Grant Cameron at The Lawyers Weekly on memorable promotional products for law firms. The article spans the practical and the innovative.   Here is a short excerpt:

Sandra Bekhor, president of Bekhor Management in Toronto, believes giveaways can enhance awareness and goodwill with prospective clients, employees and recruits, although it won’t sell an audience that’s not interested... 
In future, she notes, strategic giveaways might involve items with subliminal messaging such as earbuds from a firm that bills itself as a good listener, a Swiss army knife from a firm that cuts to the chase, or USB sticks from a firm that’s technology-oriented. 
“Firms could have a lot of fun with quirky or humorous gifts if that’s an important aspect of their brand.”  Read article. 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Law firms - Craft the right message to stand out from crowd

I was recently interviewed by Natalie Alcoba  at The Lawyers Weekly on crafting a branding message for law firms. In her article she demonstrates that the subject is somewhat controversial.   Here is a short excerpt from her article:

Branding is as much an internal exercise as it is an external one, adds Bekhor. Often, however, companies will develop a logo and a tagline, only to have it “sit there.” She suggests a formal launch that explains to everyone in the office what the brand means. It is “more than just an FYI,” she notes, and should show people where the phrase came from and how each person is going to participate in the idea, so that it “becomes alive.” Principals in a firm could tell stories about why they founded the practice, or detail meaningful days in their career at the kickoff... 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.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Turning strangers into clients: A social media roadmap for interior designers and architects

I will be delivering an accredited webinar for interior designers and architects, Turning Strangers into Clients: A Social Media Roadmap.  Here's an excerpt from the program:

Social media is one of the most valuable and versatile practice development tools ever to be available to the A&D industry. And yet, its performance has ranged from inconsistent to disappointing.  
Is it simply a roadmap that’s missing? This one-hour webinar explores a fresh perspective on leveraging social media - not for likes, tweets and shares - but rather for laser focused, goal oriented action.  A conceptual framework will be explored with examples from a range of widely adopted social media sites.  

Please visit Interior Designers of Canada (IDC) for further information or to register for this webinar.  It will take place on Wednesday, November 5, 2014 from 12 noon - 1 p.m. EDT.

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Going bigger might not always be better - Expanding your law firm requires careful analysis

We often use growth as a metaphor for success. But is it really?  Grant Cameron at The Lawyers Weekly takes a closer look at this very question, with his article 'Going bigger might not always be better', in which I was quoted. Here is a short excerpt:

...“Whatever your goals are, make sure you are clear on them first before you make a decision about expansion and be honest with yourself about what those are,” Bekhor says. 
“You could blindly expand your firm, add three new lawyers, and at the end of the day you’re taking home the same salary or doing work that you don’t enjoy.”... 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.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The law firm retreat... why your firm should have one this year

If you follow @wiselaw on twitter you're probably already aware that I recently assisted with their first law firm retreat and that we are now working on the resulting action plan.

So, why did Wise Law Office decide to have a retreat? And why should your firm have one too?

Every law firm has burning questions about how to make the firm better at something, more focused, more profitable, more efficient... While such questions may come up from time to time, they mostly linger in the background to be dealt with another day, a day that may or may not ever come around.  This may sound like procrastination, but it's considerably more complex.  To really do justice to these higher level questions about a law firm's future, you need to be in the right frame of mind, have allocated sufficient time to fully explore the issues and already be at the table with all the right people.  A retreat gives you that opportunity to get away from the day-to-day operations of the firm, physically and mentally, and really consider the firm's future within the context of the bigger picture, including significant trends in your business environment.  

So, clearly there's a business case for retreats. But then again there are retreats and there are retreats... and the difference isn't the setting or the meals (although there's a lot to be said for Wise Law's choice to have a friendly backyard BBQ).  So, if you do decide to take the plunge and have a retreat for your law firm, how can you make the most of it?

  1. A retreat isn't about what's wrong with the firm.  It's about making what already works even better. This is probably the most commonly misunderstood aspect of strategic planning.  Strengthening your strength - not overcoming your weakness - will take your firm to the next level.  That’s not to say that there shouldn't also be discussion about areas that need improvement.  But they shouldn't be the focus of the retreat. 
  2. Don’t wait for the perfect plan.  Just begin where you are.  While it may be tempting to begin the process with high expectations fed from the pent up desire for growth, if they're too high they can thwart rather than maximize your efforts by demotivating participants. So, instead maintain that results oriented mindset and, if perfectionism sets in, move ahead based on where you are.  Experiencing success with any planning at all will inject the firm with momentum for the, as of yet undefined, steps ahead
  3. Participation, motivation and ownership is key to ensuring that your resulting action plan doesn't just sit on the shelf collecting dust. Small firms can invite everyone to the retreat.  Mid-sized firms can involve everyone in the process by way of departmental 'pre' and 'post' retreat meetings. Welcoming everyone's participation in the development (not just the operation) of the firm ensures that their highest level, critical thinking will be focused on how to do what they already do even better. And when that action plan is ready to go, who’s going to want to implement it? The people that were involved.   
  4. Work with a professional to make your retreat a good use of everyone's time.  Aside from location and meals, booking your key people for the day makes a retreat an expensive venture. A consultant experienced with the process and your sector can make the process laser focused on your goals.  Here's a little window into our approach, at Bekhor Management. Before the retreat even begins, we sort through your objectives, who should be involved and how, what needs to be covered in pre-retreat meetings, what should be on the agenda and how to share individual input. At the retreat, we play the role of objective facilitator, ensuring that everyone else stays in the role of participant.  We keep the meeting open and on track, observing changes in alignment and gaps as they occur and using that understanding to continuously adjust and drive the process forward.        
  5. Don't drop the ball. Getting the most out of your retreat isn't just about what what happens before or during the event. After counts too. There's little value in having a really great retreat and getting everyone excited about it just to drop the ball when you get back to the office. In some ways the follow up meetings can be even more important than the retreat itself because they set the stage for a commitment to ongoing improvement, a commitment to your goals and a commitment to yourselves.           
  6. Revisit your objectives and acknowledge what's been accomplished.  Ever notice how we tend to notice when things don't get done but not as much when they do?  The trouble with that default setting in our brains is that you get what you focus on. My clients that take the time to revisit objectives after a retreat or other planning initiative often find that they accomplished most, if not all, the objectives that they had set out.  That's pretty nice accomplishment and, if acknowledged, can motivate people to jump right back into the process. 

Think ahead to next year, the following year and the year after that.  Do you know where you want your law firm to be? Are you headed there now? What needs to change so that you don’t look back three years from now, wondering where the time went and why you're still dealing with the same issues three years later.

Instead of waiting for the right time, which may or may not ever arrive. Book your retreat this year and start seeing immediate progress on those burning issues.  They may represent a sea change for your law firm.

You won't know until you get started.  

Thank you to Garry J. Wise for the action photography!

- 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.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Maximizing the value of referrals to law firms

I was recently interviewed by Natalie Alcoba  at The Lawyers Weekly on maximizing the value of referrals to law firms.  Here is a short excerpt from her article:

Lawyers should step back and consider what would motivate someone to send a client their way, says Sandra Bekhor, a marketing consultant. “Beyond great service, knowledge and experience, point of difference is key. If your firm offers a genuine and valued difference — whether that’s special expertise or a specific way that you approach your subject matter or your clients, human touch, technologies that you employ…your clients will know when and where to offer up your name to their own network,” she says... 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.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Why do architects sell themselves short with predictable websites?

The last few times I've given marketing seminars to architects, I boldly went where I haven't gone before.  I asked the audience straight up if they thought that architects, interior designers, engineers and other design professionals were using a formula to develop their websites.

I was met with a resounding YES.  The components themselves - beauty shots, portfolios, discussions about context and client service - aren't necessarily the issue.  The degree to which this information has been strategically framed and organized, both graphically and with language, is.  

As my audience did, you too would know if this applies to your site - if, for example, it could better capture what's important to you.

So, returning to the premise of this article, if architects know that their websites are predicable why are they selling themselves short?

Confusion - Marketing is visual and artistic. When used to broadcast an architect's practice, it can sometimes create confusion between the roles of the architect, the marketer and the graphic designer. Clarity about how to leverage the unique value that each of these professionals brings to the table can be the first step towards a website that goes beyond an online portfolio and delivers meaning and intrigue.

Risk -  Doing something different always involves risk. And winning in a creative field always involves doing something different.  Architects know this better than most. Confined to the scope of an architectural project, risk might be easy to assess. However, outside one's area of expertise risk tends to get inflated. Learning about best marketing practices, purchasing behaviours and case studies, from a professional marketer can help you to reassess and devise risk management strategies that don't limit creativity. 

Value - Why  invest time, money and energy and assume risk when you have low expectations for the return on your website? Expectations can become self fulfilling prophecies. So, just because the return on a formula website is limited, that doesn't mean that the same limitations apply to a website that breaks with convention to showcase what's genuinely powerful at your firm.  

While we can all agree that there's a key role for many of the standard components to the predictable website, architects are so much more. They are thought leaders, strategic thinkers, game changers, business people, advisors, planners, historians, visionaries and more. 

If you find your own website to be predictable, understanding how to remove the barriers above would appear to be the next step on the road to creativity. So, ask yourself... 

If there was little risk involved and the potential higher than I first presumed, how bold would I go with my firm's website?    

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A firm handshake for unsure times: Trust is no longer assumed — lawyers need to earn it

A firm handshake for unsure times written by Sandra Bekhor, was published by The Lawyers Weekly (May 30, 2014 issue).  Below is a short except.

It used to be that whether you were a partner, employee or client of a law firm, trustworthy behaviour wasn’t just an expectation, it was a given.  
You could count on a handshake. 

What about now? What has changed?  

Everything, perhaps. 

From the Internet and technology, to firm break-ups and mergers, and globalization and alternate business structures, the legal marketplace has experienced rapid change. Comparison shopping is at an all-time high while client loyalty is at an all-time low, no matter which side of the desk you’re sitting on.  

Lawyers can no longer necessarily count on a firm for employment for life. The same goes for a firm counting on the loyalty of its lawyers and its clients. Competing firms are always just a mouse click, referral or RFP away, and new options for the delivery of legal services are springing up every day... 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.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Stop taking back what you delegate!

If you'd like to make your professional practice run more efficiently, here's an approach that will do more than just save you precious time.  It will minimize frustration, keep files moving ahead on schedule and deliver growth opportunity to both you and your team...  stop taking back what you delegate!

Have you ever assigned something to someone in your office only to have them come back to you for further input or clarification? Or have you ever received a draft of a report that didn't meet your standards? Most principals, partners and managers at law, architecture, accounting, consulting, medical and other professional practices will have had these experiences, some on a daily basis. 

The good news is that you have some responsibility in this boomerang effect on the work you delegate.  When it comes back to you incomplete or loaded with questions, instead of falling into old habits and taking back the assignment with an 'I'll get back to you on that' or 'leave it on my desk so I can review it later', make it your job to coach the person that owns the task through the next steps, so that he or she can continue to own the assignment.  Instead of getting information for them, ask how he or she would go about it, so you'll have an active thinker in the problem solving process. Instead of reviewing the submission, ask first if he or she compared it against briefing notes or against a sample of a previous report that represents the standard that you're looking for. 

It can be a reflex to take back assignments when you're the one that used to complete them. You're good at it and you know what you want. But next time you feel the urge to do so, ask yourself.  Is this the best use of my time? Will coaching my staff on these next steps help him or her on future assignments?  Will it be a source of opportunity for both of us to stretch ourselves in our respective positions? 

- 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, leadership development and business coaching services.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Business coaching vs consulting - What's the difference?

You've hit a wall on an important aspect of your practice development goals. Maybe accountability is spotty. Maybe there's been a surge in conflict. Or you've noticed increased competitive pressure. You know that you're going to need some help with this one. So, what's it going to be? Business coaching or consulting? 

Both offer value. But they're actually quite different.  Understanding the difference can shed light on what skill might be most helpful with respect to your concerns of the day: 

Business consulting definition 
Business consulting services are structured to act on a specific requirement.  Examples include: marketing planning, strategic planning, succession planning and business planning. These services depend not only on the professional's understanding of and experience with such processes but also on their ability to provide expert advice, information and opinion, relevant to the client's business.  

Business coaching definition
Business coaching services also involve working with a professional who has expertise on the topic of concern.  But, rather than dispense advice and opinion, the business coaches' role is focused on drawing out the client's own knowledge, wisdom and insight.  Through active listening, questions and targeted messaging, a skilled business coach can help bring objectivity and inspiration to brainstorming and clarity and direction to action plans.  

You already know when and how to work with your lawyer, your accountant and other professionals. When to call them.  For what type of problems they are likely to save you time, money and headaches.  The same is true of business coaching and consulting professionals. Once you get through the learning curve, your practice will be strengthened with a trusted advisor that, overnight, will have expanded your opportunities to grow.   

- 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, consulting and business coaching services.

Should you market yourself or your medical clinic?

Should you market yourself or your medical clinic? was previously published in The Pulse - Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors, Spring 2014, Issue 73. 

Despite the multitude of decisions that get made before initiating a marketing program - positioning, target market, location, services, fees - there’s one underlying question that often gets overlooked. 

What are you trying to build – a personal following or a clinic?  

Anybody who has followed their naturopath from clinic to clinic, neighbourhood to neighbourhood, will tell you that loyalty to a clinic and loyalty to a person isn’t the same thing.  

Marketing a clinic and marketing a person isn’t the same thing either.  That said, they’re both valid options.  The key is to align your marketing plan with your practice development goals. 

So, how do you decide what you’re trying to build – a personal following or a clinic – and how should that decision impact your marketing?  Let’s look at two common scenarios and their associated pitfalls: 

  1. If you’re renting space in someone else’s clinic, have no plans to eventually take on your own space or to add employees, you’re building a following. Common pitfalls? Placing undue emphasis on creating and marketing a name for your practice, rather than simply building your name. Missing out on the opportunity to cross promote yourself with the clinic.  Creating confusion about your relationship with the clinic.     
  2. If you own a clinic and you have partners or employees, you’re building a clinic.  Common pitfalls? Focusing the lion’s share of marketing resources on the individual at the cost of building a reputable and sustainable name for the clinic. Diluting your point of difference with false ties to tenants operating out of your clinic.  

If your goal is to build a personal following, every aspect of your marketing plan needs to support that goal.

Whether or not it’s formalized with a logo, tagline and positioning statement, your professional identity will need to capture your philosophy, style, vision, history and context. 

You’ll need flagship materials that support your personal marketing efforts, such as a website, brochure, newsletter, business presentation or other.

You’ll also need a personal marketing plan. It will need to be fed, continuously, on an ongoing basis. So, choose activities that call you, or it won’t work. It will feel like drudgery. If you like to press the flesh, network. If you like to write stories, start a blog. If you like to teach, give seminars. If you like people but are shy at large gatherings, use social media. By picking activities that align with your interests and temperament, you’ll bring out your most engaged, natural self.  To get noticed, choose one focused activity and take it on with passion and dedication.  Make sure everything you do is aligned, not just with your target market and areas of interest but with your positioning, even if it’s as inconsequential as a 140 character tweet. 

If your goal is to build a clinic, every aspect of your marketing plan needs to support that goal.

You’ll need a name, logo and tagline founded on a vision that gets supported in a consistent manner by all, from the way someone is greeted on the phone to the way they’re treated and followed up with, no matter who they’re dealing with.  

As you would if you were building a following, you’ll need flagship materials, such as a website, brochure, newsletter, business presentation or other.

You won’t need a personal marketing plan. You’ll need several, one for each participant.  You’ll also need branded materials, strategies and coaching to align their activities with the vision for the clinic. As an example, beyond setting up a clinic blog (or micro blogs), consider - what type of articles do you want to write? How controversial do you want to get? What is the writing style and tone? What is the blog’s purpose (go deeper, much deeper, than ‘to share information’)…? The same applies to virtually any personal marketing activity: speaking, networking, social media…   So, when you’re building a clinic, you’re not just showcasing individuals, you’re doing so within the context of a cohesive, consistent and common purpose that adds value to the brand with each article, smile and handshake.  That doesn’t mean that everyone needs to do the same thing. It just means that that they bring the same vision to what they do. 

So, where do these ideas leave us? 

You're doing everything right. You deliver good patient service. You get out there and give talks. You get published a few times a year. You’re using LinkedIn on a daily basis. 

Clarifying which brand you’re building and the distinction between your brand and others sets the stage for you to collect equity for your efforts. Equity that establishes sustainability and multiplies in value over time... as we all know one happy patient tells two of their closest friends and so on.

If you fall into the category of landlord or tenant, there’s one more detail to consider. Your well-organized brand will need equally well-organized paperwork.  This will provide clarity about the legal ownership of your patient list, a most critical element of your brand equity. If you’re going to get the marketing piece right, it’s certianly worth your while to make sure your hard won patients stay with you, should anyone decide to move.  

- 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, March 5, 2014

Introverts underestimate their negotiation powers

I just came across interesting negotiation tips in the preview for Quiet by Susan Cain. This is specifically directed at introverts who may have underestimated their abilities in this area. Here's an excerpt from a story about a junior lawyer sitting at a negotiation table and freezing... 

"Then she'd remembered what I'd told her again and again: she was an introvert, and as such she had unique powers in negotiation - perhaps less obvious but no less formidable. She'd probably prepared more than everyone else. She had a quiet but firm speaking style. She rarely spoke without thinking. Being mild-mannered, she could take strong, even aggressive, positions while coming across as perfectly reasonable. And she tended to ask questions - lots of them -and actually listen to the answers, which no matter what your personality, is crucial to strong negotiation."

Fascinating! I think I'll have to read the book now!

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Does leadership skill have a place in law firms?

Did you know that culture can account for nearly a third of financial results?

A third.

Seriously, A THIRD. 

Given the opportunity to make such dramatic impact by modifying one single factor, anyone that cares about the performance of their law firm should be wondering what they can do to positively impact culture... right now.

Simple.  Develop leadership skill. 

Managers who use leadership styles that positively affect culture deliver better financial results.

This is a matter of knowing when and how to:

  • Make it clear to each individual how their role fits into the big picture. 
  • Give individuals the freedom to figure things out on their own. 
  • Set standards and be directive. 
  • Tend to the emotions of others and your own. 
  • Ask for input, listen and get buy in. 
  • Give instruction and feedback. 

So, the next time you’re facing the managerial aspect of your job as a lawyer, consider intentionally choosing an approach that fits both the individual you’re working with and the situation you’re addressing.  

There’s a considerable difference between managing by default and leading. It may take some planning, training and coaching to get there.  But is there a law firm out there that can really afford to throw away any opportunity with that much upside?

- 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.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Accounting firms - Get strategic or risk getting lost

Get strategic or risk getting lost was previously published in The Bottom Line, Mid-September 2013. 

Options.  They can swing doors wide open or gamble resources away.  They can inspire us to act with urgency or be the cause of indecision and procrastination.  
The options to market an accounting firm have exponentially increased over the past fifteen years.  Most are thanks to the internet.  But, creative ways of using the internet to generate interest for seminars and other live events has multiplied offline marketing options as well.  And with the ensuing online clutter, some strictly offline marketing activities, such as direct mail, have experienced recent renewal.  

Tempting as they might be, the options to market an accounting practice don’t usually deliver on the promise of success, without a strategic approach to filter them for fit.  

What follows are essential components to the process of assembling a strategic marketing plan:

As with a business plan, a marketing plan needs to support short and long-term financial, strategic and lifestyle practice development goals.  There are, however, considerations that extend beyond those typical of a business plan, including: establishing desired image, attracting qualified recruits, generating media coverage, extending referrer networks and building a specific area of interest or client profile.  

One of the most challenging aspects of developing a marketing plan is defining a firm’s market position. This is essentially the firm’s unique and valued difference. For some accounting practices, market position may be built into the basis of their operations.  But for most, analysis is needed to establish clarity about standout strengths and to ensure that the firm’s promises don’t simply mirror those of its peers.

Target market
Prioritizing a subset of a target market helps to position the marketing plan for success on multiple levels.  From websites to seminars, the content of any marketing activities that speak directly to the needs of a specific audience, and referral market, are more likely to resonate.  As well, it’s simpler and more cost effective to choose marketing activities that reach a specific group, rather than casting a wider net.  

Competitive set
If marketing decisions are made in a vacuum, they run the risk of being predictable and cookie cutter.  Market research about direct competitors can reveal where, to whom and how other accounting practices are marketing their services, down to the detail of language style and marketing promises.  Faced with this information, a firm will almost always be able to go yet one step deeper with its own analysis and decisions about target market, market position and marketing activities.  

Business environment 
In order to stay relevant, the marketing plan needs to be reviewed against changes in the business environment on a regular basis.  Since the recommended duration of the plan is annual, most changes aren’t expected to impact the details of the current plan but, rather, will provide inspiration for subsequent years. By way of example, recent developments in today’s business environment include: professional branding, widescreen website design, micro sites, micro blogs, apps, mobile and browser compatibility, self administration of websites, changes to Search Engine Optimization, new social media marketing sites and tools, newsletter segmentation strategies, video marketing and new approaches to networking.  

Marketing activities
Between advertising (online or off), direct mail, public relations, speaking engagements, websites, Search Engine Optimization, social media, blogs,  newsletters (digital or print), networking and events, the list of marketing activities to choose from is long and it's getting longer. Choosing begins with finding options that align with the firm’s goals and its target audience.  But the most fitting activities will also align with the talents of the team participating in the ongoing implementation of the plan i.e. based on interest and inclination to network (online or off), speak and write.   Finally, marketing activities require a third tier of alignment.  They need also to align with each other, where each activity is positioned to amplify success because it has a place in the overall chain of events. 

The budget to market an accounting firm depends on many variables, including the size of the practice and the stage within its life cycle.  An ongoing marketing spend also depends on specificity of target audience, complexity of service offering and list of marketing activities.  To develop professional materials for the first time, however, a disproportionately high, one-time investment should be expected.  If this period coincides with tight cash flow, foundational pieces could be phased in over months or even years.  The ability of a firm to maximize return on its marketing investment will be based on three factors: reach (ease of access to the desired growth market), frequency (repeated messaging directed at the same audience) and impact (the degree to which the firm’s professional identity and its marketing messages resonate with its audience).  

There was a time when marketing plans extended for a five-year period.  But in order to stay nimble and responsive in a fast paced world, it’s recommended to consider the long-term broadly and plan for details on an annual basis.  To facilitate connection with clients, referrers and even search engines on an ongoing basis, it’s also recommended to market continuously, rather than just during the slower accounting months.  With planning and coordination, many marketing activities can be developed well in advance and scheduled for release throughout the year.  Consideration needs to be given, however, to allowing for real-time marketing activity, including social media, networking and, possibly, writing articles or giving seminars that respond to news or other time-sensitive updates. 

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
More that ever before, marketing plans need to be reviewed and revamped on a regular basis, against actual performance and changes in the marketplace. This process is essential to building continuous improvement into the plan.  KPIs can be informative in this regard, if the right factors are being measured.  For example, there are many tools available to easily measure website traffic and, at first glance, this indicator may seem to be obvious and useful.  But without a sense of whether the profile of the website visitor matches that of the firm’s desired growth market, this indicator will be of limited value.  Finally, generating results will also depend on the firm’s ability to balance the knee jerk reaction to prematurely implement change with the discipline of follow through and commitment.  

Beyond filtering options in order to improve marketing investment and facilitate a firm’s ability to meet its goals, the value of this planning process is in taking the heat off the sales process, from the generation of leads through to closing.  A strategic marketing plan can help to ensure that an accounting practice is findable, by the right audience, efficiently and effectively.  Most importantly though, when it is founded on authentic messaging that resonates, by the time prospects pick up the phone, they usually are highly suitable and highly interested.

- 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.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Should law firms open a satellite office?

I was recently interviewed by Kim Arnott at The Lawyers Weekly about the pros and cons of law firms opening satellite offices. Here's a short excerpt:

...“Make sure your first house works well before you open a second house,” advises Bekhor. Maximize the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your main office with good procedures, clear policies and well-communicated expectations. Once that’s done, you’re ready to consider whether you can profitably transfer those attributes and your brand to a second location.

- 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.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Integrating marketing for impact in a digital age: A seminar for architects

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive for this session when it was delivered at the Ontario Association of Architects conference in May 2012 and at IIDEX in September 2011.  So, it's back by popular demand at the Alberta Association of Architects 2013 Professional Development Day, in Calgary on October 17!  

Here's an excerpt from the program, Integrating Marketing for Impact in a Digital Age:

...Marketing remains elusive to many architects and interior designers, as it increasingly becomes a series of disjointed and often costly activities. This presentation will provide participants with the tools to understand how to increase the value of their marketing efforts through integration...

Please visit Alberta Association of Architects for further information or to register for this seminar.  

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

20 Tips: Networking with healthcare professionals – Online & off, introverts & extroverts

Networking with Healthcare Professionals – online and off, whether you’re introverted or extroverted was delivered as an accredited webinar for naturopathic doctors as part of the OAND webinar series.  Though the webinar explores numerous examples and fundamental guidelines, this article is based on the premise of the topic.  More about this webinar is available here.

Forget the image of the master networker stuffing his pockets with business cards, as he schmoozes his way around the room.   Networking has changed.  There isn't one right way or one right personality to network, any longer.

Today, a successful networking strategy is about resonance.  

You could be quiet as a mouse and run a ridiculously, successful healthcare networking strategy based on any number of creative approaches.  You could place the spotlight on others with twitter chats, run activity - rather than discussion - oriented events such as yoga or meditation sessions designed to give back to healthcare professionals, become a hub for co-branded collaborative projects that bring together complementary professions and more.  Or, you could be the life of the party and use the web to get the word out about offline mastermind groups, blogger nights, sports teams (why not start a local soccer team -chiropractors playing against naturopaths?) and other 'meet and greet' types of events.  

Whatever you decide, aside from your disposition and talents, the plan will need to account for your practice goals and unique circumstances.  You'll also need metrics to keep you honest about how deeply you're connecting with your audience.  The following 20 tips are meant to be helpful considerations for the entire process. 

10 tips for online networking with healthcare professionals:
  1. Don’t spam or self promote - It may be easier to limit your use of social media to article distribution, but it's not more effective.  
  2. Respond to what others write about themselves - Responding to others will help to generate awareness of your own online presence. 
  3. Respond when others write to you - Whether they're a fit or not, take the time to be a good brand ambassador and respond to anyone that contacts you online.  
  4. Use social media to warm up offline introductions - A quick hello or an introduction by way of a shared contact can establish connection, shifting a cold call to a warm one. 
  5. Process information before responding - One of the advantages of networking behind a monitor is that you're never put on the spot. So take the time to consider how you can add value and interest with each response. 
  6. Be personal and relevant - You can see through form letters. Others can too. The time you take to make connections between shared history or networks won't go unnoticed. 
  7. Think success through, how will you handle the volume /workload  - If your strategy is designed to generate volume, you'll need to be prepared to engage with a large audience. If it's designed to generate recurring activities, you'll need to commit to a predictable schedule in order to inspire others to join you. 
  8. Take the time to learn about someone before reaching out - It's a lot less pressure to meet someone, if you take the time to do a Google search on their name.  A quick scan of their digital footprint will provide much inspiration for icebreakers. 
  9. Take initiative - If you have an idea for a group but it doesn't exist, start one. If you like what someone writes, tell them.  If you want to meet someone, find some point of connection to create a reason to say hello. 
  10. Take it offline - Build phone calls, skype calls, lunches and activities into your online networking strategy, in order to solidify and expand any newly formed relationships.  
10 tips for offline networking with healthcare professionals:
    1. If you find speaking draining, pad your events with quiet time - If you enjoy it and you know you're good at it, figure out how to maintain your energy so that this becomes something you can do and even look forward to doing.
    2. Learn how to introduce yourself  -  Most of the stress revolving around a networking event is centered on the 30 seconds it takes to introduce yourself.  A natural sounding, elevator pitch peppered with stories and questions can shake away those jitters.   
    3. Learn how to ask powerful icebreaker questions - If you get others to talk, you'll have removed the pressure from yourself to keep talking and you'll learn something about them.  Wasn't that the point all along anyhow? 
    4. Give the quiet people a chance to talk, without interrupting - If you're a natural talker, then you may need to learn the discipline of picking up on when others need time to put their words together.  After all, there's always the chance that your most desired contact in the room is introverted. 
    5. Be professional - If you wouldn't want your patients to know about it, don't share it with your network.  
    6. Be prepared - Carry business cards with you and rehearse an elevator pitch, so that you can present yourself professionally anytime and anywhere that you might run into a member of your network.  
    7. Forget your agenda… be friendly and generous - Imagine how much less stressful your job as a networker would be if the only onus you placed on yourself was to help others, be it by way of introductions, suggestions or invitations to collaborate.  
    8. Be real - Think about how you connect with patients when you're just getting to know them. You might have a common hobby or your kids might go to the same school.  People connect more easily over the stuff that makes up our real lives.  
    9. Nurture your existing network - Networking is usually heavily focused on creating new connections, while the value of expanding one's existing network is often underestimated. 
    10. Take it online - It might be counterintuitive, since the objective is to meet people. But if you get into the habit of connecting with your offline network online, then you stand a better chance of staying on their radar via social media updates and newsletters.  

    I recently heard a great adaptation of the old adage 'we have 2 ears and 1 mouth, so we can listen twice as much as we speak'. It goes, 'We also have 2 eyes and 1 keyboard, so we can read twice as much as we write'.  Whether you're online or off, introverted or extroverted, networking with healthcare professionals is about relationships.  Bring the best of yourself to whatever you do and the connections will certainly gel. 

    - 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.

    Friday, June 21, 2013

    Wake up those senses! MAI - Prototype, at the LUMINATO FESTIVAL in Toronto

    MAI Certificate of completion with my lovely friend Roxanne!  
    If you haven't made it down to the LUMINATO FESTIVAL yet, the MAI - Prototype is worth checking out.  I can't tell you too much without spoiling it (and if you're interested in seeing it don't ask anyone or read about it... this is one event that delivers a bigger punch with the element of surprise). 

    Marina Abramovic succeeded to bring participants into the present moment with an intensity that won't soon be forgotten!  Through the interactive experience of the installation, we engaged with our senses and even with how we held each other's presence, as if for the first time. Before we got started, I disregarded a warning that we might need to raise our hand in case things got too intense. But once I was in it, I understood!  

    As an aside (since I can't seem to take my marketing cap off!) I will note that the highly visible, branded tent in the Bellwoods Trinity Park, combined with the certificates of completion that participants were awarded, made the event 'share worthy', despite keeping quiet about the experience itself.

    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    President, Bekhor Management

    Tuesday, June 18, 2013

    Architects, are you choosing a safe image over a powerful one?

    The Power of Image was delivered as an accredited seminar at IIDEX 2012 and the RAIC Festival of Architecture, Halifax 2013.  Though the seminar explores numerous case studies, this article is based on the premise of the topic.  More about this seminar is available here.

    Architects practice in one of the most complex, creative arenas in the professional sector.  Yet, when you look at their marketing, most present themselves as if they were doing the very same thing.  Websites, proposals and brochures are driven by large portfolio photos with little else to speak of creativity. Statements about a firm's profile, biographies and projects rarely stray from predictable storylines, tone and language.  Many use the very same words.  The same applies to interior designers, landscape architects and engineers. 

    Are design professionals swimming in this sea of sameness because it feels safe?  If so, since when is a self-imposed formula that boxes in creativity... safe?    

    9 ways to shake off a false sense of security and inject your image with power:
    1. Gap between the SWOTs (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat): Conduct a SWOT analysis on your practice to reveal and clarify what's really working (even if it remains a largely untapped focal point).  Then conduct a 2nd SWOT analysis on your marketing.  Ask yourself if the results of the two exercises reinforce each other.
    2. Standard marketing plan: Review your marketing plan for any activities that you keep up just because they are standard fare in an architect's marketing plan. Assess whether there might be bigger opportunity to replace them with activities better aligned with either your interests or your desired growth market.  Alternatively, if your resources are being stretched, consider dropping some activities altogether and focusing more deeply on a shorter list of activities.
    3. The website formula: Your portfolio photos might be fabulous.  They might even be teeming with stories about how you overcame challenges and came through for your clients.  But what will the prospective client unfamiliar with your work be able to read into them?  Consider whether a business message, creatively introduced through graphics and text, might bring a deeper understanding to the value your firm offers.
    4. Accessibility of social media: Social media reaches the marketplace in a way that simply wasn't on the table with traditional marketing, as little as 10 years ago.  But without a voice, filler tweets, posts and profiles won't be moving your practice any closer to your goals.  
    5. Fear to specialize: Ask yourself if you are telling the world that your firm is full service and that it caters to every audience because that's how you wish to practice or because you worry about walking away from opportunity.  Consider that it will always be harder for your audience to believe that your firm is good at everything rather than believing in the value of a specialty skill.
    6. Big strategy misconstrued as big budget: Websites fully loaded with all the bells and whistles, prestigious addresses and all encompassing marketing programs can be costly.  But, without the backing of a solid brand and marketing direction, none will necessarily result in a powerful image.  On the other hand, it is absolutely feasible to build a powerful image without them, when the direction is clear and unwavering.
    7. Overlap in skill with graphic design and marketing: The skill of an architect overlaps with many complementary professionals: interior designers, lighting designers, landscape architects, photographers and even engineers.  Yet, when you identify where and how you will work with allied professionals your practice grows stronger.  The same applies to marketing and graphic design professionals. You are architects.  That's a lot in and of itself.  
    8. Doubt about point of difference: Most of my first encounters with clients are the same.  I ask about point of difference and find that there is either uncertainty that it exists or certainty that it does not.  By the 3rd meeting, it's usually clear to me that it does exist. Sometimes, it's being taken for granted.  Often, it remains an untapped opportunity.  
    9. Group think: It's always harder to experiment with new ideas when a cohesive group has arrived at consensus with regards to what they consider to be normal.  If you think that this behaviour might be playing out when it comes to marketing your practice, challenge it.  

    Architects and other design professionals experience the highs and lows of the economy more than most professionals.  Understandably, a safe marketing strategy is a real and critical consideration, on a very nearly daily basis.  But, in many ways, what seems safe may in fact be the enemy of creativity, the very source of an architect's bread and butter.  

    So, if it's not with a wide target market and portfolio photos that speak for themselves, as an architect how can you recession proof your practice? Make a decision about what excites you most about your work and pursue it, full steam ahead, no apologies.  Lead the way in this effort with marketing that, instead of masking this one big idea, very nearly shouts it out.

    Shaking off that false sense of security won't feel safe.

    But in reality, backed by thoughtful, strategic planning, shaking things up to inject your image with power might be the safest way to develop your practice.  

    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    President, Bekhor Management

    Monday, June 10, 2013

    Find the path to your law firm’s success - The five-year mark is critical to assess and adjust your focus

    I was recently interviewed about the path to success for law firms by Megan O'Toole at The Lawyers Weekly.  Here is a short excerpt from the article:

    ...“The best way to attract more profitability is first of all to understand what is profitable for you, and then to turn your professional identity into all that. Your marketing needs to be speaking directly to that audience so that they know nobody’s going to serve them better,” Bekhor said. “It’s about getting in touch with your point of difference, being clear about that, and not shy about it. That’s the hard part.”... 
    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.

    Co-ordinate efforts to create strong identity - Aligning marketing plans between the firm and its lawyers ensures a consistent message

    Co-ordinate efforts to create strong identity was published by The Lawyers Weekly (April 12, 2013 issue).  Below is a short except.

    When lawyers approach personal and firm level marketing as two distinct and independent exercises, they create needless limitation on impact. So, despite the best of intentions, neither the individual nor the firm is set up to maximize return on investment.

    Simply put, when it comes to law firm marketing, the co-ordinated whole is considerably stronger than the sum of the individual parts. Without a real connection to the firm’s identity, when speaking, writing or networking, individuals might as well be representing any firm. And, without real input from the individuals that make up the firm, its logo, tagline, website or brochure might as well be representing any group of lawyers... 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.

    Friday, April 5, 2013

    Networking with healthcare professionals – Online and off, whether you’re introverted or extroverted

    I will be delivering an accredited webinar for naturopathic doctors as part of the OAND webinar series, Networking with Healthcare Professionals – online and off, whether you’re introverted or extroverted.  Here's an excerpt from the program:

    What would it take to enable you to effectively network with other healthcare professionals? Attitude or tools? 
    Networking is about people. Go into it with the right attitude and you’ll surround yourself with allies. Go into it with the wrong attitude and you’ll spin your wheels. In order to facilitate the right attitude, however, you’ll first need to establish a process that accounts for your practice goals, natural talents and interests and the sensibilities of your prospective healthcare referrers.

    Please visit the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors (OAND) for further information or to register for this webinar.

    - 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, April 4, 2013

    The power of image: A seminar for architects

    Feedback was overwhelmingly positive for this session when it was delivered at IIDEX, September 2012.  So, it's back by popular demand at the RAIC Festival of Architecture in June.  

    Here's an excerpt from the program, The Power of Image: Closing the Gaps Between Packaging and Your Firm’s Strengths:

    Inside and out, a workplace, a residence, a place of worship and virtually any thoughtful architectural space embodies not just function and art, but inspiration, values and meaning. Yet, the opportunity for firms to broadcast an image that does justice to the beauty and integrity of its work, remains vastly untapped...
    Excepts and stats from the evaluation forms: 
    • 83% indicated that the program was meaningful
    • 83% indicated that the content could be applied to their work / business 
    • 87% indicated that the level of information was appropriate to their needs
    • “Very interesting and effective use of graphic examples which helped to generate discussion”
    • “Really enjoyed the content and the way it was presented”
    • “Surprisingly informative! Very, very good presentation!”
    • “Wonderful seminar.  Would love to attend more seminars from the same speaker.”
    • “Finally I understand the how of the idea of marketing my difference authentically”
    • “Great presenter. Valuable slides. Kept the audience engaged and focused on marketing specific to the industries in attendance.”
    Please visit RAIC for further information or to register for this seminar.  It will take place on Thursday, June 6, 2013 from 3:30-5pm, in beautiful Halifax!

    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    President, Bekhor Management

    Tuesday, February 26, 2013

    Show clients your strengths

    Show clients your strengths was published by The Lawyers Weekly (March 1, 2013 issue).  Below is a short except.  

    A powerful image isn’t about finding the right words. It’s not about figuring out how to convince prospective clients that your firm is right for them. It’s never going to be right for everybody. It’s not even about having the budget for the most prestigious address, the prettiest graphics or the fanciest programming. 

    It’s about a strategy to do justice to the good work you and your team do every day.

    What’s the greatest moment your law firm has ever experienced? You know, when you were just about on fire in court, when you put an end to conflict that caused your client significant anxiety, when your writing just about sang with clarity or when your very presence garnered attention, respect and anticipation. 

    Would someone who witnessed that shining moment see it in your marketing? Not sure? Flat out no? You’re not alone. Nonetheless, each and every time your message misfires represents another lost opportunity to deeply connect with the market you wish to serve.... 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.

    Tuesday, January 1, 2013

    What 'Went Right' Last Year?

    In a perfectionist society, gearing up for the new year usually means thinking about 'what went wrong' last year. That's not to say that we don't acknowledge 'what went right', but if you consider the amount of time, energy and focus you place on the two, hands down 'what went wrong' wins every time. 

    You can stop in your tracks right now and change that.  Focusing on 'what went wrong' isn't as beneficial as you might think.

    If you want to make the most of 'what went right' for years to come, make it a priority to find, study and deeply investigate each and every success (big and small) for everything it has.

    • Why did it happen?  
    • What does it mean? 
    • Why now?  
    • What are the ramifications?  
    • What can you do to replicate it?  
    • How can you build on it?

    Even though it feels like beating yourself up over 'what went wrong' is the right thing to do, there’s a lot more to gain from deeply studying 'what went right'.  Don't let the fact that it's a pleasant process fool you into thinking that it's not good business sense.  


    I also wanted to thank you dear readers for following our blog and to wish you a happy new year and all the best for a great year ahead!

    - Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
    President, Bekhor Management