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.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

5 Things law firms need to know about marketing

I was recently interviewed on 5 things law firms need to know about marketing by Garry J. Wise of Wise Law Office, Wise Law Blog and SlawTips. This is the first installation of our law firm marketing video series.  A  summary of our discussion is also available at SlawTips.  

- 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, December 16, 2014

Shifting loyalty from individuals to the firm- A case study

Hairdressers are notorious for fiercely protecting their clients (at least from a woman's perspective). So, if you go to 'Sam', you're perceived as Sam's client, not Sam's salon's client. But after decades of salon jumping, I stumbled on one that had the courage and imagination to turn this expectation around.
The Curly Hair Institute did something most salons are afraid to do... Read more.
- 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.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Why bother blogging on LinkedIn?

Bloggers, there's a new kid in town. LinkedIn is opening up its blogging platform to all members. The question is, should you bother using it if you already have a blog?

After some hemming and hawing, I finally found a reason why to bother... 

- 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, November 27, 2014

Maximize quality referrals to your law firm

If you asked the people in your network to describe your firm to you, how well would they do? 

Area of practice? Most people would probably get that right.  Location? Probably.

Here's where folks might start to stumble.

Would they be able to describe your ideal client beyond a token few words? Your greatest strengths? Your approach? 

If you're anything less than certain, then you might be losing out on quality referrals that were there for the taking. 

So, how can you get the people in your network to do a better job of referring prospective clients to your law firm? 
  1. Develop and practice an elevator pitch that enables you to spontaneously explain the positioning of your firm.  
  2. Distribute marketing materials that are crystal clear, specific and compelling about all of the above. 
  3. If they refer prospective clients that are a good fit, take the time to tell them why. And if they don't, take the time to figure out what went wrong. 

Quality referrals have a cumulative effect.  The earlier you nurture your network, the greater the impact.  Each additional prospect has the potential to contribute to the life of your practice, as a client, future referrer and future referrer of referrers!  

- 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, November 17, 2014

FREE: Proven Coaching Toolkit Framework, Instruction Manual, & LIVE 90-Minute Training

If you're a coach and you haven't yet taken any webinars with WBECS, consider signing up for training on the Coach Master Toolkit with developer Andrew Neitlich.  

I've participated in WBECS programming in the past and it is excellent.  They bring in quality speakers. Their format is engaging.  And sessions are chock full of valuable insights and guidelines.  

The session this week is free. It's 90 minutes long and it comes with the following (taken from confirmation email, received from Ben Croft, WBECS President, Coach Master Toolkit Co-Founder):
  • Detailed instructions for how to use the framework with clients
  • The 65 page instruction manual
  • The editable version of the framework
  • Full rights to use and rebrand the framework
  • A proven technique for selling this framework and closing high ticket engagements
If you are interested in attending, you can sign up here.

I also plan to blog about the actual framework, after the event. 

- 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, coaching services.

Friday, November 14, 2014

One key takeaway from 'Turning strangers into clients', a social media webinar

Do you treat your social media marketing like advertising?  

If you had to pay thousands of dollars to have a LinkedIn profile, to appear in search results on the LinkedIn platform or to post updates in LinkedIn groups, would you change what you posted? Do you hold social media to the same standards that you would hold a print publication, a mailing or other out of pocket marketing activity? 

Think about it.

Doesn't time lost on failed marketing represent opportunity cost?  What could have been happening with your practice, if you'd tried something else?  And isn't your time worth money? 

So, if you were to treat your social media marketing like advertising, what could you do differently?  Here are some questions to give you ideas:
  1. Read your LinkedIn title. Does it read like a headline for an ad or a bare bones description of your actual job title or profession?  If someone were to pull up a search would your title give them reason to click into your profile? 
  2. Few names of professional practices communicate point of difference. If your firm falls into this category, would you consider extending your brand with a tagline?  And placing your tagline beside your firm name, together in the 'company name' area of your profile?  
  3. Look at your photo. Does it fit with your messaging? Does it communicate artistry, thoughtfulness, confidence or other qualities that would be a fit with your brand?

Rethink the way you perceive social media marketing.  

It's not a tax form.  It's advertising.  Go beyond simply sharing the facts. Start packaging them in a manner that pops from the clutter, connects with your target audience and communicates your valued difference... starting with your title.   

That's advertising.   

'Turning strangers into clients: A social media roadmap for interior designers and architects', is the title of a webinar that I recently delivered for Interior Designers of Canada (IDC).  It was packed with ideas - large and small. This was one key takeaway that I wanted like to share with our readers.

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Which social media sites should you be on?

The social media sites best suited to your professional practice will depend on your unique circumstances - your sector, target audience, unique offering, interests etc.  

That said, to make an informed decision it also helps to stay abreast of changes in the marketplace.  Adjust as necessary but avoid jumping around, as marketing works best when the same audience starts to recognize and trust you over time. You need to be in one place for an extended period of time for that to happen.

Research data on the current social media landscape is available in the Social Media Examiner's 'Social Media Marketing Industry Report'. Here is a short excerpt:
"Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogging, Google+ and Pinterest were the top seven platforms... 
Most of the social networks increased by a few percentage points. Blogging declined slightly to 55% from 58%, allowing YouTube to take the number-four slot. Instagram rose to 28% from 18% in 2013..."
If you would like to see the full report, you can sign up for it on their website.  

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Friday, October 31, 2014

3 Ways to juggle your blog with LinkedIn's blogging platform

LinkedIn will be opening their blogging platform to all members shortly. Should you use it? If you do, what should you do with your existing blog?   

Keep it!

Here are three ways to juggle your blog with LinkedIn's blogging platform:
  1. For SEO purposes, switch it up. Even if you're writing for the exact same audience on your blog and on LinkedIn, change about 20% of the content. Google doesn't like to read the same thing twice! 
  2. Post your article to your blog first. You own your blog. You don't own the LinkedIn blogging platform. So, make it clear to Google that you're the owner of your content. 
  3. LinkedIn has developed blogging guidelines. While you follow can those guidelines for articles shared on its blogging platform, maintain the mix of articles that readers enjoy on your blog. They are part of its character and interest. 
The LinkedIn blogging platform may extend your reach. But your blog is part of your firm's equity. Don't jeopardize its value by writing for someone else. 

And if you don't already have a blog but are considering trying out the LinkedIn platform, maybe now is the time to start one!

- 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 20, 2014

Go for your goals

Go for your goals was previously published in The Pulse - Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors, Fall 2014, Issue 75. 

Working hard on whatever comes through the door isn’t the same as going for your goals. So, if that’s what you’ve been doing, you can’t really say that you’ve been failing to meet them… can you?  And while it may be taxing enough to run a naturopathic practice let alone to find the time for additional managerial activities, consider this: 

Goal setting and planning may be the best investment you’ll ever make in time management. 

Before we dig too deeply into this topic, let’s debunk some myths.  Does goal setting and planning sound like a really rigid and formal exercise? A good idea for big business but not so transferable to your practice?  It doesn’t need to be.  You can be creative about how you plan – when and where, what’s in or out of scope, whether you take big steps or small ones...  You don’t necessarily need to embark on a comprehensive strategic, business or marketing plan to make progress.  As long as you regularly carve out some space for planning in a manner that supports the way you work, you’ll be moving forward.  

Let’s get out of theory mode and outline a few concrete ways to approach this. 

Start with the big picture.  Even if, on an ongoing basis, you’re only going to spend short bursts of time action planning, you’ll need to get things started with a big picture planning session.  Use this time to outline the gaps between where your practice is today and your ideal vision.  And revisit this big picture viewpoint on an annual basis to assess how you’re doing, consider what’s changed and update your objectives. 

Don’t get too far ahead of yourself.  While the big picture planning necessarily begins with your vision for the next 3-5 years, in this fast paced environment it can be futile to get too specific about any plans that are more than 1-2 years out. Limit action plans to that timeframe.  

Talk about it and write it down.  Thinking about something isn’t planning.  If you’re not writing it down, you’re not committed. Similarly, if all your planning conversations take place in your own head, they’re less likely to evolve, expand and result in actions aligned with your goals. Work with a coach, a consultant, a mentor or a peer.  Someone objective, experienced and easy for you to open up to.  Someone who brings a new perspective and knows how to ask the right questions. 

Focus on your priorities. Your goals may involve any area of the clinic – client service, staff or partners, dispensary, products, treatments, marketing, operations, interior design, profit...  By way of example, consider your desired growth market. What type of work do you want to attract?  Where is the bulk of your business coming from today? Can the new business be redirected? What about your point of difference?  Has it been developed? Is it coming through in practice? In marketing? In conversation?... 

Decide how to take action. The objective of planning is to arrive at an action plan aligned with your goals. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you own the resulting action plan.  Once the actions have been itemized and prioritized, you need to decide how it gets implemented. Who owns which steps? What are your deadlines? Milestones? Budget?  How will you measure success?  

Protect your time, vigilantly.  After you’ve decided what you’ll say yes to, decide what you’ll say no to.  What takes you away from your priorities – in work and in life?  Is it disorganization? Distractions? Doing work you should be delegating? Taking on extras just to be nice? It may seem harmless to spend a few minutes or even hours here and there.  But over weeks, months and years they can eat up your time and energy.  So, what are you going to start saying no to?

Keep things on track.  Book calendar appointments for status meetings and time to implement the action plan, just as you would for a patient.  Otherwise, it won’t be there when you need it.  In terms of how much time to allow for this work, there is no magic number but it should reflect the size of your steps.  

Successful people take the time to set goals and develop them.  That’s how they achieve more with less. 

You’re a naturopath. But you’re a business owner too.  Start thinking of yourself that way. Articulate a vision for your practice and develop a plan to make it happen.  Then bring reasonable expectations to the table so that you know when to stay the course and when to adjust.  Clinically, you don’t normally expect results from trying something once. So, apply that pearl of wisdom to running your practice too.  Tweak as necessary but stay committed.  

- 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, October 17, 2014

How deep is your medical clinic's brand?

Today I'm taking it easy, recovering from gum surgery. For those of you that have undergone this procedure, you can empathize that it's not over until the sutures are gone! 

Interestingly, throughout the experience, I noticed my thoughts travel beyond my own discomfort to a closer examination of the depth of my dentist's (and client's) brand.  Not surprisingly, I guess, since I don't often have the opportunity to experience my client's services as the actual client. 

Here's what I noticed:

Every single time the clinic 'did' (in service) what the clinic 'said' (in marketing), I felt greater trust as a patient.  It's like going on a blind date and finding out every step of the way that what the person wrote online (which is what captured your attention in the first place) was true!

The lesson? 

Stop telling yourself that your medical clinic's brand is the same as that of your peers. Whether you're a dentist, naturopath or chiropractor, there are an infinite number of ways to deliver the very same service. The point is to gain clarity about what distinguishes your approach and to articulate it in as genuine and deep a manner as possible. 

- 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, October 15, 2014

Is your law firm delegating effectively?

As part of the ongoing planning work that I've been doing with Wise Law office (introduced with my article about law firm retreats and Garry Wise's live tweets from the event!), we have now embarked on a lunch and learn series. Rachel Spence, Law Clerk at the firm, kicked things off with a session on delegation. 

Here are a few of the key points covered:

Why might people resist delegation?

  • Poor performance on the part of the delegatee will make the delegator look bad. 
  • If time frees up he / she may have to take on unfamiliar tasks. 
  • One's contributions will no longer be seen as indispensable.

  • Fear that he / she may not be capable of carrying out the assignment.
  • Lack of desire to challenge oneself.
  • Lack of understanding of what's expected. 

How can we overcome this resistance?

  • Do the preparatory work that will set the delegatee up for success. Provide clear instructions. Establish follow up dates to review in progress work. Allow sufficient time for the delegatee to make revisions him or herself.
  • Acknowledge that this type of support positions you to grow and make greater contributions to the firm.

  • Ask questions and request discussion or examples until you feel prepared for the task.

This lunch and learn session provided everyone with an understanding of the advantages and the process of delegation.  But perhaps its greatest value was that it prompted discussion about specific opportunities to delegate better.

Congratulations Rachel for sharing what you learned at a recent management program and for demonstrating leadership in doing so! 

- 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, October 6, 2014

Lack of focus, message can kill plan

Lack of focus, message can kill plan was previously published in The Bottom Line, Mid-September 2014. 

Considering the chances of failure for marketing plans — 50 to 75 per cent of the time by some estimates — firms could be excused for thinking it looks a bit more like a gambler’s game than a business decision.

So, how can accounting firms beat the odds of low marketing return? Three steps: avoid the most common mistakes, accurately assess performance and revitalize the plan.

Common mistakes
The first step is to avoid the nine most common marketing mistakes.

No research – Most accounting firms develop their marketing plan and materials based on what they know.  But what they know is limited to their existing client base.  It doesn’t include current and deep knowledge about the business environment, competition or desired growth market.  As a result, the chance of popping from the clutter and really connecting with the bull’s eye target is equally limited. 

No point of difference – Resistance to declaring difference or focusing on a narrow area of interest is widespread throughout the sector. While it may feel safer not to stray too far from the flock or zero in on any niche areas or services, not doing so makes it enormously difficult for the target market to feel understood and catered to.

No focus – While some firms may simply not be doing enough marketing, often the problem is that the firm is experimenting with too many marketing activities.  A scattered marketing plan has accountants spreading their resources too thin to be effective - whether it’s time that’s spread across speaking gigs, different social media sites and networking or dollars that are spread across print ads, direct mail and event marketing.  Without frequency, consistency and intense focus on a specific target audience, marketing doesn’t stand a chance of being noticed.  

No message – Translating a point of difference into a message is an art. It requires talent and training in marketing, copywriting and graphic design.  Without a creative and compelling message easily accessible to the marketplace, even the greatest point of difference isn’t any better than a well kept secret.  

No consistency – From logo to elevator pitch, website and LinkedIn postings, anytime there’s a break in consistency marketing equity is lost.  If the target market doesn’t recognize a familiar tone and message ringing through all marketing efforts, then the firm will be hard pressed to build recognition and profile. 

No continuity – Point of difference is great, as is focus.   But even when both are working like a charm, there’s still the issue of ensuring that marketing activities are strategically selected to reinforce each other eg a speaking engagement followed by a live Twitter Q&A, blog summary or LinkedIn group discussion is far more likely to be memorable, to encourage website visits and to encourage connections.  

No support – When accountants lack the skills and the confidence to write articles, to deliver seminars, to be on video and to network, the personal portion of the marketing plan is in jeopardy.  Coaching can help to alleviate such concerns and, in the process, drive up quality control, motivation and commitment. 

No sales strategy – Marketing and sales are often lumped together as one single discipline. But marketing isn’t sales.  It can deliver inquiries, website traffic and an audience at seminars.  In order to deliver sales, however, it also requires timely and skilled follow up and relationship building. 

No refresh – Just because it worked before doesn’t necessarily mean that it will again.  In a fast-paced world, things change and marketing plans need to be adjusted.  They should be revisited on an annual basis and at every significant juncture.  

Step two is to accurately assess performance. 

Define objectives – Targets come before measurements.  But objectives come before targets. Without predetermined objectives, marketing can’t even be aimed in the right direction. In order to define objectives, consider what success would look like. Inquiries? Referrals? Media coverage? Loyalty? Web traffic? Resumes? From whom? For what? By when? Does it lead to an increase in awareness? Engagement? Followers? Sales? Profit? 

Establish targets – Once marketing objectives are clear, they need to be translated into measurable targets. What are the realistic timeframes and benchmarks for the stated objectives? Are they aligned with the marketing plan, in terms of urgency and scale? 

Measure and review – Based on the specific targets established, set up systems and reports to easily measure and review results. Train everyone to ask inquiries, media requests and job seekers how they heard of the firm.  Record this information in a shared database. Every time. Set up analytics for all digital activities, including blogs, social media, website and newsletters.  If it’s easy, it’ll get done.  If it’s a hassle, it won’t.  

The plan

The third step is to revitalize the plan.

Decide which activities to drop – After defining objectives, target market and point of difference, certain marketing activities will naturally rise to the top. Additionally, in order to avoid setting anyone up for failure, the talents and interests of accountants participating in the personal portion of the marketing plan need to be considered. For example, accountants nervous about public speaking might deliver better results blogging.  And those nervous about writing might deliver better results networking, online or off.   

Adjust activities that made the cut – Certain marketing activities will be harder to assess than others. If they appear to be a good fit but history presents another picture, explore further. When the activity was run last, had the firm defined its target market? Was there a message?  Was it effectively communicated? Could the same activity deliver better results by updating text, graphics and distribution approach?  For example, a newsletter that delivered poor return might do better with a facelift, compelling content and a segmentation strategy.    

Assess the need to add to the plan – Based on what remains on the list, is there continuity from one activity to the next? Is there a flagship marketing activity that acts as a hub for all the others?  Is anything missing to bring it all together? 

When marketing isn’t working out, the usual response is to look for a quick fix. If a direct mail program doesn’t result in phone calls, it would normally get cancelled after the first mailing without knowing if the issue was too broad an audience, a weak hook or no follow up.  Similarly, if considerable time was invested in blog articles and facebook updates that didn’t generate readership, both projects would soon be abandoned without knowing if the issue was a lack of continuity with the rest of the firm’s marketing or if the updates failed to excite and engage readers.  

While the quick fix to cancel a marketing activity may at first feel efficient, placing blame on the wrong issues doesn’t actually solve anything. Neither does pulling the plug too early.  So this year, instead of repeating old patterns that don’t improve marketing return, think instead about avoiding common marketing mistakes, accurately assessing performance and revitalizing that marketing plan.  

While it may seem like it when the chips are down, marketing is not a game of chance. It’s a game of strategy.  And it’s a lot more fun to play, not to mention more profitable, after figuring out how to beat the odds. 

- 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, 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.