Elephant Post: How do you market your department and yourself within the firm?

Wouldn't it be great if we could all just sit back and let the world come to us for help? Unfortunately, for most of us, it just isn't that easy. Proper marketing of departments and individuals can make sure that we show our importance within the firm, and let others know what our strengths are (rather than just handing out busy-work.) So this week we ask the following Elephant Post question:

How do you market your department and yourself within the firm? What works and what doesn't?

We have some great perspectives from the help desk, library, marketing, competitive intelligence, knowledge management, and alternative fee points of view.

We'll do this all over again next week with an Elephant Post question that asks about what you like and don't like about the vendors you deal with (check out the full question at the bottom of this post.)

NOTE: In two weeks (Thanksgiving), we are going to do something fun!! I wanted to give everyone a little more notice because we're hoping to get a lot of people contributing to that one.

Help Desk Perspective:

Face-to-Face Contact
Gene Hamilton

In point of fact, the world *does* just come to my team for help (we’re the HelpDesk, after all)! That is still a bit simplistic, though – there’s still the question of customer perception. The real trick is not to have folks at your door because they’re a captive audience, but because they really want what you can (and do) deliver.

One of the efforts that my team has been engaging in is incredibly simple and similarly powerful. Show your face!

It’s all too easy for HelpDesk employees to become faceless voices. We take notes of who we’ve talked to through the day, and make a brief personal visit to one of those contacts that we didn’t know previously. That face-to-face contact has been worth its weight in gold for spreading a positive image of our team! When our coworkers consider the HelpDesk, we don’t want them to simply brood about problems and negativity. Instead, they have a recent encounter to consider that was both positive and personal.

Now we’re facing the next challenge; attempting to replicate as much of the benefit of that personal interaction as we can to firm employees in other offices…

Knowledge Management Perspective:

Don’t Be Afraid to Share Your Knowledge

If you have an opportunity to help out someone in another department or practice area, take it. Even if it’s not the main skill you’re paid for, if you know how to help that person, go for it. Share your knowledge.

Until people have direct experience with a particular department or person, they’re unlikely to remember organizational structures or who in what department does what. They will, however, remember characteristics such as helpfulness and ability to answer questions knowledgeably. So if you help solve a colleague’s problem, even if it wasn’t something you’re paid to do, that person will start associating your department with knowledgeable, helpful people, and will start spreading that impression around to the other people they work with, in their own and other departments.

Competitive Intelligence Perspective:

What have I Done For You lately?

Keeping your visibility up within the firm is a never-ending process.

Some ways to get this done:

When visiting a branch office, stick your head in offices and ask people how you can help them succeed. Remind them of the products and services you provide that can help them achieve that success. This also gives them a face to match with a name they have only seen on an email message or voice only heard on the phone.

Ask to present at Practice Group meetings or retreats. This could be as general as a quick overview of your products and services or as specific as a how-to refresher on a practice-specific resource.

Create a brand and place it prominently on briefing packs and market analyses. How else will know where it came from?

Create a list of successes. Make regular reports to management regarding ROI.

The firm won’t know what you do unless you tell them...and then remind them.

Library Perspective:

Never Say “No Problem”
Holly Riccio

One of the greatest pieces of marketing advice I got was one the most straightforward and simple. Whenever you do anything for someone (in my case, usually research of some kind) and they reply with some version of “Thank You,” never ever reply with any variation of “No Problem.” Saying “No Problem” diminishes your value and the value of the work product that you provided. Say something like “You’re welcome. Glad what we provided was helpful to you.” Of course, there are lots of other things I do to market the library, many of which have already been discussed above, but this is a very easy, but effective, one that I think we should all remember.
Library Perspective:

Don’t Be Afraid of Taking Action or Taking Credit
Greg Lambert

There have been many times when I hear librarians at law firms make snide comments about the Marketing department getting credit for the work that the library does. It usually goes something like this: “Of course they’re good at marketing themselves… They’re Marketing!” Although that might be a true statement, it doesn’t mean that Marketing has cornered the market on taking credit for being a valuable asset to the firm.

One of the things I tell librarians is that when someone comes to you for research assistance, they are usually doing so because they absolutely need your help. When you complete that task, they are generally very grateful for the help you gave them. It’s okay to take credit for the work and let them know that they should come back to you next time they need help. In fact, mention that next time… don’t wait until 5:00 PM on Friday to ask for help. The earlier in the process they bring you in, the better the results will be.

Online Marketing Perspective:

Lisa Salazar

My job is to make you look good.

If I have succeeded in making you look brilliant, then you will market for me. And as we all know, third-party endorsements are the best marketing techniques out there.

And my job is to look good.

My hair stylist told me that I was a walking business card. That is something I will never forget. Yes, it is shallow and we all hate it, but we also know it is true.

Dress like a million bucks and you will be treated like a million bucks. If you can’t afford to go to a styling coach, then ask someone who you admire and trust where they shop, where they get their hair done, where they get their facials. Looks matter. Period.

Alternative Fee Perspective:

Toby Brown

A few years back an associate I was business coaching called me all excited. He had landed an on-site meeting with a client to talk about business opportunities. He called me from his cell phone on the way to the meeting asking what he should sell them. I told him not to sell them anything. Instead, I said he should just listen to them. You want them to talk about their pain points and what they want to buy. At first he thought I was a bit crazy, but fortunately he took my advice. He called me back later that day to say how well it went. Once he got them talking about their needs, he couldn't get them stop. It resulted in his first ‘billing’ matter.

Even as a teacher in this situation, I learned once again the power of listening. When lawyers call me about AFA opportunities, the first thing I do is listen. When given the chance, they not only tell me about the AFA, they talk about the client dynamic and relationship. Armed with this broader knowledge, I am more fully able to address their needs. They end up happy and very willing to call me the next time, usually sooner in the process and with better results. And they share their success with colleagues, which of course leads to more opportunities to ... listen.


Without Naming Names (unless you want to…) What drives you crazy when dealing with vendors? – And/Or – Have you had positive dealings with a vendor that other vendors could learn from?

Dealing with vendors isn't always a bad experience… but we all have our "horror stories." Here's your chance to share those stories. On the other hand, you may want to spin this around and tell about a good experience you had, and how other vendors could take note from that experience.

If you want to contribute, please send me an email or a tweet and I'll give you the details on the logistics of sharing your perspective with us.


On Thanksgiving, We're Having Elephant!!

Since we post the Elephant Posts on Thursday, and in a couple of weeks that will fall on Thanksgiving (at least here in the US), we'll put the Elephant Post out on either Tuesday or Wednesday. To make it more enjoyable, we're going to go off-script a little and have some fun.

Which Star Trek (or Monty Python or Dr. Who, etc.) Character would you think would be outstanding in your profession?

Off the top of my head, Mr. Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, would make a great librarian… especially in these days of electronic books, databases and Google searching. Of course, I'd have to teach him a little bit about the "reference interview" technique, but I think he'd catch on after a few months behind the reference desk (especially around 4:50 PM on Friday's before a three-day weekend.)

Same as above… if you want to contribute, email me or tweet me for the details!

Bookmark and Share


Scott Preston said...

I love this post. One of my (many) pet peeves is hearing "no problem" from a service provider. Holly thanks for sharing this point.

The common point being made is "human interaction" is a great marketing tool. I totally agree.

Well done all!


© 2014, All Rights Reserved.