Six Tech Trends to Know Heading Into the New Year

As we look back at 2016 and gear up for a new year, it’s smart to brush up on new trends in the legal industry. By new trends, I mean new technology, because the terms have become almost synonymous.

Technology has impacted our profession dramatically in recent years, and it continues to do so at an accelerating pace. If you’re not on the technology bandwagon, you and your firm will have a hard time staying afloat.

This fact isn’t a revelation. We’ve known for decades that success in most industries comes down to adopting new technology. But doing so in the legal profession comes with its set of challenges.

First, regulations make change difficult. Second, sometimes it’s hard to know which new products and approaches in the legal industry have value, and which are just hype.

Those challenges aside, firms that don’t embrace technology will have trouble attracting the best new legal talent. The revenue at law firms clinging to old school ways will drop off as a new generation of clients takes their business to new-school, tech-savvy companies.

What does it take to join the ranks of the new-school? There are six major trends to be aware of going into 2017.

Social networks

Social networking is the cornerstone of legal industry marketing. This fact shouldn’t be a surprise. Rainmaking has always been about networking, relationship building and word of mouth. It still is; these techniques in their offline form still build practices. But if you’re not working the online component, too, you’re at a catastrophic disadvantage. Social media has become a factor in how clients choose attorneys, according to a survey taken this year by FindLaw. In 2017, take steps to ramp up your social presence on your website and blog, on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Doing so will maximize your online presence and help you grow relationships over time.

Your clients, prospects, and leads are online and checking social media regularly. Being part of the social media landscape isn’t hard, but there are right and wrong ways to go about it. Invest in expert help this year. Set a goal to get your social marketing plan up and running in 2017.

Virtual Law Firms

These are firms that can operate anywhere: A lawyer’s home, a satellite office, even from inside a Starbucks. Many lawyers have closed their downtown offices and work remotely. Technology lets them do this without hurting service or quality. Remote work can reduce overhead and travel time while increasing flexibility and improving work/life balance. Plus, you have the option to rent offices or meeting rooms as needed.

The leap to virtual doesn’t have to happen overnight. Experiment by working remotely one day a week and see how it impacts your productivity and revenue. It may very well provide the edge your firm needs to succeed in 2017.

E-discovery

Electronically stored information (ESI) is now considered discoverable in court. ESI includes e-mails, texts, instant messages, voicemails and other electronically stored information. What you need to know: This technological reality has changed the face of litigation. Lawyers can (and should) use digital services to access all types of records. And we need to remind our clients that their deleted texts and e-mails are retrievable.

Legal process outsourcing

Outsourcing legal work to a vendor, law firm or overseas resource has become an increasingly favorable trend for law firms. Streamlined by new technology, LPO continues to cut expenses and reduce workload overflow. It can be a huge factor in scaling your business and managing workflow. LPO technology firms that market to the legal industry are on the rise. They’ll be coming after you in 2017 to present their case. When they do, listen.

Reviews and testimonials

Adding positive reviews to Google+, Yelp and Avvo is critical to growing your business and managing your reputation. 72 percent of consumers said they trusted companies more when they have positive customer reviews, according to a BrightLocal survey in 2014. The number of people reading online reviews is increasing, so take steps to post reviews in 2017. If you can’t get customers to go on record, that’s OK. According to the data, consumer trust increases even when the reviews are anonymous.

Cloud-based online document repositories provide secure, on-demand access to records for you, your clients, and your team members. You can store, organize, view, and change files.

More customers want instant gratification and access to their documents and records. It’s relatively easy to set up, makes for a better consumer experience, and can save you time from fielding emails and sending attachments. Make sure your clients have this access in 2017!

So there you have it. Six new trends that aren’t entirely new, per se, but are increasingly important as our industry ventures forth into the brave new world of 2017.

Lawyers like to err on the side of caution. Many of us are slow to embrace new technology or rock the boat. Historically, we get hung up asking ourselves whether we can afford to take such risks.

But what we need to be asking is: Can we afford not to?

At the end of 2016, the answer is a resounding no.

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3 Content Marketing Trends to Watch

“Content marketing is a success defining element for today’s businesses. Better the content marketing better is the business.”

Content marketing in a right way can give your business a right exposure. In this fast paced world of internet, you cannot neglect it, otherwise your business might extinguish in the end. You have to pay equal attention to content creation and promotion.

With each passing day, we see new trends emerging in almost every aspect of online marketing. Content marketing is no different. From Facebook, Twitter to Snapchat, new platforms are being emerged, promising to deliver better value for content marketing.

To stay competitive, companies have to stay updated with the emerging trends. That’s why today I aim to shed light on major trends that you should watch closely in 2017.

Content Marketing Through Videos

Video is visual description of your story.

Being in trend from quite some time, videos will continue to lead the content marketing in 2017. The effectiveness of videos is obvious as indicated by the following statistics on HubSpot.com.

  • Videos increase click-through rate by 200-300%
  • Videos increase conversion by 80%
  • 64% of customers make buying decisions after watching the video
  • YouTube reports 100% increase in mobile video views every year.

No doubt, marketing through videos is really effective but that does not mean you start doing it haphazardly. You should do strategic video marketing to squeeze maximum juice out of it. Make purposeful videos and align with your long-term strategy. Through videos, you can:

  • Deliver your brand message
  • Communicate your brand story
  • Explain your value proposition
  • Build relations with your customers and prospects.

However, you also need to be careful while creating videos. A boring video or a video that does not have any value for customers will go in vain.

Keep following do’s and don’ts in mind:

Do’s:

  • Videos should be purposeful and carry value for your customers.
  • Videos should be attention grabbing.
  • Videos should be bit emotional or sentimental.

Don’ts:

  • Videos should not be too long or too short
  • Videos should not be boring
  • Videos should not be offensive by any mean.

So heads up for 2017 and aim to interact and convert your customers through strategic video marketing.

Content Marketing Through Snapchat

As reported on Bloomberg, every month Snapchat gets about 10 billion views and 100 million active users. Imagine the wider audience you can reach by using Snapchat.

Snapchat is on scene since 2012. Earlier, it was considered mainly as a sexting app. But with the passage of time, Snapchat added features that make it a really attractive marketing medium for businesses. 2017 is expected to see exponential growth in Snapchat use for content marketing.

Snapchat allows 10 second snapshots. That means nothing useless, only the message that you really want to convey. Not only it is highly engaging, it also allows easy interaction with customers. Through a 10-second snapshot, you can

  • Introduce your business
  • Convey your inspiring story
  • Create a teaser
  • Offer a discount or promotion
  • Find the talent
  • Promote your product

And the options are unlimited.

So keep your fingers crossed in 2017 to explore thousands of ways you can use Snapchat to reach a wider audience.

Use Data-Backed Content

Whatever medium you are using for content marketing, make sure that the content you are marketing is valuable. It should be informative, educative and interesting. Back it with important statistics, facts and figures to build a high level of trust with your audience. Include case studies, expert opinions and empirical evidences to support your information.

So keep these points in mind while you are planning a content marketing strategy for 2017. Focus on these areas and you will have a brilliant year ahead.

Best of Luck!

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Are You at Risk of Being “Uberized”?

If you’re like many Business Owners and Leaders you probably feel pretty good about the position you hold in your market… so did the taxi cab companies and drivers before Uber became a reality. Now they are scrambling and trying to find a way to survive… even to the point of trying to get political help in different cities to stay afloat.

Disruption and Commoditization have impacted virtually every industry today. There probably isn’t a single industry that hasn’t been impacted by a disruptive organization entering their market and stealing some of their market share. Uber is an excellent example but there are many others that have been equally disruptive. Companies such as LegalZoom have taken billions of dollars away from attorneys over the past several years. They captured and disrupted a document and transaction-based business and turned it into a commodity by substantially lowering the pricing of document preparation… impacting attorneys all over the country.

Amazon was an early disruptor to the entire book business… taking significant market share away from Barnes and Noble and Borders who were recognized giants in the book industry. And we certainly can’t forget about Blockbuster’s demise when Netflix entered the market. They were the unquestioned dominant leader in video rental and were virtually replaced overnight by an unknown company with a new disruptive business model that matched the needs of customers at substantial savings.

Even though these examples are in completely different industries there is one common thread that runs through all of them… they didn’t believe anyone could disrupt their dominance in their market. While it’s awesome to believe in your product or service, it’s dangerous to think there isn’t someone waiting in the wings to take away your position. Unlike any other time in history, we are now seeing new companies coming into traditional industries from many unrelated areas and establishing a disruptive model and capturing significant market share. This trend is only going to continue now that it has shown massive success over the past few years. So what can you do, as the leader of your business, to either avoid or minimize the impact of this potential disruption?

While commoditization is difficult to combat with products and services over a long period of time, there is at least one alternative that appears to withstand the test of time and delivers differentiation in the market… your CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

It is difficult to continually come up with new products and services to satisfy the ravenous appetite customers have today. Just when you think you have the best and leading edge product or newest service, someone comes in and “one-ups” you and takes away the leading spot. While you might remain there for some period of time, it is difficult to remain at the top for extended periods of time. Apple is one of the few that has been successful at this… but it took them many years of living in the shadow of Microsoft and others before they became the dominant leader. Today, Microsoft is in this unenviable position and trying to fight their way back to the top… especially in the race for the Cloud.

But these are behemoth companies… not the SMB market. They can throw billions of dollars at innovation and products and hope they find a winner. The small and mid-sized business (SMB) can’t be this frivolous with their cash and making too many product/service mistakes can wipe out a business before anything comes to fruition. The proven alternative to this madness is to focus on the ONE THING that is completely in their control to design and deliver… their CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

Customer Experience has both short and long term advantages. It is something that can be created and implemented within the year but last for many decades to come when implemented properly. And by properly I’m not talking about telling all your employees they need to be nicer to the customer… that never works for the long term… every company can be nice to their customers if they try. This isn’t the answer… this isn’t the differentiator… but it’s on the right track.

Creating a customized CUSTOMER JOURNEY that is built upon a very well defined Customer Experience Process (something we call Customer Experience Mapping) is what allows companies to reap these rewards for many years into the future. Think Disney… they created “the happiest place on earth” and continue to deliver this experience year after year after year. This didn’t happen by holding a meeting and telling all their employees and characters to be nicer to their guests… it happened because they have a very well defined Customer Journey that is built on a foundation of a well-designed and executed Customer Experience.

Nordstrom did the same thing many decades ago. They started selling shoes… then clothing… all at high prices. But they started with a very distinct process inside the organization for delivering an incredible customer experience day in and day out. Zappos followed this same model… sold shoes… one of the ultimate commodities in the clothing industry… and they dominate today. They don’t give discounts and silly things like “one day only” sales (every day)… they simply deliver a remarkable Customer Experience to every customer every day… and their customers love to buy from Zappos. And it has worked out pretty well when you consider they went from zero to over $1 Billion in revenues in less than 10 years and were sold to Amazon for more than a billion dollars. Not a bad model if you ask me.

One way to avoid being COMMODITIZED and losing customers is to design something even new entrants can’t copy… the experience you offer. If your Customer Experience is so incredibly amazing and remarkable… WOW… every single day with every interaction, this creates immediate differentiation and a long tail of success. It is the ultimate weapon against commoditization or even new entrants into a market. For a new disruptive entrant to take away market share they would need to be so much better and cheaper than anything you offered… which is difficult to do today. And for those of you that are saying to yourself right now, “Yea but we’re different, we do a good quality job and treat our customers well so we aren’t at risk,” I would offer you some instant advice… take the blinders off and get real with looking at your business. This is living in a fantasy world… this isn’t looking at your company from the eyes of your customer… they are seeing something very different. And if someone came into your market today and offered a completely different (and awesome) experience to your customers at or below your price they would be gone in a heartbeat.

Achieving long-term dominance doesn’t happen by “being nicer to your customers” and thinking you have created differentiation… you haven’t. Being CUSTOMER OBSESSED and creating a process based CUSTOMER JOURNEY that has a well laid out and documented CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE PROCESS at the heart of it is what will help you avoid being “Uberized.” This strategy gives you differentiation, uniqueness, and a special place in your customers heart and mind… it gives you the “long tail” of success.

I would strongly and passionately encourage you to learn more about why and how this is completely different than what you are probably doing today. If there was ONE THING TO FOCUS ON IN 2017 it would be to create a strategy based around a well-planned Customer Journey which incorporated an incredibly awesome Customer Experience by Mapping out all the experiences your customer will receive when they interact with your business (there are usually over 20 for most companies in the SMB market). If this is of interest and you want to learn more, let’s grab coffee and I can share how some of the best companies in the world have followed this path… for decades… and still dominate in their industries. I think you will find it a fascinating discussion…

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Five Former All-Stars Who Need To Have Comeback Years in 2017

St. Louis did to Chicago what the Cubs did to the Cardinals during last year’s off season, signing a valuable part of their outfield to a free agent contract. In 2015 Jason Heyward went from the Cardinals to the Cubs, where he received a World Series ring.

This year, the Cardinals returned the favor, signing Dexter Fowler to a free agent deal. Fowler served as a spark at the lead off spot for the Cubs, as well as providing near Gold Glove defense in center field.

St. Louis hopes the overall season turns out as well as 2016 did for Heyward and the Cubs, who won their first Fall Classic in over one hundred years. In order for that to happen, the Cardinals will have to get better individual results from Fowler than the Cubs did from Heyward. Although he remained a top notch defensive right fielder, Heyward’s offensive numbers were disappointing. He struggled so much that manager Joe Madden did not even start him in several World Series games against the Indians.

The Cubs are hoping Heyward has a comeback season in 2017, as are a dozen or so other players. Several of them were mentioned in an article by David Schoenfield at ESPN.com on December 6,2016, a list including Arizona pitcher Zack Greinke, Boston infielder Pablo Sandoval, and Washington first baseman Ryan Zimmerman.

Omitted from that list are five other players who are hoping to bounce back after a down year, or in some cases, back to back down years. Here are five other prominent players who need to have comeback years in 2017.

Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins

The former American League Most Valuable Player has had two sub par years in a row, even though he still leads the Twins in quality at bats. Mauer’s batting averages in 2015 and 2016 were both more than thirty under his career .319 mark.

Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals

After earning the National League M.V. P. honors the season before, Harper hit just .243 and his 24 home runs were barely half of the total he hit in 2015. The outfielder is also hoping to improve his numbers considerably, since he is eligible for free agency after the season.

Andrew McCutcheon of the Pittsburgh Pirates

Trade talk regarding the former N.L. M.V.P. has been frequent throughout the winter, so his comeback may have to occur while he is wearing the uniform of a club other than the Pirates. Ben Revere of the Washington Nationals

After hitting.317 with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015, Revere’s average plummeted to .214 when he went to Washington. He really needs a comeback year for, like his teammate Harper, he will become a free agent at the end of the season.

Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals

His home run totals went up four from 2015, but his batting average dropped fifty one points to .221. Kansas City, which missed out on the playoffs after winning two straight pennants, needs Gordon to bounce back if they want to return to the postseason.

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Unlike Last Season, Early Schedule Will Challenge Cubs In 2017

The celebration has ended, the 108 year drought is over, and baseball on Chicago’s North Side should return to normal. In other words, fans of the Cubs can go back to worrying.

Several big concerns face them as they look toward the 2017 season, in addition to the nearly impossible task of topping the World Series Championship they earned in October. No team has won the Fall Classic back to back in this century, although a much shorter span than the Cubs endured between titles.

That trip to the World Series was made easier by the early schedule, an arrangement the Cubs will not enjoy next April. Chicago did not play a winning team until April 18 against the Cardinals, which was their fifth series of the season. The Cubs did not play another winning team until May 2, when they played the Pirates. Spending the first month against the likes of Cincinnati, Arizona, Atlanta, and Milwaukee would provide nearly any team with the confidence needed to carry them through the most important stretch of the season. To emphasize just how important a hot start is, examine the National League from last season.

All four of the teams who reached the Division Series posted winning percentages over.700 during the first week of 2016, led by the Cubs and Nationals winning eight of their first nine games. The Giants were victorious in six of their first eight, and the Dodgers won seven of their first ten.

The advantage of opening against non-contenders will not be available to the Cubs in 2017, when the early part of their schedule features matchups against the only two teams that had winning records against Chicago last year. They open in St. Louis on April 2nd, a Sunday night game between the two rivals that will be broadcast on national television.

What could make that initial series even more troubling for the Cubs is the strong possibility that one of their most exciting players from last year will be playing for the opposing team. Center fielder Dexter Fowler, Chicago’s spark plug at the top of the batting order, is a free agent. Many baseball writers have projected St. Louis as the most likely team to sign Fowler. After the series in St. Louis, the Cubs must play the team that nearly eliminated them in the NLCS. The Dodgers, who won both of their regular season series against the Cubs in 2016, have the opportunity to avenge their playoff loss on the opening weekend in April.

The hot start Chicago used to build momentum for their World Series run last year is far less likely to befall them in 2017, simply because of the competition. Instead of opening against last place clubs like San Diego and Cincinnati, the Cubs will be tested right out of the chute by teams expecting to be contenders.