In this episode of the Legal Marketing 2.0 Podcast, Guy is joined by Iris Jones, Akerman’s Chief Marketing and Client Development Officer. Iris oversees the firm’s client development team to advance the overall strategic plan of the firm by continuing to grow the firm’s client base while deepening existing client relationships. She works closely with firm leadership to build the firm’s brand equity and position the firm as an influential thought leader and the law firm of choice for diverse clients in the firm’s key practice areas. She was inducted into the Legal Marketing Association Hall of Fame earlier this year!
1. Have marketing and client development innovations changed the way we are perceived by our clients?
I had the opportunity to interface with a lot of Deputy General Counsels and Chief Legal Officers. I attended the Corporate Counsel Women of Color Annual Conference, and over a thousand women and men were there representing corporate America. These are the kinds of questions I ask because it’s one thing for us to have a perception, but it’s another when we take the time to find out what other people are thinking, and what they want. I think that the way in which we’re perceived by our clients, it’s only one. The only folks who can answer that question or give us the perspective are the client, right?
During the conference, the programs were much more thoughtful and much more customized. They do not just have the client’s logo on a pitch material or include the client’s name by dropping it into some canned materials. I think the innovations relating to thoughtful programming, conducting joint efforts when it comes to community engagement, inviting your client to co-host or co-sponsor something, that is truly going to benefit the people that have an interest in supporting, if you will, being of like mind. The ways in which we can change the perception is to let the client know that we’re not just faking it. Some firms say to be sincere, even if you don’t mean it, if you’re not really in it for the client, and if you’re not really focused on that client. What I say is, to be more thoughtful. Be much more focused, and really really winnow it down to ten, twelve clients that you’re going to focus on.
2. What is the platinum rule and how can it be applied?
The platinum rule is to do unto others as they would want you to do unto them. That means that you can’t just say, “well if it was me, I’d like them to do. X. Y. Z.”. It’s not about you. You have to know the client, and the reason why it’s important here is we’re talking about client-driven innovations and client-specific customization. In order for you to know what your client wants you to do for them, you have to communicate and you have to spend time with them. How can I know what you want if I don’t have a conversation with you? If I don’t get to know you, I can read it in a book or learn some things from your LinkedIn profile. But the real nitty gritty about what Guy wants and expects is going to come from Guy. The platinum role forces us to get in front of our clients and spend time with them.
3. How have your past experience as a practicing attorney helped you?
The benefit is what we’ve been talking about today, that is, “know thy client”. Having been in your shoes, having walked many miles in your shoes for twenty-two years, having experienced what you experienced. To me, the greatest benefit is, I feel your pain, I understand your plight, and I understand your priorities being the client, and am addressing that in a way that is empathetic. I really really really work hard at being empathetic to the audience. Whether it’s one on one or a group of folks, having that empathy and that understanding brings about a much better result. What has happened throughout my career in client development and marketing is, I’ve been able to innovate, make recommendations, and suggestions, and coach and train my team. I think that I have a world-class team of folks here. We think a little differently because it’s not about pushing paper and attending meetings. It’s about always thinking about, “How could we do a better job for you? How could we enhance your profile? How can we help you? Go to the next level?”
The advice I would give them is to always be empathetic. Everybody has their own private little traumas and dramas going on that we don’t know anything about, and we may never find out, but we must express empathy for others. We must continue to be kind. We don’t know what someone is going through. It’s not about us, and I would advise them to always prepare themselves to get on a more academic level. Prepare oneself, and that means continuously. Read continuously, attend conferences and seminars, and if that means investing in yourself by spending your own money, do it. Someone is watching, and someone is taking note of the fact that you are investing in yourself. If you want others to invest in you, you got to invest in yourself first. I think that means learning as much as you can and being kind, empathetic, and understanding. And lastly, I have to say the V word, volunteer, because someone is going to need you somewhere, and they would never have thought about you if you didn’t raise your hand. This is a demonstration of leadership and a kind of sacrifice that people will remember about you.
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