Dan Gershenson: High Caliber Branding for Lawyers

In this episode, Steve Fretzin and Dan Gershenson discuss:

  • Enjoying the swing and the process of business development.
  • Biggest mistakes professionals are doing in their social media and branding.
  • Deciding what you will focus on marketing.
  • Staying active and building your brand, even during COVID.

Key Takeaways:

  • Mistakes are part of the game – treat them like a learning experience.
  • There is no such thing as luck. Track your activity and learn the difference between an introduction and a quality introduction.
  • Become a trusted advisor – answer questions on what you do and how you can help others serve their businesses.
  • No brand strategy should take more than 2 months maximum.

“There’s a difference between niching your brand, and niching your business.” —  Dan Gershenson

Connect with Dan Gershenson:  

Twitter: @DanOnBranding

Facebook: Caliber Brand Strategy + Content Marketing

Website: HighCaliberBranding.com

Phone: 773-677-6043

Book: Content Marketing for Local Search

Email: Dan@HighCaliberBranding.com

LinkedIn: Dan Gershenson

Connect with Steve Fretzin:

LinkedIn: Steve Fretzin

Twitter: @stevefretzin

Facebook: Fretzin, Inc.

Website: Fretzin.com

Email: Steve@Fretzin.com

Book: The Ambitious Attorney: Your Guide to Doubling or Even Tripling Your Book of Business and more!

YouTube: Steve Fretzin

Call Steve directly at 847-602-6911


Steve: Well, hello, everyone, and welcome to BE THAT LAWYER, my name is Steve Fretzin, and if you haven’t heard my show before, I’m a business development coach for attorneys helping them grow their law practices every single day. We are still in the middle of this crazy COVID-19 zombie apocalypse and we’re just all dealing with that in any and every way we can. I am super excited about the guests today, this is not only a past client of mine and a good friend, but just one of the best in the business. He is the CEO of Calibur Brand Strategy and Content Marketing, a warm welcome for Dan Gorshin, said, how’s it going down?

Dan: Hey, how are you doing, Steve? It’s good to be here. Thanks for having me.

Steve: I announced you like there was going to be an audience applauding. And of course, there’s nobody there’s nobody applauded. But I’m here by myself applauding you because I appreciate you and what you do. Of course, I gave the very limited title. But do you want to go for our listeners and just give a little more detail about what you do every day and how you help your clients?

Dan: Yes. So like I said, I am the CEO of Calibur Brand Strategy and Content Marketing. I help small and medium sized businesses hopefully have a never-ending stream of new business revenue. And the way I do it is through a combination of content strategy and most importantly, a marketing system that’s been proven over the last twenty years, plus – to really give them kind of a road map of where their brands should be going strategically and then tactically. And so I really act as their virtual CMO. So if they are people who don’t have any marketing department to speak of, or they might have one coordinator person, but that person is pretty swamped and has a lot of responsibilities on their plate, I’m an excellent person to bring into the mix and help supplement and get them to where they need to go.

Steve: Awesome. And I want to get into a lot more detail relating to how you’re how you help people and what you’re kind of advising people on during this crazy time. But I also want to acknowledge that you’re a business owner yourself and you’ve been running this business for many years and we work together. I don’t know if it’s four or five years ago, but, you know, is there something that you want to share with my audience as it relates to what you’ve learned running a successful small business?

Dan: Well, I’ve certainly learned that mistakes are part of the game, that you are always going to make mistakes. There’s a learning experience from that. But I think also one of the greatest things that you taught me, Steve, is that you have a phrase that I always loved as it relates to golf, which is enjoy the swing. And if you remember that from your book, what it means is, is that you actually are able to enjoy the process of going after a client, that you don’t put the pressure on yourself to close a client today in one event or one meeting, necessarily move. But don’t necessarily think that it has to be when it’s a complex sale, that it has to be unnecessarily rushed because you’ll feel it, other people will see it and it just won’t feel natural. And so when you kind of slow it down just a tad and you get more consultative rather than too pitchy, great things can happen. And you are one of the people that really, really taught me that. And from doing that, I learned to relax a little bit because nobody else was going to wear the new business hat with me. And that’s the biggest thing I think I’ve learned in many ways.

Steve: Well, that’s it’s a big lesson. And I’m glad that you learned that. And hopefully everybody was able to kind of get a good understanding of what that means. And the idea, of course, being just to add on to what you said is, you know, that if you’re not enjoying business development, it’s not that there’s something wrong with you, but it’s that you really haven’t enjoyed how to do business development the right way. And so there’s all these people that hate it because they’re all pitching and selling and convincing, and then they’re living in hope that they’re going to get it. And they have this this dread in their heart that they may not get a call back and they think they got the business, but they don’t have the business. And what’s missing from that, right, is the idea that if you can enjoy the process of learning about somebody, if you could enjoy the process of asking good questions and being empathetic and getting out of them what their real issues are to see if it’s a fit to see if what you solve aligns with what their needs are, then you don’t have to sell because it’s a fit. It’s like when you find the right mate or when you find the right glove, you don’t have to freak out about it. It just happens naturally because everything laid out the way it was supposed to. The problem, obviously, is that most people aren’t learning business development, whether it’s they’re not hiring me or they’re not reading books or they’re not studying it in a way that’s going to allow them to alter and adapt to what’s going on, whether it’s COVID or whether it’s the way buyers have changed, whether it’s technology. And so, I’m thrilled that you learned that lesson and I continue to try to teach people that. But it’s a tricky one that everybody everybody wants to get to the now the ball in the hole, they’re not thinking about the swinging of a golf club.

Dan: Yeah. I mean, when you think about boutique firms, law firms, sometimes if it’s one or two people, we don’t like to sometimes say, well, if only I had a new business development person or if only I had this or that. Well, the reality is, is that you are that person. And in many ways, people don’t always realize this, but you are the best new business person that can represent your firm in many cases. You just need to bring some of those qualities out that you don’t maybe realize that you have. I used to be petrified only maybe 10 years ago of going into a networking event by myself. Are you kidding? I mean, that never happened. And so there are things where you can do more than you realize you can do.

But many, many years ago, I did something where I might have hired, I think, a salesperson or two, and it was clear there was just so much handholding to be done. You just had to really be able to have to give them some handholding. But then ultimately it’s yourself whose needs to do it and there’s nobody else is going to do it for you. Nobody.

Steve: Yeah, no, it is. And it’s interesting, you know, the old school sort of mentality of legal business is, you know, the rainmaker’s made, the rain and the and everyone else did the work. And it’s turned on its head in such a way that and most attorneys know this, whether they do anything about it is a different story, but if you don’t have your own clients, if you don’t have your own book of business, you’re potentially on the chopping block or you’re just not as valuable to the firm is you need to be in order to keep your job or to be sustainable long term. And that’s not different than entrepreneurship. That’s not different than someone in a sales role. It’s just the reality of life in business these days and especially in in the legal space.

Dan: Yeah, yeah, there’s just you know, I’ve been having the whether I like it or not, have to be the new business person, the finance person, you know, every hat you can wear. And that’s OK. And you don’t have to be an expert in all of them. I didn’t come out of this thinking when I started thinking I was going to be an expert. Well, I know a heck of a lot more about it now than I did. And so I think that’s something where just go with it and keep learning and keep pushing yourself and you will be farther than you thought you would be. But you have to I think one of the best things that you ever taught me was that there is no such thing as luck and that if you are going to be in a new business role of any kind for yourself, the best thing you can do is track your activity and know the difference between an introduction and, as you call it, a quality introduction. And what does that really entail? What is that perfect, you know, if I had ten of these kinds of clients, what would that person look like? And I have to tell you, based on some of the people that I usually hear in certain networking groups, it’s like they don’t know. They might say anybody or they might say everybody who basically needs their services and we can’t help them with that. So the more you can be crystal clear offline and then crystal clear online in places like your website and other areas, you’re going to make things a lot easier for not only yourself, but also the strategic partners that want to help you.

Steve: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And, you know, listen, everybody’s got to figure out how to be effective more now than ever. It’s survive or thrive or die. And unfortunately, as we can see, whether it’s the media or just the environment or just looking at the Law 360 analysis of what law firms are doing, you know, it’s furloughs. It’s salary cuts. It’s people being laid off. And if things don’t get back soon, it’s just going to get worse. So let’s use that as a launching pad to what Dan does best, which is content, writing, branding. How do people become sort of more famous in their space? And I guess I was going to angle it is starting off is what are the biggest mistakes that you see professionals doing in their social media posting, their branding, whatever it is that  they’re trying to get out there and put their content out there. What are the main like three mistakes that you see and then let’s transition that to, you know, what are you doing to help solve these things? What do you what do you teaching or what are you actually doing for your clients to solve for that?

Dan: Yeah, I think one of the biggest things that I see in people who are really not doing it the best way is that they tend to be working a lot in their own world in the way of they talk about their own suite of services. They don’t know what makes them different, first of all. Even on their website, aren’t giving a discernible point of difference. And so that’s one thing that I see when they are writing, they write for their industry or their peers and they don’t write for their customer, their prospective customer.

I’ll give you a perfect example. Even as in these times we just had the PP loan that was going out to small businesses. And I can’t tell you how many firms sent me an email of just the biggest gobbledygook of stuff that I couldn’t understand. And I’d like to think I’m a fairly educated person. So I looked at that and go, well, maybe if I work in their field, I know what they’re saying, but I don’t know what that means otherwise. And so, that’s really the thing that that I think that you have to do is get out of your own skin and realize that you’re not talking to if you’re a lawyer. I don’t care about your ability to talk to other lawyers, because your customer, your future client is not a lawyer. It’s going to be someone who has never been to law school. So you’ve got to be more conversational than this. And if you can’t, then you’ve got to hire somebody like me or somebody else like me who can do that for you.

Steve: So it sounds like what you’re saying is that they’ve got to talk to their to their customers, but they also have to adapt their writing style to the way that their customers take in content or the way that they think. So, for you and I, we’re both business owners and aggressive legalese and acronyms probably isn’t going to connect with us the way what is if they talk to us like human beings?

Dan: Yeah. And I’ll piggyback on that by also saying many firms will tend to say that they have all these services. Well, think about it. If I have a challenge of any kind that demands your services, it probably demands one of your services, no matter what part of the law that I’m interested in getting help with. And so I have questions about your process. How am I going to get billed for this, things like that, that really are top of mind for me as your client or your future client? I don’t care necessarily right now about the fact that you can do 17 different things or that you’ve had your shingle out since 1955. I care about your ability to help me through my challenge in the next six months that I am really stressing out about or that I’m fearful about, that could happen to me. And that’s one thing. So the more that you can boil it down to one particular type of challenge that you help someone with and then what the road ahead is going to entail as you’re working with people. That’s what’s going to make a lot of more of the difference, I think, in converting. Because let’s face it, if you’re a firm saying that other stuff, it’s not like you’re the only one in the world who does that. You’ve got to be able to flip that around and make it all about, this is a this is a personal relationship. What does that look like? So that the more transparent you can be up front and the more plain English you can be up front and understand my pain versus all the things you can do, the more that I’ll probably give you a call. It doesn’t mean I’ll be a client, but I will probably put you on a short list. And that’s probably a really good start for where you want to go next.

Steve: So it sounds like two things you mentioned as far as mistakes. One would be talking in a language that doesn’t resonate with the consumers, the clients, the people that are the end users of your service, for example. And then another one would be maybe more targeting as it relates to, if you are in a specific sector of legal to focus on that instead of trying to cover all your grounds with every different kind of law that exists.

Dan: Exactly. And it’s not to say I’m not telling you to get out of doing those forms of law. There’s a difference between niching your brand and niching your business.

Steve: Can you can you explain that?

Dan: Yes. So, for example, let’s say that your firm does ten different types of law. I think the challenge that you will have is if you try to do all of those equally front and center as far as your brand, you’re going to probably confuse people about what you do best. Versus if you really have one or two areas of law that people. In the door for then that kind of should take a bit more of the lead versus some of the others. So let me give you an example in my business.

Steve: Sure.

Dan: No matter what I say, I know I can do a lot of things for people once they come in the door. But what is the reality is that they often come in the door for content purposes or maybe strategy. It’s only come in the door after that or after that first meeting that they learn, oh, you also do CEO and you do web design and other things, but you can’t come out there with 10 different things right away and say, well, we’re good in it in all these matters.

Not if you’re tracking your activity and where your profit is coming from. You know that there are certain departments, certain areas of your firm that come in more than others. And it doesn’t mean that you never talk about those other areas. It just means what do you want to be known for most? Those are the firms that get ahead. Those are the firms. They go, oh, well, they’re family law. I mean, I used to do work years and years ago for a big firm and they couldn’t figure out what they wanted to be when they grew up. And they were around for a long time. So they didn’t know, oh, do we want to be business law? We want to be family law, do this or that. And they just couldn’t decide. And it wasn’t that they were bad in any of those areas. It’s they couldn’t decide who would take the lead. You have to decide who in your business as far as the areas of your firm are going to take the lead in your brand. And then how does how does that relate to your business?

Steve: Yeah, and I see and I see this all the time with individuals that are trying to figure out how to specialize. And they’re always afraid of the loss, the loss of all this business that they’re going to that they will probably get if they keep it vague, when in reality what you’re saying is that the numbers don’t lie if you’re getting 80 percent of your business from mergers and acquisitions work and only 20 percent from five other things, you know, you’re an M&A lawyer and you should promote it and market it that way. And quite frankly, it’s okay to give up to 20 percent because you’re going to make it up in spades by that specialization being out front and center.

Dan: Yeah, and now there is one little tiny little thing to add on to that, which is, some small firms, like, for example, you might be a firm by yourself that is, let’s say, real estate law and you do estate planning at the same time.

Steve: Sure.

Dan: Well, you get a lot of business for real estate and it’s coming in. It’s coming in and it’s all profitable. And isn’t this great in your estate? And your estate planning work is just kind of coming up a little bit.

But the reality is, no matter what the numbers say, deep down, you really don’t like the real estate work and you’re like, I don’t want to give it up, but I really think I got to be true to what I do best and what I enjoy most and what can be profitable if I put my energy into it.

So I have heard certain people go, “Well, I don’t love it, but I should do it because it makes me the most money”. And I go it’s going to show, it’s going to show in the in everything you do that you don’t love it. And you can’t be that you can’t be that lawyer. You can’t be that kind of business owner who goes, yeah, I’m going through the paces because this makes me the most money. You’re just not going to be happy. And the fact is we get to do this thing we call life one time. We might as well enjoy what we’re doing while also trying to be profitable. And then the third ingredient I would argue, is, are those people the same kind of people who refer and stand up in front of a room and say, this person is the best because they do blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, for me?

Are they going to be advocates for you? And I think if you form that kind of that sort of picture of a person that can help you, that will steer you in the right direction. So, it’s a combination, not just the financial enjoyment of a certain area, but also, does this light me up? Does it make me enthusiastic about who I should help?

Steve:  And there’s nothing that says you can’t say, look, I’m going to take a year, you know, to calm down the real estate and bring up the estate planning with a focused effort and convert over the period of a year or two, for example, because I don’t enjoy real estate or I see that there’s an issue with real estate, with, let’s say the title insurance is going away or something like that. So, and your more passionate, as you mentioned, about estate planning, for example. So I think, for example, going back to my world, we keep using you know, I use real world examples. I got into legal in two thousand eight when the recession hit. And I had a number of people say, you know, you should specialize, you should specialize. But meanwhile, I was getting calls from major corporations and mid-market companies and things that were bringing in a lot of money. And it wasn’t that I was unhappy doing it right, but there was a point where I looked at my and my numbers and I saw that 80 percent of my total business. 85% was lawyers and law firms andnd I was enjoying the work. And I like working with intelligent people and and hungry people. And that was who I was working with primarily in the legal space. And a side note is a lot of the salespeople I used to work with, they’re very hard to break bad habits of teaching old dog new tricks.

Lawyers generally don’t know much about business development. So it was like a whiteboard that I could create on. So for me, it was even a better fit. And that’s when I decided to specialize and start change the name of my company and market it a certain way and angle it in a way that I could focus on one industry and be a bigger player in a smaller field versus a nobody or a very small player in a massive field, which is that sales training field competing against the biggest companies in the world. So, I think that this is all really interesting stuff. I want to ask you, though, there’s a lot of things that people should be doing right now, business professionals to stay active, build their brands and do it in a way that isn’t just the, hey, I threw up someone else’s article with a one sentence comment about it. We’re just saying, hey, I’m just sharing this article. People need to come up with their own stuff. And so I wanted to get from you what what should professionals be doing right now to stay active, build their brands and make their way?

Dan: Yeah, well, there’s going to be people who try to do this thing where they say, well, we’re taking it day by day. And, you know, I just I don’t think you’re ever going to do anything if you have that attitude. I think you have to go forward with trying to get up some programs that you think are number one, that is going to be helpful to people right now.

In the case of myself, sometimes it’s not necessarily the long term engagements that people are looking for at this very moment, but sort of the short term counsel. And so the short term counsel, in a way, can be your blog post, it can be your videos, it can be you’re not giving advice, you’re just saying, look, here’s how not only things that are smart for you to consider from a legal perspective to be out there and thinking about, but also from a business owner to a business owner, how can you be a business adviser to other people? And what I mean by that is I belong to a marketing community of folks who I think are some of the smartest folks in the world at what they do. And they were saying, what do we tell people and what do we know? What messages should we come out there with? And I said, guys, sometimes it’s marketing and that’s just what we happen to do but so many times they just want to hear from another business owner, some business advisory stuff that that can they can lean on. And I think when you reach that trusted advisor part where they don’t even see you as a lawyer or a marketer or whatever else it is that you do, but actual business to business trusted advisor, kind of their virtual board, that’s the best thing you can do right now for your clients and even possibly your prospects who don’t even know you that well yet but by asking questions that are not just related to what you do, but also related to how their business can be getting some momentum, that’s really what people find invaluable I think. It’s your ability to speak to others on their level, not from an industry perspective again, but on their level. Be a business adviser to them. Don’t be a lawyer. Don’t be a marketer. Don’t be a salesperson. Be a business advisor to them in their language. If you want to advise them, for example, on let’s say that somebody was an accountant, well, you can talk about you can talk about tax forms till the cows come home. But what are the real business implications beyond what those tax forms are all about? So, break it down for me like I’m a two-year-old, and I think those are the people that tend to win. I think those are the people that get ahead and those are the people who have things that get shared. So, I would not worry so much about the format as far as the tactics. I would take one step back right now and take a look at your strategy and understand this much – there’s not one kind of brand strategy out there for any kind of business that should take more than two months, at maximum. So, if you think it’s going to be something that you should sit on for the next six months, you’re wrong. It’s something that can take as little as three or four weeks and in two months maximum. And then you’ve got direction and then you can go forward. But don’t start just doing stuff for the heck of it so that you can be active. It does nobody any good just to do video, do blogs, do this, do that, until you have a strategy in place. So we help people with that. We won’t, frankly, do anything with anyone until they do that. So that’s what we’d recommend right now.

Steve: So I’m a I’m a business owner. I’m an individual consultant. And I think that I need your help. I want Dan on my team. How do I get in touch with you? What are what are the things that I need to do to what are your digits, if you will? Yeah. How do people how do people reach out to you.

Dan: Yeah. Yeah. So the best thing they can do is if they would like to call me directly they can do that – 773-667-6543. Also, my email is dan@highcaliberbranding.com. But one of the best things they can also do is just head over to my website. Highcaliberbranding.com is the site and then just click on first steps. You’ll just fill out a brief little twenty-minute form. Shouldn’t take longer than that. Just give me a little bit of a download on what’s going on and what isn’t going on with your business. Some of the challenges you have. And then I’ll be in touch with the discovery meeting on the books for us and that’s the best thing you can do.

Steve: And as we’ve mentioned in this interview, Dan is a past client of mine. I’m also a past client of his. So we’re sort of a little bit of a love fest here today. But that’s OK. We’ve sampled the goods of each other’s wares and we both are big fans.

So if you’re interested in getting in touch with Dan, check out the show notes to to get again is his digits, his information. And Dan, I just want to thank you again for being on the show. I’m a big fan and just keep doing what you’re doing. You’re an important player in the in the space right now.

Dan: You and you are as well, Mr. President. So thanks for doing what you do and keep on keeping on.

Steve:  I will. I will. We’ll listen. Everybody, thanks for listening. Hope you enjoyed today’s show and that you’re one step closer to being that lawyer, confident, organized and a skilled rainmaker. Take care of everybody and be safe.