Cordell Parvin Blog

Developing the Next Generation of Rainmakers

Making Changes: Don’t Be Afraid of Them

Posted in Career Development, Client Development

I meet many lawyers who are afraid of making changes. I have spent many years studying why it is so difficult to get people to change.

I discovered it is how our brains are wired. If you are trying to make changes in your law firm, take a look at: The Neuroscience of Leadership by David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz.

I also find valuable an article from Fast Company magazine: Change or Die. You will find it valuable for how best to get your lawyers to change. I like this quote:

So instead of trying to motivate them with the “fear of dying,” Ornish reframes the issue. He inspires a new vision of the “joy of living” — convincing them they can feel better, not just live longer. That means enjoying the things that make daily life pleasurable, like making love or even taking long walks without the pain caused by their disease. “Joy is a more powerful motivator than fear,” he says.

Nancy and I have always embraced making changes in our lives. In fact, we tend to get bored if nothing is changing. We make changes motivated by joy, not by fear.

We have always felt that life is an adventure and we have made many changes, including picking up and moving to a new place.  Each time we have made a change, we felt we had made a great choice. And, we are doing it again.

Yes, in one week Nancy and I are moving to Prosper, Texas, which may soon become one of the fastest growing cities in the US. See: Prosper poised to become next North Texas boom town.

When we first looked at homes in Prosper, I discovered there is already a street named after me. (Not really, but…)


As you will see below, there is so much construction going on within a short distance of where we will be living that I have been tempted to go back to actively practicing law.

We are moving from our home in far north Dallas (as far north as you can be and not be in Plano). We never put it on the market and we had not planned to move. But, a friend recommended our house to a great young couple with two boys and the rest is history.

We just closed on the sale of it on Friday. We have lived in our home since 1997, the longest stay in one home in our 45 years together. So, we are a little nostalgic about leaving. I have been thinking about how I will now answer when someone asks where I live. Will I still say Dallas, or will I be more accurate and say Prosper? I think if I say Prosper, I will have to add Texas.

Our new home in Prosper will be at the far end of the Dallas North Tollway, north of Plano and just north of Frisco, both of which are booming. I haven’t looked on a map yet, but I think we may be closer to the Oklahoma state line than my old Fountain Place office in downtown Dallas.

The Dallas far north suburbs are bursting at the seams. Toyota is relocating it headquarters to Plano. See: Toyota’s Plano move to bring 4,000 jobs from California, New York, Kentucky. Liberty Mutual may be bringing 4000 jobs to Plano also. See: Could Liberty Mutual be bringing 4,000 more jobs to Plano? 

Frisco is also booming. There are over $5 billion in projects currently being constructed in Frisco. You have to drive through Frisco to fathom the boom going on there. See: Boom in Frisco is big even by Texas standards.

Jerry Jones and others are developing the Cowboys headquarters, practice facility, office towers, apartments and medical buildings. See: $1B Frisco development near new Cowboys’ HQ to include Perot’s Hillwood Properties.

We are moving to a Windsong Ranch.  I was amazed at how different a new planned development is. Within a block of our house is a amenities center, with a workout facility, a cafe that makes lattes the old fashioned way (and that cost a $1.00 less than Starbucks).  Just outside the building are a Resort-style pool with cabanas, lap pool and children’s splash park.

There is even a Community Lifestyle Director. There is a dance with a live band scheduled for March, 21. (And, no this is not a retirement community. Young families with children live here also.)

You likely know for the last year I have been working out of my house. So, our address and phone number will change. I will have our new address and phone numbers in my emails. So, if you get one please make the change.

What kind of changes have you been contemplating?  If you are a lawyer or law firm, consider making a change by opening a Plano, Frisco or Prosper office and watch your practice grow.

Wide Open Spaces: Getting Out from Under the Shadow of Giants in Your Law Firm

Posted in Client Development Coaching

At the end April and early May, I will be hosting the 4th annual Outstanding Women Lawyers Roundtable. US and Canadian Lawyers will come to Fort Worth (Cow Town) to meet and share ideas on topics ranging from law firm leadership to targeted marketing. You might recall this post: Highlights from Our 3rd Annual Outstanding Women Lawyers’ Roundtable.

Last year two Canadian lawyers praised Fort Worth for being the cleanest city they had ever visited. Last year we held the event the first weekend in June and the local children had just finished school on that Friday so many were in Sundance Square running through the fountains.

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Joyce took a hearty group to Billy Bob’s Texas last year and I am confident a group will join her this year.

When I think of this event and Fort Worth, I start singing my favorite Dixie Chicks song: Wide Open Spaces.  As you may know the band got its start in Dallas. I wish I could say that I listened to them singing on a corner in the West End, but I don’t honestly remember that.

Here are some lyrics that tell a great story. It is about venturing out and taking some risks.

Who doesn’t know what I’m talking about
Who’s never left home, who’s never struck out
To find a dream and a life of their own
A place in the clouds, a foundation of stone
Many precede and many will follow
A young girl’s dreams no longer hollow
It takes the shape of a place out west
But what it holds for her, she hasn’t yet guessed
She needs wide open spaces
Room to make her big mistakes
She needs new faces
She knows the high stakes

How did the song written by Susan Gibson become the hit sung by the Dixie Chicks? You might enjoy reading about it:  Story Behind the Song: Wide Open Spaces.

Recalling the struggle to record her song, Gibson admits, “The song reflected where both of us – the Dixie Chicks and myself were at that moment. We both needed space to grow, to try our wings.

Many young lawyers I know need the space to get out from other the shadow of a giant in their own law firm. I hope if you are one of those lawyers you will be inspired by Wide Open Spaces.

One final thought: Sisters Martie Erwin Maguire and Emily Erwin Robison, and lead singer Natalie Maines: We miss you.

Imagine a Coaching Session: 10 Questions to Answer

Posted in Career Development, Client Development

If you are a regular reader, you likely know I want to coach you. I say that because if you are a regular reader, you likely are motivated to learn and are striving to become more valuable for your clients.

Use your imagination for a moment. Imagine you and I are sitting at a small conference room table and we are about to begin our third or fourth coaching session. If you are like many of the lawyers I coach, you might be thinking that I encourage you to stretch and to be more targeted and focused about how you use your time.

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Here are some questions I might ask you:

  1. Since we last talked what have you done to become more valuable to your current clients?
  2. What have you been doing to become more visible and credible to potential clients and referral sources?
  3. What have you done to help your colleagues’ clients?
  4. What have you been reading or studying to learn more about your clients?
  5. On a scale of 1-10 how are you doing on accomplishing the goals we set in our first session?
  6. What would it take for you to get to a 10 rating for yourself?
  7. What challenges have you encountered?
  8. How have you been able to overcome those challenges?
  9. What would you like to get out of this coaching session?
  10. What can I do to help you?

Even though we may never have a coaching session, you can get many of the benefits of coaching by answering those questions.

Law Firms: 16 Ideas for Firms that are not Super-Rich or Even Rich

Posted in Client Development

I saw an article recently that caught my eye: The Imminent Capitulation Of Many Big Firms. Mark Herrmann writes:

So the world seems to agree: The super-rich firms will become even more superbly rich, and the merely rich firms will lose ground. Where does that leave many big firms?

In a world of hurt.

Both the super-rich firms and the merely rich firms live in a different world than most of you find yourself. I never practiced law in a firm with $1 million profits-per-partner, much less one with $3 million.

If many big law firms do in fact capitulate, I would think there will be more opportunities for the less rich law firms. How can you take advantage of them?

The answer to that question depends on many variables, but there are points that you should consider:

  1. Clients hire lawyers, not law firms. Even when clients say they are hiring a law firm, they really choose the firm because of the people in the firm.
  2. Even though it is fun to get a new client, it costs at least fives time more to get a new client than to keep an existing client happy. When I use the word cost, I am including the time commitment.
  3. Solicit feedback from your clients. Ask: “How can I serve you better?”
  4. Search for ways to save your clients money. For example, what could they be doing in-house that would save money?
  5. At least 60% of the legal work available is based in large part on relationships. I believe 10% of legal work is bet the company and whoever is perceived to be the best will be hired. I believe 30% is commodity work that goes to whomever is willing to do it most cheaply. That leaves 60%. Go after that work.
  6.  Everything else being equal, clients want to work with lawyers they like and trust. Work on building rapport, trust and friendship with your clients.
  7. Most clients do not read unsolicited alerts from law firms and in fact, they resent getting them. So, email blasts of client alerts may even be hurting the firms sending them. Sending a personal note to a targeted market explaining specifically how the client can benefit from reading the alert is way more effective.
  8. Reach out to client/client representatives who clearly do not need your services now. This demonstrates you value more than just their business.
  9. If you are short of work, this is the best time to build your profile by writing and speaking. Pick topics that address client and potential client problems, opportunities and changes. If you are presenting to businessmen and women give a practical presentation with ideas they can implement.
  10.  If your budget has been cutback, conduct Webinar sessions. While, presenting in person is preferable, Webinars are inexpensive and can potentially reach a larger audience.
  11. Offer to do something at no charge for your clients and their industry associations as a way of adding value. You have to “give” to “get.”
  12. Do something no matter how small each and every day. It is easy to get into a funk over what is going on with the economy. By doing something to build your profile or relationships you will feel more in control of your destiny.
  13. Engage your clients in something that has nothing to do with law, but something they value (e.g. work on a charitable event with your client.)
  14. If you haven’t already done so, set up Google Alerts, or some other program, for your clients and their industry so you can keep up with what is going on in their world.
  15. Go to events even when you would prefer not to go. It is important to get away from your computer and be “out there.”
  16. Be patient and persistent. Most lawyers give up when they do not have immediate success from their efforts.

If You Want to be a Rainmaker, “You Gotta Believe”

Posted in Client Development

I wrote this blog five years ago and it was one of my most read of all time. Since some of you may not have read my blog back then, I thought it was worth re-publishing.

I recently read “Top Women Rainmakers Absent at Half of Large Law Firms”  and was surprised to learn that 46% of the large law firms in the United States have no women in their Top 10 Rainmakers. Another third of the law firms only have one woman among their Top 10 Rainmakers.

The data in the report did not explain why women are underrepresented. I know from experience that most of the reasons have nothing to do with rainmaking ability. I coach many women who have the skills to become a top rainmaker in their firm if that is what they choose as a goal.

EQ (emotional intelligence) plays a key role in becoming a rainmaker. I have intuitively believed that women generally have greater EQ (emotional intelligence) than men. I recently read in a 2001 Report  that I was wrong.

According to the report, women do not have greater EQ than men, they just have different EQ skills. Women are more aware, more empathetic and have better people skills. As Daniel Pink has written, these “right brain” skills are more important now than ever before. Men are more self-confident, optimistic and adaptable and handle stress better.

In my coaching I have found self confidence to be more based on age and experience than gender.

Regardless, having self-confidence is incredibly important because your potential clients will make a snap decision on whether they are confident you can handle their matter. If you do not pass the “confidence inspiring” test, you will never get the chance to show you are aware, empathetic and have people skills.

So, what can you do to become more self- confidant? Here is the advice I give to the lawyers I coach:

  • “You gotta believe” you are the right lawyer for your potential clients. Tug McGraw coined the phrase about the 1973 underdog New York Mets and it applies to you as well. You will only be as successful as you believe you can be. When you believe you are successful and the right lawyer for your potential client, you have more energy, you exude confidence and your body language reflects that confidence.
  • Dress for Success and be aware of your body language. Whether you like it or not, part of the first impression you make will be based on how you are dressed and how you appear.
  • You don’t have to be an extrovert and life of the party to exude confidence. It is far better to be “interested” than it is to be “interesting.”
  • Decide what you really want and focus your time and energy on it. One size does not fit all. Do not compare yourself to others. You have your own unique talents, dreams and challenges. Focus your time and energy on your highest priorities.
  • Find someone who encourages you and whom you trust so that you can be brutally honest about who you are and how you are doing and get feedback. The better I know the lawyers I am coaching, the better I can identify their skills and enable them to use those skills.
  • Pay attention to your self-talk. Instead of saying to yourself “my problem is…” say “my opportunity is…” Instead of saying “I need to…” say “I want to…” Instead of saying “I’ll try to…” say “I will…”
  • Stay hungry, keep learning and always seek to become a better lawyer.
  • Become the “go to” lawyer for your clients. If you feel you are the “go to” lawyer, your confidence will show.
  • Focus on the journey (actions) and the destination (bringing in business) will take care of itself.
  • Work on small steps that get you outside your comfort zone. Each time you make a step outside your comfort zone, you gain confidence.
  • Practice, practice, practice speaking in public and one-on-one. Have someone video tape you and get feedback on your body language.
  • Be patient and persistent. Making rain takes time.
  • Avoid distractions.

One final thought: Self-doubt is natural and it can be actually be healthy. I have had it my entire career. I used it to motivate me to be a better lawyer. You should also.

Simple Ways to Effectively Use Social Media to Help Build Your Law Practice

Posted in Blogging, Client Development

On Tuesday this week Shawn Tuma and I did a webinar for the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) titled: Simple Ways to Effectively Use Social Media to Help Build Your Law Practice. I focused on blogging and Shawn showed participants how to use the social media tools to share blog posts, engage and build relationships.

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In 2010, a national law firm marketing department asked me to go cross country and spend a day in four of their offices giving a presentation on blogging and social media and then meeting with practice groups in those offices.  I knew I had been asked to do this task because of the color of my hair (white) and my experience practicing law (35 plus years).

At the time, the firm was not blogging and only a handful of lawyers were using any of the social media tools. Now, the firm has 11 blogs and several lawyers in leadership positions are using social media very effectively. So, I must have made an impression on a few lawyers over 50.

In one of the offices, during a meeting with a practice group, the youngest partner asked:

Cordell, suppose we tell you we do not want to blog or use social media. In five years will we be behind our competitors?

I replied:

Suppose in the 90s your practice group told firm leaders. We do not want to have our group on the firm webpage and we do not want to use email. Do you think in five years you would have been behind your competitors?

The LMA members use social media effectively. I have met several of their members on Twitter.  I thought I might  share with you some of the tweets that members generated during my part of the presentation.

Gail Lamarche @gaillamarche
blogging is different than any other legal writing — @cordellparvin sharing tips/best practices #LMAMKT 3 potential audiences

Nancy Myrland @NancyMyrland
Who are your blogging audiences? Your clients, social media sharers, Google search engines — @cordellparvin #LMAMKT

Nancy Myrland @NancyMyrland
Think before you post: Who is your intended reader? Why should they care? What is the takeaway for reader? #lmamkt @cordellparvin

Lindsay Griffiths @LindsayGriffith
A blog is a conversation with your reader whereby you are trying to build a trust-based relationship (YES!!) per @cordellparvin #LMAMKT

Gail Lamarche @gaillamarche
your blog is a conversation with your reader and trying to build a trust based relationship #LMAMKT via @cordellparvin build a connection

Nancy Myrland @NancyMyrland
Lawyers, your blog readers skim your posts. They read down, not across. High % never finish. Do’t bury the lead. — @cordellparvin #LMAMKT

Nancy Myrland @NancyMyrland
Lawyers, you need a great headline for your blog posts. Will it be found if someone searches for that legal topic? @cordellparvin #LMAMKT

Nancy Myrland @NancyMyrland
Lawyers tend to write linearly. Your clients don’t need the entire history. — @cordellparvin #LMAMKT

Lindsay Griffiths @LindsayGriffith
“Clients don’t care about the history of Swiss watch making; they just want to know what time it is” – GREAT metaphor @cordellparvin #LMAMKT

Nancy Myrland @NancyMyrland
“Use persuasive words when blogging. The words ‘you’ and ‘because’ are incredibly important.” — @cordellparvin #LMAMKT

Laura Toledo @lalaland999
Start w/ your lead: the inverted pyramid – alluded to by @cordellparvin #LMAMKT

Lance Godard @lancegodard
RT @lalaland999: Start w/ your lead: the inverted pyramid – alluded to by @cordellparvin #LMAMKT

Thanks to each of the LMA members listed above for sharing their thoughts during the presentation. As a quick aside, I have never met any of them in person, but have gotten to know them on social media.

If you are interested, you can find the slides Shawn and I used here. Look carefully at Shawn’s slides and you will learn how his strategic use of social media generated new clients and writing opportunities.

Short Term Planning: Take This One Additional Step to Make Your Plan More Powerful

Posted in Career Development, Client Development Coaching

Do you by chance remember which was my most read blog in 2013? On December 31, that year I posted my Top 10 most read blog posts. Number 1 on the list was Want a great example of a 30 days and 90 days plan?  Tricia DeLeon shared her 30 days and 90 days plan.

A couple of weeks ago, Tricia shared her 30 days and 50 days plan with me and gave me permission to share it with you.

Cordell, I would appreciate your thoughts on these planning actions. Your post today inspired me to finalize them! Talk to you this afternoon.

By March 1, 2015:

  1. Confirm 6 other members for women’s networking group.
  2. Start Linked In Group for networking group.
  3. Set up individual lunches with 4 of the women group.
  4. Revise law review article on Daubert challenges for financial experts.
  5. Meet with client to have him insert portion to law review article.
  6. Meet with communications director to find best place to publish article (will do on 2/9).
  7. Revise firm’s webpage material on financial institutions litigation (due 2/13).
  8. Update PowerPoint on Avoiding Lender Liability for American Bankers Association (due 2/20).
  9. Invite Leadership Dallas committee to celebration dinner after Feb. 6th class day.

By April 1, 2015:

  1. Schedule second women’s networking group and formulate substantive agenda.
  2. Schedule 2 other individual lunches with network members.
  3. Schedule 4 meals with existing clients.
  4. Get Daubert article published.
  5. Finalize financial institutions litigation materials for firm.
  6. Practice ABA speech in front of colleagues.
  7. Update LinkedIn page with new picture and recent speeches, articles.
  8. Schedule at least 1-3 other meetings with new bank clients for lender liability talk.

What do you suppose I told her about her plan? I said it looked really good and I had one suggestion I thought would make it more powerful. I suggested that after each action item, Tricia add: “If I accomplish this action, I will…” I wanted her to caption why accomplishing the action was important for her.

Law Firms: 21 Ideas to Improve Client Service

Posted in Client Development, Client Service

I was recently asked what was one important thing I learned about building loyal client relationships. Great question. I responded:

Clients cannot always recognize great legal work, But, they can always recognize a lawyer and law firm who cares about them and makes every effort to provide exceptional client service.

When was the last time client service was on the agenda for a meeting at your firm? If you get a chance brainstorm how you can improve client service. Here are 21 of my ideas.

  1. Learn about the client’s company, business and industry at your expense.
  2. Identify clients’ needs that have the greatest impact on their business success and develop a solution to meet those needs.
  3. Ask clients to identify their objectives before beginning work and then develop a plan to achieve those objectives.
  4. Ask clients how often and how they want to receive communications on their matter.
  5. Establish scope of work, provide an estimate of time, identify law firm staffing and prepare a budget at the outset of any project.
  6. Advise clients when scope of work has changed, the time required to perform work has increased, law firm staffing needs to be changed, or fees may exceed the budget.
  7. Timely return phone  calls and emails.
  8. Deliver value as perceived by the client.
  9. Place young lawyers in your clients’ offices so they can truly “know” the clients’ needs, wants and desires and develop relationships with the clients’ representatives. (They will also likely bring billable work back to the office.).
  10.  Conduct in-house seminars and workshops for clients. If the workshop is for the clients’ legal department, obtain CLE credit for the clients’ lawyers.
  11. Seek to use technology like an extranet to improve efficiency and provide more cost effective services.
  12. Keep your client informed about “breaking news” that might impact them.
  13. Prepare an agenda for each meeting with specific stated objectives and be prepared for the meeting. Prepare action items at the conclusion of the meeting.
  14. Exceed clients’ expectations – to take a thought from the book Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles: Deliver what the client wants-plus one.
  15. When something goes wrong, take responsibility and apologize.
  16. Let clients know when they, or others, can do the work better, or at a lower cost.
  17. Make sure bills are accurate, reflect value of the work performed, do not have names of billers unfamiliar to the client, and are prepared in accordance with the clients needs.
  18.  Offer to attend client business meetings at no charge.
  19. Never waste the client representative’s time.
  20. Ask good questions.
  21. Actively listen.

As you may know, I am a big fan of the Ritz Carlton. I have written about my favorite hotel chain both here and for Practical Lawyer. Recently I wrote: How a Law Firm Can Provide “Ritz Carlton” Service . Take a look you may get some additional ideas.

Today at 1:00 CST, Shawn Tuma and I are doing a Webinar on blogging and social media for the Legal Marketing Association. It is called: Simple Ways to Effectively Use Social Media to Help Build Your Law Practice and it is sponsored by the Social Media SIG. If your marketing professional is a member of the LMA, I encourage you to set up the conference room so you and your lawyer colleagues can participate.

In 2015, Will You Still Doing Good Work and Waiting for the Phone to Ring?

Posted in Client Development

Has a senior lawyer told you that key to client development is just doing good work? I would be surprised if you haven’t heard that from someone.

I practiced law for 37 years. I was thinking recently how much has changed during that time. When I started we still used carbon paper and white out. Many of us did not keep time records because the bills simply said: Professional Services Rendered and a flat fee.

During my 37 years, I witnessed four eras of marketing and client development. As our profession went from one era to another it has become increasingly more challenging to get noticed and hired.

First Era-Smaller Firms, Local and Loyal Clients, Do Good Work

When I started practicing law in Roanoke, Virginia, there were far fewer lawyers and law firms were significantly smaller. I could walk down Jefferson Street and speak personally to almost each person I passed. Businesses typically hired local lawyers and business contacts were local.

Out of town businesses frequently determined which lawyers to consider by referring to the Martindale-Hubbell listings. Most lawyers did not do any marketing. They got business by “doing good work” getting an A-V Martindale-Hubbell rating, being visible in the community and waiting for the phone to ring.

Second Era-Unsolicited Contact

I refer to the second era as the unsolicited contact era. In the ’80s lawyers and law firms in this era solicited business by creating brochures and sending out newsletters. Since most of the factual information in the brochures was similar, law firms tried to distinguish themselves by the slickness of the brochures and the photography.

Lawyers in this era also dropped in on clients and potential clients. The favorite line was: “I am going to be in _____ and I thought I would come by and visit.

Third Era-Websites and Branding Emerge

I refer to the third era as the webpage and branding era. In the ’90s lawyers and law firms created web pages which mostly told clients how good the law firm was and rarely provided a client with anything of value.

Clients in this era could not tell one firm from another from their websites, so firms created branding taglines. You can see the branding slogans on the firm websites, firm advertisements or on the wall at airports. Take a look at 101 Law Firm Taglines-2009 Edition and 101 More Law Firm Taglines – 2012 Edition.
At my old law firm the webpage had in big letters: “the JENKENS experience” and then in smaller letters: “the experience you deserve.” I frequently asked our marketing department what “the JENKENS experience” was because I wanted to make sure my clients knew when they were getting it.

The only time a client mentioned the JENKENS experience to me was when he got a bill that was more than expected. He said: “I guess I got the JENKENS experience, the experience I deserve.” He did not mean for it to be humorous.

The Current ERA- Remarkable Differentiation

Based on a term Seth Godin uses, I believe that in the fourth era, lawyers and law firms have to either be remarkable or create content and value that clients find remarkable. Godin talks about three kinds of people. I will put it in the context of clients:

  1. Clients who don’t need the services you or your firm offer.
  2. Clients who need the services you or your firm offer, but are using another lawyer or firm.
  3. Clients who are ignoring you.

Godin says you can’t market directly to the second and third group. “Instead, have them come to you.” How do you suppose you can get them to come to you? Godin suggests you have to create something “remarkable.”

What are you and your law firm doing right now to become more “remarkable” in your clients’  and potential clients’  eyes?

Email Alerts: Use Personal Touch Not Email Blasts

Posted in Client Development

I still get email alerts from law firms, from consulting firms for law firms and from others. I think those alerts which are sent to thousands at the same time actually annoy potential clients rather than draw them to a firm or lawyer.

Seth Godin, the marketing guru, agrees. In an interview , he says:

Marketing is no longer about interrupting the masses with unanticipated spam: ads about average products for average people. Instead, marketing is about leading tribes – groups of people who want to go somewhere.

One of the lawyers I coach shared with me a story about an experiment one of her partners had conducted with an alert. Here is the story:

I decided to try something. I picked 40 clients that I thought might be impacted by the new I-9 forms.  I drafted a general email text about the client alert. I took the general email text and personalized it in some way for each client so that it did not appear as a mass email blast. It took about 45 minutes to send out these emails.

The result:

Fifteen clients emailed to thank me and four specifically mentioned that they were unaware of the changes.

One client used return email to schedule a call regarding an unrelated matter that directly resulted in billable work.

In these tough economic times, we need to use all of our marketing resources.