Monday, March 26, 2007

Become an Ombuds

Ombuds are everywhere, and making news!

Recently, Senator Grassley requested a briefing from the Ombuds at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The external consulting firm that provides the services to CDSP, which has experienced low morale and turnovers, declined the invitation. The contest of wills that's developing will impact the way Ombuds interact and practice for years to come. You can read the Atlantic Journal story here.

More about the lives of Ombuds

Curious about what Ombuds do when they're not fending off challenges to confidentiality? On March 29th I'll have the distinct honor of interviewing two highly skilled Ombuds who will discuss their career paths and the future of the profession. (Unfortunately, our third guest isn't able to join us)

Toni Robinson has had several interesting turns as she journeyed from external Ombuds consultant for a large corporate client to being an academic Ombuds at MIT.

Jane Bermont holds a unique position as external Ombuds for a law firm and has experienced the challenges and joys of being an Ombuds during a merger.

If you've ever considered becoming an Ombuds, don't miss your chance to talk to two fine practitioners on Thursday, March 29 from 11-12 noon EST! Sign up here!

And, definitely start reading Tom Kosakowski's blog that covers all things Ombuds.

Try. Fail. Learn. Grow!



Friday, March 23, 2007

Mediation Marketing: Direct Mail Works, Geoff!

Geoff provokes me- and I mean it in the most positive way.

His posts over at mediator blah, blah about reflective mediation practices and other general good stuff often set me to wondering. They challenge me, and hopefully you dear reader, to examine and reconsider my practices and their impact on the world. All that and he's quite pithy, too.

The Challenge

This time around, Geoff, invited us ‘marketing gurus’, including Tammy Lenski and Kristina Haymes, to extract any marketing lessons from the direct mail pieces he recently received. Tammy has already shared some excellent thoughts at her blog (and I know Kristina will be insightful as well).

As promised, I’d like to share a bit of commentary on those mailers then segue into a discussion on why mediators should use direct mail as part of an overall marketing strategy. To prevent his post from turning into a long one, I’ll save the ‘how to’ advice for another article.

Tailored Suits and Speechmaking

Direct mail is a forceful tool for marketing because it works. People read snail mail. Geoff probably gets plenty of junk mail but something about these pieces, perhaps the colored stamps or the device of the handwritten note, caused him to look further (see his blog for the visuals).

That’s one of the key goals of any marketing material- to attract attention and generate interest. So, both marketers get a ‘thumbs up’ for meeting the challenges of getting read (he did) and staying top of mind (he blogged about them)

Each marketer failed, at least in my book, because neither one crafted an irresistible message or offer that would lead the reader to action. They caused a 'so what' reaction in me because neither spoke to me and my needs directly.

In today’s world of mass personalization (think: Starbucks, cellphones), people want to be recognized as unique and want solutions that are tailored especially for them. When people recognize their problems, interests or themselves in your offering, you’re half way to gaining a client. (ADR entrepreneurs, we could do a much better job . It's articulating value and fit. It's about explaining in plain English how our problem-solving skills,including mediation, can get help clients realize their ultimate goals.)

Why You Should Use Direct Mail

Mediators can be very effective marketers if we choose to be. You already know how to question to reveal concerns and interests. With that data you can create marketing messages that are specific, meaningful and highly relevant to your particular niche market. (You do have a niche practice, right??) Direct mail is an inexpensive, manageable vehicle to get those messages out into the world, especially when you use my favorite tool-postcards.

Postcard campaigns are:


You can create and mail a postcard campaign for 100 people for under $20 dollars by using resources like, which frequently offers 100 color postcards for free. By the way, if this is your first campaign, you might want to limit your mailing to less than 25 people to ensure you can devote time to the proper follow up activities. My Marketing with Postcards teleseminar goes into more detail on that.


Have you ever NOT read a postcard? Postcards enjoy nearly 100% readership! Just about anyone you send one to will read. You easily increase your visibility. The key is to get an effective balance between graphics, copy and white space so that readers can’t put your postcard down. There are plenty of sites online like to find royalty-free graphics.


Postcards offer you a low-risk method to educate and generate interest with clients as part of your overall marketing strategy. By sending valuable information to their doorstep, your potential clients will begin to see you as an expert and a dependable resource who will be there when they need your services.

How? Create quarterly postcards that update clients on new developments, for instance, changes in custody guidelines in your state. Teach clients how to master a skill through a series of postcard ‘lessons’. You’re only limited by your imagination and the space on the card!

Don’t forget to include the basics that are part of every direct mail campaign, such as your name, company name, contact information and a ‘call to action’ or offer.

What does this mean to you?

Investigate direct mail as an option for your practice. Round out your knowledge of direct mail with a visit to I’m thinking about offering a ‘How To’ guide especially for mediators with an idea list. Drop me a note at if you want to know when it’s ready.

Try. Fail. Learn. Grow!



Thursday, March 22, 2007

Introducing Nancy Milton of Progress Mediation

Inspiration is everywhere if you will open your eyes and look. One of my best sources of inspiration, and the most fun, is the membership of I'm continually energized and inspired by the exchange of ideas, information and fun we have in this innovative group of mediation entrepreners. Here's what I mean.

Creating a niche for your practice is part of mediation marketing. It takes research and planning to select the right one and focus to understand your niches concerns and interests. I challenged my members to formulate a niche profile- a characterization of one segment of your niche- during a recent contest.

Niche Profiles

Niche profiles aren't dry, boring demographics. Profiles are rich with the details and personality of your niche and fun to write.

Our Winner...

Nancy Milton is the winner of the niche profile contest. She's a family mediator from Elk Grove, CA near Sacremento, who founded Progress Mediation. Here's her winning profile:

Well, here goes - my niche profile. I see them as a group - a family who are deeply concerned about the welfare of their elderly mother. You have Julie, the oldest sister, and her two younger brothers, Tom and Sean.

Their father passed away several months ago and their mother is still living in the family home. She is getting weaker, but insists that she can still drive her 1987 Buick to the grocery store and church. Her children are very concerned about her safety. Julie and Tom live in the same town and Sean is about two hours away. They want to sit down with their mother with the help of a mediator to sort out the issues of her safety, where she will live, and her finances.

All of these are wonderful issues for Elder Mediation. The children and Mom are coming to mediation voluntarily with an eagerness to figure out their options. This is one of my niche profiles working with families. Thanks for reading it.

Clear as a Bell

What a great profile. Just reading it, I get a sense of this family and what some of their concerns might be.

Her profile also brings to mind questions about Mom and what interests or fears she faces during this transition. You can see how this concrete scenario gives Nancy a place to start planning marketing materials and products that will address the needs of this imaginary family, and by doing so, attract real clients. What I really appreciate is that Nancy took a moment to set an expectation about the kind of client behavior she'd like: voluntary and willing to get things resolved.

Congrats! Nancy, well done!



Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Mediator's Gift
Rafi Mohammed,

Tomorrow, you will have a rare opportunity.

Today, I had one myself. I had the privilege of speaking with Rafi Mohammed, the author of The Art of Pricing, and founder of as we prepare our conversation about mediation marketing, profits and pricing on
this Thursday, March 22nd at 1 p.m. EST

This call
promises to be fun, thought-provoking and downright inspirational.

It's Nice to be Acknowledged
Not only is Rafi an all-around nice guy, but he gets mediators! I was impressed by how well he used the 'tricks of our trade'- listening actively; asking clarifying questions like, "What does retainer mean to you?" and probing further to delve into how best to serve you on the call.

We planned and pondered interesting questions like this one:
Why do people who build such tremendous value in the world (like mediators) have such a difficult time being financially rewarded for it?

Honestly, I could've talked to him for hours. We're really on the same page about creating good pricing models, especially unbundling. (we discuss that during the 3 Keys teleseminar) I'm sure Rafi will touch on it during the 60 minute call which, I know, will fly by.

Don't Miss This One-Time-Only!Chance
While this may seem harsh, but I have to say it anyway:

You are not serious about having a profitable, sustainable practice if you miss this call.

There's just no good excuse (well, maybe an emergency). Mediators rarely, if ever, talk to each other about pricing and fees. Here is a golden opportunity to hear what your colleagues think and experience about money and profit. (Who knows what you'll discover?)

Mediation isn't a mainstream business yet. Successful mediators often have to adapt business concepts for use with little or no help. Here is a priceless opportunity talk personally with Rafi Mohammed, the pricing expert who wrote The Art of Pricing. (Imagine what you can learn!)

The Revolution will NOT be Recorded

and attend the call for those reasons, and one more:

This call will NOT be recorded. It's a live-only event that will NOT have a download available at the guest's request.

Normally, sends all registered attendees a recording of the telseminar, but I agreed to accommodate this request because Rafi has a new perspective and powerful tools that will improve your practice. Join the call; you won't regret it.

Try. Fail. Learn. Grow!


Monday, March 19, 2007

The Art of Pricing Creates Mediation Masterpiece

Finding the right price to charge is hard for service providers, and especially hard for mediators.

Most of us do a 'scratch on a napkin' calculation and charge somewhere near the bottom of the range for fear of looking 'greedy'. Or, we take our colleagues' fees combine with our costs then set prices pretty close to everyone else.

To me, neither of these methods really captures the true value that mediation provides for our clients, appreciates a mediators unique talents, or creates a revenue stream that mediators deserve. That's why I was thrilled to read a new book on pricing strategies, The Art of Pricing by Rafi Mohammed.

Finding Hidden Value

Rafi, a Batten Fellow at the University of Virginia's Darden Graduate School of Business, offers us hope in his book by making pricing theories accessible and, dare I say it, easy to apply. He encourages us to find the hidden profit that lies within our practices by examining our thoughts and perceived value.

For instance, most mediators keep their fees low possibly as a concession to the attorneys they work with or the knowledge that consumers are skeptical of seemingly extra fees. According to this book, and the Professional Pricing Society, the lowest price will not always draw the largest amount of clients.

Think about your own purchasing experiences. When the purchase was important like buying a home, did you select based on the lowest price or were there other factors that made a higher price point acceptable? You probably weren't looking for the least expensive house, but one that met your needs. It is reasonable that clients will pay more to work with a mediator who meets their needs even if the fees were higher.

What's It Worth?

One of the most useful sections of the book explores differential value, meaning that different people are willing to pay different prices for the same product based on their interpretation of value. I saw real life examples of this years ago when I was an auction enthusiast collecting McCoy pottery. Sears uses a similar strategy by grading its products: good, better and best. You get the vacuum but with more or fewer features depending on how much you're willing to pay.

Unbundling Mediation Services

This idea works for mediation, too. Our product is resolution and peace of mind for clients and we provide it via a mediation session. But what if we unbundled the mediation process and offered the results in differing ways? Then, we can set differential prices, too.

During my teleseminar, 3 Keys to Making Money as a Mediator, we discuss how to un-package mediation and offer real information and value to consumers in a way that reduces their risk, increases their confidence in us and ultimately leads to booking more mediations.

In his book, Rafi, discusses a value decoder, a formula for assessing the value to clients. It doesn't have to be that fancy. You can do it the easy way: just ask.

Questions like:

  1. What was your batma (best alternative to a mediated agreement)?

  2. What did you like best about working together?

  3. How much would this have cost, emotionally and financially, if this had been litigated?

go a long way to understanding what specific, repeatable, unique value your clients receive from working with you. This knowledge, combined with marketing tools, can be a real boon for growing your practice and your income.

The Art of Pricing Teleseminar

On Thursday, March 22nd at 1 p.m. EST, Rafi Mohammed is scheduled to join me for a spirited discussion of the book and its application for us. If you want to increase your current income as a mediator, or start your practice off right, don't miss this call. Sign up now; seating is limited.

Try. Fail. Learn. Grow!



Thursday, March 15, 2007

March 15th Deadline- Ethical Standards for Elder Mediation Symposium

Family and elder mediators- here's an opportunity to learn, network, grow and save money, if you register by March 15th!...

First National Symposium on Ethical Standards for Elder Mediation
The First National Symposium on Ethical Standards for Elder Mediation will provide the opportunity for mediators, elder law attorneys, academics and other stakeholders to discuss and explore the development of elder mediation practice and the issues of ageism, capacity and self-determination in elder mediation.

The Symposium will take place April 19-20, 2007 at Temple University's James E. Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia, PA.
A brochure, agenda and on-line registration is available at

Please note that space is limited to the first 100 registrants. The current rate of $375 is good until March 15th and includes meals and the special Thursday evening dinner event.

Click here to register or contact Kathryn Mariani at or at 610-277-8909.

What does this mean to you? Take this opportunity to hone your skills or explore a new practice area and increase your network.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Gone on Vacation

Hey folks, I'm on my way to the beautiful island of Vieques, just off the coast of Puerto Rico. Ericka, my super VA, will publish posts while I'm away so stay tuned for my discussion of pricing and more!

Try. Fail. Learn. Sun!


Friday, March 02, 2007

How To Start a Mediation Business (not Practice)

I got memed! For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it's viral marketing that works like a virtual game of tag.

Tammy tagged me to continue the conversation that Vicki started about starting a mediation practice. Who knew that Diane had the lottery g-ds to thank for her start, or that Geoff, my choice for IT, would talk about the solitude and rejection we all have faced. What a rich and rare discussion!

While I initially started with a mediation practice that included family, divorce and workplace disputes, I ended up with a very different kind of mediation practice as an external organizational Ombuds and a mediation marketing coach. More interesting to me is that I have a business that has value beyond my contributions and will produce income even after I retire.

What do I want to say about launching a mediation business? Plenty! If you're a regular reader of Mediation Mensch, you know I'll always have a comment, idea or wild suggestion for growing a practice into a self-sustaining business. For now, let me just say this:

It's Just as Easy to Build a Business as a Practice

It takes a good amount of effort, creativity and determination to establish a mediation or ADR practice we all know that. But did you know that you can build a lasting business with just a little more effort? Start your practice with the notion that you are creating something that will endure- with or without you.

Think big picture. Ask yourself: what products, tools, assessments, courses can I create in my business that would make it salable and to whom (alliance partner, competitor, startup)?

If you develop a business that doesn't depend on you entirely, your wisdom, knowledge, expertise and experience will live on to serve the world and serve you by providing a financial return via a sale or merger. And, yes, small companies do sell.

Leverage, Leverage, Leverage your Time

Time is a finite and precious commodity. Make every minute more productive by leveraging your time well. Create systems that recycle your activities, better known as repurposing.

For example, if you write a note responding to a listserv question that answer has the potential to become a full article on your website or blog, a more expanded question and answer document, an email tip or alert to those in your network, or the basis for a presentation. Automate everything possible from answering questions to billing to capturing leads. Create 'standard operating procedures' so someone else could run the business if you couldn't.

Think delegation. Ask yourself: can this task be done by someone else or is it the best use of my time? In most cases, you will be able to delegate with guidance so you can focus on something else.

And, yes, I agree that mediation itself is requires you. However, tasks like scheduling, prepping parties, sending out materials, marketing campaigns are best put in the hands of a capable virtual assistant. (we'll be doing a call on VAs in April so stay tuned). Your time and attention should be reserved for what you love doing most.

Get an MBA

You need an MBA- Mediation Business Advice. Before you became a mediator, you sought training and education on playing that role. The same attention to education is needed to learn to run a business.

Make it your mission to take a course on starting a business. Or hire a business coach who understands mediation. The information, perspective and contacts you receive will be invaluable as you work through challenges common to all business owners like attracting clients and setting fees ( if this area is frustrating for you, attend our Art of Pricing teleseminar on 3/22 at 1 p.m.)

Think investment. Ask yourself: what am I willing to invest in my education as an entrepreneur to ensure my goals? You initial investment might be small but the impact on your satisfaction and your business growth will be huge. And, if you think you can't afford it, well, then maybe a profitable practice really isn't your goal.

As Maya Angelou once said, "We delight in the beauty of a butterfly but rarely admit the changes it had to go through to achieve that beauty."

One last parting thought...

"Most of our obstacles would melt away if, instead of cowering before them, we decided to boldly walk right through them."
O. Marden

Let me hear your thoughts....

Try. Fail. Learn. Grow!


PS Getting Referrals teleseminar is on Thursday at 12 noon EST


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Say What? Marketing Feedback for Mediators

Got a note recently from Herbert Ong of, the referral and testimonial tool I profiled last year. He let me know that they had addressed my original concern (see prior post) and how much they appreciated the feedback. That got me thinking about how tough it can be to ask for referrals or testimonials yet how essential they are.

Testimonial Software allows you to easily capture testimonials from clients and provide guidance for those who want to make referrals. Best of all once you set it, you can forget it—until it’s time to turn the leads you collect into new clients. You can get similar results with, and others.

How It Works

Kudosworks offers an indirect way to collect referrals and testimonials from those people who know or have worked with you. It’s easy to do. I got a test program up in less than 30 minutes and it actually worked. This might be a good option to add to a website instead of a ‘tell a friend’ software. How many ways could you worm Kudosworks into your marketing plan?

What Can You Do with It

Put it in all your marketing collateral, online and off. Let’s see…you could include it:

  • on your website
  • in your blog
  • in your ezine
  • in you email signature
  • on the back of your business card
  • on the bottom of your intake form
  • on the bottom of your feedback form
  • in your brochure

Why it Matters

Feedback loops, like Kudoworks and Zoomerang, are important because they help us hone our craft and build our spirits. Loops can become a recurring part of every ‘touch’ or communication you have with a client. That means clients have multiple opportunities to share you, and the value you’ve given to them, with their friends and family. What used to be an ugly, awkward task becomes easy and automated…who doesn’t want that.*

Remember, word of mouth referrals are a main source of clients!

Ongoing Feedback Loops

What I like best about software like Kudosworks is that it enables us to check in with our clients about their interest, needs and how they value us in a consistent, comprehensive way. I love the idea of knowing for sure what works and growing from it. Nothing breeds success like success.

What does this mean to you? Ask for feedback as often as you can. Try some testimonial or referral software. It can only make you a better provider of mediation services and a better businessperson.

*Thinking Like An Entrepreneur Warning- Feedback can be a powerful thing. Turn on the spigot slowly… invite as much feedback as you can respond to-i.e. fix- in a timely, generous way.