Tech Article

August, 2007

Awaken the Marketer in You

by Ned Steele

Erase the misconceptions that effective marketing requires your interest and skill in the field, and that small practices cannot compete with bigger firms on marketing. By using your professional knowledge, expertise and personal values, your firm can build its own Expertise Marketing plan.

I know many attorneys in small and mid-sized firms who dislike, mistrust and resist marketing and business development – even as they acknowledge that doing it is necessary to sustain a practice.

I'm convinced they can readily do a better job of attracting new prospects and clients. They just need to see that there is an entirely different way to think of and do marketing for a professional practice.

In my experience, attorneys who approach marketing guardedly do so for four broad reasons:

  1. They are ambivalent about marketing and "selling," due to both the profession's traditional ethical considerations and their own personal values.
  2. They don't feel competent doing (or outsourcing and overseeing) marketing – law is their core skill, after all.
  3. They don't feel comfortable engaging in the uncertain, often subjective world of marketing – if they truly enjoyed it, they might have pursued a career in business rather than law.
  4. They believe their small practice cannot compete effectively in marketing with bigger firms that can outspend them.

Underlying these beliefs is a great misconception. Once freed of it, law firms can approach marketing from a whole new perspective and mindset – one in which they can feel comfortable and can succeed.

The misconception is rooted in the way most people – lawyers included – tend to think about modern marketing. They form their opinions by observing the modern world' dominant marketing model of it: giant companies pitching consumer products. In that model, hard sell, manipulation, gimmicky and slick materials, superficiality and free spending rule.

Many attorneys, understandably – but incorrectly – conclude that this must be the only way to market a professional practice, too.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is possible – not to mention easier and less expensive – to market a law practice on an entirely different basis: one based on approaching the marketplace as a resource, not as a salesperson. Whenever you enter the marketplace as a resource instead of a salesperson, you enter it more comfortably, ethically and appropriately. You build credibility and trust – the exact two states you must establish to get and keep clients. And because you are more comfortable, you are more likely to remain on task and actually get something constructive done.

I think of this approach as Expertise Marketing. Its cornerstones are your professional knowledge, expertise and personal values.

The essence of Expertise Marketing lies in three guidelines that any small or mid-sized firm can follow to market more effectively and attract more clients:

  • Eschew all the glitz, hype and sameness that characterize marketing as you've always experienced it. Instead, start to draw on the same pool of professional knowledge you already possess and use every day with clients. From this pool you will create a new kind of marketing content and message that replaces the slick, often-dubious marketing approach that other businesses follow. What you'll be sending won't even look like marketing. It will be resource material for the market.
  • Condense your knowledge to focus on key, broad points only in these marketing messages. Use those points as the basis for small, manageable pieces that will be easy for you to create and deliver – and easy for recipients to receive, open and look at. For example, rather than a self-serving piece touting your capabilities in real estate law, send out an e-mail summarizing, say, "Five New Changes in the Tax Law Owners Should Know About," or similar short nuggets of insight and advice.
  • On a consistent basis, send these pieces to prospects and potential clients in a variety of familiar forms including: e-mails, notes, letters and focused mini-articles. By avoiding complicated productions like brochures, advertising and the like, you'll be working in an environment that feels more comfortable. The task will seem more do-able; it will also be vastly more cost-effective. In this way, you'll constantly stay top-of-mind with prospects, referral sources and the marketplace in general.

The key to effectiveness is to keep your messages highly succinct. Your goal for now is not to educate or advise, but to attract a prospect' attention. The prospect doesn't yet need or want to know all the details. At this stage, you are initiating a "virtual relationship" with the market that will culminate in the strongest prospects contacting you for further information.

Of course you shouldn't give specific personal advice in your marketing to anyone, and you should include a proviso that your information is not intended to do so.

As you build these virtual relationships you'll be talking to the audience, not at it,so it is more likely to listen. You'll now be connecting your own professional uniqueness and core strengths to what the marketplace cares about and needs.

Imagine always knowing what to say and do in your marketing. Imagine not having to produce a new brochure, mailer or ad every time you go about seeking new business. Imagine always knowing what to do next. That' what Expertise Marketing does for a law practice.

Following these guidelines, we learn that there is indeed a marketer within us – not a flashy, manipulative salesperson, but a professional with integrity who approaches the marketplace with dignity and professionalism. We can learn to awaken that marketer, put him or her to work on building our practice, and reap the benefits.

This article originally appeared in Law Practice Today May 2007 Issue, available at http://www.abanet.org/lpm/lpt/articles/mkt05071.shtml

About the Author

Ned Steele works with attorneys and other professionals who want to build their practice and accelerate their growth. He speaks on the topic, and is the author of Awaken The Marketer In You (from which this article is adapted) and 102 Publicity Tips To Grow a Business or Practice. To receive free monthly ideas on business development, practice growth and marketing, or to book his speaking program, visit MediaImpact, call 212-243-8383 or emailinfo@MediaImpact.biz.