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March/April 2020


Finding Your Marketing Sweet Spot

Rodney Dowell

Although it is one of the most critical efforts that can be made to ensure a successful law office, marketing is often given short shrift. I have seen this in my personal experience and when working with attorneys seeking to improve their practice. The reasons for failing to market oneself and one’s firm are numerous but can largely be attributed to knowledge, time and fear. Or, that is, a lack of knowledge about how to market, a perceived lack of time, and a fear of rejection and failure. 

I have met few attorneys who are natural marketers and even fewer who have studied how to market. It strikes me that marketing illiteracy is especially prevalent in the solo and small firm verticals. While large firms may spend resources on teaching marketing skills, solo and small firm attorneys generally have never had an opportunity for focused learning of necessary marketing skills. The lack of marketing training often results in attorneys following the pack and not focusing on their specific skills. As a result, I see a series of fragmented marketing efforts that result in mundane websites and blogs, or a burst of writing or networking hoping to generate business, but the marketing effort as a whole has no clear plan.

However, for those attorneys who want to stop leaving their marketing to chance and to enhance their marketing skills, this magazine issue, and past issues focused on marketing, provides a starting point to develop skills that fit within each of our sweet spots. There are many excuses for not marketing: I am not a writer; I don’t know how to set up a website; I don’t like to network; I don’t know the right people; and many more excuses that prevent us from moving forward. I have heard and probably used them all. However, here at LP we learn that for every personality and skill set, there is a sweet spot that makes marketing more effective and approachable. Take the time to recognize your skills so you can find your marketing sweet spot.

The most common impediment to marketing is the lack of time. We are all busy with family and the press of an endless and ongoing series of immediate deadlines created by clients, partners or cases. While the immediate deadlines create urgency, they do not necessarily allow us to do the critically important marketing that ensures future work and premium clients. Of course this is a classic problem that falls within the Eisenhower Matrix popularized by Stephen R. Covey in his The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The matrix helps us prioritize our time by focusing on the important/urgent matters, then the important/not urgent and helping us identify which tasks are neither urgent nor important.

If we accept that marketing is important, then we can create a series of action steps using a simple marketing plan. You can find out how to create your marketing plan by referring to Law Practice Division member Allison Shields’ article in the March/April 2019 Simple Steps column in this magazine. The marketing plan requires actions and deadlines that help us understand that marketing steps are urgent/important and should be done now. That the action step has risen to the urgent/important quadrant does not mean it is higher priority than a court deadline, but we now see where it belongs. Once we acknowledge that a particular action belongs there, then we can begin to find the time to get it done. 

A final challenge to action on marketing and many other issues was most clearly identified for me by a mental health professional working at the Massachusetts Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers. That challenge is overcoming fear—fear of failure, fear of being judged, a fear of confrontation or, on occasion, a fear of success. That is fear based on our expectations and perceptions. Simple steps may help you move past the fear: visualization of success, practicing what you want to accomplish and setting small, easily achievable action steps. If you still are unable to move forward, then take some time to identify the “why” and if fear is bogging you down. If so, a professional may be able to help.

Meanwhile, you can actively engage in discussions regarding marketing and other law practice issues by joining our division at upcoming spring and fall meetings. I look forward to seeing you there.

Rodney Dowell

Rodney Dowell is the chair of the Law Practice Division. He is bar counsel, Massachusetts Office of Bar Counsel, Board of Bar Overseers.