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September 2007 Issue | Volume 33 Number 6 | Page 8

What REALLY Works

Distinctive Give-aways to Reinforce a Winning Message

Conceiving a useful, creative give-away is difficult. It’s even harder to find one that leverages a firm’s message. Here’s one that did the trick.

Most firms have lawyers who are known for the stacks of unreturned message slips gathering dust on their secretaries’ desks. So if you return client calls faster than the rest, you have a real differentiator to promote. One great way to do it: Put something on the prospects’ desks that will keep you front of mind.

WHO: Laner Muchin, a 45-lawyer Chicago-based labor and employment firm exclusively representing management.

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE: For decades, clients have complained about their lawyers’ lack of responsiveness. Nonetheless, very few firms have actual policies regarding returning phone calls, and those that exist weakly suggest that client calls be returned within 24 hours. But lawyers continue to violate those policies without repercussions. Frustrated clients quietly take their business elsewhere.

It’s a vastly different story at Laner, Muchin, Dombrow, Becker, Levin and Tominberg, a labor and employment firm  that was established in 1945. In all the years of its existence, the firm’s lawyers have returned phone calls within two hours. Yes, two hours. Remarkable.

This outstanding responsiveness serves as the hub of a marketing campaign that began two years ago, when we developed a series of brochures, ad campaigns and direct-mail pieces to push the message to the firm’s market. We changed the firm’s logo to incorporate a stylized clock and conceived the tag line “Two hours. Period.”

We also wrote the “Laner Muchin Challenge,” which created a first-response competition with prospects’ existing lawyers. It challenges people to leave a message for their lawyers, then call Laner Muchin to see who returns the call first. If the callers’ current lawyer does, Laner Muchin loses, and so must donate $100 to the callers’ favorite charity and buy them lunch. (Get it? For just $100 Laner Muchin gets to take some other firm’s presumably dissatisfied client out to lunch.)

The campaign had helped generate millions of dollars of fresh revenue from brand-new clients. But to continue growing, the firm needed to push its message to more new prospects. And we needed something extra for the second phase.

MARKETING GOAL: In communicating with prospects, we wanted to show Laner Muchin as the alternative for other firms’ clients when they feel unappreciated by their skilled-but-unresponsive lawyers. The phase-two objectives were to generate awareness and in-person meetings with human resources VPs at top Chicago companies, while also creating a casual, friendly reason to follow up with them. We decided to do a give-away gift, to put a year-round reminder of the two-hour phone-response promise on top prospects’ desks. And so they could reach the firm easily, we wanted the reminder to include contact information, the firm’s clock logo and the “Two hours. Period.” tag line.

RESEARCH AND IMPLEMENTATION: We extensively surveyed the existing research and studies and talked to clients and in-house counsel regarding what service issues were most important to them. This verified our belief that responsiveness remains among the attributes most valued in lawyers. Elsewhere, responsiveness was declared the most important thing a firm can do to improve its client relationships (apart from reducing cost). We elected to grab “responsiveness” as our differentiator.

After a visibility-enhancing ad campaign, we wanted to focus the next step narrowly toward our 100 hottest prospects. For months, we looked for an appropriate mailer to spread the two-hour response message and cause more of them to take “The Laner Muchin Challenge.” We looked at countless promotional stopwatches and other items, finally finding a striking, foot-tall, handblown hourglass. At $50 each, however, they were outside our budget. Then research uncovered a closeout retailer offering the hourglasses at just $12 a piece. We went store-to-store to buy their entire remaining stock. We prioritized our top prospects and delivered the hourglasses with a letter that invited them to take the “Laner Muchin Challenge.”

DIFFERENTIATION: In part, the campaign letter asks prospects to turn the hourglass over; leave a message asking their current lawyer to return their call; leave the same message for one of Laner Muchin’s lawyers; then when the hourglass runs out, turn it over again and see who has called back first by the end of the second hour. Thus, the hourglass serves as a tangible tool to implement the challenge.

At the same time, sitting on the prospect’s desk it acts as a daily reminder of the firm—and its position as the alternative when you’re frustrated that your existing employment lawyer doesn’t call back quickly enough.

RESULTS: The reaction to the mailings has been overwhelming, with a 50 to 60 percent response rate! (You simply have to call when you receive this significant, expensive-looking hourglass.) In initial tests, 25 to 30 percent of the hourglasses sent to non-client prospects led directly to in-person meetings—and 25 to 30 percent more generated phone calls from the recipients, many of which have requested more information about the firm. The mailings also give Laner Muchin a reason to follow up with recipients who have not communicated directly with the firm.

All from a $12 hourglass.

About the Author

Ross Fishman , specializes in marketing training and creating differentiation programs for law firms worldwide. A Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management, he is an inaugural member of the Legal Marketing Association's Hall of Fame