What is Marketing for Lawyers?
We hear an awful lot about marketing. We are inundated by it almost constantly these days. Unless you are totally disconnected, you are exposed to it everywhere you look and with almost anything you listen to. Oh sure, it’s on the TV and in the newspapers (for those who still actually read them) but also on your screens, whether you are doing online shopping, research, reading the news, learning how to fix that leaky faucet, catching up on sports (remember those?), on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, you connect with anything, and marketers will find a way to connect with you. That frustrates many. But the younger generations appear to have accepted and embraced it. Regardless, everyone is exposed to it and it has become part of life.
But most lawyers haven’t kept up with the times. We might be numb to marketing in our personal lives, but professionally we have our head in the sand. Our history of shunning advertising has handicapped us. But marketing isn’t advertising.
Advertising is a form of marketing, but marketing is much more. Marketing includes identifying what you are selling, who you are selling it to, and your relationship with those individuals both as potential clients (customers) and existing clients (customers). It includes branding, establishing customer loyalty, ensuring customer satisfaction, and strategic communications. Most successful lawyers are doing marketing in various forms, whether they do it intentionally or would readily admit it. And those who are intentional about marketing are doing well. They are eating the lunch of those sitting indignantly on their fogged view of our professional history wondering where all their clients are.
Marketing didn’t start with the embarrassing billboards and insulting television ads. It started with the large law firms in the hyper-competitive markets. In order to sustain the significant overhead of such behemoths, facing stiff competition from the other equally impressive pillars of the Bar, a certain amount of strategic and intentional marketing had to be done.
Back then it was simply built through relationships. We called them rainmakers, but they were essentially marketing officers. Their job was developing and maintaining clients. It wasn’t long before they began employing other professionals to help them with their duties. They prepared glossy firm pamphlets, designed classy calling cards, hosted elaborate social events, and strategically scheduled dinners, cocktails, and accommodations at sporting events. That is marketing. And that is where it really started for our profession. Just as other advancements in our profession typically trickle down from the big city, large law firms to those of us in the hinterlands, marketing eventually made its way down here – with our large firms. They’ve been doing it for years – long before the offensive advertising which has drawn the ire of the lawyer masses.
But we’ve all been doing some form of marketing for years, though we were never taught it in law school nor probably had it identified as such by our mentors.
Listings in the Yellow Pages, Little League sponsorships, ads in the high school football programs, client lunches, onsite visits, and Christmas gifts are all examples of marketing efforts. After a while, whatever strategy may have existed to guide those efforts fades, and we are left hollowly engaging in these activities simply because we always have. It isn’t long before lose their effectiveness, what little they may have had.