I am very pleased that Eric Fletcher has agreed to provide this insightful guest post. Eric is an extraordinary law firm marketing professional who leads marketing and BD at Liskow & Lewis, is the author of the Marketing Brain Fodder blog, and is the co-author of 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success. Eric is a husband, father and a long-time advisor and friend of mine. If you haven’t seen it Eric’s TEDx talk is worth your time.
Enjoy Eric’s post.
There are exceptions; but the fact is that for many lawyers, marketing is an annoyance, if not anathema. And there is good reason.
Talk to either or both sides of the conversation, and at least two possibilities arise.
- Lawyers, often by nature and certainly reinforced by education and training, are highly skilled at spotting problems, whereas marketing professional services is about the identification of opportunities; and,
- Historically, the practice of law has been reactive, providing analysis and applying precedent, while business development is based on proactive pursuit.
Yet, notwithstanding the glass-half-empty vs. glass-half-full perspective, neither of these are the reason marketers and law firm leaders frequently seem at odds.
What About Changes In The Industry?
Granted, these are not the good ole days. For years the challenges of legal business development were camouflaged by remarkable growth. But for at least a decade an increasingly competitive marketplace has introduced the legal industry to the uncomfortable reality of disruption.
The once rock-solid cornerstones — the right law school, passing the Bar, hanging a shingle and delivering quality work — guarantee nothing in this new normal. Already wrestling with the practical applications of all things marketing, lawyers now face the challenges of finding new work.
But every industry changes. Even major shifts in the legal space are not the root cause of the lawyer / marketing dichotomy.
The Problem and the Opportunity
At its best, marketing is not about spin, or tag lines. Nor does success hinge on a splashy new website, the colors of a logo or an award-winning ad.
Whatever you might label it — marketing, client relations, business development, or sales — the law firm marketing function is about facilitating and supporting opportunities for lawyers to develop relationships with a strategic market.
The Best Marketing Is Born Of Aspirations
Roger’s most recent post discussed the fabric of successful and enduring partnerships — shared aspirations.
The suggestion is that there are a handful of goals so central to the reason a partnership was formed in the first place, that these aspirations become the backbone of strategic direction. Every critical decision — compensation, growth, practice diversity, where to invest — is measured against this set of aspirations.
And yes . . .shared aspirations — implying they are well known and discussed — provide rich context for a natural approach to marketing.
The pursuit of those universally held, jealously guarded goals becomes a cultural marker. In this environment — where objectives, priorities and the allocation of resources are clear, marketing becomes organic; and the partnership’s marketing professional can lead a calculated pursuit of a clearly defined target.
Organic marketing delivers unique leverage because everywhere the organization touches its market, the DNA of the firm is planted.
If marketing is mystery or anathema in your firm, progress may be as close as examining whether the critical aspirations shared by your partnership are at the heart of why and how you take your story to your market.