For some people who are finishing up school or are in the early stages of a career, the M-word they fear most is marriage. For many, though, that word is marketing. In some ways, the Mother Goose nursery rhyme “This Little Piggy,” commonly told while wiggling the ticklish toes of a toddler, says it all: “This little piggy went to market. This little piggy stayed home.”
What do you think about when you wake up in the morning and prepare for your day at work? If you are consumed with how you are going to get the work done, deciding to skip lunch, and definitely blowing off the drink invitation at the end of the day, chances are you are not making time for marketing. There are only two ways of being when it comes to this essential facet of any business: the type who goes to market and the type who stays home.
Creating a marketing plan can be like a diet and exercise regime in the infinite variety that exist. If you look online, there are scores of books on the subject by experts, some self-acclaimed and others world-famous, who impart their winning formulas. The real key is not so much the plan you choose or create, but sticking to it and not expecting overnight results, although a combination of good timing and preparation will sometimes produce desired outcomes quickly. When you think about being in the right place at the right time, it’s important to know what you’re going to say in order to maximize the opportunity.
I recently wrote about developing your network. The purpose is to attract prospects, cultivate contacts, collect leads and generate referrals so you can effectively market to them.
Recently, I began coaching a new client and asked her about current and past marketing strategies and what has worked. She mentioned television advertisements, a website and newsletter. These would qualify as passive marketing or advertising because they have little to do with building relationships that will generate referrals or get clients. According to Anthony O. Putman, author of “Marketing Your Services,” marketing is not sales, advertising or promotion. “Marketing is the intentional process of creating and maintaining the relationship of ‘customer,'” he wrote.
Some people follow a dream and find the business side of the dream unpalatable. I went to a knitting shop once that was brimming with gorgeous yarns of every type and color imaginable. It was a feast for the eyes. The proprietor, however, could not have been less interested in helping customers. I left thinking she must love knitting, but sure hate selling. You probably didn’t go to school and work so hard to become a professional in order to sell, but the earlier you learn how essential it is to your success, the better.
I have known many lawyers who were terrific at the work but didn’t make partner because they became used to getting all of their work from the efforts of others—the rainmakers. We live in an “eat what you catch” world, and the longer you hang onto the idea that marketing is for other people, the more dispensable you will become as an attorney. It will always be easiest to let go of someone who has no book of business. When firms break up, it’s the clients they argue over most. On the positive side, if you develop a marketing approach to practicing law, you will always be in a position to control your destiny. There is nothing more attractive to prospective employers or more beneficial to opening your own practice than portable clients.
How do you develop a marketing mindset when firm life is all about the billable hour? And what if time spent marketing doesn’t count? And what if the firm does not teach, train or mentor associates in marketing? In the long run, your best interests are served by learning how and doing it anyway. Ford Harding, author of “Rain Making,” suggests adopting new measures of productivity and success. Instead of, “I must maximize billable time,” say, “I must optimize billable time and meet firm standards. I must also find time to market.”
Here are two marketing techniques that stand the test of time:
Identify periodicals, newspapers and journals that are read by your ideal client. Determine which publications accept articles from contributors and come up with an idea or, better yet, a series of ideas. As an example, I wanted to write for The Legal because my target coaching clients are lawyers and it is the newspaper for lawyers in Pennsylvania. I had been reading it for over 20 years, figured out who in the editorial department to submit my piece to, and sent it in along with a proposal to write a monthly column on coaching topics. This costs only my time, connects me with a potential market of clients, and provides news for me to tweet, post on Facebook and LinkedIn. I also link to it on my website and send the link via email to colleagues, friends and family. If you work for a firm, make sure the communications department or managing partner is aware of your plan and enlist help in highlighting anything you publish in the firm’s marketing materials.
There are few better ways to build confidence and clients than attending events and speaking. When I was practicing law, I looked for opportunities to speak at continuing legal education seminars, which includes everything from big annual training events to a lunch-and-learn at a local bar association. I mention attending events because they are great places to network, keeping in mind your target audience. For the last three years, I have coached at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women. Simply attending that conference puts me in the room with about 7,000 women.
Keep in mind that public speaking does not have to be related to your professional work. A client with an interest in exercise and healthy habits speaks to groups on that topic. You can weave in what you do without making a sales pitch.
Marketing is about giving and receiving. Both practices I recommend provide value to the audience and venue. They require time and inspiration to generate ideas that will interest your audience. Keep your eyes open for unique stories in the news and developments that affect your client base. Always carry a small notebook to write down ideas. Now, go to market.
Reprinted with permission from the April 30, 2015 edition of “The Legal Intelligencer” © 2015 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. For information, contact 877-257-3382, email@example.com or visit www.almreprints.com.