To end this trilogy on face-to-face client contact and its implications, I’d like to briefly examine how legal marketing fits into the mix. The starting point for many firms is their advertising. I actually find law firm advertising interesting; but I’m not sure it always delivers on what is promised–or intended.
When you flip through the pages of glossy legal publications, you see no end of law firm ads. Magazines such as the excellent American Lawyer (ed. note: “product placement” alert) have no small number of well-designed and carefully executed ads. If this is about branding, or about entering the current or future client’s mindset, then it certainly has a place in an overall legal marketing strategy.
But I think that much of the advertising that is intended as legal marketing really is an exercise in law firm vanity. The high (or low) point of this for me was the firm that ran double page ads that were almost totally blank. I can’t recall the name of the firm (which tells you something right there) but I recall thinking “more money than brains” as I blasted by. Is that the best tagline of a new firm branding campaign? What did the agency tell the firm they would gain by this “bold initiative?”
The other type of ad that is popular is the “list of awards or benefits” type of ad. Look at us, we’re number one. Check us out, we have X attorneys in Y offices in Z countries around the world. Do these firms think we are taking notes as we read?
It’s almost as if some firms have a large legal marketing budget and by God are going to spend six or seven figures on these sort of ads, come hell or high water. While expensive, it’s so easy. Have a few different ads designed, pick the ones that make the marketing committee feel good about themselves, place them in a few publications and then sit back and wait for the GCs to call. Is the phone ringing off the hook?
I think I know the answer. For me, I would never put a firm on my mental list to bolster my starting rotation because of an ad. How would some firm get there?
First, I would want some personal referral or validation from someone I trust. How do you get one of these? Start by doing a good job with current clients. Second, make it clear to these clients with periodic off-the-meter, face-to-face meetings that you are interested in their business and in contributing to their success. If you don’t know what keeps that GC or managing counsel up at night, you don’t really know them and you’re probably not getting any referrals. Third, I would try to come up with at least one unsolicited idea every year that might save the client money (even if its risks a short-term reduction in my billings).
I know these are not easy, and that they are time-consuming. Certainly not as convenient as hiding behind an ad or a slick brochure and think you are developing business.
But don’t despair. Act. Pick up the telephone right now and schedule a meeting early in 2006 with your best client, or one who you’d like to do more work for.
I’d take that call. I’d look forward to that meeting. And what did that cost your firm? Almost nothing.
There, now you can go out and celebrate with a good conscience.
Happy New Year to you and yours. Please stop back here in early 2006. I think it is going to be a very interesting year.