Almost every time I sit down with a law firm for the first time, someone around the table asks me what “really works” when it comes to legal marketing. Is it Google AdWords? Blogging? This new “content marketing” stuff someone’s heard about? Maybe marketing to our referral sources instead of directly to clients. What about social media – is there anything to that? Videos – do we really need those? Or maybe we should focus on our annual client event and do that up on a larger scale?
Fair questions all. And I can almost hear the plaintive longing in the questioner’s voice as he or she hopes I will definitively proclaim that yes, it’s true – one and only one of these tactics is the secret and true path to untold success. Then we could just agree to do that in a big way, wrap up this meeting and everyone can get back to practicing law. Wouldn’t that be great?
Well, sure. Of course it would. Except that real life is never that simple.
A one-size-fits-all marketing approach isn’t likely to be successful. Firms that have a “can we just pay you to take care of it” philosophy towards marketing will be better served with tactics that don’t require heavy lawyer involvement on an ongoing basis. Firms that pride themselves on having a very unique culture or that have a number of “marketing stars” that want to put their particular expertise and unique personalities on display won’t be satisfied with a hands-off strategy that doesn’t showcase these characteristics.
So the bad news is that there are no panaceas – and there is no magical pot of perfect clients patiently waiting to be discovered at the end of one and only one specific hidden marketing rainbow. The reality is that clients seek out lawyers in many different ways – even when they are similar client types. The same client may even change their behaviour from one day to the next and what catches their attention on Tuesday glosses right by them on Friday afternoon. As such, marketing needs to take place across a variety of platforms and in a range of different ways in order to be most effective.
The good news flowing from this is that there is more than one approach that can work. Almost all firms are going to have a range of skills and dispositions towards marketing amongst their lawyers. Smart firms work to utilize those different strengths to enable the firm to market effectively on multiple fronts.
I’ll draw a hockey analogy here (because it fits and because we’re a country devoid of actual hockey this playoff season so this will have to act as a very poor substitute). Some coaches demand that the team adapt to the coach’s preferred playing style. This coach doesn’t care if the team is full of Gretzkys – he wants a defensive team that collapses in front of their own net and blocks shots. And if a player doesn’t abide by “the system”, that player soon finds themselves off the team.
Meanwhile, other coaches adapt to the team they have in front of them. They are not wed to a single style of play and choose to adjust their team’s approach to the personnel they have at their disposal. In times when a lot of offensive talent is available the team plays a more attacking game, and at other times when they can’t buy a goal they’ll revert to a more disciplined, defensive style.
But unlike the hockey world where players come and go from a team with great frequency and a roster can be entirely re-shaped in a season or two, a law firm isn’t going to completely overhaul their lawyer ranks to build a group around a particular marketing system. As such, it makes sense to build your marketing around your team, rather than the other way around. Partner A might be an incredibly adept and witty writer who could easily churn out a steady stream of informative and engaging content in a blog, but turns into a hand-wringing wreck if forced to “schmooze” at a client networking event. Partner B meanwhile can glad-hand and backslap with the best of them, working the room like a stand-up comedian in full roar, but couldn’t be relied upon to write a client newsletter if her life depended on it. Handing these two different lawyers a one-size-fits-all and all-eggs-in-one-basket marketing solution is almost certain to fail. Deploying both of them where they respectively shine will mean that you increase your odds of delivering your firm’s message in ways that resonate with multiple different clients.
There’s an old saying that the best exercise is “the one that you do”. In other words, you are much better served by doing almost any form of exercise that you find enjoyable and can commit to doing on a regular basis than you are to embark on a search for the holy grail of hot yoga, fascial stretch therapy, spin classes or whatever this month’s fitness fad du jour is. So it is with marketing. Figure out what feels comfortable for your firm and your lawyers. Give your people some opportunity to gravitate to their areas of strength. Then let them do it.