Thinking back on my experience going through the law firm recruiting process when I was I student, I couldn’t help but recall that most law firms use what I have come to term “glossy marketing”. There was a disconnect between the face they showed the outside world and how things actually were. There was little differentiation between firms, and platitudes abound that sounded “smart” but didn’t actually connect to any bigger picture or coherent strategy.
Glossy marketing is the product of a process focused on creating a snappy sounding phrase instead of a process that forces difficult decisions predicated upon developing a sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace. An example of this would be a law firm whose marketing materials include the phrase “law is our middle name.” It sounds snappy but doesn’t actually tell you anything about the law firm in question. How are they different? What are they the best in the world at? Why should you hire them and not another law firm?
The next level above glossy marketing is story-telling. A good marketer will go beyond snappy phrases to help their lawyer clients tell a compelling story. This is the marketing of Don Draper. Humans are hard-wired to remember stories and to be moved by them. It’s good, but not quite there.
The next level incorporates strategic thinking into the marketing process. The exercise evolves from more of an outward facing process about how to communicate with the outside world to an inward facing process. Instead of adding a glossy layer to a typical legal practice, it means asking the questions like “how do we need to change to become remarkable - to be worth talking about?” and “what can our law firm be the best in the world at?” This is the marketing of Seth Godin, which he popularized in books like “Purple Cow” and “The Dip”. To Seth Godin, the savvy marketer understands that your marketing is in the product. The best marketing you can ever have is a product worth talking about, which is Godin’s definition of remarkable. In the context of a law firm, that translates into the notion that things ranging from how you price your services to what the fine print in your email signature says sum up to be your marketing. Seeing your marketing in this light naturally leads to the opportunity to create a “wow!” experience and transform your business development process. This is an idea I will explore more deeply in my next post.