12 Delightful Reasons to Vaporize a Marketing Tactic

What are good--and bad--reasons to avoid a marketing tactic?

I've been known to scream at some lawyers “DO SOMETHING!” and “DO ANYTHING!”

I get frustrated when I watch the marketing decision paralysis that happens in law firms big and small. It's frustrating to watch indecision take over in businesses run by committee, plagued by fear of risk and dominated by “on the one hand…, on the other hand…” thinking.

Taking action is almost always better than the alternative. Moving forward is essential. Standing still means the world is leaving y0u behind.

But sometimes, there are solid reasons to skip a marketing tactic. Here are some reasons I respect.

1. It's enough already.

You're already doing enough. There's no reason to add to the marketing mix if the present tactics enable you to reach your audience and tell your stories. Stick with what's working if there's room for growth using the approach you're already using. Don't add a tactic unless there's a good reason to add it to your mix. Taking action without a good reason usually doesn't work out well.

2. You don’t understand it.

The investing gurus tell us not to invest in anything we don’t understand. That makes sense to me. I don’t invest in futures, options, currency trading, or any of a multitude of complicated investment products because I don’t have the interest, time, or energy to figure them out and understand the intricacies.

Avoiding things we don’t understand is good advice when it comes to marketing as well. If you get lost when they start talking about search engine optimization, Lookalike Facebook audiences, or remarketing, then skip it. Stay away until you’re ready and willing to get educated.

3. You don’t want to do it.

You're not required to drive a car wrapped in your law firm logo unless that's something you enjoy. Some marketing tactics are painful for the lawyers involved. Some lawyers love to build a professional network. Some curl up in a fetal position under the conference room table when it's time to head to the networking lunch. Don't do it if you don't want to do it. You're not going to do it anyway, so let's stop pretending.

4. You’re doing it because someone else is doing it.

Copying other law firms is a bad plan. Let them have that tactic. There's plenty of space for those of us willing to get in the game. Pick your own tactic—one that works for you—and don't bother copying others. My firm has been copied quite a bit over the years, and it's common for other firms to duplicate our tactics even when they haven't been successful. The fact that they do something, even for a long time, doesn't necessarily mean it works.

5. You’re spread too thin.

Your business can only handle so many tactics. There's only so much time in the day, and every budget is limited by reality. You’re doing other things that require the time to go deeper, and you need to focus until you make your current tactics effective. Avoid the shiny object and stay laser-focused on whatever is already underway.

6. It doesn’t work.

Lots of the stuff the vendors sell is garbage and a huge waste of your time, money, and other resources.

For instance, many of these legal matching services have been around forever. I've never met a lawyer who reports success with these services. If the vendors can't give you references, then don't get sucked in. I've heard every excuse: “our customers prefer to keep it private,” “they don't want others to know how well it works,” or “it's so new that we don't have a track record to share.” Don't buy it.

Remember, they're in the business of selling their service, not yours. They'll keep selling until lawyers stop buying, regardless of whether it works. Law schools keep making more lawyers, so these vendors stay alive long after many other lawyers have discovered that the stuff being sold is junk. Find out whether it really works—anywhere, for anyone—before you commit.

7. You don’t trust the vendor.

Some of the vendors give off a bad vibe. The vendors selling leads, search engine optimization, and local advertising often have a rotten smell. Trust your instincts and stay away. If it sounds too good to be true, it is—always.

8. They want a commitment.

If you're tempted to try a new tactic, then go for it, but keep the commitment short. Don't sign a two-year deal for something that hasn't yet worked for you. Services like Google AdWords let you make your stay/go decision a minute at a time. There's no need to commit to anything. When vendors seek a long-term deal, it's often because they know you'll be disappointed quickly. The most valuable tactics we've ever employed for our practice require zero commitment.

9. It gets you free stuff.

I advertised on television for a long time. When it was time to call it quits, I hesitated because I loved the perks provided by the vendors. I went to the US Open and met Tiger Woods. I had great seats at Miami Heat games. We sat in luxury boxes at concerts and in the front row at hockey games. They give us gifts, tickets, and experiences because it keeps us coming back. Don't get too attached to the free stuff.

10. You have a smoking hot salesperson.

There's a reason they send an attractive salesperson to meet you. Don't get caught up in the flattery, the extended handshake, and the deep eye contact. These sales tactics are as old as sales because they work. Take the salesperson out to dinner and get married, but don't buy the marketing tactic.

11. It's unethical.

Is it ethical to upload your client e-mail addresses to a vendor like Facebook to remarket additional services to your client base? Can you use that same list to create a lookalike audience so you can market to these new people? The technology is, of course, running way ahead of the ethics authorities. Be careful and follow the spirit of the rules even if the regulators are having trouble keeping up. There are enough tactics to select from that you don't need to go to the dark side.

12. It's expensive.

Our marketing universe is dominated by inexpensive options today. The old school, big-budget tactics (TV, radio, print, etc.) are making less and less sense. Low-budget marketing tactics are often as effective as the expensive tactics of the past. It's easier than ever to experiment with low-cost tactics and see how they play out. Avoid investing too much in anything you haven't had a chance to test.

But don't use my 12 reasons not to use a marketing tactic as an excuse for stalling on your marketing. There are many good options. There's plenty you can do that'll work.

It's critical that we move forward, take action, and try new things. But it's possible to be smart and avoid bad decisions when we detect a reason to skip a particular tactic. Keep the list above in mind when you're shopping for something new. There are lots of good tactics to try. Take action, but remember there are limits to the advice “DO SOMETHING!” and “DO ANYTHING!”

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