Generating Business When the Marketing Committee Says No

You work in a firm with 75 or 80 attorneys. It's a big operation, and you're a cog in the wheel. Sometimes you feel like you lack much control over the marketing or management of the firm (that's probably because you actually lack much control). Of course, your lack of control doesn't make you any less accountable for producing revenues and generating new business. You're expected to produce results regardless of whether you're in charge.

You might, doing an objective review of the situation, feel like you're in an impossible situation. You're told to go do something and then denied the tools you need to do it. You're given the responsibility to develop business, but others control the marketing funding and decision making. The lack of control leaves you in the twilight zone when it comes to adding new clients to your roster.

Or does it?

Are you really out of control? Are you really in the twilight zone?

It certainly feels like it sometimes. You're told that you need to bump up your revenues to cover your overhead. You investigate online marketing opportunities. You talk to a company like Avvo and get information about pricing for an online listing. You take what you've learned and request that the marketing committee members approve what you consider to be relatively minor expenses.

“Denied” is the response. Of course, it's said in a much kinder, gentler manner, but the answer is still no.

You try again with something else, and again, the answer is no.

Yet, while your efforts are being endlessly frustrated, you're still expected to generate more revenue.

Total responsibility plus no control equals head-exploding frustration. Kaboom goes your brain. Ugh.

Again, I ask, are you really in the twilight zone? Are you really out of control?

Sure, they won't let you spend much money. They won't let you take interesting, innovative steps. They won't let you do things you're sure would work. But are you out of control?

I'd argue that you aren't. I'd argue that you actually have far more control over your destiny than you feel right now. I'm confident that you can affect the revenue number without the approval of the marketing committee, and you can do it right now.


You'll win at the marketing game by focusing on a different type of marketing opportunity. You'll win by doing the things the committee is trying to get you to do. I know, I know, it's depressing when they're right (I hate it more than you can know). We're usually asking for permission to do things that are easier for us. The committee is pushing back and forcing us to do things that feel hard (even if they don't articulate that idea).

Listen, we look for marketing opportunities like Avvo and other Internet listings because they're easy. They aren't stressful, and they don't cause us to start sweating and fearing rejection. An Internet listing is a simple expenditure of funds, and it doesn't involve one-on-one contact with people. It's a low-risk marketing option.

Unfortunately, low risk usually means low reward. That's absolutely the case with most Internet marketing. The payoff is proportionate to the expense and effort required.

The high-reward marketing opportunities involve building relationships. The high-reward opportunities require calling people you don't know and getting to know them. They mean picking up your phone, dialing a number, and feeling uncomfortable for a few minutes. High risk equals high reward. If it's comfortable, it's probably not terribly profitable.

Ultimately, that's what the marketing committee members are telling you. They're saying “skip the listings and go to lunch.” They're telling you that you have total control over the marketing because you control your time and energy. They're saying make that phone call and go have coffee with that lawyer, mental health professional, accountant, or clergy member.

You're not in the twilight zone, and you're not lacking in control: you've got the opportunity to add to the top-line revenue number if you've got a phone for calling and a lunch that needs eating.

No one wants to hear that the old, stodgy partners on the committee are right. We want to believe that they're stuck in their ways and afraid of innovation. We might be right to an extent. But—and this is a big “but”—they've got a point. We can win at this game without innovation. We can win with the old tools they understand and appreciate. We can win with relationships and lunch.

You're not in the twilight zone. You're right here in the land of networking and relationship building. One-on-one relationships have worked since the beginning, and they're still working to build practices today.

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