Marketing Only Works if You Do This One Thing

Join The Friday File To Read The Rest

Keep reading by joining 11,000+ lawyers and get early access to articles like this. You’ll find safe, successful, actionable approaches for your law practice. Together, we’re less alone and more connected. Join us.

Some lawyers lie to me. It happens like this:

“My marketing isn’t working,” they say. “I’m doing the networking thing. I’m meeting other lawyers, doing lunches and coffee. And I even joined a Business Network International group.”

(The BNI thing always annoys me. I’ve never encouraged anyone to join a BNI group. “Why did you join a BNI?” I ask them. “Because it’s in your networking course,” they say. “No it isn’t,” I tell them, then try to get back to the important part of the conversation. But at that point I’m agitated. Why do people join those freaking BNI groups?)

You are lying if you say one thing and do another

When people claim their marketing isn’t working, I ask to see the evidence. “Show me your calendar,” I demand.

That’s where they freeze. “It won’t show much,” they say. Then the excuses come out.

“I was in trial for two weeks.”

“I was on vacation the week before that.”

“I just don’t have much free time.”

They fast-talk me with excuses before they ever show their calendar. Lawyers know when a trap is coming, and when to jump out of the way.

If they show me their calendar, it rarely shows evidence of coffee and lunch dates. It’ll show client meetings, court appearances, and parent/teacher meetings at their kid’s school. There’ll be nothing about Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts or Biggby.

They aren’t “doing the networking thing”

At this point, I can feel the chemicals that make me say mean stuff coursing through my brain. I feel like I’m cross examining them. I remind myself to be polite, professional and understanding. Sadly, that approach has NEVER worked for me. I lack self-control.

“The reason your networking isn’t working is because you’re not doing it,” I say, trying to suppress my mean-spirited victory dance.

“You’ve got to actually meet people to make this work,” I say. They know I’ve got them, of course, otherwise they would have shown me their calendar. They squirm and regret mentioning the topic in the first place.

They always think they’re going to enjoy my consulting. Ha!

Next, they try to change the subject, of course. They talk about “time management.”

It’s as predictable as the sunrise.

They go into tirades about how they don’t have time to handle their client work and the intake calls. (Why are there intake calls if the marketing isn’t working? This always confuses me, but I hear it over and over. It usually involves wanting to hire an intake staffer.)

“There just isn’t any time,” they say, sometimes with tears in their eyes. (Tears don’t work on me. I was a divorce lawyer for 30 years. Crying men don’t faze me.)

“I’m on overload,” they continue. Sometimes they’re red-in-the-face angry. I suppose I should console them, but that’s not something I do because I’m not that nice.

I get on them about how they’re undercharging. That’s why they’re too busy to market. They give it away for free, so they’re working (for low rates) way too many hours.

But they believe their own bullshit. I get the standard excuse. “I can’t charge more because my clients won’t pay more.” Yes, I’ve had this exact conversation many, many–too many–times.

At this point, they realize I’ve got them. (This is also when I do my silent, motionless happy dance.) Clients won’t pay what the lawyer is worth is because that lawyer won’t do the marketing.

Better marketing means better clients, which means higher fees, which means more time to do better marketing.

Finally, the conversation comes back around to where we started.

I ask: “So why aren’t you doing the networking?”

All marketing works–if you do it

Look–all marketing works. I promise. Those who take action get results. It’s not rocket science. It’s not even science. It just works.

You wake up, you put on your suit and your fancy shoes, and you go talk to people. Some of those people like you and trust you. That’s true even of the biggest dork on the planet. I don’t know why they like and trust you, but some of them do. It’s just true.

If you don’t go out and talk to people, they won’t like and trust you. The lawyers who lie to me don’t get results from their networking because they don’t network. They don’t even go to their lame-ass BNI meetings.

That said, networking isn’t for everyone. Some of us need alternative methods to become known, liked and trusted. Talking to people is hard for many folks, but there are alternatives.

  • You can blog (speaking of which, the blog you’re reading turned Rosen Institute into a thriving business).
  • You can write articles for national or local publications. You can turn those words into a podcast, or a YouTube channel.
  • You can use your articles as the basis for webinars, civic group speeches, LinkedIn posts, Facebook articles and videos, and on and on.
  • You can create a content-rich website with landing pages targeting specific people or groups.
  • You can promote those articles and pages to local groups and professionals.
  • You can run ads on Google AdWords, Facebook, local media, and other outlets.
  • You can get active on social media and build connections through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram.

This may not be for you

If you scan my list of ideas and aren’t excited about any of the options, maybe this isn’t for you.

Private practice requires attention to marketing. It doesn’t work unless you commit energy to drawing in business.

Sure, you can outsource it, but it’s not ever going to work like you want if your head isn’t in the game. You need some enthusiasm for the marketing or the results won’t satisfy you.

You don’t have to do this. You can work for someone else. You can go in-house or into government. You can find a place in a law school or a non-profit agency.

Reading about marketing, hiring a coach, drafting extensive plans and task lists … these things don’t make marketing work.

It takes action.

And you’ve got to do it over and over. You’ve got to keep marketing. It doesn’t stop.

Seriously, it doesn’t stop. I’m sitting here writing this blog post because my marketing doesn’t stop.

I’ll talk to some lawyers today because my marketing doesn’t stop.

I’ll record my podcast tomorrow morning because my marketing doesn’t stop.

If that makes you want to curl up in the fetal position and hide, maybe this isn’t for you.

The dirty little secret about marketing

I said it earlier, but I’ll say it again: all marketing works, but only if you do it.

Really, all marketing works. Even really, really dumb ideas work.

I gave away marriage licenses on Valentine’s Day for media coverage. I know a guy who wrapped his car in plastic printed with his name and number.

Bus stop benches work. Ads before the movie in the theatre work. Craigslist ads work. Writing articles for Playboy works. Having naked pictures of yourself published in a national magazine works.

It all works.

Marketing is about being known, liked, and trusted. If you go to a busy corner and scream your name and practice area over and over, it’ll work. Those folks will know you and, oddly, some will like you and trust you.

It all works. It’s just that some of it works better or worse depending on what you’re offering and to whom you’re making the offer.

Here’s the trick

The trick, and it’s not really a trick, is to do it.

You’ve got to find a way to make marketing matter to you. It needs to become a priority. It’s mostly emotional. It’s about talking to yourself and making a decision to act and keep acting.

I’m writing this article on Monday morning. I always write this stuff on Monday morning. Why not Tuesday, or Thursday?

Because the plan is to do it on Monday morning.

I start worrying about the article on Sunday night. That’s when I get anxious because I don’t have an idea yet. Then I go to sleep and wake up early because I know I’ve got something I need to do.

Sure, I could stall or delay, but I don’t because I’ve made this the thing I have to do. It’s right up there with the other essentials–bathing, eating, dental checkups, taking my pills, talking to my mother, etc. I don’t debate it anymore because it’s on the list. I just do it.

It’s 10AM in Bangkok on this Monday morning and I’m nearly finished with this article. I would have preferred to read the New York Times or go for a walk, but this is when I do my marketing. It’s required.

It’s easy to slip if you’re willing to slip. I’m not.

I look at these articles like I used to look at picking up the kid from school. It HAS to be done.

If I’m going to be busy on Monday morning (and I try really hard not to schedule things for those hours), I make myself write the article in advance. Why? Because I can’t miss it. It MUST be done.

You need to trick yourself just like I’ve tricked myself.

Of course, your marketing might require a different schedule.

It might require making three calls before breakfast to invite folks to meet for coffee.

It might involve emailing one civic group per day about a speaking opportunity.

It could involve scanning for media exposure opportunities or responding to social media posts.

Whatever your tasks and schedule, you’ve got to make your marketing a priority.

What if it’s still not working?

If your marketing isn’t working, the problem probably isn’t your approach. It’s probably not working because you aren’t doing the work.

Look at your calendar yourself (save my consulting fee) and see if you’re actually taking action.

Sometimes you don’t know your own reality because being busy skews your perception. Thinking about marketing can trick your brain into believing you’re doing the work.

All the learning, the reading, the webinar attending, the planning, etc. feels like marketing. But it’s not. Marketing doesn’t happen until you engage with others and make them know, like and trust you.

So if your marketing isn’t working, now you know why. You know what you need to do.

You know that it’s about action. When you take action with frequency, regularity, and persistence, you’ll see results. When you make the marketing something that MUST be done, it will get done. That’s when the results happen.

That’s when the phone rings and your practice grows.

It’s hard to accept, but for most us, the reason our practice isn’t growing is because we’re not doing the marketing.

You can lie to me about it if you like, but don’t lie to yourself.

Start typing and press Enter to search