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Simone Hughes

3 good habits & an approach

“3 Good Habits and an Approach” and you’re already a lawyer with better marketing, public relations, and business development skills — even better than a lot of career communicators!

3 good habits to adopt

1.    Ask ‘why’ incessantly.

2.    Remember it’s not about you.

3.    There’s usually no one answer — it depends on your discovery in 1 & 2.

Approach

Research — plan — implement — measure — evaluate — and do it better the next time.

I moonlighted as an adjunct professor for a Western New York university for eight years while leading marketing, business development, and public relations at a law firm by day. I knew if all my students took away from the semester were the above 3 good habits and approach they would be more successful than their peers.

Hi, I’m Simone and the goal of this new Canadian Lawyer column is to give lawyers not blessed with great marketing support practical and effective marketing, business development, and public relations tips from a practising and pragmatic communications professional so you can outperform your competition.

I will help you quickly understand what effective marketing, BD, and PR are and how to drive results in simple steps. This month’s column introduces you to a method of approaching any initiative — big or small.

1.    Ask ‘why’ incessantly

Simple question. Tough to answer. What is your vision, ultimate goal(s), and objective(s)?

To get those answers, the trick is to keep asking “why” over and over again until you can’t answer the question anymore. And be honest with yourself.

A classic example lawyers continually face is being nominated for a variety of legal and non-legal ranking directories and having to answer the frequent sales pitches to contribute photos, profiles, ads, and articles. A weak marketing solution is to make a quick decision either way — to participate or not participate. The stronger marketing solution is to investigate the directory to see if it’s established, credible, and unbiased, and then marry that information with what you want to achieve personally, and professionally.

So, if the directory checks out, you then have to ask yourself why, among all of your other existing and potential marketing and PR actions, will this directory improve your profile-building and business-generating game plan? Will adding this new initiative into your existing business development efforts allow you to more quickly and efficiently achieve your vision, goals, and objectives? Ask yourself, why do I want to be in the directory and why should I spend the money and time to appear in this particular directory?

Taking a brief moment of time to ask yourself why can save you potential pain and produce better results.

2.    It’s not about you

The “Sell me this pen” scene in Scorcese’s recent movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, made me burst out laughing in a quiet, packed theatre the other day. Most of the people I’ve interviewed for marketing and BD roles over the years have had to undergo my “sell me something I found in the interview room” as a test of their foundational marketing skills.

A strong communicator identifies a client’s or prospect’s most urgent needs and then thinks of the benefits before rhyming off the features of the service or product being offered. I don’t hire people who haven’t learned this or don’t naturally understand this. If you’re a litigator, you probably have an easier time applying this concept because it’s the same skill you use to persuade judges and juries to find in your clients’ favour.

It’s not about what you think or need in whatever legal service you want clients to engage with you, it’s about what your client needs and wants. Stand in their shoes, or better yet, ask them and probe for their vision, goals, and objectives so you help them address their current legal challenges and potential risks in the context of understanding their business and personal needs and wants.

Working this way with clients is proven to help you retain clients longer and be mutually profitable.

3.    It depends

There are usually no right or wrong answers in marketing. I prefer to think of choices you can make as either stronger or weaker.

Stronger: defined as achieving your goals more quickly, efficiently, and effectively. Weaker: defined as achieving them less effectively, efficiently, or not at all. Weak marketing choices are those of the knee-jerk reactionary type.

Another method I use to find people with good marketing and BD skills is to ask a variation on the “sell me this pen” scenario. One of the possible revealing questions I ask potential candidates is what marketing tactics they would recommend to promote a lawyer. If the candidate starts listing a bunch of activities without first asking for, or making assumptions on, the business and communication objectives and target clients, they are also not hired.

For a legal example, there are hundreds of acceptable ways to write your biography. Some of those ways are very strong, some mediocre, and many are very weak. Often, we judge the choice of actions based on our own preferences, our own comfort zone, our historical choices, and — in the legal industry – choices seem to be made based on copying the competition!

Often biographies are written using legalese and detail every factual accomplishment over the last 30 years. This approach is weak. Of course you have to include relevant facts about your experience, expertise, and education but a stronger biography is written with a purpose, a group of clients and prospects in mind, and the type of work wanted.

A strong biography is tailored for each application. Your firm biography should be different from your LinkedIn biography. A stronger biography communicates your ability to help your targeted clients achieve their business objectives and help them proactively assess legal risks to keep them out of legal trouble. An even stronger biography also communicates your personality and the type of working relationship you will have with them.

Choosing what to do depends on your business and communication objectives. Be wary of instant answers.

A general approach to marketing, BD, and PR

Research — plan — implement — measure — evaluate — and do it better the next time.

Strong marketing is about doing a relevant amount of due diligence and planning, before implementing. Stronger marketing is setting success goals and then measuring results after implementation. The strongest marketing is honestly evaluating the results and doing things even better the next time around.

If you consistently apply the above 3 Good Habits and Approach . . . count on winning!


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