What's Hot and What's Not in Law Firm Marketing - 2003

By Micah Buchdahl

New Fads Arrive, Old Fads Depart, Continuing Misspending
How many of these ten trends are you participating in?

Like bees to honey; like the herd following the black sheep over the cliff, life the pied piper himself. We hope this is a year in which firms spend marketing dollars smarter. A year in which "legal" starts catching up to the other professional services industries. A year in which the best reason for undertaking a project is not "those guys are doing it too." All right - let's just settle for some growth and improvement. Get ready for the ranting. What is hot and what is not? The trends of 2003...

1. HOT -- Anything with Sarbanes-Oxley or HIPAA in it. If your firm is involved in corporate governance or health law, chances are a chunk of the budget is going to letting people know you know how best to comply.

2. NOT -- Knowledge Management as a marketing tool. True KM is not a marketing function, or a tool for legal research, or how you best use your intranet. It is an independent firm administration entity that looks at all those things and best figures out how to lasso all the IP within a firm and use it on a daily basis. The closest it comes to hitting the marketing budget is probably CRM. About a half-dozen US firms do it right, led by a KM counsel not inhibited by any single function. The fools have it based with a marketer, librarian or IT guy/gal.

3. HOT -- Focusing on improved public relations planning. For the price of a slick ad, you could have probably gotten an article published for free. And more people would look at it.

4. NOT -- Paying someone to publish those same articles. How stupid can you be? You put time and effort into writing high-quality content and people want you to pay them for the privilege of reprinting it or posting it online? That is called ad placement. You just diluted the value of your own work. And probably have it sitting next to someone with lesser credentials that bought the same thing.

5. HOT -- Client Relationship Management. The question is not if you will get it, but when, and how much do you want to spend. The caveat--you must have an established marketing program in place, with a set foundation. This is a project that takes time and a slight change in culture.

6. NOT -- More and more firms are turning away from overpriced industry vendors (the ones that buy your marketer a few fancy dinners, a few drunken evenings, a couple of gifts, also work for all your competitors and give the firm a bill for $100k). For advertising, web development, PR, printing--there are better priced, better skilled people in your own backyard (most, at least). For every RFP, make sure you give your neighbors a shot. They might surprise you.

7. HOT -- High-Quality, Low-Priced Printing of Collateral Materials ? It is amazing how the cost continues to drop. Technology in printing is the key reason. Battling the idea of not publishing it at all and keeping it e- is another. And the cost of web sites has dropped about 50% over the last three years as well.

8. NOT -- Hiring The Same-Old Marketers from the Firm Next Door ? More and more firms are using more sophisticated recruiters to find marketing talent from outside. Including other professional services, advertising agencies and corporate communications. Firm Management is catching on to the--latest and greatest? being nothing but regurgitated law marketing chat room garble. ?Does anyone out there do coffee mugs?? You are paying people for this?? There are options.

9. HOT -- The Old-Tyme Law Firm. I thought all these dinosaurs were dead. No. They chugged along through the now-defunct ?new economy? (that I touted as much as anybody). If those upstarts in your city and/or practice are not yet forgotten, chances are that you either have their top attorneys or are about to acquire them. Brobeck who?

10. NOT -- This year's Sucker Play. Actually, it is "hot". The "jump on the bandwagon" idea of 2003 is the "sales force/sales director/sales culture" garble being sold to many firms. And sold is the word. Take a course, bring in a speaker, hire a coach, hire a sales manager. We need something new to talk about or sell every year or two. In two years, people will be laughing at those that tried it. Probably those same dinosaurs that kept doing what they do through the "new economy" years. Attorneys do need business development training. Some partners make great marketers and rainmakers, and can impart the wisdom unto others. It is about the services and maximizing opportunity. That has not changed. By the way, I do sell a sales course too. It is great. Why not get my piece if you are going to buy it anyway.