Rob Kates and I had a delightful time with our guest today EJ Stern Bearman! Thank you, Amber Bollman, for introducing us! Yes, there were shenanigans aplenty, but, before I turn to those, give this a watch for the heartfelt, authentic, wise counsel EJ provides on professional and personal development, the magic of knowing oneself, understanding your own gifts (and challenges), and finding those moments of connection that build successful business development relationships. We talk about using your energy to your advantage, introversion versus extroversion, and how DEI is such a crucial consideration in creating an environment where people can find fulfillment and optimal performance in life and in work.
As for shenanigans … My dad Don Sexton joins us as I thank him for the Lincoln Home National Historic Site surprises I received in today’s mail. Rob celebrates Cinco de Mayo in his inimitable way. We learn a new prank in asking Alexa to play unsolicited show tunes in our guests’ homes. We review the positive impact life upon the wicked stage had on our formative years. We address the joys (and occasional sadnesses) of having four-legged friends. We note how important participation trophies can be in helping some of us feel seen and validated. We give a shout out to Mother’s Day, Janet Jackson, mental health awareness month, #itsokaytonotbeokay, Led Zeppelin, Kroger runs, Encanto, Ricky Martin, and The Ramones.
Honored to be included in fSquared Marketing’s “Top Trends for Law Firm Marketing in 2020 and Beyond.” Thanks to Lynn Foley for the invite. Looking forward to diving into the insightful contributions here from Lynn, Lloyd Pearson , Jessica Jaramillo , Darryl Cross , Trish Desilets Lilley , Derek Jones , Meghan Spradling , M. Ashraf Lakhani , Pamela Foster , Gordon Donnelly , and Bree Buchanan .
From the publication’s introduction: “The truth is that the core principles of legal marketing have not changed: client service, personal connections, lawyer-lead thought leadership, relationship building, interpreting the available information and using those insights to drive action. As Roy Sexton writes in his article: ‘The new trends in legal marketing remain the things we should have all been doing in the first place.’ … The best way to predict the future, and succeed in the present, is to understand why the fundamentals of the past worked. You’ll find plenty of ideas for how to build on that foundation in this year’s Trends.”
“Don’t throw the past away/You might need it some rainy day./Dreams can come true again/When everything old is new again“ – lyrics from the song “Everything Old is New Again” by Carole Bayer Sager and Peter Allen (performed by the latter)
Perhaps it is a function of my age as I barrel toward the mid-century mark, but the new trends in legal marketing remain the things we should have all been doing in the first place. Prior to entering the legal space in 2011, I spent over a decade in a consumer-facing industry – health care – that, like legal, sells a human “product”: in healthcare’s case, the wit and wisdom and technical proficiency of doctors and other clinicians.
Healthcare is not necessarily known for its progressive approach to messaging, branding, advertising, or sales, and, yet, I find it gobsmacking that, in legal, we still don’t speak in some very basic marketing terms that I learned on day one in healthcare: for instance, presence, reach, awareness, leads.
We don’t measure these things the way other industries have (for decades), and, too often, our KPIs still feel reactionary in nature. Checkbook accounting if you will … or laggingindicators to borrow from our Six Sigma friends. For example, we tout proposals and pitches generated, won, lost, or simply flushed down a well, or we throw every resource but the kitchen sink at collecting outstanding revenue. Yet, the ideas of audience growth, developing a following, and true lead generation still appear to be a glorious mystery to much of our industry.
Heavens, I sound like a cranky neighbor throwing rocks from his front porch. I don’t mean to sound so cantankerous. Truth is, I’m as much of the problem here as anyone else.
So, with that said, what trends do we need to embrace in 2020? Well, this won’t sound very sexy as I’m not about to push for new tech or shiny new toys. We need to embrace storytelling. We need to understand the brand narrative. What does your firm believe in? What is its commitment to community? To clients? What is your unique value proposition? And, nope, that can’t read as “great service, smart people, at a fabulous price.” Everyone is saying some version of that.
Get specific. Be real. We have amazing tools at our fingertips in this digital landscape (ok, maybe I am getting a bit tech-y) to pull back the curtains on our respective organizations and let clients – existing and prospective – see the inner workings of our firms. And polish and panache won’t seal the deal. Authenticity, relatability, immediacy, outcomes will. Grow an audience, develop a following, and measure the heck out of every touch point those people have with your marketing content and with your practitioners.
Those organizations with our business in their sights have a very clear brand narrative: Deloitte. EY. KPMG. PwC. Everyone knows who they are and what they do. Long ago, with basically the same business model as legal, these companies were able to overcome the confederacy of voices that derail and dilute most firms’ market voices. They clearly articulate value, competencies, and brand, and they run themselves as businesses, not as wobbly democracies. They realize that a cohesive brand does not detract from but rather enhances the visibility of individual practitioners and, more importantly, their ability to win business.
The firms that can borrow from that playbook, march in lockstep, and land a coherent and, I repeat, accessible brand message will ride high through what is likely to be a tumultuous path for the legal industry.
I’ll be sitting on my front porch with a pail of stones.