'Marketing' -- I just scared myself

Law school never trained me in marketing (So as not to denigrate the fine reputation of any particular law school, I won't mention which one I attended, but I was very fortunate to have gone there, and keep in mind I attended nearly 30 years ago).

"Marketing" was just one of those words tossed around in my career with no real mass to it. In my early years of practice, there was never any real discussion of solid strategies and sharing of thoughts and ideas among peers, much less any transformation of thoughts and ideas from discussions into useable plans and actions. Ephemeral, I think is the term for what I had felt about marketing for a majority of my career.

A very determined and energetic president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt once said "live a strenuous life," which he prided himself in doing as he led New York and then this country through much of the industrial revolution and into the 20th century.

When I look back, as is typical of our profession, my own professional career mimicked the "strenuous life." Many hours working and billing, appearing in court, taking depositions, traveling, trying cases, writing briefs, negotiating with adversaries, meeting with witnesses, explaining cases, issues and outcomes to clients, etc. etc. etc., and then documenting, documenting, documenting. At the same time, joining and actively participating in many varied professional organizations. Truly strenuous, but I never made the presidency. We are all Type A's here. It was career and volunteerism to me, not marketing. I had no idea that those were actually building blocks of marketing.

Then it happened, I was asked to join my firm's marketing committee. My kneejerk response, consistent with a majority of attorneys, was, "Excuse me..I don't have time nor do I have a need for marketing, much less any particular knowledge of it!" But as with all Type A's, another challenge worth accepting and exploring.

I started learning. And learning. and learning. and learning! There is a vast wealth of materials to read and people to talk to for self-education short of enrolling in actual programs, but the professionally trained marketer and classes may be the best bet depending on your situation.

The more I learned about marketing, and in particular about legal marketing, the more scared I became. There is so much! There are so many areas to address! There is no way anyone can manage all of this, particularly under the constraints of a law practice.

Then the final assault came several years back: "Will you take over as chair of the Marketing Committee and Director of Marketing?" Of course I gladly accepted, as I cowered off to my doom of despair over the enormity of the undertaking I had just agreed to (Type A, not always a good thing?).

Immediately, I went about whiteboarding as many of the subjects which play a role in legal marketing to start working on an outline of marketing plans and action areas. In performing this exercise, it became apparent that almost every one of the subjects needed to be evaluated from at least three perspectives: The firm as a whole, the individual practice areas and the individual attorney. So, it turns out, the marketing perspective must be from three vastly different, but related, viewpoints on each topic. Maybe a start to branding?

Now for the subjects on the whiteboard in no particular order or importance, and certainly not an exhaustive list: social media, website, profiles/ biographies, photos/videos, branding, logos, public relations, content marketing, advertising, media relations, relationship building, management and networking, education, ratings surveys, business development, pricing structures, data gathering, management and analysis, ROI valuation and measurements, requests for proposals, event management, sponsorships and charitable activities, promotional publications and handouts, promotional swag, honors and recognitions management and nominations, strategic planning and budgeting, client experience management, value/culture promotion, cross-selling, and I could go on and on and on.

Evaluate each of these subjects and perspectives with an overlay of marketing operations, investigation and analysis of status, prioritizing, centralized and decentralized structuring, and staffing, cost projections, and you can get to a simple marketing plan and strategy (he says facetiously).

Do not let anyone convince you otherwise, marketing can be daunting with all of these considerations and levels of planning and action. It still scares me, and I am not easily frightened by any challenge. But, there is hope if you consider each of these topics and/or others you think pertinent, give yourself a little time and introspection, and consider a starting point that fits your circumstance. Taking the first step is the hardest but will lead to great strides.

Let me leave you with this tidbit, continue to give your clients and your firms your strenuous, high-quality efforts and your relationships will continue to grow and prosper. Distinguish yourself in your practice with those you know and work with or for.

Marketing 101, in this respect, will ultimately work in your favor and lay a solid foundation for any other marketing steps you take. You may think you are just working hard and well in your practice, but you are actually starting to brand yourself, your practice and your firm in the eyes of so many others.

I hope to be back again to share some additional thoughts, experiences and tidbits on some of the topics above as we all wade through the river of legal marketing.

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Richard J. Joppich is the marketing director and a principal attorney with Kitch, Drutchas, Wagner, Valitutti & Sherbrook PC. His law practice involves litigation defense in complex medical and general personal injury suits, and includes assistance to courts, attorneys and the healthcare and insurance industries in negotiations, settlements, lien management, and Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement and reporting issues. Visit http://www.kitch.com/joppich/ or https://www.linkedin. com/in/richardjoppich.

Published: Wed, Aug 31, 2016

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